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May 26 2012

Walk 50: Trailtrekker 2012 – Beaky


Sunset over Whernside

route: skipton to skipton via gargrave, malham, horton in ribblesdale, buckden, kettlewell, conistone & hetton
date:
26th & 27th may 2012
distance: 63.6 miles (graham, roger & simon) 24.9 miles (dave)
ascent: 7,015 ft (graham, roger & simon) 3,132 ft (dave)
time: 28 hrs 47 mins (graham, roger & simon) 11 hrs 40 mins (dave)
walkers: dave, graham, roger & simon

 

The story of…. beaky

The Idea

Well Sir Edmund had come up with the idea, or so I thought (but it turned out to be G!), of walking the Oxfam Trailtrekker 2012. My initial thoughts to be honest, when sat in the confines of The Greyhound, on a cosy January evening, with a considered approach, were that it all seemed like a bit of a doddle really. Now I wasn’t taking it lightly, and when I say doddle, I guess I mean I was confident, and most likely over confident. My reasoning being that we had clocked up quite a number of miles in our couple of years of (getting quite serious) walking to date. And in amongst that, we had undertaken the 3 peaks twice within a few weeks, and also managed the 52-mile Herriot Way without much concern over Easter 2011…52 miles in 4 days, 62 miles in 30 hours, I mean it’s pretty much the same right??

The Plan

Sir Edmund was adamant that should we undertake this challenge, that we should train properly. I was all up for this, and I also knew deep down that, as we would have been planning on walking anyway, this would just be an extension of what we would be doing. We had spent pretty much all of 2010 and 2011 walking up hill and down dale, and the recommended training plans were an extension of this. As our website will testify, the walks and mileage were stepped up quite considerably in the months before the big event. It was all good. Well, I say all good…we did a stretch of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, 29 miles to be exact, back from Skipton to Leeds. The idea was (and don’t get me wrong we all thought it would be a cracking plan) to get a load of miles in our legs without having to do the climbs initially. Well bugger me, if the constant hammer against the towpath didn’t knacker everyone’s feet up…oops, back to the drawing board then!

From there, despite the pain suffered, it was also part of the plans to walk the Trailtrekker route, albeit split into two sections. Firstly Skipton to Horton, covering the ‘bronze’ route, and then the remainder from Horton right round the loop and back through to Skipton again. So on 24th March, we did the first bit, and don’t get me wrong, by then end of it I was knackered. We had done 25 miles and I could feel it. My brain started playing (expected) tricks on me, thinking that if I was knackered after 25, how the hell could I do 62-63?? But then after a drive home, a foot soak and a good nights kip, hell I could do it…no problem!!

In between, we had planned an extended weekend in the lakes over Easter, and as such, got a bit more (Wainwright) walking in, which, in my head, set me up nicely for the second part of the Trailtrekker route, which we had pencilled in for 21st April. Come the 21st, I was confident, and although it was a slog, it didn’t seem any more difficult than the 25 miler we had already bagged. This however, I know, is time playing with my mind, as when I think back in any detail, I am sure I was cursing under my breath probably most of the way. But by the end of it, it was a lot of miles gained, and despite the obvious fatigue and tired feet, there seemed to be no long term damage, and again a strange confidence came over me.

The Lead Up

After the 38-miler, we hadn’t much planned, and to be fair this fell in with the Trailtrekker training plan, to tone things down. Myself and Rambo sneaked in a walk along the canal again however (only from Rodley mind, and in different footwear), just to keep some miles in the feet. Then life and work took over for a while, and before I knew it, we were only a week off the main event! Then during the course of that final week, final preps, support crew sorting food buying, final route timings with Sir Edmund, nana in hospital, various work tasks…it was Friday night before I knew what was about to hit me and the rest of the team.

Registration

Rambo had played a blinder and booked the Friday off of work. That meant the bus was pretty much loaded when I got home from work. Once G and Roger arrived at ours and loaded their extra few bits (unbuttered sarnies etc!), off we set to pick up Sir Edmund and Leanne. Then we were Skipton bound…for the first time I felt a little nervous. But G was driving and that certainly soothes the nerves (sleep induced due to the speed…or lack of). To be fair to Sherpa G, he breezed through the late Friday traffic and we had soon checked into the Travelodge, ditched the bus and were on our way to the registration and 8pm safety briefing.

Upon registering, it still all seemed a bit surreal, but then when we hit the main school hall for the safety briefing, and we were confronted with a room full of fellow Trailtrekkers. The briefing brought home a few realities, re the weather, the distance, the fatigue, the everything really! And then we saw a few team sinking several ales…it made me feel better, if only in that if we failed, we hadn’t done it through ignorance! But I felt we would go all the way

The big sleep (well that was the intention)

We had decided that rather than pitching a tent or two, and thus struggling to get any kip the night before the walk, that we would book into the nearby Travelodge. Great idea in theory, slightly different in practice…it was located right on the Skipton bypass, so there was a constant humdrum of traffic noise throughout. So we closed the windows, which in itself didn’t have much effect on the noise, but it was a stifling night and we were in and out of the covers. Then there was the noise of other Trailtrekkers coming in late at night (must’ve been 9 o’clock starters!) and before you knew it, there was the sound of more Trailtrekkers getting up early (must’ve been 6 o’clock starters). Then in between, I was worried about not getting enough sleep, thus meaning I couldn’t sleep worrying about this! I did manage a few stolen, but I was again wide awake well before the alarm went off at 5.15am…

The big day (and a half…)

So the time had come! I was feeling good. Having read various tips, and from my own previous experience, I knew above everything that the key to getting round, would be blister-free feet. As such, I applied various tapes and plasters to my feet, covering the vulnerable areas prone to ‘hot spots’. My plan was to change my lining socks, hiking socks, and footwear at each checkpoint along the route. I was soon dressed and my pack was ready, containing all the essential items on the Trailtrekker list, as well as most of the recommended items too…it was a tad heavy for such a long walk, but hey, why not go the whole hog! I was like a coiled spring and was ready well in advance of our 6am meeting time in the foyer. Sandy and I made our way down to the minibus and awaited the others, who soon arrived in tow, and off we set, on the short journey to the starting point at Aireville School.

As per the event guidelines, we needed to be there at least an hour before our designated start time of 7.30am (the middle of three start times, which we had decided would be the most beneficial to us as a team) but upon arriving it wasn’t apparent why we had to be there so early. We had plenty of time to snag our free breakfast, but apart from that, there seemed to be next to nothing to do, as we had done all the registration process the previous evening, numbers, t-shirts etc etc

So we waited what seemed an absolute age in the early morning sunshine, before we were finally called to the start line at about 7.20am. As I stated, we had done the walk in two sections, being 25 miles and 38 miles, and it was just a case of tagging the two together…that was one way of looking at it. I was personally telling myself (and also anyone else that would care to listen) that we just had to take it section by section…just 10 little walks…one at a time…

Skipton-Gargrave (little walk no 1)

We received some inspiring words at the start, but I was now just itching to get going. From the start, although I was telling myself not to set off too quickly, I couldn’t help myself. We headed through the school grounds and through Aireville park, down to the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which would be pretty much all of the first section into Gargrave. I looked around, and I was already ahead of my fellow team members, and I wanted to wait, but I also had this natural pace which was difficult to curtail. And so of I went, alone with my thoughts, predominantly one little walk at a time, one little walk at a time. Despite the abnormally warm weather we were experiencing, there was a gentle breeze around, even down at the canal level, and the towpath was good under foot, neither too soggy or hard, and I felt good in my trail shoes. This was my choice of footwear until at least checkpoint 1, knowing that the underfoot conditions would be pretty good, and that I could get away with no ankle support, and with water resistant as opposed to waterproof.

Due to there being only three allocated start times for all of the Trailtrekker teams, the canal towpath was a busy old place, as I earwigged into conversations in scouse, geordie and even French! I needed conversation of my own however, and so waited a few moments at a lock on the outskirts of Gargrave until my buddies caught up. Within minutes they arrived, and we headed into Gargrave back as a four, and I was still feeling good. All of the boys were. Kinder had come up with a great notion of having friends walking certain sections with us, and as we headed into Gargrave we could see Tony LeBrasse waiting for us atop a canal bridge. We exchanged pleasantries, and headed from the canal to reach water stop 1 just out of Gargrave. We were applauded in by the Oxfam volunteers, which was a nice touch, and checked in with our wristbands. It was already around 9.15am, and although we had decided not to ‘time pressure’ ourselves, I thought that was a little behind what we were capable of. We also seemed to take longer than planned at the water stop, but I wasn’t rushing anyone, as we all had to be comfortable with our feet, make sure we were taking the liquids on, and eating little and often.

Gargrave-Malham (little walk no 2)

With Tony now in tow, we headed back out of the water stop en route to the Pennine Way. Again I picked up a natural pace, and walked in front of the guys for the next couple of miles. Initially I was happy enough with this, but again after a while I needed conversation, and wanted to be part of the team. So as we hit the Pennine Way path, I waited on the other badgers, and again they were back with me in no time. They had also got chatting to another Trailtrekker, who it turned out had worked with them 15 years previous! Small world eh?

Now around this time, the route heads down to the river, and runs parallel with the road to Malham for a short while. Lo and behold, there was the old Salford’s minibus, Sandy and Leanne driving past, tooting their horn at us. That was a nice moment and certainly put an extra spring into my step. The route here is lovely, nice and flat along the riverbank, and although the temperature was picking up a few degrees, it wasn’t too uncomfortable, and the miles passed with relative ease.

As we approached Malham, there was the first of several Oxfam puzzles, which on this occasion was “How many footsteps would we take during the course of our Trailtrekker walk?” This occupied my mind all the way into Malham, but I kept my answers in my head for fear of ridicule in case I had got my maths wrong!! Kinder had brought walkie talkies, and we managed to radio in to the girls that we were fast approaching checkpoint 1 on the outskirts of Malham. We had made fantastic progress from Gargrave, and I was in really good spirits as we entered the checkpoint just gone 11.30am.

The girls had done a cracking job, we had a table set out with various foods and drinks, the ground sheet was down, and we could all chill out as we pleased for the next 20 minutes or so. I took this opportunity to change my socks and footwear, applying some additional zinc oxide tape to the soles of my feet which were getting a tad warm and as such becoming noticeable. I took on a couple of sandwiches, and packed in a couple of isotonic drinks, as the next checkpoint was quite a way off at around 14-15 miles. I exchanged my trail shoes for my water resistant boots, as I knew there were parts of the next section where I would be glad of the ankle support, mainly across the milestone atop Malham Cove and on the way up to the tarn. At this point as we were readying for the off, we noticed the Oxfam people were doing their kit checks, and had discussions between ourselves as to how strict they would be. I mean it was nigh on 25 degrees by now under clear blue skies, so would we need our fleeces and waterproofs?? I aired on the side of caution and stuck my fleece in my pack, which looking back seems ludicrous now!

Malham-Fountains Fell (little walk no 3)

After saying goodbye to the girls for a good few more hours, we headed towards the checkpoint exit, and indeed were asked about what we had in our packs. To be fair, this was more based on maps and safety equipment, and the volunteers were happy enough with our responses so off we trotted.

We strolled through Malham and were soon at the foot of the ever impressive cove.

Roger, Tony and myself pounded the steps, and although it was bloody hard work, I was up in one go. I knew the steps would take it out of the big man in this heat, so I was pleased to see him and G reach the top of the cove. They were a little out of breath, but after a few moments respite, and with plenty of liquids still being taken on, we were good to go again. Again the miles were seeming to pass again with relative ease, and we were soon passing the ice cream van on the banks of the tarn. Can’t quite remember who it was, but I was asked if I would be getting an ice cream, hmmm not quite what I would want sitting in my tum pounding the hard yards.

Around the other side of the tarn, I stopped for a ‘comfort break’. It was the first time I had been all walk. I was a little concerned in that the night before at the safety briefing, we were told if we were taking enough liquids on, we should be ‘going’ round about every hour or so. Now this was about 6-7 hours in, and although I was happy enough that I was taking enough liquids on, I was a little concerned about my lack of toilet activity. Rest assured this wasn’t to be an issue for the remainder of the walk! We were fast approaching what I believed would be the hardest section of the whole route, being the haul up the side of Fountains Fell. It was the highest part of the route, we knew it was over 2000ft as it was on our 40 peaks in 40 weeks from 2010!

We were therefore delighted to see that Oxfam had set up an additional impromptu water stop just before the hard climb commenced. It was another opportunity to take on some energy drinks and extra food, never before have I enjoyed a couple of pieces of cheese so much. And on we went. Kinder had said he was happy for everyone do this at their own pace, and again Roger, Tony and myself headed off, with G and the big man following on behind.

On sections like this, I just like to get my head down, work myself hard and reach the top as soon as I can. This was no different, and the three of us carried on and on and on, until the cairn to the right of the Pennine Way footpath came into view. Here we took the opportunity to wait for G and Kinder to catch us up, and thus the boots and socks came off for a short while.

The feeling was bliss! As we waited, time was passing and I knew that the big man must be struggling with the heat. It was pretty much the middle of the afternoon, and thus the highest temperatures of the day, coupled with the highest section of the whole route. As I pondered how they were getting on, spirits were raised by the site of a fellow Trailtrekker face planting into the ground. He was rushing for a photo with his buddies, tripped and down he went without having the time to even get his arms out to support his fall! He was straight up again and uninjured which is why it was funny rather than what could have been a serious fall.

Shortly after this, it was good to see the our pair appear again on the horizon. I was pleased as I knew the hardest bit had been achieved or so I thought. It was good to be together as a team again, and we headed down the other side of Fountains Fell and could see the next water stop in the dale below. At the foot of the fell, we had a short walk along the road, and the tarmac felt quite tough for a while on the feet, so it was good to rest for a short while upon reaching the water stop.

Once again we all took the opportunity to take on more food and liquids and headed off again, stopping soon after to check in with the wristbands a little further along from the water stop, which was a little strange that this wasn’t actually at the water stop.

Fountains Fell-Horton in Ribblesdale (little walk no 4)

From the road, we headed off to the right, along the Pennine Way up the ‘back’ of Pen-y-Ghent. Again we split as the big man was now quite obviously still suffering. We waited for G and the big man at the gate where the 3 peaks route turns left up towards the top. The breeze had picked up a little by now, and we were in quite an exposed spot. I actually had to don that fleece for a few minutes at one bit! As the minutes ticked by, I knew the big man was in trouble. His face was anguished as he and G caught us up, and the climbs had taken a lot out of him.

As we began descending down towards Horton, again we gained ground on the big man. Now whenever we are out walking, he has a good natural pace on the flat and the downhills, so with him falling behind here, I knew this was hitting him hard. I was telling myself he would be OK now, but with him falling behind on these sections, I did begin to wonder as time and distance increased, how he would cope with some of the other climbs still to come later on the route.

This had been quite a long section, so sods law the next checkpoint was right at the far end of the village! As we walked through Horton, we passed 3-peakers coming the other way, who were just finishing their fantastic achievements for the day, and I actually found myself considering them to be lightweights in comparison to what we were undertaking! How ignorant of me. Having done that several times myself, I know how tough that challenge also is, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who does it. I guess that’s the effect the walk was having on me!

As we approached checkpoint 2, Sandy and Leanne had walked along to meet us. So as we got to the checkpoint, we were being cheered in by the Oxfam volunteers, me hand in hand with Sandy, and Leanne and Kinder just behind us. I turned to see the big man in floods of tears, and I knew then he would be going no further. We had agreed months before on a ‘one out, all out’ policy, as teams were allowed to continue with 3 members but no less. We had decided though, that as we were a four, it was that or nothing. It was over. I told Sandy there and then that we would be going no further. I was gutted. I was knackered but felt I had this within me.

We got to the minibus and the big man went and laid down in the grass at the other side of the minibus. Tony had done his stint with us and was stepping out here, with Marc and Jane joining us for the walk into the night. They were all geared up and ready already, and I was gutted for them too, for their wasted journey. Roger and G began changing their footwear, but it was all futile. What was the point if we were going no further? I was just waiting for the big man to let us all know he was out. I grabbed a bite to eat, took on some more liquids, and took my boots and socks off.

TT Beaky Review 24.jpg

Roger and G continued to gear up to carry on, so I had to find out for myself what was occurring. I walked to the other side of the minibus, and had a chat with the big man. I asked him where we were at, he told me he had nothing left in the tank. He didn’t need to say anything else, we both knew that. I said that was fine. It was fine, I don’t want my best mate keeling over on me atop of the dales in the middle of the night. I was gutted it was over, but our wellbeing came first above everything else. I said well as we had agreed on the one out all out policy, that that was that! The big man told me “I want you three to go for it” and he meant it, I could see in his face. I asked him though if he was sure and he was.

So I continued to get ready for the night section, and the pack was full to bursting as the additional kit went in to cope with the night conditions (hats, gloves, head torches, long trousers, the works).

Horton in Ribblesdale-Cam End Farm (little walk no 5)

We had encountered some boggy sections last time when we did this section of the route, so my water resistant boots were replaced by my waterproof ones. I also decided that I would take walking poles with me from here, but to begin with they were a hindrance and just got in the way. As we had all the gear changes for the night section of the walk, I had put my fleece on, so that I had room for other items in my pack. Problem was it was only just gone 7.30 in the evening, and the temperatures were still good. So I was red hot! I was a bit of a grumpy arse on the early part of this section therefore, and I suppose part of my mood was that our buddy wasn’t with us, and it didn’t feel right really. But we plodded on.

The light started to go, and as Whernside was in the way, the sun dropped sooner than I had anticipated. Woolly hats and gloves were donned as the temperatures finally began to subside. As we hit the Dales Way path, it was certainly dusk. This was the section on the practice walk where I had ended up twice on my backside within minutes, so I watched my steps carefully, and was glad to be doing this section before it was pitch black. By the time we reached the edge of the wood, it was dark enough for us to have to now don the head torches and luminous sticks on our back packs. Which was good as the Dales Way now enters the wood, if only for a few minutes. When we had done this on our practice walk, we managed to get lost in here for about 20 minutes, so I was wary, but I needn’t have been, as the Oxfam luminous sticks lining the route did their job, and before we knew it, we were pounding out the last few yards to the next water stop at Cam End Farm.

In the middle of nowhere we turned into the barn to see what seemed to be hundreds of other Trailtrekkers strewn about in widely varying states of health! Hot soup was being served at this water stop, and I thought it would be a great idea to have a cup of the stilton & broccoli soup. It was a very good idea, except that it was at boiling point, so was way too hot to have more than a few mouthfuls, without having to restructure the roof of my mouth! I wanted to sit down here for a few minutes, but I also know that if I was to sit down, there was a likelihood I wouldn’t want to get back up, so I stayed on my feet. The feet although feeling a bit sore were doing good, but the legs were now certainly getting heavy.

Cam End Farm-Deepdale (little walk no 6)

We didn’t hang around too long at the water stop, and I was glad of that. This was now proper night walking, and I was a little wary of this, but I wanted to meet it head on and get on with it. The only other night walking I had done, was at the end of our canal walk when we were heading into the lights of Leeds, and when we walked this section, again towards the end of the walk, when we were heading into the lights of Skipton. This would be totally different. Marc had set off without a head torch, but Roger said he could wear one of his spares. I wasn’t sure why they hadn’t sorted this at the water stop, and they seemed to take an age to catch G and myself back up, but this was just me being anxious to crack on. The head torches and luminous lights on packs worked wonders here. There was a line of Trailtrekkers snaking their way through the dales, and what could have been a difficult section, was comparatively easier than I had expected. Especially once we left the fields and hit the tracks en route into Oughtershaw. Now I always prefer to be in the fields, than on roads, but during this part, I was glad to be on a track for a while.

By now I was feeling the miles taking an effect. My legs were finding the going tough, I was tired, and I was feeling a little daunted about what still lay ahead. It was the first time that I had thought about the bigger picture, and stopped thinking about the 10 little walks method I had in my head. I tried to put these thoughts to the back of my mind, and plodded on regardless. Jane and Marc were due to leave us at Oughtershaw, where we would be joined by Stuart (aka Lonewalker) who had agreed to do the graveyard shift with us in the early hours right through to the last water stop.

It was good to see the gang again here, as it was all the way through the walk. Here Marc asked how far it would be to the checkpoint in Buckden and decided to carry on with us too. His positivity was good to be around and put the smile back on my face. We carried on through Oughtershaw and on towards Beckermonds, and I had that spring back in my step again. Here the walk would gently follow the course of the river, which meant very little climbing involved right through until after Kettlewell. This was good to know, but I was also getting ahead of myself again. We continued apace, and I was somewhat surprised when the water stop at Deepdale came into view. I had a couple of energy drinks provided by Oxfam, in the hope these would keep me perky until Buckden. I also decided here that I must have a sit down, and again, I’m sure Roger and G will testify, it was good to have Marc and Stuart around to keep the vibe positive. Around us, I heard a handful of fellow Trailtrekkers who had dropped out here, and left their teammates to go on. I couldn’t have seen myself dropping out here in the middle of the night, and although I felt for them, I couldn’t quite understand why. But then I didn’t know their situation. My mate had suffered exhaustion in the heat earlier, and these people could have been suffering similarly.

Deepdale-Buckden (little walk no 7)

I’ll say it now, at the start of this section. This was my down in the dumps time. I don’t know why it was now. I had felt pretty good still at Deepdale. I had a few moments coming out of Horton, but apart from that, I had been feeling upbeat and the body was holding together! But as soon as we crossed the road to the other side of the river at Deepdale, I was finding it tough. This section is wonderful in daylight, but now it was one step in front of the other. Every little niggle was becoming a major irritation. I was trying to remain positive for the guys, but it was bloody hard work. A team of female Trailtrekkers were passing the time and the miles by singing songs. I just wanted to tell them to belt up. It wasn’t their fault, I was just down and miserable. I was pleased when we got to Hubberholme. It was civilisation (although it isn’t really is it at 1 in the morning!) and although the tarmac was hard on the weary feet, this section came at the right time for me. We left the road for the last half mile or so into Buckden, and here I really appreciated Stuart holding the gates open for me to just walk through without having to worry about closing them behind me. That’s where I was…grumpy at the thought of having to close a gate! Ridiculous now looking back.

So we got to Buckden, and the next checkpoint. Or so I thought, the checkpoint involved walking right through and out the other side of Buckden. This pissed me off enormously. I tried to laugh it off with my “where are we now…Starbotton?” quip, but inside I was annoyed. Again, it was probably only a couple of hundred yards, but at the time seemed miles out of Buckden. I wasn’t the happiest of bunnies at checkpoint 3! Again we were applauded in, but it all felt hollow. I wasn’t in the mood as I checked in. If G or Roger wanted to jack it in there and then I don’t think I would’ve taken much persuading. I had a bit of time to myself, and then Sandy and Leanne tended to my miserable needs. Did I want chicken chasseur? No I didn’t. “I’ll get you some anyway”. Well girls, I’ll tell you now, I’m glad you did! I had a few mouthfuls, I had two coffees, I had two painkillers, I had a cherry energy drink.

G had ditched his boots for his trainers, and it inspired me to go back to my trail shoes. Good move G, good move!! The boots are great but are unforgiving and I was confident I could get by on the remainder of the route with the shoes.

Buckden-Conistone (little walk no 8)

G and Roger were good to go. Here we said goodbye to Marc, watch this space folks, he’ll be doing Trailtrekker 2013!! He loved the sections he did with us. Stuart continued on with us. And I was a different person again. The change in footwear was a godsend, the feet felt instantly a lot more comfortable. I was even smiling as we made our way back through Buckden down to the river! I was back, the positive vibe was back, I knew this was in the bag from here on. The miles between Buckden and Kettlewell whizzed by, and morning was breaking. Apologies to the farmer who woke on Sunday to find my steaming turd in his field. It really is the most satisfying poo I have ever had. At 3am on a Sunday morning. Outdoors. Good job Sandy had packed me that bit of loo roll!

Forward we marched, again at a good lick into Kettlewell. G and Roger freshened themselves up in the village toilets as Stuart and I tried to pass on words of encouragement to other Trailtrekkers having a few moments in the bus shelter. And we were off again, destination Conistone. Along the road out of Kettlewell, we were amused by the traffic cone atop one of the telegraph poles lining the street. It may have been a streetlight, it wasn’t the point. How the hell did that get there? Must’ve been one helluva night out for someone!

We now had a bit of a pull up the hill back towards the Dales Way, and were pleased to see the guy from the safety briefing had set up another impromptu refreshments stall here. It was much appreciated. We soon gained the height we needed and continued nicely along the Dales Way looking over the dale towards Kilnsey Crag. Further on we could see our next checkpoint on the outskirts of Conistone. The world was a wonderful place again!

It was good to see the gang again, and once more, we wanted for nothing. Porridge (ta Symington’s) was the order of the day for yours truly and it went down a treat.

Conistone-Hetton (little walk no 9)

It was now around 7am on Sunday morning as we were ready for the off again. We had 30 hours to do this thing in. I thought 3 hours walking, 30 minutes in Hetton, then another 3 hours walking. It would be tight. Things were going to warm up again, we had a lot of miles now in our legs and feet. I didn’t tell the guys but if we could do this next section at a good pace, we (for that read I) wouldn’t have to worry about time. Having seen G’s feet afterwards, I can only apologise now! But we did really well, by knees began to nag as we made our way out of Conistone up Malham Moor. The walking poles were now doing a lot of the work for me on uphill sections, and because of this, I kept a good pace. As such, we all kept a good pace. This section is a tad bleak in places, over Malham Moor and then Boss Moor, but it didn’t bother me one iota. I was feeling really good. I had some really good chats with Stuart along this section of the walk, covering walking, why we started, his Isle of Skye walk, and pretty much all things Leeds United and Manchester City! It made the miles disappear by. The last section into Hetton is down a farm track, which is arrow straight, and Hetton never seems to get any closer. But here it passed in what seemed like no time.

As we entered Hetton, we were passed on the road by Kinders folks car. This meant my mum n dad would be with them too. It was good to see them all, but then again I didn’t want to see them all until the finish line. But lest we forget, this was the positive Beaky, so yes it was good to see them all. At the water stop, G went to get his blisters treated by the medical people Oxfam had on hand. Only then did I realise how serious his blisters were, and after seeing them afterwards, G you did wonderfully well to get around with your feet in that state pal!

Hetton-Skipton (little walk no 10)

The plan was for Sandy and Leanne to walk the final section with us. As things had panned out, the cracking job they had done ferrying people around and looking after us, they had only managed to grab an hour or so worth of sleep. They were happy enough not to do the last bit with us, and I was happy so long as they were happy.

G’s daughters Charlotte and Helena had also met us, along with Carol, at Hetton, and they were to walk the last leg with us. Proved to be a good move! At around 10am, off we headed towards the small hamlet of Flasby, and again, although the joints were now aching, the feet were holding out and the next couple of miles soon passed. Out the other side of Flasby, and we had reached pretty much the last ascent of the walk. Up the side of Flasby Fell, again aided by the walking poles, I was doing good and feeling good. G began to struggle however, and was having to stop every few steps, and for a few moments I started to fear the worst. we had got so very far, and I seriously thought we may have reached a point where G could carry on no more. Charlotte and Helena take a bow, you did your Dad proud. Charlotte took G’s pack, Helena his drinks and his poles. G had a good feed and drink and was good to go without having to carry anything. It proved to be the turning point of the last little walk!

Once again we passed the Oxfam volunteer who had set up yet another impromptu refreshment stop, although now we politely declined as we were on the final stretch, and could sense the finish line. I thought we must still have about 3-4 miles to go, so was delighted to pass a sign saying 3km to finish line, then 2.5km to finish line, then 2km to finish line. We passed volunteers and marshals offering encouragement and telling us how well we had done, and that was really nice and the encouragement was certainly well received. As we headed for the outskirts of Skipton, Roger got a second wind and was off. I did wonder temporarily whether he would be off and over the finish line before G and myself had caught up with him! But to be fair he now had a pace that he was comfortable with, and after top side of 60 miles, I wasn’t going to argue. The housing estate between the bypass and Aireville Park and School seemed to go on forever, as we were so close, but alas seemed so far. We finally crossed the road into Aireville Park and headed over towards the finish area. Oxfam volunteers lined the route through the park and were all cheering and applauding us in, but nothing could have prepared me for the swell of emotion that hit me as I turned the corner and was confronted by the applause and cheers of other Trailtrekkers and their supporters. I felt immensely proud at that moment, and that will live with me forever. Even as I write this now, I have a tear in my eye…silly sod! Our crew and the big man, and our families were all there cheering us in.

The big man stepped forward and shook us all by the hand as we approached those last few yards. He told us to remember the moment, take it all in and enjoy it. I could only enjoy more if we finished as we had started 28 hours and 47 minutes previously…and that was as a four. I summoned the big man to join us, and we crossed the finish line, arms linked, as a team, as a four! We checked in, our tags were removed, and we were adorned with our Trailtrekker medals. I burst into tears. Relief. Proudness. An overwhelming sense of achievement.

We had done it. Those hard yards put in this year were all worth it. The fundraisers, the chasing people, the nagging people, it was all worth it. Hugs and kisses all round with my family. It was one of the best moments of my life, I kid you not.

I asked Sandy to get me a beer…they had sold out!! Ah well never mind. We hung around a bit and cheered some fellow Trailtrekkers home. I wanted a bath. We gathered everything together and headed home, thanks to my Dad now on bus driving duties.

It was the end of a fantastic adventure.

Epilogue

Two weeks later (seems like two years!) and I look back now still with the same sense of achievement. I was asked immediately after whether I would do it again and I categorically said no…I think I might have lied! Within a week I was googling Oxfam Trailwalker and the one that they do in Ireland. Am I stupid or what.

The feet, apart from the little toe on my right foot, had come through relatively unscathed. My knees felt a little hammered towards the end, and ached for a few days after, but all in all, were also relatively unscathed too.

I can’t wait to get out walking for leisure and pleasure again, as this year, all our walking pretty much has been geared to the Trailtrekker, but when I think back, I have enjoyed each and every one of them.

I am proud of what all four of us achieved, and I am proud of Sandy and Leanne for looking after us so well. I am so grateful for our friends who came and did the different sections with us, it meant a lot to have a different face, a different voice, a different conversation.

Beaky

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