Thursday, 15 July 2010

White Peaks expedition

Basic Expedition Leadership
White Peaks expedition
July 2010

The Duke of Edinburgh expedition leadership training came to an end last weekend, and what a weekend it was.

The programme covers all aspects of expedition leadership and supervision, and that includes going through everything the young people are asked to do, and then some. So, we spent the weekend doing a Dof E Bronze expedition in the Peak District.

I knew this was coming at the outset and didn't give it too much thought. Two days and two 15/17 km hikes - it cant be too difficult can it? The reality proved to be surprisingly challenging, and most of us felt tested in one way or another.

All Saints Church Grindon

We spent Friday night at Wetton in the Peak District, a few miles to the north if Ilam on the edge of the Manifold Valley. The plan was to eat at the village pub, but they stopped serving 15 mins before I got there so my three course meal consisted of a bag of crisps, a Picnic bar and a packet of dry roast peanuts all washed down with a pint of Old Speckled Hen. Not a very balanced meal but I guess that the calories were there.

Cecilia's audience was not amoosed

The camp site is an open farm field and after a broken night's sleep on a roll mat we were up and on the move by seven thirty am. Our small group had decided to take a direct approach to the walk, dropping down into the Manifold valley and then straight up the other side into Grindon with its pretty church. Then it was west over rolling farmland to Onecote and then on to Leek.

We spotted a pub just off the route in Leek and decided to make this a lunchtime destination. I had forgotten my sandwiches so was much relieved to see meals advertised. I ordered my pint only to discover that they only do food on Sundays - great. More chocolate, peanuts and some cereal bars I had brought along.

Dog stiles in the Peak District National Park

It had become hotter and hotter all morning and the heavy backpacks were playing havoc with my hips and calf muscles. The break at the pub merely served to see everything tighten up and with the thermometer pushing the high 20's the afternoon fast became an endurance test. We picked up the Staffordshire Moorlands Way as it ran to the east of Tittesworth Reservoir, trying to find some respite from the sun and the horse flies which give a terrible bite if they manage to sink their proboscis into you.

Staffordshire Moorland near Leek

Finally, at about 4.30pm we made a final weary ascent to the camp site in Upper Hulme. This turned out to be another spartan affair used by the climbers on the Roaches. Not even a tap - let alone a toilet or shower. There was a tap and loo at the farm 300 metres down the hill, but not what you wanted after a day drenched in sweat.

Journey's end - and the only tap!

Hey ho. There was a tea room nearby which offered five slimy hikers a genteel cream tea experience just before closing time - nectar!

I guess we could have gone to the village pub in the evening but we couldn't face the walk back up the hill. Instead I ate my savoury rice with sardines (an unlikely but nourishing combination) and nattered away till the daylight failed and we all gratefully turned in ready to repeat the whole thing again the next day. Strange, but carry mats are no more comfortable on the second night that the first. The good thing was that I was so dehydrated that the usual nocturnal walk to a convenient wall was avoided.

Mre of the return trip tomorrow.

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