Ramblings Oct-Dec 2013

Hello Bogtrotters,

These are my last ramblings from Boggiedom.  It sounds as if it might make a good comic song.  Perhaps I’ll work on it…..

Yes my 5 years as chair of the boggies is now up and I do quite look forward to being an ordinary member again.  I am already relishing the line “…well I think that is best left to the new chair and committee, don’t you agree?” whilst thinking quietly “not my problem!!”.

It has been a good 5 years with too many memorable events to single out a mere few for special mention.  We now have increased membership numbers and better still we have regular arrivals of new members who contribute a steady stream of ideas and enthusiasm.  The group has a momentum which will hopefully carry it to the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2 years time and then on well beyond.

Sorry to remind you yet again but the next AGM is at 7.30 for 8.00 start in the back rooms at the Victoria Public House, West Street, Dunstable on Tuesday 8th October 2013.  There will be more changes this year than normal with a number of committee members moving on and so it is important that you remember to turn up and contribute your ideas for the future.

As the size of the group and the number of activities it organises increases, the work involved for some committee members has increased inline.  Maybe to make the workload more manageable we will need to split some roles into separate sections, for instance separate organisers for trips, day walks, and also half day walks.

If changes are to be made it may be necessary to ask you to be patient, good humoured and flexible while new systems are bedded in.

During this next programme we are organising 3 trips away and during the second and third of these there are gaps in the local Dunstable walking programme as most of the regular walk leaders are on the trip or unavailable.  These gaps are on the 9th (short walk) and 10th (day walk) of November, and then on the 29th December (short walk).  This is an opportunity for any of you shrinking violets who have always wanted to lead a walk to come forward and have a go.  If any of you decide to volunteer then we can put it onto the website and put up a stop press.  If any of the rest of you want to go out on those dates then check the website or, if you do not have internet access, call a fellow boggie who you know has, for any updates.

Looking forward to the next 48 years…..

Julian

PS Do you think we should be thinking about the 60th (2025)? Only joking;-)

Ramblings July-Sept 2013

Hello welcome to the Bogtrotters bumper summer programme.

Summer is here, I’m not quite sure what happened to spring! And now I have to write another set of ramblings.  This time round I’m not quite sure what to say.  All is basically well.  We have an interesting set of trips coming up and some very successful ones just completed.  Robin is off to the Lofotens in August and my trip to the Pyrenees has 17 going on it so far.  Don has organised a couple of more local trips to The forest of Dean and Streatley, Syv and Sandras trip to Yorkshire is fully booked.

We dodged a couple of bullets earlier in the year.  A very large section of the coast path at Durdle Dor collapsed into the sea a day and a half after we walked  it, and the amphibious DUKW we had been photographing in Liverpool sank into the docks, with 35 people having to escape, the following week! Apart from that there was not much to laff at at all!

This year “the curse of the Bogtrotters” has been noticeably absent.  Usually when we visit a YHA hostel we find that within weeks that it gets scheduled for closure.  I’m pleased to say that all the hostels we visited this year are still open!

Membership numbers are creeping slowly up towards a hundred and we have a very active local walking programme with one day and one half day walk every weekend.

Our new short and slow walks are off to a steady start, attracting new walkers as well as existing members who are short of time or recuperating.

In October we will be having our AGM on the 8th in the backroom at the Victoria Pub, drinks at 7.30 ready for an 8.00pm start.  This AGM will be an important one in that the new committee will have to find a way to keep the group going at this level.  Mike Elliot assisted by Paul Ridgeway have been instrumental in coordinating the programme and personally covering the gaps in the programme where no other walk leader has volunteered.  Mike now feels that it is time to hand over the baton to a new programme coordinator.  I have been chair now for 5 years and as I indicated at the AGM last year this year will be my last.

People sometimes say to me that they don’t want to volunteer to be on the committee because they think we are doing a good job and are happy to leave us to get on with it.  However the job of programme coordinator particularly has become quite a large one and you may struggle to find anyone willing to take it on.  The solution it seems to me would be for the job to be split into smaller tasks and for enough of you to

  1. Turn up to the AGM and ensure that the meeting has a quorum.
  2. Be prepared to help out in a small way even if this does not necessarily mean being on the committee.

Have a good summer,

Julian

Ramblings April-June 2013

Hello Bogtrotters,

Welcome to the bogtrotters spring season programme.

I know that some of you are concerned that I have not done anything seriously “geeky” in the last year or so.  To allay your concerns I have decided to implement a twitter feed onto our website.  You can see my efforts so far in the underused left hand column of the website front page.  The idea is to be able to quickly and easily place small but relevant items of information, with pictures if included, onto the website without having the overhead of having to sit up late at night compiling and writing up large volumes of information.  When Sylv and Sandra go to Norway this summer it would be fun for us to be able to follow their progress from day to day by simply checking the website or our twitter feed.  It has proved slightly more complex than I expected.  Ideally I would like to be able to take a photo on my phone while on a walk, post it to twitter with a short message and for that photo and message to appear on the website before I have arrived home.  In practice to make this work I need to upload and install a few new plugins to the website.  I am investigating these now.

Think how much fun this is going to be!  As you trudge sullenly through the drizzle you will be able to whip out your phone and engage in a cloud based, interactive social networking experience!

Well OK it’s probably not going to be that exciting for everybody. A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step; this is something that could become quite useful in the future just as the website has proved to be.

What could be more exciting is seeing the expressions on some of the walk leaders faces when I tell them the new rules. From now on a mid morning, smart phone update direct to the website including group photo is compulsory on all walks.  (Yes I am only joking, but it is an idea;-)

One of the reasons that the left column of the front page is largely empty is that we made the decision to remove the Google ads that we previously had in place.  The problem is that the ads are rotated randomly and it is impossible to monitor exactly what appears.  Some of the ads where becoming slightly too explicit and so those of you who did join the Boggies because you were lonely hearts in search of “Hot Thai Tottie” will unfortunately have to search elsewhere in the future. My apologies to those who were slightly offended in the meantime.

Our trips away are being very successful.  Sue has 21 people going to Weymouth and Portland.  Don’s Easter trip and Sylv and Sandra’s August trip are both full. Robins trip to Norway is also now closed.  John still has places available on his trip to Liverpool.  His previous trip to Manchester was a great success.  I am organising a trip to the Pyrenees in October and have chosen a venue where there is a lot of flexibility in the type and amount of accommodation we can use.  However the best value on this trip will be obtained by committing early and booking travel arrangements soon.  Next year we might need to think about trying to find a few more people who are prepared to organise some simple weekends away.

Julian

Ramblings Jan-March 2013

It’s now about 13 years since the day that I found myself, rather unexpectedly, in Stoke Mandeville hospital on an ECG machine having my heart monitored, and found myself being sent off to x-ray for shots of all my heart valves. As it happened I hadn’t had a heart attack but merely a “stress attack”. The consultant who delivered this news had an unfortunate bedside manner. Rather than make it sound like good news, it seemed to be that he was saying that I had slipped through his fingers this time but he would get me the next time round. I resolved to miss the appointment.

I needed to get fit. I used to be a cross country runner at school so I joined the Leighton Buzzard runners. I went out with them and they were very kind. They had a rule that no one would be left to run on there own. But they were massively fitter than I was, and every time we went out two runners would come along with me, running up to the lamppost ahead and around it and back to the one behind, just trying to keep warm whilst I struggled along. It was obvious that every time I came out with them I was spoiling two peoples evening and I was embarrassed by that. I didn’t last long.

I also joined the Bogtrotters at about the same time. At that time we were doing a phased circular walk of the Chiltern Way. It had already started when I joined, but that summer I did three quarters of it, and found that here was something that I could do, and could stick at. I found that I was getting fitter, but also getting out and being active was helping me keep work and all it’s problems in perspective. I was getting much less stressed. I enjoyed meeting a new group of friends with different backgrounds and interests.

On our summer trips in Scotland we have quite often seen dams build for hydro-electric power generation. Along side them you almost always see a fish ladder. In order for the salmon to get back up to their spawning grounds they must bypass the dam which would otherwise be an insurmountable barrier. The fish get past the dam because they are able to leap from pool to pool up the ladder and so into the reservoir and streams beyond. The whole process only works if each step in the ladder is not too high.

When I joined the Boggies I was just able to keep up with the walks on the Chiltern way. To be honest I found it a struggle. Walking some of those paths again recently it seems strange that what I now see as a small hill seemed then to be a significant challenge.

However it does seem to me that we are still loosing a few walkers who are too embarrassed to come out with us on even our shorter walks. These are people who could potentially benefit by becoming both members and much fitter.

Therefore in this programme, as an experiment, we have included three “short slow walks” of about 3 to 3.5 miles each month. These are additional to the other walks on the programme and take place on days when a full day walk is also happening. Everyone is welcome, including of course, existing members who are under the weather, injured or just fancy a stroll. The only rule is that the pace of the walk will be set to include the slowest walker within the body of the group.

Ramblings Oct-Dec 2012

One of the things I particularly enjoy about the Bogtrotters are the trips away.  In the last 12 years I have walked in more places than I would have imagined when I joined, not just Iceland, the Faroes, Bulgaria and Jordan on our trips abroad, but the Elenydd, Knoydart and other wild places in Britain, the mountains of The Lakes, The Peak District , Snowdonia and then our more domestic weekends closer to home at Stow on the Wold, Alfriston and Tanners Hatch to name just a few.

When I first joined the group it was often possible to sign up for a trip more or less a week in advance of the departure date.  Often hostels had spare capacity and so a simple phone call could secure an extra place.  This is much less true now; often hostels are booked nearly a year in advance.  This has meant that this year many of our trips have been to places chosen simply because they were available for late bookings.  Our trip to Dinant in Belgium was unfortunate because a core group booked to go but before it could be offered out to other members all the remaining places in the Auberge were taken.

Recently Don led a trip to Cholderton and Salisbury.  This was very well attended with 22 people taking part.  Some members chose to stay at a Bed and Breakfast.  This seemed to be a formula that worked well and so Sue is planning a trip in the spring to Portland in Dorset with places available at Portland YHA and a Bed and Breakfast in Weymouth.

One of the limitations of Youth Hostel accommodation is that the hostels are often closed in the off season and are only available on a rent a hostel basis.  This has in the past seemed to be an obstacle. However if we have a core group of about 12 then renting an entire (small) hostel becomes viable.  Eila is organising a rent a hostel trip to Street Hostel in the Somerset levels at the end of November and Don has agreed to organise a programme of walks.  This also has the advantage that we should be free to take late bookings if new members join and decide they would like to come along.

Don is running a post Christmas pre New Year trip to Shropshire in which accommodation will be shared between the YHA at Bridges and independent Hostels at All Stretton.

Next year Bob will be taking another group to Petra in Jordan.  Following our February trip to Tanners Hatch last year I wonder if anyone would be up for a rent a hostel weekend at the end of February to Jordans Hostel near Beaconsfield?  (We recently attended a working party there, another is booked in October).

If we booked the entire Auberge we could take 16-17 people back to Dinant in Belgium next year, quite a number of the original group said they would be happy to do it again.

Following Sylv and Sandra’ successful trips to Nidderdale and the Brecon Beacons they are busy investigating other venues.

It should be a good year.

Julian

Rambings July – Sept 2012

In our efforts to recruit new walk leaders we have been asked to clarify what are our expectations of them.  To this end Mike and Paul have drawn up a list walk leader’s guidelines.  This has raised some discussion to do with the distinction between requirements and recommendations and the terms of our insurance policy.

Like most similar groups we have a policy that includes civil liability insurance.  Just as you would not fail to insure your house it would be foolish to run our group without insurance.  However home insurance will cost many hundreds of pounds a year, less than £2 of your subscription goes towards our insurance.  This is a reflection of the fact that the risks involved in running our group are very small but they do exist.

This insurance covers walk leaders for claims of negligence made against them by people on the walk or any other third parties.  Additionally individual members are also covered for claims made against them.  Our policy allows us to take guests out for a few walks before requiring them to join (and so pay the premium).

Whatever our opinions about “compensation culture”, “health and safety”, etc. we must be hard headed and recognise that we live in the world as it is and not as we wish it might be.  If a claim is made against one of us, then, in the absence of any clear rules, the court will consider what that person could “reasonably have expected” of us.  The problem with this is that it represents a moving and ever more onerous target.  Over the last few years there has been a “ratcheting effect”, each year a different accident, another set of new best practices, a change in what “reasonably expect” actually means.

In our recommendations to new walk leaders we have suggested that they should pre-walk their walks prior to the day.  This is in line with “best practice” and is the policy required by the Ramblers.  However we have not made it a requirement.  Our group started as a Youth Hostelling Group.  For many years we have been away to hostels here and abroad where we are visiting new areas for the first time as a group.  We map read walks which it would be unreasonable to expect us to have either pre walked, or health and safety assessed.  Similarly when walking extended linear walks such as the Chiltern Way (OK strictly circular!) it would be unreasonable to require a leader to pre walk the more distant sections.

This is different from the way the Ramblers operate.  The Ramblers seem to be moving towards running “Guided Tours”, we on the other hand wish to retain the possibility of running “Expeditions”. In the context of an afternoon walk in the Chilterns this may seem a bit absurd.  Nevertheless when I recently ran another half day walk over at Pirton I varied the route from the previous one onto different paths because it would be more interesting and because I had never walked them before.  Nevertheless these were public footpaths on which any one of you would have been free to walk on your own.

We need to know that you the members understand and agree with this policy.

Julian

Ramblings April to June 2012

It is great to see how many new walk leaders are now stepping forward.  This has prompted Paul and Mike to draw up a set of guidelines for new walk leaders and this in turn has made us review our insurance policy.

We run a system where our events are organised in a way that is as relaxed and informal as possible.  Nevertheless it is necessary for us, the group, our volunteers the walk leaders and you to be insured in the event of something going wrong.  It is quite clear to most of us that it would be an unreasonable risk to run the group without insurance.  However to be insured we have to make clear to our insurers what our members can expect of each other; whether they are those who give up their time to be on the committee, those who lead walks and trips and those who go on them.

We do have a system of “Walk Introductions”, each walk leader is expected to make themselves available before the walk starts and give a brief explanation of what the walk is going to entail, how long it will be and what sort of difficulties it is likely to present. If the walk is going to be conducted at a brisk pace that should also be mentioned.

This is the opportunity for members to ask questions and then affirm that they are ready and fit to participate.

Whether it be an afternoon walk in the Chilterns or a challenging walk in the Mountains once we have agreed to go out as a group we will stay as a group and come back as a group.  If someone chooses to leave for some reason then that is fine as long as they let the walk leader know.  If someone is struggling we will rally around and encourage them, if someone is unwell or hurt we will do our best to look after them.

On occasions you may be asked to help out on one of our walks, the job of back marker is a bit of a thankless one but nevertheless helping to keep the group together is a very important job.  Losing someone is not acceptable and having to wait while the walk leader doubles back to search can be very disruptive and can spoil everyone else’s day.  Sometimes you may be asked to hold back at a fork in a path to wait for those behind you and help direct them.  Sometimes those at the front will be asked to moderate the pace to allow those who are lagging behind to regroup.

You should be prepared to cooperate with and help support and encourage the walk leader when it becomes necessary.  But then that’s what our members normally do and that’s what makes the boggies a bit special.

Ramblings January to March 2012

Hello, welcome to the January to March programme of events.

Following the funeral of Dave Tomkins we have received the following message from Rita Tomkins.

Dear Boggies,
Thank you so much ,everyone, donations in memory of David amounted to £360.00. The money has been forwarded to each charity named.
I wish you all the very best for the future.
Regards  Rita Tomkins
——————————-

At our recent AGM we decided that this year we would raise money for Keech Hospice Care where Dave spent some of his last few days.

Welcome to the new members of the committee and many thanks to the retiring members for all their efforts over the last few years.

Also many thanks to the new walk leaders (and returning older leaders) who have helped to make this such a vibrant and diverse programme.

In March we are off to Petra in Jordan, unfortunately with 15 people going, this trip is now pretty nearly full.  We were going to go last year and so many people had already expressed an interest.

In February we are off to Tanners Hatch, a classic, basic hostel set in the Surrey woods near Leatherhead, this trip is still booking.  Further ahead Don will be running an Easter trip to the Lake District at the very beginning of the next programme so if you want to go you will need to think about that soon.

This is my 4th year as Chair and I am finding it a little difficult to think of interesting or uplifting things to say in these ramblings.  The front page of the programme is in part intended to be an introduction to what we do and an encouragement to new members to join.  For the next programme would one of our newer members like to write a small piece entitled “A new members introduction to the boggies….” or something similar.  Prize for the best entry is to see it printed on the front of the next programme.

Julian

Ramblings Oct to Dec 2011

Hello,

Welcome to the October, November and December programme of Walks, Trips and Social Events.

Sadly in this programme I must report the death of one of our long standing members, Dave Tomkins. He died at home on the Tueday 23rd of August. Dave is particularly well known to many of our new members as he instigated a series of short 5 mile walks that proved particularly popular and is responsibly for drawing many new members into the Boggies. In his gentle way he touched many lives and will be sadly missed.

As many of you will know Mike Elliott and Paul Ridgeway are taking over the job of walk co ordinators with effect from the new year .

They would welcome anyone who would be willing to lead the occasional walk ,there are 100 weekend slots to fill in 2012 so please don’t hesitate to contact either Mike or Paul (07594 577129 – elliottm89@aol.com)

This programme has a couple of provisional entries, rather than delay sending the programme out we have put a brief summary, including start date, contact number and meeting time. We will fill the details in on the web site when they are available. For those without web access please phone the walk leader for details nearer the time.

Our annual AGM occurs early in this new programme on Thursday Oct 13th in the rear room at the Victoria please come along to support your club.  We promise to try to make it as fun as possible! The committee will be available for an informal chat and drinks after the event.  Any feedback on our existing activities and ideas for the future would be most welcome.  We will also be reporting on progress made on previous years charity raising events, please come along with ideas for what we might try to do this year.

Julian

Ramblings July to Sept 2011

Hello,

Welcome to the July, August and September programme of walks, trips and social events.

You will see that there are a number of new walk leaders and organisers in our new programme and I hope that you will all give them your support and encouragement in their endeavours.  Now that the group has expanded we generally run one short walk and one day walk every weekend, as well as the weekday walks, even when we are simultaneously running a trip away. To keep up this level of activity does  require a pool of volunteer walk leaders so that the show can stay on the road!  Even so there are a few slots in the new programme that remain unfilled but these were dates when it seemed as if absolutely everyone was away or doing something else.

Another way that we rely on the voluntary support of our members is with transport to and from walks.

 Some of our members bring their cars down to the meeting place just to ensure that we have enough spare capacity and no one ever gets left behind because of transport difficulties.  Sometimes their cars are not needed.  Running a car is becoming an increasingly expensive business.  Some members choose to decline the offer of a contribution towards petrol money.  That’s their choice.  However it is vital that we have transport available.  If you would like a contribution towards costs don’t be embarrassed to ask for one.

Julian