I couldn’t resist the lure of an event with a name like the Baslow Boot Bash, so when I found that it fitted well with my preparations for the Lakeland 50 I quickly entered! Organised as a fundraiser for Baslow Choir, the event starts on the edge of Chatsworth Park and then follows a circular route through the Derbyshire Dales. It is advertised at 26 miles, but generally agreed (by the authority of Internet discussions) to be closer to 27.5 miles.
I travelled up the night before and stayed in a small campsite in nearby Calver, leaving only a short drive to Chatsworth in the morning. After a quick and efficient registration in Baslow Village Hall I made my way to the start at the edge of the park. At precisely 9am we set off and I tried to avoid getting caught up in the mad rush along the good track towards Chatsworth House. I was planning to use this as a training run and stick to a steady pace all day, hoping to finish still feeling strong.
One of the features of this event is that although there is a recommended route, it is not obligatory and you are free to pick your own route as long as you visit all the checkpoints. This meant that at times there would be runners heading in various different directions. I decided that I would stick to the recommended route, which is the most scenic (and hilly), but a bit slower than taking some of the possible road options.
After a stunning start through the Chatsworth parkland, we made our way up through woods and then down to the first checkpoint near Haddon Hall. I felt tired and sluggish for the first few miles, but once through the first checkpoint and climbing across the fields towards Over Haddon I settled into a good rhythm and felt much better. The weather was cloudy with a bit of drizzle, but there was no sign of the forecast heavy rain and storms! After another checkpoint in Over Haddon the next section took us through pastureland, beautiful meadows vibrant with colourful wild flowers. Unfortunately these were punctuated with numerous step stiles to cross the many stone walls, giving a full body workout! I was chatting to another friendly runner and the miles flew by.
After our next checkpoint in Sheldon there was a significant route choice to be made, either taking the longer but simpler route through Deep Dale, or following a shorter but navigationally complex path through fields. I opted for the field route, which resulted in yet more stiles to cross, before a very steep descent through woods down into Deep Dale and then across the A6 into Monsal Dale. Here the route followed a pretty path along the river as far as Monsal Head, before climbing up to join the disused railway line that is now the Monsal Trail. Having seen nobody but other runners all day, it was strange to suddenly be surrounded by other walkers and cyclists on the busy trail.
I enjoyed the single track running down to the impressive buildings at Cressbrook Mill, before continuing up Cressbrook Dale. I was enjoying the twisty track through the woods here, and was just checking my position on the map, when I tripped over a rock and found myself spread-eagled on the ground. My knee instantly felt painful and I picked myself up and had a quick inspection to discover a small cut and a lot of soreness. I forced myself to start walking and limped along, willing it to ease off; gradually the soreness improved and soon I felt able to start running again, albeit paying a lot more attention to where I was putting my feet! I got some strange looks from walkers coming the other way and realised that I was also completely covered in mud and grime from the woodland path. I had Mountain Fuel in my bottles rather than water, so I couldn’t do a lot to clean myself up until I reached the next checkpoint – I would just have to get on with it!
Thankfully it was not much further to the next checkpoint at Foolow, where the kind marshals helped me to clean off most of the muck, before I headed through more beautiful hay meadows towards Eyam. On the way through Eyam I occupied myself spotting some of the plaques commemorating victims of the Black Death (if you haven’t read about the history of Eyam during the plague I recommend it), before following the recommended route up past the isolated Riley Graves (where villager Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six children, who died of the plague within eight days of one another, although she never became infected herself). There was also the option to follow the shorter and flatter route along the road here and so as I came down towards Froggatt Bridge I met up with several runners that I had seen earlier and we made our way to the checkpoint together.
From here we followed the River Derwent along to Calver, passing through my campsite from the previous night, before a short sharp climb up to Bramley Wood and then a loop round towards the finish at Baslow.
Coming down to Baslow I was still feeling strong and as I reached the village I jogged along happily, convinced I just needed to follow the road round to the village hall. Unfortunately, I was caught out by my failure to check the map properly and soon found myself heading out of Baslow on the wrong road, having added about half a mile by not paying attention. After a few moments of confusion I worked out what I had done and made my way more carefully to the finish, kicking myself for the silly mistake!
A fantastic day of running was rounded off with a pie and mushy peas at the finish and a chat with more friendly like-minded runners, before setting off for the drive back to Suffolk. It was a great day out and I can understand why most of the runners I met on the course were regulars at this event – hopefully I will be back again in the future!