I’m a fan of walking challenge events and long distance walking, yet I don’t do them as often as I’d like. In 2016, I walked 50km in the Peak District for Trek Fest – that was wet and tiring yet fun (though I decided the entrance cost was too high for a repeat entry for that event). – and would love to do something like that again but for now I like the littler distances (working up to a 1/2 marathon run this year!).
I can’t remember when or how I heard about The CoSARC Stonehenge Stomp. It was probably on Twitter, as I often read about events happening on that social media site then sign up to them if I have the time…
Anyway, this was the year that wasn’t meant to be.
Last year, the organisers decided that 2017 was the last Stomp they would be able to organise. Since 1989, it has been a popular (and very cheap) event with 10k/20k/30k/40k routes for runners and walkers, but they needed support – in stepped CoSARC (City of Salisbury Athletics & Running Club) in association with Amesbury Walkers.
I wanted to check this event out and give it a go. We decided to offer one of the low milages walks to the Explorer Scouts in case any fancied giving the challenge a go. A few decided to join, a few decided to drop out and a lot decided not to try it (what’s not to love about excerise in the fresh air on a Sunday morning?)!
Getting to Amesbury isn’t hard from Swindon – it’s straightforward and easy route which takes just under an hour depending on traffic. I’ve driven there several times and each time I arrive the retail park seems to grow even bigger with branded restaurants!
Getting to the centre was as expected, full of cars already at 8am with the adjacent school car park looking very full as well. We found a spot on the road easily and made our way to register in the sports hall.
Registering was quick and easy. We were pointed in the direction of the map with the drawn route on, the route description (on blue paper so as easily spotted) and our pink check point card.
Once ticked in, map analysed and route description read, we made our way to our first checkpoint… the weather was forcasted to be nice to us today…
The route began on pavements, walking along roads to get to the checkpoint. Now, I’m not a big fan of walking on pavement in walking boots as after a while my feet begin to hurt… In 2016, we entered the Sarsen Trail (organised by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust), having previously walked the 15-mile route a couple of times we decided on the 26-mile challenge… the majority of the route, for the first 11 miles was on concrete and this wasn’t pleasant for me at all. Had I been in approach shoes or trainers I would have enjoyed it more! So, I’ve been wary of challenge events that spend the majority of the times on concrete and was glad when we seemed to be moving away from it after the first few KM…
After a biscuit and a squash, a quick stamp on our card and we were away, walking on tracks in the Wiltshire countryside. At one point we had a fantastic view over Amesbury.
Checkpoint 2 came and went quickly. At this point, the runners had begun and many had caught up with us (we weren’t that far!); so for a while, along thin tracks, we had to stop and let them pass. The array of brightly coloured tops with marathon event logos and warm leggings kept us entertained and prompted discussion!
I love National Trust signs and waymarkers. I’m sad enough to have a folder of waymarker and signs on my computer. I just like them, I don’t know why.
One of the recent additions to outdoor signage has been grid references by stiles or gates. We’ve seen a couple crop up in Wales. A good idea, hopefully, though they won’t be a ‘lazy’ way to navigate…
Our group walking through the mud, though not the lady in pink. Not sure who she was, maybe she wanted to join us?
We soon caught our first glimpse of Stonehenge! Can you spot it in this photo…?
Oh, look, another sign! That one is going in the collection…
The route took us across the road and along the track close to Stonehenge so we had a great view of it (other than paying the £20 to enter the grounds!). My camera doesn’t zoom in very well but I can asure you it looks larger in life!
I was surprised to see caravans and motorhomes near the stones – a peaceful protest to English Heritage charging the public to see the stones (psst, FREE if you’re a English Heritage or National Trust Member). They had a good view of the stones btw…
We continued on our way through sheep fields to our next checkpoint. By this time we’d easily walked over half way and were about 13km in and not feeling tired at all really. We commented that this seemed too easy.. the Explorers were slowing down…
Another grid reference on a post! The organisers put up these arrows and electricial tape for entrants to follow – the 20Km was the blue route (red 10km, green 30km and yellow 40km). There was plently of them which made looking at a OS map redundant.
Another National Trust sign!
We passed The Nile Clumps. A series of tree clumps purportedly planted to commemorate the Battle of the Nile. Each clump represents the location of a British or French ship at a particular point in the battle (There may have been as many as twenty-six clumps originally, spread out over three quarters of a mile, of which some seventeen remain and are now under preservation orders and maintained by volunteers).
After the views it was back to the pavement and getting close to the finish. As we were walking back we noticed Bailey had begun limping on his front right paw. We couldn’t established the cause and it got progressively worse. So for the last 1KM Terry and I took turns to carry him to the finish point – he usually groans when he is picked up and carried by didn’t today so we knew it must have been something serious for him not to object (he’s been in the shower and is now sleeping heavily next to me as I type this, we will monitor him over the next couple of days).
So back to the centre where we handed in our cards and recieved this lovely patch which I decided the moment I recieved it that it is going on my Scout uniform (regardless of the fact it’s not a Scouting event). I want to show it off – its huge!
What makes this event so enjoyable is that it isn’t timed. This means that people are less stressed, especially the runners, so don’t mind walking behind slower walkers/runners and we took our time with this to enjoy the views, chat to each other and generally just dawled around the route.
My GPS watched hasn’t been able to pick up a GPS signal since I returned to the UK from Nepal so I couldn’t record anything. Terry’s on the other hand doesn’t seem to work fantastically – we certainly walked more than 11miles today! Still, route recorded and steps counted (tee hee!)
I thoroughly enjoyed this event, as did the Explorers.
The booking in was quick, the cost was low, the route was simplistic without many (1) steep sections, the checkpoints were well manned with jelly babies, biscuits and squash and the volunteers were lovely. I will be back at this event and I will give both the 30k and 40k a go (though not on the same day!).
Now, I’m off to sew a badge on to a uniform.