We entered the Derbyshire 6 Dales Challenge last summer with a group of friends. John came across it and thought it’d be a good one… a 26 mile (42k) run or walk through Biggin Dale, Wolfscote Dale, Beresford Dale, Lathkill Dale, Bradford Dale and Long Dale, with not too much ascent… a welcome change after last week’s Welsh 3000s challenge. However, as the time approached, we’d heard nothing from Pure Challenge, the event organiser, and after some investigation, John found out they’d gone bust, without letting us know!
We had an email from Pure Challenge in December, thanking us for signing up, promising a route map, a training plan, refreshments at checkpoints, and a medal at the finish. The training plan arrived in January, I paid £5 for parking in April, and we were advised an event pack would arrive shortly… it never did! It was only in the last week that we realised and John found out that their website and Facebook pages were no longer active.
He read that an earlier event, the 3 Lochs Challenge, had been cancelled, with some people travelling from the south of England to Scotland before they heard that Pure Challenge had ceased trading. Others had had similar issues with a cycling event and, unfortunately, it seems it’s too late to get a Paypal refund, although people who have paid by credit card may have more luck.
It’s dreadful that nobody emailed us to apologise and let us know that Pure Challenge had gone into administration and the events weren’t taking place. People had booked accommodation, arranged transport and got sponsorship to raise money for charities. Nevertheless, it seems lots of people, us included, decided to do the events anyway. For the 6 Dales Challenge, this was fairly easy. There are villages en route to top up on refreshments and it’s circular, so we didn’t need a shuttle. John, Anne, Mark and I had booked an Airbnb in Buxton. We drove there after work on Friday, packed our kit, then headed out for something to eat and a few drinks.
On the day of the challenge we got up early and had breakfast before driving to Hurdlow, the nearest point on the challenge route to Buxton. The weather was perfect… warm and sunny but with some cloud and a slight breeze to stop it getting too hot. We set off eastwards at about 8.30, in a clockwise direction, which I later found out was the opposite direction to what was originally intended for the challenge.
After passing through Monyash, we reached our first dale, Lathkill Dale, which followed a deep river valley, surrounded by wild flower meadows with limestone escarpments high above. Beautiful!
We skirted Youlgreave before walking along Bradford Dale where there were a series of crystal clear mill ponds formed by dams with old, rusty metal sluice gates. The pools were full of large trout, and ducks and moorhens with their babies.
We then stopped in Middleton for lunch. We’d now done about 15k and a third of the challenge, and so far we’d run most of it and were pretty pleased with our progress. We had hoped to visit Molly Moo’s tearoom for coffee and cake but, unfortunately, it’s closed down. We weren’t having much luck with this challenge! Instead, we sat on benches in the village and ate cheese sandwiches, which John had brought home from his school trip on Friday because the children had refused them!
The next leg of the challenge took us through Gratton Dale and Long Dale to Newhaven. A lot of this was uphill so we did much more walking now. Once again, we were far below limestone cliffs and surrounded by pretty wild flower meadows. Now and again we passed old mine shafts, going deep into the hillside. The path was very rough under foot in places and it was now quite hot and sticky because the sun was high in the sky and there was no breeze in the valleys. The challenge was starting feel more difficult now.
We were pleased to see a bar when we met the main road at Newhaven. We ordered cold drinks and food, and topped up our hydration pouches with cold water. Suitably refreshed, we set off towards Biggin, where the event should have started, and the last 2 dales, Biggin Dale and Wolfscote Dale. We’d worked out that we now had about 16 kilometres or 10 miles left to go, with the small town of Hartington in the middle… just 2 more 8ks with a beer in the middle!
I was starting to get tired now, but the others were still going strong. Mark tried to get me to run a couple of times, but I was so hot and my feet were so sore that I struggled. Nevertheless, I was still enjoying the challenge, the lovely Derbyshire dales and the company of John, Anne and Mark, which distracted me from my aches and pains. We also kept meeting other people who’d booked to do the event and had decided to do the challenge anyway.
In Hartington we stopped at the pub for cold drinks. We’d now done about 36k (22 miles) and I’d worked out that the challenge was going to be more than the expected 26 miles, but told myself ‘Not much further now… just 8k’. We set off steeply uphill from the town, chatting again to others who were going the challenge, and glad we didn’t have as far left as they did. Then we had a long section across open fields, with great views before dropping down to a farm, where the farmer introduced us to the goats.
Finally, we reached the old railway track back to Hurdlow where the car was parked. It was a bit of a trudge along it, but we arrived back at the car park sooner than I expected, at about 6 o’clock. 45k (28miles) with 800 m ascent in 9hrs 25 minutes (7hrs 18 minutes moving time). We had a celebratory drink at the pub before heading back for a shower. What a fantastic walk! All 6 Dales had their own slightly different character, and all were absolutely beautiful, especially at this time of year with all the wild flowers in bloom and the sun shining.
The evening was topped off with a lovely meal in the Gurkha Tingmo Palace in Buxton, then singing along to The Gastro Band who were playing in the Cheshire Cat pub. I’m sure we all fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.