I’m a sucker for fundraisers.
Um,… I don’t suck things for money, that’s not what I mean, let’s clear that up right now.
Ever since discovering the power of fundraising activities as a simple and effective way of getting people to part with their money when I was still at school, I’ve always had a bit of a weakness for doing daft things for charity.
Back then, it was sponsored walks for the school, “Bob a job” week for the scouts, and once, (that was enough) an army assault course for the British Heart Foundation which very nearly resulted in me having an ironic heart attack.
That was a good few years ago however, and it hasn’t been until relatively recently that I’ve renewed my involvement with more direct, hands on activities, so to speak.
All of these events have taken place either at work, or with friends from work, and take the form of a lot of walking around in the dark, or dressing up like idiots.
The one annual event that takes place outside work is the Rotary Club’s Exmoor Startrek Challenge, a 16-18 mile nighttime orienteering hike across Exmoor national park, and not, as the name suggests, some sort of nerdy Sci-fI costume adventure for the Devon Trekkie Association.
A team of 5 or 6 of us have taken part for the last three years, and it’s no walk in the park let me tell you.
The event is extremely well organised, and has now been going for twenty years.
The people who go out and set the course each year clearly think along the lines of, “Ah, yes, but that gate over there has a two foot deep, impassable lake of liquid sheep shit in front of it, send them out of the field that way instead” and, “We’ll make the clues so cryptic that they’ll need to be Times crossword champions to work out what the bloody things even mean”
Because it’s not just a nice stroll around the countryside. In the middle of the night. In March.
No, you also have to be able to find, and then work out, a series of hidden clues, given to you at each checkpoint on the figure-of-eight shaped course. All of this, and having to finish each leg by a given time in order to not lose possible points.
This year’s dream team. Knackered.
We discovered fairly early on that the later the hour, the less inclined you are to try and work out that the six letters you have collected make up the word “Enigma”, which somehow ties in with an obscure reference to “deciphering” a clue, which in turn will gain you an extra hundred points, and the more likely it is that you’ll just get on with slogging through the mud/fog/rain/pain barrier in order to get it all over with as quickly as possible.
It really is quite amazing how fast the human body can forget the discomfort that we put it through sometimes. Every year, you find yourself thinking “This is bloody awful, why do we do it”, and yet, the next day you’re telling everybody that’ll listen how brilliant it was, and what a great team you’d had, even though you did get lost in the fog and had to scale an unnecessary bracken-covered near-vertical slope at one o’clock in the morning.
Some teams – nearly a hundred usually take part – take it very seriously indeed. Despite the fact that both the map reference for the starting point of the course, and each team’s start time is a closely guarded secret until just a few days before the event, some unsporting types have been known to take a day off work to go and scope out the terrain’s most likely routes as soon as the details are released.
We have a more relaxed attitude to the “race” element of the hike. A good thing really, as, due to our slightly lacklustre attempts at the clues in the latter stages of the trek each year, we have not manged to come in the top fifty placed teams.
Although we usually are among the fastest
The official team photo. Note custom made t-shirts. (Lady with chain of office not in team)
It doesn’t help when they make a mess of the directions of course. Last year, starting in the insanely steep village of Exford, we came upon an instruction that said “Take a bearing of 150° and continue until you reach a stone bridge” Now, a bearing of 150° is pretty much going back the way you came, which we duly did. Two or three times. Each time, we met other puzzled-looking teams, coming back the other way.
Eventually, using our initiative, we ignored the bearing, finding the way on our own.
Sitting in the marquee with a coffee and a bacon roll, a few hours, and several gruelling miles later, we met a bloke who told us, “Oh, when we got there, there was a sign saying to ignore the bearing on the sheet at this point, as it was a misprint”
Nice to know.
Anyway, we never take it too seriously. After all, as Smashey and Nicey always said It’s all for charidee mate.
One thing we do take seriously is dressing up, which us why we have a bespoke team shirt each year, artwork courtesy of James, an old friend of mine.
Here is this year’s Star Wars themed design. And yes, ok, I am princess Leia;
…and here’s the original rough draft of the artwork and caption;
But our most entertaining money making efforts are done at work, on randomly chosen Friday mornings simply by spending a few hours dressed up like fools.
Here are a selection of my favourites.
Elvis day. Thangyouverymuch.
Village People day.
Nautical care in the community day. (possibly)
Most of the money collected goes to either the fabulously deserving North Devon Hospice, and in what I can only think of as sensible forward planning, given our propensity for stumbling around the wilderness in the dark, Devon Air Ambulance Trust.
So, unless you’re the bloke at work that said, in all seriousness, “My new years’ resolution is to not give anything to charity this year” then click on the links and see how you can join in.
Thanks to Brand it in Barnstaple, for printing the t-shirts.
(Honourable mentions for Mike Gill and Shane Gregory, both of whom appear in all events)
Bob, (second right, back row) our shy and retiring quality inspector shyly retires.