What were the options for planning, with the Assembly Field where it was and the Overnight Camp where it was.
- Send some courses north and some south on Day 1. And reverse on Day 2.
- Send all north on Day 1 and then all south on Day 2.
- Use the same area on both days, for some courses.
There were constraints:
- Over 20 Sites of Special Scientific Interest to be avoided.(We need to get approval for courses from Natural England before the event could go ahead). This means controlling route choices so that runners don’t go through the SSSIs.
- A very big, long range of hills between Start and Finish on each day, which has to be kept in mind, otherwise the amount of climb becomes unacceptable.
- United Utilities forestry activities suddenly arising 3 days before the event!!!! Map corrections.
I decided to send everyone north on Day 1 because, the long courses could get to the far north, which wouldn’t be possible on the shorter Day 2. For the short courses, if they went south on Day 1 then, with Day 2 courses being shorter, it was going to be difficult getting them back over the main ridge on a safe route on Day 2. So better to send them north on Day 1.
I was reasonably happy with the Day 1 courses. It was possible to get the right length of course. Perhaps a bit too much climb, although this was minimised by only crossing the main ridge once. Most competitors were able to visit some interesting sites (the old chimney base on Stang, the lovely little mine level in Grisedale, the old dam in Kepple Cove – all parts of the industrial archeology of the area.Some of the ruined sheepfolds on the western side of the main ridge were in beautiful locations) Route choices existed and some technical navigation existed. And courses were reasonably spread out, although I’m sure that crocodiles developed in places.
For Day 2, the logical thing to do was send everyone south over Fairfield. This turned out to be OK for Wansfell and Bedafell.~And OK for Bowfell, Pillar and Klets, although the routes for these three courses were a little contrived. I hope that they still required a bit of thought to get them right. Those big craggy coves on the north side of Fairfield are worth looking at, as well.
I had to send Kirkfell, Carrock Fell and Harter Fell north again. I couldn’t identify decent courses, of the right length and climb, by taking them over Fairfield. It worked reasonably well although I’m still working on how to improve Carrock Fell . OK, I realise that it may be too late now !
Klets and Pillar were difficult courses to plan. Difficult to make them anything other than linear courses, because of the SSSIs and the high main ridge. I think I still managed to introduce a few challenges, and from feedback, I know there were a few imperfect route choice decisions. I want to spend a bit of time looking again at the option of giving out all the controls for both days at the beginning and letting competitors decide which to do on Day 1 and which on Day 2. Another alternative was suggested to me and that was, to provide the usual list of controls, but allow competitors the option of missing 2 or 3 from the list, which could provide an entertaining route planning exercise.
I’d be delighted to receive any other polite suggestions.
This was the first Saunders that I have been associated with since I stopped competing. I am genuinely impressed by the team that returns every year to provide the event. Firstly, there aren’t a lot of them but everything that needs doing, gets done. There is a tremendous amount of experience and skill, a great team spirit and good humour, a willingness to help out with any and every job that needs doing and an ability to resolve problems and generate solutions on the hoof. It’s been a pleasure to be involved.
2014 Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
We had a very difficult time gaining access to the area we wanted around Helvellyn. I must thank Brian and Roger for their tenacity in overcoming all the obstacles put in their way. The biggest problem is that this access comes at a cost.
There are three types of organisation that we have to deal with who have legal rights to the the land we wish to use:
Natural England is normally our first port of call. NE is responsible for managing the natural environment of the Country.
To give you a rough idea, in the area we used, all the out of bounds areas in the middle and north west parts of the map were SSSIs. Until we knew these, proper planning could not begin.
Without NE clearance the other two groups will not move. We have a good working relationship with NE and we each understand the other’s needs.
A large proportion of the farmers are tenants. In general, they are very helpful. We must always remember that the fell is their livelihood. About the time when we wish to run the event, the farmers are gathering their flocks from the fell for shearing. Their main concern is that we will disperse their flock whilst they are trying to gather them. Sometimes there is a requirement to avoid certain areas on one of the days but by keeping to the high fell we can normally avoid any conflict.
This leads on to the final group : The landowners.
What is most galling is that we play by the rules and are penalised for it. I am quite happy making donations to organisations whose land we use, especially if that donation supports a local project, but I am not happy subsidising others who do not play by them. We had an incident a few years ago where a mountain bike event had taken place 2 weeks before the SLMM without any notice being given to the landowners. It was only our good relationship with certain people who made representation to the landowners that stopped the cancellation of our event. One of the Agents admitted that we were subsidising those who did not follow the rules.
To give you some idea, the last time we used this area the access fee was about 12% of the event income. This year we are paying twice as much. The amount was originally about 30% but we did manage to negotiate a reduction ! At 30% there would have been no event this year. The National Trust has about 4 to 5 millions members and they have free access to sites throughout the Country. That is about 7 to 8 % of the population. About 30% of you are members of NT yet they refuse to give any form of discount for members. I am trying to keep costs as low as possible, especially so we can attract juniors.
I am discussing this with the relevant people in the FRA as we are going to be priced out of our own market if we are not careful.
We had a very good event this year and our aim is to continue in a like manner.
Thank you all for you support,
Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon