Turning up at Carluccio’s at Piccadilly Station I was greeted by a worried looking Michael Di Paola. Thom Hetherington, co-founder of Freshwalks and our guide for the day, was forced to drop out due to a dodgy knee and Michael wasn’t confident of the chosen route. However, this problem wasn’t insurmountable and once in Glossop, following a quick conflab in the station cafe, local man, Phil Hartshorne, volunteered to lead us on a route he knew well.
As we set off through the little streets of this Derbyshire town, on a mild November morning, nothing could have prepared us for what lay ahead.
This was my second time on a Freshwalk and I’d been looking forward to it all week. There were 24 of us and five dogs. As we started the long and steady climb out into the open countryside, groups of twos and threes formed, making a snake down the hill, and conversation flowed.
I consider myself pretty fit. I run regularly and throw kettlebells around in the gym, but I’m not going to lie. At times I struggled a bit. These walks are tough and not for the faint hearted. They are definitely not a stroll in the park. As we got to higher ground the temperature dropped and I was glad of the extra layers I’d packed.
By the time we got to the top, the weather was doing its worst. The wind, rain and fog attacked us from all sides and there was little cover. We desperately tried to find a sheltered spot for lunch and, with Phil’s help, settled on a rocky outcrop. As soggy sandwiches were the order of the day, a long leisurely lunch wasn’t an option, and we were soon on the move again.
I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, with trousers and socks soaked, praying for a helicopter to appear, swoop down, pick me up and drop me off at the pub. That was until we made a poignant stop at the World War II American bomber crash site. The aircraft came down on 3 November 1948 with all 13 crew lost. We happened upon it just days after the anniversary of the tragedy, and I was touched to see members of the local parish had been up to lay a wreath of poppies. Just before Remembrance Sunday it was a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made in war.
Trudging through the bog and tackling the muddy banks brought out the good humour in everyone and it wasn’t long before we were slipping, sliding and walking back down into the valley. I lost count of the times I fell on my bum in the mud, but there was always a hand or two to drag me back up.
The warmth of The Wheatsheaf in Old Glossop was very welcoming and after a few drinks we tucked into wholesome pub grub before jumping on a train back to Manchester. One kind companion even lent me a pair of clean, dry socks. Thank you a million times Darren Smith. I will be eternally grateful (and remember to pack a pair next time!).
The biggest shout out must go to the amazing Mr Di Paola – connector extraordinaire. It was a challenging day, but what better way to bond with a group of like-minded folk. I’ll be back for more. That’s for sure.
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