Trans-Pennine Hundred - A CPS Report - Dee Brockway

The CPS had been watching over me for 10 years; this year it was time for a change.

My experience of a checkpoint on an LDWA 100 event had previously always been limited to walking into a welcoming hall, being well fed and watered, and receiving as much help and tlc as I needed. This year I was instead a proud member of the BBN checkpoint 2 team, and what a magnificent team they were. I followed orders whilst Mary magnificently captained our ship. Battered by wave after wave of hungry walkers, over 400 in total, all in a hurry, a less able crew and the ship surely would have sunk. Other experienced senior personnel, namely Terry, Dave and Merrian dealt admirably with any early signs of ‘speed sandwich making’ mutiny. John D did exhibit a little short term bravery when, questioned by Merrian as to why he had not followed her table layout and labelling instructions precisely, came out with the brave answer - “I ignored you!”  His behaviour was understandably not repeated by him or anyone else! Joking apart, if the BBN team ever formed a catering company we could all become very rich and gain a top Michelin rating for efficient and friendly service. Well done to all involved and watch out for our slot on Simon Pipe’s 100 video. 

By 3.30pm Saturday CP2 was officially closed. Piles of dirty plates and dishes became sparkling. Busy brooms and feverish wrapping and packing resulted in a spotlessly clean and tidy hall. Carloads of surplus food was ready to be taken back to HQ.  It was now time for me to track down not just Phil but also friends who were out on, what transpired to be, a particularly brutal 100 mile course. The appreciative responses to my vocal encouragement, in particular at later checkpoints, from walkers who appeared to be bonkers due to extreme fatigue, was amazing. Why were they asking me if I was all right when it was they that appeared to be ‘out on their feet’.

There are so many tales to tell. Here is one story of how, for an hour or two, if things could go wrong they did go wrong. Paul Keech and I had together been supporting Phil and Graham Busch as the two of them walked as a team. Graham was leaning a little as we waved them off from Worrall Village Hall at the 75 mile point. With an eta of 3 hours to their next checkpoint, Wortley Rugby Club, we found a nice local cafe for a leisurely hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream.

Then it all started to go wrong. I had put the pre-recorded postcode of the next CP in my Satnav (being a good supporter involves careful preparation) but was surprised to find that I had ‘arrived at my destination’ whilst in the middle of a dual carriageway. A corrected postcode entry then resulted in me driving into a private cul-de-sac in Wortley whilst my ringing mobile showed ‘Paul K calling’. Men are so impatient! Resorting to the good old OS map I then missed the turnoff and drove over a mile out of the village before I could find a safe place to turn round.  I didn’t have time to explain my late arrival to Paul because he immediately informed me that the guys had phoned to report that Graham’s back had gone into spasm and he was in pain and virtually immobile.

They had been able to give us an accurate as possible location but they were on what was probably one of the most difficult parts of the entire 100 mile route to access by car. They were about a mile along a steeply sloping track in a wood well away from a road, surrounded by private land. Plan A was for us to drive/walk to the start of the wood, walk uphill through the wood to their location, relieve Graham of his heavy rucksack, (which Phil had being doing for a while as Graham began to slow down) and help Graham to walk back down the hill. In hindsight this would have been downright impossible. By this time it was painful for Graham to move more than a few steps at a time. Whilst we were on our way to the nearest road access point, having transformed into the P&D (Paul and Dee) mobile rescue service, the phone rang again. A helpful local walker, now with Graham, told us about two possible vehicle access routes which would take us much closer to our injured friend. They involved driving on tracks across private land and we were advised that the access gates might or might not be locked. We had no choice. We had to make an attempt to get to Graham as quickly as possible. Plan A was abandoned. Plan B was formed and put into operation.

Full of determination to fulfil our rescue mission we drove to our first gate. It was locked. The second gate took longer to locate due to a stationary vehicle diagonally across the track blocking vehicular traffic. Fearing a driver slumped over the wheel Paul discovered the car to be mysteriously abandoned. After informing the residents of a nearby farm we folded our wing mirrors, breathed in deeply, and just managed to squeeze by to boldly continue with our rescue mission. Paul and I are good map readers. We know the OS symbol for a mast, which was shown on the map to be very close to the lodge that we were trying to get to. Can you believe that there were two masts on the same road, and we had arrived at the wrong one! Realisation eventually dawned and we went on to find “our ”lodge. However, the gate that we needed to pass through was shut. I knocked on the front door of the lodge to explain our plight. A friendly conversation resulted in permission to open the gate and drive through it, although I’m not convinced that the lodge owner’s free roaming dogs knew that we had consent. It is amazing how quickly you can open and close a gate and jump into a getaway car when you don’t know if dogs are friendly or not. The advice we had been given by the local was slightly incorrect as the private track we were on did not take us direct to the farm that was nearest to Graham. We then chose the wrong road fork and found difficulty turning round in the farmyard as our car became surrounded by a host of inquisitive chickens. More than you would find at KFC. Eventually Paul succeeded in turning the car round and we managed to arrive at the farmhouse that was indeed the one closest to Graham. 

I would like to think that I would be as calm and appreciative as Graham was, when he listened to our story and the various reasons for our delayed arrival. Stoically, he didn’t complain when he slowly walked the 800 yards of rutted track to get to the car, even though he was in obvious pain. Happily, after a hot bath, Graham’s back eased and, with luck, his physio will be able to work his usual magic. 

Phil went on to reach the finish, walking and route finding the last 23 miles on his own. The plan had been for me to park at the finish, walk back to the final checkpoint at Elsecar, and enjoy one of Dave and Merrian’s beers there before Phil arrived. After 96 miles of navigation in mostly hostile surroundings Phil would then be able to dispense with his route description as I would helpfully guide him to the finish. If I hadn’t got lost whilst walking the four miles back to meet him the plan would have worked brilliantly. It was of course dark by then and Phil was surprised when I was not at the CP to meet him as arranged. Terry was at the Elsecar checkpoint and suggested to Phil that he should ring me to find out where I was. Phil had walked 96 miles, climbed 11,000 feet of ascent, and had been on his feet for more than 36 hours. He considered Terry’s suggestion. It involved him in getting his phone out of his rucksack and pressing a few buttons which seemed to him to be a complicated and almost impossible task. Terry saw the look of confusion on Phil’s face and leaped to the rescue. She made the call on her own phone. It was all a little embarrassing that Phil’s absent but well-meaning helper was missing whilst on her own four mile walk along what was a well signposted broad metal tracked walkway.

All good stories have a happy ending. I did meet Phil for the final 2 miles, and followed proudly behind him as the bell sounded his arrival into the hall at HQ and everyone clapped. At least I think it was him that they were applauding rather than me. Half an hour later, after I had enjoyed Phil’s yummy vegan curry (well he wasn’t hungry), he picked up his well earned badge, certificate, map and Trans-Pennine labelled bottle of beer. 

Many congratulations to all the courageous finishers; commiserations to those forced to retire, and thank you, job well done, to all the organisers and CP helpers. This was my first experience as a CPS - Check Point Supporter. It certainly won’t be my last. The Hundred is a unique, amazing event. You don’t have to be an entrant to experience it; volunteers are very welcome and always very much appreciated. 

Dee Brockway