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In June 2010 a new unified hill list was announced to a bewildered audience of baggers at Ullapool. It was not a joke, as some thought at the time. The Sims were officially launched, sweeping away several messy categories that had attempted to bolt a metric roof onto an imperial base. Weird classifications such as CTM, GTC and GTG now seem archaic to those who have converted to Sims and gone fully metric.
In recent months it has been suggested, by a few of the usual suspects, that the British 500-metre hills could benefit from unification along similar lines to the Sims (British 600m hills). Currently the 500m hills (with minimum 30m drop all round) fall into four categories: Welsh Deweys, English Deweys, Donald Deweys (in southern Scotland) and Highland Fives. All these groups cover hills from 500-609.6m not 500-599.9m, so they are not metric lists but are based on one metric threshold (500m) and one imperial threshold (2000 feet). When considering Britain as a whole, this mixture of lists and units adds up to a dog's dinner of carrots and custard, with breakfast, lunch and rice pudding thrown in. Some tidy-minded enthusiasts have therefore proposed a single list of 500-599m hills for the whole of Britain.
Dewey baggers south of the border would no doubt carry on as before, where the list of Deweys gives hill-starved baggers a challenging target, but in Scotland, where few people climb 500m hills that are not Marilyns or Humps, the unified list would effectively supersede the Highland Fives and incorporate Donald Deweys.
This raises the important issue of what to call such a unified set of hills. Several possibilities have been floated, such as Clems, Dodds, Fives, Hifives, Quintos and Woodalls. The consensus view is that it would not be appropriate for a unified list to have any single person's name. As well as Michael Dewey and Clem Clements, several others have contributed, including Mark Jackson, Tony Payne, David Purchase (who compiled the Donald Deweys), Rob Woodall and John Kirk, who produced an immense work listing all the hills over 500m with roughly 20m or more drop. The GJ Surveys team have also contributed by surveying several marginal Deweys and demoting quite a few. Various members of the team who look after the Database of British and Irish Hills (DOBIH), have also helped to research and refine the list.
Now that the list of 'Fours' has been produced (English 400-499m hills) and 'Pedwarau' for the equivalent Welsh hills, some may feel that 'Fives' is an appropriate name for British 500-599m hills. Others feel that it would be an unimaginative and uninspiring choice, and so the name 'Dodds' has been suggested as a more uplifting alternative. The name Dodds is derived from 'Donald Deweys, Deweys and Scotland', thereby acknowledging the major contributions of David Purchase and Michael Dewey. It is also a hilly-sounding name; there is a 502m hill near Keswick that is called simply Dodd. So 'Dodds' is currently the favoured choice if list unification does take place.
So much for the name, what about the hills? According to version 13.3 of DOBIH, there are 1336 of them, comprising 941 in Scotland (708 Highland Fives and 233 Donald Deweys), 227 in Wales and 168 in England (with four on the English/Scottish border). There are also five in the Isle of Man and 186 in Ireland but, in line with the Sims, these would not be part of the unified list of British hills (the Irish 500-599m hills would presumably be called the Doddies).
Quite a bagging challenge then, but not an impossible one. There are 215 Marilyns and a further 189 Humps included, leaving only 932 to mop up for anyone who has done all the 500m-599m Humps. Only eight of these are 599m and only ten are 598m, so not many are likely to be promoted to Sims. Two of the 599m hills have already been surveyed: Flasvein on Skye is 598.9m, and Whimble in Radnor Forest is 598.8m. Those OS surveyors could be pretty accurate when they bothered to go walking in the hills, though now that they stick to planes or offices they are not quite so good.
Apart from the name, another issue is that of overall responsibility for the unified list, but that is not worth worrying about until the list gets established. That means being incorporated as a category into DOBIH and hill-bagging. This is unlikely to happen unless the DOBIH editorial team recognise that there is some acceptance of the unified list and some demand for it. There will never be a consensus on such matters, as many people dislike change while others think that all you need is Tumps. So, if you have any opinions on the Dodds, one way or the other, please let the DOBIH team know and then... que sera sera, as Ken Dodd may once have sung, to make a change from happiness, tears and tax dodging.
The following baggers have already indicated that they support the concept of the Dodds: Jim Bloomer, Iain Brown, Alan Dawson, Myrddyn Phillips, David Purchase, Martin Richardson. Not many, but it is a start. Every walk, however long, begins with the first step.
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