(56 miles in the glorious Peak District!)
The first full weekend in September

Starts on the first Saturday in September and is organised by the 3rd Hazel Grove Scout Group affiliated to the Long Distance Walkers' Association (LDWA) - Click to enter the Group's site


For the second time in three years severe weather warnings swept the country for Bullock Smithy weekend. Continuous rain for the previous 24 hours on top of a wet and murky previous month left much of Britain submerged and conditions underfoot were shall we say ‘fluid’. Fortunately whilst the rain fell in torrents over the rest of the country a brief window of fine weather sat over the Peak District giving reasonable conditions for the most part, at least from the knees upwards. It seemed as if we were in the eye of the storm. The highest entry for the event since 1996 (251 plus a dog) was an excellent turnout and blue skies greeted the 213 starters as Pete Wood the 3rd Hazel Grove Scout Group President and great servant of the event got things underway at midday in the traditional manner with a strike of the anvil. Weather conditions were ideal on the Saturday even a little humid with just a few unlucky ones getting caught in the odd heavy shower. The checkpoint staff at Edale Cross went equipped with shelters and waterproofs fearing the worst but naturally they were not needed. It was the conditions underfoot though which took their toll and accounted for most of the 77 retirees. As the day wore on it became more overcast and darkness fell earlier than normal with no sign of the moon to aid visibility. Trying to navigate the giant puddles and footpaths which had turned into streams was tricky enough in daylight and became almost impossible in pitch darkness. By all accounts the worst sections were canyoneering down to Castleton from Hollins Cross and paddling up Cave Dale. The tracks en route to Millers Dale resembled a First World War battlefield and the section between Earl Sterndale, Brand Top and Cumberland Cottage was also ‘sticky’. This section around Brand Top requires good navigational skills at the best of times and quite a few took the longer road alternative to stave off the onset of trenchfoot. Many people got caught in the bad weather here at the peak time either side of midnight to compound the misery. By the time the backmarkers came through the rains had ceased and the low cloud came down through to dawn. All in all though, it could have been a lot, lot worse. Despite the conditions, 134 completed the challenge which converts to a success rate of 63%. The fact that this was the fifth lowest on record is perhaps testament to the difficult conditions.
Special mention must go to 12 year old Stephanie Watts of Macclesfield Harriers who sailed round, almost literally, accompanied by father Steve in just under 15 hours. Thanks to the incorporation of the event within the ‘Vasque’ ultrarunning series for the third year, we were able to present Stephanie with a voucher for some new running shoes which I am sure she will be put to good use. The partnership with the ultrarunners is proving a great success and we are grateful for all their support and prizes. First back to Hazel Grove was Mark Ollerenshaw who arrived home in 9 hours 36 minutes a full hour and quarter ahead of the field to take the Bullock Smithy trophy. This was the largest winning margin in the events’ history and a superb effort. Paul Rushworth one of our ‘regulars’ had his best ever performance coming in second with Nigel Aston in third place. Fastest lady was Nicky Spinks in 13 hours 18 minutes to take the Chinley trophy. Once again Macclesfield Harriers took the Windgather team trophy although their old rivals Stockport Harriers gave them a serious run for their money. The victorious team comprised Paul Rushworth, and stalwarts Mark McDermott and Geoff Pettengell. That is Geoff’s twentieth completion and he is second on the all time number of completions behind of course Jertzy ‘George’ Matuszewski.
There were not too many finishers to contest the trophies in the scout competitions but Stuart Walker from 1st Great Ayton Scout Group in North Yorkshire set a new route record with an excellent time of 13 hours 18 minutes to take the Shining Tor trophy. Sadly there were no finishers from this side of the Pennines to contest the other trophies although Louise Ingham, Assistant Explorer Scout Leader with Bullock Smithy Explorer Unit, just made it home with two minutes to spare at 11:58am before the gates were locked. Now that’s getting your money’s worth. My thanks to everybody who helped with the running of the event in whatever capacity. More than 70 people give up their weekend to support the event each year and the common theme running through all the comments we had at the presentation on the Sunday morning is the friendliness and encouragement of all the helpers and checkpoint staff. Thanks to the land and property owners that enable us to get some varied and interesting checkpoint headquarters and to Hazel Grove High School for the use of their minibus at very short notice. Finally, my thanks to all the entrants who helped make this years’ event a great success.

Next year's event will be on 5th/6th September 2009, bring your wellies.
Steve Holt