I do get myself involved in some interesting challenges. People seem to be able to catch me at just the right time, sharing an idea that sounds like the best idea in the world in that moment, getting me to agree and sign up before I’ve completely worked out the consequences of my positivity. This is exactly what happened with the Harvest Hobble, a 26 mile walking (or running) challenge run by the Lincolnshire branch of the Long Distance Walkers Association.
I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of the LDWA before (a terrible admission for a lover of hiking such as myself), and so hadn’t heard of the Harvest Hobble challenge hike that my local branch organise. I actually receive an email about it at work; a colleague asked me to promote the event as she was involved in running it, and while unfortunately the answer to her actual request was no, she did intrigue me enough to ask for an entry form.
And so, just one month prior to walking the West Highland Way, motivated by the idea that if I could walk 26 miles in ten hours in the Lincolnshire Wolds then surely I can walk nearly 100 miles in Scotland over seven days, I drove over to Ludford for a mammoth day hike. I had the route information they’d sent in advance loaded into my OS Maps app, had my map and compass in my pack along with my usual day hiking paraphernalia, and set to it.
It turned out to be one of the best organised hikes I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. Most of the hikes I do aren’t actually “organised” hikes, I take myself somewhere on my own or with friends, and have a day following my own route and eating my own snacks. But I do like an organised hike for a few reasons; I get to walk a route I might not have considered otherwise, don’t have to route plan or navigate myself, meet and walk with people I wouldn’t normally get to chat to, and eat snacks prepared by someone else that I haven’t had to carry in my own pack. All good! Lincolnshire LDWA did a grand job. The welcome at Ludford Village Hall was friendly and warm, with a cup of tea to get my day off to a good start, the route was very well marked leading to no confusion with way finding and no wrong turns, there were sandwiches and cakes at all the manned checkpoints, with hot drinks at some. When I (eventually) got back to the Village Hall at the end of the 26 mile loop, I was greeted with homemade soup and bread. Perfect.
The Harvest Hobble is so named because it takes hikers (and runners if you so wish) around some Lincolnshire countryside during harvest time. Well, one of four harvest times here in this county anyway! The scenery was beautiful, not in a mountainous or oceanic way, but in a farmland and rolling hills kind of way. At times along the route I could see for miles across the hills, with sheep and cows and farmland all around, sometimes I was wandering through picturesque villages in valleys or on hills, and yet there were other times all I could see was a hedge and a field; this is hiking in Lincolnshire.
There were a number of checkpoints along the route to keep you on the right track (and make sure no one cheated!), about half of which were manned and the other half were not. I like a checkpoint, they help to break up a big distance hike into smaller chunks; I mean, 26 miles sounds like a very long way, but four or six miles is easy…
Self clip check point.
I took the opportunity to give my new KEEN Terradora boots, the leather version of the ones I reviewed earlier in the year, a real hiking test. They were already broken in, of course, but this would be their first full day outing, and I found them to be very comfortable and up for the challenge. I also made use of my new walking poles for the first time, purchased for West Highland Way at the recommendation of basically everyone I spoke to about it in order to help look after my knees when carrying a heavy pack. I got them out at about the half way point onwards, and was so pleased I had them – a revelation for long distance hikes. I found myself using them to “march” my way along the route, singing to myself in the rain to the beat of my steps. That’s normal, right?!
Wet and muddy. Squelch.
The biggest problem on that particular day in September was the weather. The forecast was terrible, and so I had gone prepared for the rain and wind. Unfortunately I was a little fooled on the day itself; the morning lulled me into a false sense of security as it was warmer than it should have been, much calmer, and there was no rain. Then, all of a sudden, the heavens absolutely opened. I’m pretty good at reading the clouds when I’m out and about, able to predict when rain will fall within a few minutes, getting waterproofs on when needed in plenty of time. But not this time. I was hiking around the edge of a field, concentrating on my footing as this particular part of the route was quite boggy in places, when I felt a single drop of rain on my face. I looked up, and with that, buckets and buckets of water fell from the sky. All at once, a bit like one of those posh massaging showers you find in a Spa.
Within a minute or two I was absolutely soaked. I had my waterproof coat on and my cap, which was fortunate, but my over trousers and gaiters were safely in my bag. No way I was opening my pack, it would be filled with water in no time. By the time I reached anything that could be considered shelter I was already soaked through to my skin, the rain had gone right in the top of my boots filling them with water, and my pants were wet. Yuk. There was no point putting layers on over the top that would just prevent me from being able to breathe or dry out should things improve, so I got on with the rest of the walk in my already soggy state.
The rain fell on and off for the rest of the day, and while my Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Stretch trousers dried out super-fast in between each down pour, my boots squelched for the rest of the day. I finished with two blisters, one on each heel, as despite changing my socks a couple of times for dry ones (always carry spare socks!), the amount of water inside my boots just soaked them through straight away. My first hiking boot blisters, ever! Thankfully, while big and very sore for a few days, the blisters cleared up before I did West Highland Way, and there has been no repeat since, in the KEEN Terradoras or any other shoes/boots. Phew.
The Harvest Hobble was as I’d hoped, a lovely day out walking through some beautiful scenery, meeting fellow hiking-enthusiasts in the county, making sure I was ready for my upcoming challenge, and ending with a good sense of achievement for finishing the 26 mile loop. It was a challenge, I can’t deny that, mostly because of the weather, but I completed the hike within the ten-hour time limit, just about, and still had a smile on my face.
The Harvest Hobble is an annual event organised by the Lincolnshire LDWA. You don’t have to be a member to take part, and there is a small entry fee (£8 in 2017) to cover the hire of the village hall and the catering. If you fancy a hiking challenge next autumn, you should definitely keep an eye on the website. Come and see what hiking can be like in Lincolnshire – hopefully with better skies!
A hike in Lincolnshire isn’t complete without a flypast! And yes, that bit of blue fooled me!