At 2am this morning myself and the rest of the Three Peaks team – Michelle, Paul, Gavin and Chris – arrived back in Rutland after a fantastic, if very tiring few days. We might all be suffering from sleep deprivation and aching limbs, but it is more than worth it!
A manic few days started at 8:30am on Monday morning when we collected the minibus Tim Norton Ford in Oakham very kindly donated free of charge for the challenge.
We were on the road shortly afterwards, heading for our lunchtime talk at the Lake District Osprey Project. During the winter, when we were discussing ways to raise money for our education project in West Africa, the Three Peaks jumped out at us as a great idea. Not only would it provide us with a difficult physical challenge, but it would also take us to the various other parts of the UK where Ospreys breed. The whole concept of our Osprey education project is to link communities through Osprey migration and what better place to start than at other UK Osprey sites? With this in mind, we arranged talks at the Lake District Osprey Project and Loch of the Lowes on Monday before we tackled the mountains, and the Dyfi Osprey Project on Wednesday for after we had finished.
Chris Ditchburn, later nick-named ‘the Stig’, was our designated driver for the three days and, despite a late start from Rutland as we struggled to get what seemed like a ridiculous amount of luggage into the mini-bus, he got us to Keswick in the nick of time. It was great to see several friends of the project at the talk, including Pete Davies and Barbara Thompson.
After lunch (thanks Barbara!) we were back on the road again, heading for the Loch of the Lowes, home to perhaps the most well-known Osprey in the UK, 27 year-old ‘Lady’. We were met by Emma Rawling, Lindsey Gibb and Jonathan Pinnick from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and a group of project volunteers and local residents. Our talk, which covered our recent satellite-tracking studies, visits to West Africa and, most-importantly, the education project in West Africa we’re raising money for. We even had time for a relaxing half hour or so in the hide, chatting to some volunteers and admiring the nest and very tranquil surrounds.
We were having such a good time that we’d almost forgotten about the mountains, but next morning it was onto the main business…
We arrived at a rainy Fort William around lunchtime and after a quick chat with Sally Pepper on BBC Radio Leicester, bought some supplies for what was going to be a gruelling 24 hours. At 3:30pm we set-off towards the summit of Ben Nevis; at 1344 metres the highest peak in the UK. If we were were going to finish the challenge in 24 hours then we knew we had to get up and down the mountain by about 8:30pm – and had the added incentive of getting back to the minibus to listen to the second half of the England football match at Euro 2012.
By 6pm we were approaching the summit, but thick fog made the going pretty tough. By the time we actually reached the top you couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of you, but as we descended again, the clouds suddenly cleared, providing us with the most incredible view of a seemingly endless mosaic of lochs and mountains.
Once back at the bus there was no time to waste and after a quick bit of carb-loading in the form of another bowl of pasta we were on our way to the Lake District at about 9pm.
Chris made light work of the 260 mile drive to Scafell Pike and we arrived bang on time at 2:30am, despite the best efforts of a few kamikaze sheep. We had all managed a bit of broken sleep on the bus and it was just as well – we knew we needed to be at the summit of the highest mountain in England by 5am at the latest. We set-off with head torches lighting the way and made it to the top just as the sun appeared over the eastern horizon at about 4:40am. With a completely clear sky and excellent visibility, it made for a truly unforgettable sight.
No sooner had we got to the bottom of Scafell, than we were off again. Its over 200 miles from the Lake District to Snowdon and so we had no time to waste if we were going to finish the challenge by 3:30pm. We arrived at Snowdon just after 11:30am – Chris again doing us proud – and set-off immediately. By now we were all feeling the effects of the previous two mountains and by the time we approached the summit of Snowdon, every step was proving painful! We made it though, arriving at the top at 1:15pm. We could now relax a bit more, and even had time to admire the view on the way back down. We got back to the minibus at 3:06pm, meaning we had completed the challenge in 23 hours and 36 minutes. And didn’t our legs just know it! It was great to see Alwyn Evans from the Dyfi Project who was there to greet us.
Once we got to the bottom of Snowdon we were off again – heading south to the Dyfi Osprey Project where our good friend Emyr Evans had arranged a great venue in Machynlleth for our talk that evening. We were met by Emyr, Janine Pannett and a large group who were all assembled ready for the talk. There was a great atmosphere and lots of good questions and suggestions afterwards. Everyone agreed that it is vital that we do all we can to protect migrant birds such as Ospreys on their wintering grounds – and that education is fundamental to this being successful. We hope that through our education work in West Africa we can help safeguard Ospreys from the UK, and also millions of other migratory birds that make such amazing journeys to get there each year. We also hope to enrich the lives of school children who otherwise have very little opportunity to enjoy the wonderful wildlife that their country – and indeed continent – is home to. Isn’t it great to think that it is the Ospreys themselves who are making this all possible?
Before we headed back to Rutland, there was just time for a quick look at Nora – our Rutland Osprey who has made Dyfi her home – and for some fish and chips with Emyr, Janine and Alwyn at the Dyfi Osprey Project centre. At 10pm we all piled back onto the minibus and set-off on the four-hour drive back to Rutland. The previous 48 hours all seemed a bit of a blur – but what a fantastic couple of days it had been!
Finally, some thanks yous. Firstly to everyone at the Lake District Osprey Project, Loch of the Lowes and the Dyfi Osprey project for their hospitality and support; to Tim Norton Ford in Oakham, for loan of the minibus, free of charge; to Gavin Young for organising everything; to Chris Ditchburn for his brilliant driving; to Lizzie Lemon for holding the fort at Rutland Water while we were away – and baking some amazing cakes to keep us going on the mountains; and last, but-by-no-means-least, a huge thank you to everyone who came to our talks or who has sponsored us for the challenge. We are very grateful to you all. Click on the video below for a reminder of what your money will be helping us to do. And, if you would like to sponsor you can still do so online, by clicking here. Please help us to get over the £3000 mark! For more photos of the trip, check out our Facebook album.