It was a dark and stormy night, and, shambling through the peak district hills came a band of runners. Denizens of Alpkit and Outside, ambassadors from kit and clothing makers. From the doors of the shop, for many an hour they ran …
(editing Si: Okay, stop that now. This is getting very silly. Start again; sensibly this time.)
In March 2019 some of the good folk from Alpkit and Outside, joined by a few reps, went for an after work run. A 32km(20 mile), 1400m(4500 feet) loop starting and finishing at Outside’s front door. And now, quietly via a couple of laminated A4 pages in the café, they’re inviting others to play.
So I did.
Which is why after a too early train after too little sleep I’m sat on Outside’s picnic tables doing a pre-run blood sugar test.
Outside reckon roundabout four hours for runners, moving constantly. So I’m reckoning six to seven for me. I have to check my blood sugar every hour and record my carbohydrate intake as part of type one diabetes management. Best will in the world, this slows me down and I’m still not back to full fitness after developing this (editing Si: I’ve cut the swearing) inconvenient disease.
Okay grumble over, here we go. Sneak through Oddfellows Road car park and carefully cross the Grindleford road to farmside paths and the first checkpoint at Leadmill Bridge. Easy running, just watch the legs on those lovely juicy nettles. Yeah, not closely enough – yee-ouch.
First route choice now, head along the riverbank to a steep drag uphill or the steady uphill through Callow Wood?
Callow Wood today, though the bluebells have faded and gone over to seed, the treecreepers, jays and squirrels are busy. Once out the wood there’s Win Hill visible through the summer haze, looks a long way away; probably because it is. It’s also the penultimate checkpoint, and last summit of the round.
Bit of road, then time to crack on along the bridleway from Offerton, paced for a while by a phlegmatic vixen with a fat partridge in her jaws. We shall not mention this to the rather unsympathetic shooting estate.
Checkpoint two, the comms mast above Shatton Moor. Blood test time. Which is fun in this wind – both test sticks and blood drops try blowing away. Bit low, so throw some carbs at it. Another route choice here. Outside’s route follows the unmade access road, picks up a fun descent path to Bradwell then a road drag and pleasant fields to checkpoint three. However, if your descending skills are up to it, turn back a few metres to a path down to the Shatton (the descent is very steep in places) then a bit of quiet road and track to the riverside path via Castleton and Cave Dale to checkpoint three.
I followed the Outside line today, though it’s my least favourite type of ground to run and navigate on. On the other hand, the views across and along the Hope Valley are wonderful. A mob of over-inquisitive Aberdeen Angus in the fields above Bradwell less so. I’m glad helping on my cousins farm taught me to handle fatstock like this. Time for another blood test perched on a stile; all good this time.
I mentioned those wonderful views, I also got distracted a bit(editing Si: he stood grinning like an idiot for quite a few minutes) by the dozens of skylarks and swallows zooming around. One of the reasons I guessed 6-7 hours for the round, I know I’ll always stop and stare.
And then after a bit more track tramping; checkpoint three. The crossroads on the limestone way at the very head of Cave Dale. With some slightly confuddled but happy students out for a walk, and asking the way to Mam Tor.
You can see the looming bulk of Mam Tor from here. Which is where I’m headed next, it’s checkpoint four. More easy tracks, a hunting kestrel and a bit of tarmac to the top of Winnats Pass. And rain blowing in, meh, only drizzle, it’s quite welcome and refreshing. Unlike the traffic coming up the pass. That’s more like Sheaf Street at rush-hour.
Quickly on more easy track across to the Rushup Edge road. And very determinedly ignoring a tempting bit of limestone bouldering. Less traffic while crossing this road, but much more rain. So on with a waterproof. Then the ascent of of Mam Tor; that slog up the steps from Mam Nick to the summit. Very busy, as always. Wind, rain, folk out in t-shirts and a couple of old guys grumbling that I passed them. Surprisingly there’s shelter high up here; so another blood test. Yikes, bit low. Eat something. Hot cross bun and cheese; 25 g of tasty carbs. At the summit, as quick as it came, the rain stops. So back to shirtsleeve order.
Quick easy running now along the Great Ridge to Lose Hill’s windiness. Well, quick apart from climbing Back Tor. Lots of pleasant children on their Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, and a very nice couple who held the gate for a runner going quickly downhill. After all these years, after playing in so many mountains, I still love this short, small, familiar ridge. A quick tap of the view marker atop Lose Hill, checkpoint five, and set off down the lovely fast descent towards Hope.
And then; well, then my twisted gut started playing silly(editing Si: we’ve cut quite a few choice words here). Cramps and trapped wind from not drinking enough. Time for a rest in the woods off Lose Hill. Another blood test, and some deflatine for the gut; need to drink carefully (and vent, but don’t swear too much about long overdue surgery). Decision time too, bail from Hope, or carry on regardless.
Fifteen minutes later and carry on is decided. The wind is passing (editing Si; we’ll not elaborate here, probably best not to use your imagination). Of course I’ve come down the wrong track off Lose Hill, so I’ve got to do that scary bit along the Edale Road. The one with hardly any pavement. Surprising politeness from white van men, less politeness from middle-aged “ladz” in glammed up Chelsea tractors.
I am not going to speak of the ascent to Twitchill Farm. On the best of days it’s a brutal straight up climb, on tarmac. Suffice to say that feeling ropey, and in full sun,it’s not the best of days and it wasn’t a great deal of fun.
Another rest then, past the farm of course, to recover a little more. Though that did let me watch the red kite quartering the hillside. A genuine delight of the day. I would have stopped to watch that flying barn door anyway, even had I been rushing.
Right. Onward and upward, still very upward. Wind picking up too, which is generally good because mine (editing Si: we still are not elaborating).
And suddenly, the way too short rocky summit ridge of Win Hill. A place that somehow feels like it’s on holiday from the Lakes or North Wales. Oh, this is the penultimate checkpoint too, tap the trig point. Right, long downhill now, but first, when I’m out of the wind, another blood test. And no surprise, it’s a bit low. So throw in some more carbs, another of those delicious hot cross buns. And also have a nap. That too little sleep, too early train and twisted gut have caught up with me. There’s a nice little hollow beside a dry stone wall in the sun, it’s out of the wind and my running vest makes a very comfortable pillow. Time for bed I think, for ten to fifteen minutes or so.
Time to enjoy the descent to Bamford now. Moving through open high moorland into flower filled woodland. And the welcome dappleshade in that flower filled woodland. Little bit more scary road running in Bamford(editing Si: seriously, be careful here, narrow pavement, poor visibility and vehicles going perhaps too quickly), turn the corner by the station car park and relax again. Another blood test just to be sure (by the golf course car park, much to the disapproval of the members). Oh, good numbers, I’m just tired. So, crack on; and eat a couple more jelly babies.
But crack on quite slowly up a final steep, in full sun, tarmac uphill. This one leads to the sewage works (editing Si: the obvious joke about clearing wind has been cut) where thankfully, I turn right into shading woods again. The map shows rights of way across the golf course but; yeah, stick to the road.
The last leg now; even though I’m a bit jiggered it is an utter joy. Rolling easy paths through buttercup and birdsong filled fields past the final checkpoint of Nether Hurst Farm and then down through more buttercups into Hathersage.
I finish at Outside’s front door with a big grin on my face and perhaps a little sunburn (editing Si: more than a little sunburn). I’ve been on the move for 7h15 in total; I’m happy with that.
There’s a train home in a few minutes. Just time for those lovely people in the café to fill my water bottles. Oh and for me to say hi to Matt and James, then run a bit more to get that train home.
So is it a good circuit?
Would I do it again?
Happily. Though I’d take the riverside path to Castleton and up through Cave Dale, the right-hand descent off Lose Hill and maybe a different route through Bamford to avoid that road by the golf course. Especially in hot weather, going via Castleton gives a halfway water refill point(and clean loos)
Would I recommend it?
If you enjoy moving through the hills, with fantastic views whether walking or running or a bit of both, it’s a grand day out. If you’re very quick you could maybe have a first breakfast in the café in the morning, and a second breakfast after you finish the round.
Something to think about anyway. Have fun my dears …
Outside Round Checkpoints
Outside (do you really need a six figure for this?)
Leadmill Bridge 233 806
Shatton Moor Mast 194 813
Old Moor/Limestone Way junction 135 813
Mam Tor trig 128 836
Lose Hill trig 153 854
Win Hill trig 187 851
Nether Hurst Farm 222 829
Outside (see first line)
addendum: this woulda/coulda/shoulda perhaps be part of the “Run Your Shoe Size, not your age …” strand charting my somewhat shambolic return to playing in the hills via injury, the pandemic and now type 1 diabetes. Finishing this round felt like a big step in my recovery. Couldn’t workout how to fit it in without it getting clunky though. I guess that means it’s time I wrote another instalment.