No, I’m not entered for the Jungfrau Marathon. But Alastair is entered, and is trying to build up his fitness for the event on 10 September. He had done a hilly 13 mile run earlier in the week but had ordered “around 20 miles with at least 1500 metres ascent” for today’s outing. I’d originally planned the Langdale Horseshoe, but this substitute close to home seemed a reasonable FWA (Foul Weather Alternative).
At least ‘Two Hours of Heavy Rain’ were expected, and we timed our 8.30am departure from Tegg’s Nose car park to coincide precisely with the star of the predicted deluge.
In our haste, we omitted to actually go over Tegg’s Nose, and headed straight down the less slippery path towards Clough House and the track around Teggsnose Reservoir.
It was lashing down. A brief spell along the Gritstone Trail took us to Ridgegate Reservoir, from where a gentle ascent (this is a lovely descent in the other direction on a mountain bike) through Macclesfield Forest, close to its south western edge, led to the familiar slabs of the motorway that heads quickly to the fine summit of Shutlingsloe.
As you can see, the views were magnificent.
We took the path that leads south, curving around to descend to Wildboarclough, rather than the precipitous route directly from the summit. The view through the blanket of rain was soon regained.
Past a gaggle of despondent D of E Award students, we paused briefly on a bench by the bridge at Wildboarclough, before going up the road to the east, past St Saviour’s Church, built between 1901 and 1904.
Heading due east along good paths after taking the lane past Crag Hall, the meeting of Cheshire with Staffordshire and Derbyshire was soon attained at Three Shire Heads, a place usually thronging with folk on a summer’s weekend morning. It was deserted. There were very few people ‘out’ today.
The Staffordshire path took a familiar route to Flash. The sandy surface had turned into slurry. I was pleased that the Keen walking shoes I’ve been testing withstood this – the waterproof membrane still seems to be effective, though today I should have employed the ankle gaiters that I use with these shoes for cycling in wet conditions.
The pub in the high village of Flash was not yet open. We had been moving too fast! This pub, the New Inn, is apparently the 4th highest in England.
Luckily, there’s a tea shop up the road, and another pub, the Knights’ Table (the third highest pub in England), that was open. We chose the tea shop, and indulged in its cakes. I created a small pond with the water from my rucksack cover. Al’s clothes drained to form a larger pond. Describing his outer shell as ‘waterproofs’ would be incorrect. Perhaps they once fitted that description, but judging by the state of the rest of his clothes, his entire wardrobe for today had the absorption qualities of blotting paper.
Luckily, by the time Al had enjoyed a second cuppa, the sky had exhausted itself after ‘Two Hours of Heavy Rain’, and our outer layers (mine are completely waterproof, Al’s are perhaps vaguely wind-resistant) could be stashed for a few minutes as we strolled along to Readyleech Green and the path over Axe Edge Moor to cross the main A537 road. We continued north to reach the lane to Derbyshire Bridge, near where a bedraggled group of Duke of Edinburgh Award children were puzzling over a map and being advised by their mentor, who judging by the stickers on his car was a highly qualified outdoors professional without whom these youths would be lucky to survive a day on the obscure paths of the Peak District. I‘m sure that in days past the children would be allowed to learn from the odd mistake, but these days their every move seems to be closely monitored. (Just an impression; I may be wrong.)
The rain had restarted by the time we reached the Cat & Fiddle, the second highest pub in England. [The highest, of course, is the Tan Hill Inn.] More sustenance was taken on board, together with other walkers (just a couple) and bikers (just a couple) in what is usually a busy place. I just managed a snapshot in between the clouds that regularly descended right down to our feet to douse anyone foolish enough to be out and about.
Shortly before we reached Shining Tor, the high point of the walk, we lunched in the shelter of a high wall. It didn’t take long. Al had already scoffed most of his provisions; mine were limited.
We rushed on to Shining Tor. Al shot straight past the summit and slew to a halt.
He had spotted White Nancy, our next objective, in the far distance.
”My shins are starting to hurt” he announced. Well, we had been keeping up a fair pace - he was supposed to be training for a marathon. Anyway, discretion is the better part of valour, so we cut the planned route by a few miles and headed straight back to Tegg’s Nose, via Lamaload Reservoir, which looked as if it badly needed today’s rain.
There were good views towards Shutlingsloe.
We did manage the 20 mile target, but failed miserably to get to 1500 metres ascent. The route plotted on Anquet shows 33 km (21 miles) with 1269 metres ascent.
But according to my Garmin gadget (see below) the distance was actually 34 km, though we only ascended 934 metres – quite a startling discrepancy.
The rain had cleared dramatically between showers at the end of the walk, which we finished at 4pm. Here, Al can be seen striding towards the finish, from where the Cambrian Mountains could be seen very clearly, some 100km away.