LEJOG – Stage Three

The walk from Knighton to Hebden Bridge took me through Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and the Peak District. Along the Shropshire Way, Monarchs Way, Staffordshire Way and parts of the Pennine Way.

I’ve had my moments during this stage although to be honest the scenery was boring till I got to the Peak District. 

Stage Three

11th July 2016 – Knighton to somewhere near Muchlock Edge

I woke up early and forgot where I was. Very deep sleep. I shook off the grogginess, took a shower, had breakfast and was off. 

I made my way up Stow Hill and the familiar rain started. This was becoming a recurring theme so I stuck my waterproofs on, smiled and kept going. Through Horton Castle I picked my way over difficult, overgrown paths to Craven Arms.

This was my meant to be my scheduled stop but I made the decision to keep going and eat into tomorrow’s miles. Rain or no rain.

It was a 45 minute walk through Craven to the start of the next stage. Walking along a ridge tree line on The Shropshire Way. 

The path was pretty muddy but I motored along with the plan to find one of the wild camping spots I’d earmarked. I found, as I went along, that most of these spots were corn fields and not ideal and the good fields had no source of water. 

I spotted a campsite on the map so just kept going and headed for it. It ended up being a long tough days walk and in total I think I did around 28 miles. 

It had stopped raining so I set up my tent, dried what I could, ate and slept.

12th July 2016 – Campsite to Bishops Wood

Woke up to more rain. It started around 6AM and didn’t look like stopping anytime soon. To make matters worse my inner tent was wet through. I thought a  leak but, after speaking to Sal, she thought condensation. All the vents were open so I wasn’t sure.

I threw a tantrum to myself. I was sick of being wet and moaning about it. I got a kick up the arse for it but my mood was foul.

After packing my wet kit away I started walking. It didn’t stop raining all the way to Ironbridge. I considered staying here as it was my scheduled stop but thought sod it. This was meant to be a challenge and so I kept going. Bollocks to the rain.

I joined The Monarchs Way and decided to just walk until I came across somewhere to wild camp. Nothing. Not even any safe place for water and I was running out.

Then out of nowhere I walked passed a Texaco garage. I filled up my water and bought a bunch of food & snacks to feast on before moving on in good spirits.

Just past Tong Norton and before Bishops Wood I found the perfect field hidden by a large hedgerow. It was part of an Outdoor Kids Nursery and no one was around. I did knock on the door of the building and, with no answer, set up camp for the night.

It had stopped raining a few hours ago so I dried the tent out and cooked some food. When full I climbed into my bag and slept with the intention to get up early and be away before the place opened.

13th July 2016 – Bishops Wood to Penkridge.

I slept well but had a weird dream that someone dragged me out my tent. I woke up early and for once it wasn’t raining. But the inner was still wet. Sally was right, looked like condensation so she’ll read this and no doubt I’ll get a “told you so” 🙂

I was packed and away before 7 and ate on the go. It was a 3 hour walk to Penkridge and I’d booked a room in a B&B which I as going to use. I wanted a warm bed for the night and the opportunity to clean and dry some stuff out.

On my way I stopped by a pub called The Swan At Whiston and ate a snack. The landlady (called Helen) came out and offered me a cup of tea. We talked about my walk, the work The Youth Adventure Trust do and how kids don’t get outside enough now. She was a lovely lady and that act of kindness and social interaction really helped. 

I got to the B&B before 11, checked in, showered and starting drying stuff out. I also took a walk around the local farmers market and even managed to get some replacement liner walking socks and t-shirt. There was no washing the ones I had. They were beyond help.

After getting back, taking a long nap, rotating stuff on the dry rail in the bathroom and eating I went to bed and slept. Really well.

14th July 2016 – Penkridge to Uttoxeter

I left the B&B and walked along a nice canal tow path where it joined the Staffordshire Way. From there I went through Brocton Country Park, following a maze of paths. Some on the map and some not. I really had to concentrate to keep on the right trail.

I came across some DoE kids on their bronze assessment going the wrong way, stressed and arguing. I offered them some help by showing them how to set the map and locate where they were. I waved them off clearly in a better mood.

Leaving the forest I joined the Trent and Mersey Canal tow path for a bit. The weather was picking up and the walking good. I even raced a canal boat for a bit, talking to the owners, people walking their dog and other boat owners.

After a while I got to my scheduled stop at Abbotts Bromley but decided to keep going to Uttoxeter. The weather was good and I was having an awesome days walk.

I was an hour outside Uttoxeter, walking through a farmers yard, when a pack of dogs came running out at me. There was a mix of Jack Russell’s, Collies and Alsations making noise. The farmer tried to call them back and then the old Alsation decided he didn’t like me and bit me.

Trying to keep calm and not agitate it I backed away and made for the exit. I really wanted to give the farmer some grief as he didn’t check I was ok or apologise but decided keeping a calm head and leaving was better.

I got to Uttoxeter and checked my leg. It had broken the skin and I figured I needed a tetanus. I checked into a B&B, cleaned the bite and spoke to the owners who told me where the local surgery was for the morning.

After getting some supplies and eating I had an early night.

15th July 2016 – Uttoxeter to Biggin

I got up, had a quick breakfast and headed to the doctors. Thankfully they would see me and I got a tetanus booster. With that done I set off for Thorpe.

Through fields and paths I got to Rocester where it started raining. I honestly don’t think I’ve had two days of consistent good weather. Waterproofs on I kept going through muddy tracks in forests and overgrown paths along fields.

I got to Thorpe by 2PM, my next scheduled stop, but decided to keep going and look for somewhere to camp.

I followed Dove Dale and got to Biggin by 6PM where I camped in a pub beer garden. Two guys welcomed me, as I put my tent up, with a beer and burger. I got talking to them. They were taking the weekend to unwind, get out in the countryside and go for a walk.

After a while I went back to my tent, cooked some food and slept. 

16th July 2016 – Biggin to Youlgreave

I woke up at 6AM to the gentle sound of rain on my tent. After snoozing for a bit I ate breakfast and left. I said goodbye to the brothers, who were surprisingly up after going to bed after 1AM.

It was a short 3 hour walk to Youlgreave where I had a bed booked in a hostel. I could have kept walking but it would have messed up things down the line on this leg. I knew I would have plenty time to make up days on the Peninne Way.

17th July 2016 – Youlgreave to Hathersage

I fell asleep at 8:30 and was woken at midnight by a drunk guy coming in the dorm and then starting to snore. I managed to get back to sleep but made sure he was woken up early the next morning. Selfish idiot.

I left the hostel at 7:30 after breakfast as I wanted to get to Hathersage in good time and the weather looked good.

I walked fields and tracks to Edensor where I crossed into Chatsworth Park. This whole private estate had a Richmond Park feel with deer and sheep roaming freely.

It was a nice walk to the start of Curbar Edge. It was here I met a guy called Andrew Skidmore and we talked about long distance walking, Scotland and how youth hostels had changed. He also kindly donated £5 towards my cause. The generosity of strangers still amazes me.

Curbar Edge was a delight. It was a clear day and the views inspiring. It was also pretty busy being a Sunday and the sun making an appearance.

After and hour or so I started my descent into Hathersage along a river which rounded the walk off nicely.

I had somehow messed up my booking at the hostel but the manager sorted me out so after a shower I went out to meet Sandie.

We had met a few times on EC events so it was good to see a familiar face. He treat me to dinner and a few pints and we caught up. I could only manage a few hours wrote the beer got to me and I felt tired. Bit gutted as I like Sandies company but I wanted my bed.

I got back to the hostel, sorted my kit out and went to bed.

18th July 2016 – Hathersage to Holmfirth

I got up early as a result of my early night and left in good time. Today was going to be a long hard day so I didn’t mind. I was going over tough terrain I hadnt really walked in a while.

It was a slow steady climb up to Stanage Edge, I was sweating when I got there but the views were worth it. I followed the path round to Moscar Moor and Lost Lad before making my way to Upper Derwent Reservoir.

Here I followed a cycle path along the reservoir, made my way up Margery Hill and over Midhope Moors. It was a hard climb up and I was in the open during probably the hottest period of the day. And running low on water.

It was a long slow descent down into a small valley where there was a stream feeding into Langsett Reservoir. I dropped my rucksack and waded in to cool off.

Once done I followed the Trans Peninne Way to Dunford Bridge and then on to Holmefirth where I found a nice place to camp, eat, get out the sun and sleep.

19th July – Holmefirth to Hebden Bridge

Today was another long hot day in the sun. Hate to say it but I could have done with some cloud or even a nice shower. Had to keep covered and drink lots from streams.

I followed a trail out of Holmefirth and made my way to Digley Reservoir. Another sweat on before 9!!!

At Wessenden Reservoir I joined the Peninne Way for a bit before splitting off on a trail to Marsden. I took the chance to take a break and hide in the shade and load up on fresh water. Only mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun. I surely must be mad as it was blazing.

I joined the Kirklees Way for a bit and passed more small reservoirs, filling my water as I went. Crossing the M62 I followed more trails through fields and trails, skirting round Manshead Hill. Just couldn’t bear going up in the sun with a heavy pack on.

I dropped off the moor and could see Hebden Bridge. It was a slow walk, sticking to the shade where I could, to the nearest place that sold ice creams. Where I had two on the bounce.

Hebden Bridge was my scheduled stop for the day and the end of this leg. I had a rest day, which I was taking. I needed to be out of the sun and wanted to rest before joining the Peninne Way. I had plans to try and get through that quicker than I had scheduled and make up some days.

Final Thoughts

The weather. I started this leg in rain and ended it in blazing sun. Two very different environments to walk in. I’m still waiting for the happy medium. Walking in heavy rain all day can be soul destroying but walking in sun can sap the energy out of you. Still, it’s just weather and so long as I can put one foot in front of the other then that’s the main thing.

I know I can be moody at times but throwing tantrums at the stupidest thing like the weather was daft. This was meant to be a challenge and I knew it would be hard. Pointless whinging about it. It took a kinda kick up the arse from someone who’s been there and done it for me to realise that. So now I just have to get on and deal with it. 

People have been so good and kind on this leg. Total strangers I’ve had a 5-10 minute conversation with have been interested in the walk, the charity and just generally happy to talk. Even given me, a random stranger, money for the walk takes me by surprise. With everything wrong with the world it’s good to know that deep down this planet has a lot of good souls.

Dogs freak out. It’s the rucksack. I’m quite good with dogs but some of the canines I’ve come across just freak when they see this extra thing on my back. Most just back away and bark until I get down to their level and they come over for a closer look. Then they’re OK. But that farm dog was nuts.

Overall this leg has been a mixed bag. A lot of boring walks through fields and forests until I hit the PeakDistrict. From that point I was hit with wonderful views and some truly beautiful experiences.

Now I have a rest day to try and work on my tan and get rid of these stupid tan lines from wearing a t-shirt.

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