Saturday : All About the LDWA, the 1972 Members, the Former Chairs and the Food

This post will be quite LDWA (Long Distance Walker’s Association) focused as I was at their AGM all weekend, starting at 07:00 with the breakfast. Richard was desperate to be down there for when it opened in case they ran out of yoghurt or something, so I agreed to also be there at that time. As one of my frequent asides, the bacon was perfect, cooked just as I would serve it, suitably crispy.

I did mean to play pool but managed to run out of time, it was rather an eventful weekend, but in a positive sense. I expect that I would have won though…..

On the left is our outgoing secretary, Madeleine, who will be much missed, with Phoebe Smith, our President, on the right (more information at http://www.phoebe-smith.com/). The rest of the AGM attendants had gone out on one of the three walks that we were offering, with the usual shorter and longer options. Although I heard later on that it had been muddy out there, all three of the walks sounded like they’d gone very well.

Next up, I was pleased to attend alongside Julie and Sara from the NEC, and Phoebe, the lunch with those wonderful individuals who were members of the LDWA in our formation year of 1972. Without them we wouldn’t be here today, so we owe them a great debt of gratitude in our fiftieth year. It did make me wonder whether I’d be there in 50 years myself, I should put that potential lunch in my calendar for 2072. It’s good to plan early.

Phoebe presented a certificate to every one of our original members, but I’ll write more about this elsewhere so that LDWA members can see photos of every 1972 joinee receiving their certificate. There was plenty of positive feedback about the idea that Julie had to organise this lunch and I think that everyone attending enjoyed their experience. For those who don’t know the LDWA system, the membership numbers are given out in order, but it is possible to reclaim an older one as well. Many of our founding members have never left us though, that’s some commitment.

The lunch was in itself also rather agreeable and I took a particular liking to this giant tiramisu. The staff member at the conference centre said that we were unlikely to finish it and she was right, despite me trying my very best. I think I got distracted with walking chat, otherwise I’m sure I could have got through a little more of it.

Then it was outside to take some photos and these members from 1972 are lined up by membership number, so the earliest member is on the left. It was inspirational hearing the stories from the early years of the LDWA and how in many ways walking was much more challenging with the less technical equipment that was available at the time. I did rather lap up the stories about the heavy tents, clunky backpacks, leather boots that were near impossible to dry and basic route descriptions that required quite a lot of initiative. There was some widespread concern that I spurn maps for navigation, but an agreement that they can make things much easier and that in Norfolk it was something I could get away with.

This was a moment to preserve for our future historians, so we faffed about a bit getting more photos and without damaging any of the daffodils. We were successful in our endeavours.

After the photos were taken and thanks for the patience of everyone as this took a little while. We were fortunate to have the pleasant gardens of the conference centre and also some really rather agreeable weather.

Richard was put in charge of technology in the main conference room of the hotel, so we were confident that nothing could possibly go wrong. Richard had just come back from a 12 mile walk, which had apparently over-run slightly, so was being very brave and was only slightly hobbling around the place. It goes to show though that he’ll be entering challenge events before you know it.

The early evening meeting which was attended by six of our former eight living chairs, a fascinating look back at the history of the LDWA and the challenges that it has faced. There’s some remarkable talent here and there were plenty of stories, serious and humorous, about the past of the LDWA. I doubled up not just as the national communications officer, but also as the doorman to the event. Simon, visible at the back of this photo, also admirably videoed the entire event and so I think that some sections might be made available in video form in the future. What’s apparent from gatherings such as this, and also from looking at old documents, is how often issues and problems that we face today are the same ones that we’ve encountered in the past, so it’s useful to know how they were tackled decades ago. There will be some articles about this for LDWA members, so more to come about our history.

With that, Stuart and I found ourselves at the front of the queue for the evening meal once again. What a stroke of good luck for us. The options for the evening were herb roast chicken, grilled seabass fillets and aubergine mousakka, all of which looked really rather lovely.

The delicate little portion of chicken, certainly a sufficiently generous portion. Stuart and I noted that Tim was heading to the dessert counter with several plates, but I think that his explanation that he was getting things for others was actually genuine.

The chocolate mega mess smash board as they called it, which sounds like something that I’ve created after a culinary disaster. The cheese and biscuits suited my needs entirely, it’s a rare occasion that I’d turn down blue cheese.

The room full of happy diners in what were relatively decadent surroundings. I did think that it’s a shame that LDWA AGMs can’t be week-long affairs, but I suspect that isn’t really convenient for anyone, but it’s a pleasant thought. We don’t know yet where next year’s event will be, but I’ll know that I’ll be there.

The evening’s speaker was Mary Mansfield, who bravely walked the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago. I’m always fascinated by this trail and read as many books on it as I can, I think it’s a great challenge and one that I would love to do if I was braver, but I’m really not. The thought of wild camping in areas surrounded by ants, snakes, mountain lions, scorpions, bears and the like is all a bit much. But I’m full of admiration for those who achieve even sections of this trail, all very brave and courageous. Mary said that although the experience hadn’t necessarily changed her, she had learned some key things, which were ‘be wild’ and to “collect moments, not things”. I think that’s very wise advice and I heard lots of members say how inspirational Mary was, a great choice of speaker.

As an aside and harking back to my stay at Travelodge Farnborough a couple of weeks ago, I think it’s fair to mention that Travelodge have offered an early check-in and free breakfast at a future check-in of my choice. I’ve been suitably impressed by Travelodge in numerous ways over recent months, so this has pleased me.