Report by Terry Welsh
Arncliffe is a small village in Littondale, which is up in the hills between Swaledale and Wharfedale, near Kilnsey Crag.
The four mile road race is an undistinguished run along dry stonewalled roads . Its not too hard and not too easy. Bill Milbourne, just back from France, was 53rd and second in his age group, and I was 58th. I beat off Gordon Booth who was the first runner aged over 80 to finish, recording a time of 33 minutes. But then he’s just 80.
So is it worth travelling 154 miles to run 4 miles ? Definitely !
Its the time and it’s the place its not about the race. Arncliffe 2012 was like breathing fresh air after being smothered by the media babble around London 2012.
To quote the old hymn about England There’s another country, not touched by Lord Coe, where we do not count the sponsors and we do not see the rings
Arncliffe’s Littondale Fete started at 1 with an opening ceremony of a brass band playing what sounded like Born Free. If you are tough you could have competed in both the Road Race and the Fell Race ( 1.8 miles and 460 feet climbing ). You could have watched three supporting races for juniors. For testing sporting excellence there was the Strongman or Strongwoman Competition, the darts challenge, the football targets and the coconut shy. A cup of tea and a Norwegian flapjack from the ladies in the Hall cost £2, no branding. The beer in the Falcon is poured straight from the barrel into a jug, and then into your glass.
Punters were betting on the weight of Barbara the sheep. Or taking Charlie’s Ferret Challenge and gambling on which of six tunnels in a tub Charlie’s ferret would crawl out of.
But the Blue Riband event at Arncliffe 2012 was the Dung Roving.
As the bloke who sold us the tickets described it ;
“ We use chalk to mark off the field opposite the village hall into small squares. We then give the squares numbers. You can buy a ticket with a square number on it. We then let a cow into the field. We all watch it roving round the field. If it drops its first dung on the square corresponding to your ticket number then you win the jackpot.”
OK, it’s a long way for 4 miles but 4 miles and a bet on a cow crapping in a field—priceless.
Who needs Danny Boyle and his choreography? All they needed at the Olympic Opening Ceremony was the Arncliffe brass band and just one cow roving around the field in the middle. They could have sold tickets with the chance of winning the lucky square and paid for the stadium many times over as an hysterical world cheered on the cow .
Arncliffe 2012 made me proud to be living in Britain. The genius, enterprise and sporting prowess on display can inspire our young people. We should not be selling off school playing fields and can look to the spirit of Arncliffe for ideas on how they can be used to raise funds.
In Arncliffe there were no logos, no security, no media people desperate to fill space, no missiles on the houses. I don’t think anybody at the Dung Roving will have tweeted “ Oh ny God !!! how awesome is that ?!? ggooohhh team GBeee”.
I recommend going to Arncliffe next year or some year. I think they will be running there long after Twitter, Facebook and Team GB are as cool as a John Bull Printing Set.