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Great North Dog Walk challenge

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Great North Dog Walk 2011What is the truth about the numbers?

I know, I mentioned exactly the same thing last year, I emailed Tony Carlisle but he failed to respond to my questions, and yesterday’s Great North Dog Walk held on The Leas, South Shields may have set yet another new record to be inscribed into the Guinness book.

Thing is, I have all sorts of questions about this so called “record breaker”, but lets have another look at the numbers again. According to The Shields Gazette:

The 3.5-mile Great North Dog Walk attracts up to 30,000 visitors to South Tyneside each year, and holds 15 Guinness world records for participation. Last year, more than 18,000 dogs including 178 different breeds took part.

Since it started in 1990, it has raised £4.2m for good causes.

And so yesterday, from what I hear, they were hoping to break that record again. So once more we ought to be examining the mathematics and posing more questions.

The picture above is not in any way a representation of yesterday’s event, it is just a factual view of one single moment at just after 2:00 pm, however it did indicate that after four hours the event had all but finished, tents were being taken down, fences were being removed, RSPCA volunteers were taking a rest, vans were being loaded, you get the picture.

Which means that if last year’s record was remarkably beaten again, then an average of 4,500 dogs per hour had moved past the point that you see in my picture; because this is a family event you often see pairs of dog walkers, or even threes and fours, now that would mean about 38000 humans took part. 38000 would fill The Bents Park twice over! Now, my own eyes, and those of the APCOA Civil Enforcement Officers witnessed that a great many of them arrived by car, they certainly didn’t all walk to The Leas, and if only 25% of the dogs arrived by car then where did the 4500 cars park? They certainly didn’t, indeed could not, park alongside The Leas because from Gypsies Green Stadium to the Redwell Bank roundabout there is only room for about 250 vehicles. Where would the other 4000 odd park? Not on the Dragon, it was virtually empty.

Also, if each dog lapped up around half a litre of water during and after the walk, they would consume the contents of some 4500 two litre bottles of water, that’s a lot of pallets and a lot of dog bowls, yet behind the finish line I counted only around 50 bowls.

I missed the start of the event so I cannot truthfully tell how many thousands were lined up ready to go, but remembering last year I found it difficult to believe that there might have been thousands behind the start line, hundreds would have been a better estimation from what my own eyes saw. Yet still I continue to find it very difficult to believe that now around 4500 dogs per hour walk around the course.

So, considering that South Tyneside Council is now one of the major sponsors of the event I think we are entitled to ask some questions to validate that it is indeed a major event worthy of tax payer support.

  • How do the organisers confirm how many dogs take part on the day?
  • Is there any involvement by any official from Guinness World Records Ltd on the day, and on site, to validate the “world record” claim?
  • How much does the event cost to organise and run?
  • How much sponsorship is raised and from whom?
  • How much money is raised for charities and which charities benefit?
  • Are any accounts published, and where can the public read them?

Related posts

I’m sorry that I find these numbers challenging, they just don’t match with what my eyes see,  were you there yesterday? Am I going slightly barmy about it?

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Written by curly

June 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

31 Responses

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  1. For a new record to be verified, the would be record breaker must either fill in an application containing evidence of the record (the record attempt must meet stringent Guiness book of records criteria) or invite an official judge to the event. I find your comments rather petty and pathetic considering this event has raised over 4 million quid for charity. I’m sure there are more things to concern yourself about with what the town hall mafia spend our money on.

    Neil Newton

    June 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    • I think you’re totally missing Curly’s point. If the participant numbers are wrong then so are all the other assumptions that flow from that – including the charity total.


      June 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm

      • Bryan, I think Neil’s referring obliquely to Curly in the paper last week defending the council spewing our money on the hunt for the Monkey, then without a hint of irony this week questioning the council spending money to help fund a charity event. I wish the Curly questioning the dog walk was around when the council was throwing our cash at the ‘Vote Joe’ nonsense.

        That’s not to say Curly doesn’t pose some pertinent questions though. I assume he’s already picked though the Great North Run’s annual report and published accounts. Just out of fairness, you know.


        June 13, 2011 at 11:32 pm

      • I think you’re missing my point Bryan. I’m saying that for it to be accepted by the Guiness book of records, it has to go through a stringent process of verification before it is recognised and accepted as a world record, which the Great North Dog Walk has achieved in 1995 / 1996 / 1997 / 1998 / 1999/ 2000 / 2001 / 2003 / 2004 / 2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 and 2010. Maybe Curly thinks Robert Wadlow was a midget too, as he doesn’t seem to have much faith in the credibility of Guiness Book Of World Records. Careful Curly, Norris McWhirter and Roy Castle may haunt you for your blasphemy!

        Neil Newton

        June 14, 2011 at 1:52 am

      • Were you there then Neil, did you see the event?


        June 14, 2011 at 8:01 am

      • No I wasn’t but then I wasn’t there when they measured Robert Wadlow either.

        Neil Newton

        June 14, 2011 at 9:27 am

  2. Just reminded me Brian, 30000 odd people is more than we had for some of the earlier Great North Runs in South Shields. I can say with certainty that it was NOT that busy down at The Leas yesterday!


    June 13, 2011 at 11:48 pm

  3. The point raised by Curly is an interesting one worthy of debate. Charity events that require large amounts of local authority funding should be questioned during the current economic crisis brought about by the international economic crash. The amount provided for the Great North Run should be questioned, have no doubt someone along the line makes profit out of these events and it is not always the charity!
    This also raises the national position of international aid particularly when it is supplied by our country to those who are nuclear powers.
    I’m afraid if I was asked what I would rather see go, a doggy walk, or some generic service such as Community Centre functions or opening times / staff provision for libraries – it would have to be the doggy walks. I agree with Curly, whilst it is hard to estimate crowd numbers and attendances at some events this one does not feature on my radar. Our councillors have hard decisions to make but I think this one is easy. Unless the council can identify specific benefits to the people of our borough then they should be wary of allocating resources.


    June 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

    • How do you know it requires large amounts of LA funding? Source and figures please. If you check the website of the GNDW it says that STC support it but its sponsors are actually ‘Pets at home’. Support could simply mean a loan of a marquee.

      Neil Newton

      June 14, 2011 at 10:17 am

      • Hello Neil, I think if you read my remarks you will find that I have spoken generically rather than specifically. Whatever support is given will cost time and money. I am merely saying that, in my opinion, our borough has to choose which events it supports on benefits that can be identified. Be that promoting the town, pulling significant amounts of outside visitors and money in or supporting something that has the clear and unambiguous support of the majority of citizens. Curly produces evidence, albeit a personal observation, that this event may not be as popular as is portrayed and that if so, this questions the validity of any support given. All events have a shelf life – granted some longer than others. Maybe the doggy walk has seen it best by date!


        June 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

      • Neil , at no point did I mention the word large. If you follow the links provided you will find some of the evidence that you were looking for, here is some more.


        June 14, 2011 at 11:54 am

      • I never said you did, I was responding to Kevin’s reply in which he states “Charity events that require large amounts of local authority funding”.

        Neil Newton

        June 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

    • Well said Kevin,
      I hope everyone else can see the “elephant in the room” that you spotted!


      June 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

  4. The information provided, re support, is illuminating. We know of course that there will also be backroom costs, marketing, getting the mayor to pose for pics etc, the cost of storage of items, placement of items, project management and administration costs, time spent debating the funding at various meetings, agendas being written, minutes being taken etc. This all adds up and has to be added to the capitol and actual costs imposed.
    I’m not being a Scrooge and I know that the organisers mum will have been close in his mind. However, an event that is raising £4.2 should only need ‘approval’; all other costs could be met by them.
    It’s great that our citizens are gathering money for charity and good events; I do not wish to get hung up on this particular charity, indeed I wish it well. The wider issue has to be costs that are incurred from the public purse at a time when, due to government cut backs, wider society is suffering.
    Well done on the private sector for supporting the event but as for the borough we should be pleased to allow it to take place (in line with saftey and event management procedures) but limit the actual financial outlay.


    June 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    • Ok, well let’s do some more maths then. Here’s a hypothetical question –

      LA 1 has a few thousand pounds and spends it on some good publicity and a positive news story for their borough.
      LA2 spends tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds on an action that at best makes their borough look like hicksville and at worst causes more job losses and cuts in services already trimmed to the bone.

      Which LA has spent least and gained most positive promotion of their borough?

      Neil Newton

      June 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      • Mr. Newton I have other threads available if you wish to carry on discussing “Monkeygate” with other like minded readers


        June 14, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      • I thought this thread was about the GNDW and does it warrant LA support and/or funding? I never mentioned any ‘monkeygate’. I simply posed a hypothetical question to help support my view that the GNDW is an event that shows the borough in a positive and record breaking way, therefore justifying the relatively small fiscal amount it has received from the public purse. You’ve got monkeys on the brain lad, are you pining for Peter Reid?

        Neil Newton

        June 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm

  5. Well I was there Curly I took part with my sister her husband and Robbie her dog. The gazette says that nearly 23000 dogs took part i dont know where they get the total from but I dint see a football crowd there. Perhaps five or ten thousand over the length of it but I doubt if it was any bigger than that.
    Kevin you made the most important comment when you said have no doubt someone along the line makes profit out of these events and it is not always the charity!
    People should think about that there must be some sort of kudos in keeping your name in the record book year after year, why else would sponsors and councils put there money in?

    Sandra D

    June 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    • ‘IT’S OFFICIAL – a South Tyneside dog event has kept its record-breaking title.

      A staggering 22,742 canines and their owners strolled the 3.5 mile course along the Leas at South Shields, helping the Great North Dog Walk cement its place in the record books.’ – source ,Shields Gazette.

      Assuming they mean a collective total and working on a one dog to one owner ratio, that would give a turnout of 11, 371

      Neil Newton

      June 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm

  6. Curly, originally, was querying whether the reportage of the Great North Dog Walk was accurate.
    The claims made suggest there were over 22700 dogs on the Leas on Sunday over a three or four hour period.
    This equates to 5600 dogs on the Leas at any given hour.
    For the sake of argument there is one dog owner with each dog.
    Curly is simply pointing out that given the amount traffic this mass attendance would create – are the claims made in the Gazette true?
    Bearing in when I was jogging, a few years ago now, the figures for people running the Great North Run was around the 18000 figure – less than the dog walk. This involved road closures along the Leas, additional public transport, police attendance, stewarding etc.
    The Great North Dog Walk should have been decidedly noticeable and quite frankly it was not. Not this year, not last year or previous years.
    The video of last year on the Great North Dog Walk (on the website) does not appear to show the crowds that 16000 or so dogs would require last year.
    If the number of dogs attending is exaggerated, then logically, so is the amount raised for charity. How can this sum be checked? It is only an estimate. Though £45 per dog per walk, since inception, seems achievable.

    The Guinness Book of World Records website gives no indication of how the numbers involved are validated. In fact in the 2010 video neither the owners nor the dogs appeared to be allocated numbers as per the Great North Run. As the picture in tonights (14th. June 2011) Gazette confirms – how are the numbers checked and entrance fees collected?

    Does this event show the borough in a positive and record breaking way?
    Well, it was not reported in the Sunderland Echo, nor the Evening Chronicle – I did not check the Journal. So only we know about it!!

    I am not concerned over the relatively small amount this event received from the council, what I am concerned about is that there appears to be little or no accountability regarding this small and many other larger amounts distributed by our council.
    Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.

    Also, I am getting tired of the Gazettes inaccurate reporting or rather the reprinting of other peoples press releases. But that is another issue in itself.

    Steve G

    June 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    • Hurray you get it too Stevie Gerrard!
      I suppose that when you are looking for big sponsors you need to keep putting bigger and bigger numbers in front of them, but why do you need to keep looking for more and more sponsors if the costs of running the walk aren’t going up in line with the numbers? You know what I’m saying, the numbers stay about the same each year but the receipts keep growinng?
      Is that possible?

      Pam Dickinson

      June 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm

      • I think we have to be careful that we do not edge towards hinting at allegations of malpractice or inappropriate behaviour of any charity. This thread made a good point about how public effort and money was invested into a good cause and the current ethical issue surrounding whether it is right to do so at the current time. Curly hinted at posing the question of numbers, i suggest that was to identify that the return for investment was not as strong at the hyperbole would indicate. Bottom line is…councillors please give a good deal of thought to what events you sponsor, please ensure that there is a good return for such an investment. If youcannot be sure you can still give the event your blessing wish it well, permit it to go ahead and encourage people to donate.
        I’ve just been watching George Galloway on Sky and regardless of what we think of him he espouses that, “We are led to believe that the country is virtually bankrupt, our children are to pay £9000 to gain a basic university education yet we are paying £40,000 a night hotel bills for the pilots who are bombing Libya…”. As i say regardless of what we think of him the point is made, if we are so hard up we should be very careful of what we spend hard earned peoples money on.


        June 14, 2011 at 5:58 pm

  7. Perhaps those who doubt the numbers, validity of the LA’s involvement, perceived lack of accountability or have outright suspicions of profiteering by the GNDW, should volunteer their free time to help organise next year’s event? Who knows, they might shed some light on these suspected shadowy goings on. Typical small town sniping, no wonder Shields is going to the dogs (see what I did there) whenever someone attempts to do something positive, there’s always someone looking to knock em for it. People of Shields, put down your pitchforks!

    Neil Newton

    June 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    • I for one have already commented that I support charity, I see no reason why this charity should not receive ‘support’. this is a question about finance, resource allocation and decisions. To be frank if a charity has earned in excess of £4.2m then all it should need is moral support and engagement by the public.
      I fear Neil that you are fishing in an area where there are no fish!


      June 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      • I’m simply calling it as I see it and expressing my opinion Kevin. I don’t really care for fishing….all those maggots and all that slime does nowt for me!

        Neil Newton

        June 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm

      • IF the numbers attending are not correct and appear to be exaggerated, then why should anyone assume the figure raised of £4.2 million to be correct. Though it is a feasible sum, as I posted earlier.

        Personally I do not begrudge the small donation by the council, reported at only £1000.

        However, exaggerating the figures of attendance, which is at the heart of the original post, is simply deceit and lying, which no one should condone.

        Steve G

        June 15, 2011 at 9:20 am

  8. Add up all on the ‘on costs’ and it will certainly be more than £1,000. But I agree with you Steve, there are bigger issues afoot than a doggy walk. As we approach the school summer holidays and we become more aware of those about to leave together with the current issues surrounding the cost of education, lack of job opportunities and the poor rate of long term unemployment and deprivation in our area, puts the doggy walk issue into the shade!


    June 15, 2011 at 10:15 am

  9. […] I’d like to know just why these numbers are apparently going up and up year after year, yet the event looks only a little larger to me, and the crowds and tents have all dispersed by late afternoon. I was down on the Leas this morning to photograph the start of the Great North Dog Walk 2012 which now claims to have more dogs taking part than the first Great North Runs organised by Brendan Foster, yet I parked easily behind the Bamburgh, as far as I am aware there were no extra Metros or buses today, there were no road closures at all, and nobody to police such a huge gathering, no safety stewards or metal barriers. The start line did not stretch  a mile and a half and the first participants passed by my camera in little more than twenty minutes. I’d like to know if anyone either in South Tyneside Council or close to Mr. Carlisle has any interest in trying to answer the questions that I have posed in previous years. […]

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