Penny, Clive and Roger made a very welcome return to the Slow Warts’ fold at the Midhopestones elbow for a venture into the north east of the Dark Peak. Andy had planned an ambitious outing, (untempered by Bob who was away on Barra) with, as he put it, a sting in the tail. So, the proposal was a gentle climb up the track by Sugden Clough, joining Cut Gate and then, somehow, also including Tom’s Tree, the Stirling wreck (10 crew survived as we 10 Warts did tonight), Margery Hill and Pike Lowe. Would we be needing torches?
Having shared all our usual medical bulletins, we set off on the unforgiving concrete track thankfully leaving it for a cut through the wood to the open country of Range Moor where more concrete had to be endured. Later, on the return, we would welcome the concrete! On the softer Sugden track we reminisced about our last visit there and the rail track for decoy tanks, underground storage and unexploded shells. In this relaxed state, ambling gradually upwards, there was even a discussion, with Jim, on grandchildren’s names All this laid-back approach to Slow Warting was not what we’re about and even the prospect of the hard rocky Cut Gate would not satisfy our current lust for challenging vegetation so we plunged into the heather towards Tom’s Tree in Hawthorn Clough rather than the planned Margery Hill.
But, be careful what you wish for. In a reverse of childhood memories appearing to increase the size of things, the heather seemed to now be twice the size it had been or, more probably, my legs have shortened or, would you believe it, the heather may have grown. I did spend time distracting myself from our high stepping heather traversing technique thinking about its possible benefits, possibly hurdling training, skin exfoliation and even seed and compost collection, the latter only apparent when separating such from my socks before washing. However, such diversionary tactics were only marginally successful compared with the effects of Chris’s vegan fruit pastilles handed out at Tom’s Tree which brought smiles to our faces.
Now, I was fantasising about smooth bowling greens only to be presented serendipitously with a patch of smooth green sward. This was too tempting. Almost immediately, though, and whilst floundering up to my thighs in the swamp, I was trying desperately to recall the Slow Warts’ bog backstroke escape technique. Chris was on hand to offer advice (and pastilles) and I emerged, re-energised from the mud bath. This and the continuing bleeding exfoliation provide Slow Warts with their beautiful glowing wrinkle free skin.
The search was now on for the Stirling wreck. We spread out widely, eyeing up the various scattered white posts trying to distinguish the plastic ones from the corroded wreck aluminium ones. Then there were the shouts from Andy and Tom who had found wreckage higher up the hillside than we had expected. Reaching it we passed other bits to arrive for the first time ever at a wooden weatherworn sign indicating the wreck. The definitive check point for the Stirling wreck race, if it’s ever run again.
Encouraged by the success of finding the wreck, Andy and Tom went separate long ways towards Pike Lowe, spreading all of us out on different lines through continuing and continuing deep heather and alone with our thoughts. I imagine they were not all repeatable. We regathered at Pike Lowe and continued on a direct descent over the ultimate tough going, heather covered rocks and, to complete our skin therapy, some orange iron oxide ooze was paddled through. And then to concrete, welcome concrete, back on Range Moor. I have to admit though, the welcome was short lived as heels and bones became well battered.
We all ten gathered again, this time in the convivial surroundings of the Plough in Low Bradfield, for a few pints and a post run analysis. An epic and memorable two and a half hour outing, a true Slow Warts’ experience. A big thanks to all.