LDWA NEC Interviews – Stuart Bain

In a new series of content, I’m interviewing every willing NEC member that I can find about what volunteering for the LDWA involves. My first interview is with Stuart Bain, the Risk and Environment Officer. We’re looking at an on-line Strider (the magazine we produce three times a year for members) in the future as part of our new web-site, so content such as this will be moved on there.

Stuart is, if I’m being honest, quite annoying as he’s very professional, efficient and hard-working. He saw us through lots of the documentation in 2021, along with other incredibly hard working volunteers, and looks after risk, scanning in the NEC archive, environment and currently IT on the NEC. He also has numerous charitable roles and some of us suspect that he’s employing staff at his own cost to make him look so effective.

Anyway, I asked Stuart some questions and am partly hoping that it might inspire others to think about joining the NEC in the future or volunteering for the LDWA.

What inspired you to join the LDWA?

I love walking along the Wye Valley and by accident I noticed a so-called challenge event called ‘Offa’s Twisted Wye Kanter’. I’m not overly competitive, so the idea of it not being a race but challenging yourself really appealed. When I enquired further, I realised I could get a discount if I became a member and there were lots of other walking challenge events available across the country! I love a bargain.

What’s your favourite thing about the LDWA?

Having weekend trips travelling across the UK and entering the challenge events. The level of support and camaraderie at checkpoints and HQ is fantastic – the food isn’t bad either.

Where’s your favourite walk?

Pembrokeshire Coast Path -186 miles of stunning scenery. I deliberately haven’t completed the full route yet because I don’t want to ever finish it. My favourite stretch is Northwards from St. Davids to Porthgain. Although short, the route around Ynys Dinas is very special and mystical also with Cwm-yr-Eglwys.

What’s your perfect Sunday afternoon?

I regularly do footpath surveys for the Vale of Glamorgan Rights of Way team. So, I would say surveying footpaths in the morning, a cheeky pint when finishing then off to watch the rugby in the evening. I probably should have said a 25 mile hike across the Brecon Beacons in hindsight…

Why did you join the NEC?

I have a passion for the environment and sustainability. One weekend, when reading Strider I read an article looking to replace my predecessor for Environment, Risk and Data Protection. For my sins I work in a Bank doing Risk and Data Protection so it felt like a perfect fit. I called the previous Chairman, David Morgan, who can be quite persuasive (threatening) and I couldn’t say no.

You joined the NEC as the environment officer and have also temporarily taken over the IT role as well (along with numerous other responsibilities), what’s that like?

It’s really fulfilling. We all aware there is a lot of work needed to modernise certain areas of the LDWA and I felt I could really make a difference helping with IT and the website. If as an Association we don’t transform and modernise over the coming years, the LDWA will be irrelevant and become extinct. I want to see a modern, forward looking LDWA that is even more welcoming and inclusive to new members.

I’ve always been fascinated by history, so I’ve recently started doing some archiving work and reading old NEC documents running back to 1972. It’s been fascinating learning about how the LDWA has evolved over the years.

What is the most exciting thing about the new LDWA web-site we’re working towards?

There are a lot of ideas that have been raised by members and if we can deliver them, it would be fantastic! However, what I find most exciting currently is modernising the look, feel and content ready for our website redevelopment work. Engaging with other volunteers and getting stories and content changes will make the existing site more attractive and give members a reason to visit. I’m always on the look out for a photo or stories we can add to the website (sorry for the shameless plug), so if you have any let me know.

What’s the best bit about being on the NEC, other than working with Julian?

Very childish, but I have to admit it’s probably the grief Tim Glenn generally receives from you about… well anything. Cupboard-gate, Steak-gate, Mustard-gate, Golden Grahams-gate – the list goes on.

NEC volunteers are very like-minded, don’t take themselves too seriously [some of us do, we are very serious….] and have a passion to do their best for the LDWA. Although the social side is really good, it’s fantastic volunteering with people all working towards to the same collective aim of improving the LDWA.

What would you say to anyone thinking about joining the NEC?

Go for it. It’s really fulfilling. You work with a great team of volunteers, serving a great Association. And you get to work with Julian.

It’s much spoken about, but do you think that you’ll ever enter the LDWA 100?

No. It’s probably an unpopular opinion, but I don’t understand why anyone would want to put their bodies through that experience. 30 miles is enough, anymore and the fun disappears and it becomes a chore. [I’m going to tell Dave M about this….]

Inspired by the communications officer, you’ve started to use Untappd more. What are your favourite beers?

Anything from these Welsh Real Ale Breweries: Grey Trees, Salopian, Tiny Rebel, Tenby Brewing Company. I must call out the pint of Kveik you forced forced me to drink last time we met up.

What one thing would you like to see change in terms of the environment? More public transport and an increased opportunity to wild camp of having a right to roam?

Good question. We need to become Carbon Neutral in the next few decades and this has to be done sustainability and don’t impact quality of life. There is no point saying don’t use a car, turn off your heating, don’t eat red meat etc. We need to explore other innovative solutions to practically reduce our carbon footprint which don’t impact our quality of life. Banning Diesel and new Gas boilers in the future is a step in the right direction as long

Why should someone join the LDWA?

Cheap challenge events, wonderful welcoming social community and access to GPX files. For £15 a year, it would barely cover a round of drinks with Julian.