Julie's Jabber - This week with London LDWA

Julie's Jabber - This week with London LDWA
Julie's Jabber - This week with London LDWA

The very sad news of Ann Sayer's death has already brought many tributes to this iconic walker, John O'Groat's to Lands End record holder, first female Centurion, GB rowing international and (as P.G.Wodehouse might  have put it) thoroughly good egg. What I didn't know until Gail Elrick informed me during a phone chat the other night is that Ann actually founded London Group, in 1994. I had been under the impression that it had been up and doing much earlier than that, but looking at the March 2000 Newsletter London LDWA was still relatively new and small. Colin's Cackle records that there were 89 names on the membership list. Twenty years on, this Newsletter goes out to 826.

1994 was also the year that Ann achieved the last of her walking records. Her selection for a 200 Km race in France at the age of 57 made her the oldest woman athlete to represent Great Britain. She was so lacking in self-importance that she didn't even mention this when I interviewed her for Out on Your Feet. By the 90s, of course, the world at large was much more aware of what women could achieve in athletics but back in the 1970s when Ann first strode onto the walking scene this wasn't the case. When she entered her first 50k race walk, it was as a 'ghost' - they couldn't keep her off the road, but her name and time would not be recorded. Had it been, she would have received a medal, because she finished third. 

The LDWA has always been the least sexist of organisations, but I can't resist retelling this anecdote. In 1976, while taking part part in the Cleveland 100, Ann walked into Fangdale Beck breakfast stop checkpoint on her own because she had inadvertently left everyone behind eight miles earlier. 'It was early on Sunday morning,' she said. 'There were five men in the checkpoint. Their jaws dropped. They leapt to their feet, knocking over chairs, and rushed out. They were enjoying their checkpoint and in bowled this woman. I wasn't even a runner.'

No, she was much more than that.


ann sayer on jogle

Ann Sayer (1936-2020)

Record-holder, Centurion, GB international in two sports and founder of London LDWA 




I belong to a WhatsApp chat group made up of some of the girls I was at boarding school with in the 1960s. One of us commented that the current situation feels just like being back at Felixstowe College, locked away from civilisation and counting down the days to the end of term... except that right now we don't know when the end of term will be. Never has this lockdown felt more frustrating than in the last week or so. Usually I stand in the 250-metre queue at our local supermarket with the stoicism I once brought to lumbering up and down a games pitch while lashed with the  north-east wind. Now spring is fully here and with the blossom out these are perfect conditions for the long social walk we aren't allowed to take part in. Below are a couple of glimpses of what we're missing. Judith Griffiths sent me this photo of the glorious cherry tree in her garden and Minna Graeber, in early bird mode, captured this spectacular sight on Hackney Marshes shortly after dawn.


cherry tree blossom judith

PHOTO Judith Griffiths


 blossom minna graeber walk

PHOTO Minna Graeber




Light at the end of the tunnel? 


Ian Fairweather writes: ‘With a spirit of optimism I would like to remind everyone of the London Walk Weekend on the 20th & 21st June.  Two consecutive days of walking based near the seaside town of Littlehampton with ventures up into the South Downs landscape.  Walks will be led by Gavin and Ian and details can be found on the website in the walks calendar. It is possible to do each walk as a daytrip from London but why not make a weekend of it.  Accomodation is up to you – I suggest searching the usual sites – booking.com, Airbnb etc. Due to the current situation I would strongly recommend only booking something you can cancel with short notice. The walks will only take place if allowed and according to government advice at the time. If you feel unwell don’t come!   Here’s to sunny skies and being able to get outside again and get walking.’

Walking Weekend Day 1

Walking Weekend Day 2






And finally...

One of the side-effects of the current situation is that owing to the closure of hairdressers and barbers those of us not follicularly-challenged are developing lockdown hair. I couldn't help remembering this marvellous photo, taken by Gavin Fuller, of a house we passed on Chiswick Mall during London Group's Midsummer Challenge walk in 2017. Give it another few weeks and some of us may be looking like this too.


house on chiswick mall

PHOTO Gavin Fuller

London LDWA - http://www.ldwa.org.uk/London