Bullock Smithy race reports and leaderboard update

Hi all,

results of the Bullock Smithy are linked here.  The leaderboards have been updated.

Nick’s photos

Charles’s race report

Nick’s race report follows:

Bullock Smithy Hike 04-05/09/2021 report. Nick Ham

I arrived at the 3rd Hazel Grove Scouts hut 3 hours early to get the Runfurther sponsors’ banners up and spot prizes out. I was lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a flag to plant out front to welcome us back in the darkness after our 56+ miles when Charles Colbourn arrived with flags and more banners. Brilliant; flag paucity averted! With the winners’ prizes handed over to new organiser Rob Massey and the Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake out for all who enjoy its minty goodness to take, it was time to wander across the road to Devonshire Park to collect our tallies and wait for the 12pm striking of the anvil. Rob had a microphone and loudspeaker so all the widely scattered ‘hikers’ could hear the send-off instructions probably for the first time in the history of the Bullock Smithy Hike.


Rob gives the send-off instructions

We could even hear Rob at the back – with Lawrence Eccles and Rory Harris

The pre-race instructions had included the minor route changes, the first of which was in Lyme Park. The park owners (NT) had been so incensed when in 2019 they discovered  our taking the stone stile by the stream on the straight line up to Knightslow Wood that they had cut the steps off the wall. We now had to descend towards the car park to turn sharp right up the route of the Lyme Park parkrun start. Considering how far we were going that day, we would hardly notice the extra distance and ascent.

Docile cattle lined the long climb up to Checkpoint 1 at Bowstones – with Matt Hutchinson.


I was now further than in 2019, when a sudden vertigo attack had forced me to retire at CP1. The running was fast and comfortable (for me, before the inevitable slowdown) down past the ex-Moorside Hotel, up and down across the A6 and level crossing in Furness Vale then up, up, up to CP2 at Chinley Churn. I was swapping back and forth with three Steel City Striders (Nick, Simon and Ben if my memory serves me right) and fellow Glossopdale Harrier Wioleta Wydrych. The running conditions were perfect – very dry, warm, not too hot. The cloud cover probably saved us from overheating.


The Steel City Striders at Bowstones.

Looking down to Checkpoint 2 at Chinley Churn.

The slog up to the highest point of the Hike at Edale Cross (CP3) was as vile (long, steep and rocky) as I remembered; just get head down and grind it out to the top. This is where the first serious overtaking of me by others occurred. I’m so gutless on the climbs these days. The technical rocky descent down the other side to Jacob’s Ladder wasn’t much quicker, my sense of self-preservation and imperfect balance sense slowing me to a pace that felt ‘responsible’. Nevertheless I still felt the hordes of onlookers staring in wonderment as I danced my way down across the mass of life-threatening trip hazards. 😉


The Steel City Striders vanish into the distance down towards Jacob’s Ladder.


I caught up with the Striders and Wioleta once again at Checkpoint 4, Edale. Also there was the creator of the Bullock Smithy Hike, John Corfield, who had modelled it on the Long Mynd Hike way back in 1976.

Lovely to see John Corfield at Edale.

The next short but sharp climb was up and over Hollins Cross. This is where the Striders and Wioleta finally dropped me. It was a case of just getting head down and grinding it out again, during which I was even overtaken by a pair of recreational walkers, but I bet they didn’t already have 18 miles and a few thousand feet in their legs! Matt Hutchinson lingered a little at the top to catch his breath and survey the ‘crowds’ as I dragged up.


Matt surveys the crowds on Hollins Cross.

I’d been looking forward to going through the new Castleton checkpoint at the ex-garage in 2019. This year I actually made it there. It’s better than its previous location in the car park.

Looking back to CP5 at Castleton.

From Castleton we got to enjoy the more direct climb up the steep-sided alternative to Cave Dale which I’ve taken for years, during which I caught my last glimpse of the yellow-shirted Steel City Striders in the far distance. Matt Hutchinson left me for dead here as well, never to be seen until the finish. From this point I ran pretty much alone, save for the odd overtaking manoeuvre. Iain Povey caught and overtook me at Peak Forest (CP6). I knew I was slower than usual but I expected it. I had stuffed my map and schedule in the back of my pack before the start. I knew I didn’t need it for navigation because the route is engraved upon my brain and I didn’t want to depress myself by comparing my times. I just got on with the job of racing as fast as my body allowed on the day and everything felt normal – suffering on the climbs followed by recovery shuffle. My principal aim was to get to Earl Sterndale with daylight left to navigate across the fields. As a result I was spending less time in the checkpoints than ever before, so much so that my mug remained unused to the end for the first time ever!

With the customary (and particularly luxurious this year) Chelmorton doughnut powering me on along the white dusty tracks, I made it with light to spare. One of the fields had young cows that were calm yet inquisitive, and all moved towards me. I talked to them in calm tones as I walked to the stile on the other side. All was good and then I could start running again. As I hit the final road to the chapel I could see dim flashing blue LED lights ahead at the chapel. I assumed they were a welcome beacon fixture for us, but they seemed to disappear as I got closer. Then I knew they must have been a safety beacon on a runner. “Hey, someone to chase”, I thought to myself.


Checkpoint 9 at Earl Sterndale.


As I sat down in the chapel at Earl Sterndale to put my head torch on, one of the marshals started talking about getting grouped into teams of three. She said I might be grouped at the next checkpoint (Brand Top). “Not on my watch”, I thought to myself. I’d voluntarily grouped in the early years but I’d never been forcibly grouped in my 17 completions, and it wasn’t going to happen this year. It did bring back a distant memory of a similar threat at this checkpoint previously, but it was soon forgotten as I ran back out into the gloaming in pursuit of those flashing blue lights. I remained in stealth mode, head torch off. I caught a brief glimpse of them in the distance at the top of the track before Dowel Dale, and then they were out of sight again.

I took the corner-cutting diagonal left down the field to the track (which is not a right of way), crossed to the field opposite and climbed parallel to the track, around the electric fence to the top. Then it was a case of following the Hike-trodden path across the pasture to the top of the steep descent to Dowel Dale. That descent is slippery at the best of times in daylight and you’d be very lucky not to enjoy an involuntary sit-down. Now with daylight all but gone I risked life and limb and enjoyed three involuntary sit-downs. I made it safely to the sanctuary of the lane up the dale where I could shuffle upwards in safety again. The left turn onto the white dusty track suddenly improved visibility thanks to its reflective properties but I knew the torch would finally have to get switched on when I crossed the cattle grid and turned right onto the grass.

I managed to follow my nose successfully through the two rebuilt walls and past the confidence-boosting marker post to the lane to Booth Farm. Left on the lane and I came upon two runners, one Wioleta and the other flashing blue LED man! LED man seemed to be suffering a bit and Wioleta was offering words of encouragement. I checked that he was OK before carrying on with the bit between my teeth. Wioleta tagged along with a tendency to pull ahead. She was running well.

We arrived at the nicely revamped Brand Top school house. I always lust after the hot dog here because I know how it powers me onwards for a good few miles (just like the Chelmorton doughnut). I left before Wioleta with hot dog-to-go. I expected her to catch and overtake me before long. Normally at this point we feel the chill of the night air, but not this year. I still felt very comfortable in daytime attire of vest and shorts, even when the breeze picked up at times. There would be no dew so no wet grass to wet our shoes either.


The hot dog checkpoint (CP10, Brand Top).

The remainder of my race was a very lonely affair. I passed a couple of hikers /wild campers with red head torches on the road down to Knotbury. The tracks to Three Shires Head and from Sparbent to the bottom of Cumberland Clough were shockingly washed-out, at places down to bedrock. It’s impossible to run them even by day. By night it’s a perilous teeter, totter and a trip or three. They have degenerated so much over the years.

The new checkpoint at Clough House was the best, with whooping, cheering and jangling cow bell when they saw my torchlight reaching the bottom of Cumberland Clough.


New checkpoint 11 at Clough House.

I took the road route from CP11 to CP12 at Walker Barn. It’s easier to shuffle that over 0.3 extra miles than tackle yet another washed-out track over Macclesfield Forest with extra gratuitous climbing. As I approached the chapel at Walker Barn, a pair of pole-wielding ‘hikers’ was leaving. Even though I only saw bright lights on top of male human forms, I sensed that they might have been ones who, like so many, had left me for dead much earlier on.

This year our entry to the chapel was through the front door instead of the tradesman’s entrance along the side passage to the rear. I felt honoured to refill my water bottle and partake of comestibles in such hallowed surroundings.

The unfamiliarly hallowed surroundings of Walker Barn chapel.

I wasted little time before I was off, back up the lane and down the main road in the direction of Bull Hill Lane. I knew I was running less than I have done previously but I was giving it all I had. I negotiated the field short cut across the new bog, thanks to constantly overflowing water trough. Then onto Lidgetts Lane, ahead over the stone stile and through 8 gates/gateways (or was it 9?) to the lane at the other end of the Kerridge ridge. The previous reconnoitres paid dividends because navigation went like a dream. The descent to cow lane was a bit tentative in the dark as I scanned my torch light left and right to pick out the most-trodden grass. It worked because the metal animal pen came into view, which had to be circumnavigated to reach the lane. After that it was easy right-left-right descending on the side roads of Bollington to reach the main road and climb to the canal. I climbed to the converted mill on the right-hand side of the canal and crossed the new (in 2009) footbridge to the other side. I tried to run but mostly walked past bridge 24 to #25 and final checkpoint (CP13, Whiteley Green). At that point the pair of pole-wielders caught me up. They must have taken a longer way round.

Arriving at the final checkpoint.

Once again, little time was wasted before we carried on down the road to turn left and left onto the Middlewood Way for the long slog. Pole men’s shuffle was faster than I could sustain so they gradually disappeared into the distance. I did my best, which was mostly walking, to Wood Lanes and following the roads, tracks and paths back to the scout hut. I had finished 23 minutes after Matt Hutchinson; there was no catching him again. I asked the timekeeper if Rory Harris won; he had, in 8:19, which was only 9 minutes outside his record of 2019. Lawrence Eccles was second in 9:39. First woman and =7th overall was Stockport Harrier Jayne Lawton in 11:01. M1, M2 and F1 were as I had predicted – amazing performances.

My time of 14hrs 13mins was my first over-14hr finish since 2000 but I had to be happy with that under the circumstances. It was my 18th completion in 20 starts, first DNF being in 2003 after operation for cancer and waiting for radiotherapy to start when my body gave up on the climb to Edale cross and I had to drag myself to Edale, second DNF in 2019 as already mentioned thanks to the cursed Ménière’s Disease.

The finisher’s view of relief.

Wioleta finished a little later, as did the walking pole men; I’d overtaken them again! Route knowledge means a lot on the Bullock Smithy Hike. Flashing blue LED man finished later still, who it transpired was former club mate Luke Holme on his “couch-to-Bullock challenge”. Sorry Luke, I’d had no idea it was you with Wioleta before Brand Top otherwise I might have lingered a little longer for a chat.

After an all-night breakfast and a few hours’ kip in the car, I joined Rory Harris for a second breakfast while we waited for the 10am presentation. He told me how his race went. His progress had been blocked by a herd of cows on the track before Miller’s Dale. He was a little down on schedule at that halfway point, having pushed a little harder than was sustainable. He sensed he may not pull back the lost time later, and so it came to pass: as the checkpoints ticked by he’d lost another minute here, another minute there until he was all of 9 minutes down at the finish. Honestly though, that’s nothing over that distance – so close to his 8:10 record and still so unbelievably fast.

Winner Rory Harris.

With the absence of Stockport Harriers and Macclesfield Harriers fielding teams this year, a pleasant surprise was my club Glossopdale Harriers winning the team prize for the first time in history, made up of: 4th Steve Crossman 10:29, 17th Ian Crutchley 13:07; 32nd Nick Ham 14:13.