Digested Read: more recceing of the Dig Deep 30 route. This time Win Hill to Shatton. I don’t care what the course organisers say, Win Hill and the hoik up Rebellion Knoll after Bradwell sure feel like monster climbs to me. Found abandoned riches en route, and a rock shop. Who knew?
This was the recce where I had to take a deep breath and face my nemesis. This would be the day that I’d do a recce encompassing both Win Hill, which most definitely constitutes ‘undulating’ territory and also return for round two with Bradwell and the long hot haul up to Rebellion Knoll before descending into Shatton, which appropriately on this day had indeed been copiously shat on, by passing cattle. I know. My hallway still has a distinctly rural aroma a couple of days on. I will get bored with writing blog posts about the Dig Deep eventually, but fully appreciate you might already be bored of reading them. Remember though, you don’t have to. You could just log off, and go and do something more interesting instead, like removing hair from the shower plug hole, washing up or playing spider solitaire on your phone, whatever grabs you. If you choose to read on I take no responsibility for you wasting your life away with such pointless procrastination when you could be proactively engaging in exciting and stimulating activities including the illustrative (but not exhaustive) list of suggestions above. Take some personal responsibility, make a choice, choose …. life.
Yes dear reader. I am talking again about a recce of a section of the Dig Deep Intro Ultra/ Peak Trail 30 . In case you lost concentration in an earlier post, or a newbie to my blog, this is a 30 mile ultra that according to the website blah de blah
The Dig Deep Peak Trails 30 (formerly known as the ‘intro ultra’) covers some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK. At around 30 miles the route takes in some of the finest trails in the Peak District. The route has roughly 1388 metres of ascent and whilst there are no monster climbs the continued hilly nature of the course earmarks this race as a tough one to complete. However, the distance falls just within the ULTRA category – so if you are after your first ULTRA scalp – this could be the one!
The route has been chosen because of its stunning scenery and the tough nature of the route. Whilst developing the race we have worked closely with local landowners and the Peak District National Park Authority to ensure that the race is sustainable and avoids sensitive areas. For this reason there are some strict route restrictions in place on some areas of the race. Please follow these wherever indicated.
The route will be partially marked but navigation may be necessary. Sport ident dibbing stations will be in place along the route – each of these must be visited.
The race will form part of a festival of running to be held at Whirlow Farm Hall in Sheffield (camping available). As well as the 30 mile race there will be several other races starting and finishing over the weekend
I accidentally entered yonks ago in a fit of ‘what the hell‘ thinking and now I am thinking What the hell? indeed. It’s over the August bank holiday so but a few weeks away, and my fitness is lamentable. I am desperately trying to recce the route in advance to help prepare me for what lies ahead, but mainly it’s making me appreciate the enormity of the challenge and the gap between the ideal fitness levels for a potential participant and my actual ones. Hint, it’s quite a big gap. Way bigger than even the gaps at the London underground station that disembodied voices are always warning you about as you disembark. I don’t really know if I’m even going to make the start, but I haven’t yet withdrawn or transferred to another distance. My only objective is to get around, it was originally to get around without crying, but I’ll settle for just finishing before the cut offs. The cut offs are the same as for the 60 mile hard-core ultra taking place on the same Saturday, so it should be possible even if I walk the whole thing. Actually, I have even calculated that if I take longer, I might just get caught up in the 10k participants yomping home on the Sunday morning, so might still be ok. The recces are therefore continuing to advance, even if my confidence in my abilities retreats in direct relation to the amount of recces I do. Ah well, it’s my home patch, I can always catch the bus home.
This day’s recce was to start at Win Hill, what better way to start a race recce than with a vertical climb through gnarled tree roots after all, to Hope and then through Bradwell finishing at Shatton. I had a recce buddy again. Hooray! It does help morale, and is navigational support too, although, as previously established, I have now discovered that navigation is within reach of anyone with suitably corrected vision, as long as they have a decently scaled map. It’s taken me a while to come to this conclusion, but it’s been a game changer. I’m way more confident out and about, naturally I have retained the ability to get lost, and of course I do have to continually spin the map until it’s orientated the same way as the landscape around me to find where I am, but I still feel much more in control of where I’m putting my footsteps than I have ever been before.
I say we started at Win Hill, but actually, we rendezvoused with the cars in Shatton, then drove in one to the base of Win Hill – a side track just before the Yorkshire Bridge pub. The forecast was rain, and it was a lot cooler than last time I tackled the hill. We’ve had some rain, and it made a huge difference. The water was flowing more quickly, and everything freshened up. We had a bit of preparatory faffing before heading off. My recce buddy was chatting away to me companionably as I dived behind a bush to reduce my load for the forthcoming ascent. When I emerged she looked confused. Seems we had both been in full flown simultaneously, and she hadn’t immediately spotted my absence. Oops, sorry about that.
Suitably prepared, we eyed the forest ascending above us. I don’t care that the race blah de blah says there are no ‘monster climbs’ I think Win Hill is. Think Jack in the Beanstalk, and you get the general idea. It was a bit skiddy because rain had settled on dry earth. Lose earth had been washed away, so the path, such as it is, was even more deeply rutted than usual. Bits of it are, for me at least, full on climbing, as I grabbed exposed tree roots to haul myself up. Progress was slow. In my defence, I was battling through another recently acquired injury. Admittedly one acquired in a residential muesli-belt context rather than a hard-core tough mudder one. Specifically, earlier in the day I had thwacked the side of my knee on a coffee table that mysteriously launched towards me as I was exiting a room. You can smirk all you like, but it blooming hurt, both at the time and subsequently. A few days later and i still have quite an impressive bump, though the bruising hasn’t come out to anything like the extent I might have hoped. Being injured is hard enough, but it is indeed to add insult to injury to have an injury that doesn’t colour up nicely in order that you can show it off coquettishly to other athletes (ahem) as a badge of honour.
I’ll say one thing though, if you stop now and again, which I did often, and look back, the views were gorgeous. The woodland is lovely too, because the ascent is so steep, you feel like you are in the tree canopy of a rain forest. It’s extraordinary. I freely admit I wouldn’t have voluntarily clambered up here but for the necessity of doing this race route recce, and I made heavy work of ascending, but the rewards in terms of views are lovely. I tried to take comfort in the knowledge that I doubt very much even experienced ultra runners would waste energy running this section, I don’t think it would be possible, and if it were, it wouldn’t be an efficient use of limited reserves to do so. I think though their power walks might leave my crawling progress for dust, oh well, we all still make the same elevation I suppose, which was a lot.
Look from whence we came though:
As we clambered, I was trying to articulate to my companion, what
misguided logic makes me think this event ought to be doable. I explained I’d been examining the results of Dig Deep events for 2017. Finish times of the slowest 30 milers last year 2017, final finisher came in at 10.43, whereas the fastest 60 miler was – unbelievably fast – at 9.27. The final finisher for the 60 miles was out a staggering 22.07 hours, respect. Allowing for the 30 mile starting 2 hours later, if the cut offs are similar, I’d have 20 hours to get around, and I really don’t want to be out that long, if it looks like I will be, I’d retire, or, pause for a nap and join the 12.12s coming back on Sunday morning the next day (joke). I was saying all this out loud in an attempt to persuade myself as much as my recce companion. I mean really, I have no idea what I’m letting myself into, or who long it might take, but I keep telling myself, if I don’t test my limits how can I ever know what they are. Also, this is local, worst case scenario I can get a bus home, and we shall never speak of this again, and it will be as if this whole thing ’twas but a dream. It never happened. Never. Fact.
So we took a couple of steps; paused, looked back at the view, stepped on. Paused, chatted, took a few steps. Paused, mopped our liquid brows, stepped on… you get the idea. On one such power pause (I think that’s a thing, if power naps are, I don’t see why power pauses shouldn’t be, they are in my world now though) I espied and claimed a 5p piece. Riches dear reader riches! I took this to be a fine omen, but then again, I am easily pleased. Obviously, if you are reading this post, and you believe this 5p piece to be yours, feel free to get in touch with a description and I will return it to you.
Eventually, the steep slope opened out onto a gentler terrain, a ‘proper’ fell runner skipped past, heading downward – and we could see where we were heading.
Eventually, you emerge onto a ‘proper’ path and can continue up Win Hill to the Trig point. About here, we met another runner. She too, it turned out, was training for an ultra in Edinburgh later in the year. She was staying at Castleton YHA hostel, and aiming to do 21 miles today. She’d got lost, so we walked together for a bit to get her back on track, and shared stories as we did. She was quite well-travelled, and though born in Hungary had lived and worked all over the world. These facts are important for later dear reader, so concentrate!
We got to the intersection where we were descending through a gate, and left her trekking on along the roman road. At this point, I glanced at my watch as it vibrated to indicate we’d covered another mile. Want to know our progress rate dear people? You’ll be amazed, I was. We hadn’t covered another mile, we’d covered one. One solitary mile and it had taken a WHOLE HOUR. That is ridiculous. One mile an hour? What happened there? We had stopped to chat and send our new friend on her way, I’d had my al fresco comfort break earlier on, there was a lot of faffing on the way up, but even so. I can’t spend 30 hours doing this ultra, blimey, at that pace I’d miss even the 12.12 finishers, I was going to need to up my game.
We did speed up a bit, descending Win Hill is lovely actually. Apart from the sight of the dead and mangled stoat/ weasel. Now, I accept that photographing dead animals isn’t the most universal of hobbies – though I daresay there are niche sites out there dedicated to roadkill across the globe – but I am interested in whether this is in fact a stoat or a weasel, as I still haven’t positively identified whatever it was I saw on the looping the loops recce of the other week. So here it is, dog kill (presumably) but what is it? I’ll return to this another time. Sad, but surely interesting too, to know what wildlife is lurking in all that purple haze.
The view above was better than that at our feet:
We scampered down through the heather, into a field, green grass
and then, winking up at me from the ground, a pristine bank card, dropped recently by some poor walker or other. The name was quite unusual. We decided it must belong to our Hungarian friend. The logic was, novel name, correct gender, recently dropped and we knew she’d come up this path earlier because it was from here she overshot and went the wrong way. Upshot was, we agreed to stop in Hope, ring the Youth Hostel and see if we could return it to her there. Good excuse for a latte also. We were moving at glacial pace, maybe not even as speedily as that, with climate change and ice caps melting, I imagine some glaciers are moving positively speedily, albeit receding backwards rather than advancing. In the circumstances, a lunch and latte stop would make little difference to anything other than our morale.
On our way down to Hope, we passed the best no parking sign ever. Raises the tone, don’t you agree?
and there were white doves massing. In a good way, not like Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.
We were distracted by conversation, and nearly over-shot the official route down Farfield Farm. In fact, my recce buddy did an official recce of this section a few weeks back, and also overshot. In case you care, it doesn’t actually matter if you overshoot and hit the main road and go right later on, you’ll end up in the same place without missing the dibber point and the distances are pretty similar. Even so, we went the ‘proper’ way, because hey, I have navigational super powers and chose to conform, so we took in the pretty little bridge. We also passed a small forested cemetery where an intimate burial was taking place. It was a lovely spot to say goodbye to someone, we tiptoed past.
Into Hope, and straight into cafe adventure – a lovely intimate cafe with great food and a warm welcome for cyclist and walkers, and bank card couriers. Knowing our Hungarian friend was out for hours there was the option of using her contactless card for a slap up meal, but we rose above that temptation. Latte for me and tea for my buddy, and I had courgette fritters with salad, because, well it was lunch time now, and we’d given up any pretence of a purposeful power walk morphing our adventure into a leisurely meander populated with micro adventures along the way.
I didn’t take a photo of the cafe, but previously Phil Sproson has taken this rather fine artistic one that I got off their Facebook page. Thanks both 🙂
We got the number for the YHA, well my buddy did, because she has a smart phone, I don’t, but I had a companion who did which amounts to the same thing. The number puts you through to a central switchboard. I explained the situation, in what I hoped was a non stalkery way, as I didn’t know whether they’d be able to confirm so and so was staying at the hostel without breaching confidentiality I had that once before, trying to return a purse and id card to a school as I’d found it right outside the school gates. They wouldn’t confirm the person was there, so I ended up having to return it to a police station elsewhere, and then heard that when the police phoned them, they moaned about having to go and collect it. There’s gratitude. Not. I hoped the YHA contact might be more pragmatic. I spelt out the name, a lot, and after a few permutations as many and manifest as I seem to encounter when trying to put in my upper and lower case and multi digit 1000 digit wi-fi access code – he said he’d see if he could get in touch with Castleton Youth Hostel and phone me back.
We ate. I over ate. It was very nice though. Some people have huge problems with eating on ultra challenges. They end up throwing up copiously to the point that even flat coke re-emerges through their nostrils I understand. This is why you are supposed to practise what you are going to eat on long challenges before the day. One friend of mine who did a team ultra at Dig Deep last year, was berated by another team member when they arrived at the Bradwell feeding station. It was a full on wedding buffet, as she face planted into the feast she was dragged away ‘never eat anything new on race day!’ her running buddy reminded. I get this. But then again, I figure I’ve had a life time’s experience of practising eating things, I think I’ll be OK. In all seriousness, I think with the speed I’m going at, it is less likely to be an issue, although there was a lesson today in that I ate too much just because it was there, and although I wasn’t ill for the second part of our adventure, it did slow me down sitting on my stomach like ballast and telling me really I should be lying down and surrender to postprandial somnolence that’s food coma to you and me.
As we were sat there, my phone rang. It was very surreal. The nice man from the YHA had spoken to the bankcard holder, they were back in London. Uh? In one of those bizarre coincidences, it was indeed someone who had stayed at Castleton YHA, but it was a few days back. I don’t know what nationality they were though. Still, what were the chances eh? Quite high obviously, but I found this novel. Then again, as you know already dear reader, I am easily entertained.
Bye bye cafe, off we went again.
This time though, we – or more accurately my Brutelles recce buddy, spotted this interesting sign:
How did we miss this before. There is still the high walled corale very much in evidence. I think that’s interesting. I wonder when it was last used, looks useable still, but only for sheep say, as the entrance was low.
Trotting on, through the brutalist industrial features of the Hope Cement Works. I rather like the incongruity of this landmark. It is like you imagine a soviet era Russian factory to be. Would be a great film set I think.
Emerging, we had two more discoveries. Firstly, the bee hives. If you have been concentrating dear reader, you will know that on a previous Dig Deep recce we discovered a hidden community orchard, but couldn’t be bothered to walk to the end of it to check out the hives. This time, we espied them through a gate. They were really active, loads of bees buzzing around industrially. All about collectivisation of the workforce here too…
As well as the collective industries though, there was also a free trade initiative a bit further up the lane. This was I think, one of my favourite ever things to come upon on a walk. Some local children had set up a rock selling initiative. Choice stones were displayed on a wooden plank, with an honesty box for payments. 50p a stone. At first I thought they would be painted stones, as I’ve come across these before, but no, they were stones. Ostensibly similar to those on the path all around, but no doubt hand picked for having some uniquely attractive characteristic that, whilst it might not be immediately obvious to the casual observer or the untrained eye, was unmissable to a true rock connoisseur. Impressive eh?
Yes, I did rattle the tin, no, there wasn’t any money in it. I did briefly wish I’d got some change on me, as I like to imagine the budding entrepreneurs finding it, but I didn’t and also, adding rocks to my load was maybe not the best of ideas. And yes, you could leave the money and just not take a rock, but I felt that would not be in the spirit of the endeavour. If you are passing, and don’t have another 20 miles still ahead of you, you could maybe chip in though. Just a thought.
On to Bradwell. We took the triangle ‘properly’ this time, to check out where the feed station would be. From there, we looked up and saw the summit of Rebellion Knoll, it is indeed steep, no wonder it’s such a drag to get up there.
Past the fire station and church, over the little bridge and its pretty stream, past the flower bedecked houses of Bradwell. Emerging the other side and this is my least favourite part of the whole route. A long hot tarmac road stretches upwards. It maybe didn’t help morale that as we tackled this part we were discussing toxic work environments, how being trapped in such contexts seems endless, hard, demoralising and pointless. All adjectives that were especially resonant right there and then. Eventually, you get to the end of the road and it’s the climb up. Although this is a short section, both times I’ve done it the route has been really exposed. The sun beats down on you, and it’s a grim climb up. The path isn’t particularly attractive, unless you stop and look backwards at the view. The highlights are marvelling at the water content of a random slurry pit, that must be on the top of a spring of some sort surely, otherwise how is there a puddle there despite weeks of no rain?
It was a lot speedier this time than last though, as we didn’t get so confused about the route, though we still took a wrong path once. Doh. It’s confusing. It was great to reach the top though and the gate that would take us to the next dibber point and the gravel road.
and it was pretty speedy after that. Recces definitely make the route feel shorter. Gravel path and our wall man friend
Down, little bit along, and pretty soon we had descended and taken a right into the village of Shatton. It seemed a ‘sudden’ conclusion to our walk. This section was notable mainly for the copious amounts of lose cow pats we encountered along the way. I don’t mind this particularly, it is a rural location after all, but out of context back home in my hallway it was clear that I’d not circumnavigated the little land mines of excrement as cannily as I might have hoped.
Drove round to pick up the other car at Yorkshire Bridge, and that was that, another recce down. So this was the recce that took in the riches of a found 5p piece, a lost bank card, a dead stoat (or possibly weasel), brutalist architecture of Hope Cement Works, bees, a pinfold and an improvised rock shop. That’s not a bad return on a few hours yomping. I wonder what my next Dig Deep recce adventure will reveal… Always something, don’t get that on a treadmill now do you.
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