Marhofn 183.10 - May 2008

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How Green is my Bagging?

Barbara Jones

When Marilyn bagging really took off some years ago, there was a good deal of grumbling from some quarters about the 'ethics' of bagging. Shouldn't we all be able to just enjoy being on the hills without the silly business of ticking them off? One of the arguments in favour of bagging was, and still is, that it spreads us out on the hills and relieves the pressure on the more obvious honey-pot summits. I've always gone along with that view but had a nagging suspicion, getting on for a conviction, that in spreading ourselves out we do more environmental harm by driving the extra distances to far-flung hills. If we weren't busy ticking we'd happily repeat old favourites nearer to home more often. This I pondered as I read Marhofn 171. I got the impression, not surprisingly, that there were many reports of cars being used to access the hills, but that public transport seldom got a mention.

I then did some research. A quick count showed there to be about 110 baglogs or other accounts of trips up hills, 29 of which specifically mentioned the use of a car. Reading between the lines, many more could be interpreted that way. A mere seven mentioned the use of public transport. I suspect that there are far more unreported outings with cars than without them. So, special green awards to this select group of baggers who sometimes (and in some cases always) access the hills without using a car. Top awards, on the basis of evidence revealed, go to Alison Fox (756) and Gavin Theobald (644), who do not own cars. Mark Smith (883) mentions trouble with trains in Shropshire and more trouble with a bus back to Oban. And Eric Young reports meeting him on another train expedition. Tony Whitehead (299) also had train problems en route to Wales, while Harrold Thomson (625) reports curtailing blueberry picking in order to catch a bus. He sounds a well-integrated chap - time for buses, berry picking and bagging! Donald Irvine (756) found the direct route to Butser Hill from Petersfield station especially exciting. (AD: Ken Falconer, David Foster and Ursula Stubbings are others I know of that rarely use a car).

Black marks to baggers who drive up forest tracks (getting bogged down and locked in seem just rewards) and to one who felt he could 'maximise the tick count without spending obscene amounts of time in the car once I reached Scotland' and later recorded a '700-mile day trip to Blackcraig Hill and Windy Standard'. Thank goodness that trip netted two ticks!

Me? I fall somewhere between the two extremes of always using public transport and always driving to the hills. I haven't looked at all my 1000+ Marilyns, but looking at the Munros, I've done 19 with my own car, 76 with friends' cars or group minibuses, and 135 by public transport. Corbetts come out at 26 by car and 70 by public transport, and for Grahams it is 39 by car and 54 by public transport. I suspect my record for other hills comes out at even more car use. Paradoxically, the nearer to home the greater the temptation to jump in the car.

My least green episode was probably a one-night, solo trip driving to the Forest of Dean from Guildford specifically to bag four Marilyns, one of which, Burton Hill, had eluded me on an earlier public transport outing. A delayed train had led to a missed bus connection on that occasion, and Burton Hill had had to go for a burton in order to keep on schedule for the other planned hills.

PS Hoffer spotting. Bonus points for spotting someone who is using public transport?

PPS The Bill Drummond Challenge. Best I can do for my lexical pair is Binnean nan Gobhar which scores me six, I think. I wonder what the average best score will turn out to be.

'I've thoroughly enjoyed reading and re-reading the newsletters... Think you should go mainstream and let the world know about real people and their real hill walking experiences.'
Gerry Cummins

Alan Dawson adds: Some home truths and fuel for thought there, but I feel that the words 'virtue' and 'necessity' are also relevant, as I know that some people are not able to drive for medical or eyesight reasons. And for those with busy lives - full-time jobs, families etc - then public transport is rarely feasible as it usually takes much longer than a car, even where it is available, and train fares are expensive.

It's also worth mentioning the generosity of some drivers. The same chap who drives up forest tracks drove three others and their luggage for two weeks all over the Western Isles. I've never seen a little Corsa so overloaded. (He's also a strict vegetarian; an environmentally-friendly lifestyle choice.) As for me, I can recall once getting the train to Kingussie and once a hired bus to Inveroran, but those were both for repeat hills, so apart from islands, and a train to Corrour, it's looking like 100% car use (usually a shared car). On the other hand I hadn't been in a plane for seven years until Shetland last year, I waste nothing and recycle everything, I get the train to work, and on a recent visit to Wirral I spent ten hours getting home (it's a five-hour drive), involving three buses, one train and two 30-minute walks. Houses are easier to get to by bus than hills.

I seem to recall that on my first two or three holidays in Scotland we would go for scenic drives and not climb any hills at all. Seems a bit weird in hindsight, but I've heard that some people still do this. And who knows what anti-social and destructive activities some of us might indulge in if we weren't so busy bagging. We're all doomed anyway and we've got to have something to cling to that keeps us going.

So it's a complex issue, and I refuse to feel guilty (unhealthy emotion) even though my bagging scores nil for greenness. I suspect that when advancing age means more free time and cheaper (or free) public transport then this will change, but it will be more of a pragmatic choice than a moral one. And what about carbon credits for those of us who don't have any kids and thereby pre-empt extra future consumption of everything, not just oil and food? Perhaps not.

Eric Young and Alison Wilson on Valla Field, Unst (photo and driving: Alan Dawson)

Ethically dubious bagging by Eric Young and Alison Wilson on Valla Field, Unst (photo and driving: Alan Dawson)

PS Hoffer spotting. Perhaps a more likely and feasible method of scoring points is greater car sharing. I'd like to be able to recommend but their use of the atrocious term WalkBUDi makes this impossible. The RHB Yahoo group has occasionally been used to arrange car sharing, and may be worth a try.

PPS Sorry Barbara, I reckon Binnean nan Gabhar gets you only two points (9-7), but Scaraben give you six (7-1).

'Another terrific read, and beautifully produced too. Please don't change, and don't ever try and go up market'
Steve Weatherill

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