Alwinton Round 2010

6 Jun

I woke up this morning 12 hours after completing this years Alwinton Round, and everything still hurts, only more so because I have stiffened up. Yowch.

Anyway, now that I am a little less knackered and dehydrated I thought I would post a bit more of a formal report on the challenge walk.

Sean and I set off from Hartlepool at 7.30am and got to Alwinton about 9am. Simon pulled into the car park just after us. Whilst us three crazy people were walking the Alwinton Round the rest of Darlington Hills and Dales group were having a pub session in Darlington (a. because the weather is stunning, and b. because it’s Justin’s birthday this weekend).

We checked in, and then sat outside in the sunshine, which was already hot at that time in the morning, watching then rest of the people with one screw loose arrive.

There were three walks happening that day, and a run. The three walks were the 20mile big walk that we were doing, and a 16 mile long walk, both of which started at 10. There was also a 6 mile Family Fun walk going off around midday. The run was starting from another village and were running a slightly shorter version of the course that we were doing, only the other way around.

So, 10am came and we all set off with smiles and jokes, and with the sun beating down on us. We had about 8 check points that we had to check-in with on the way around, so that they could make sure we hadn’t dropped down dead somewhere or fallen down a hole. We climbed out of the village, eating up the first two miles relatively quickly and dropped down to the first check point.

After that checkpoint we began to slowly climb through a pine forest (blessed shade!) and emerged (damn sunshine) to begin toiling up a very steep hill. It was long, and hot, and we were still pretty bunched together so the going was slow. Lots of people stopped to enjoy the view – whilst panting, sweating and cursing why they ever thought this was a good idea. Luckily they got out of the way so that we could get past them.

Here’s a picture of the climb – this isn’t my image, and it was taken in 2009, but you get the idea of the climb and the wonderful views:
Alwinton Round

Finally, at the top of the hill, we met the second checkpoint. By this point we had done just short of 5 miles and walked for about 1 hour 40 mins. A lot of people flopped down on the top there to eat their lunch but we pushed on for another 20 minutes, striding across the top and dropping down slightly to a grassy area. We stopped for 15 mins to have a drink and something to eat, and then walked on, cross uneven peaty ground before meeting a water point. We downed a cup of orange squash, and then began our next climb. Another long steep one, and it was about 1pm so the sun was absolutely un-relentless. We puffed and panted our way up to the top and signed in with the next check point.

At that point we began to meet some of the runner who were coming in the other direction. They looked like death, and seeing as I had only walked about 8 miles by that point and felt like death, I wasn’t surprised. The sweat was pouring off them, and they couldn’t even raise a smile as they jogged up hill through peaty bog, which to walk on feels like walking on soft sand sucking on your legs, so to run on must be horrific!

From the checkpoint we walked through the soft peaty moorland and began to drop down, only to reach another hill to climb in the heat. Again, it was a steep one, and we were feeling pretty weary but onwards we went until we reached the top, and then signed in with the check point. Lots of people seemed to stop at this checkpoint for lunch, but seeing as we had already eaten our first lunch, we walked on, descending a long way.

Half-way down the descent the route split, with the 16 miles going straight on, and the 20 milers going right. We obviously went right, and continued to descend what seemed like a really long way, and when we looked back up the hill proved to be a really long way, down to a farm where we crossed a stream, and then began to climb (again!) and into some pine forest.

There was a group of about 8 of us walking together at this point. The trees afforded some shade but this was a long slow drag of a climb up through the trees, and occasionally over and around fallen trees (obstacles are always so welcome when you are knackered). We carried on (and on) and eventually emerged from the trees into the heat of the sun. We had done about 11 miles at this point, so we had passed the half-way point but we were feeling pretty tired.

We walked along the border ridge between Scotland and England for about about half a mile, and then ahead of us was the big steep climb up to Windy Gill, the highest point on the walk. Steeling ourselves we agreed that the best course of action would be to press on to the summit where we would reward ourselves with a water and food stop for about 15 minutes. So, engaging ‘plod mode’ we plodded.

The top was another checkpoint so we got our cards stamped and then sat down to a drink and food whilst enjoying the absolutely stunning views from the top of England, across the Cheviot hills. And yes, the sun was still shining!

We had about 8 miles to go, and the North of Tyne Search and Rescue team reassured us that it was all downhill now, until the next climb – gotta love the sense of humor! 🙂

So, refuelled with water and food, and feeling a bit better having had a sit down for 10 minutes, we set off, descending from the top of Windy Gill, walking down across open grassy moorland which is usually used for army training (I found a smoke grenade!!) and then into a pine forest (ahhh cool cool shade) before emerging at the bottom and having to climb (again?) but not as steep as before (thankfully) passing through two more check points, who also provided water for us to drink.
Alwinton Round

At the second checkpoint we passed through the nice man refilled my water bottle, which was now empty, and the wooden footpath sign indicated it was only 6.5 miles back to Alwinton, which correlated with my Garmin. So, we trotted off again, up a gravel road, which wound uphill (it would wind uphill) through what was once a pine forest but had recently been chopped down leaving an ugly scar on the landscape. The next four miles were pretty much along this sort of road, which was a bit dull and not very nice under foot. Eventually we came upon the last check-point located at the top of a steep climb, where we checked in and got a cup of orange squash.

From here it was 2.5 miles back to Alwinton, and thankfully we had left the gravel path and were striding though sheep fields of cropped grass, with the strength of the sun beginning to wane, and the going mostly descent, with the odd small ascent.
Alwinton 2010

Finally, we crested a ridge and saw the hamlet of Alwinton below us nestled in the valley bottom. We let out a cheer, and stumbled down the gravel path to the village below and into the pub to check-in and let them know we had completed safely. They handed us a certificate and a packed lunch and we stumbled into the pub garden, where we flopped onto the grass and drank lots and lots of water, and scarfed lots of food!
Alwinton Round

I was really pleased to have achieved this. I like distance walks but the ones I have done in the past have been in less intense heat, and a lot less climbing. We made good time doing to 20 miles in 7.5 hours, including checkpoint stops and rest breaks (of which there were 2) so in total the walking time was about 7 hours.

I don’t know if I feel the need to do the 20 mile Alwinton walk again, but I would be tempted to do the 16 miles walk perhaps. Although certainly not today! My legs and ankles really hurt, and my right foot is bothering me with the sort of pain I had when I got a stress fracture in my left foot. As a result I am not going to run next week, instead it will be biking and gym sessions.

My plan for Junethon for the next few days is as follows:

Sunday: Walk (if it stays dry) or Yoga session
Monday: Bike and Yoga
Tuesday: Bike
Wednesday: Bike or Gym
Thursday: Holiday – walking in Speyside
Friday: Holiday – walking in Speyside
Saturday: Holiday – walking in Speyside
Sunday: Holiday – walking in Speyside

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