The Tour De France Grand Depart, as anyone with a TV or radio will know, started from Yorkshire this year. And whilst I’ve never had more than a passing interest in watching bike races; it seemed crazy not to be part of such an enthusiastically embraced event, living so close as I do to part of the route.
By close, I mean I could have headed off into Huddersfield (about 7 miles away) on the train with my wife and daughter (not just The Grand Depart swinging through but a Food and Drink festival, hmmm … tempting).
Or, I could hike over the moors to Holme Moss (about 6 miles each way) with my son and son in law (man I feel old typing that, ho hum).
The moors won out and the three of us (four, with Brodie Dog) headed off up Wessenden Valley, across towards Black Hill summit and then tracked across to Holme Moss, where we joined (apparently) 60,000. There were less people right at the summit where we were compared to lower down the valley but still enough to line both sides of the road to see the bikes whizz through. It was a great atmosphere.
It was pretty humid on the outward journey and Brodie is starting to drag her feet more and more on longer walks, kind of sad to see but she still likes a yomp out.
It was perfect weather at the summit of Holme Moss and she / we had plenty of water to revive with, ready for the return walk (avec un short sharp shower just near Black Hill which caught out the surprising number of folks without waterproofs).
I’ve never seen the moors across to Holme Moss so busy, it looked how I imagine the Kinder Scout mass trespass must have years ago.
Below is a little film I put together with my GoPro.
I thought the NSPCC North HACK, albeit 22 miles long, would be maybe a bit of breeze. I based this tremendously complacent view on the fact that I had just walked 3 days and 45 miles or so along a hot Ridgeway Trail and carrying a heavy rucksack at that.
So 22 miles along some (to my mind) gentle gradients in Calderdale, with just a light daypack, would be an easier jaunt, right?
Without over egging it, it was a challenge indeed. A day of midges and nettle stings, humidity and steep gradients (the downhills can be a tiring as the uphills can’t they?).
But it was also a day of varied and beautiful landscapes, peaceful woods, valley views and wide skies. And great company: both my own ‘team’ of Jenny, Taru and Karl and also the other folk we met along the way, including the enthusiastic and hospitable volunteer stewards and checkpoint staff.
The other reason for my complacency was that I thought I knew the area. My Dad and Step Mum lived, until recently, just below Stoodley Pike. I assumed we’d start and finish the hike at around the Pike contour level and traverse a horseshoe of Calderdale hills tops. I know, “read the map”.. it was my fault, the NSPCC briefing pack was really good and showed the up and downs. If only I’d have read the map fully.
Also my Dad’s Mum and Dad – my grandparents – lived in the Illingworth area (downhill from where we were starting, which was at the friendly Moorlands Inn on the Keighley Road) for 40+ years. I used to look up and across sloping farm fields and hills from their garden – and those blue remembered hills of schoolboy holidays were gentle ones.
As I say, I don’t want to over egg it, I was never in doubt I’d complete the day but it was a tad tougher than I’d prepped for :-)
And family connections to both the area and to the reason for the walk itself started to resonate with me as I completed the challenge. One of the roadside stewards was a bit emotional when she clapped us as we passed her. She told us that she worked as a Childline Counsellor and said that without the hikers taking part in the annual HACK Challenge, there’d be less money to fund posts like hers. It was a bit gratifying but also humbling to hear that. And it occurred to me then that the service, had it been around in my Dad’s day, may have helped what I’ll euphemistically call ‘bad times’ he had as a boy. Which is as far as I’ll share on that, but that connection was made in my head and I mulled it over for the remainder of the day.
Anyway, back to cheery stuff: we traversed some lovely countryside, and took in wooded dells, agricultural vistas, expansive moorland and commanding hilltops.
And there was a nice sense of camaraderie.. even sharing some banter with folk on a different challenge (they were doing a 50 mile 24 hour challenge and had started out in pretty much the opposite direction to us over in Littleborough, Lancashire).
I seem to do one sponsored /official type challenge each year, for a variety of reasons and I’m glad to say this one was really enjoyable.
Good work, NSPCC volunteers and organisers .. great finish line BBQ too!
I filmed bits of it with my GoPro and if you haven’t visited this part of Yorkshire here’s a taster of how lovely it is:
Hot on the (blistered) heels of The Ridgeway trail hike, I did a shortish walk this weekend with friends Taru and Jenny.
We took part in the Marsden 10 Mile Challenge, which starts in the village then heads over towards Meltham and back along the Wessenden Valley. Essentially following the flanks of the Shooters Nab : West Nab ‘massif’. (Maybe not a massif as such but I’m not actually sure how to describe this extruded saddle shaped area of the moors).