Ponton Plod On Sunday 15th September I experienced something that had never before been experienced… the first ever wet and windy Ponton Plod!

In the 7 years the event has been run, it has always basked in warm Autumnal sunshine- indeed the very name of Ponton Plod has been synonymous with warm sunshine and gorgeous blue skies.

But not today. I drove to the start at the village of Great Ponton, just off the A1 south of Grantham, with the radio giving dire warnings of the most wild wet and windy weather. As I registered, sipped coffee and said hello to the event organiser Stuart, I couldn’t stop myself from peering out of the windows at the unpromising steely grey sky. As we set off under the lowering clouds, I heard one runner say that the rain was supposed to start at 3pm so figured I at least had a few hours before getting wet.

The event leaves the village by crossing a metal footbridge over the A1. As we walked across in crocodile fashion I briefly wondered whether it was designed to hold the weight of around thirty people crossing at once, but decided to put the thought out of my mind!

We trudged through the wet grass of the golf course before walking through the lovely Stoke Rochford estate with its ornamental pond and small picturesque village with clotted cream coloured stone cottages.

Trudging through the golf course...

Trudging through the golf course…

... and the Stoke Richford estate

… and the Stoke Rochford estate

This is largely agricultural country, a land of gently rolling hills, plains and patchwork fields. Walking through fields of crops towards Skillington and the rough track to the first checkpoint at Buckminster water tower, I noticed that the sky was becoming increasingly leaden, and  soon felt the first few drops of rain against my face. By the time I reached the checkpoint it was raining hard, and the volunteers expressed their great surprise at this previously unknown occurrence. Resigning myself for the fact that the promised rain had arrived early and was now set in for the day, I donned waterproofs and set off towards Buckminster into the teeth of the tempest.

A couple of miles further, just as I was walking uphill across a ploughed field, the rain slowed and then stopped. I took my waterproof off, wondering whether I had been lulled into a false sense of security, but that was it. Apart from a few blustery drops of rain, that was the last we saw of the wet stuff all day!

We still had the wind to contend with though, and walking against it proved quite a challenge on the more exposed parts of the route.

Belvoir Castle as seen from the descent to Croxton Kerriel

Belvoir Castle as seen from the descent to Croxton Kerriel

The second checkpoint at Croxton Kerriel is a welcome sight, as sandwiches and hot coffee are on offer here so I lingered for a while, but not too long because listening to the volunteers talking it became apparent that I was, in true slow plodder style, one of the last walkers.

Descending towards Harlaxton- rare Lincolnshire hills

Descending towards Harston- rare Lincolnshire hills

I set off towards the church then downhill through fields to Harston, where there is a gentle climb along the road to a track along a disused railway. I managed to jog this, in an attempt to retain my second to last position, before the descent along the road into Denton. The route skirts the reservoir before climbing to the A607 and the next checkpoint in the village hall at Harlaxton.

Denton Reservoir

Denton Reservoir

I was offered a coffee by one of the volunteers who had recognised me from previous years, but declined, as I didn’t want to lose the time I’d regained. I had been dreading this checkpoint as Stuart had told us that there were frisky cows in one of the fields just after the village and I don’t do frisky cows… anyway it transpired that there was also a frisky bull, so in the interests of safety the route had been diverted. I was assured it was the same distance, but instead of climbing steeply uphill through fields, we took to the road, meeting the spot where the footpath emerges.

Stone cross in Harlaxton

Stone cross in Harlaxton

There was a bit of a road stretch to the path by Hungarton Hall, and as it was exposed the wind was quite strong, whipping my sweaty fringe into my eyes and making them stream. I attempted a jog, but my legs were no longer playing ball and decided to suddenly make the effects of last week’s 35 mile Gritstone Grind very apparent. So I figured I wasn’t really in any rush as I was easily making the cut off times for each checkpoint and relaxed and took in the scenery.

The last checkpoint at the hamlet of Wyville is reached along a short road climb, and was such an exposed and windy spot I bet the volunteers were glad they had a building to shelter in. I stopped just long enough for a piece of malt loaf, and stumbled on through the fields.

church

Wyville Church

There is a rather brutal stretch of uphill road walking before a bridleway is reached which rollercoasts its way back to the footbridge and the village.

The footbridge over the A1

The footbridge over the A1

I was really feeling my legs now so the finish at the village hall was a welcome sight, and I finished in a not too shabby 8 hours 21 minutes. As usual, there were three varieties of gorgeous soup on offer as well as apple pie and custard. After some deliberation I settled for the parsnip and apple and was not disappointed.

The proceeds from the Ponton Plod go to Besso Childrens Home in India. Stuart told me that they had held a day of fasting and prayer for good weather… compared to the original weather forecast for the day I’d say they succeeded!

Interested in doing the Ponton Plod? It takes place in September each year, entry details can be found on the official website.

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