In1992 I was persuaded by colleagues from Frome Police Station to enter a walk called ‘The Dorset Doddle’. This was a 32 mile walk from Weymouth to Swanage. I had never heard of long distance walking, let alone a ‘challenge event’, and on finishing in an exhausted state, I sat down in the village hall used at the finish and came across a Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) flyer. That was a pivotal moment as I then joined the organisation and my eyes were opened to the world of long distance challenge walking. I was hooked and entered several events around the UK and loved the physical challenges they offered.
Fast forward to 1997 and I was working in Bath Police Station with a bunch of guys that all got on very well indeed. We were led by our long suffering inspector, Stan Johnston, and used to go walking together. I introduced them to some challenge walks in Wales. I remember we did the Black Mountains Roundabout and the Reservoir Roundabout to name just two. We started talking about organising our own challenge walk in the area in which we worked. I plotted a route from Bath, showed Stan and we decided to walk the route and see if it was any good. We had our misgivings on parts of the route but decided that it was good enough to advertise. So, in 1999 we advertised our walk with the LDWA and called it ‘Patrolling The Bath Beat’ to reflect our role as police officers. Over the years that became shortened to ‘The Bath Beat’. We identified some infrastructural issues near Norton St Philip and Mendip Council erected a new bridge between Hassage and Norton as well as stiles near Twinhoe.
In 1999 we had roughly 60 entrants, but the feedback on our route and catering was fabulous. The first year saw the route following an anti-clockwise route and we used the canal from Avoncliffe to Bathampton. We were given feedback that this was too much canal and so in 2000 we had a new route that took us into Bathford and Sally In The Woods. In the early years we used to alternate the route on a clockwise / anti-clockwise basis, but this did cause a lot of work with checking routedescriptions. Eventually we agreed to keep the route as a clockwise route because people reported that the views were better! This decision must have worked as the event quickly outgrew our first Walk HQ location at the Sulis Club as we had so many people entering. After four years we moved to Ralph Allen School and we haven’t looked back since! With the excellent facilities and car parking space we actually attracted 450 people one year, and we coped!
With the redevelopment of the school and the loss of car parking facilities a decision was taken to restrict the numbers of entrants, but because the event is so popular, it is not unheard of to see the event fill up several months before the date of the event. People love the event because the route is achievable. It has a total ascent of just over 2000 feet, it visits exquisite villages and provides far reaching views. All of the volunteers over the years have made sandwiches and most importantly cakes! The Bath Beat has become famed in the LDWA community for its home-made cakes and one year we actually made a booklet called ‘The Bath Beat Bakes’. We sold all copies and all profits went to charity. And charitable causes have benefited well from The Bath Beat. Every year a percentage of the profits are donated to a worthy local cause thus benefiting the local community.
But, from 2015 on, it became too difficult to efficiently run the event. The volunteer numbers reduced over the years making it harder and harder to run the event. So, a plan was put into place to secure the long term future of the event, and it seems that the plan has worked. I, as original organiser and creator of the event, am hugely grateful to the work of Phil West and Bob Hope as they have worked hard with RASA (the PTA of Ralph Allen) who have become the new organisers of this wonderful event. But, I am also grateful to the many wonderful people who helped me run the event for 16 years. There are too many to name, but key stalwarts who have been there every year are Phil West, Stan, Ali and Nicola Johnston, Bob Hope, Clare and Jacq Loader, Linda Bushell, Mark, Abbey & Fran Constable, Kate Masters and traveling from Pembrokeshire every year for 14 years, Daphne and Graham Morgan. But, for me personally, 2016 was the right year to bow out with a heavy heart knowing that the event could survive because it is just so good.
David Morgan – Event Founder