At the time of writing, social walks of this nature are a thing of the past for the foreseeable future. However, we were lucky enough on Sunday to enjoy a fine and superbly organised event - the 35th running of East Lancashire Long Distance Walkers Association's (LDWA) Two Crosses Walk. There's a 17 mile route, and a 25 mile route. I've reported on them before:
These reports include a history of the crosses, so this report is principally a pictorial review of Sunday's outing in the company of fellow TGO Challengers - JJ, Judith, Andy D, and 227 others.
A new venue, Greenmount Old School Community Centre, was where we checked in.
Then we assembled outside, with our quartet in no hurry to join the rush to the first stile, as that wouldn't have been good for JJ, who has only one working lung at present (though his one lung is equivalent to the average person's full complement).
Trail shoes were the order of the day for most participants, though JJ and I chose boots and gaiters. Despite some rather wet sections (I was knee deep in bog at one point) we were in a very small minority of finishers with dry feet!
The paths up to Affetside include a few bottlenecks where only one person at a time can cross certain stiles.
My shows Judith poised for a dramatic face-plant. Readers should be pleased to discover that she miraculously recovered her poise, leaving JJ in her wake.
Height was slowly gained on a cloudy day with occasional light mizzle. We made the best of it, in the knowledge that it may be our last social outing for a while.
There was mud, in which JJ is pictured soon after Affetside at the head of this posting, and even a pond to splash through at one point.
Affetside Roman Cross is the first of the Two Crosses encountered today, being on the ancient Watling Street between Manchester and Ribchester.
Jumbles Country Park offers toilets, before a stroll alongside the reservoir to cross its northern end with a good, if rather dull, view back down the reservoir, which has a Victorian feel to it. In fact it dates from 1971 and has its origins in an old quarry.
After a pleasant section along the Witton Weavers Way, the 25 mile route departs westwards and leaves our shorter route to potter down to Batridge Barn car park, where a giant tent houses a wide selection of foodstuffs, courtesy of Viv and her team of Master Chefs. This is JJ's favourite part of the walk, where he scoffs unimaginable quantities of Greek salad.
Here he is, remonstrating with Viv about today's lack of said salad. He was devastated. Viv had been too busy to make any. There were plenty of other goodies. "Calm down, JJ!"
This is where the 25 milers re-join the shorter route. They usually just grab a sandwich and keep moving. Many of them overtook us whilst we were lounging with full plates of food.
Then we set off again.
The Strawbury Duck was quiet today.
After a very boggy crossing of Holcombe Moor, correctly described on my map as 'Wet Moss', we reached Checkpoint 6 - 'Wall NE of Bull Hill' - together with a group of women who were cackling in the manner of a coven of witches. If you need water, this checkpoint disappoints. But it's not known as 'Naughty Corner' for nothing. I chose rum, but whisky and sherry were also on offer. Judith found all this so enticing that she nearly joined the coven and went round twice.
Around the corner from 'Naughty Corner' is the second major landmark of this walk - The Pilgrim's Cross, the site of an ancient cross, on which the present incumbent was placed in 1902. Peel Tower can be seen on the horizon to the right of the Pilgrim's Cross.
After waiting for JJ to lay an egg, we continued aimiably over Harcles Hill to the Peel Tower, erected in 1852 as a monument to local politician, Sir Robert Peel.
The LDWA are very proud of their contribution towards the cost of improving the path through Redisher Wood. It used to be a slithery descent, with tree to tree handholds.
Recent flooding has subsided at the foot of the descent.
The last section of the descent, after the new steps come to an end, is still a bit steep and sticky, so Judith and JJ needed to exercise extreme care to avoid dirtying their backsides.
From Redisher, there's a short steep ascent to the outskirts of Hawkshaw and the final checkpoint.
Then a stroll past a poultry farm then past a golf course at Greenmount saw us happily to the finish, with muddy paths almost to the very end.
The emu seen on a previous visit was rather camera shy on this occasion.
A good spread of tasty soups at the finish, with other refreshments, and another certificate for the file.
Here's the route - 28 km with about 600 metres ascent.
Thanks go to JJ for giving me a lift. It's a shame that the curling contest at Barton Grange that I was supposed to adjourn to was postponed until November.
Concluding this report on Thursday morning - the Two Crosses walk seems to be in the distant past, with many restrictions on movement and on congregations of groups having since then been imposed in an attempt to halt the spread of the C virus.