As we all know a lot of races have been cancelled or deferred over the last 18 months, and normally I wouldn’t race on consecutive weekends such as I have in October. Once my name is down I’m committed to the race and it was nice to get the legs moving again after not finishing the Lakeland 100 in July.
Starting with the Calderdale Relay with Richard Wheeler on Leg 1, I’ve competed in the Castle Carr fell race, Round Rotherham 50 and this race, the Silverdale Circuit which was deferred from February 2021.
The Silverdale Circuit was an LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) event. I’m not 100% sure on the history of why the LDWA don’t run it anymore, however Ascend Events now run it as a race with a walking option with the same LDWA principals, inclusive for all that want a bit of a challenge, well organised, friendly, good value and with a meal at the end, what’s not to like?! The route is mostly offroad trail, around 20 miles with 2,400 feet of elevation in a clockwise loop of the area.
Based in North West Lancashire, Silverdale is an area of outstanding natural beauty with rolling hills and woodland, nestled on the coastline with Arnside, Arnside Knott, Leighton Moss nature reserve and the Fairy Steps. The Silverdale Circuit passes through or near all the best spots, so you get to see the best of the area in one go.
With an 08:30 start for the walkers and 09:30 start for this year’s 101 runners, the route starts off at Milnthorpe cricket pavilion before swinging South through Dalam Park where if you’re lucky you can see deer. The weather was cool, overcast, little wind and drizzle which was perfect conditions for me
With a narrow swing gate ¼ mile into the route, I pushed on quickly at the start to not get in the traffic jam to get through the gate in to the park. I then of course had the pressure of leading the race and was completely out of my comfort zone as I don’t generally lead or win races. Feeling okay after the first couple of gentle climbs I felt comfortable with just a quick glance back to see that I’d put a bit of gap on the field with 2nd about 25 metres behind.
The course continues South through Beetham village, then across fields and woodland where I was exchanging places with 1st and 2nd and sort of working together on the climbs. It was when the course headed West with a super fast decent to Leighton Hall Estate and through to Leighton Moss nature reserve where I managed to extend the lead. With an occasional glance back I’d lost sight of 2nd, however through hearing the occasional clanking and thud sound of the metal and wood gates closing behind me I kept being reminded that he was still very much in the race!
The course then goes across some more fields and gates before getting to the only checkpoint in the village hall in Silverdale where one of the volunteers tore the checkpoint tag off my race number. I went straight back out on the course despite their best efforts to feed me, where 2nd place was coming back on himself having missed the checkpoint. At this point as we passed with a knowing nod it was opportunity to try and take advantage and inject a bit of pace across the next few fields to increase the gap further.
The course then goes through a caravan park before a single track path around the coastline, so you get a view across Morecambe Bay and the Lake District, before heading back inland and a climb up Arnside Knott. From the top you get a view of Arnside, Grange over Sands fed from the train bridge Arnside Viaduct over the River Kent estuary. Then a fast, very slippery steep decent back to the road to start heading back North towards the finish.
Across Beetham fell and some more undulating muddy fields, through a farm and then a steady ¼ mile climb up through some woods to the Fairy Steps.
The Fairy Steps is a natural limestone staircase that the course has you go up and down. Local rumour has it that if you manage to climb or descend without touching the sides the fairies will grant you a wish – I will be getting no wishes then, far too narrow and slippy for me!
From the Fairy Steps a lovely downhill section through some woods before crossing the road and up through some more woods towards Haverbrack Bank hill. At this point I turned the wrong way in the woods, right instead of left and after about minute realised I was going the wrong way. Committed to going back down hill saw the same road at the bottom and did the same climb again – calling myself an idiot and a few other choice words, also realising I may have lost my first position.
At the top a lovely downhill section across some more fields to Sandside, across and around the small headland, before back over the same road and in to Dalham Park and the finish at the cricket pavilion. To my surprise I was still in first place and got a warm welcome from the Ascend Events team with a cup of tea and a big plate of chilli and rice for my reward.