A “Challenge” Walk

July 17, 2019

I have never completed an organized Challenge walk before. Yes I have walked enough ‘challenges’, day walks including many Yorkshire 3 Peaks, the 44 mile Lyke Wake Walk but nothing which had the size and scale of a “Challenge” walk. However Sadie and Michelle persuaded me to put aside any reservations about being ‘organized and told what to do’ and try a 50 km (52 really) walk in the Peak District.

They have both completed 100 km walks elsewhere in the country but were happy to trade down on my behalf! For myself I was content not to carry a whopping great pack and all my gear for the day. In addition my lack of knowledge of the Peak Districy and in particular the White Peak made for an interesting research project.

Within 10km of the finish
Within 10km of the finish

The Set Up

The challenge was organized by Action Challenge. In essence the company set the route (not easy) and provide support throughout the day (or night if you are doing the 100 km walk). This support comes in the form of ‘service stops’ roughly every 10 to 15 km which provide hot drinks, snacks of all type, sandwiches and a medical support team. There is also a water station to fill up from. In addition they provide a meal and a selection of free mementos on completion. It is very well set up.

There is no navigation skills needed on the route. The route is marked with regular flags (glow sticks in the dark), marshals on any difficult sections and there are many other participants ahead and behind throughout the day. The start/finish was a vast area of marquees, flags and tents with the field also having an area to camp and park during the event. All this come at a cost, either a one of payment of £129 in the case of the Peak Challenge or a % dependant on your own fund raising.

Chatsworth in the distance
Chatsworth in the distance

The Day

Thoroughly enjoyable and very well organized. There were roughly 2,000 walkers on the challenge weekend. We set off from Bakewell at 7.40am with roughly 50 other participants and soon became embroiled in the walk. The walk took us initially east through the Chatsworth estate, north to Baslow and Calver before west found us at lunch in Tideswell. The afternoon headed south to the spectacular Millers Dale (and a steep climb out of it!) and then completed the circuit through Taddingham and the Monsal Trail to Bakewell. The 2nd 50km which we did not complete headed in a similar length circuit to the south.

These bare facts do not come close to describing the detail of the day. Anyone who has done any long distance walking knows that they inevitably involve a full range of experiences, terrain, views and fluctuation in temperament!

The markers registering each kilometre become an obsession as the walk progresses. Each one of the three of us were convinced one of the markers was repeated (we’ve already past 17…). Unfortunately we were all convinced at different times.

Sadie and Michelle, going well
Sadie and Michelle, going well

The Positives:

  • First and foremost must come the company. Not just Sadie and Michelle who walked with me and were as ever unfailingly good humoured (better than me!) but the other participants. They were supportive of people struggling and chatty for those who were not. There is always someone to chat to if you want. You can laugh when you want and be sullen when you want, no-one is there to judge you.
  • Second would be the organization of Active Challenge. They were excellent. It was impossible to get lost, the service stops were well stocked (even with Pick and Mix on one) and those running it, whether staff or volunteers, were always helpful, cheerful and knowledgeable.
  • I have always gained great satisfaction personally in completing any walking challenge. Walking 50 km (although it was officially 51 but we reckon this ended up being 52) is tough but as the famous phrase goes ‘no pain, no gain’. This was no exception and completing the walk was very satisfying. Sadly it meant I may have to walk a 100km challenge at some stage in the future.
Tansley Dale, steep descent
Tansley Dale, steep descent

The Negatives:

  • There is always lots of people about. Taking a challenge walk does not get you away from the crowds and at places it is almost claustrophobic, queueing at kissing gates and stiles for example.
  • Much of the walking is on quiet lanes and roads which is hard on the feet and can become a little tedious. I know it is part of any long distance walk (take the Coast to Coast as an example, plenty of road walking) but anyone should be aware that this is the case. I did not get a great feel for the Peak District as a result.
Finished in more ways than one
Finished in more ways than one

Concluding Remarks:

I wanted to complete an organized challenge walk. I had some pre-conceptions but found it was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Having said that it is not how I would like most of my walking to be. I prefer making my own decisions and taking to the freedom of the hills where I can change my mind on the day if I want to.

However I would certainly do this again but it may have to be a 100 km next time. I would also only do these in places I did not know, exploring a new area is part of the enjoyment. I have taken enough people around the Yorkshire 3 Peaks to understand the pointlessness of repetition and the day simply becomes a route march.

A final word on Action Challenge who were excellent. I had a bad experience in 2018 with a company called Pure Challenge so be careful who you choose to book with. Action Challenge would make a very good choice.

Chatsworth, The Big House
Chatsworth, The Big House

Enjoy your walking


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1 Comment
  • Michele Dorey says:

    Great blog Jonathan. Really captures the spirit of the day. We also thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – not sure about the “unfailingly good humoured” bit though!

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