Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Nine more walks on the website.

In which I:
  • Re-walk the Limestone Way
  • Spend a couple of days on the Devon coast with Sencan
  • Go for a wander on Kinder
  • Spend a couple of days on the Angles Way
No. Location Distance (m) Date Walked
941The Monsal Trail from Bakewell 18.5 17/11/2011
940Edale to Kinder, Brown Knoll, Rushup Edge and Mam Tor 17.7 16/11/2011
939The Limestone Way: Castleton to the Waterloo Hotel and back 19.9 15/11/2011
938SWCP: Exmouth to Starcross 15.6 08/11/2011
937SWCP: Sidmouth to Exmouth 15.5 07/11/2011
936Limestone Way: Matlock to the Waterloo Hotel 18.7 02/11/2011
935Limestone Way: Rocester to Matlock 24.6 01/11/2011
934Angles Way: Bungay to Oulton Broad 21.7 26/10/2011
933Angles Way: Diss to Bungay 24.7 21/10/2011

I am probably going to take it easy in December; I just want to do a single walk to finish off the Angles Way and a couple more to re-walk the southern end of the Viking Way. In the meantime the demands of family and Christmas will undoubtedly get in the way.

I have some big plans for 2012, if only to avoid the Olympics.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


The rather excellent XKCD has a brilliant depiction of the American and world economy at

Double-click on the image and start exploring how the dollars add up to thousands, millions, billions and then finally trillions. I only wish that I fitted on the right-hand side of the page rather than the left...

Friday, 18 November 2011

The speed limit

The coalition government recently announced a consultation into raising the speed limit on motorways to 80MPH, and some groups used the recent tragic crash on the M5 to decry the idea. This sickened me. The fact is we do not yet know if the speed limit had anything to do with the crash, and that if smoke was to blame - as looks possible - then other issues rather than the maximum speed limit were probably causal. It is best to wait for the report before using the accident for political ends.

I am agnostic about raising the motorway speed limit - what I would like to see is evidence. The 70MPH speed limit on UK roads was introduced in December 1965 as a temporary measure (there being no speed limit on motorways before then). Since 1965 the survivability of vehicles has increased massively, something that EuroNCAP and others needs a great deal of thanking for. Additionally, the braking systems of cars are also much better, as are the tyres and other parts of the system. In 1965 many cars struggled to reach 70MPH, yet alone 80, and I have yet to see any evidence that the 70MPH limit was based on any scientific evidence. It was essentially plucked out of thin air 45 years ago.

Earlier in the week we drove up the M5 from Exeter to the M42 on our way back from a stroll along the South West Coast Path. The southern part of the motorway was very quiet and 70 MPH seemed ridiculously slow once we got out of the bad weather. This was in a Honda Jazz, which is most certainly not a speedy car.

So perhaps it is time to reconsider the speed limits in this country. However, that should be looked at in all directions: lowering as well as raising. Some of the questions that would need answering are:
  • How much would raising the speed limit for cars improve the economy (an often-claimed benefit)?
  • Likewise, how much would lowering the speed limit affect the economy?
  • How many deaths and injuries would an increase in the speed limit be expected to cause?
  • What are the comparative accident rates in countries with a higher speed limit?
  • How often would a 80MPH limit on motorways be applicable? There are some parts of the motorway network that are near-permanently congested and have lower speed limits as a result.
  • What effect would a rise or decrease have on congestion?
  • What would be the environmental impact of increasing the speed limit?
  • How can technology improve speed-related safety and economy?
  • Can education (e.g. the fact that the speed limit is the maximum speed and not necessarily a safe speed) improve safety?
These questions (and more) are at the nub of the matter. If increasing the speed limit on motorways caused a gain to the British economy of £100 million per annum, would that be worth ten extra deaths? Likewise, if lowering the speed limit to 60MPH saved 30 lives per annum but cost £500 million, would that be acceptable?

Safety improvements on road, rail and air are already taken as part of a cost/benefit analysis that can count lives saved as part of the formula. I would want to see such analysis in the consultation. We need facts, not guesswork. Most of all we do not need people blindly using a tragedy for their own political ends.

Finally, it is best not to forget the tragedy itself. RIP those who died, and may lessons be learned.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


An ex-colleague of mine posted the following on his Facebook account:
From Osho:
'There are only two types of people in the world: those who try to stuff their inner emptiness, and those very rare precious beings who try to see the inner emptiness. Those who try to stuff it remain empty, frustrated. They go on collecting garbage; their whole life is futile and fruitless. Only the other kind, the very precious people who try to look into their inner emptiness without any desire to stuff it, become meditators.
'Meditation is looking into your emptiness, welcoming it, enjoying it, being one with it, with no desire to fill it –there is no need, because it is already full. It looks empty because you don't have the right way of seeing it. You see it through the mind; that is the wrong way. If you put the mind aside and look into your emptiness, it has tremendous beauty, it is divine, it is overflowing with joy. Nothing else is needed.' (Osho, The Book Of Wisdom, Osho International, 2009)
To which my reaction was:
Then there are people who split society into 'good' and 'bad' according to random attributes. Coincidentally enough they always seem to place themselves firmly within the 'good' bracket.
I hate such behaviour (although I have no doubt that I succumb to it at times). It splits the world into 'them' and 'us', 'good' and 'bad', 'right' and 'wrong', when the truth almost always lies somewhere in between. Take the snippet above; I have no problem with the writer claiming that meditation is good; where he crosses the line is in implying that people who do not meditate are somehow lesser beings.

We can all play the game:
From David:
'There are only two types of people in the world: those who spend their lives indoors, and those very rare precious beings who experience the countryside. Those who remain indoors remain empty, frustrated. They go on collecting garbage; their whole life is futile and fruitless. Only the other kind, the very precious people who go and walk in the countryside become better people.
'Walking is about filling your emptiness with grand vistas and the sensation of the sun, wind and rain on your face. The mere act of walking fills your soul. Do not see the countryside through your eyes; that is the wrong way. Put your sight to one side and pause to experience the countryside, breathe it in; it has tremendous beauty, it is divine, it is overflowing with joy. Nothing else is needed.' (David Cotton, The Book Of Bull**it, Discjirm, 2011)
Okay that is a bad example, but I think you can see what I mean.