HORRENDOUS weather conditions were no match for Yorkshire grit yesterday, as hundreds of hikers ploughed through torrential rain and freezing temperatures to take part in the first-ever Peaks Walk for All.
The fundraiser, which is the first event in this year’s Jane Tomlinson Appeal events calendar, attracted a little over 600 walkers on the day. Around a third of those who had signed up decided to stay at home rather than battle the weather.
Those who did venture out into the muddy Hope Valley yesterday were rewarded with stunning scenery, despite the cloudy outlook, and a real sense of achievement.
Jane Tomlinson’s widower, Mike Tomlinson, and their 14-year-old son Steven were at the start line at Hope Showground to see off those taking part in the most popular of the three routes, the 12-mile walk.
“These conditions weren’t exactly what we envisaged when we started thinking about this event,” he said. “It’s like setting off in polar conditions, but despite this people have smiles on their faces. Sometimes weather like this can bring out the best in people and a different, unique character – it’s nice to see.”
After the success of the Dales Walk for All last year, which saw more than 2,000 hikers setting off from Settle, the Peak District was chosen as the location for the second Walk for All as it was a favourite walking spot of Mrs Tomlinson’s.
Mr Tomlinson, 51, said: “It was always a favourite place of Jane’s.
“I think she’d be thrilled that we’re doing this today. The number of people we can get out into the countryside the better, as hopefully people will come back to enjoy it more and more.
“It’s nice to see so many people here. Castleton and Hope are perfectly placed on the railway line between Sheffield and Manchester, and I don’t think many people realise how accessible this beautiful area is.
“I think this event is something that’s going to grow and grow, and we’re hoping to invest in its future.”
Those taking part yesterday had a choice of three routes, all setting off from the same muddy field in Hope. A total of 223 people were the first to get on their way at 7am, on the 24-mile route which took in sights including Kinder Scout and Jacob’s Ladder.
After a breakfast of bacon sandwiches at Hope Valley College it was straight into the first of the ascents, up the bleak and exposed Win Hill above Ladybower reservoir.
Several of those found the ceaseless rainfall and cold winds too much to tackle, however, and chose to drop down to the less daunting 12-mile route after reaching the first of the three checkpoints, at Edale Village Hall.
Meanwhile, 232 walkers took on the 12-mile option, which included two steep ascents, and some of these also ran into difficulties along the way – with one man being pulled out of the event after setting off in jeans and trainers which failed to stand up to the rain.
Prior to yesterday’s event, organisers had warned walkers of the forecast, and had said it was “essential” to bring a waterproof jacket and trousers, spare socks, a hat, a scarf and gloves. Upon registering yesterday, entrants were also given an emergency kit containing a foil blanket, a whistle and a chocolate bar.
Some of the families who had signed up for the five-mile walk chose not to tackle the challenging conditions on the day and, in the end, just 150 parents, grandparents and children took part in the shortest of the three routes, which followed well-marked paths along low-lying land in the Hope Valley.
With the first of this year’s Walks for All over, the Jane Tomlinson Appeal is now set to launch the inaugural Lakes Walk for All, to be held on Sunday, September 9, while the second Dales Walk of All will take place on Sunday, August 18.
Registration for both is now open. Mr Tomlinson added: “It’s the first year for both the Peaks and the Lakes events.”
Yesterday’s date for the Peaks Walk for All wasn’t happened upon by chance, but specifically selected to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout – one of the highest points taken in on the 24-mile route.
Angry they were denied the right to access much of the countryside, around 400 walkers set out from Bowden Bridge Quarry in Hayfield on April 24, 1932 and confronted keepers on the slopes of the 2,000ft Kinder Scout.
The act of rebellion was the catalyst for the “right to roam” on Britain’s countryside and eventually led to legislation in 1949 to establish the National Parks.