The Dragons fielded an experienced squad. Strong in attack, with Harriet up front supported by Kate and Erin out on the wing; Darrin, Jon A, Muzz, Jerry and Ant playing Midfield and the defensive back line of Meg R, Hennie, Claire, Donna and Anna. Lucy and Dave returned from retirement to help us keep a clean sheet. Sue literally took on the coaching duties for the day.
Dave Amos led the squad out at ungodly hours. Map and compass in hand he marched us through the tunnel leading to the base of Blorenge, where we stood for a moment to consider the immensity of the task ahead of us. Three Mountains. Twenty Miles. Game on.
With a mountain, or three, to climb to hit the top of the League the Dragons were efficient from the kick-off. Clinical in attack, we came prepared. Hours spent on tactical skills in the build-up paid off and we ran like Kate Bush straight up the Basin of Blorenge. Zig-zag tactical advice from OSMapfinder be damned. Hard training paid off we flew up and as we dragged ourselves to the top, we were rewarded with a view of our next adversaries. We bolted some calories and prepared for descent, but not before some nifty sketching from Kate and a quick tactical meeting. Dave even sang Julie Andrews to cheer us on.
We belted down the side of Blorenge for rumour had it there “might” have been a toilet at checkpoint three. On our way down we encountered (in no particular order) friendly ponies, loose rocks, dark woods, sunny canals and winding streams. Some of us bled for the cause on a barbed-wire fence. We were briefly “lost” (n.b. Never trust someone who looks like they know what they are doing for they are almost certainly lost) but we recovered and got to the bridge for our first rendezvous with the cavalry (Sue). We subbed the Mighty Mr Amos who (quite literally) walked his boots off. Sue promptly dropped the subs to the nearest pub for cider and tactical planning.
Sugar Loaf Mountain might be the prettiest part of the walk and we were all beginning to enjoy ourselves. This time we encountered a puppy half way up the mountain who wanted to play (the sheep were less than impressed) he found his way down again and we lost the battery on the GPS, but by now we were just following the lemmings (As the song goes: The only way is UP, Baby…) But the Dragons had a secret weapon… Hennie cocked that eyebrow and reviewed our options, ignoring the other 900 walkers completely, she strode decisively and led us to the top, letting the other lemmings continue their blind ascent. Hennie saved us a long, long walk. And then coolly ate some chocolate custard. Cause Hennie is just cool, even hiking mountains.
We knew there was a pub at the base of Sugarloaf (we had sent a forward team to assess the situation) so we scrambled as fast as we could in the direction of the next checkpoint, only to realise that the pub was about 5km further than we initially thought. “Mountains, mountains everywhere and nor any drop to drink.” By now the blisters were beginning to bite and the walkers weren’t falling for “The worst bit is over” anymore. We just wanted to get to the pub. Muzz marshalled the troops and led the charge.
There was another substitution at the pub, Jerry walked us all proud, and Sugarloaf and Blorenge were an incredible feat of endurance. While the rest of us debated the pros and cons of a quick cold lager before the final mountain, the landlord literally threw everyone out. At 4pm. On a Saturday. On the busiest day of the year. With 900 walkers barred from the bar, Ant, Darrin and Meg plotted the course. We gritted our teeth, scowled at the landlord and folded our maps up and set off to the final peak, Skirrid.
Claire gave us all a pep talk and organised the defensive line, Ant checked our reserves and estimated the remaining time and distance. “Three Hours. Maybe? I dunno, er, fifteen kilometres…?” he squinted into the sun channelling the man with no name, tumbleweed rolled past. Not one person complained.
As Anna would tell you, Megan says: “The worst bit is over”. I said it at the top of Blorenge. I surely said it half-way up Sugarloaf. I think probably said it when the pub was five miles further than I thought. But then there was Skirrid.
Skirrid is “Easy” they said. “It’s the smallest one” they said, “A quick run to the top and then saunter into town…” they said…and Megan believed them.
They lied. Skirrid was EVIL. For a start, it took a hell of a long walk to GET to Skirrid. Miles of confusing paths trying to lead us astray, gale force wind in our faces. The path was eroded by the hundreds of scrabbling walkers ahead of us and littered with loose rocks. There were no friendly ponies or puppies to be found on the way up Skirrid. I cursed like Claire the whole way up.
The Dragons dug deep and waded through mud and manure, we scrambled over innumerable stiles and fences and eventually crawled our way to the summit. Petrified the checkpoint would close, we did it in less than thirty minutes. To find Mountain Rescue (and Labrador) who cheerfully volunteered to take our picture. (not the Labrador)
We admired the phenomenal views, Hennie did the Hennie dance. Megan had a panic that we’d lost Harriet, Harriet was calmly standing two yards to my right. Waving. Ant took a 360 panoramic of the distance we had just covered, and it dawned on us that we only had to leg it back to the centre of town. The final hours were upon us. Jon and Lucy looked fresh as daisies, Hennie looked like Hennie, the rest of us could have done with a bath, a crate of beer and a week in bed. We still had woods and roads to negotiate in the fading light, but the end was in sight. Three Peaks Down. It was back to the final checkpoint, then home.
It wasn’t pretty, the last few kilometres, it was exhausting and a bit boring, I twisted my ankle on the last step through the woods. We got back in the dark, I walked a bit further than I needed to through a housing estate and came back from the opposite direction. It was too dark to see the map and my phone had died by then. I walked the remaining couple of kilometres quite happily. We never got to a pub. We raised few bottles in the car park to toast ourselves and realised how late it was and how far we had to drive to get home.
We’ve raised a fair bit of money for the club, we also raised a pretty good chunk for Longtown Mountain Rescue as well. We took on a different type of challenge, we worked together, everyone helped each other and we helped random strangers too. I cannot thank the team, the walkers, the organisers and everyone who sponsored us enough. I’m chuffed with everyone.
It might have been my Favourite (non-football) Dragons Day Ever. Says a lot that.
(Report by Megan Roberts, the wonderful organiser and brilliant fundraising secretary)
A HUGE thank you to everyone who sponsored us, helping us raise just over £1,200. This is so important in helping us sustain the club and continue our work for the LGBTI+ community. THANK YOU for the support!