CFR “Easy” Fell Race

The Cumberland Fell Runners hosted an end-of-season “easy” fell run for all local clubs. “All welcome” the invitation said, so I persuaded Andy and Jo, not memebers of any club, to come along. I had decided that if necessary we could quickly become a club.

the Before picture - newly-formed running club prepares for the fray

The route was round and up (and down) Sale Fell near Basssenthwaite. As the turnout was better than expected there were not enough maps for everyone. The flags which had partially marked the course the previous evening had been partially removed by vandals, we were told. However (a) the weather was nice and sunny, no vis problems, and (b) I took the view that I was unlikely to be at the front and having to route-find, but could follow everybody else, so I was happy to be mapless.

One of the few maps

The route was initially alleged to be three miles but in fact turned out to be 4+ The comp was not by time, but by position, so the first back got 100 points, the second got 99 points, etc. All points for each team were added together and the highest scoring team got the main prize. There were also prizes for the 1st 3 ladies and 1st 3 men but the members of our scratch club all knew there was no purpose in even thinking about what the prizes might be; we were just there for the fun (“fun”??).

The initial gentle climb. Andy (grey top) and Anna (purple top) centre; Jo hasn't got into the picture yet

In fact there were quite a few times when I could not see anybody in front, as they either breasted another false summit or dropped over a steeper descent. So perhaps I should practise navigation like P&T after all. Fortunately the route-finding was straightforward and there was the odd marshal.

Some of us tried harder than others

As usual I forgot to check my watch at the finish line 🙁 so I have no real idea how long the course took, but I was about 1/2 way through the field which was quite adequate.

Approaching the finish - Sabiene was official photographer
The "after" photo: Andy, Anna, Jo

We all had a great time and look forward to the next one!

After excellent coffee at the Pheasant, a recommended hostelry for your next visit to the area, the day finished off wonderfully for me: on Parsonby Brow I passed the Cumberland Hunt (sorry Pete).

My riding ambition has always been to be good enough to hunt but, as that clearly will never happen, I think I will stick to trying to be a fell-runner.

Point to point

On Saturday, Ian and I met Sally, James, Kirsty and Oliver at the Aspatria Point to Point race meeting. Breezy and sunny it was great weather, if a little chilly from time to time, and the meet was well-attended; we met several other people we knew at the course or in the beer tent.

The paddock at Aspatria

As Oliver is not yet two it was his first experience of betting but Ian, who had a misspent youth himself, soon had him at the bookies’ stands getting odds on a horse also called Oliver.

The animated crowd (Anna And Sally) cheer as a race gets under way

All the horses competing are hunters, mostly locally in the north and Borders hunts. 23 hunts are listed in the Northern Area Point-to-Point Association; I must admit I had not realised there were quite so many. My equestrian ambition had always been to ride well enough to hunt but I doubt I will ever achieve this though Sally and I did discuss the novice meets with a chap dressed as if he knew what he was talking about.

The horses come over the last

I am reliably informed by my tipster that many of the horses have top pedigrees. The breeding isn’t something I know about but the look of the horses is enough evidence of quality. Sal and I were bowled over by some of the handsomest specimens – of the horses that is (just to clarify). A lot of the riders were women and they are braver than I; it is all very fast and scary especially over the jumps. At least if you fall off when climbing you are unlikely to be trampled by hooves. Fortunately on this particular day, although there were some falls, no-one was hurt.

And as our winnings more than covered our entry fees it was a great day’s free entertainment.

Broken Laws

When something is broken, what should be done about it?

For example, if an expensive watch has stopped telling the time do you a) throw it away, b) leave it to provide nothing more than a pretty but useless ornament, or c) have it fixed to fulfil it’s original purpose? Another example might be if a law to stop people driving without wearing seat-belts was flawed in some way should we a) repeal the law and allow everybody to go without wearing seat-belts, b) leave it as it is and allow some people to go on risking theirs and others lives, or c) amend the law to have everyone safely “clunk-clicking”? This later example was the case in late 2007; those ”engaged in making local rounds of deliveries” were exempt from being lawfully obliged to wear a seat-belt. This exemption needed to be fixed to make the law better and to save more lives, especially when one considers that many road accidents occur near to the home (local). And so it was by an amendment to the Draft Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 2005. 🙂

So in a brief – one time only – departure from the normal rules than ban politics from this blog, lets take a look at a current and topical issue… The ban on fox hunting with dogs. As the site’s editor I’m allowed to flex my own rules! 😉

So what of the Tory plans to repeal the law banning fox hunting with dogs should they be elected to government next year? This is probably what we might call a broken law – it’s extremely difficult to enforce because it’s just too easy for hunts to present that a fox was accidentally killed by their pack of hounds whilst engaged in a legal drag-hunt. Therefore the police simply don’t bother enforcing it. Although perhaps some of that lack of enforcement is because the police are fearful of the mighty land owning hunt management? However, there are likely other flaws too. So, what is the right option, a) repeal the law and go back to legalised hunting with dogs, b) leave it as it is and let a very vocal minority of hunt protagonists get away with “accidental” fox deaths, or c) fix the law?

I know which option I like, every time something – anything – is broken and I have the skill to fix it, my answer will be to fix it, not bin it.

I guess it comes down to what kind of society do we want. One that condemns blood sports, or one that condones them?

Fox Cub

So why does this issue simply refuse to go away? The hunts suggest all sorts of reasons, even the one above about it being an un-workable or broken law, but they also cite tradition… Sure, fox hunting is a fine old tradition – along with bear baiting, cock fighting, breaking badger’s jaws to give jack russels a fair fight, deporting children to Botany Bay, the rack, etc. That isn’t really it is it. Traditions come and go, and of course it takes a long time for them to do either. I’d suggest at least a lifetime. The time it takes for any change to take affect is really how long it takes for all those who can remember how “great things used to be” before something was changed (and made better) take to move on. For example, implementing a major new business process in a large organisation only really succeeds with lots of management buy-in and often (sadly) when some of the old-timers leave. If only I had £1 for every time I’ve heard the phrase “But, we’ve always done it like this”! Thing is, the only constant in life is change. So I feel that in the case of hunts, it’ll only be when some of the hunters pass-away that this change will finally find it’s way in to contemporary culture.

Almost everyone hates change to some extent, we are all human and like some sort of predictability, a constancy in our lives. It makes us feel safe.

Of course another side of traditions, like Xmas for example, is the social gathering. It must be great to meet your friends and go for a fantastic and adventurous, in that you don’t quite know where the chase might take you, ride across open country side! 😛 But does a fox have to risk being torn apart whilst still alive to provide that social and adventurous activity? In fact I’d argue that a well laid drag-hunt would provide a more exciting chase. What is more, that trail could be laid to take in to account the abilities of those on the meet and avoid unnecessary or dangerous obstacles. In other words, the actual horse riding and “treasure hunt” aspects of the meet could and should be better without a fox having to risk death.

A problem with the hunts is that they often come from wealthy and influential circles, allowing their vocal insistence to keep this topic in the headlines bear no relation to the size of their minority. Just look at the people supporting the hunts on the TV – not one of those people lives on a council or ex-council estate. According to a Mori poll, 77% of people are strongly against a repeal of the ban on fox hunting with dogs.

Do we live in a democracy? Well, I hope so, but to be honest sometimes I doubt it. All politicians are dubious people – just look at the cross-party scandal around MP’s expenses! So considering that the Tory party is a party from wealthy and influential origins, a repeal of this law (albeit somewhat broken and in need of repair) is just another example of a political ruling class taking it’s queues from it’s peers and not from the 77% of citizens who want to keep and fix it. How many of those 77% will be swayed in how they vote based on this issue? Probably none. 🙁

It’s sad that the environment always comes second isn’t it… :angry:

My Neighbours Tits……….

Following Pete’s blog on his new box: http://www.sterling-adventures.co.uk/blog/2009/05/08/birthday-bird-nesting-box/ I thought I’d get the camera out and keep you up to date with our neighbour’s tits!!!

Sitting on eggs
Sitting on eggs

The box has been up for a few years now; last year the birds managed to raise 9 chicks, but things are very much dependant on the weather and the amount of food (small green caterpillars) that is available. If it is too wet then the food gets washed off the leaves and the birds go hungry!

This year the couple have laid 6 eggs and are taking it in turns to incubate them….. I’ll keep you posted as to how they are doing.

And of course, the hungry hunter waits patiently in her lair for her takeaway!!!

I'm feeling a bit peckish.......
I'm feeling a bit peckish.......

A little sole

Further to my entry on Saturday, I’d glued on the soles again.

But today, I woke up with one of my cats (Hebe) sitting beside the boot I’d repaired. This was a tad unusual. I shook the boot, and nothing fell out. I put the boot back and had breakfast. Hebe was still hanging around, so I took the boot and looked inside.

This is what I saw.

My little friend
My little friend