Not a long ride but I’ve clocked up well over 100 miles in the last few days. The trips to work have been quick except the return home yesterday. My legs were just empty and it was a drag to get back. Perhaps my diet was not optimal the day before.
Anyway, I decided to ride the ‘cross on my day off. It’s always refreshing and doesn’t demand much stamina.
12.0: arrived a day early on a busy Scout camp. Presumably, most will go tomorrow before ours arrive. I needed an early night but they did quieten down after 9.30. The owls were loud in the night.
12.1: Training two groups, one all girls, the other – mixed. Both started unskilled and with an impulsive nature. They urgently wanted to press on which led to fractured groups and navigation errors. The urge to go on cost them enough mistakes to slow the day down dramatically. Dashing off made for a long day. Mine were the last groups in. The rain showers abated and we arrived with very tired kids. The mixed group got themselves in first.
12.2: A day for each group to travel solo, first in light rain, later a nice day unfolded. Some arguments were reported on the 2nd day because navigation decisions were made by force of personality and not on a group using observed evidence. The other group (girls) went well and became steadily better and better. They really bloomed on this trip, I hope they finished with the fuzzy feeling of satisfaction. I told them they should.
Another late one: I have two likable groups to manage and assess. The tricky part is the way their routes diverge south of the hills. If all goes well, there would be a bit of zig-zagging in the car and care needed with timing. One group of 5 is all girls and the other, all lads.
Group 5 (the girls) phoned at least 6 times this day. Their location and direction finding skills were non-existant. Thus:
5: “we’re lost” M: describe what you see around you? … A farm name, a finger post or something we can find on the map. 5: there is a sign, M: Great, go and read it! 5: “Skid Risk”
I know the place well, it’s near Loose Chippings!
Afternoon, a hailstorm brewed up. It hit us at a checkpoint and they were caught out. I threw my raincoat over one while she struggled to get hers out of her backpack. Really, it’s not a good idea to pack it under loads of other stuff. The roads were turned into rivers as it poured. I drive round the other side of their track to meet again, they need close supervision and they didn’t appear. How could they go wrong now?! I put the car in the carpark just outside camp and the phone rang again.
Once more they couldn’t locate themselves. Finally they found a named house but that information raised an alarm. They must have passed the carpark and turned away from camp to the west. On foot, expecting to see the group in the village I now hotfooted over another kilometer to find them. Relief! I’m not letting go now until they’re in the field.
Problem now is, light is fading and they are vulnerable on a fast road with no footpaths. So, I plotted a cross country route which formed a loop away then back across safe paths. On we walked. It was a beautiful evening with a golden light filtering through emerald vegetation. Distant peacocks called over the sound of the girls sobbing as we walked.
Day two: a bright start with low fog and promise of dry weather. With the girls’ group merged, I only had the lads to work with today. They’re the best group of boys I’ve worked with. An exemplary team who did everything spot on today. Excellent.
9.2: Practice, independent travel with staff and instructors on mostly mobile checkpoints. I headed out on foot to the most easterly point on any of the routes. If groups go wrong here they could get lost in a complex of routes in wooded valleys. Besides that, the routes are circular and we have all day; no coach deadline.
Training/Practice. D1: walking with two groups to teach journeying and navigation. Both seemed to progress though poor stamina was apparent later in the afternoon. The weather was, at least, mild and dry
9.3: rain all day, pah! Routes are north to Milford where the coaches are due later than last year. It’s just as well because two groups ran late. Both made a mess of navigation by taking numerous wrong turns. I walked in from the north towards the usual place where groups go astray and they appeared in 6 or 7 hundred metres. Once they recognised me and realised I would walk them out, the tears came. Half of the group sobbed; relief I assume. Limping on wet sore feet, we returned at 1km/hr to the minibus.
Here’s a tricky one, this group did this yesterday too. It’s up to the school, but if I were their supervisor, I would not recommend them for an assessed expedition yet.
The tent pole that most often breaks is the 2nd or 3rd from each end. This one broke on expedition late one night after dealing with an especially late group. Good that I had the foresight to take my small tent along too.
Sunshine and showers. 5-19°C.9.0: I thought I was driving home when the phone rang on the M6. “Are you available for a Silver Qualifier” in the White Peak? I pulled into Sandbach services to check. It would work as long as the carpet fitter could change date. I took the job. Another instructor pulled out which put pressure on the AAP. Since I wasn’t very far away, I got there early. The client was familiar, a girls’ school from Oxfordshire.
A quiet side valley by Taddington Dale.
9.1: Wet and windy. Despite the weather, the gorge was rich with garlic in full bloom. Taddington Dale: Is this what paradise would look like? My group struggled with a confusion of paths and barbed wire while I waited at the second checkpoint. In the drizzle, they were getting a bit down and wanted a shortcut. I led them to a mill so they could get photos for their aim. Camp at Mandale Farm.
This was another pastoral job but the cohort included some interesting characters. N* didn’t really fit in with the others but got on well with adults, especially men. We all clicked immediately and had tremendous fun swapping stories and jousting.
9.2 Mandale to Hulme End. Much better weather, rising temperatures and humidity.
This herd were just curious. I expect my groups would be nervous since they blocked the stile. The cattle responded to gentle encouragement to move aside.
9.3: Hulme End to Ilam, an easy route down the Dove, the group are motoring, each checkpoint saw them arrive early. By now, the bond was tied. We talked about family, partners and home they thanked me for “being nice to N*”. She was, apparently, not universally liked by teachers. Activities like expeditions were her forte.
Silver Assessment: 3 days near London in the North Downs. On the face of it, this looks like typical bronze territory in rolling chalklands. The forecast is for ideal weather but the possibility of some behaviour to keep an eye on.
8.1: My group had to be rescued from near Go-ape as darkness fell. They’d done 9h 30m anyway. Let’s hope they proceed faster tomorrow. Debrief revealed that they has gone in loops in Wendover Woods. I worry about the flow of observed information within the group. They have a couple of good prime navigators. The problem could be the other 5 passively following. That’s too much responsibility for 2 out of the 7.
8.2: a flatlands route along canals and round their top-up reservoirs.
All went well until they missed the last checkpoint. I still don’t know why they didn’t phone. That meant I could not reroute them away from a hazardous road.
8:3 last day. A return route with a short section of open access scrub and then onto canals again. Again, they were just a little too late to complete without pickup by the minibus. We staff had a debriefing and elected to defer this group. Their teacher, an experienced ML agreed and elected to take them out for a day’s navigation and that should give them the Pass they were expecting.
Overall, a satisfactory result, but I still hate giving them the bad news. They will, however, pass if their nav day goes well next month.
16°C, blazing sun with crisp shadows. A gentle outing along the coast. Much of the ground has dried out, that thick gummy mud has set leaving soft loose sand in places. This was a pleasant relaxing ride.
Those dark bands are coal. Yes, it surprised me but they may date from the last war. Further up the coast are bands of rounded house bricks. Apparently, they were Ribble from the Liverpool blitz.