There are always many people to thank when producing any book, and this is no exception. First and foremost, I must acknowledge Billy and Ann Bland, without whose cooperation the project would have remained just an idea. Billy Bland, whose very aura and reputation worried me at the start of this journey, proved to be a very charismatic subject. He was endlessly polite and honest, however personal my probing became. He always tried to say it like it was and has always produced great quotes when interviewed by myself or others. Ann Bland supported Billy, and myself, all the way. She prompted Billy if memory temporarily failed him, responded to my interminable follow-up queries, and proved herself to be the rock that she has been for him all their life together. My many visits to the top end of Borrowdale to talk with them both have been pivotal in telling this story, but it has always been a pleasure to discuss the old and recent times with them.
As well as Billy and Ann, I have also had some in depth conversations with several contemporaries, friends, family and rivals. To the following in particular I give my heart-felt thanks for finding the time to answer my sometimes naïve questions: Pete and Anne Bland, Pete Barron, Jan Darrall, Jon Broxap, Colin Donnelly, Howard Pattinson, Ross Brewster, Mark Wilson, Hugh Symonds, Kenny and Pauline Stuart, Joe Ritson, Tony Cresswell, John Wild, Gavin Bland, Dave Hall, and Scoffer Schofield.
Help comes in many different ways. For finding and suggesting various reference sources I turned to Jeff Ford and Charlotte McCarthy (both from the Mountain Heritage Trust), the latter inviting me to look through material at the Trust library, where I also bagged some mountaineering book bargains as they were clearing out some unwanted stock. I also received some good leads from Julie Carter (author of Running the Red Line) and Joe Ritson, who followed a great chat at the Keswick Museum café with some really useful material from his own archive. Martin Stone was instrumental in connecting me to Kilian Jornet, who generously agreed to write the Foreword to the book.
That thing called the internet is also wonderful for finding contacts and resolving queries. So, thanks to diligent folk on the Fell Runners UK Facebook group and the FRA Forum for responding to my random requests for info, race results, or other trivia. For furnishing me with contact details for people that I wanted to speak to I am particularly grateful to Matt Bland, Chris Knox, Hugh Symonds, and Ann Bland. In a similar way I needed to refer to some Fellrunner magazines that I didn’t have (and weren’t on the brilliant FRA website archive) and both Marcus Covell and Simon Blease kindly offered to send me missing ones that they had and were prepared to donate to aid my research.
Let us not forgot the value of librarians. On several visits to the excellent Kendal Library Local History section Kate Holliday and Sylvia Kelly were invariably welcoming, and happy to search out my obscure reference requests from their stock. Equally valuable was the support I received from Vanessa Hill, of the Middlesex University Library, who tracked down (and sent me) some references when I was looking into re-wilding and specifically the Wild Ennerdale project. I have also done much reading around the subject as I have been writing the manuscript, and the main books and other resources referred to are listed in the references section below.
Huge thanks are due to the following for help in sourcing photographs from their own collections and archives, and for giving permission to use them in the book: Pete Barron, Steve Bateson, Allan Greenwood, Denise Park, Neil Shuttleworth, Martin Stone, Boff Whalley, and Mark Wilson.
A writer always benefits from the support of friends, whom they can tire out with stories of how badly, or well sometimes, the manuscript is going. Among such friends one who stands out is Mike Cambray, who was always happy to accommodate me on dashes to the Lakes, and act as a sounding board for my ideas regarding this project. On one walk through his local Craggy Woods he came up with the brilliant suggestion of illustrating each chapter with a line drawing relevant to the part of the story within it. Moira Chilton somewhat nervously took on the task of providing the pen and ink illustrations which introduce each chapter. I hope you will agree that they are marvellous, helping set the scene and giving an excellent locational context to the journey.
On the many journeys to interview people for the manuscript Bruce Springsteen has many times been my companion. He has been the soundtrack to my writing and researching and is an inspiration to me on several levels. I once listed his ‘Born to Run’ in a blog on my favourite running books. It is actually the best written rock autobiography, in my opinion. The discerning reader/rock fan may detect his tangible presence in this tome.
At some point an author has to show their work to someone, ideally someone who is willing to read it and give constructive feedback. Massive thanks go to Ed Price for being my critical friend, despite having a very busy domestic and working life himself. He made some very sound suggestions regarding structure and style when reviewing the first draft of the manuscript for me, and I am sure the subsequent re-drafting has produced a better and more readable result. Any errors in the script are of course my responsibility.
Thanks to my editor Robert Davidson, proof-reader Joy Walton, cover designer Heather MacPherson of Raspberry Creative Type, indexer Roger Smith and all at Sandstone Press who, as always, have been a pleasure to work with.
Over the three days before the book’s publication there is an ‘All or nothing at all’ Blog Tour. Visit the blogs via the links below to find out more about the book and it’s author, and also more about it’s subject and the content of the book. Two blogs will be released on each day of the tour.
On Mon 17 August there are two stops on the tour:
Having seen an advance copy, Paul Foster [@longrunuk] takes us through the process, asking me about the idea, research and writing, and then publication and promotion. It gives a unique insight the stages that I went through to produce this book. See: https://www.longrun.co.uk/articles/all-or-nothing-at-all
Dave Middlemas [@meanwoodrambler] has lived in Borrowdale and takes a look at the changes that in the book Billy Bland highlights that have happened in Borrowdale during his life, which has all been spent living in that valley. See: https://meanwoodrambler.com/?p=4242
On Tue 18 August there are two stops on the tour:
In an instructive piece on his blog, Ed Price highlights what a critical friend is, how important they can be, and how he reacted to being asked to be my critical friend for this book. See: https://medium.com/@edprice/learning-how-to-read-the-trail-8e43431d27dd
Runner and blogger Jeff McCarthy did a probing interview with me, in question and answer format, about: myself, Billy Bland and some of the things that are in the book. See: http://runeatrepeat.co.uk/steve-chilton-interview-on-billy-bland-book-and-bob-graham-round/
On Wed 19 August there are two stops on the tour:
I turned the tables on Boff Whalley and interviewed him, about: getting into fell running, discovering the BGR, and how he suddenly had Billy Bland pacing him on the last leg of his own round. See: http://boffwhalley.com/blog.php
Finally, Ben Mounsey’s blog carries a short edited extract from the book on Billy Bland’s training, what he did, and didn’t do, and some reflections from Ben. See: https://benmounsey.net/2020/08/19/all-or-nothing-at-all/
‘All or nothing at all’ will be published on Thursday 20th August and can be obtained from all good bookshops and online at Amazon. Look out for the live and interactive book launch, on Thursday 20 Aug at 6-30pm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVbuEUURETE&feature=youtu.be
About the book
All or nothing at all: the life of Billy Bland. Sandstone Press. Format: Hardback. ISBN: 9781913207229. Publication Date: 20/08/2020 RRP: £19.99
All or Nothing At All is the life story of Billy Bland, fellrunner extraordinaire and holder of many records including that of the Bob Graham Round until it was broken by the foreword author of this book, Kilian Jornet. It is also the story of Borrowdale in the English Lake District, describing its people, their character and their lifestyle, into which fellrunning is unmistakably woven.
About the author
Steve Chilton is a runner and coach with considerable experience of fell running. He is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association (FRA). He formerly worked at Middlesex University as Lead Academic Developer. He has written three other books: It’s a Hill, Get Over It; The Round: In Bob Graham’s footsteps; and Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. He has written for The Fellrunner, Compass Sport, Like the Wind and Cumbria magazines.
The other day I had a long chat with Boff Whalley, as he is providing one of the stops on the Blog Tour next week to celebrate the launch of my book ‘All or nothing at all: the life of Billy Bland’. His blog post that results from the chat will cover, amongst other things, the Bob Graham Round (and having Billy Bland as a surprise pacer on his own). Here we cover some of Boff’s recent writing output – for book and stage. As he has much more interesting things to say than I have it is in a series of questions, which he answered willingly. So, here goes, (my words/links in italics):
Photo is a tease for Boff’s Book Blog Tour post – see above
Do you have a writing scheme/schedule/routine?
I do. For songwriting I have to know what it is for. I don’t just walk round with a notepad in my pocket and come up with inspiration. I have to have a subject or a reason to do it. But with writing writing (with books and that) I just find it really difficult to find the time.
Have you been trying to write in lockdown?
What happened is that I have been thinking of writing a book about Gary Devine. It has been on the cards for about two years. I had kind of shelved it as it wasn’t really going anywhere. But when lockdown happened I instantly thought – this is the time to do it. But I hadn’t taken into account home schooling. I have got a ten-year-old and it is just crazy trying to write a book whilst you are responsible for stopping a child from spending all day at a screen! You know, re-learning primary school maths and all that. And doing projects too. Once I am in that space, I presume it is the same for you, I love it. I could sit and write all day if I had the chance.
[STEVE] I find I have to have something to start me off – having talked to someone else, or read something. I hit the task in random patterns. I certainly don’t write logically through a manuscript.
Are you writing what might be seen as a standard biography or trying to write through Gary’s eyes?
A lot of it is quite novelistic, in the sense that I didn’t want it to be just a biography. I am not very good at writing those kind of things. I am not good at the journalism part of everything. I have had lots of discussions with Gary about this. Basically, I said, we will sit down and go through everything, and I can keep asking you lots of questions about facts here and there. Essentially, I want to write this so that it is an exciting story. Not just about running, I want it to be about punk rock, and about the 1980s, and squatting in Leeds and getting iced by the police.
Did you know him before running?
Yes. I knew him vaguely. I knew him from the punk scene and had seen him about. When I went to watch my first fell race, he won it. It clicked and I suddenly thought, yeh that is that guy. I have known him since then.
What band or music did he play?
He was in a band called Pagan Idols. They were absolutely awful. I am sure he would agree with me. They were lovely people and they had really good hearts. They really meant it, and were very loud and extreme.
At this point I checked: Is it OK to mention the book?
I am kinda assuming that no-one is else is gonna write on that subject.
Have you got a publisher?
Yeh. Great Northern Books are publishing it.
At this point we digressed somewhat, which led to an interesting story
I originally planned to write a book about Joss Naylor, but Keith Richardson got there first. Did you know Joss worked at BNFL for a while? An ambassador even, you might call it nowadays.
I think they [BNFL] were very good at keeping the local community happy. They employed loads of people who barely did any work. So, it kept people from complaining about things. It had a nickname, what was it? Something like a ghost job. It meant you turned up and didn’t do anything.
What do you think of the whole GPS tracker/Strava thing?
Steve Bottomley from Pudsey & Bramley was talking about Strava when it first started. He used to wait at the bottom of a hill on his bike and as soon as a lorry came along get in its slipstream and get a good time. Life is too short for that sort of antics. In the early days of GPS trackers for football clubs one manager found that he gave them to his players to show how much training they were doing on their own. He found some of them were attaching the trackers to their dogs.
You have been working on a project called ‘These hills are ours’. What is it?
An 85-mile run from Lancaster down to Kinder Scout was part of the backbone of the story we are telling. It is to do with land rights and land ownership. It is the history of land ownership as told from the standpoint of runners.
Is it a stage show?
It is a theatre thing but not playing characters. It is two of us presenting these ideas and with songs and discussion and things like that. Bits of film even. It gave me an excuse to write a set of 8 or 9 songs about fell running, which I have never done before. Well there was an album about sport on which there are two fell running songs. It was a delight to write these new ones. I really enjoyed it. We had 40-odd dates pencilled in for March to June and they all disappeared with lockdown.
The idea reminds me of Ewan McColl and the ‘Shoals of herring’ song series
Yeh – the radio ballads. They were brilliant. When I first discovered those I thought they were brilliant and I was inspired by them. This is similar. The songs I have written tell the story of different aspects of running and how you feel on certain things – races, and different aspects.
Is your co-creator (Daniel Bye) a songwriter or what?
He is a theatre maker and performance artist. He is a writer as well. But he is also an obsessive runner. Part of the reason we thought we might do a show about it all was because as we talked about it we realised that I have old-fashioned traditionalist attitude to a lot of things about running, whereas he is Mr Heartrate Monitor GPS Watch Strava Segment. He knows the whole thing and that is his world. I so like to wind him up. I bought a sundial watch which I wear when I meet him. The joke is I am playing Billy Bland and he is Kilian Jornet. Our two characters meet with running in the middle.
Link to Daniel’s blog about it: http://www.danielbye.co.uk/these-hills-are-ours.html
Finally, what is your fitness and commitment to running just now.
Just enjoying running at the moment. I am 60 next year so I need to get fit for that. Jack Maitland used to run his age in one go every year on his birthday. Once you get to about 60 it is getting hard. He used to do it over the weekend, so over the weekend when he was 30 he ran 30 miles and drank 30 pints on the Fri-Sun. Just madness.
PS: Just for the record, in lockdown I have been working (intermittently) on three books. One on the Ordnance Survey, one on photography, and one on fell running.
There are just two weeks to the launch date for my book ‘All of Nothing at All: the life of Billy Bland’, which is Thursday 20 Aug. This is the last reveal, consisting of two bits of content.
Firstly, each chapter has a pen and ink drawing on the first page as a lead-in to what the chapter is about. This arose from a casual conversation I had with Mike, a very good friend of mine whom I go ‘way back’ with, as we walked through Craggy Wood, just by Staveley in the South Lakes, when I was visiting him one time. Out of the blue he suggested the idea of chapter illustrations, knowing I am a big fan of Wainwright’s pen and ink work. I tentatively suggested the idea to my wife Moira, and she agreed to have a go at one. Looking at that first one, we both really like it – so she agreed to do one per chapter, which became quite a task, but SO worth it as I look at them now.
I suggested various views or locations that fitted the themes of the chapters and away we went. Finding source material to refer to was not usually a problem, as we searched our own photos and on the web. The criteria was a good clear image that had really good colour contrast to show the detail. This was because Moira had to overlay heavy tracing paper over the image (that was taped on the top edge to allow flipping up). She then drew the detailed image with her favourite pens – Sakura Pigma Micron – to produce each piece of artwork. [The image shows Ashness Bridge – which was on one of Billy Bland’s long training run routes – with the left half having the underlying photo visible]
It was then scanned and reduced to see if effective. Some of the images chosen at first were rejected for various reasons, usually poor contrast and clarity making them difficult to interpret. One such was an image of a slate splitter at Honister Mine – where Billy worked for years – because of the difficulty of making the close-up of the worker’s hands look realistic. The images were sent for approval to the editor, who loved them, and set under the titles for each chapter [as illustrated below].
That leads us nicely on to the second snippet of content, which is a very small section of the chapter entitled ‘Reason to Believe’, which deals in detail with Billy Bland’s training. This introduces another of the characters of the Borrowdale fell running scene (Scoffer) and his relationship with Billy. Scoff told some marvellous stories when I met him to chat about Billy, only some of which were suitable for publication!
One other person who trained with Billy has subsequently become a close friend, and that is Andrew Schofield – who henceforth in this volume will be referred to, as everyone does, as Scoffer. How it all started is rather unusual as well, as I recently found out when talking with him.
Scoffer was born in Rochdale in 1967 and is a painter and decorator by trade. He ran first for Rochdale, and then for Rossendale. ‘Dave Lewis was the main man there. But also Ken Taylor, Pete Irwin and Bob Ashworth, I used to look up to them all’, Scoffer recalls.
He is a bit younger than Billy and it was all going pear-shaped between the professional and amateur sides of the sport when Scoffer got into it. There wasn’t really a pro scene in Lancashire. It was all in the Lakes really. Scoffer was up a lot at weekends with friends and decided he might as well move up and live in the Lakes.
In 1983/4 Scoffer started doing the Junior fell races, and progressed to longer Senior races, like Wasdale and Borrowdale. ‘I was OK, but not brilliant’, he says. ‘Gary Devine and Robin Bergstrand were the top Juniors, and they could also do well as Seniors. I might be fourth or fifth maybe, never winning.’
Once he knew Billy, he would sometimes stay with him and they would go out training. He just got to know Billy by going to races and knowing who he was. ‘He was The Man, and I watched him and then introduced myself. If you show an interest, he will give you as much time as you want. I used to come up for weekends and go for a run with Billy. I used to sleep on his settee, or camp in his garden. “You are welcome to come with me, but I am not waiting”, he would say.’ So, the same treatment as all other training partners, even though Scoffer was really young then, being 17 or 18. Scoffer does say that Billy didn’t used to rub him into the ground too much. He used to come up to Borrowdale by bike and public transport, or cadge lifts off people.
But Scoffer didn’t train regularly with Billy much, apart from those times when he used to come up for weekends. Billy was tailing off really as Scoffer was getting going. But that early training with Billy certainly helped his progress. ‘The advice I got off Billy was in showing us where to go in fell races. It is just common sense with running really isn’t it. You train and you get better. I was good trainer, and I still go running every day. I wouldn’t call it training. It is just going for a run now. If you have no natural ability you have got to run harder to keep up with those that have.’
Although still running, Scoffer reckons that the highlight of his career was winning Wasdale in 2002. There was no hesitation in that response. He also did a Bob Graham Round in 17-01. ‘Billy clapped me through at the top of Honister’, he laughs. ‘No that is not right, he did the last leg with me. It was OK for ten hours, then it was a walk.’
One story that I wasn’t sure whether to believe or not was confirmed by Scoffer, who was there. It concerned Gary Devine at the Ben Nevis race one year. ‘The lads were in the chip shop the night before the race and the guy in the chip shop the night before said to Gary, “if you win I will give you all free pie and chips”. Gary had bright pink hair and to look at him you would think he would not be able to run a bath, never mind up and down Ben Nevis. But we knew he could win, like. He did, and we got free pies and chips all round.’
I hope that, and the other five book reveals (see for instance what was left out), have given a feel for what you would get for your money. You can spend that money at the Sam Read Bookseller Online Shop (other online outlets are also available). Look out for details of the book launch.