Five Decades of Annual Get-Togethers, 2005 to 2014

History of the Annual Outdoor Gathering (AOG)

We are celebrating our 50th Anniversary in 2024!  Please contact Jim Cornwell [email protected] if you are interested to get involved.

As part of that celebration, we are sharing snippets from our GOC Archives each month.  This is the fourth of a five part look at the Annual Outdoor Gatherings through each decade of the GOC’s 50 year history, being shared over 5 months from January to May.  For previous posts in the series and other anniversary news & events, see Celebrating our 50th Anniversary in 2024.


The history of annual events goes back to the early years of GOC, evolving from a more causal affair of small groups in a campsite field (sometimes anonymously due to attitude of the time) to major organisation, quite often taken place on university campuses. Although camping outside the usual territories had formed a major part of the club’s activities, different regional groups meeting together as an annual event didn’t occur until 1977. This seemed to continue in varying forms until becoming a more formal structure in 1980, classed as the first National Weekend. Indeed, the actual name of the event has changed through the years including National Get-Together, Annual Camping, AGM (this term being quite interchangeable with the actual general meeting and the whole weekend); the more standard National Weekend and then from 2003, Annual Outdoor Gathering (also known as AOG).

2005 Canterbury, Kent

Held from Friday 15th to Monday 18th July at the University of Kent, a gentle 20 minute walk from city. Organised by the East Kent group. On Friday a welcome meal for AOG first timers. The AGM on the Saturday followed by the dinner and ceilidh with a late bar. Walks included a view of the Devil’s Kneading Trough, near Wye.

Attendance record was broken with 200 members attending (reflected by a large group photo was taken in the university grounds, published in the September newsletter).

2006 Galashiels, Scottish Borders

Held on Friday 21st to 24th July at Galashiels campus of the Herriot Watt University, 180 members attended.

A wide selection of events including cycling from Galashiels to Jedburgh, via Melrose and Dryburgh and back on the Saturday; to Melrose and back via Abbotsford, Selkirk, Ettrick Valley, Tushielaw Inn, Robertson; two fully booked minibus tours with the Saturday visiting Priorwood Garden in Melrose, Dawyck and Tom’s Secret Garden in Broughton; the Sunday visiting Borders stately homes such as Walter Scott’s house at Abbotsford and Mellerstain House. Walks included Windlestraw La, Harstanes and Jedburgh, Tweed Banks and Neidpath Castle, Hart Fell, Gameshope Glen on the Saturday; part of the Southern Upland Way to Traquair, Mellerstain and Smailholm, the Round of Glensax, Melrose and the Eidon Hills on the Sunday. A Industrial Heritage walk on the Monday from university reception.

Following the AGM (in which then current Chairman Graeme Brown handed the reigns over to David White) on the Saturday evening was a communal dinner and Ceilidh. Whilst on the Sunday evening a disco in the memory of former member Nick Lawrence.

2007 Lancaster, Lancashire

Held on Friday 27th to Monday 30th July at Lancaster University Conference Centre. For the Friday evening, a special carvery meal was arranged, and for first timers, a table reserved in the bar if they wished to speak to the group organisers.

Saturday walking included a gentle option of 8 miles started at the River Wyre at Scorton Picnic Site, south of Lancaster, via the hills of the Forest of Bowland; a 7 mile walk east of Lancashire from Littledale; 8 mile walk from Arnside on the estuary and overlooking the railway viaduct, retuning over the Knott; an 8 cost and River Lune walk via Glasson, the remain of Cockersand Abbey and returning via the canal. Another 8 mile, but relatively tougher walk, from south Lancaster via wooded valley and the high Bowland fells. Another walk in the pretty Lune Valley, north east of Lancaster. Other activities on the day were rowing on Lake Windemere from Fell Foot Country Park at the southern end of the lake; and a minibus tour to Bowness on Lake Windemere. Whilst cyclists did a 40 mile round trip in the Lune Valley to Kirkby Lonsdale.

Sunday walks included 9 miles to 873m height in the Lake District, the Fairfield Horseshoe; a woodland walk of 8 miles from Arnside to visit the Fairy Steps and Silverdale area; 7 miles from Littledale; 9 miles from Ingleton; 10 from Abbeystead Reservoir taking in Hawthornthwaite Fell. There were options of a day by the sea, ambling though Morecombe and village of Heysham; a visit to stately home, Levens Hall and bus trip to the Grizedale Forest Sculpture Trail.  Cycling for 45 miles over the Bowland Fells and through the Trough of Bowland; also an off road cycling trip of 35 miles in the Lune Valley. Or Caving for both beginners and the experienced near Ingleton. Monday offered a guided 2 hour tour of Lancaster.   The AGM was held on the Saturday, followed a silver service, waiter served candlelit dinner and Glitter Ball with a 1970s/80s disco by ‘Gayzer’ and a one-hour performance by the professionally acclaimed girl duo, Abba II. It was encouraged to dress in 70’s costume to add to the atmosphere. Sunday evening was a barbeque followed by a gay pub quiz by hosted ‘Delightful David’ and a chance to win some prizes.

2008 Worcester, Worcestershire

Originally intended to be set in Bangor but due to the plans falling through, the West Midlands group kindly brought their plans forward a year.

Held on 1st August to Monday 4th August at University of Worcester, the weekend was packed with events. Starting on the Friday afternoon, a “welcome stroller” into Worcester whilst in the evening, a buffet meal followed by “icebreaker activities”.

Saturday featured a walk in the Clent Hills, taking in A E Housman Blue Remembered Hill; a walk up the Iron Age hill fort in the Abberley Hills via woodlands, pastures and over Woodbury Hill to Teme Valley; walk in the Hanbury starting at Piper’s Hill woods with a visit to St Mary’s church (used as a regular recording venue as “St Stephens” in The Archers); following the Cotswold way, visiting Stanton, Stanway, Snowshill and Laverton; Croome Park, a walk though Capability Brown’s first landscape park, with visits to a panorama tower and 1940s RAF buildings; the first of the weekend’s Elgar Trails, starting from the University to the city, via Cathedral and then heading to Elgar birthplace in Broadheath; a gentle walk via Shrawley Wood via the River Severn. Described as the “Jewell in the Crown” of the weekend events were Worcestershire Malverns: Herefordshire Beacon, a walk to the central hills of the Malvern range, views of Herefordshire to the Welsh Borders; or to the Worcestershire Beacon, a relatively strenuous walk from Colwall to 1394 (425m) for a 360 degree panorama of the countryside.

Sunday options were a walk from the Georgian town of Bewdley, birth place of Stanley Baldwin, following river Severn with Severn Valley railway opposite, returning via the Wyre Forest; Bredon Hill from Eckington Bridge;  Broadway to Chipping Campden; the second of the Edgar Trails, starting in Great Malvern, a visit to Edgar’s grave and culminating in a short hike up to Worcestershire Beacon; a linear Malvern walk, over the twenty-one individual peaks from Chase End in the south to the northern tip; a walk on the Shropshire Border, from Cleobury Mortimer and through the Rea Valley.

For non-walkers a boat trip on the River Severn; and a city tour of Worcester on the Monday. Ken led the cycling events on the Saturday going deep into the Worcestershire countryside to Upton-on-Severn; whilst Sunday involved exploring Herefordshire with a pub lunch and cider tasting at Much Marcle.

The Annual dinner, followed by a disco, on the Saturday had a simple theme of dress of “black and white”; Sunday evening entertainment with a concert performed by Rainbow Voices choir.

2009 Bangor, Gwynedd, north Wales

Delayed from being held in 2008 due to building work at the university, this was held from Friday 24th to Monday 26th July and organised by the North Wales group. Accommodation was based at the new University halls, only a short walk from the city centre and railway station.

Activities started on the Friday afternoon with an orientation and historical walk around Bangor. Saturday was a Snowdon day for walks, with walking from Llanberis Pass on the Minder’s Track; a more challenging walk was the route known as the Horseshoes, starting from above Llanberis Pass and scramble of Crib Goch. Other walks of the day were by the coast on Anglesey, one around Penmon Point; Southstack and Holyhead Mountain; Church Bay and Camaes Bay; village of Penmaenmawr. For those not wanting to walk, an option to go on minibus via Bethesda, Capel Curig to Betws-y-Coed, up the Lledr valley to the Blaenau Ffestiniog including a chance to ride on the Ffestiniog narrow gauge railway. Also a chance to visit Portmeirion.

Sunday walks included Anglesey with Bull Bay and Newborough; walk above and around Conwy, over the Great Orme and to Aber Falls. A spot of scrambling on Tryfan was planned but this was called off due to wet weather. Another minibus trip, this time along North Wales coat to Conwy; and then afternoon journey to Llandudno. For something different, there was an opportunity to go 180 feet down into copper mines with professional tour at Parys Mountain, Anglesey.

The social highlight of the weekend was the Annual Dinner, silver service held under the Victorian vaulted ceiling of the University's main hall on the Saturday night and followed by a traditional Welsh twmpath band from the Braichmelyn Band for dancing until late. The dress code was “colourful”, resulting in the ’Rainbow Ball’. A raffle raised £264 for the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue. A quiz on the Sunday evening. 196 stayed at the university with 193 of those attending for the Rainbow Ball.

2010 Nethy Bridge, Scottish Highlands

“Deliberately a blast from the past AOG reminiscent of the club’s origins” was this year’s AOG was billed with a change to the previous years, in which a smaller event was chosen. Organised by two long standing members, Ian Kirk and Eric Hart, it took place over the Bank Holiday weekend, from Friday 28th May to Monday 31st May.

Main accommodation was two hostels, ‘Abernethy Bunkhouses’, Nethy House and Nethy Station. as well camping in the village by the games field, which was fully booked by the April (water available from the hall) and nearby hotels. Saturday night meal and entertainment at the village hall (actually two halls together) with a limited attendance of just over a 100.

A self-service dinner on the Friday; whilst Saturday dinner was provided by local caterers, preceded by a talk from representative of the Cairngorms National Park and followed by the AGM. On the Sunday a BBQ was followed by a ceilidh accompanied by band, Fine Blend. On the Monday, a fish and chip van on the village green followed by a social in the evening at Ian and Eric’s house.

The weather was the full range for the weekend’s activities, from sunny at lower levels to white-out conditions with driving snow at altitude. Walks were led by the Scotland group and local residents, including Munros of Bynack More, Ben Macdui, Cairngorm, Braeriach and Sgor Gaoith. Moderate walks including the ridge above Loch Morlich taking in Meall a’ Bhuachaille summit and Ryvoan pass; a historical walk from Carrbridge, along General Wade’s Road to Sluggan Bridge. Cycling over the weekend includes through the Abernethy Forest, Glenmore, Loch Morlich, Rothiemurchus; northern edge of the Cairngorms on quiet road track with the rivers of Spey and Avon via Grantown-on-Spey. Options of water activities of kayaking, rafting and canyoning on the Monday in which 17 people took part.

2011 Guildford, Surrey

Jointly organised by the Surrey and Sussex groups, based at the University of Surrey at Guildford on the weekend of the Friday 12th to Monday 15th August.    Walks included around the North Downs such as Ranmore Common; Tilford; Frensham’s Little and Great Ponds; Box Hill and across the border into West Sussex in and around Arundel. The social activities included a ceilidh on the Saturday night and a music quiz on the Sunday. Monday was the option of as tour of town tour of Guildford, including visiting the castle, the cathedral and Lewis Carroll’s and Edward Carpenter’s graves.

2012 Colchester, Essex

The Essex and Suffolk groups were hosts for Friday 7th to Monday 20th August, a little later than usual to avoid a clash with the Olympic Games being held at nearby Stratford. Based at the University of Essex, with around 120 to 140 staying on campus for what turned out to be a warm and sunny weekend. For those eating on campus, the evening meals were in Wivenhoe House, a 18th century manor house in Wivenhoe Park.

On Saturday evening, the AGM was the first for the club in its new legal status as a limited company. This was followed by evening meal and a lively ceilidh in the Union nightclub.

Activities were varied programme of walks around the coats and river, including Frinton and Clacton, the creek around Walton; villages of Dedham and Manningtree. The weekend was completed on the Monday with a guided historical tour of the town, provided by the Colchester Tourist Office.

2013 Buxton, Derbyshire

The Transpennine group organised this event in the spa town of Buxton near Peak District national park on the weekend of Friday 12th to Monday 15th July. Accommodation included the University of Derby’s halls of residence in Buxton and the nearby Buxton Place Hotel with the architectural striking 18th century ‘Devonshire Dome’ as the central venue.

A very warm and sunny weekend for various activities, with almost 250 people attending the different events. On Saturday, walks included Back Forest and Lud’s Church; Edale and Jacob’s Ladder; Goyt Valley, Hathersage and Stanage edge; Lathkill Dale; Lyme Park in Cheshire, Mam Tor and Castleton; a geological walk over Shining Tor; a short walk around the southern edge of Buxton; a longer walk through between the Dove and Manifold Valley with the main objective of Thor’s Cave. Other options on the day included caving in the Giant’s Hole, which provided a taster for first time cavers; a 7 hour coach trip visiting villages and Haddon Hall; a 30 mile cycle ride in the limestone area of the Peak District National park.

On Sunday, walks from Gritstone edge to Chapel en Le Frith; through Chatsworth Park; Dove Dale; a walk through Eyam ‘plague village’ and its neighbour, Stoney Middleton; a harder walk from Hayfield up to Kinder Scout; Ladybower Reservoir and Derwent Edge; Lud’s Church and the Roaches; Mondal Head; Bakewell to the Old Portway. Cycling was 40 miles via the Dark Peak, returning by White Peak. Monday was a historical tour around Buxton for a mere £3, led by Blue Badge guides.

Saturday evening was rather warm and sweaty affair in the Dome building. Starting with the AGM, where it was it was agreed to the proposal of charity status, followed by a laser illuminated dinner with a James Bond theme (prizes for best Bond Girl, Bond Villain and 007) and disco.

2014 Comrie, Perthshire

The club’s 40th anniversary year, held on the late Spring Bank Holiday from Friday 23rd May to Monday 26th May.  Harking back to the early days of non-campus events, the accommodation could be booked via GOC including 10 spaces reserved at Comrie Croft which contained shower/toilet block; 50 places at the hostel; 11 self-catering chalets; a self-catering house which could accommodate a group of 11.

Mark Lewis, Robert Watt and Douglas organised the weekend with the Scotland and Adventure Out groups leading the walks.

Saturday activities included walks up Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers; a short Munro walk on Ben Vorlich and Stùc a' Chroin; a walk from Loch Turret up Auchnafree Hill. There was also a tour via bus to and around Stirling; a Three Straths Cycling Tour, 55 miles though the Perthshire valleys.

On Sunday, a longer version of the Ben Vorlich and Stùc a' Chroin Munros walk; Tarmachan Ridge; Ben Chonzie; a circular walk from Comrie to Water of Ruchill and Glen Artney; Birnam Glen and the Hermitage from Dunkeld. A Strathearn Cycle Tour, 45 miles exploring the lanes east of Comrie, near to Crieff town, through Madderty to the village of Dunning, returning via Auchterarder and Muthill. For something different, a trip by classic car (a 1952 Austin Somerset and 1979 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow) to Scone Palace. Monday activities were a climb up Ben Ledi by the Stank Glen path; and a low level walk from Comrie Hostel to Glen Lednock.

The main base was Comrie’s Community Centre, a Grade A former church with a maximum of 100 places for dinner which included on Friday a buffet meal and on Saturday, the AGM and Gala dinner. This was concluded with the presentation of the 40th Anniversary cake being piped in and followed by Ceilidh and band. On Sunday evening the venue was the local wildlife centre, Auchingarrich Wildlife Park with an indoor BBQ, due the weather (no bar so bring own bottles). The night concluded a concert by the Edinburgh Gay Men’s Chorus with a birthday song to the club to the tune of The Happy Wanderer. At time of writing a recording is currently available on YouTube.  (Source: Dorling, Richard. (2014) GOC AOG Happy Wanderer 2014. Accessed: 21 December 2023). 80 members attended the weekend.

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