The History of the CU Hillwalking Club

As told by Pete Nellist

Being the last surviving[*] founding member of the Club, it is my duty to put in ink [or in bytes -TMS] the early history of this rabble of social misfits which calls itself a club. Now, being a founder member means that I am exceptionally old, and age screws up the memory so that it becomes harder to... sorry, what was I talking about? Oh yes, this history will be at worst complete fiction, and at best wildly inaccurate - any resemblance between this waffle and the truth is entirely accidental.

[*] by surviving, I mean still left in Cambridge.

The Start

in 1352, the then King, Edward the Unprotected, decreed that "a club be established in Cambridge for the purpose of masochistic pursuits in mountainous territory." And so it came about that the club was set up.

The more astute among you may well doubt this story. You're absolutely right; it's complete rubbish! Actually, what happened is as follows:

At the start of the Michaelmas term 1988 (my first year), a stall was taken at the Freshers' Fair by a young chap called Luke Wilde. He was gathering the names of people interested in starting a hillwalking club, to bridge the gap between the Mountaineering Club (who like to dangle by their fingernails while wearing a loud pair of tights) and the Rambling Club (who often rope up for an expedition to Grantchester). He collected hundreds of names, and then thought about having to pigeonhole them all. Wandering aimlessly around Cambridge was not amongst his hobbies, so he took the easy option and told each college to organise their own clubs on a collegiate basis.

However, apathy took control and nothing happened - except in one particularly happening college, called St. John's, where all the really trendy dudes hang out (guess which college I'm at). A bloke called Simon Theobald was president of the St. John's Mountaineering Club. He started running day trips, mainly to the Peak District. These trips were open to any members of any college, and were extremely popular (one reason was that half the female population of the university was in love with him - he was a particularly happening dude). He started to publicise his trips under the title of the Cambridge University Hillwalking Club (though it didn't actually exist officially).

It was obvious, by the end of the academic year, that the Club was viable, so a decision was made to set it up as an official University Club. Sometime in May 1989, an AGM was held at which the first committee was elected. The committee were Dave Barber (President), Luke Wilde (Meets Secretary), Mo Wilson (Treasurer) and Maria somebody-or-other (Social Secretary - but we never actually saw her again!). The AGM was followed by a punt trip, during which the President ended up in the river. I feel it is very important that these ancient traditions are kept alive (I hope you can swim!) Thus the club started, with trips in much the same manner as they are now.

In February 1990, the committee decided to have an AGM (even though it was only six months since the last one) so that they could all resign. So a new committee was elected, consisting of Mo Wilson (President), Me [Pete Nellist] (Treasurer), and Mark Packer (Social Secretary). A committee of only three people. It was tough, and we worked long & hard (sympathy please), but somehow we pulled through for a whole year until the next group of nutters took over. They were Nick Spedding (President), Mark Roberts (Meets Secretary), Stuart Scott-Goldstone (Treasurer), and Sarah Danes (Social Secretary). And so on to the present day with the crowd we elected earlier this year (1992), so I'm going to shut up!

Pete Nellist, October 1992

Luke Wilde contacted the Webmaster in 1998 with the following:

Being rather sad and bored this evening, I decided to do a search on my name (egotist) to see if there is any other Luke Wilde out there. The first response was Pete Nellist's history of the CUHWC and yes there was a Luke Wilde out there - only it was me. I have such a bad memory (too much alcohol in the intervening years no doubt) I really can't be sure whether that's how it happened or not - although I do recall that Simon had some cash from the college and events started at St. John's before we got going on a Cambridge-wide footing. I certainly recall some sizable trips - coach loads to Derbyshire, three minibuses to North Wales in that first year.

I'm still in contact with Dave Barber, off and on and expecting him to visit me in Geneva in the next few weeks - most of my consulting work is in Geneva, terrible shame being so close to the Alps!

Please pass on my best wishes to the Committee. Glad to see the 'gap' I spotted in the club market is still flourishing.

Luke Wilde