Date: 12th April 1997
Place: NY607964 (Sheet 80)
Occasion: Tenth anniversary of the start of the Ed's Watershed Walk
Cast: Eighteen including one Sic Munroist, two Pineapple People, three Wightman-Ratcliffs, four Patient Partners and five Big Baggers
"No-one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun"
It's the Ed's day, and he's assembled a crowd of friendly folk to retrace his first 600m hill on The Walk. He's the most punctual person in Western Europe, and he's not here. So when he turns up half an hour late, and we see he's not alone, it's tempting to nudge and grin knowingly. But he's careful to explain that it's not her fault as he goes straight into royal family mode, shaking hands all around, even with people he's already met and with a bewildered baby in a backpack.
The walk up Peel Fell is great; terrain good, weather perfect. There's a communal good mood, lots of talk of small hills and big numbers, and even a bit of blether about land-ownership (not sure how that sneaked in). You wouldn't want to walk in a group of eighteen every week, but you can get good vibes from it, and you also get to see some clever gadgets. The New AW (see TGO July '96 - Ed.) has a rucksack with rear-view mirrors so he can check on the bairn in the back seat. Ann Bowker has a digital camera which gives an instant non-action replay. It shows a shot of people having a good time. So much so that we continue over Mid Fell and Deadwater Fell even though they don't count.
Bonchester Bridge provides suitable aprés-shed; the pub has good beer, nice food, plenty of room, not much smoke. The campsite is cheap and friendly, the grass short and flat, and we even get the great gig in the sky as Comet Hale-Bopp pops out to show its approval. You can't ask for much more really, yet Ed is not one to admit to happiness too easily. There's not been much opportunity for reflection, but he is a bit disappointed that none of the original Watershed support party could be here. Warbeck in particular is missed (sadly he suffers from latitude sickness if he goes this far south).
On such occasions you can't help thinking a bit about Time and Life. Ed's big walk was evidently a metaphorical watershed too. Having got it out of his system, he's had no desire to undertake similar epics. But his is a big system, which has since produced one Watershed book, 32 TACs, 21 TGO columns, 13 Golden Cagoules, 643 Munros and 370 New Donalds including 53 ascents of Ben Cleuch - not to mention immense amounts of pish. Who knows where it will end?
Hillwalking, like writing, is often a solitary business, and so the occasional get-together seems okay to me. Peel Fell was a good day, a good hill and a good idea (okay, it was a good bag too). We must do it again sometime. Maybe the twentieth anniversary of the end of the Watershed Walk? Cape Wrath, June 29th, 2007. I'll need to check my diary but I should be able to make it. Look forward to seeing you there.
"The hills are the same, in a relative way, but you're older,
shorter of breath and ten years closer to death"
Ed. - Probably the next big gathering ought to be Ten Years of TAC - when anyone with any connection will be invited to an as yet undecided summit in May 2001. And quite apart from being a massively good time, that occasion might further extend a record perhaps established on Peel Fell: the largest accumulated tally of Marilyns in a single party. Unless some dreadful 3000-charity-walkers-up-Snowdon do accidentally outdid it, the previous record surely came on either the Scarba / Tony Payne outing described in the Dec '96 TGO and by Warbeck in TAC29, or the Cruach Tairbeirt / Colin Donnelly 1000 jaunt (TAC31) - perhaps 4000 cumulo-hills each time. But neither of those days featured the Bowkers, and their presence meant the record was always going to be trashed this time. Totally accurate figures haven't been obtainable - two or three folk, although badgered and presented with copies of Blanco's Big Book, continue to display numerical slackness in only being able to offer figures approximate to within ten or so. But it was at least 7550, with the Bowkers bringing along a double-handled 2640 bag, whilst the group included three other Hall-of-Famers (see p3) in Blanco, Stuart Benn and Richard Webb, plus six more scores over 200. Craig Weldon, when asked to add up, realised how hillwalking is not the same as Munrobagging: his 258 Marilyns were 18 fewer than his Munro-bag (subsequently rounded off on Ben Wyvis). Perhaps best of all though was for such an occasion to see someone's first-ever hill: five-month-old Isla Ratcliff may have been carried up, but that's hardly her fault as she set off in Marilyn-pursuit of Rowland Bowker, a mere 1333 ahead. Look out for more on both this day and the Payne/Donnelly outings in autumnal TGOs; and those with web-access could do far worse than check out Ann Bowker's pics at http://www.keswick.u-net.com/peel.htm