Friday, 10 July 2009

On the hill

Recently I have been watching the hooha over the Ramblers Association and find it in many ways sad but also an indication of the times in which we live. The RA's roots where working class and was considered quite radical for its time. Folks did not have money in the years it was formed; rambling was cheap and there was fairly extensive public transport system, also many people hitched, it was an accepted norm and lifts where often readily available. Remember too, many people still worked five and half day weeks and the annual holidays where the statuary two weeks. Kit was makeshift, there was none of the high tech stuff we have today. A lot was army surplus or old clothing modified for use on the hill; old gabardine macs cut down, suit trousers long past their prime; heavy woolen pullovers, getting wet was the norm, many women still wore skirts, there was no special women's clothing, they had to adapt. Boots where heavy leather and nailed, again, often army surplus because they where reasonably cheap; decent mountain boots where astronomical in price. Tents where canvas and normally leaked, for many, tents where beyond their price range. That is where the close companion to the RA came in, the YHA, basic, simple cheap accommodation. Probably I am showing my age here, however, I can still remember being on the fringes of those times. My first ever boots where a pair of hand me downs and had nails and weighed a ton; when I up graded to vibrams it was something special, my first anorak was a ventile one bought cheap because it was shop soiled; it was murder when it froze, I had an awful job taking it off. The hostels themselves although often basic, sometimes very, where welcomed and well used by the rambling classes. The wardens where often eccentric, a few draconian and one or two mad. Certainly I have encountered a few peculiar ones such as one kilted, heavily bearded guy, complete with dirk and a broadsword that he kept in his office and well remember the Scottish hostels, all self catering, and one provided their own cutlery plate and mug.
In many respects the RA has lost touch with its roots and has become soft and genteel, everything it seems, boils down to being cost effective. Possibly we could argue for a new movement, more radical and out spoken and willing to fight for the rights of outdoor folk. but; cynic that I am, I cannot see it happening. As for me, well, I will wander and ramble as and where my feet may take me, will camp in wild and out of the way spots, leaving no trace of my passing and defy any who may challenge me.

4 comments:

fenlander said...

Well said Dawn, a VERY erudite discourse.
I too remember those days of nailed boots and sleeping in a hedge bottom with b****r all cover but an old fertilizer sack!

peewiglet said...

Hi Dawn,

Interesting post. It seems to me that those in charge of the Ramblers probably aren't walkers, and that's why they've become obsessed with finance at the expense of what the organisation is supposed to be about. As you suggest, exactly the same thing's happened with the YHA: closing down the real hostels in favour of money-making dormitories in cities. What a mess.

Anonymous said...

"were welcomed and well used by the rambling classes. The wardens where often eccentric, a few draconian and one or two mad. Certainly I have encountered a few peculiar ones such as one kilted, heavily bearded guy, complete with dirk and a broadsword that he kept in his office"

:-)
Classic.
Nice to reminisce over this; what it shows is the passion and love for the hills irrespective of technology and fashion.

Indeed, maybe, a time when the hills were in some respects more important because life was an impoverished drudgery (damn, sounds like mine), and no one conceived of anything else.

My first hill trip was at school, with crappy waterproofs as thick as curtains and as rigid as a religious text. My first independent trip was in a lighter cagoule, jeans, Doc Martens (lol - why did I ever think they could grip anything?), and encounters with Youth Hostel wierdos including some kind of homosexual stalker - I kid you not - though I was too young to understand what was going on.

J.

Dawn said...

Lol, plus two cords that fastened below the knee and long socks, heavy duty framed rucksack and shades of new technology a cajac, heavy duty nylon, non breathable and kept all the wet in.