This was the twelfth time I’d taken part in the Calderdale Hike since 1997, when after an anterior cruciate ligament replacement I decided against my previous (1968 to 1995) 55 mile efforts completing the Manchester Rag Walk – Bogle Stroll, in favour of shorter and more scenic routes in the South Pennines around Calderdale. It’s a fund raising event (by way of the entry fee - £18 this year) for a local scout group. The organisers change the route every three years or so. There's a long route of about 37 miles and a shorter one of 26 or 27 miles. Over the years I've generally walked with Robert, of whom more next week. He decided not to join me this year.
Last year Ken was over from Canada and we entered as runners on the short course. My report on a successful 'run' (though we walked most of the way) is here. This year Ken decided to run the long route whilst I walked the short route. Walkers are not allowed to run. Despite starting an hour later than me and covering an extra 11 miles, Ken shouldn't finish very long after me. That was the theory.
So we went along in one car, in plenty of time for the kit check before my 8 o'clock start. Participants are required to take the following:
(a) Appropriate & adequate footwear, clothing and waterproofs
(b) 1:25000 Leisure Map "The South Pennines"
(c) Compass (which they must be able to use)
(d) Mobile Phone
(f) Survival Bag - NOT A SPACE BLANKET
(g) A personal mug must be carried
That all fits conveniently into a bum bag, if like me you carry no food or water other than the small bar of Kendal mint cake handed out at the start. There are plenty of support / checkpoints so a mug is all that is needed.
There’s a sharp contrast between the garb of these walkers and that of the runners I’ve set off with the past couple of years.
About 50 short course walkers set off, after being warned about a landslide on the track to Erringden Grange that had officially 'blocked' the route. However, unofficially we were advised to 'use your own judgement’.
Three different routes were taken down the first hill, with me being the only walker to follow the route across a couple of fields and down the road taken by last year's runners.
We all converged to head up a very steep and slithery slope to the first checkpoint. The walkers gradually spread out as we continued to the third checkpoint at Ryburn Reservoir, which was disgorging a fair amount of water.
A team of four, plus a lone walker, forged ahead, with about seven of us strolling along a little more slowly ahead of the rest of the field.
It was a lovely morning, cool enough to walk quickly without overheating, and lacking last year’s bitter northerly breeze. I occasionally pulled out the camera, the next three pictures being taken from the same place on Rishworth Moor, between Ryburn and Green Withens Reservoirs.
Runners started to pass us after about 15km/ two and a half hours. Lots came past between the Green Withens and White House checkpoints. I was expecting to see Ken but there was, worryingly, no sign of him.
There were several points where my route - basically the one I took last year, downloaded to my phone - was clearly not the quickest or shortest way. It was the scenic route, and given recent rain, a rather wet one under foot. I paused to admire the outflow from Green Withens Reservoir after a rather boggy section.
At this point I was with Lee (last year’s fastest walker), and Tim. They are pictured at the head of this posting heading along the track to the south of Green Withens. They are strong walkers, Lee and Tim, with whom I am pictured below shortly after the Green Withens Reservoir checkpoint. Thanks go to a pro photographer for providing the picture via Tim, and also for taking care of my empty banana.
Lee and Tim took the faster road route to the Windy Hill checkpoint – beside the mast in the picture below.
Meanwhile, I stayed with a couple of others to cross the M62 footbridge via a deep bog and a steep climb. On the bridge we met a jovial team of four who remained a few minutes ahead of me throughout the event, eventually gaining the team award for the second year running. Just one person finished ahead of them.
From Windy Hill the route heads north along the Pennine Way for about 10km. A slabbed path leads first to the gnarly summit of Blackstone Edge. As last year, there were good views from here.
Looking ahead, I was catching up with Lee as we negotiated the bouldery path interspersed with bogs.
Lee was finding it hard going at this point, although he took a tussocky direct route to the White House checkpoint. Slower than my curvier route along good paths, and I didn’t see him again until the end of the walk. He had gone over and damaged an ankle, which later swelled up annoyingly for him. Ahead of us, the team of four was just in sight, with a lone walker just visible beyond them.
At the White House checkpoint the long route leaves the short route for an extra eleven miles or so (depending upon the route chosen between the checkpoints). This didn’t confuse the Polka Dot team, who breezed through the checkpoint and off down the road towards Littleborough.
After a few minutes break and a couple of welcome tuna sandwiches I set off up to Blackstone Edge Reservoir in the company of a couple of walking runners. “Which way?” they asked. “The short route goes up to the reservoir then left along the Pennine Way” I offered. And off they went. After a while I met them coming the other way. “We forgot” they said, “we are supposed to be doing the long route!”
Tim and Barry (the latter had been walking at just about my pace but had taken some quicker routes than me) were about 300 metres ahead of me as I strode along the Pennine Way past Blackstone Edge Reservoir, Head Drain, Light Hazzles Reservoir and Warland Reservoir (pictured below).
Whilst the others, who I seemed to be catching very slowly, headed right along the Pennine Way beside Warland Drain, I took the route that I’d fumbled with last year, heading north across Langfield Common to reach the next checkpoint at Lumbutts Church. Plenty of food and drink there to keep me occupied for a while. Just as I set off from the checkpoint, Barry and Tim turned up. Both made a very quick pause and were now just behind me. Tim caught up and we chatted for a while until he fell back a bit whilst I continued with a runner – until the chap ran off into the distance…
It was easy going to the next checkpoint at Erringden Grange, from where I took a convoluted, boggy and intricately steep at times, if basically direct, route to Nab End, where I met a fast runner who reckoned he was in third position on the long route. He was the only participant I saw between Erringden and the end of the walk at Sowerby Cricket Club, where I was greeted by these three stalwarts of the local scouts’ fundraising team.
Barry soon wandered over to say hello. He had taken a quicker route, mainly by minor roads, from Erringden to Nab End and finished four minutes ahead of me. Not a surprise, as my pace had dropped from 10 minute kilometres to 15 minute kilometres for a while as I had yomped over the steep, rough ground towards Nab End. He had thereby managed to retain the trophy awarded to the fastest walker over 50 years old. He won it last year as well. I pointed out my name on it next to dates of 1999, 2002 and 2009. Barry, who is older than me, did well, especially with his route planning, though I’m quite happy with my arguably more scenic version with less road walking. Here he is, on the right in the picture, showing well earned delight in taking possession of The Heggars Trophy for another year.
I’d finished in a very satisfactory 7 hours, so I now had to wait for Ken to finish running the long route. He had started an hour after me but I reckoned I shouldn’t have too long to wait as despite having to cover an extra eleven miles, he was running.
Or was he?
I chatted to Barry and various others for a while, then when they left I became ensconced with Tim and Lee, and the third of their trio, Howard, who had finished at a slightly more sedate pace and looked fresher than anyone. Luckily, they were enjoying a couple of long beers and before I knew it both the Grand National and 6.30 pm had come and gone and it was several hours since the Polka Dot team had collected their award for being the fastest running team of four on the long route.
I’d finished at 3 o’clock. Where was Ken?
Eventually a call came in – “Timed out at Erringden Grange, back soon” was the message. Just as well, I thought, as he would be finishing close to 9pm in the dark if he continued. So the broom wagon brought him in around 7pm and we got away by soon after 7.30. Tim, Lee and Howard got a taxi home at the same time, so that timing was fine, though next year I may choose to walk the long route in order to reduce the waiting time at the end!
Here’s the route I took – about 42 km with 1300 metres of ascent, taking exactly 7 hours.
(Click for a larger image)
Ken’s route was somewhat longer, especially as it appears he may have wandered off course from time to time! Erringden Grange, where he was timed out, is the checkpoint marked at the very top of the map.
The results aren’t up yet, but at some point they should be available from the drop down menu here.
All in all a very enjoyable day, both on the walk and afterwards in the club house.