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: