Friday 30th March Night walk report
As our 100km Gurkha challenge will cover over 24 hours walking we needed to practice walking over-night. 9 out of the 12 of us met at Reynolds Fitness Spa in Rainham. at 9pm on Friday the 30th March to test our head torches (Gemma seemed far too excited to be wearing a head torch!) and ourselves for a 3 hour walk.
After a long, busy week for everyone, heading off into the dark challenged us physically and mentally. But that is what training is all about! So we set off up towards our first real test of darkness East Hoath Wood, about 3 miles from Rainham Fitness Spa. The walk there was all roads and alleys so we didn’t need our torches, but it was a gradual uphill route so we all warmed up pretty quickly.
Once we got to the woods we all put on head torches and got our hand torches ready – to then discover that we could blind everyone by looking at them! Halogen torches and talking face to face doesn’t work!
East Hoath Wood is only a small wood and proved a good practice as we walked through to the other side passing some startled youths smoking an unusual smelling cigarette! On the other side of the woods we dropped down through what is known locally as “the love tunnel” and paused at the beginning of Darland Banks and the real test of night walking. Darland Banks is chalk grassland and very steep narrow pathways – exactly as the Gurkha challenge will be!
Off we set, 9 bobbing sets of lights walking uphill, enjoying the freshness and stillness of a night time in the countryside. Well it wasn’t as quiet as that! There was a steady stream of chatter, laughter and giggles from everyone and Shirley (one of the support team) decided we all look like the seven dwarfs on the way home from work with our mining lights on! And then she said that “grumpy” was at the front leading us home – which was me!!
Several steep climbs and drops later brought us to Luton Rec where Chris met us. He was providing car support for two reasons, he had hurt his ankle and couldn’t walk far and several of our team would need a lift back due to early commitments on Saturday.
Our next stretch involved walking a lap of Capstone Country Park about 5 miles, again it wasn’t lit so it will be a good test of torch walking but it is more open so less risk of tripping. We passed the fishing lake, to more interesting smells from a group of youngsters, and up into the Park itself. Nice steep slopes provided a good challenge and a good steady pace got us around the park in about 80 minutes. As we headed back to the lake Chris had hid and using his TA skills jumped out and scared Shirley (that will teach her for calling me grumpy) and several others of the group!
As penance Chris gave Steve, Karena,and Shirley a lift back to the gym and that left myself, Gemma, Ross ,Clare, Stuart and Annette to finish the return leg. This proved to be the hardest stretch as we were all tired, our muscles were achy, it was dark (don’t under estimate the effect darkness can have on you) and cold. As we made our way back up the two steepest parts of the walk we all walked in near silence and as we neared the bright lights of Rainham and the gym we cheered up a lot. A little chocolate break by the “love tunnel” brought us back to the gym in good spirits and smiling.
We learnt a lot about night walking and the mental aspect we need to develop to complete the future challenge. For the next walk we will look to do 40km around the North Downs. Watch this space for the future dates.
by Mark Dopson