Some Musings on Our Muddy Marathon
Wednesday, January 16th, 2008
It’s hard to believe it’s nearly a month since Christmas and the end of our Muddy Marathon. This blog entry has been a long time coming; delayed somewhat by the usual family craziness during Silly Season, the amount of office work that awaits you when you go away for nine weeks and the fact we have got so many new and exciting things planned for Muddy Matches in 2008 that it is proving very hard to look back! Nevertheless, we wanted to write a few words about what turned out to be the most incredible trip.
So…nine weeks, nine regions…two sisters travelling around Great Britain from October to December in a motorhome they had tarted up to look like a country cottage…the first thing most people wanted to know was were we utterly mad? Well, yes and no. Clearly it’s not your average way to end the year but there was a plan behind the madness which included: spreading the word about Muddy Matches and getting people to write about us, meeting lots of you (our fabulous members), hosting some social events in your area and looking into different countryside activities and businesses.
And we managed to pack a lot in…
We visited around 20 farms (from goat to dairy, and arable to ‘celebrity’), one stud, a vineyard, a shooting ground, 3 agricultural colleges, a distillery, a hunt kennels, a butchers, several smallholdings, a graffiti-covered castle, a recycling plant, and a hydrotherapy centre for horses. We spent the day with two different chefs, hung out with a mountain rescue team, tried our hand at falconry, cut some hedges, had a shooting lesson, learnt how to make cider, fed some fish, played frizbee golf, did some mountain quad biking, learnt about thatching, took part in recording a Wiggly podcast, followed a beagle pack, watched an expert sheepdog trainer, went abseiling, made haggis, put up a fence, tried our hand at – ahem – “modelling”, mucked out, went stalking, watched a gundog being trained, fed some goats, learnt how to make wool, went beating, saw how sloe gin is made, wormed some cows, sized up some lambs for market…we could go on, but it will be much easier if you scroll down and read all about it for yourselves in our blog!
Another popular question was, “how are your livers going to survive?” It’s a fair question since about 45 of the 60 odd nights we were on the road were spent at a party or in some kind of drinking establishment! There were 2 bonfire nights, a ‘Deer &Beer’ party, 18 pub socials, one farm Christmas party, a night at a beer festival, 4 pub grub nights, one speed dating night, a drinks party at an RAF base, a night in the woods with the BTCV, 4 pub quizzes (2 of which we put on), a Young Farmers ball, a Scottish Countryside Alliance drinks party…and countless, countless other times when we rocked up at someone’s house on our night off and they said “let’s go to the pub”!
Something else people were amused by was the fact that we were two sisters living together in a confined space for an extended period of time – didn’t we have some huge bust-ups? Well, yes, tensions did run high at times and we did have a few choice words to say to each other every now and again, but it was never anything that didn’t blow over pretty quickly!
The most amusing thing was that, when it was all over, the two things we were most sick of were each other and booze…and then we had to head home for a family Christmas, where it was impossible to avoid either. However, our livers still seem to be in tact and we are definitely still friends, so it looks like we survived!
So what were the highs and lows? Let’s start with the lows, as there are less of them! To be honest, most stressful situations were motorhome related. There was the time that we got wedged between two buildings in the dark and almost burnt the clutch out trying to reverse up a hill, there was the time that we started slipping down a steep hill and when Lucy yelled at Emma to put the handbrake on she yelled back that she already had (luckily there was nothing behind us!). Oh, and then there was our darling SatNav…the time, in a blizzard, it directed us to a closed ferry terminal to get across Lake Windermere…that was quite a special moment! You have to bear in mind that it was also flipping cold half the time so that could be a bit trying.
But enough of that, let’s talk about the highs instead. Aside from all the wonderful things we got to see and do, it was the people that really made our trip (quite literally in the case of Christina, who organised a large part of the Marathon and kept things running smoothly at home).
We were constantly amazed by the kindness of complete strangers: how people would give up entire days to talk to us about what they do, how they would cook for us or insist on paying while we were out, how they invited us into their homes, introduced us to their friends and family, and generally made us feel really welcome.
It was also a fabulous opportunity to meet some Muddy Matches members, many of whom invited us to stay or made recommendations as to what we should do on our travels. It is reassuring to see that there are loads of lovely and genuine muddy people all over Great Britain who, like us, love our countryside and meeting people who share that passion. What was even more special was that there has been a lot more Muddy Matches romancing going on than we knew about (you don’t tell us [sniff]) – one couple we met who had got together on the site were discussing their first Christmas, another were about to go skiing together and another were even talking about moving in together! Gosh, it made us feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
We were also completely inspired by all the wonderfully talented and driven business people we met. Watching people juggle their hectic business, social and family lives, on many occasions we felt ashamed to have ever thought of ourselves as really busy people. And the fact that such busy people would give up time to talk to us was incredibly flattering!
Looking into rural businesses on the trip, one thing we found particularly interesting was the lengths to which some people would go in order to create employment for themselves in a part of the world they love; be that the countryside in general, a particular region, or the very farm they grew up on. Lucy is hoping to write more on this at some point for, in her opinion, it seems that having some kind of attachment to, or affection for, the land is a powerful entrepreneurial catalyst.
In short, we feel that the Marathon was a roaring success. It’s not often you get the chance to visit so many beautiful spots in your own country and the fact we got to try lots of new things, increase our membership and meet some lovely people was an added bonus! We made some great friends and have had loads of ideas as to how we can improve the Muddy Matches website and take the business forward. As a result of the trip, we plan to host a lot more social events in the future and look forward to seeing everyone again soon.
Oh, and will there be any future Muddy Marathons? Watch this space!