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posted by John on 6th Jul 2018

In these desert days of July, we Stalwarts have encountered inexplicable and uncontrollable urges for the long-lost feeling of damp, if not wet feet, in our wanderings over the dusty, dry moors. Expectations for such wetness were therefore low in the sunny evening as we left the lofty and probably temporary cairn/pile of stones at the start of the Broomhead track. In deference to the current might and height of the Ewden rhododendrons and bracken, the chief Stalwart had planned a less robust route for the remaining five underling Stalwarts, by aiming up the track to the left towards to the Dukes Road more permanent cairn. Dodging through the heather to find the best going, Tim, Eoin and I reached the Dukes Road well to the left of the cairn and, as we were making good progress on the Road, the admonishing shout of “Road runners!” arose from the rest of the Stalwarts, Andy, John and birthday boy Clive.

It was all to change shortly afterwards. After a relatively short sprint along the Road, we headed off it to the presciently named Hobson Moss Dyke; that is, we had no choice, the chief was leading (we were willing followers), and both Moss and Dyke gave a possible hint of the upcoming summer delight. There was a strong sense of anticipation as we approached a bank of rushes (through which we did not rush) and we were fully prepared, through recent experiences of similar terrain, for disappointment.But, a squeal, yes, a squeal of delight arose from deep within rushes, “Ecstasy, ecstasy!” It is rare, nay, if not unprecented, for such a cry to be heard on a Stalwarts’ outing. The enjoyment of having the pleasure of both feet being fully immersed in dark brown peaty water after so long, was just too much for the chief Stalwart to control his emotion. In true Hobson’s choice manner, we all followed hoping for the same uplifting result but there were complaints (can you believe it?), “My shoes and socks are wet and dirty, I’ll have to wash them”, “Where are my thigh length waders? This latter query set off a wave of fantasy which, frankly, is utterly unpublishable so it will not be reported and will be left to the reader’s imagination, if it can be stretched to such depths.

The now dark feet, fell runners continued to the HMD stream via a steep, deep brackened descent requiring full body coordination to maintain some level of dignity whilst sliding uncontrollably to the stream. Some chose to go for a further feet wetting experience in the stream waters whilst, for others, the surfeit of the previous excitement was sufficient to warrant a delicate tip toe across the dry rocks. The uncontrollable sliding continued, this time as we tried to climb out of the stream through more bracken and heather. It was all worth it to reach the rocking stone on the corridor route and, of course, we six obliged by rocking the stone. Having enjoyed the HMD crossing so much, it had to be repeated to reach the Dukes Road near Bruston Croft Ridge. This proved to be an exercise in waist high heather wading. It’s useful to occasionally remind oneself of, and to practice such skills which require almost a hurdling style of motion, that being a cross between walking and running with high knee lifting. In the glaring evening sunshine and the deep heather, it appeared that six legless athletes were wobbling into the sunset. A sight to remember and treasure!

Whilst there was some attraction to going to the swamp at the Hunter wreck crater, it was considered to be a stride too far so we took to the path (?) down Oaken Clough and then along to the café (we deluded ourselves) shooting cabin. Having relished the previous deep heather traverses, my heel was beginning to object so, in what was, I hope, a temporary aberration, I (and John) took the track back to the cars rather than the direct line over the moor. John and I did experience the courtesy of a lady who stood aside to let us continue at speed along the track’s soft grassy central reservation. For future reference, the track is only marginally quicker than the direct line.

It was a great moorland outing with a count of four hares and, in the car on the way back to the pub at Bradfield, a ghostly white barn owl flew across the road. A splendid birthday present for Clive!

Graham

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