Digested read: still recceing for the Peak Trails 30. Hope to Hathersage, blimey that was heavy going on the hottest day of the year to date. Some getting lost, much getting dehydrated, but the restorative powers of a recce buddy with Les Brutelles credentials and a chip butty ensured all ended happily. Still project in progress though, no idea whether or not it will be game on just yet. Map still works. Hurrah!
Well, setting forth from hope, strictly speaking, but I didn’t think that was such a good title, so go on, sue me. Good luck with that. You might think from the photographic record, that the objective for the day was to get a panoramic perspective of the Hope cement works, viewing from on high from all conceivable angles, with the cement works being celebrated as the glorious epicentre of the known universe, but actually, that was but a happy bonus from this day’s travels. Though quite apt as me and my recceing buddy cemented our technique and our mutual support tagging along the way. See what I did there? Not contrived at all. High five to me! (Also no mean feat, it’s really hard to give yourself a convincing hi-five, it’s basically rather affected clapping, not recommended at all, this is why most organised running events have cheery race marshals to oblige.)
Now I have discovered my new super-power of navigation, I’m trying to work out how best to harness it for good. I guess all superheroes have a few teething problems whilst they are trying to work out the extent of their abilities and how to utilise them, and I’m no different. Still, the plan was to do another recce of a section of the Dig Deep 30 Ultra/ Peak Trails 30 Challenge this time from Hope to Hathersage. Here’s the map so you can see where I mean…
only of course you can’t because the map is crap. Fortunately, as you my regular reader already know, I am now in possession of a new, bigger, better map – this, coupled with my prescription glasses, means I have a sporting chance of finding my way. Even so, I’m new to this map-reading, authoritative pathfinder/ lead orienteer role, so I took the precaution of having a buddy come along too. More specifically, a buddy whose idea it was to do the recce in the first place, as she had already recced this part of the route before, but got a bit lost so suggested a second attempt and the meet up as she had an uncharacteristic day off. Basically, it wasn’t my idea at all, I was parasitising someone else’s initiative as passively as ever. Well, I can only take leadership and my new-found resolve to be more proactive so far. I was mightily relieved and grateful she was up for this – more so when we were actually doing it.
We had all day, so agreed on a leisurely start at 10.00 ish, and to meet at Hathersage public car park, then we’d drive in one car to Hope to start our walk from there so we could do a straight leg of the route rather than an out and back. I got to Hathersage a bit early. It was already blisteringly hot. Maybe the leisurely start idea was not one of our best. We were going to be out in the midday sun for sure and I loathe this heat. On the other hand I suppose the likelihood is that I’ll be doing this section around noon, so perhaps it’s as well to practise at the same time.
My micro adventure started early on. I found a parking place no problem but then found the ticket payment machine wasn’t working. It was a great exercise in people watching. If I could only find a job opportunity based on this I’d be giddy as a piglet with joy. A free range, not-bred-to-be-eaten piglet obviously. Maybe a wart hoglet them, they know how to have good time. Great runners too – they have purpose and attitude. Also, did you know if you scratch a wart hog under it’s belly it makes its hair stand on end? Also useful for pub quizzes in the future. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet sourced one – a job based on people watching that is, not a juvenile wart hog as a running buddy that is – they have CCTV for that these days. Anyway, we all took it in turns to approach the machine, try to use it, look puzzled and then inwardly debate what to do. It was like watching squirrels try to negotiate a baffle on a bird feeder. We were individually non-plussed. This must be possible? But no.
Eventually we decided to talk to one another about it, and the consensus was that if we all left the same note on our dashboards with a time we’d be OK. I don’t know if we were all necessarily particularly law-abiding, I think we were rather more fearful of being landed with a fine, a less noble but more authentic sentiment. The feeling was that the machine was full after the weekend (wasn’t it the Hathersage Hilly Tri only the day before) so the fear was that is someone came along and emptied it, it would start working later on in the day, and all those of us without tickets would be landed with mahoosive fines. A life lived in fear is a life half-lived as we all know, so once there was consensus we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief. Pens and paper scraps were shared amongst us – one person even went the extra mile and left a note on the machine as well, just wow! Then we all went our separate ways with a bit more of a spring in our step. Especially in my case because that saved me over five quid in parking. Yay! As I waited, eventually a man in a white van appeared and prodded the machine, some new potential car parkees had appeared by this point and I watched from afar as some pointed at the machine and it was explained again about it not working, and then the white van man said something and everyone dispersed smiling. Apparently white van man had proclaimed ‘it’ll be fine‘ and everyone believed him. If that man had a hi viz and a clipboard too he could have set up his own cult.
I tried to find some shade whilst waiting for my running buddy. She was delayed and sent me a message via Facebook, but as I am the last person in the known world not have a smart phone I didn’t get it. It didn’t matter, she arrived explaining she’d had to go back for something or other, but figured it wouldn’t matter too much as we were up for a leisurely morning out. Morning! Blimey, how fast was she reckoning on tackling this route? At least one of us was going to be in for a shock.
We agreed as we drove over to Hope that I’d route find and she’d only intervene if I was going to take us a bit too far off piste for comfort. We had a plan people! It dawned on me as we motored over that this felt like a long way, and yet was barely a third of the distance we’d be required to tackle on the day. Gulp. No point in dwelling on that for now. One foot in front of another and see how we go. Parked up, and we alighted from the car, and got our bearings. It immediately became apparent that we have rather different approaches to this sun. I am loathing it. I’m pale skinned and blue-eyed and, erm, in possession of a silken layer (euphemism for extra packing of sub-cutaneous fat dear reader, what did you think I meant). I don’t like the temperature, but I also recoil from the actual bright sunlight too, I must have vampire heritage. Not in the blood sucking or avoiding garlic traits mercifully (a vegetarian that doesn’t eat garlic would have a dull gastronomic time indeed) but I’ve definitely got the genes for cringing and recoiling in the light. I’m not good with crosses and organised religion either to be fair, but that’s a post for another platform another time.
The only way I can cope with it is by covering up. Unflattering hat? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Full length leggings? Check. I was basically wearing a ghillie suit with a duffle coat over the top for good measure. She on the other hand was all minimalist and light and loving it. We must have looked an ill-matched pair! Mind you, to be fair I was so well camouflaged you possibly couldn’t make me out, I am in the photo too you know!
The first challenge was
navigating my way out of a paper bag getting my bearings in Hope, but after a brief episode of constantly rotating my map and staring around me vacantly, I was on it. Off we trotted. Well, not really trotting as such to be fair, we needed to conserve our energy, away we went.
Pleasingly, my first observation is that the start at least is/was quite straightforward. Also, without wishing to sound too like I’m giving into negative thinking, as the route passes through the village there is the option of taking either a snack detour, a loo break, or even abandoning the endeavour altogether and getting a bus home. As this will be a step into the unknown for me, if I do embark on it, it’s reassuring to know that at the half way point I can buy an ice cream rather than lie down on an exposed mountain face to die if it’s all been a bit too much. Carry cash as well as a compass for this one people. Incidentally, I have now bought a compass as it is part of the kit requirement. The irony of having to carry a bit of kit I don’t really know how to use does not escape me, but show willing eh. I mean obvs I’d be able to work out where north is, but then what. I know which way is the sky and which way is the earth too but that doesn’t necessarily help me stay upright, I’ve fallen over a fair few times running despite that insight. Maybe it’s my centre of gravity rather than orientation that is the issue. Incidentally, top tip, in an avalanche scenario (not that I’m expecting that in the environs of Hope in August to be honest) after all that tumbling around in the snow you can tell which way is up by spitting and seeing which way the saliva runs down your face, works with blood too, then you can dig your way out. Obviously if your air pocket isn’t big enough for you to spit in you will die of oxygen deprivation anyway, and if the snow has set around you like concrete you wont be able to dig either, so which way up you are is the least of your worries. Might help you out at that pub quiz sometime though. You’re welcome. I have a feeling knowing which way is north will be of similar practical use when lost, but you never know. I am enjoying having it all the same. Makes me feel hardcore.
So, waving goodbye to the coffee shop we frequented last time we were in these parts, we hooked right and back on the Peak Ultra 30 route, or whatever it’s called now – Peak Trails 30 Challenge I think… I forget. As long as I haven’t accidentally entered the 60 miler it’ll be fine.
This first section of our recce was roady and unremarkable, and very straightforward to navigate to be fair. I got disproportionately excited when I realised we were going right past the entrance to the cement works. I was even giddier later when we transversed it from within…
You pootle along, past an outdoor pursuits centre and campsite where a cat was snoozing contentedly on a bird table. There is no way of knowing how many birds it had scoffed, but it was quite squashed into the space so I’m guessing quite a few.
Shortly after Pindale Farm you get to a turn in the road where there was a fairly obvious left turn through a gate and along a trail that went through the cement works. It was a shaded track, but the humidity as well as heat was building, we’d hardly gone any distance at all and I was flagging already, this does not bode well…
The route took in a DANGER sign, which I enjoyed. A frissance of risk is always an asset on a micro adventure. There were a couple of footpaths dissecting the path now and again, but essentially you just follow the trail ahead.
Eventually we emerged onto first a more pronounced track that took us past a rather quaint community orchard. Here we had a brief detour just to see what it was all about, though we did obey the directive to ‘stay away from the hives’ not because we are risk averse, but because we couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way to the other side of the orchard.
After a little distance more, we emerged onto road and the edge of Bradwell. Now, here we need to be canny on the day. There is a check point, but to get to it, you have to go along two sides of a triangle, instead of straight ahead. This is not a complicated manoeuvre, but it’s one to be mindful of. The more obvious route is straight ahead. We decided not to add on that extra bit as it would surely be unmissable on the day… only I subsequently found out that last year’s ‘winning’ runner, actually ran on by this check point and in missing it, incurred a penalty and so missed out on the top spot. So it’s worth noting people. Personally I doubt I’ll be running so fast at this point I’ll speed on by, especially if this could even be a feed station. We’d hardly gone any distance at all and I was already fighting the urge to ask ‘are we nearly there yet?’
Through the village, and very soon you get to a pub on the right and there’s a mini green and some steps up to the left, and there you go, next bit, this navigational malarkey is a breeze!
Uh oh. Things started to unravel. I don’t know quite how, but it got really confusing from hereonin. Maybe we were distracted by the loveliness of Bradway/ Bradford/ Bradwell, wherever it was we were. I had a mental block about the name of the place which created some confusion. The village itself though was a little nest of quaint buildings with elaborate flower arrangements and lots of little run throughs and alleys all over the place. It reminded me a bit of Portmeirion, but without the prisoner running through all over the place. Well not when we were there, though it was pretty deserted to be honest…
I’m not absolutely sure how we went wrong here but we did, taking a premature right hook through the village, and ending up in what was obviously the wrong spot as a path headed out of the settlement in completely the wrong direction. My heart sank a bit as we had just hoiked up a long hot hill to get there, and the temptation to try to get back to where we were supposed to be without retracing our steps was strong. If you are looking at this view, you are off course my friend…
Fortunately we managed to hold out and follow reason, and duly went back to the steps to try again. This time we went right through the village, which is what we should have done in the first place. We met a friendly man with a blue van who explained the path ahead, basically head on up to Rebellion Knoll. It sounded straightforward. I don’t know if there will be another man with a differently coloured van there on the day, but I do rather hope so.
We headed up, oh my goodness, after the road bit it got really steep. There seemed to be some ground works going on, so there wasn’t really a single obvious path, just rutted, very rutted steep narrow and overgrown tracks heading skyward, and wide tracks made by vehicles crossing traversing them. It was very confusing and didn’t correspond obviously to the map at all. Not even when my buddy got her OS map out and even tried finding our location using the mysterious magic of her phone tracking system. I was getting distinctly hot and bothered now, and were we not in this together, would have been sorely tempted to abandon the endeavour and put the whole thing down to sorry experience. We went up and down, and out and back along various tracks, hitting dead ends or high bracken. Eventually, we used logic just to head upwards and in the vague direction of the knoll we could locate on our map due to our fantastic map reading skills. Also, because as already identified, I know which way is up, didn’t even have to spit, which was lucky, as we needed to preserve all the fluid we could.
On the plus side, when we stopped to draw breath, we could see new views of the cement works and down over Bradford, I was so shattered by heat at this point, it was easy to think we had indeed walked from there. The Portmeirion analogy seemed even more plausible from on high..
Finally we came out and hit an obvious path at the summit of our climb! Hurrah, this must be it… my recce buddy cautioned me that on her previous recce it all went wrong here too. I couldn’t see how, there was literally nowhere else to go, so we turned left and followed until… we hit a fence, there was no way the path was continuing. It did not compute, I thought my brain would implode, we couldn’t see where we’d gone wrong. We went back to where we’d emerged from the undergrowth. This was another bit where you really can’t improvise as there was supposed to be a checkpoint somewhere. Curses! Eventually my buddy had a moment of genius inspiration, and suddenly all the neurons – or whatever they are in her brain – fired off, and she saw where we needed to be. Long story short, we’d over shot on our exit point, so had to go back a couple of hundred metres to where there was an obvious footpath and gate. We just had to cross a field and ended up on a really proper, proper road, It was dry and dusty, but where we needed to be. We wasted an age though. I’m hoping on the day they’ll have put up something in the way of markers as it was very confusing, on the other hand if they don’t I suppose that’s the point of the recce. You are going to end up somewhere along that ridge, and it’s just a question of finding the main gate once at the top, who knows, on the day I might even get lucky and come up the intended path! Still, let’s not get too carried away with delusional thinking.
So we ended up on this long, dry, downhill path. On the one hand we were quite pleased to have got back on track. On the other hand this wasn’t the nicest of routes on a hot dry day. The surface wasn’t that great, contrary to expectations. It was downhill, which ought to have been a boon, but covered with a loose, dry gravel, which made it slippery. I’d be scared to run down that, I don’t know quite how speedier runners do it, it can’t just be fearlessness, maybe they are literally running so fast, they have moved their feet on before the stones beneath them have a chance to slide away? Whatever, I can see some limiting factors to my participation in this event, running wise. Aside from the obvious issues around lack of training, fitness and inherent disinclination to run, there is the little matter of I can’t run up hill because it’s too hard and the inclines are too steep, and I can’t run down hill because it’s too skiddy and scary and I don’t want to do a face plant, and there aren’t really that many unflat bits as such, and I wont be able to run them because it turns out I’m not massively enamoured with running after all. Oops. I’m beginning to think there might be a problem with this event. Oh well, they say at distance it’s more a mental game than a physical one, have to say, that’s just as well in my case, because I think I’ve already capitulated in relation to embracing the physical part of the challenge.
It wasn’t all bad though. We chatted companionably. We realised we were on Hathersage Hurtle territory, we were very relieved we’d not gone all the way over to Abney, which is where by buddy had ended up on her earlier recce. Also, some high points, more views of the cement works – I am beginning to think these are to the environs of Hope as the Christ the Redeemer statue is to Rio de Janeiro. Best bit though, was the fine face in the wall. What act of anonymous creative genius was this? So impressed, completely unexpected. Thank you whoever you were:
that, and the rather cute baby pheasants, hiding on their mum’s back. Cute eh? Shame they’ll all be shot in due course no doubt…
So these sights cheered us as we trudged onward, marvelling at how little distance we had actually covered and how long it had taken us to do so. I suppose this is the point of doing recces, we won’t waste so much time next time, this is the theory – I suppose I have to accept I’ll need to do a recce of this section again, can’t say I relish the thought, oh well.
After this though, it was straightforward. The landscape seemed dry, and I struggled to link it with the Hathersage Hurtle views from a few weeks ago. Even Shatton didn’t raise a giggle this time – we were both feeling the heat by now and water was running low, though we weren’t yet at the point where we were each eyeing up the other with a view to sating our hunger… that time could come though, it could….
Navigationally, it was all easy enough, there was a bit where you have to dodge through a narrow set of gate posts – very narrow, bit of a squeeze if you didn’t watch what you were doing with your back pack, and ducked down along the river for the final haul to Hathersage. Even here it was dry, but there was some shade from trees, and the water looked nice. We passed the stepping-stones which looked incredibly tempting, but which were fully occupied by playing families so we didn’t feel we could plunge right in. Not that we had the energy to do so. And then after miles and miles – trottable miles if you had the energy and inclination to do so, you ‘suddenly’ emerge onto the road, cross a bridge, and on the day this is I think another marshal/ dibbing point.
For now though we are done for the day! Hurrah! We made our way wearily up back into Hathersage, having long since left Hope behind.
Fortunately, refreshments awaited us in the form of a chip butty – paid extra for an egg, and gallons and gallons of water, which you could replenish from the outside tap. I had an unguarded moment of manifest eccentricity by choosing to eat my chip butty with a knife and fork, yes I know it’s mad, but my hands were grubby and they are on the small side for wrestling with a butty of the dimensions I was faced with, didn’t want to do a public battle with it in the circumstances. I can’t help my southern foibles, I’ll own them.
And then, restored and revived that was it. Job done, we did about 9.5 miles, not even a third of the route, and it took forever. My verdict, well apart from the notable exception of Bradwell, where I did very nearly lose the will to live, this is a very straightforward leg, but some of the uphills were brutal. I was astonished how little ascent we did on this stretch according to Strava as it felt unforgiving, but I wonder if that was perhaps partly because of the heat on the tracks and tarmac radiating back up at you. It’s not as scenic as the earlier sections, but interesting enough, and I’ll be so relieved if I make it to that point that should be its own reward. Today’s effort hasn’t give me confidence in terms of my ability to complete the challenge, but I do feel increased confidence I can find my way. And not just because the Dig Deep Races event organisers offered reassurance to another nervous navigator entrant that they’d help her find her way by sellotaping arrows on to the backs of faster runners, so she’d be fine following them as long as she didn’t get over-confident and try to overtake. It’s a thought.
I’m still a bit hey ho about it all though. Then again, the organisers are on record as saying this is a good one for first time ultra ‘runners’ as the cut offs are the same as for the 60 milers, so you should be able to do the 30 mile at a really slow walk and still make it.
Yes, and no! The cut offs which are in place for the Peak Trails 30 are based on the Ultra Tour of the Peak District. So, in order to have any chance of being cut off you would need to walk (slowly) all the way!
That’s all well and good, but I’m not sure what my crawl pace actually is. One to test for next time. Oh, and I’m reminded of the vital stats – Distance: 30 miles, Ascent: 1388 metres. Note to self, sort anti – chafing options.
I drove us back to Hope, in order that my Les Brutelle companion/ recce buddy could pick up her car. She once again proved herself to be an asset on any occasion by pointing out to me how the air con in my car works. I honestly had no idea I had any, wow, what a revelation. It’s been one discovery after another the last couple of weeks, mind-blowing doesn’t begin to cover it. I’ve only had the car 3 years though, so you mustn’t judge me…
Oh, here’s where we went:
Distance 9.5 miles and ascent 1387 ft. That’s pretty pitiful isn’t it really. Ah well, work in progress, and I’m sure it’ll be speedier next time round.
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