Following my last post whereby I detailed mine and my husband's expedition of walking the Gritstone Trail in one day - https://www.carajasminebradley.com/post/walking-the-gritstone-trail-in-one-day - I have had a number of messages asking me various questions. I thought I'd compile a list below for anybody interested in tackling the hike themselves. Please feel free to message me with any further questions you might have about the Gritstone Trail!
So, walking the entire Gritstone Trail (56km/ 35 miles) in one day – what made you do it?!
Walking the Gritstone Trail has been an ambition of my husband’s ever since I met him.
The past year or so has been tough on our mental health for various reasons, and how better to prove that we’re still standing than by taking on an ultra fitness challenge, all the while ticking something off our bucket lists?!
Why did you decide to do the route ‘backwards’ – e.g starting in Kidsgrove and finishing in Disley?
Honestly? For no other reason other than that there’s an INSANE Chinese takeaway in Disley (shout out to Mr Chongs!) which we figured would be our ultimate reward if we succeeded in the challenge.
Did you train for the Gritstone Trail?
Not specifically. I do run three 5ks a week, plus a half marathon every weekend, so I am quite an active person. As I don’t drive, walking is second nature to me, and I cover at least 5km a day on my daily commute to work in-between train stations.
Prior to the Gritstone Trail, the furthest distance I had covered in a day was 42km on the few occasions I have run full marathons.
Just six months ago, my husband was completely inactive and seriously having a hard time with his mental health. As he was working from home, he started to walk 5k every day during his lunch break and worked up from there. Within months, he lost nearly 3 stone and had built his fitness up to 21km of walking. He is definitely more of walker than I am – I’m more of a runner, darting here, there and everywhere at maximum speed which is often a detriment to my ability to ace long distances.
What did you take?
· Head torches
· Blister plasters & normal plasters
· Antiseptic wipes
· Loo roll (for those inevitable wild wees...)
· Hand sanitiser
· A cagoule (because despite the forecast stating bright sunshine and temperatures of 19 degrees, you never can trust the English weather...)
· Spare shoes (another pair of running shoes in-case mine got wet)
· Spare socks (the only available pair I could find while packing at 4am were decorated in alligators with donuts for bodies – not the most sophisticated choice, but a much welcomed treat mid-walk after my original socks holed at the big toe)
· Three portable phone chargers (might have been a bit of an overkill, but I am also the girl who also packed a USB stick with all of my writing backed up on it in-case there was a house fire while we were out and my laptop was destroyed. Yes, I am that much of an over-thinker...)
· The Gritstone Trail Walkers Guide, printed from the Cheshire East Council website - https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/leisure,_culture_and_tourism/ranger_service/countryside_sites/the_gritstone_trail/gritstone-trail.aspx
What food did you pack?
· Breakfast: a protein bar and a freezer bag containing dry cereal (Yes, I am that psychopath who eats dry cereal as if they’re crisps. Sometimes I even like to switch things up and cover my Doritos in milk too.)
· Lunch: a baguette filled with hummus and falafel
· Snacks: a Boost chocolate bar, some dried mango, a bag of Doritos and a packet of Liquorice Allsorts
· Two litres of water each (this wasn’t anywhere near enough – I would recommend at least 4 litres per person. Definitely better to have some spare in-case you do get caught short and have to make an unplanned overnight stop)
What did you wear?
I wore a pair of leggins, a running top, and my new Trespass workout jacket. (I just had to namedrop right there – I feel SO chic buying my active wear from Trespass!)
We had been checking the weather religiously before the big day, so knew it was supposed to be balmy. I was comfortable all day, and at no point felt too hot or too chilly.
My New Balance running shoes. I was dubious that these would have the stamina to see me through a lengthy hike with such uneven terrain, but once again, my trusty beauties proved that they were worth every penny.
What time did you set off, and what time did you finish?
Our taxi dropped us off at Kidsgrove Station at quarter to 5 in the morning, and we got back to my Mum’s house at half past 9 at night.
Was the trail easy to follow?
Yes – for the most part. The route is well marked by yellow and black discs with a ‘G’ in the middle, but there were points where this got a little confusing. For example, there was one point where we arrived at a field in the middle of Rainow and were left totally baffled by the direction the discs were pointing in. They appeared to be promoting us to walk uphill through the field, when in actual fact, this led to a dead end. We had to retrace our steps, walk past the stile and carry on down the road for a few minutes before discovering the trail again.
We didn’t take any other form of map with us, but after walking a total of 5km in the wrong direction, I would highly recommend seeking an additional map to help guide you when the going gets a little tough.
Were there any places to buy refreshments along the trail?
No, none at all. There is a small but well stocked cafe at Teggs Nose, but that really is it in terms of opportunities to stock up on food and water. As of September 2021, The Tegg’s Nose Tea Room opening hours are as follows: Tuesday to Sunday, 9am – 5pm.
What was the hardest thing about walking the Gritstone Trail in one day?
Getting lost, twice. As I said in my article, adding 5km on to the 56km trail didn’t seem quite so bad when it initially happened within our first hour of walking, but my God it caught up with us around the 50km mark. Time stood still from 40 – 50km – we didn’t appear to be moving any closer to the finish line.
The route is also full of steep climbs in the form of lots of steps and random grassy hills that seem to appear out of nowhere. The elevation was relentless!
And what was your favourite part of the Gritstone Trail?
Watching the sunrise at Mow Cop was pretty special, especially as we were the only people around and the world felt like it was in the palm of our hands.
But I’ll also never, ever forget that feeling of total elation when Bow Stones came into view over the moorland after a gruelling 16 hours of walking.
How did you feel afterwards?
Completely and utterly in love with noodles and crispy seaweed!
No, in all seriousness, I personally found the hike more mentally challenging than I did physically. (I don’t reckon anything will ever compare to the pain I felt after running my first marathon, when I spent the following 7 days unable to even put my own tights on.)
My husband suffered with very bad blisters after the Gritstone Trail. I think we counted 9 at one point. His knees have also been causing him a lot of pain since, although his knee brace succeeded in warding off any aches during the actual hike.
For me, the aches and pains were refined mostly to my glutes, calves and the backs of my ankles, however, this did pass after a day or so.
We did the walk on Saturday – it’s now Tuesday, and I managed a 5k run this afternoon. I swore not to push myself and promised I would stop if I felt any pain whatsoever, but surprisingly, it was one of the most enjoyable runs I have had in weeks!
Everyone is different – it’s about listening to your body and granting it all the time it needs to recover and heal.
For us, the weirdest thing to follow our mammoth trek was insomnia! The night before the trail, we went to bed at 11pm, and got up for our taxi at 3:30am. You would think that a combination of 4 and a half hours sleep and 61km of walking would result in the BEST night’s sleep EVER once we finally returned home... Nope!
The pains in our legs prevented all attempts at sleep, and at 3am, my raging cravings for prawn crackers were so intense that I found myself creeping through the house in search of the leftover Chinese takeaway.
I have never felt hunger like the one that rampaged through my body in the hours that followed the hike.
In the end, we just accepted that we weren’t going to sleep and hauled the duvet downstairs, where we sat up watching Not Going Out and eating ice-cream and prawn crackers until daybreak.
I think the lack of shut eye might have been attributable to a few hike-related factors, including adrenaline, muscle cramps and dehydration.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
We would have definitely taken more water.
Also, ideally, we would have liked to have had more daylight so that we didn’t end up tackling the first and last hour of the trail in complete darkness. In hindsight, the peak of summer before the winter nights start to draw in might have been a better time to do it, but we got by – just!
Would you do it again?
Yes - 100%!
It’s funny; the pride you feel after completing a challenge like this by far outweighs any of the pain experienced along the way. (... Not sure my calves agreed that night as they cramped up TO HIGH HEAVEN repeatedly for about five hours straight.)
I would LOVE to partake in the Gritstone Grind run next year, and we also have our eye on the Sandstone Trail for our next big hike.
Accept that it’s going to be tough at times, and know that your ability to laugh at yourself is going to be your most powerful tool for perseverance!
I think I might have gone insane at around 44km had my husband not fallen down a hill and left me bent over double with laughter.
We saw a kangaroo and we randomly started beat boxing to the tune of my morning alarm – there were times on that trail where I really did think I had lost the plot!
It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling (to be honest, if you manage to walk 56km without struggling, please tell me your secret and I will pay you generously in jelly beans). I won’t even lie to you: I bloody cried!
Blood [blisters], sweat (my husband) and tears (me): we certainly went through the motions of an ultra-marathon hike alright!
✨ WE DID IT AGAIN IN 2022! SEE UPDATED BLOG HERE: https://www.carajasminebradley.com/post/gritstone-trail-in-one-day-again ✨
Cara Jasmine Bradley
#thegritstonetrail #gritstonetrail #gritstonetrailinaday #ultramarathon #ultramarathonwalk #cheshirewalks #staffordshirewalks #teggsnose #whitenancy #bowstones #bosleycloud #mowcop #lymepark #cheshire #staffordshire #hike