Snowdonia Weekend (In the rain) by Dave Rutter
Like the summoning to the bugle call (in this particular case an e-mail) the Snowdon 'die hards', accompanied by their partners and children, assembled for the annual sortie in the Snowdonia National Park at the Joint Mountain Training Centre in Anglesey. As the guys and gals began to arrive from the far flung reaches of Montrose, Dublin, Yorkshire, Somerset, Lancashire, Kent and Hampshire, word quickly spread of the absence of our 'Master Chef' Tony Manley. Alarm and consternation was soon calmed when 'volunteer' chef – step forward Dave Davies - agreed to provide the culinary delights. Not to be outdone, Dave's wife Margaret offered to assist with the serving of the breakfast and preparation of the pack lunch meals. Having taken account of the current weather situation and predicted heavy rains, a stampede erupted for the coveted position of DRO (dining room orderly). Using a slight weight advantage over the other contenders, Yorkie Davies claimed the title.
With Poncho O'Donovan, Mike Ellery and Barney Rooney casting their expert eyes over the local maps and making final adjustments to routes, timings and admin arrangements, the remainder of the party busied themselves renewing old acquaintances and generally getting in the way of Dave and Margaret Davies.
With the early evening fast approaching a quick shower, change of clothes; and it was off to sample the ale at the local tavern. The usual entertainment had in the past been a local duo offering renditions of country and western and 60's and 70's favourites. Unfortunately, it would seem that Karaoke has reared its ugly head even in these remote parts and we were treated to some extremely painful (on the ear) attempts by various individuals to emulate their pop hero. Fortunately we came well prepared by having in our company the Rooney brothers Chris and Martin who with eager prompting from elder brother Barney, brought a form of professionalism with their duets which were greeted with rapturous applause from the crowded bar room.
With the knowledge of the hard climbs or walks the following morning the majority of the party opted for a reasonably early night – well somewhere around midnight.
With the smell of the traditional 'full English' breakfast wafting through the corridors, our party of 37 gradually made their way to the main dining room. There was a slight reluctance by some individuals to leave their cosy sleeping bag – they'd obviously taken a quick look out of the bedroom window to observe that yet again we were in for a wet weekend! However, spirits were soon lifted as each and every one of us settled down to a 'Dave Davies special breakfast'.
With zero hour (0900 hrs) fast approaching we sorted our selves out into three teams, the hill walkers, cyclists and the coastal walkers. With the superior numbers being in the latter teams the hill walkers opted to use private cars/Range Rovers to reach their start point while the larger contingent made use of the civilian coach.
Having joined the hill walking party I can only relate the odd incident that the coastal party encountered and the following was given by one of their members: The party consisting of several 'brave' chaps and several ladies. "On entering a field we noticed there were a small head of rather large bullocks – "fear not, said the intrepid leader (Barney), they won't hurt you". But on reaching the midway point through the field the bullocks decided to take a closer look at these intruders, and galloped across for a closer inspection. With the odd scream and a shout of "Run for the gate", the party split in two. One would imagine that chivalry would take the upper hand – no chance. The 'brave' men, less Dave Goodfellow, fled for safety leaving our shining knight Dave doing his matador act to protect the ladies. When challenged about this incident the men strongly denied any such action but the ladies are quite positive of exactly what happened. I know whom I believe!
After a 45-minute drive, the hill walkers reached the small car park, which was to be our start and finish point. The location was situated down a long narrow lane in the middle of nowhere. With a steady rain falling; water proofs were quickly donned, GPS (global positioning system) adjusted and a final check on the map to confirm our exact location – and we were off.
Mike Ellery, Ty Harrop, Jim Harrower, Bob Watts, Mike Robertson
Phil Poulton, Dennis Healey, Fennymore Fleck
Dave Grimbley, Pete Kershaw, Poncho O'Donovan
In our haste to get started, nobody noticed that Poncho had 'deliberately' arranged a mini command task for our return by leaving the lights on his Range Rover to totally flatten the battery. Knowing that it's impossible to bump start an automatic vehicle he obviously wanted to assess the ABI (airborne initiative) of a tired and wet bunch of individuals.
Governed by the degree of individual fitness, within 5-minutes of our hike the party had split into 3 separate groups as we climbed and at times scrambled onwards and upwards. The rain fell steadily throughout the day and few lingered long enough to attempt to view the surrounding countryside – rather pointless anyway – visibility wasn't exactly perfect and the body temperature dropped rather quickly even for short rest periods.
Poncho jump starts his Range Rover
3 volunteer chefs prepared the BBQ that was held near the JSMTC yacht club. The bar having previously been organised by Poncho and Marilyn was now being manned by the younger generation, Nina, Leanne and Ty. Chris and Martin Rooney were soon providing the evenings entertainment. The two brothers had a tremendous repertoire of songs providing their own backing with superb guitar and mandolin playing and soon had the whole party joining in with the singing. Not to be outdone, Nina Grimbley stole a major part of the limelight with some wonderful singing and she also provided her own guitar accompaniment. Our party numbers were swelled by other AEA members who were spending an 'adventure' weekend at a pursuit centre run by Matt Wells, a former member of 9 Para Sqn. At some stage during the early hours it was time to retire and recharge the energy levels for the Sunday `strolls'.
Willie Lawrence renews acquaintances with late arrivals:
Tony Hogan, Bob Kennedy, and Billy Morris
(Ty Harrop in background)
Dave & Margaret Davies with Bob Watts (centre)
Christine Grimbley, Brenda Davies & Lorraine Dunk
No church parades for us this Sunday morning – following a full English breakfast and armed with our pack lunches the hill walkers made use of the coach and were transported off to the start point for yet another hike across the hillsides. One or two absentees were noted from the previous days venture – but no names or pack drill. Anyway, they probably had more sense having seen the typical Welsh weather awaiting us! Why does it always rain in Wales?
Bob Watts, Dave Rutter, Dave Grimbley
Our route was to take us over some fairly undulating ground with one or two fairly strenuous climbs. Once again, with the relentless rain/drizzle and a cold wind, rest stops were kept to a minimum. As we reached the latter of the high points we could just make out the pub/pick up point way in the distance. It was amazing how the pace quickened which towards the last 800 metres resembled something of a race. As on our previous hike we achieved our aim in completing the hike well under the estimated time, so much so that the coach company were requested to bring forward the pick up time. Changed into dry clothing, sat in front of an open fire with a pint of local ale in one hand, the aches and pains were soon forgotten and the conversation was soon relating to something from "All our yesterdays".
Cross section of Barney's coastal walking party:
Marilyn, Barney, Margaret, Mick Fisher, Dave Goodfellow
Taken before the stampede! Where did that sunshine come from?
There are of course the odd 'hairy' moments!
Snowdonia 2006 was a great success and with each year it gets better and better. Everyone in some form or other deserves some praise – some for just being there, others for actually doing the real backbone of the administration – that accolade goes to Marilyn and Chris O'Donovan. Our thanks to Barney, Chris and Martin Rooney for the provision of excellent entertainment. (Wayne couldn't attend due to the World cup). To Mike Ellery for plotting and sorting out the hill walking routes and finally to Dave and Margaret Davies who in the moment of crisis stepped in to provide the superb breakfasts and packed lunches. Dave's final comment, " You can tell Tony Manley that's the first and last time I take on his commitments – I'm absolutely knackered".Finally, during the Saturday BBQ a raffle was held which raised the sum of £325, it was agreed by those attending that the full sum be donated to the Airborne Sapper Portrait Fund.
Great weekend see you all in May 2007!