Death by a thousand nettle stings, bramble scratches and rasps from files masquerading as fields of ripe* cereal crops. Was it wheat? I'd forgotten how jungle-like this event can be so I had the legs out as usual. I paid for it with burning, writhing, tingling, itching, throbbing skin well into Sunday.
(*By “ripe”, read brown, dry and HARD.)
Elsecar Skelter is a delightful event in South Yorkshire from the Market Inn, Elsecar, close to the Heritage Centre. It traverses old coal-mining areas that have been returned to nature. Some paths are little-used (a machete would have been useful) and, despite the comprehensive route description, navigation has its moments, with hidden stiles and secret footpaths. Previous route knowledge is a definite advantage.
There are three route choices – 15, 20 and 27 miles, with the added benefit of being able to choose which distance you do while actually doing it. I set out to complete the 'Full Monty' 27, which follows a tight figure-of-eight loop that extends to the outskirts of Rawmarsh on the east and Wharncliffe Crags on the west. This was the first time I had actually completed the full route. The last time I tried this (new) route in 2008, navigational woes resulted in a failure to reach the most picturesque westerly extremity. This time I (and those around me) suffered the same woes, and more, but perseverance got us on track each time. Unfortunately, early heavy downpours wetted my camera, which ceased to function around 7 miles. Pictures are limited and a little boring as a result.
The Vermuyden Group of the Long Distance Walkers Association hosts the event. I had forgotten the range and quality of food on offer, which is more common on much longer events, including the Hundred. In addition to the usual water, squash, cake and biscuits, our stomachs were wooed by sandwiches with fillings of jam, cheese & onion, tuna, salad and more. There was pasta, beautiful home-made cakes like caramel crumble and chocolate cake, tea and coffee. All was served by friendly, enthusiastic volunteers. This luxurious fare helped me shuffle my way round to a 5:24 finish, which was 10 minutes faster than my last failure to complete the route and leaves plenty of room for further improvement next year. The sun had finally made an appearance and I had seen some beautiful views from the Crags down to the River Don and beyond. Also we must not forget the Needle's Eye Folly, Hoober Stand and the very long frontage of Wentworth Woodhouse in the earlier (and wetter) stages.