35 miles in “one day” - DJS Research take on the Gritstone Trail for the Thomas Theyer Foundation
29th July 2019 14:56
Firstly, I should start with a confession from the group. We did not in fact walk all of the 35 miles (the full length of the Gritstone Trail from Kidsgrove to Disley) in one day, as we'd originally planned. That would have been 35 miles of relentless canal paths and ill defined mud tracks shrouded by rain; 35 miles of field after field, over stiles of varying height and fiendish complexity, through overgrown paths where nettles and insects lay in ambush, up long hills, then down them, then up them, past fields of suspicious cows and their accomplice sheep and on and on into the interminable distance. It would be folly to do that in one day. So, we decided to do it in two days, which should be fine, or so we thought at the time, before it all began.
Thomas Theyer, a young man of just 18 years, lost his life whilst running in the hills, something he loved to do. We only found out later that the day we started the walk (19th July) was 6 years to the actual day when he died, just a month after his 18th birthday.
We were here to walk in his memory and to raise money for the Thomas Theyer Foundation, an organisation set up to provide opportunities in the outdoors for children and young adults. Thomas had been diagnosed with Dyspraxia and ADHD and found exercise and the outdoors extremely beneficial. One of our team, Chris (from the data department) had also been diagnosed with Dyspraxia and recognised the benefits of exercise for his condition, so had been keen to take part.
We set off, our “band of fools”, with great enthusiasm. A team of mostly men, either old enough to know better or too young to know, held together by the sense and direction of Kelly. The aim to complete a quick 10 miles before embarking on the entirety of the damn thing on Saturday. We started in Kidsgrove down a long canal path and within a mile, the heavens emptied and we were soaked from head to toe, squidging along in our wet shoes to a discordant rhythm, like some depressed army of the wet. We missed a turning and realising too late we had to turn back. Confidence in the map reader (Me) took a turn.
After a long upward slope we passed Mow Cop Castle and posed for photos, a little cheered by having actually reached something. Then we walked along two long ridges, from where unfolded the Cheshire plain, in all its glory. I pointed out Jodrell Bank to all and any who were interested, a landmark that would come back to haunt us. We could see the hill, the Cloud, dead ahead of us and after a little longer than planned (4 hours) we made it there where we would then pause for the evening, get dry and resume with the plodding festivities the next day.
Saturday: On to Teggs Nose
We met early at the car park at the bottom of the hill, the Cloud. The day began with a magic trick (!) as my Dad (“Mike Hinde of Magic”) had given me a lift, so he did a quick card trick in the car park before we set off and everyone was impressed. If only he could magic us to the pub at the end.
The Cloud is a majestic edifice, that looks down from on high to the ordinary, small and insignificant plateau below, much like the team at DJS that shares its name. We had climbed it by about 9am and surveyed the panorama of the Cheshire plain as far as the eye could reach. Stood on the rocks at the very top of the peak at the beginning of the day, we felt alive. Once again, I pointed out the landmark of Jodrell Bank, and everyone nodded, still with some enthusiasm.
We descended from the Cloud and therein started a long walk over an infinite patchwork of field after field. At some point, rain threatened, and then came good on its threats as it unleashed a relentless torrent on us which felt like an hour, but might have been less. The main issue was where the water went; in our shoes, down our shorts, in our ears and we just didn’t seem to dry. The water in our shoes was a real worry as this could cause blisters.
After much more walking and a long climb, we reached the BT mast, another Cheshire landmark like Jodrell Bank. The rain stopped and the sun came out as we stood on high surveying Cheshire again and with clear views of Manchester and its tall buildings. We were a little tired, but with that exercise glow and sense of satisfaction at what we had achieved so far (nearly half way!). Danny was on good form and entertained us as we descended with his repertoire of business catchphrases.
It was my job as hike leader to find a suitable location for lunch where everyone could get much needed rest and energy in a peaceful and appropriate spot. I had noticed that the rain had stopped and saw a sheltered area in a peaceful glade, so we stopped there for lunch. All of the damn heavens literally opened at that point and water gushed through the tree branches down to us below. But lunch had been started and we sat and grimly pursued our wet sandwiches, pelted with rain, with not a word between us, before moving on, at which point the bloody sun came out.
Our focus now was the hill of Teggs Nose, so called because it looks like a large nose. We had a stop to swap to dry socks and add blister plasters. Chris was suffering with blisters and felt he would drop out at Langley before the nose. We knew there might be some casualties.
As we approached the giant nose, I suggested to Chris that it might be a better finish to the day to have climbed one final hill. Steve suggested a change of shoes and Chris changed into some football boots, which seemed to work and a new lease of life was coming to him. He finished that climb and decided to carry on to the end. We met David at the top of Teggs Nose, come to help us with the final stretch and gave us all Kinder Eggs to keep us motivated. We sat in the café like refugees from some awfully wet war and ate all of the cakes.
The Final Stretch
We had just 10 miles to go, but there were some hills to climb. A first highlight on this stretch was the landmark of White Nancy, a large white, bell shaped structure at the top of a ridge, gleaming in the sun. Something to do with Napoleon someone said and everyone nodded. No-one was remotely interested in Jodrell Bank, which we could still see, any more.
As we carried on, Chris had really started to come alive. He had taken to barrelling down the hills accompanied by the loud clatter of his football boots, like some sort of demented Roy of the Rovers. “Chris incoming!!” we all shouted to warn others. Those magical boots had really done the trick.
Danny was becoming increasingly sure that we were nearly done by now, despite my insistence that there was still some distance to go and the fact that I had a map. The rest of the walk seemed to drag on into eternity. As we approached Lyme Park along another ridge (Jodrell Bank on the left again) each took things in their own way. Steve with his trademark spasmodic shuffle, Al trying to walk in a way that would not use his knees, Danny and Matt set off on a jog then thought better, Gary the Canadian, unfazed except for downhills, Mark, quiet, but determined.
It is commonly recognised that the last moments of a journey seem to drag on into eternity and we felt this as we walked the last 4 miles through Lyme Park. By now we had clocked 13 hours on our feet and we were really tired. Passers by encouraged us as they could see we were struggling. It was one foot in front of the other until we turned a corner to Disley train station and the pub, welcoming us with open arms to the finish.
We decamped in a corner of the pub, delirious with joy at not having to walk and being able to remove our shoes. We pleaded to the staff that we couldn’t move and asked if someone could take our order, explaining we were all having burgers and lager anyway so it should be easy and they were very understanding.
We’d all finished (every one) and couldn’t have done it without each other. We’d completed the Gritstone Trail in a net 14 hours and 48 minutes. According to Strava we had actually walked 37 miles once everything had been factored in! We’d walked in Thomas’ memory and raised money for the foundation in his name. The miles had washed away all our stresses and we sat back with the pleasant aches of exertion. We’d all sleep well that night, that was for sure.
We raised a brilliant £552 for the Thomas Theyer Foundation and would like to say a huge thank-you to all who sponsored us as well as staff who took part in the office sweepstake. If you'd still like to sponsor our efforts, please visit our DJS Research Just Giving Page. Thank-you!
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