February 15th:

The challenge was made: could the members repeat the walk they did 10 years ago to Kingsterndale and back from the club hut taking in 15 or so dales some 870 metres of ascent and 23 or so miles? A few days before the meet it did not look that the challenge would be answered as only 5 had booked in but then they came; they came so that at 9 a.m. on the morning of Sunday 15th February, 15 willing members and guests (8 of whom had done the walk the first time) stood ready to take on the challenge.

Within minutes of the start though, the wheels were coming off the challenge vehicle. Joint leader Cotton and his guest Moz Musson who led off, were so busy chatting they walked right past the path up to Eyam and were soon in unfamiliar territory. Someone said we can take that footpath over the fields but in a short space of time the footpath had started to go the wrong way and the owner of the fields appeared and was unreceptive to our request to go through a couple of his gates. A confrontation (particularly as we had the President and Vice President with us) did not seem a good idea and we had to back track losing some 15 minutes. So at about 9.30 we found ourselves starting again. The suggestion made by one member that we would easily make up this time over the day was not as the readers will see born out.

Halfway up the hill to Eyam the advance guard had already halted to hear a history lesson about how plague victims left money in the holes on the stone where supplies were left for them and it was obvious to the leaders that the walkers needed chivvying along if the challenge was ever going to be achieved. Thankfully a rhythm was established and soon Eyam, Tideswell Lanes, Linen Dale, and Wardlow were left behind and we were looking at the spectacular view into Tansley Dale. Here for some the descent was slow and the walkers who up to then had been quite together, began to split apart and the leading 6 to 8 were away.

Those who accompanied the President down Tideswell Dale and through Litton Dale were shown by him some of the hardest routes anywhere and could only look in amazement at the lines of pitons and karabiners or chalk marks snaking up the overhanging faces above us. As we walked through the early stretches of Chee Dale we were surprised to find the leading group who we thought were long gone descending from the Monsal Trail to meet us. Their claim that they had been taking a leisurely lunch was met with some scepticism. However this may have been the case because the leading group then plunged on at a rapid pace. It was here in the majesty of Chee Dale that the experience of some of our older members in setting a steady early pace paid off as the likes of Syd, John Eastwood and Richard Harris, undaunted by one or two steep and greasy sections of the path poised above the deep and fast flowing river Wye below, set a fierce pace at the front which caused even young Richard Shawcross to stretch out and left the rest of us gasping in their wake.

The group who broke away were Goodier, Peppit, Eastwood, Harris, Clowes, Shawcross R and guest Moz Musson. From Chee Dale they climbed up above Wye Dale to reach the descent and ascent to Kingsterndale and the halfway turning point from where descent into and out of Deepdale took them to Chelmorton. Unlike 10 years ago there was no time to get a refreshing pint in the pub there. As they crossed the high moor to Taddington they telephoned George Sampson who had been resting during the morning to prepare himself for the walk back to the club hut.

Meanwhile the rest of us in several groups had turned left at the bridge in Wye Dale climbing out of the dale on a fine path leading to Blackwell accepting that we would not do the full route. We came across country below Taddington to enter High Dale. An atmospheric place; was that a hunting horn we could hear blowing and shouts of Tally Ho or just our imagination? - for as we looked back we saw the leading 6 coming storming down the dale after us. Through Brushfield and the descent to the Monsal Head viaduct and climb to Monsal Head, we were more or less together again. But at Little Longstone in the gathering dusk we split again into 2 groups, one group keeping on the road to Great Longstone while the remaining 5 of us, Cotton, now joined by fellow leader Eastwood, Conlon and guest  Adam Shearn and Hood took the footpath over the fields. The President wisely attached himself to the road group. When we reached the church at Stoney Middleton there was no sign of the road group as they had gone and there wasn’t sign of much else either as darkness was falling rapidly.

We took the path for Rowland and some were saying “don’t put on torches yet because our night vision would go”, but when it became pitch black and lights were needed it was found that only Cotton and guest Adam had head lamps and his battery was almost gone! The descent into Coombs Dale did not appeal without lights so from Rowland we kept on the track over High Rake which eventually brought us out on the Hassop Road half a mile above Calver Cross Roads.

We were back at the hut at 7.25 finding the others had arrived at 7 pm, being better lit having descended Coombs Dale in the dark.

The hour for tea, 6 pm,  was well past. Tony Crowther had very kindly spent the afternoon setting everything up and getting the tea on and had done a great job. Everyone ate well; Mary’s chicken pie, Betty’s apple pie and crumble all washed down with some excellent Marston’s English pale ale all for the grand cost of £5.00

The cavers had spent the day excavating and building up a hunger and thirst in their dig in White Rake, Eyam.

10 years on, the route was harder and slightly longer. The route taking the short cut to Blackwell from Wye Dale was 21 miles, the full route was recorded as 25 miles.