This week we had another official Probus walk. You never know how many members will turn up for any given Probus walk, or who it will be, though the work organiser does a grand job in sorting out those who can make it (no hospital appointments, no grandchildren to look after, no late summer/autumn holidays/short breaks that day). The Pub for lunch being duly informed of the numbers coming to eat after the walk, it’s then just a matter of meeting up and setting off.
This walk was lead by me, so I made sure to be there early,
The start of the Dob Park walk is in a strange location, for, as in the well known joke about finding any place, ‘ If I was wanting to go there, I wouldn’t start from here’.
The start was on the Blubberhouses to Otley road, over the moors, and the other side of the Washburn valley from Harrogate. There are at least three possible routes to get there, none of them direct or straightforward, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the full complement of 7 all assembled, and ready to go.
There’s a constant concern for walk organisers about:
how long any walk should be (4 or 5 or as in a recent case 7.5 miles?),
how hilly it should be (pancake flat, gently sloping, a bit up and down or brutal?), and
how many stiles there should be (all aluminium gates, a few regular wooden stiles, some of those stone stiles that go diagonally up and down the sides of a stone wall, or dangerously dilapidated wooden or stone walls to clamber over?)
From a walk organisers point of view, it’s only when you reconnoitre a walk that you find out the mix of these characteristics that exist, and by that time you’ve got an emotional commitment to the walk (having invested time and effort into it), whatever its drawbacks.
Apart for the three characteristics above, there are are other features to consider, and to report to members about: such as the beauty of the views, the degree of muddiness to be expected, the likelihood of having to walk through fields with animals in them, and the time the walk is expected to take.
This last feature has been largely solved through experience, some of it bitter.
Clayden’s Third law of Rambling states that any walk takes 3 hours, however long or difficult it is.
This helps a lot in planning the timing of the pub lunch – possibly, apart from the weather, this being the deadline of greatest importance to walkers (and to publicans).
A new issue has emerged over the time we’ve been walking together – the degree of honesty shown by the walk leader in describing a walk. Increasingly this has been challenged, especially by our President.
How many stiles did you say there would be?
You didn’t say this hill would be so steep, did you?
I wasn’t expecting this amount of mud!
In the Dob Park walk there were many such challenges to my honesty, many of them in an open, even friendly, manner.
As ever, ‘you can’t please everyone all the time’ ( a quote from Abraham Lincoln?)
My version of the walk was:
‘A bracing five mile walk down the side of the Washburn Valley, passing a 1600s hunting lodge, going through some beautiful woods, having a short break at an ancient Packhorse Bridge, a short climb and then an extended flat walk with wonderful views of the countryside, finally climbing gently up the hillside to return to the start point. There were a number (a plurality) of tricky stiles and wall crossings at the beginning, but nothing that strong virile healthy Probus members should fear. The pub meal at the end was exceptional. And it didn’t rain!’
Not everyone on the walk would agree with all that, of course!
The continual banter and discussions we had during the walk made it fun as well as healthy!