10% discount at Splashmaps

splashmapsI have been working with Splashmaps, and can now offer a 10% discount code to readers of this blog – which is valid for ALL Splashmaps products.

One of the best-selling products (5th on their list at the last count) has been the Bob Graham Round Map. Full details of the map can be seen at: https://www.splash-maps.com/shop/lake-district-bob-graham-round/?ref=457. Ordering from this link will give you 10% discount if you add steve8 in the coupon box on the ‘Cart’ page. In fact, add that code in for ANY of Splashmaps products you wish to purchase and you will get 10% discount (let me know if it doesn’t work).

About the Bob Graham Round map

BGRmapLike all Splashmaps products it is wearable and washable. It has a combination of Ordnance Survey and OpenStreetMap data, with an overprint that clearly shows the 42 peaks, plus the normal circular route of the round, plus variants, at the 1:40,00 scale.

For more details of the Bob Graham Round see: The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps. There is also a freely usable (with due credit) black and white Bob Graham Round map included within the book which is freely copiable and available in PDF format from my Resources page. The map data is from the OpenStreetMap project and is released under an ODBL licence.



Men’s fell race course records

Blogger Meanwood Rambler recently wrote an interesting piece about Victoria Wilkinson’s record breaking spree, and the (relative) stagnation in men’s fell race course records [Link to his blog post]. It prompted me to look back at the situation, and I decided to share my thoughts from my research for ‘It’s a hill, get over it’. The following is an extract from the relevant chapter in the book:

Record breakers and champions

“My whole feeling in terms of racing is that you have to be very bold. You sometimes have to be aggressive and gamble”
Bill Rogers

This chapter covers some of the male fell champions and the records they set. Mind you, analysing fastest times for fell races is a somewhat tricky area, as there is so much that can change, not least the conditions that an event is run in. Even more important is the fact that courses necessarily have to change, due often to access issues, or changes in start points due to facilities/parking etc.

Over time who have been the top record breakers? Three of them have been Billy Bland, John Wild and Kenny Stuart. In 1980 Billy Bland won his only British title and had a record breaking spree, which was followed by the next two champions over the next five years – John Wild and Kenny Stuart, who hold ten records between them still, with Bland holding two still.

However, these three record breakers have quite different racing profiles. Bland’s two records are both categorised as long and are both in the Lakes – Borrowdale at seventeen miles and Wasdale at twenty-one. Wild’s three are all short and in Northern England – Wrekin (5.5 miles), Rivington Pike (3.25 miles) and Burnsall (1.5 miles). Stuart by contrast has seven records, or which three are short, three are medium and one is long, and they are in Wales, Scotland and the Lakes. They are Wansfell (2.5 miles), Latrigg (3 miles), Eildon 2 Hills (3.5 miles), Skiddaw (9 miles), Snowdon and Ben Nevis (both 10 miles) and Ennerdale (23 miles).

Obviously records get beaten, and those above are ones that have held up. An interesting comparison is given by figures produced by a statistician in 1989. He counted the number of course records held at that time for all races in that year’s FRA calendar. The results are pretty startling. For the men, Colin Donnelly, who was in his triple British title winning spree at the time, had sixteen, to Kenny Stuart’s twelve and John Wild’s nine. For the women Carol Haigh, who never actually won the British title, had a staggering forty-three, to Angela Carson’s seventeen and Vanessa Brindle’s eleven.

However, many of the major races, for example Wasdale and Fairfield, have had significant changes to their courses. Sadly, when change like this happens the holders of the records for a previous course are then down-graded when a new record is subsequently set on a shorter or longer course. Who is to say that in some cases they wouldn’t still be the record holder if the change hadn’t happened? Having said that, there is a certain fascination in knowing who has set the fastest time for a course and in which year. The list of men’s records for the ‘classic’ courses (see Appendix 3) shows three that have lasted from 1977 – Langdale, Lantern Pike and Eldwick. For the women the oldest are four that date from 1984 – Ben Nevis, Pendleton, Saddleworth and Lantern Pike.

In the Sept/Oct 1990 issue of Up and Down magazine Neil Shuttleworth speculated on improving standards in an article entitled ‘The Record Has Stood …’. He noted that fell runners have only a once a year opportunity to break records, unlike track and marathon runners (when comparing records for the distance, not the particular marathon). Shuttleworth concluded that race conditions were probably the most important factor to consider, that is to say both the weather and the underfoot conditions. Popularity of events also has an effect, in that a more popular event will attract more, and better, runners and possibly increase the likelihood of records. Shuttleworth also felt that neither improved footwear or better diet were likely to have a significant effect, but that competition (i.e. intense rivalry between top athletes) was likely to be a big factor.

There are many instances where it can be shown that records were broken due to close rivalries, both in individual races and throughout seasons. One of the examples noted above is the Langdale record from 1977. It is held by Andy Styan, and when asked by Shuttleworth about it (in the article just quoted), he reckoned it was so fast for two reasons: good conditions and a very strong field. Styan commented:

Billy Bland, Alan McGee, Mike Short and myself pulled clear off Thunacar Knott, and the four of us pushed each all the way. Billy and I got away on the descents, and Alan and Mike would pull us back on the climbs until we got away off the Crinkles and held it over Blisco. I left Billy by the cattle grid and that was that.

Even so, these four all finished between 1 hr 55 mins 3 secs and 1 hr 56 mins 8 secs, and it was the first time four runners had finished inside two hours for the course.

Similarly, John Wild set a record of 12 mins 48 secs (by two seconds) for the Burnsall Classic in August 1983. Kenny Stuart was first to the top but was overtaken by a speedily descending Wild, who in Kenny’s view was “taking risks he just wasn’t prepared to take, including leapfrogging the wall”. Two weeks later at Ben Nevis they met again, and faced strong challenges from Sean Livesey and Jack Maitland. Strong winds and mist made for a difficult race. Maitland led Stuart to the summit, with Wild and Livesey close behind. Somehow Wild took the lead on the way down to the burn in heavy mist and had a lead of twenty seconds there, holding Stuart off by seventeen seconds at the end. Despite the foul weather these two, and third placed Livesey, beat Dave Cannon’s 1976 record, with Wild taking 1 min 20 secs off it. John Wild credited the record to Maitland’s pushing so hard on the ascent against a known climber such as Stuart.


My main conclusion was that it was the number of absolutely top quality athletes that there were running the fells in the 1980s, and the way they raced so hard against each other, that were the two main factors in these records being set, and still in many cases not yet beaten. This is explored further in ‘Running Hard: the story of a rivalry’, which tracks Kenny Stuart and John Wild’s careers, and their rivals, such as Billy Bland.

recordsThe table is a list of the course records* that are still held by those three brilliant runners.

Not forgetting, of course, Andy Styan’s Langdale record which has resisted all challenges, including Billy Bland’s (who came within 14 secs), since way back in 1977.

* according to the FRA race page for each race

LINK: Information on my writing on fell running at Sandstone Press.

Upland hay meadows – the work of Friends of the Lake District

My latest book manuscript delves into the changes that have happened (and are happening) in the Lake District over the years. As part of my research, I recently visited the High Borrowdale site owned and managed by the Friends of the Lake District to interview Jan Darrall about their environmental work, as she supervised some volunteers protecting newly planted trees. Taking a break, we sat on the grass at the edge of the meadow, and discussed topics ranging from their upland hay meadow re-creation project there, to campaigning work across Cumbria.
[The interview transcript is reproduced here with permission.]


Tell me a little about Friends of the Lake District and your role there?

JanDarrallI am a Policy Officer at Friends of the Lake District (FoLD). The organisation was established in 1934 ‘to campaign to create a national park to protect the Lake District landscape for future generations’. Friends of the Lake District was launched that year at a public rally in Fitz Park, Keswick. The Lakes (along with Peaks) was the first National Parks to be setup in 1951. Back in 1936 there was a separate company to Friends of the Lake District established that was called Lake District Farm Estates. At that time the National Trust didn’t have money and they weren’t into real land ownership. Lake District Farm Estates went around buying up hill farms to look after them. The reason they felt it was so important was because when you look at the landscape here you have got open fells, walls, inbye land, and the culture of communing, which are all the essence of the Lake District. Lake District Farm Estates got up to 22 farms eventually, including some important ones like Nook Farm (Borrowdale), and several in the Duddon Valley. But, they found they didn’t have a large enough number of shareholders or the capital, so in the end by one vote they wrapped up the company in 1977 and gave the remaining 11 farms to the National Trust with covenants.

What at Friends of the Lake District’s aims and ambitions?

The aims and ambitions have changed over the years. So, after National Park status was achieved in 1951 some were saying, “we have got it now, do we just pack up and go home?”. However, it was decided that there was still work to be done. Between 1934 and 1951 Friends of the Lake District had campaigned hard for undergrounding of wires in Borrowdale and keeping afforestation in check. In 1978 Friends of the Lake District widened out their remit to include the whole of Cumbria, and also took on the remit for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), but independently.

Would you say FoLD was more active or political?

It is predominantly a campaigning organisation, but you can campaign through lots of different mediums. In Sept 2002 FoLD started back into land ownership with the purchase of the land in High Borrowdale (east Cumbria). That marked a period of healthy finances. The National Park boundary at that time was the A6 (to the west of High Borrowdale valley). The land was sold by auction and it was from somebody that had farmed it but hadn’t lived here. This was the beginning of positive actions from FoLD, to campaign through that. We wanted to try things other people can’t. We can set best practice, put what we say into practice, and learn from it. You get a circle: put policy into practice on the ground, then you work on the ground things into your policy. From my point of view, it has been a brilliant thing to have done.

Is this High Borrowdale project wider than the meadow work?

HBorrowdale2Yes. Down here we have been ahead of the game, not especially through intelligence and judgement, more through luck really. We bought the property, decided what we wanted to do and then we started looking at larger landscapes. We were looking at ecological links, so you can see a strip of land going right the way round. If you go down to the other end of the valley you will see a lot of ancient oak and ash semi-natural woodland. Coming back to this end it felt very bare. We thought we would do tree planting on the ‘allotment’ behind us, but immediately put in this strip right the way down to connect to the landscapes at the other end of the valley. We were thinking of slowing the flow of the river, beck stabilisation, and a wildlife habitat corridor. This is now, after Storm Desmond, what everyone is talking about. But we weren’t thinking of it in those terms then, we were just thinking it would deliver lots of good things. Then we thought about trying to show if it is possible to recreate this rapidly declining habitat of upland hay meadow.

So, is that the nub of this particular roject?

Yes, we re-created a hay meadow and monitor it, after taking a baseline survey at the beginning. The second thing was to re-create another hay meadow with a completely different technique, so we can compare and contrast the two. This first one cost £20,000 and the second one cost £500. The first was done with donor seed from various different sites and spread on with a lot more ground prep, and a lot more after-care. The other one was just an all in one day thing, rather than three weeks, taking our own green hay and putting it on the top.

What other actions are involved here?

We have repaired every single wall on the property. The inbye land has been put in the agri-environment agreement, you know where you are paid to manage in a more environmentally friendly way. All the woodland we have put into a Forestry Commission grant, and what we found was that on this land we were being paid to take away say metal gates and put wooden ones back, because they were traditional. We were paid to repair our drystone walls.


You have the same status as farms when it comes to grants?

Yes. On the land behind us the Forestry Commission weren’t interested in the landscape of walls, they just wanted a deer fence. We said, “we don’t want a deer fence, we want to fix our walls”. “Well you will have to do that yourself, then”, they said. We were able to start making some political points to the grant authorities about these aspects. Sometimes they were going against their own policies. We have had Forestry Commission here, DEFRA, Natural England, all manner of people. What we didn’t really realise with the hay meadow, was that we were re-creating habitats which no-one really knew how to do at that time. But since then there is a lot more knowledge and we know more about techniques.

Why not let everything go back to trees?

We are doing that, but selectively. That is a trial too. It is interesting because we planted that allotment in 2005, putting 10,000 trees in, and the idea was to plant the bluffs and the rest would re-gen up to the top. Nearly 15 years later and you might be saying, “where are the trees?”. So, now I sit on a lot of post-Desmond flood groups and am hearing, “you need to slow the flow, you need to plant, you need to rough up”. You need to do all these things, and I am thinking we did all of that and where are the trees?

What has happened?

We have tried to ascertain what the reason was for that failure. I think it is lots of things coming together here on this site. We have got high winds, heavy rainfall, shallow soils, and the biggest population of voles in the whole of the world. We have also got deer even though we deer fence. It all just comes together, but what I have been saying, particularly to people like the Forestry Commission, is why each time you are doing a big public scheme are we not logging height, aspect, slope, and soil, because I can virtually look at things now and say that is not going to work on there, because of that, but it will work elsewhere.

What is your profile, would you say?

We are known in DEFRA for the hay meadow re-creation, and we are known for the public work we do, engaging the public. The number of people that come down in the summer is huge. We will talk to anyone who will listen. We have done TV, radio, and have written stuff. All our properties are dedicated as open access to people. The other property I manage is 464 hectares of common land. Again, we try and set best practice for the common.

The other thing we did was we felt that in our submissions before 1951 about the National Park boundary we always claimed this [Borrowdale] and Bretherdale over the top there should be in, because it is the same landscape. So, we spent 10 years getting our act together, building our evidence and this is now part of the extension of the Lake District National Park, together with the bit down near Sizergh. We have got land in the extension zones.

Where might this project lead next?

HBorrowdale6It is long-term. We are taking a 20-year view. The latest thing is we had four landslides at the back end of last year. We had a significant one in Desmond that nearly wiped out the field barn and came into the hay meadow. It did the same again last November. We are currently involved in a trial project with the University of Cumbria.


We have laid out three types of matting with the aim of trying to get vegetation back on eroded slopes as fast as possible to stabilise it. With the volunteers this summer we have been pegging out three types of matting and will leave that there for three years and monitor it. It will not stop the landslip, but it may help the landscape repair itself. We are trying to assess, with others, why we are having all these landslips because this valley is really like a Lake District in miniature. Everything in it is extreme and intense so we have the fell land, the inbye, fast flowing beck, huge winds, high rainfall, as I mentioned.

Is it scalable in money and manpower terms?

We are looking at that. We knew full well, for instance, that after the first hay meadow re-creation your normal famers are not going to spend £20,000 to get grass that they think is a poorer quality. But they might spend £500 if they are in a grant scheme. When we first started we did shut-up (excluding livestock) from the 1st April but we knew most Lakes farmers were still lambing then. So, we have put the shut-up back to the first of May now. All the time you are trying to make it as relevant or replicable as possible to a normal land manager.

What else would you like to see FoLD doing?

Well, everything is changing. Agendas change, new things come up, like the post Storm Desmond stuff threw up whole new questions for us and the landscape. It may be a question of where are we prepared to compromise.

What about the World Heritage Status and its effect on the Lake District?

I am not sure how much a difference the Heritage Status for the Lakes will make. It is great in that it has got a lot more focus on the cultural heritage side of it, but it isn’t as some organisations think a fight or argument between natural heritage and cultural heritage. It is all one. The chief worry that we have is that it is already bringing in more people and areas of the Lake District are suffering. There is traffic congestion, there is footpath erosion, more commercialism, and at what point do you say enough. That is what we are talking about with LDNPA now.


The basic problem is we have so many businesses that depend on tourism, they don’t want the word to go out that the place is full. One of the worst aspects is the travel. Until there is a realistic and viable option what can you do? We have input to the consultation the National Park are doing because it is far too tourism-led. There is not enough for the residents. One of the big concerns is they want to set up what they are calling showcase areas. So, for example, Keswick would be a hub, and the showcase area would be all the way down Borrowdale. But the showcase areas are going to have more lenient planning rules. Borrowdale has small roads. It can only take so much traffic. Its quality is its setting. With these big hotel extensions, are they after the conference market? They don’t need to be.

Any other specific issues?

The zip wire proposal in Thirlmere is really interesting because it is almost led to a feeling for the re-birth of the role for the National Park. People have been coming out very emotionally about ‘National Park not Theme Park’. It has shown to many people that things have started to go wrong. When change is slow and incremental you don’t notice, but when you stand back you suddenly think hang on a minute, do we really want this. Do we really want the whole of Thirlmere and Borrowdale to be like Windermere and Bowness?

The government have said that from 2021 to 2027 will be the transitional period (post-Brexit). Payments just for your land will be phased out over that time and they will bring in this pilot called Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), whereby you will be paid for public benefits. That could be bio-diversity in a hay meadow, landscaping (e.g. stone walls), tree for carbon, etc. But, perhaps the agricultural organisations will say, where is the food in all this?

What should the other stakeholders be doing?

I think there are some fundamental questions. World Heritage status has shown this. What level of visitor interaction do we really want? LDNPA seem to be saying bring in even more people. It is 19 million visitors a year, compared to 44,000 residents. Where do the residents and their daily lives fit in? Where does the culture of commoning and upland farming fit in? Where is the balance between them? Where is the spiritual refreshment and physical enjoyment that was part of the original National Park ethos? There is too much instant gratification in society now.


Friends of the Lake District —– High Borrowdale —– PDF about the project

Photos 1,2, 3, 5 and 6 courtesy of Friends of the Lake District. Photos 4, 7, 8 are the author’s.

Book research – four interviews

20180915_112736I have always said that I really like the research phase so much more than the writing task when working on a book. Over the weekend I did four great interviews around the latest subject I am trying to write about.

The interviews were with: a successful sports business man; a former miner turned cyclist; a former National Park Ranger who now works for the John Muir Trust; and a policy officer at the Friends of the Lake District. Anyone who knows me well may be able to work out the common thread between these four, and may even be able to identify some of the individuals. I am being a bit coy about the subject of the manuscript I am working on just now, but I have told enough people and given enough clues (above) that it will filter out soon enough.

I now have several hours of audio files to transcribe, and then filter the resulting text for the interesting/relevant material (and quotes), and then try to make it into a readable storyline. Although I do see the research and writing as separate activities they do merge, in that once I have researched one particular strand I do try write that part of the story soon after, whilst it is fresh. So, I will be doing that in the weeks to come, whilst also working out which sub-plot to investigate next, and to start the process of finding sources and people to speak to on that topic.

Although this was a ‘working’ weekend, I also had time for some relaxing. So I took in a less-frequented Wainwright in my continuing quest to complete the 214. Sale Fell is the most northerly of the North Western Fells (by Wainwright’s seven book division). It is an easy stroll from the Pheasant Inn and makes a fine circular walk if you head up the slopes to the east and come off on the lovely grassy western ridge to finish past the lovely St Margaret’s Church. You see some familiar peaks from unusual angles from the summit (see image at the top of this blog post).

20180915_152317I also went to the Keswick Museum to see the Man and Mountain: Chris Bonington exhibition. The best of it for me was the short film that is shown on a loop, where he talks emotionally about the loss of friends in the high mountains. It is on till January. I was also fascinated by the Musical Stones of Skiddaw – a lithophone that is on display, that you can play if you have a mind to, and the skills not to be embarrassed.

You can’t fail to eat well in the Lake District, and I have some favourites that I always try to squeeze in. I had no problem in making my way to Wilfs (twice!), the Fellpack, and the Old Keswickian at various times in the trip.

Dale Head fell raceAlways keen to see a fell race where possible, I went down Borrowdale on the Sunday to watch the wonderfully low-key Dale Head Fell Race. It used to be the women’s alternative to the Borrowdale race when they ‘weren’t allowed’ to run long fell races. It is now organised by Keswick AC, and is run as part of the Borrowdale Shepherd’s Meet. I walked out to the field where the runners strike up the fells, and then back to the show field in time to see Ted Ferguson (an under 23 from Borrowdale Fellrunners) come striding home. I bumped into, and had a chat with, Billy Bland and Carl Bell as they watched the runners coming down the lane to the finish. Also took some time to take in the fascinating sheep and dog judging at the Shepherd’s Meet.

Borrowdale Shepherds MeetThe last interview of the trip was on site at the High Borrowdale location where research on stabilising land, slowing down stream flows and re-creating upland hay meadows is taking place. It was fascinating to hear about the Friends of the Lake District and their campaigning and project work. The interview was nearly a washout (literally) as I approached the site on the wrong side of the river Borrow and had to make an slightly risky river crossing, whereby I slipped and went in to bumbag depth. My Sony Dictaphone was damp and refused to play at first, but by a bit of warming, drying, praying and battery changing eventually was OK.

20180917_120500I may ask for permission to put up the transcript of the interview as I think it is a fascinating story, especially of the re-creation of upland hay meadows, which has been a great success. For now here is the description from the Friends’ website:

High Borrowdale is situated in a locality described by Wainwright as “the most beautiful valley outside the Lake District”, however the valley is now part of the Lake District thanks to the national park extension in 2016. Through the extensive work of our volunteers this land has been transformed into a stunning landscape haven for wildlife and people. We have re-created two upland hay meadows, restored two barns, stabilised a derelict farm house, re-built 5km of dry stone wall and planted 10,000 native trees – ash, oak, rowan, holly, hawthorn, alder and willow – to enhance the habitats and landscape and help stabilise erosion.

‘Kílian Jornet smashes Bob Graham endurance race record’

Myth: Billy Bland’s 13-53 Bob Graham Record will never be beaten.
Fact: Kilian Jornet took 1 hr 1 min of it on Sunday on a boiling hot day.

Monday’s Guardian reported the news under the misleading headline above (it is NOT a race), and included this marvellous picture of Carl Bell leading Jornet down what looks like Blencathra’s Halls Fell ridge on leg 1.

guardianpicI am still getting over the intensity of the occasion, even though I wasn’t there. I spent a great deal of the day (Sun 8 Jul 2018) watching different social media feeds for updates on Jornet’s progress. Judging by this (admittedly filtered view), it was interesting to observe how the mood of the day seem to swing from a certain amount of ‘he won’t do it’ (and even ‘I hope he doesn’t do it’) to one of amazement at the predicted time as the day went on, and the sense of ‘history being made’ as Jornet ran through a Tour de France-like throng to touch the door at the Moot Hall.

jornetThe setup: It all started with Kilian Jornet posting a picture of himself ‘on Dale Head’ on Friday, with the rumour-mill taking over from there. [The best posting I saw was ‘what is Kilian Jornet doing in the Lake District?’, to which the very first reply was ‘visiting the Pencil Museum’]

The rumour strengthened and then he was ‘definately doing it’ according to some, with Sunday morning a favoured start time.

The day: So it turned out. Someone in the know confirmed that he had set out at 6am from the Moot Hall, and there was a video clip showing Keswick AC’s Carl Bell as main pacer. They were making great time over the Skiddaw-Blencathra section and arrived at Threlkeld a few minutes up on Billy Bland’s schedule already.

dannyrichardsonUKCNewsI had reason to contact Billy Bland about another matter, and his wife Ann replied that he had cycled over to Dunmail to ‘see him come flying through’. By now a confirmed pacing list had leaked out through the ether, and it was clear that he had got absolutely top runners supporting him. Jornet gained more time over the Helvellyn range, and there was a photo (courtesy of Danny Richardson) of Billy shaking Jornet’s hand as he started off up Steel Fell – a fine gesture from Billy.

The finish: It is not for me to decribe the round as it unfolded. There are reports out there, and will be more (particularly from Salomon). Search on Google and take your pick. What was amazing was the build-up to the finish. Live video streams were promised. One of the best was grainy phonecam video shot by Matt (?) of CFR of the run-in from Portinscale.

finishsalomonThe crowds around the Moot Hall were amazing, and parted like a Tour/Giro mountainside crowd as Carl Bell led Jornet up to the finish (photo from Salomon). A pacer reckoned him at about 7min/miling on the road section. I do wish I been there to see it.

charlottemellortwitterBilly Bland was there atop the steps to meet him, and he sat down with him for this iconic photo of the previous and new record holders (photo Charlotte Mellor). On a video from Wild Ginger Films Billy seems to reach behind himself and produce a bottle of champagne to give Kilian, another fine gesture. I’d love to have heard their first words together. (Photo below Trail Running Magazine)

trailrunningWhat was most impressive was that Kilian went off for a shower and shortly came back to talk with people who had come to watch him take on the BG challenge. For 40 mins or so he talked with individuals, signed autographs and patiently sat for photographs (on the bottom step of the Moot Hall).

Background: as the day unfolded, and in subsequent reports, a picture emerged of how Jornet had gone about planning to take the BGR on. He decided to do it only on the Monday beforehand, having recovered well from his recent broken leg, having tested it in winning the Marathon du Mont-Blanc. Being fit, not too tired from other events (due to the layoff), and knowing the conditions were ideal seemed to seal it. Martin Stone was helping coordinate pacers, but was having trouble getting sufficient high quality ones. But Rob Jebb was apparently planning a round himself on the Saturday, but bailed as he thought it to be too hot. He offered several of his pacers to Jornet which completed his team.

petebarronThe man: Jornet seems to be very aware of the tradition of the BGR and is big on the history of mountain running. He planned as low-key a round as a person of his stature could achieve, with virtually no presence from his sponsor, and certainly no big advance publicity. He acknowledges that he knew about the BGR from back in 2008 when people like Ricky Lighfoot were going out to the Alps. Although he didn’t reccie it all he says it is ‘powerful to discover the mountains’. What he did do was call on Billy Bland to have a chat, and says that the first time he called Billy was out on a bike ride! But they met up on the Friday. His approach and demeanor certainly endeared him to many observers.

Snippets: finally a few other snippets cleaned from watching from afar. One thing that was great was the way the fell running community embraced him and the event. Coordinator Martin Stone had been a pacer on Billy Bland’s record round. One of Jornet’s pacers was Martin Mikkelson-Barron, whose father was also a pacer on Billy’s round, and was there to watch, along with Kenny Stuart, who had paced Billy on his leg 1, which finished right near Kenny’s house.

katecarterOn a personal level it was rather cool to see that he had got two books to read as part of his prep, and one was my history of fell running ‘It’s a Hill, Get Over it’. The book covers the BGR and I concluded that I would certainly like to see him try for the BGR record.

He has, and the result has certainly caught the wider world’s attention. Apart from the Guardian article (noted above) it has been on the Radio 2 News, and Jornet appeared on the Chris Evans breakfast show this morning. All a bit much for some of the traditionists in the sport, I suspect.

The future: so what next? Will it close the door on any record attempts from UK runners, or spur them on? Apparently Jornet was heard to say that two of his pacers (Carl Bell and Rob Jebb) were capable of running as fast as he had. We will see. Will Jornet be tempted to other UK events, challenges or races? A Ramsay Round for Jornet was mentioned at some point or other.

stuartTalking with him after, Kenny Stuart suggested he have a crack for his Ben Nevis race record (now 34 yrs old), to which Jornet replied ‘I would love to do that’. He also said that his girlfriend, Emelie Forsberg, would love to do the BGR, and in an interview that he would love to have a go at Billy’s Borrowdale fell race record. So, watch this space.

The Round front coverThanks to everyone for the media, videos and photos, which have been acknowledged where possible. And don’t forget if you want to know more about the man Bob Graham, how the original round happened, and how it developed, together with some of the heroes and innovators, then get hold of my book ‘The Round: in Bob Graham’s footsteps’, available from all good bookshops, and online from Amazon. [It has been described as ‘something very special’ (by Joss Naylor); ‘essential reading’ (Kenny and Pauline Stuart); and ‘unfailingly inspiring’ (Claire Maxted).]

Cartography. Some thoughts

cart_lgKen Field’s ‘Cartography.’ [note the full stop] has now been published and copies are winging their way out to early purchasers. But, what is it really like, and is it worth the hefty price tag?

Disclosure: I made a small contribution [of a double page spread] and also was one of  a small group of people who were asked to review a working copy of the book in its early developmental stages …… and I am a friend of Ken.

I always take the request to be a critical friend of someone’s work very seriously and duly I set about making notes, with suggestions for clarification and emphasis to (hopefully) enhance some of its 500+ pages. This produced a 1,000 Word file which went back to the author for consideration. One example will suffice to show the detail. There is a page on ‘map traps’ – deliberate errors included to try to catch copyright infringement. I suggested: Map traps – maybe an aside in this page about cartographers ‘signatures’ in maps. See page 105/6 in Mike Parker’s ‘Map Addict’ on OS names of surveyor in cliff drawings on IoW.

I hope the critiquing was useful, though I’ve not been back to see if any suggestions were taken up.

howtouseThe most impressive thing about the book is the radical approach taken. Ken explains its different take on structuring the information on the mapping process. This is not likely to be a book that is read in a traditional way. Folk are likely (positively encouraged) to dip in and out, the layout has linked navigation aids. There is a colour-coded thematic index, and an alphabetical index, together with multiple ‘see also’ links on each double page spread.

What else is in there? A neat idea is the inclusion of 25 ‘guest spreads’, where emminent cartographers were asked to provide examples of maps that interest them, with short explanations of why. Seeing the names of Waldo Tobler, Mark Monmonier, Danny Dorling and Menno-Jan Kraak alongside my own gives me a quiet sense of pride. My contribution is a map of ‘Airspace: The Invisible Infrastructure’ commisioned by the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which coincidentally one of my sons has just finished training with.


NB: It is a still from a video, so for best effect check the video it comes from:

One other thing that really pleased me was to see that Roger Anson had been asked to write the Foreword. He was the Senior Lecturer who ran the cartography course at Oxford Polytechnic/University who inspired me in my career, and obviously did for Ken too.

See what do I think of the book?

First off, may I say that I am very impressed overall with the book. I like the concept and the delivery.

These were the first two sentences of my feedback when critiquing the early version of it. When I saw a further iteration I pronounced it a ‘game-changer’, and I really think it is the best text on cartography in recent years.

But don’t just take my word for it . When writing about the book in the Bulletin of the Society of Cartographers, Chris Wesson concluded his detailed review:

What Kenneth Field has created here is a brilliant reference book on behalf of our field of cartography. Finally! A book that truly represents Cartography in 2018.

See his full review, which is thorough and considered, at this link [PDF].

Finally, is it worth the cover price, which is admittedly on the high side. I feel that it is, given the breadth of coverage and particularly the most excellent illustrations, many of which have been created especially for this volume. Buy it if you can afford it.

moocPRO TIP: and if you CAN’T afford it, then sign up for the next Esri Cartography MOOC, which I can guarantee will include loads of stuff from the book, as it is run by Ken, plus his colleagues at Esri who worked on putting the book together.



The rise of great single-event athletic meetings: the MK5000

I have said elsewhere (when writing about the Golden Stag Mile) that events like the Night of the 10,000 PBs at Parliament Hill have shown that concentrated single event evenings are great fun, AND produce great results for the competitors as they are graded races. The success of Highgate Harriers’ Ben Pochee at organising the 10,000m event has caused a brilliant ripple effect, and other such events are following on from this great work, and coming soon is what promises to be a great event for the 5000m.

posterheaderThe details of the inaugural ‘MK5000 PB Special in association with the BMC’ on Saturday 11 August show how clubs like Marshall Milton Keynes AC are gearing these events up to meet the athlete’s needs, and very much putting them first:

  • a day/evening of high quality 5000m races at the track in Milton Keynes. ‘A’ races are BMC Gold Standard; races leading up to that will be graded based on PBs.
  • put on by club runners for club runners; everything will be geared towards helping fellow athletes run as fast as possible.
  • on track support, a food and drinks festival as well as music to help inspire you.

trackOnly 500 places are available, so enter as soon as you can.
BMC Gold Standard entry (14.40 for men / 17.35 for women):
UKA club entry (Currently 17.59 for men/ 20.59 for women:

One of the organising team, Elliot Hind, commented:

It’s great the BMC were so keen to be involved and we are able to take a step forwards giving club athletes the platform to really push themselves.

He also confirmed that, ‘we will be providing pacers, taking official results at 3000m, and have got clocks every 200m and are looking to get predicted finish times on the screens too’.

SO, if you are looking for a 5000m PB, want to try a track 5k for the first time, or just want to watch athletics close up (for free), MK14 6DT is the place to be on Saturday 11 August 2018.