(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


The Bullock Smithy hike with its traditional date of the first full weekend in September always seems synonymous with the end of Summer and the onset of Autumn. But not this year, it is a glorious late Summer afternoon with sunny blue skies and 26 degrees in the shade. A perfect day for a walk in the Peak District you would think. Well, apparently not if you are trudging up to Edale Cross checkpoint bathed in sweat having left Hazel Grove at midday several hours ago and you need to be in Castleton by 8pm at the latest. 224 other people are hoping it will cool down soon or better still rain whilst the majority of the population are basking in the sunshine thinking that you are just plain mad. Welcome to the 43rd Bullock Smithy hike where 225 walkers at Chinley drinks station at the 11 mile point got through over 50 gallons of water. The predicted temperature of an ideal 18 or 19 degrees proved to be slightly inaccurate and caught many people out as this record breaking Summer rolled on into September. Things didn’t even cool down after sunset, it was still warm at 3 o clock in the morning and humidity levels throughout made walking conditions uncomfortable and energy sapping. People were even heard saying that they preferred it in 2016 when we had 18 hours of continuous rain. A strange lot these long-distance walkers.
The anvil was struck this year by Craig Jones the new District Commissioner for Ladybrook Valley Scouts and walkers dispersed down Macclesfield Road towards Higher Poynton through Lyme Park and up to the first checkpoint at Bowstones. Who knows when the new road, whose construction has disrupted the traditional start route for three years now, will ever be finished. Next year possibly. In the afternoon sun the first 20 miles to Castleton turned out to be brutal and of the 70 retirees most succumbed to the heat at Edale after the slog over Edale Cross from the drinks point at Chinley 7 miles earlier. Not surprisingly the completion rate of 69% was slightly down on previous years and the lowest since 2012.
Chelmorton checkpoint pulled out all the stops this year with hi-tec projector screens showing walkers exactly where they were in the Peak District just in case they weren’t quite sure. Thankfully the jam doughnuts were still there as well. Brand Top hot dogs went down well and the welcome at Cumberland Cottage was as warm as ever from our friends from 3rd Gee Cross Scout Group – a bit too warm in fact with the fire roaring all night. The minor diversion just before Brand Top which was signed to avoid going around Brand End Farm (of barking dogs fame) and directly past Shop Farm at the top of the hill, where the property owners sheep gather by her house during the night, was a great success and much appreciated by Margaret the property owner and walkers alike. We will probably make this a permanent arrangement and flag the route again next year through this notoriously tricky section. In fact, if we can make some repairs to the existing stile at the bottom of the hill near the stone bridge then we can avoid the barking dog farm completely which I am sure would be appreciated by all residents within a two mile radius. We are also pleased to announce that we will have a new checkpoint location in Castleton next year as the disused Castleton Garage forecourt almost opposite the car park has been offered to us. I am sure that this will be a huge improvement on the current arrangement.
Onto the trophy winners now and Rory Harris went 4 minutes quicker than last year to complete the course and take The Bullock Smithy in 8h 54m with the course record of 8h 46s still a tantalizing 8 minutes away. I am sure that given more favourable conditions next year that will be beaten. Kevin Hoult was again in second place but going 8 minutes slower than last year in 10h 4m. In third place it was good to see event record holder and 8-time past winner Tony Okell back for his first completion since 2007 which just shows the addictive nature of this event. How many times we have heard that phrase ‘never again’ as people walk through that scout hut door. Another returnee was fastest lady Stephanie Watts who did the walk 10 years ago with her father when she was just 12 years old. This time around she romped round in 12h 19m to take the Chinley trophy. Stephanie along with ‘old faithfuls’ two-time winner Julian Brown and Jo Miles took the Windgather trophy for Macclesfield Harriers. In the scout awards category Colin Williams from Ben Rydding Scout Group in Ilkley took the Axe Edge trophy as fastest participant from the Scout Movement. Locally James Martin from the host Ladybrook Valley Scout District went round over three hours quicker than last year to take the remaining scout awards.

Finally .....
Many thanks to all the helpers and supporters too numerous to mention who gave their time and energy to this amazing annual event. In total not far off 100 people are required to make this happen. Special thanks to the people and companies that sponsor some of our checkpoints namely A&E Gibson Ltd – Painting & Decorating, JS Services – Building, Joinery and Groundwork, GT Landscaping & Construction Ltd. and of course Jerzy Matuszewski. If anybody out there is interested in doing similar next year then please get in touch. As I write this exactly one week after the event it is raining stair rods and is forecast to rain most of the night. Are you really sure you would prefer this to what we had last week?

Next year's event is on September 7th and 8th 2019. Entries will be open soon. Let’s hope for rain then! Be careful what you wish for.

Steve Holt