The East Lancashire section of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) organises this annual fundraising ‘Challenge Walk’. At £10 to enter (£7 for members) it’s hardly expensive and it should really draw more than this year’s 200 or so participants.
Arriving in plenty of time for the 8 am start from Tottington Youth Centre is a good idea as there’s masses of tea/coffee and toast and jam to get through, the first indication that participants don’t need to carry any food or drink on this walk as liberal quantities of both are available at regular intervals.
Outside the centre, Steve and Steve were raring to be off on the 25 mile route, whereas JJ and Alistair were happy to be ambling the shorter 17 mile route.
After a mass start, walkers quickly thinned out during the long walk up through slippery fields and over awkward stiles to Affetside, where there’s a long straight road to reach the first of the Two Crosses.
The origin of Affetside Cross remains a mystery, but it may well have been on a medieval pilgrims' route to Whalley Abbey. Our route turns left (to the right in the picture below), requiring a short diversion to view the cross at close range. Can you spot the 8 walkers in the picture?
After a long, fast descent, walkers reach Jumbles Reservoir, below which Norman's favourite stepping stones were, unusually, not blessed with his presence. Where was he?
It was a lovely sunny day, a nice morning to take a break at a picnic bench overlooking the reservoir.
This is the view from the bridge at the northern end of Jumbles Reservoir.
Ah, we found him. Norman was manfully helping John P to 'old man' the first checkpoint. He gave us jelly babies from a washing up bowl. He’s a generous soul but rather scruffy and not very active these days…
The railway line at Turton was only allowed to be built on condition that it was in a cutting and the bridges were castellated.
Don and Neil were soon found lazing in the sunshine near the point at which I left JJ and Alistair's route to embark on an extra 8 miles via Old Man's Hill.
Reg was part of the team that greeted walkers with lavish provisions from an interesting structure beside the A666 road.
Some bog hopping led to the Witton Weavers Way track, with good views towards Winter Hill which distracted me into a fall whilst I walked beside a red-haired lady called Louise. The palm of my left hand still has a hole in it.
Roger had left his bench at Old Man's Hill to briefly test whether his legs could still support his body and his dodgy eyes spot walkers at the furthest checkpoint, a track junction over 17 km and two and a half hours from the start. He’s the one in orange, having strayed briefly from his chair in order to insult participants as they stride past.
We then dashed off in an easterly direction to reach a pleasant but busy footpath beside the Turton & Entwistle Reservoir, from which the header image was taken.
Viv's team was hard at work at the Batridge Barn Car Park checkpoint, where I rejoined the 17 mile route (this was the 15 mile point on my route, after 3.5 hours, with 10 miles to go. Viv’s catering at this checkpoint is renowned, with her Greek salad a particular favourite amongst lingering walkers. I was told that JJ and Alistair had earlier consumed enough to fill a cow’s stomach.
All walks in this area seem to pass the Strawbury Duck. But we never go inside...
At Green Alders Cottage this deserted table sported a sign that reads 'FREE JUICE'. It was most welcome. Thank you.
Navigation after walking up a long hill was a little annoying, the footpath sign having sent me up a private driveway to Bisley Moor Side Farm.
Further up the hill, Orrel Cote Farm checkpoint was quite busy as I passed through on the way to Edgworth Moor.
The uranium mine at Edgeworth Moor Farm has resulted in genetically modified Aylesbury Ducks. I’m told that Norman was born near here. That explains a lot!
Despite there being lots of 'No Bikes' signs below Bull Hill, a ‘Jetwash-shop.co.uk’ van from Bolton and its occupants were disregarding these requests.
The route description is very precise hereabouts. It reads 'Pass rusting harrow on the left', from where there's a good view back to Winter Hill.
Just below Bull Hill, after 20 miles in 4.75 hours, I came across JJ and Alistair, lazing in the sunshine on the lovely day, at Barbara's naughty checkpoint.
The 'water' came in small glasses and was cloudy, but very highly flavoured. A nice tipple.
I joined the two reprobates (JJ and Alistair) for the rest of the walk. They were moving slowly in order not to ‘spill’ any Greek salad. We soon came upon the second cross - the Pilgrims Cross on Holcombe Moor.
The view from here across the valley above Ramsbottom, with its quarries and wind farms, is of a somewhat industrial upland landscape.
The 39 metre high Peel Tower, opened in 1852 as a memorial to Sir Robert Peel, soon came into view. Sadly it wasn’t open for visitors today.
The steepest descent of the entire walk is a slither down through Redisher Wood to Holcombe Brook, but today’s dry conditions made it seem much easier than usual.
The final checkpoint was at Spenleach Road, where Ken and Norman's barber shop (Norman desperately needed a shave) antics were briefly paused to distribute a few drinks and jelly babies, though Norman had eaten most of them.
At the finish: "Your choice, sir", Allan, master of the soup kitchen, poses the question...
Elsewhere, tea, soup, sandwiches (millions) and tasty desserts were all being downed. Here, JJ is seen enjoying a dessert before manfully downing his plate of sandwiches.
The ‘Number 1 Team’ spent the afternoon assiduously recording all finishers, issuing certificates, adding up numbers, and selling memorabilia.
Here’s my route. The red triangles indicate the checkpoints. My gadgets indicated statistics of 40.5 km, 800+ metres ascent, taking 6 hours 35 minutes (click on the image for a larger version).
There’s a slideshow – 43 images, click on the first one then click ‘slideshow’, here.
JJ’s excellent and perhaps more accurate report is here.
Thanks go to the organisers and the numerous helpers and marshalls who make this event an annual success.
Afterwards, it was a pleasure for me to visit John (an old work colleague) and Janet in Hawkshaw, and to enjoy some reminiscences. Especially good to see John looking better than he has been after some health problems. I hope you continue to improve, John.