Baslow Boot BashI had only done the Baslow Boot Bash once before as I have managed to be on holiday ever since. The Boot Bash is an event where there is no route description; just a list of check points which must be visited in order and so a map is needed.

I was in two minds whether to turn up as I got up at 6am, as, after a warm and sunny week, Saturday saw Britain lashed by torrential rain! It had started raining the night before and poured all night, meaning that it was going to be lovely and slippery underfoot.

But as this was potentially my first challenge event this year (shocking!) I thought I had better make the effort, and so drove through sheets of rain to the sodden field in the Chatsworth estate that was being used as a car park and waded my way to register at Baslow village hall.

I met up with Sue, who I had first met on the White Peak Walk and we walked together, along with a chap called Steve who she had walked with before. We sloshed our way through the usually stunning grounds of Chatsworth House and uphill past Edensor, and it made a real difference having someone to walk with as I stopped noticing the rain.

Chatsworth House- these photos are not going to be the best quality today!

Chatsworth House- these photos are not going to be the best quality today!

I had decided it would be far too muddy and slippery for running shoes, so decided to try a pair of light weight walking shoes I had bought years ago and forgotten about and I was really glad of this decision when we reached the woods leading to the first checkpoint- the path was really slippery underfoot.

A 14 mile route has been introduced since I last did the Boot Bash and the routes split just before the delightful, if somewhat nettly, path to the A6 at Haddon Hall. The next stretch is one of my favourites as we crossed the road and climbed towards Over Haddon, on paths through green meadows with extensive views over valleys criss crossed with dry stone walls. We kept leap frogging a chap called Dave in his 70s and still walking strong… Sue remarked that she would love to be that fit when she is that age, and I replied that I am not that fit at 45!

Fields, walls and valleys

Fields, walls and valleys

As we reached the checkpoint at Over Haddon, the rain slowed to a finer drizzle. Biscuits are on offer at the checkpoints (as long as the walkers in front haven’t been too greedy) so you need to take some sustenance with you, although there are a couple of shops on route at Cressbrook and Eyam, plus a café at Over Haddon.

But sadly there was no time to indulge for us, as the rain and mud were making things pretty tough going, so we hauled ourselves onwards towards Sheldon, braving packs of cows and hoards of Duke of Edinburgh teenagers who looked ecstatic at the prospects of a damp night’s camping.

Old mine workings

Old mine workings

Last time I walked the Boot Bash I took the route through Deepdale from the checkpoint at Sheldon, but I had noticed a different route marked on the map at the race headquarters, which suggested walking through the village and picking up a footpath that would take us into the head of the dale. Reckoning that the main path through the dale would be rocky and wet, we eagerly set out on what we thought would be a short cut… wrong!!

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It started off so well- a gentle walk down a little lane with some great views, before ambling across fields, but things took a cruel and sudden turn when we climbed a stile into the woods and were confronted by one of the steepest downhill slopes I have seen, covered in sticky, slippery mud!

It took us an age to limp and slide our way down, and if it wasn’t for a handy wall I think I’d still be there now! On reaching firmer, flatter ground, my remark that I was surprised I had made it down with a clean bum was predictably taken completely out of context!!

The walk through Monsal Dale to the viaduct and cycle trail was positively lovely in comparison, and we had a short stretch of easy walking along the trail to our path down to Cressbrook just before the tunnel. There were some lovely views over Cressbrook Mill and Water cum Jolly Dale, and although it was very cloudy it had at least stopped raining.

Cressbrook Mill

Cressbrook Mill

Water cum Jolly Dale

Water cum Jolly Dale

We stopped for tubs of ice cream in the little shop in Cressbrook, manned by a young chap and a friendly spaniel, before an uphill road slog to the checkpoint. After a bit more sliding through wet and slippery woodland the path opened up into wide, grassy Cressbrook Dale, gently taking us towards fields and tracks to our next stop at Foolow.

Approaching Foolow

Approaching Foolow

The checkpoint at Foolow was a lovely location- in the centre of the village next to a small round duck pond. I felt my socks rubbing a bit, as they were soaked, so took a few minutes to remove my boots and rearrange them. It was a struggle to leave the checkpoint- the custard creams were plentiful- but we had a walk to finish and so set off to Eyam, where, we had been warned by email, was a huge bull.

Luckily if there was a bull amongst the cows in the fields we walked through, he turned a blind bovine eye and let us pass through unscathed and we were soon walking through Eyam. Last time I walked up past the Riley graves, but we elected to take the road- less climbing. There was no traffic as the road has now closed due to landslips. It was pretty impressive actually as it looks as though an earthquake had taken place! I don’t know if the road will ever be reopened again.

View from the Eyam road

View from the Eyam road

After a steep grassy downhill to Froggatt Bridge and the checkpoint, there was a gentle stretch following the river to Calver. For some reason the route through Calver is quite complicated, and although we had been given a map to guide us through the village it was still tricky, but luckily Dave was around to help.

One of the steepest climbs on the route took us uphill out of Calver to the woods, but the path seemed to then take us into a field which neither myself or Steve, who had also done the walk before, could remember. We retraced our steps to find Dave, who had stopped for a rest, and he told us to veer right. As the path bore right to the field, we decided to walk through it but it didn’t feel right as we were supposed to be walking through rhododendron bushes, not a field. We decided to stick to the footpath, as it appeared to be taking us down to the road, and we reckoned we could walk up the road to pick up our path through woods. Which we certainly could, but unfortunately we had dropped a lot of height so were faced with more climbing on our already tired legs.
Both myself and Sue had a sudden simultaneous flash of inspiration as to where we had gone wrong- when we veered right towards the field, there had been another path branching off to the right, which we ignored at the time but should have taken… My wet socks were rubbing painful blisters by this time, but I was reluctant to change shoes as it was still quite slippery underfoot.

When we finally reached the last checkpoint, we were confronted with what appeared to be the entire Kinder Mountain Rescue Team as everyone else had now gone past and we were firmly in last place! They seemed quite relieved that they didn’t have to search for us and happily let us finish even though we had missed the checkpoint cut off time.

We decided to stick to the road into Baslow, and funnily enough we weren’t last as poor Dave had decided to take the recommended route through fields and had taken a wrong turn…

We finished in 11 hours 19 minutes, over two hours longer than my previous time- oops- but I think it was a combination of the weather, our ‘short cut’ and the unplanned detour near the end. I was beyond caring about my time by that point and was just grateful they had saved us some pie and peas!

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