Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Doncastrian Way - 2nd May 2012

“The Doncastrian Way is a 33 mile circular around the old County Borough boundary of Doncaster” … So says the original pamphlet from the early 1970's … “the Route, follows public rights of way, with short sections on roads and was devised by Pat White of the Doncaster Wayfarers around 40 years ago”.

It's now one of the Vermuyden Groups challenge events and firstly, and most importantly, I must offer a personal thank you to Frank Lawson of the South Yorkshire Vermuyden Group of the LDWA for providing me with an e copy of the walk; so enabling me to map the entire route and complete the navigation error free. It is with his permission that I use certain images and narratives as an introduction. The rest of the experience is mine … alone!

I attempt these things because I'm a fan of long distance trails. Along with the camaraderie of this club, I also like the solitude such an endeavour allows and, having a rare day away from my business, I’ve tried to kill as many birds with one stone as possible.

  • Get a good long training session in for my up and coming ultra events
  • Awaken the general opportunities nearer to home of long distance running
  • Specifically put The Doncastrian Way on the map as a long distance running challenge
  • Complete this in one piece, planning the hydration / nutrition of a non-supported round
  • Not to get lost
  • Get round in under 6 hours.

How well did I do? … you tell me!

I joined the round at The Mount Pleasant Hotel on the Old Great North Road, heading clockwise round and my first 10k distance (sub 54 minutes) took me through territory very familiar to my club runners of Tickhill R & AC ( we actually turned last nights recce of our Offtrac 10 event - and respective marshalling positions - into a tempo 8 mile run through mud! … not sure that’s great preparation for an ultra attempt the following morning but, hey ho – here goes) – the Rossington to Wadworth section.

The sun shone, the day warmed nicely and this would have been a problem for Hay fever sufferers but fortunately that aint me. I was waist deep in Rape Seed Fields within an hour of starting: Ominously, this wouldn't be the first time in the day that I was to be waist deep in something!

Passing under the M18 and parallel to the A1(M) reminded me of the urban nature of this section. The hum of traffic stayed with me until I got through Warmsworth, down to Sprotborough and a cool section alongside the River Don, back underneath the A1(M), all the way to St Marys Bridge near to Town. 10 miles in … 1.31 on the clock.

I'll break here to allow aficionados of bridge architecture the further benefits of what's on offer on this trip: railway bridges, road bridges, motorway bridges, pipe carrying bridges and swing bridges are all on view! …

… there then followed an odd point leaving Doncaster central where two level crossings bisect the route along Ings Lane heading out of Bentley and a full 7 minutes passed before I got through these but it did allow me to re-arrange my rucksack : Empty bottles away, fresh ones out, oat bars / Snicker bars out, empty wrappers away – and then try to stare the Hull Trains carriages into action!

I have found the mental discipline to keep going one of the tough nuts to crack and this next few miles along the ankle deep grass levees of the Don took it's toll. In the far distance I have tried to avoid looking at the cooling towers of Thorp Marsh Power Station as I know I'm eventually under their shadows but it seems an eternity of blue skies and tough grass and even though it's flat I have to take regular walks as it just took it out of me.

I was just pleased it wasn't wet ….., then I left the grass, crossing the Grumble Hurst Drain and the lane ahead ...

So, I get waist deep in River flood water and its eerie being so far from dry land during a route I'm supposed to be running …

then the abandoned car floats by …

closely followed by a grass snake …

Enough is enough and I don`t look back as I finally wade onto the dry end of Fordstead Lane, through the Road Closed barriers and squelch my way over Barnby Dun Bridge ... and back to civilisation?

I'm most of the way down Hatfield Lane towards Dunsville before water stops being pushed out of my running shoes and nearly another half hour before I'm warm. I've passed Ruane Potatoes and over the M18 now and thankfully a turn south of South West means – to me – the homeward section. Gate Wood Lane track is however a couple of miles of gun barrel straight pools and tractor rutted mud

...and I'm resigned to blow my target of 6 hours: Cold, wet, harassed by dogs and feeling generally spent.

Then the mind games begin. Crossing Torne Bridge, I opt for the South Bank of the South Ring Drain and immediately regret it. The grass is knee deep and I can't see the ruts and tussocks – cursing, it takes me an age to get onto Common Lane and down the dusty but hard track into, once again a sunny Auckley village centre. Can I get back in 6 hours or under? – 20 minutes to get across country – very pleasant in the late afternoon sun including good paths and Bluebell Woods ...

(Could only happen around here but how does an old bath get into a wood?)

But I'm finally defeated, running out of gas, passing Marr Flats into Hurst Plantation. I pick a line that ends me up in a mogul field! High mounds of earth cross the path - perfect for mountain biking but hellish on mi' old knees at this point – scarcely a mile to go but I'm scrambling up banks and sliding down t'other side like no tomorrow but I'm done in and I limp back out onto the Old Great North Road ... the sign sends me

Southbound for the Mount Pleasant Hotel – and the finish – which I can see! At 6 hours and 5 mins. It takes me another 7 minutes to hobble down the road in the late afternoon sun and get back to the car but I've made it! 

6.12, self supported around this difficult circular round and I'm chuffed to bits. I've been chased by dogs, been yellow from the chest down in Rape Seed flowers, been chased by more pairs of dogs, been waved at by train passengers, been waist deep in floodwaters with only a snake for company and shuffled along cursing more often that I can say. But, I `ve achieved another milestone in my ultra running journey – I never thought this one would be so hard!

I`ve just received a very complimentary note from Frank of the Vermuyden LDWA Group. Following this, hopefully my report and a few images may be seen here on their site. I've even been granted The Badge and Completion Certificate. What do you think to that? ... and nearly got my six goals reached.


  1. Wow... this has been fascinating reading... the image of you running into the distance I am going to paint... I love the isolation and the movement... what an achievement Mike... I am in awe..

  2. Hey Mike, great write-up about a really interesting route.

    Very 'Round Rotherham'-ish I thought (only with floods & snakes !) and perhaps a contender for a new ultra event ... ?

    Good on ya to get round, especially self-supported and, I take it, without having navigated it.

    Next time you'll be sub 6 hours I'm sure !

  3. Heroic effort . . great write up and some brilliant pictures . . well done mate

  4. Hi Mike
    Well done. I completed (the walk not the run) over Easter 2012. Fascinated by the flood water it was as dry as a bone when I was there. Great achievement though, it's further than you think it should be is'nt it?

  5. Hi Lizzie, cant wait to see that!!! .... and, look forward to that coffee.

    Jan, yep, much like the RRR but never bargained on waist deep water!, it did follow public rights of way `n so pretty easy to map ... as for next time? ummm ... :-)

    Piers, thanks, I'll tell you all about this, and the rest, of these at the Lion!


    Very well done on your round, I was amazed to drop into the water ... never expected that at all ... yes, it does go on and on :-) ... especially on the drag to Auckley which, for me, was the penultimate section.

    Thanks for all the supportive comments! much appreciated, I've something else in mind ver soon! watch this space.

    Cheers Mike