Sunday, June 14, 2009

Problems in the country

I've been meaning to do this post for a few weeks, ever since some idiot thought it was a good idea to scatter carpet tacks around the halfway point of the Etape Caledonia cycle, somewhere near Kinloch Rannoch. A 62 year old man (solicitor, church elder and leader of the local community council, if you believe the local press) has been charged with a number of offences relating to that incident, so in the interests of justice it is probably best that I don't comment directly on him or on his alleged acts. It does however highlight a more general point that has been concerning me recently - why do people who live in the country have a problem sharing the countryside with others?

As well as the Etape incident, there were problems in last year's WHW race and in this year's Highland Fling. Both arose from the fact that a lot of people were wanting to support the runners but there were inadequate facilities for parking, particularly around Beinglas Farm and the Kingshouse Hotel. At Kingshouse someone contrived to park their camper van on the hotel's front lawn, which quite understandably did not go down well at all with the owner. However I have sensed a general antagonism from many land owners to runners which is not at all healthy, and seems to me to be based on a selfish desire to keep the countryside to themselves: "this is my countryside and I don't want you anywhere near it, you smelly runner". Surely the countryside is big enough for all of us to enjoy? And I am surprised that the owners of local businesses, such as Beinglas Farm campsite and Kingshouse Hotel, are not able to see the opportunities of attracting the running fratenity - if each support person bought something from the Kingshouse hotel, for example, their day's takings would probably be up by more than £1,000. For a small business that seems worthwhile.

I should say quickly that not all businesses on the WHW are the same. The Real Food Cafe and the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum are very welcoming, and have both been involved as sponsors of the WHW race, the Highland Fling or the Devil O. And guess what - these are places we (and many friends) make a point of visiting when we are on our way through Tyndrum. It is no surprise to me at all they are both successful, thriving businesses - they know the importance of looking after their customer base, and the need to make their customers feel welcome. Auchtertyre Farm is another good example of a business that puts its customers first, and Tony Waterhouse, the manager there and a past president of Central AC, has been a great help in allowing the Farm to be used as a WHW checkpoint.

However if we are going to be welcomed in the countryside, then we need to respect it. I have to say that I was really disappointed by the amount of rubbish that was left on the route during the Fling - things like gel packets, sports drink bottles and so on which had clearly been dropped by runners. That is just unacceptable. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code is a fantastic piece of legislation that gives us the right to run just about anywhere in Scotland, but with that comes responsibilities, one of which is 'care for your environment'. That includes taking your litter with you, so here is my plea to all runners and support taking part in the WHW race next week: DO NOT DROP RUBBISH ANYWHERE ON THE WHW ROUTE. Put it in your bag and take it to the next checkpoint. If everyone does that there will be far fewer problems, and we can all enjoy the countryside in our different ways.


Vicky Little said...

Well said.

John Kynaston said...

Great post - well written and thoughtful.

I would wholeheartedly agree about the litter. It upsets me seeing litter in towns and cities but even more so in the countryside. I hope everyone doing the race reads your post and we don't drop any rubbish anywhere on the weekend.

See you soon


Debbie Martin-Consani said...

Here, here! What makes it even more bizarre is, why buy property on a main tourist route if they don't want people passing through and using your services/facilities?

I was on Conic Hill the week after the race and felt quite ashamed by the amount of gel wrappers I saw. Rubbish is not acceptable anywhere at anytime.

Mark said...

Whole heartedly agree. Well said Sir.

Kaz said...


Good luck on Sat, Ian.

Hope you enjoy the prep and the race.

Keep smiling thay's my philosophy and darned effective it is too!

May see you as we may come and cheer you and Phil T on.


Andy Cole said...

Hi Ian, Good thoughts about the litter, it's a distressing sight. I know people shouldn't need encouragement, but in the UTMB they tackle it by a combination of carrot and stick, (a)each competitor is given a small mesh bag with a lobster pot entry, that you can velcro onto your waist or shoulder strap, very easy to put the wrappers in, and (b) anyone seen littering is disqualified. Maybe worth some debate.
All the best for Saturday, I'll be one of the guys a few hours behind you! Andy

Anonymous said...

Totally agree Ian.

I often finish races or arrive at checkpoints with many gel/bar wrappers and clingfilm tucked up my helly front or up the sleeve. Can be very sticky on the skin but an immediate place to stuff the wrappers.

I done the Etape Caledonia and unsurprisingly got punctures on the Sheilhallion climb. Waited an hour at the summit as they checked many miles of road.

It's also very annoying to see some cyclists chuck gel/bar wrappers on the road. It's not the TDF and it's easy just to tuck it back in the pocket....but I don't think that was the reason the guy 'tacked' miles of road.

A few things are dropped accidentally such as gels out of one of the lead runners' bumbag just after passing me at the Fling and it's also easy to fumble taking stuff out of a cycle back pocket.

...and support points. It was the campsites Bacon rolls and coffee at Bein Ghlas that tempted my support to call in!!

All the best,
Bob Allison

Rachel Jayne Stevenson/Rogers said...

Couldn't agree more. I have been astonished at the littering. I have a gel belt that has a pouch to stuff the empties into.
Although I haven't run the whw I did walk it in 2006...I was dumbfounded by the terrible customer service...if these places had any competition they would go under...the kingshouse was unbelievable, I recal breakfast being reluctantly thrown across the table at us!!
It wasn't all bad but we finished feeling a little sad that many people will travell a long way just to do the whw and it will be the only bit of Scotland they experience....they will take away a pretty poor opinion of Scottish hospitality if their experience is anything like ours was!

Ian I was at the finish line in a red Mont Blanc Marathon top if a wee girl or boy gave you your banana or juice...possibly before you got your breath back...they were mine! Planning to come and see you all off on Fri night/Sat morning!

Anonymous said...

I have been running the Kings House for over 15 years, during which time 99% of my guests have been outdoor enthusiasts using our facilities. I would be the first to agree that we are not perfect, but my ultimate aim is to please as many people as possible, which, at times, is not an easy thing to do.
Foremostly, I am in total admiration of what all you runners are doing/achieving. Boundaries are pushed to the limit, and then a bit more.
Last weekend, we had 1500 walkers plus support teams stream through our grounds. The only difference was that their check point was at the ski tows (huge car park). The event passed by without a hitch, and many people were fed and watered. As the check point is in the hotel grounds, all we ask for is a bit of common sense. There is always,I must stress, a small minority, who, like the afore mentioned camper van, and those who blatently set up their BBQ (one did so outside the front door - setting off the fire alarms)who don't understand our predicament.
It may appear at times that we are moaning for the sake of moaning, but as I mentioned before, I aim to please as many people as I can, including those who are not affiliated to the race, who may find it difficult to manoeuvre in the car park.
Finally, I would like anybody who feels they have not been treated hospitably to come and see me (Rod), and I will do my utmost to rectify this. I hope you all have an enjoyable and successful day.

WHW Runner said...

Rod, many thanks for your kind comments and good wishes for the weekend. I agree entirely with your plea for common sense, and I hope that everyone involved in the race respects that. Many of us have enjoyed your hotel's hospitality at the end of our training runs: after a 30 mile run to the Kingshouse Hotel on a cold February day, a bar meal and drink beside the fire is hugely appreciated! My wife and I stayed in the hotel a few years ago, and the food was first class. Next time I am in I will make try to say hello, but in the meantime thanks again for your support. Ian