12 March, 2017

Tooraq Weekend 2017

by Kathryn Hough

It really didn’t seem a year since the last AGM weekend. The last weekend in January is now firmly fixed in my diary. Once more, I am sure I held the record for the shortest journey, having spent the day working in Newton Abbot.

In no time at all I was parking at the Toorak (in the same space as last year, realising the advantages of small cars!) and found my name badge at reception and then my room. I passed Chris and Anne Hatton in the corridor – they’d been here since Wednesday on South West Coast Path Association business. Soon, forgoing the temptation of the voucher for the “bargain” drink in the bar, I was off for a run in the rain (training for London Marathon again) to the far end of Paignton and back. Sad to say, I initially mistakenly thought the television in my room was broken – however, fortunately managed to work out which button to press before being reduced to phoning reception. I caught the local weather forecast promising better weather on Saturday. After that, it was the first social event of the weekend with dinner. The first problem was finding the right table as we were moved from our usual tables in the raised area of the dining room.

I’m sure it was the same menu as last year. However, it was good to catch up with some members I’d met before. Before long a new member, Tom Clancy, joined us followed by Jill Woodman. At that stage there was only one topic of conversation as we’d all walked the route and all taken scenic footpaths. Jill completed LEJoG on 7 June 2016 which was when Tom started JoGLE. However, they never met, as Tom set off in the morning down the A9 and Jill arrived in the afternoon on the A386. Suffice it to say, all our routes were different, as were our planning and accommodation strategies. My account is in QV? Spring 2014, Jill’s is in QV? Winter 2016 and I’m sure Tom’s will appear soon. With the arrival of Chris Hatton and then Brian Dawson, we were soon all outdoing each other with tales of distances walked, snow and wind, bottomless bogs and overnight highlights and disasters.

Brian confirmed that indeed I was entrusted with the role of recording the weekend for posterity – both photos of the presentation and written highlights. He proceeded to exert his authority as chairman, telling us that the AGM would be at 10am which meant we should be there by 9:55 at the latest. I also discovered to my relief that the excellent new trophy engraver had polished the silverware, so there was no need for the polish I had packed in anticipation.

The next morning, we were all present in good time for breakfast. I was privileged to talk again with our President Roy Walker (2:26 marathon – that is VERY fast!). His LEJoG included walking all round London and so was almost as far as my circuitous 1395 miles, but at times he had been accompanied by thousands of other walkers. The story of the police demanding that 900 walkers should be in single file on the footpath is certainly worth hearing!

By 10am we were all assembled for the first formal business of the weekend – the 34th AGM. Fortunately there’s a proper minute taker – Meriel Shotton, so I don’t need to cover the formal business. I’m sure she won’t mention that Mr “Teabags” Tetley informed us that he was at his 35th annual meeting at Toorak. I thought he must have been on his own that year but then Geoff De’Ath said it was his 35th time too.

After the interlude, it was my second Committee Meeting. By 12:15 even the committee members were free, until 4pm when we needed to meet to gather the trophies.

Cockington Court (just down the road from the hotel). Photograph sent by Don and Margaret Cannon.
I’m not sure what everybody else did. The weather, as forecast, was much better than on Friday so I ran along the coast path to Brixham. After Goodrington there are some very muddy bits but I had learned my lesson from last year, and was wearing trail trainers. I didn’t meet any other runners on those parts but there were several walkers and dogs. There was one very brief but heavy shower including hail but then the weather improved again. Having taken nearly ninety minutes to reach Brixham with all the slow bits with steps, I decided to head back to Torquay on the road. Without a map, I took a turn off the main road though and it must have increased my distance as it took nearly as long to get back on roads as to get there on trails.

I arrived at the trophy cupboard to find Mr Teabags clutching at least three trophies and further trophies being handed down from the cupboard. He was certainly on form and I confirmed later that there had been no chance of him escaping from his “carers” in Torquay. Having escaped from them last year in Poundland (the biggest Poundland ever seen!) this time they had kept him sandwiched with one ahead and one behind.

The trophies gathered together on the presentation table looked magnificent and Brian insisted on a photograph of them all. Rarely has there been such a bumper year with so many extraordinary completions.

The high spot of the weekend had arrived – the Presentation Dinner. We assembled from 6.30pm in the bar then took our places on the numbered tables of the adjacent Arlington Suite – yes it was officially numbered tables for this Formal meal. Unfortunately despite an air of expectation Mrs. Trellis did not turn up… again (see QV? Winter 2016, page 58). Grace was said by Reverend David King (newly appointed honorary chaplain and last year’s winner of the Charlie Hankins Memorial Trophy) and we tucked in to the dinner, enjoying multiple conversations with friends old and new.

Reverend David King
Eventually the Chairman decided that it was time for the climax of the evening – the presentation of trophies. Following the successes of 2015 and 2016, Route Adviser Chris Hatton interviewed the winners as they came up for their awards.

First the “absent” winners were announced:

Shanks Pony Trophy – Patrick McGuinness – JoGLE in 42 days covering 1,124 miles and raising over £2500 for Macmillan and Amy’s Retreat (helping families who have children with cancer).

The Committee Cup - Susan Liecht from Zurich walked 1695 miles from Zurich to John O’Groats and thinks that the British countryside is better than Switzerland's!

Chase Korte Trophy – Paul Ucheck from South Africa who raised £3500 for Cancer Research UK with a barefoot walk.

Charlie Hankins Memorial Trophy – Chris Harrington who has impaired sight and walked 1150 miles completing LEJoG. (Apologies, no photo yet received!)

The first cup actually presented was the Alex Dick Jubilee Cup (Alex Dick was a competitor in the "Billy Butlin Walk”) to Jill Woodman from Leeds who walked LEJoG. She confidently booked eighty six nights’ accommodation before setting off and managed to stick to the schedule. She raised money for Parkinson’s UK as her mother has it. Fittingly she was welcomed at John O’Groats by her mother and sister who had prepared an enormous banner “Well Done Jill”.

The second award was the Jack Adams/Richard Elloway Trophy awarded to the youngest person to complete the journey by whatever means other than as a passenger in a motor vehicle during the preceding year. This was to Sophie George who was two years old at the time of the journey. Her sister Jessica was four years old. The family travelled by bus and train taking three days and raising money for Little Hearts Matter.

The Alroyd Lees Trophy to the oldest motorist (age verification required and apparently it was a closely fought contest) went to Steve Gibbs for his full circle of around 2,600 miles from the centre of mainland England and taking in the four cardinal points of mainland UK as well as Land’s End and John O’Groats. Incidentally he also went to Orkney! The epic expedition was completed driving a Bajaj tuk-tuk – a genuine three wheeler with engine only 198cc.

Patrick Jordan was next under the spotlight winning the Tourco Trophy riding a British motor cycle on his eighth LEJoG. He didn’t get lost but he did get stuck behind caravans in Wales and also had some panics about running out of petrol.

Richard Owen won the Chambers/Hume-Spry Cup for an unsupported cycle ride. He covered 921 miles over eight days managing with virtually no luggage. He raised in excess of £2000 for three charities – Help for Heroes, Hope House Children’s Hospices and the Kenyan Schools Project, all in memory of his father.

Ian Holmes won the David Webb Commemorative Trophy awarded to a cyclist or cyclists who have, in the opinion of the committee, achieved the most meritorious journey, taking into account health and disability issues. He cycled for seven days covering a daily average of over 129 miles and one mammoth day of 164 miles. He was supported by his son David who also attended the presentation. He raised £1500 for Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.

Darren Bailey won the Brenroy Trophy awarded to the cyclist/s who raise the greatest amount of money for charity that does not qualify for the Griffin Trophy. He raised over £2,600 for Macmillan, travelling independently with fifty six hours in the saddle over nine days. He couldn’t take any longer as his wife was pregnant and he didn’t want to miss the birth. His wife and baby were also at the presentation.

David Mulligan won the Mabel McCracken Mug awarded for the most entertaining account of or about or relating to a journey successfully completed by any means and in either or both directions at any time during three years immediately preceding the presentation of the award. This was for a solo walk over forty days in June-July 2016. His account is in Winter 2016 QV? and certainly worthy of a thorough read. At the presentation he explained that he had got lost once – in Worcester. He has managed to raise around £8,300 so far for Blind Children UK, of which more news to follow.

Tom Clancy was the recipient of the Joan Cave Trophy having walked JoGLE including the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales. He took an interesting route in the south – reaching the coast at Lyme Regis and heading west along the south coast rather than the walk along the North Devon and Cornwall coasts which most footpath walkers seem to favour. Tom raised money for three mental health charities.

The Griffin Trophy which is the most prestigious trophy and awarded to the person who raises the most money was won by David Mulligan, deservedly being called up to the Presentation Table for the second time.

Following this came the award of certificates to others who have completed the journey in the past year: The George Family – Michael, Louise, Jessica and Sophie – Journey by bus and train.

Maria King – Journey by car on a 1,936 mile round trip.

Gary and Nicky Watling on a tandem with Colin Bottomley driving their support vehicle. We heard that Gary was on the front and Nicky behind. A highlight for Nicky was a stag in the road in Scotland while Gary told us about overcoming his vertigo crossing the Severn Bridge.

Further specific awards followed – Julie for the smiliest face; Jack Adams leaving the committee after 18 years and Cliff Harrison leaving the committee after many years. Cliff made the clocks which were presented and one was auctioned last year. Theresa Adams and Brenda Walker were both presented with bouquets.

There followed the raffle (almost forgotten by Mr Dawson). All evening Theresa Adams and Val Becket had been beavering away selling lots of raffle tickets. With such a vast array of prizes, the winning numbers had been drawn and stuck on to prizes by them during the evening – so everyone who won a prize had to take it. Otherwise, we would have still been there at breakfast time.

Gradually we all drifted away and the extremely successful and sociable evening came to a close. Next morning most people were up for breakfast just after 8am – a repeat of Saturday morning but with a difference. Somehow a disaster had happened and Kevin Clements completion had not been recognised at the Presentation Evening. His presentation was made belatedly by Brian Dawson at breakfast. Kevin had an amazing story to tell. He had planned and trained to run JoGLE to raise funds for Weston Hospice Care in memory of Sheila Baker who had been a founder of his running club Burnham Harriers.

Unfortunately he sustained a stress fracture when near Perth and was told by the hospital doctors that he could not continue. However he decided to cycle the rest of the way using the bicycle that one of his two man support team had been riding. This was really an end to end to be proud of to complete it in the face of such adversity. A real tribute to Kevin; Sheila would surely have been delighted if only she could know. Kevin isn’t daunted by it and says he has learnt from what went wrong and intends to have another attempt to complete the whole distance as a run.

Following this there was the usual opportunity to buy ties, mugs and sweatshirts etc. – Russell George as treasurer assisted by Steve Gibbs were ably running the shop.

Time to say good bye – but the venue is already booked for next year, when all the trophies will be presented again to those who complete the LEJoG challenge in a way which is worthy of extra special recognition.

Those attending the presentation dinner on Saturday evening:

Jack Adams and Theresa Adams
Rob Willis and Val Beckett
Cliff Harrison and Anne Harrison
Susan Fernee
Don Dyer and Jean Dyer
Geoff De’Ath and Anne De’Ath
Eddie Sedgemore and Sarah Evans
Don Cannon and Margaret Cannon
Eldon Mackridge and Gladys Mackridge
Brian Dawson and Pat Dawson
Rev David King and Maria King
Roy Walker and Brenda Walker
Neville Tetley
Jed Cooke and Liz Bowen
Colin Jones and Julie Jones
Russell George
Tony Bagley and Kath Bagley
Steve Gibbs
Chris Hatton and Ann Hatton
Kathryn Hough
Meriel Shotton
Derek Bootyman and Janet Bootyman
David Mulligan and Trish Mulligan
Keith Ogley
Cindy Lewis
Patrick Jordan
Richard Owen
Emma Jones
Ashley Harwood
Jodie Angel
Ryan Jeffs
Clair Cox and Paul Cox
Steve Athawes and Lyne Athawes
Richard Popplewell
Ann Golch
Ian Holmes
David Holmes
Jill Woodman
Michael George and Louise George
Jessica George
Sophie George
Darren Bailey and Danielle Bailey
Harry Bailey
Tom Clancy
Gary Watling and Nicky Watling
Kevin Clements and Lorraine Clements
Colin Bottomley

Late afternoon on Friday, overlooking the bay. Photograph sent by Don and Margaret Cannon

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