The Four Inns Walk
Saturday 5th April 2008
Olly Stephenson

The Four Inns Walk is a 40 mile race across the Peak District from Holmbridge in the north to Harpur Hill (near Buxton) in the south, across some beautiful high moorland plateaus of northern England.

It’s been organised by (and for) the Scouts for the last 51 years, although its appeal is spreading and more than half of this year’s 90 teams were from outside the scouting community. Competitors enter in groups of three or four people, and it’s open to walkers and runners alike.

Four of us entered as team ‘Carnethy Hill Runners’, comprising Mick James, Olly Stephenson, Lucy Colquhoun and our pal Steve Watkins from a club that sounds something like Baildon Hedge Trimmers in West Yorkshire.

It’s a fantastically well organised race, you get sweets by the fist full from the aid stations en-route, and then when you finish you get the chance to raid the organisers’ trophy cabinet as well, especially if you have Lucy in your team and your eyes on the Mixed Team prize. The phrase ‘stealing sweets from children’ appears to have been specifically designed for all aspects of this race.

The run started well for us, and Mick set a fast pace across the peat boggy lump that is Black Hill. We had a bit of a shock the far side when we discovered someone had moved Crowden Youth Hostel (and associated checkpoint) from where it had been two years previously, and this would most definitely have cost us our Polite Scouting Badge should any officials have overheard us.

From here on we worked really well as a team, looking out for each other, and enjoying a landscape dusted in snow and framed by menacingly dark skies. Every now and then the snow flurries would turn more serious, but before long the clouds would invariably lift to reveal wonderful views of Derbyshire cast in early spring sunshine.

After Bleaklow and Kinder we reached the village of Edale. Our split times were looking promising and we started to feel cautiously optimistic about our chances on the Mixed Team record, but this all hinged on cajoling the weakest link in the team to keep going at a reasonable pace.

It must have been hell for Lucy, but she kept it up and never complained once as she powered effortlessly ahead, leaving the weakest link (aka the men) falling asleep on their feet from exhaustion (Mick), vomiting from the strain (Steve), and single-handedly sack-carrying for me and towing me uphill at the same time.

Towards the end some passers-by witnessed the spectacle, and I overheard one of them gasping incredulously “look how far ahead she is, and she’s carrying two rucksacks!”

We completed the 40 mile course in 7 hours 48 minutes, in second place overall by just 9 minutes, and knocking some 37 minutes off the existing Fastest Mixed Team record.

As Steve said at the time, it was a privilege to run with someone of Lucy’s calibre. We all had a great time, and Lucy even managed to see a Scout with a real necktie and woggle at the end which made her day.

Thanks to Alex, Martyn, Di and Neil for their help and support.

Full results and event details here: www.fourinns.org.uk

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