Bassetlaw BashThe Idle Valley Nature Reserve is a pretty, peaceful spot just to the north of Retford in North Nottinghamshire… or at least it is peaceful apart from one Saturday in April. For on this day scores of ultra runners and walkers descend on the visitors centre ready to start what has become an annual fixture- the Bassetlaw Bash, named for the area in which it takes place.

As it’s fairly local I thought I may as well give it a go. There are a variety of routes to choose from-  5 mile and 10 mile family walks, plus 20 mile and 25 mile challenge walks.  I checked in, told them I was walking the 25 mile route and got the cheery response ‘actually it’s 27 miles!’ Although it was only the second running of the event, it was very well attended, and there were hot drinks at the start which is always a bonus in my opinion.

The long route starts by following a delightful tow path alongside the canal, past locks and postcard type cottages then the more industrial surroundings of Retford, before the first checkpoint and cake and biscuits at the Gate Inn at Clarborough.

Shortly afterwards the canal is left and the route heads up tracks and across fields to the first climb of the day, and one of the few ascents on the walk.

Track on the Bassetlaw Bash

Track on the Bassetlaw Bash

There are some lovely views along this stretch, reminiscent of the Wolds with gently rolling agricultural landscape of green, brown and yellow patchwork fields interspersed by small farms here and there. Another climb along a country road is rewarded by the second checkpoint at Wheatly Wood Farm, where hot coffee and cheese and pickle cobs were on offer- the temptation to stay a while could not be resisted… especially as there were custard creams as well!

Following this the route traverses fields and wide open spaces with sweeping views, as it rises, falls, rises and then falls again to Clayworth Village and the third checkpoint at the canal bridge, where there was some rather divine home-made shortcake on offer. I did have to have two pieces just to make sure the quality was consistent.

Sweeping Views

Sweeping views

After another brief flirtation with the canal it is back through fields, where I had the life scared out of me by a nearby bird scarer, and into the Idle Valley Nature Reserve where the route follows a lovely path along the edge of a large lake. Once I realised that I hadn’t actually been shot I quite enjoyed this section; the terrain isn’t too demanding and there isn’t much climbing so I was still feeling quite fresh.

I felt rather sad to leave the reserve but was soon ascending again through fields which gave me a lovely view across the lakes. Several people in front of me went slightly wrong a mile or so further on, as the route passes an entrance to the shooting range, and, although the footpath runs along the other side of the hedge, it is easy to miss the footpath sign and take the track towards the range instead.

Lovely woodland path

Lovely woodland path

A gravel track past an industrial unit and fishing lakes leads to a lovely path through woodland to the final checkpoint at Danes Hill Lakes car park. I lowered myself to the ground for a brief sit down, but daren’t linger too long as it was quite likely I wouldn’t be able to get up again…

The final stretch of the walk was really pretty- winding between the lakes and a gradual climb to the attractive village of Sutton where I chatted to a friendly local interested in why so many people were walking through his usually quiet little corner of England.

Metal sculpture

Metal sculpture

This walk has one of the most interesting finishes I have encountered- there are twisted metal sculptures over the path to walk under and then a long willow tunnel has to be navigated before the Visitors Centre is reached.  Finishers are rewarded with pie, mushy peas and coffee, plus a certificate. Although not one of the hardest walks I have done, it is one of the prettiest and a lovely romp through a little known piece of England.

The Bassetlaw Bash is organised by the Vermuyden (South Yorkshire) group of the Long Distance Walkers Association. If you fancy giving it a go, take a look at their web site.

The willow tunnel

The willow tunnel

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