Spirit of the TGO Challenge

My Old Man’s a Dustman from John Manning on Vimeo.

Hard to believe but there are still some folk out there who just don’t get the TGO Challenge.

With this in mind, I offer you this video snippet from last year’s crossing, when dozens to Challengers, weary after the demanding Cairngorm and Angus Glens sections of their individual coast-to-coast crossings, funneled into Tarfside in Glen Esk, and let their hair down for one night (or maybe two) in the small Freemansons’ bar there.

The guy leading the singing is Mick “Croyden” Hopkins and the chap he’s serenading so, erm, tunefully, is Colin Tock. Among their audience are several dozen Challengers, some on their first crossing, some long-in-the tooth old timers.

I hope this snippet captures at least some of the friendly nature of the event. Challengers old and new gathered together, singing terribly, drinking whatever they can find, and all smiling their heads off. The TGOC is like that for some, for others it’s different – for every Challenger gathered in the bar in this clip, there’s probably another camped in the hills somewhere, enjoying the solitude, the peace of the mountains.

Click the “Read More” link below this line for another video of Challenge foolery!


Tarfside has a special place in the hearts of Challengers. The village has welcomed us each year, allowing Challengers to camp on the village sports field. St Drostan’s hostel in the village is taken over by the event most years, and Challengers’ wives provide a marvellous service there, fuelling weary walkers with light meals, tea and coffee and maybe something stronger, and providing beds for those to tired to even erect their tents.

For many years the village shop enabled Challengers to resupply in preparation for the last few miles to the coast; even after the shop closed several years ago, for two or three years afterwards it continued to open up, for just two or three days a year, to serve Challengers with breakfast rolls and teas and coffees.

These days, the restaurant at the Retreat folk museum does a tremendous job feeding Challengers, taking orders by phone and actually delivering evening meals to the campsite, as well as serving hot breakfasts to passing Challengers each morning.

I reckon it’s true to say that few places in Scotland could provide a warmer welcome than we get in Glen Esk.

I can still remember my first visit to Tarfside. As I walked the last few hundred yards into the village, after crossing Mount Keen in sticky wet drizzle, I was met on the edge of Tarfside by a friendly fellow walking the other way.

“Welcome to Tarfside!” he said, and I was overwhelmed – I’d heard that the village was special, but hadn’t expected a welcome committee. What a place, I thought.

It was only later that I discovered the gent was none other that David Towers, who I now live just a short mile away from, across fields, in the Yorkshire Dales.

The Tarfside welcome is not diminished one jot by that knowledge!

TGO Challenge – Callater Lodge, 2008 from John Manning on Vimeo.

Another place with a fantastic reputation among TGO Challengers is Loch Callater Lodge, a fairly remote private establishment a few miles from Braemar run by two splendid chaps named Stan and Bill.

In 2007 and 2008 (when this short clip was filmed) Steph and I have spent the night camped very close to the lodge and enjoyed the tremendous hospitality offered by Stan and Bill – parties there have been known to last until the wee small hours and, as this clip shows, coming so soon after the wearying effects of Braemar, the cumulative effect on some Challengers is noticeable!

This year, walking with Alistair “Captain Webb” Hunt (so called because he rescued a fellow walker who’d been swept off his feet by a swollen river on TGOC Day One, shortly after he himself had swum said water course), I lingered at Callater just long enough to enjoy a brew and a piece of carrot cake. Two years of partying, I reckoned, was enough, so after meeting up with many old friends, Alistair and I pressed on alongside the Loch and over Jock’s Road, in the splendid company of Bob and Rose Cartwright, of backpackinglight.co.uk.

• If you still don’t get the TGO Challenge, and want to, the entry forms for the 2010 event will be in the October issue of TGO Magazine.

John Manning

Freelance outdoor writer John Manning and his family are based in the Yorkshire Dales

9 thoughts on “Spirit of the TGO Challenge

  • 15/11/2009 at 10:48 am

    I really enjoyed reading and watching your report. I must admit the TGO spirit is something ive read about before and was one of the main reasons we entered this year.

  • 01/06/2009 at 5:04 pm

    Cheers guys

    Alistair, really enjoyed walking with you and I hope the birth goes really well. You’ll make a great Dad and swimming lessons should be a blast! (though not so sure about your choice of lullabies – “With a gurt big stick I’ll knock ‘im down…” isn’t a very good example for junior, now, is it?!).

  • 01/06/2009 at 3:46 pm

    Aye,thanks John. Considering I generally split my time between the Lakes and the Dales I have precious few shots on there from Yorkshire, must get round to updating it,dare say a few from the tgoc will make the cut 🙂

  • 01/06/2009 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for the mention, I think! It was great walking with you for a short time and I won’t forget singing the wurzels songs (Threshing Machine, Blackbird) in the bunkhouse at Clova, poor Grant!

    I’m glad to hear that both Steph and Sierra are well, I know how worried you were about them.

    Hopefully we will meet up again sometime in the future although new babies will probably put a restriction on our future roamings.


  • 01/06/2009 at 11:36 am

    Hi Adrian, good to hear from you – and great website. See you’ve been here near us, photographing Catrigg Force. Great shot! Stunning wildlife shots too.

  • 01/06/2009 at 10:43 am

    Was introduced to you briefly John this year by Humphry in the Fife,being fairly local to you from Bradford. Was lovely to meet you and loved those clips,i’ve got one from this year of Mick singing in the Masons, might youtube it 🙂

  • 31/05/2009 at 10:24 pm

    What gets me is Bob Ward in Tarfside. There he is again in the video, there he was again on this year’s TGOC, and if you flip back through the visitors’ book you’ll find he’s there very year without fail. I reckon he’s there more often than the barman. Bit like Dennis at Callater, ‘cept Dennis doesn’t take a drink at Callater as he usually falls asleep on the strength of what he’s had in Braemar that afternoon!

    Oh what fun…

  • 31/05/2009 at 10:08 pm

    I think that must have been my twin brother in those video’s – he never could handle his drink.

  • 31/05/2009 at 8:35 pm

    Great vids!

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