dovedale dipperIt was a cool, cloudy morning as around three hundred walkers and runners set off from Hartington Village Hall for the 13th annual 26 mile Dovedale Dipper challenge walk. This is a justly popular event right in the heart of the White Peak, and it passes through some spectacular classic Peak scenery.

Of course, being the Peak District there is also plenty of climbing, the first ascent faced as we left Hartington and climbed the slopes of Carder Low, heading for the High Peak cycle trail and the first checkpoint at Sparklow.

I was walking with Sue, who kindly kept me company on the Baslow Boot Bash. Sue is able to do these walks much faster than me these days, but luckily she was happy to walk at my pace.

I haven’t done this one for a few years, but it’s a really friendly event with a lot of support so it was good to make a reacquaintance.

Views towards Chrome Hill

Views towards Chrome Hill

After a walk through fields with magnificent views towards Chrome Hill, we experienced several ascents and descents through fields of cows, some of whom ignored us but we had a bit of a race against others as to who would reach the stile first! A sustained, steep climb up a farm track brought us to the second checkpoint at Longor, where we received cheery congratulations and stocked up on biscuits. The sun was starting to come out so I took a few moments to slap on some sun cream.

Lovely views

Lovely views

After this we headed out across open fields, where navigation became slightly tricky. We walked for a while with a chap who had set off with the runners and a lady called Elaine, who had attempted the MdS this year; unfortunately she had had the misfortune to become lost in a sand storm, and so was timed out on the third day. Not one to give up easily, she has entered the MdS again next year and I’m sure she will smash it next time.

Dovedale DipperWe had an interesting little experience when we ended up on the wrong side of a wall- we were faced with a choice of either climbing over a wall festooned with barbed wire or squeezing through a hedge- talk about being dragged through a hedge backwards! After an interesting ascent through a field or gorse, we climbed the road to the third checkpoint at Revidge, where we were able to sit for a while, munching cake and savouring the view.

The view from checkpoint two

After this brief respite we were faced with the steepest climb of the day- Ecton Hill. I swear it’s nearly vertical… the panoramic view from the top was well worth it, although as usual I was sweating buckets as it had become really warm now. Sue was constantly plagued by flies all day, but I wasn’t- for some reason they weren’t interested in me… not that I’m complaining!!

Views from Ecton Hill

Views from Ecton Hill

Dovedale Dipper

Dovedale Dipper

They’re not small… just far away!

It made a welcome change to be offered crisps at the later checkpoints to replenish salt levels, although the wasps at checkpoint four at Wetton Mill dissuaded us from lingering. Fortunately checkpoint five at Castern was less than three miles away, and a really pleasant walk along the side of a hill, picking our way above a spectacular dale. We talked with a chap who was having a tough time, but was determined to finish for his nephew, who was having a transplant operation that day.

Walking to Castern

Walking to Castern

After walking through fields strewn with hay waiting to be baled, a steep, rocky descent took us into Milldale (the shop was sadly shut so no ice cream) and the last checkpoint, where we had crisps and cake thrust at us- it’s tough, this walking malarkey!

The last checkpoint

The last checkpoint

As usual for me these days, we were among the last to finish as we set off for the final push through the delightful Wolfscote and Beresford Dales back towards Hartington.

Beresford Dale

Beresford Dale

Beresford Dale

Beresford Dale

I usually find this section rather endless but it really helped having Sue to chat with. We were both aching a bit by now, but I was feeling better than I expected.

Hartington... and the finish

Hartington… and the finish

There was a sting in the tail though in the form of a long climb out of the dale to access roads and tracks back to the finish at the Village Hall, where jacket potatoes were eagerly devoured, although I was gutted to discover they had run out of beans- no ice cream and no beans… I am going to have to get faster!

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