Categories
Miscellaneous Walks

Royal Parks Half Marathon

Marks & Spencer were one of the main sponsors for this year’s Royal Parks Half Marathon in central London, so Carmel used the excuse of her employer’s sponsorship of 50 entrants to take part.

I went to London to take a few photographs and try and be generally supportive. The biggest challenge I had was to enjoy myself. Waiting for two hours on a damp October morning was not sounding much fun – especially when there were 12,000 runners and I had to identify just one of them as they jogged past. For example, this was my view for most of the 2 hours I was waiting – how do you spot one person in such a crowd?

Carmel and I had managed to find a piece of software that allowed me to track within intervals of seconds where each other were at any moment (Glympse). I was able to use this to get a very accurate idea of where Carmel was at any moment and when to either get up off my backside and cheer, or put down my coffee and take some photos.

The start of the half marathon (13 miles) was somewhere along the bottom of Hyde Park near Knightsbridge tube station. And with the route being circular, it finished off back there after going as far as Temple tube station and looping back on itself a few times.

Carmel survived the ordeal by being forced by the crowds to run slightly slower than she normally would. Her time of 2h05m was perfectly respectable and I can vouch for the fact that she was far from exhausted at the finish.

I did my fair share of running too – by finding 4 photo points around the course and jogging between them to make sure I was in place at the time Carmel was passing. By the end I was pretty happy to join her and a few M&S colleagues for a couple of Guinness.

And now for some stats… Carmel finished in position 5,662 out of 11,423 runners. That puts her in the top 49.3% (i.e. in the top half). She also finished in position 2,154 out of the 5,331 ladies that entered, which puts in her in the top 40.4% – even better!

Duration 2:03 hours
Distance 13.5 miles
Path (Google Earth)

 

Categories
Walks

Sca Fell and Coledale Round (Lake District)

Carmel and I had an excellent couple of days exploring the North Lake District. I took a few photos which can be seen here:

Lake District 2011 photos on Picasa Web

The occasion for our trip to the Lakes was the yearly get-together of the folks we met on Kilimanjaro in 2007. However, due to to various non-life threatening and questionable excuses, our attendance was just 4 out of the originally planned 8.

The last person to drop out was Neil who was due to be Carmel and my driver to the Lakes. Since he dropped out just a few hours before he was due to pick us up we had a minor travel-related panic before realising that we could get to our destination fairly comfortably, if not at all cheaply, by the Virgin West Coast train line.

Tim arrived in Penrith about 2 hours before us and Nik met him in his car. Penrith is not really a town that one would choose to hang around in without a good excuse, so those two headed straight off to our pub B&B in the village of Braithwaite. They kindly organised for a taxi to meet Carmel and I when we arrived, and this worked out perfectly. Only downside was that the taxi driver was at liberty to charge us £50 for a 25 min journey which is almost twice the price of every other taxi I’ve ever been in. Arriving after 11pm we only had time for a couple of pints before bed.

We stayed in The Royal Oak in Braithwaite, a village about 2 miles West of Keswick. The pub and B&B were entirely uninspiring and not exactly cheap at £78 per night. Our room was small but functional. The beer was good. But the food, in particular the breakfast, was not something for which you’d ever return to try again.

Saturday – Scafell Pike and Sca Fell

On the Saturday morning we got up far too early for my body to cope. By the time I stumbled down for breakfast I was in a foul mood and really needed an excuse to send me back to bed for half a day. We had arranged to meet at 8:30am to watch the England v Scotland rugby match in the World Cup group stages being held in New Zealand. I had a single slice of fairly unpleasant bacon and two overcooked eggs while England toiled to narrowly beat Scotland and to progress, instead of them, to the World Cup quarter finals. The coffee woke me up, which I was grateful for, but the eggs and bacon made me feel a bit ill and slightly rancid.

We set off for our walk as soon as the rugby was over. Our starting point was a 20 min drive away in a village called Seathwaite which could be found at the end of a road. All I could see in the “village” was a single farm – perhaps I missed a little cottage, but I saw nothing to justify its village status.

Our walk took us up through the hills from Seathwaite to Scafell Pike. The majority of the route was along a fairly steady ascent with a few minor boulders or so to make it a little more interesting. We ascended from the car, which was about 70m above sea level, to the top of Scafell Pike at 978m.

This was the second time I’d been properly up the hills in the Lake District and the second time I’d climbed Scafell Pike. My previous trip was in 2003 and it formed part of the National 3 Peaks that Carmel and I undertook. At that time we scurried up Scafell Pike as quickly as possible from the Wasdale side on the West and stopped only for enough time to take a photo at the summit. Approaching the peak significantly more leisurely from the East side was an entirely different experience and we had a long time to see our destination as we walked to the summit in an almost perfectly straight line all the way from the car.

Our route up to Scafell Pike followed the Corridor Route from Styhead, passing Great Gable on our right. As we got closer to Great Gable I have to say it didn’t look particularly great. But then as we walked past it and could see the incredibly steep rock faces from the summit (899m) all the way down to the river at the bottom (~100m) we began to understand how it got its name.

We stopped a few hundred metres from the summit for lunch and marvelled at the number of walkers that were ascending and descending the summit of England’s highest peak. The relatively warm weather had attracted a lot of walkers and we shouldn’t have been surprised that they all decided to climb the most notable peak in the Lake District.

The above photo taken at the summit of Scafell Pike does not really highlight the 50 or so people behind us cluttering up the mountain and spoiling the views.

After the lengthy but straightforward ascent of Scafell Pike we turned our attention to Sca Fell which is nearby but not easily accessible. The only relatively direct path is along the side of a crumbling steep rock face and incorporates Lord’s Rake, an obstacle described in the walking books as a scramble.

Lord’s Rake has surely seen better days. It was described by Alfred Wainwright as a scramble but now would better be described as a very unstable, steep scree slope. Over the last 10 years the top and sides of the rake have been slowly crumbling and depositing large and small rocks into the rake. With every step the rocks underfoot would move which made us all a little nervous. We survived to tell the tale but made a few mistakes. First, the three boys walked up the left of the rake against the side that was crumbling the most. Since we weren’t wearing helmets we risked getting a pounding headache at best. And second, we walked only a few metres apart which is frankly stupid with that amount of loose rock. We all made various pauses when we could feel the ground giving way and wondered if we were about to trigger a rock slide.

There are three sections to Lord’s Rake but the first section in the photos above and below is the most interesting one. The second and third sections didn’t rely on hanging on to the mountain for dear life quite as much.

The summit of Sca Fell is not too far from the top of Lord’s Rake and we were the only ones there when we arrived. Being alone on the summit was quite a treat after being part of the crowds on Scafell Pike. The peak of Sca Fell is at 964m which is only 14m below the summit of Scafell Pike – and from where we were stood we certainly did not feel inferior to the crowds that were still milling around Scafell Pike in the distance.

The view from the top was beautiful and we could see mountains in nearly all directions. When there weren’t mountains in the distance there was Morecambe Bay and Chernobyl power station. The weather had behaved all day, but had not been quite as spectacular as the South of the country which had seen record temperatures for the 1 Oct (29.9C!).

Just before we set off from the summit we were joined by some other walkers. On the top of Scafell Pike a little earlier we had asked some walkers to take a photo of us. The same group had now arrived at Sca Fell, but not via Lord’s Rake.

We now started our return leg of the journey. We had walked in a pretty constant heading since leaving the car that morning, so the walk back was never going to be a short one. The first part was to descend from Sca Fell, via Foxes Tarn, down to the valley floor where the River Esk flowed on its way to Eskdale.

We descended to about 400m but then had to follow the valley up and over the saddle at Esk Hause at around 800m. Towards the top of the valley we met a solitary walker who seemed a little lost. He had been camping for three days and now couldn’t find where he wanted to camp that night. He didn’t have a map. We were a little surprised at how you could go walking in the hills for a three days without a map (particularly if you had specific preferences about where you wanted to camp).

The daylight was beginning to fade as we left the saddle and began the long descent back to the car. The sun set about an hour before we got to the car, but we just about made it without needing to resort to turning on our headtorches. By the end of the walk we could only see a few metres in front of us.

The return half of the day’s walk was a bit non-descript for me after the interesting trek to the top of Scafell Pike and Sca Fell. Perhaps this was because we had discussed what our first drink was going to be in the pub a long time before we were in a position to get it ordered?

It was 8:30pm when we arrived back at our pub B&B and we had a quick pint before dinner. The pints were good – mostly Jennings. Made a nice change for me from the Greene King dross we get in most pubs around Cambridge. The food was not good. Portions were big, but the quality was poor. Very much standard pub fare, cooked from frozen and overpriced (an uninteresting Yorkshire pudding containing some sausage casserole came in at the London-style pricing of £9.95).

Carmel fell asleep at the pub table shortly before we went to bed. I couldn’t face watching Match of the Day due to Everton losing 0-2 in the Merseyside derby. So it was not a late evening for us.

Duration 8:46 hours
Distance 12.2 miles
Path (Google Earth)

Sunday – Coledale Round

The weather on the Saturday was frustrating. The sun never quite made an appearance and the amount of blue in the sky was fairly limited. However the temperature was really warm so walking was pretty unpleasant during the sweaty treks up the slopes. We saw the news in the evening showing the blue skies around much of the rest of England and were just a little jealous.

If the weather on the Saturday was not perfect then the weather on the Sunday was awful. It started to drizzle as soon as we stepped foot outside and did not stop for the entire walk. The only very minor plus point was that the temperature was not as warm as the previous day so walking with our waterproofs on was not too uncomfortable.

We met for the naff breakfast at 8:30am again and this morning we were entertained by Ireland fairly comfortably (at least in the second half) beating Italy in the rugby World Cup. The breakfast again made me feel queasy – even though we all tried something different to the previous day (Tim even boycotted the cooked food).

Once we’d collected our sandwiches from the Braithwaite village shop we set off in the rain up a direct path towards Grisedale Pike (791m). It was a steady ascent for most of the journey but got significantly steeper towards the summit. The route took us up a ridge towards the summit and if we could have seen the views then I’m sure they would have been fabulous. However the rain, cloud and wind were all battering us and there was not much to do except keep your head down. Not that there was much visibility anyhow.

We didn’t stop at the summit of Grisedale Pike for any longer than was needed for the four of us to regroup and have a quick check of the map. Our path then took us down to a saddle and then back up again to the summit of Crag Hill (839m). The visibility was no different so taking photographs wasn’t really worth the misery of standing still in the rain or the risk of getting the little camera soaked.

From Crag Hill we followed an excellent ridge path over numerous peaks all the way to the end of our walk. The path was exposed from time to time and we had to keep our balance in the wind, but it was not overly dangerous. Every now and again we got a fleeting glimpse of the two valleys on either side of us and they seemed like a long, long way down.

This part of the walk was really good fun in its own way. The peaks along the ridge were varied and the ups and downs along the path kept us entertained. We had become accustomed to the wind and rain but the only miserable thing for me was that I hadn’t bothered putting on my waterproof trousers earlier and now the water had gone through my trouser, through my socks and into my boots. I was squelching with every step I took.

We eventually walked off the hills and had a 2 mile walk along a quiet country lane into Braithwaite and back to the pub where we had left our car. There was time in the pub for a quick cup of tea, a change into dry clothes and a brief sit down before we had to head to Penrith station for our 5pm train back to Euston.

On the train on the way back to London, Tim and I looked into what an Elbrus trip for 2012 would consist of.

Duration 5:20 hours
Distance 9.9 miles
Path (Google Earth)

Categories
Miscellaneous

Wine “drinking”

As an alternative to simply drinking a lot of wine with our friends, we decided for a change to drink a lot of wine with our friends and also comment on what it was we were drinking. I think this activity is referred to as “wine tasting”, but that sounds a little pretentious so we have been referring to it as a “wine drinking” afternoon.

To make it interesting we tried to make a battle of it – with us ratings wines produced by the same grape but in different parts of the world. This meant comparing wines made in France vs the newcomers from the Rest of the World.

There were 9 of us so we chose 5 grapes and therefore 10 tasted bottles of wine. We actually tasted a few more than 10 during the afternoon but only 10 were voted in by a show of hands after each grape variety round.

The first challenge was for everybody to actually source the wines. For example, there are many Argentinian malbecs, but trying to find a French malbec (where the grape originated) turned out to be fairly difficult in Cambridge. Doable, though.

The second difficulty was spending the right amount on the wine. We’ve had many wines under £10, but not too many over the £10 mark. Trying to source a decently priced wine (and therefore hopefully one of a decent quality) was also slightly difficult for some of the grapes.

So here’s the scoring:

Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Pouilly-Fumé, Domaine de Bel Air (0-1) Matetic Sauvignon Blanc EQ 2008

Viognier

Paul Mas Estate ‘Nicole Vineyard’ Viognier 2010 Vin de Pays d’Oc (0-1) Yalumba Viognier Y Series 2010

Pinot Gris

Hunawihr Pinot Gris Réserve 2008 (1-0) Tinpot Hut Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010

Pinot Noir

Ladoix Rouge 2007 Domaine Chevalier Père et Fils (0-1) Roaring Meg Pinot Noir 2009 Mount Difficulty, Central Otago

Malbec

Château de Gaudou Cuvée Renaissance 2007/2008 Cahors (1-1) Renacer ‘Punto Final’ Malbec Clasico 2010

The final score was France 2 – 4 Rest of the World.

We managed to find ourselves with four Americans and one Irish for the session and these seemed more neutral than the Brits towards the French. I for one was pleased and relieved that France lost. Perhaps next time we could look into German grapes?

 

Categories
Holidays

Cagliari

Apparently you don’t pronounce Cagliari like you would in English. The “g” is pretty much silent, and the second “a” is pronounced more like a long “e”. Making it sound, in English phonetics, like “Calieri”. I learned this after 3 days in the place.

Cagliari was chosen as the destination for this year’s mother and son long weekend break. My Mum had already spent a few days of culture in Budapest, Hungary with my sister so I chose a more leisurely destination with a strong focus on sunny weather.

It was, as always, a begrudging pleasure to pay £200 for a budget(!!!) airline trip via Easy Jet. The flights were perfect in that there wasn’t much to complain about. Easy Jet are not the miserable bunch of jobs-worth morons that are Ryanair (no Ryanair staff ever look happy – I imagine them to be failed tax collectors or ex-traffic wardens). To make the logistics easier this year, my Mum travelled from Stansted at the same time as me instead of travelling on a similar schedule from Liverpool airport.

On arrival we got the local bus from the airport to the city centre. I tried to have a conversation with the bus driver about where to get off the bus. The language barrier prevented this from working, but was unnecessary anyhow as the bus didn’t stop until it got to the Cagliari bus terminus. Pleasingly, this terminus turned out to be just a 5 min walk to our hotel. Although it didn’t take us 5 min to get to the hotel, since we got lost, and had to resort to a combination of printed maps and mobile phone maps before we found the correct street.

The Hotel Italia was as average as it could have been without being disappointing. The rooms were a decent size and had a mini balcony overlooking the street below. The TV had almost 300 channels, all in Italian which I painfully discovered after hitting the “up channel” button on the remote control 300 times one evening.

We arrived by mid-morning on the Thursday and spent our first day seeing the sights of the city. The first stop was a glass of wine, followed by an uphill trek to the old region called Castello. This is a walled section of the city situated on one of the highest points overlooking the harbour and surrounding residential districts in all directions. Inside the walled castle are narrow cobbled streets and a mix of old and very old buildings. We found Cagliari Cathedral and explored there for a short while before making our way downhill slightly to Saint Remy Bastion with its fantastic views of the harbour.

After we had finished wandering the small streets of the Castello we decided to head for the Roman amphitheatre. This took us quite a while as we managed to get a little lost. There seemed to be plenty of road signs for the amphitheatre which sent you around one-way road systems but we didn’t spot too many directions to get there by foot.

When we eventually did get there, the amphitheatre was closed. In fact it looked like it was rarely open. It appeared to be set up for concerts and not for casual visitors. So we looked through the iron railings for a few minutes before moving on.

Next on our to do list was the botanical garden which was found much more easily as it was literally next to the amphitheatre.

The day had been particularly warm and the botanical garden provided some much need shade and a few fountains to cool the air. The garden was nice, but not particularly big or overly impressive.

The botanical garden had one section near some old caves where they sprinkled water into the air to create a misty forest environment. This made for a good photo with the sun shining through the trees and reflecting off the water vapour in the air.

That was our sightseeing fill for the first day and we wandered back to the Piazza Yenne where I had a couple of local Sardinian Ichnusa beers. The beer was perfectly bland without being totally pointless. The brewery is owned by Heineken and seemed to fit their mould nicely. It was a little too late when we noticed we were drinking in an ice cream parlour. This wasn’t necessarily a problem, but did mean we were the only people having a drink while everyone around us appeared to be teenagers enjoying ice cream sundaes.

Dinner turned out to be easy. We stepped out of hotel and had a choice of approximately 10 nice restaurants on the street within 100m in both directions. My Mum’s eternal search for the perfect tourist menu bargain was not going to work in Italian Sardinia. She does not like pasta, pizza or veal – and finding a set menu without any of those options was completely impossible (and, of course, unsurprising). So my Mum had to be contented with ordering off the regular menu.

After dinner we took a short stroll down to the harbour and took a look at the large yachts that were moored there. The harbour front at Cagliari is nicely lit up and well maintained but suffers, like many cities with harbours, from having a large busy road that runs right along the promenade.

The next day, Friday, was also a beautiful day, so it was an easy decision to go to the beach. The nearest beach was a 10 minute bus ride away at Poetto. We bought ourselves a €3 day ticket for the local buses and headed off.

We felt a little unsure exactly where we were travelling by bus, but after 10 minutes at least half the passengers disembarked at the first stop after a marina, so we took the hint and joined them. The beach was only a few metres away and was packed. It stretched for 8km off in one direction along the bay and looked wonderful. The sand was soft and white and the water was crystal clear.

All the Italians (everyone on the beach was Italian) appeared overly stylish and beautiful which made us feel a bit British.

While walking along the beach, we came across a concrete pier supporting a restaurant terrace jutting out over the beach. You can walk beneath the concrete supports which isn’t particularly dangerous. What did catch me out was the height of the concrete pillars. Doing my best to get the perfect photo I head-butted one of the roof supports and, after spluttering some abusive language, was left with a bleeding dent in my skull.

We wandered along the sea line for about an hour or more (approximately 2.5 miles) and eventually found a cafe that suited us. This cafe had the cheapest food and drink of the entire weekend so my Mum had no problem taking an ice cold limoncello off their hands for €1.

We sat in the shade of the bar watching the world go by for a bit and rehydrated with some soft drinks and dehydrated with some alcoholic drinks.

The trip back was taken the same way, along the shoreline, all the way to Piccola Marina. We found a fairly posh and empty bar here with a grumpy waitress. There was no further choice of bars though and the view of the marina was a good one, so we persevered. Following a little meander between the boats and watching some windsurfers from the harbour we got the bus back into Cagliari.

The late afternoon drinks that evening were taken in the drinks bar next to the ice cream parlour we had been to the previous afternoon.

Our last full day in Sardinia, on the Saturday, started out as another scorcher but by lunch had become overcast. We had seen tourist information about a nature reserve that had wild flamingos so decided on this as our target for the day.

We took the bus about half way from the city centre to the beach and got off apparently in the middle of a residential area. Following a street map and some very rough directions the tourist office had given us we found our way to the Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius. From the outside this building appeared to be an educational activity centre of sorts that focused on the nature found within the large salt-water lagoons that ran parallel to the coastline. The building looked a little formal for passer-bys such as ourselves so we walked on. The path shortly turned off the road and became quieter. It was sign-posted as a path for joggers and we did actually see a couple of them using it as such in the high summer heat. We used it as a walking route for going through the salt-water lakes and found it very peaceful.

After a couple of miles the path took us towards the beach but first passed a couple of lakes with numerous flamingos in. The birds were not as close or as pink as you find them in a zoo, but seeing wild flamingos was still pretty interesting. Just wished I had a bigger zoom on my camera lens.

Back at the beach for the second day, we wandered along it for a short while, but the weather was overcast so it did not sparkle quite as much as it had in the previous day’s sunlight. We stopped off in a different cafe for a drink and got pestered by flies the entire time we were there. Having missed the bus back to the city centre by 15 seconds (or 10 metres) we bided our time for the next bus by walking down the long road back towards town. While waiting at the bus stop we checked the map and decided to do a bit more sightseeing back in the city.

Our next port of call was The Basilica di Nostra Signora di Bonaria. This church has a large set of steps leading up to its entrance, making it seem much grander than it actually is. We didn’t go inside, instead choosing to walk around to the back of it and walk up through the small gardens adjacent to it. As we walked through the gardens in the early afternoon the sun kindly re-appeared from the midday haze and stayed with us for the rest of the day.

These gardens gave fabulous views of the city a mile or so away. You could easily make out the large walled Castello that we had visited on our first day and it looked much more prominent on top of the hill that it appeared when we were within it.

The other area of interest that was visible from behind the basilica was the cemetery (Cimitero di Bonaria). This was unfortunately closed while we were visiting and looked from our vantage point to be in a poor state of repair. There wasn’t much in the way of flat, horizontal space within the cemetery with many of the graves being stacked in large filing cabinet-like structures. Looked interesting, but we didn’t get to explore them up close.

We intended to see one last place on this day and made our way to the Parco di Monte Urpinu. On our tourist map this looked like a massive public park and an English speaking man on the public bus had even recommended that we go and see it. The problem facing us was identifying where the entrance was. We arrived at a wall of rock which signified the park and had to make a decision to go left or right to find an entrance. Since the park was circular we thought we’d go right and walk into the park as soon as we could. What we discovered was that the park was indeed circular but that there were only two entrances, and they were close together and accessed in the opposite direction to the one in which we started walking. We walked for a further hour nearly all the way around the park’s circumference before we found an entrance (reasonably close to where we had started our circular walk). The path around followed a busy and unattractive road so we were not happy tourists when we finally left the main road and started up into the park.

Our feet had undertaken many miles of walking on this day, and in the heat this was taking its toll. Indeed, we staggered up through the park to its obvious summit with quite grumpy, tired looking faces. However the view from the top was superb. On one side we overlooked the salt-lagoons that we had walked around earlier in the day, as well as the beach and harbour from the previous day. On the other side it overlooked the city and the main port. We didn’t realise quite how much height we had gained walking up through the park.

At the top there was a large statue which, set against the blue and white sky, looked rather majestic. However, like much of Cagliari, it was surrounded by graffiti which made taking photographs quite difficult. There was more graffiti in Cagliari than I recall seeing in many other European cities that I have previously visited, and this frequently spoilt the picturesque settings.

The sun was beginning to set now, so it was back to a bar for a drink. We chose a bar two along from the ice cream parlour in the centre. But this place was a pretentious cocktail bar and we used the excuse of them not having a fresh orange to move next door to the bar we had gone to on the previous night. The weather since mid-afternoon had been glorious and we sat in the bar watching the sun go down for the final time in Cagliari.

For the third night running we didn’t have to walk more than a few hundred metres from the hotel to find a restaurant at a decent price. Our Hotel Italia was in the perfect location for eating out in restaurants on the street – which is my personal preference when dining abroad in warmer climes.

We had just about an hour on our next and final day in Cagliari to squeeze in any last sightseeing. The one thing I really wanted to do was to climb the highest tower in the city. It wasn’t completely clear which actually was the highest tower, but the one we had seen on our first day in the old Castello appeared to be a good candidate.

The structure was called The Elephant Tower and was built in 1307 out of limestone. It was built for the defence of the Castello and as such did not have a back wall to it. It was only a few floors tall but the staircases were very steep and reasonably exposed.

The views from the top were predictably spectacular and we spied much of where we had travelled to over the previous days.

And following that final descent from the tower we finished our fairly relaxing time in Cagliari with an ice cream overlooking the harbour before taking the bus back to the airport for our flight home.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Town Bumps 2011

The Cambridge Town Bumps always arrives at my busiest time of the year. With me being a fair weather rower, the only times I tend to train are in the months leading up to the Bumps. This year, apart from the normality of Bumps starting the day after a long weekend boozing at the Latitude Festival, it followed weekends where I had been away, also boozing, in Blackpool and then Cheshire for a stag do and a wedding. Not the best preparation.

This was my 7th consecutive Bumps and I found myself in the St Radegund mens 2nd crew. Last year I rowed at stroke for the St Radegund novice boat and it was a pleasure this year to get back to bow side and my favourite position at 7.

It wasn’t a particularly successful Bumps for our crew, but could have been worse.

Tuesday

It started off bad with us being bumped on the first night. We rowed poorly and got caught on the course’s first corner (First Post corner). Although to give us a tiny amount of credit we did start a decent distance towards the back of the line-up.

Wednesday

We tried to calm the nerves and adrenaline on the the second night and had a good row-over. We made a small impression on the crew who had caught us the night before but they bumped before we could consider catching them. The boat chasing us slipped further behind and we were comfortable rowing the course. I heard on the grapevine later that the boat chasing us were pretty angry not to catch a St Radegund boat nicknamed the “Beer Boat”.

Thursday

This was an awful night. I was quite ashamed of us. The boat that didn’t catch our crew the night before made an absolutely storming start and within a few hundred metres were just about overlapping us at the bow. At which point they veered off the straight river and crashed into the bank. Rudder failure, I later found out. We didn’t know whether to celebrate or not but with another boat further down the river we thought it best to continue.

Over the middle half of the course the boat that started 2 positions behind us actually caught right up on our bow and amazingly bumped us just outside The Plough pub. This meant that we had been effectively caught by the two boats that started behind us on the river. This was really bad – being caught by one boat is not good, but being caught by two is just embarrassing!

However the outcome was that we managed to get away with being caught on both occasions and were granted a technical row-over. The first boat that caught us had not officially bumped us (it was only a metre or two short of this) before it crashed. The second boat that caught us had technically bumped the one that crashed and was not allowed to chase us. So that was that. We rowed like fat, uncoordinated pigs, but were lucky, and I was ashamed.

Friday

Last night of the Bumps. Nobody wants to have bad night. We knew we had rowed appallingly the night before so had to learn to calm down on the slide and not overly panic. I’m not totally sure what happened but we had a good start and the most solid row of the week.

The boat that caught us from two positions back the day before had a better start but could not get close to us (always at least a boast length away). And our crew slowly ground down the boat we were chasing and finally caught it towards the end of the course, just after the Plough pub. We had a bump for the first time that week!

Again I heard on the grapevine that the boat chasing us were angry that they could not catch us for a second night. I just wish we could have rowed more consistently across the week. We had two good races and two very bad ones.

Here’s a photo from a couple of minutes into the final night’s race. We are boat 47 and as you can see the boats either side of us are not too far away…

In our haste to move to the side of the river after our bump we got the bow stuck into the far bank. The boat was not budging using just oars alone so Pierre, at number 2, had to climb out into the river and pull the boat out.

Our crew made the traditional stop at the Beer Tree after the race – which was more mandatory than usual since the St Radegund mens 1st crew needed our boat to race in. Ben had selected red wigs, and optional green face paint, as our fancy dress – not totally sure why. However we did look like idiots and I guess that was the point. I recall 3 children on the bank pointing at us and shouting “clowns”!

Our St Radegund M2 crew was:

Cox: Frances
Stroke: George
7: Rob
6: Craig
5: William/Colin (Thu)
4: Ben
3: Andy
2: Pierre
Bow: Alan

I had additional support this year with my Dad coming to visit for the first time during Bumps week. Here he is demonstrating how to make full use of the Beer Tree.

The official bumps results are here.