In the beginning I started with LDWA events and I shall end with LDWA events. The Three Shires convinces me of this fact every time I go near it. Staffs LDWA wait on us with the most wonderful food befitting the flagship annual Hundred. It is so low-key and uncompetitive that some of us weren't even aware that the runners' start had occurred; we waited at the back of the hall for our send-off speech like the walkers had had an hour earlier, then we suddenly saw a group of runners jogging away up the road. I didn't bust a gut trying to chase them. That would be feudal (sorry, futile; I'm not in America now).
There are 20, 22, 27 and 29 mile options. For the first time I would be doing the Full Fat 29, including the 2-mile excursion up and around the back of Shutlingsloe followed by the 7-mile Cheshire loop that starts and finishes at Wildboarclough Village Hall (checkpoint 2, the first checkpoint being at Roach End). From my memory, the route took in parts of the old Kipling Kaper which this event replaces, Bullock Smithy Hike, Roaches Fell Race, Staffordshire Moorlands Christmas Cracker and Cloud 7 Circuit (long since defunct). There must be others I've forgotten, like how about Leek Moors Marathon (also long since defunct)?
Wildboarclough village hall deserves special mention. It shall always be remembered as that life-giving oasis with giant dining table you can sit at and stuff your face with warm cheesy oatcakes washed down with a cup of tea (provided you took your mug along). Dessert was rice pudding and peaches. If that wasn't enough there were cakes and nibbles on the side. Only the Full Fat participants got to indulge twice, and did I need to indulge twice. Both times I arrived depleted, hungry and slowed. Both times I departed with a new lease of life and a spring in my step, not to mention a (slightly) fat belly.
Wildboarclough dining facility.
Conditions underfoot were the driest I have known for this event. The daffodils were in full bloom and the trees were just beginning to burst into bud, while the birds screamed their little heads off to celebrate the arrival of spring. On the return leg and the steep descent to Gradbach Youth Hostel (where Alison caught me up for the umpteenth time), the dry, gorse-lined path made it feel more like summer. The sun even showed itself a little to complete the illusion.
Alison descends to Gradbach YH.
The event filled to its 160 capacity quicker than ever before. Its reputation is spreading.
Here are the pictures. I make no apologies for the preponderance of food.