I’ve been involved in the launch event of several National Camping and Caravanning Weeks (NCCW) down the years, but the Great Ridge Night Light on the evening of 22 May 2018 has to be the most spectacular to date.
For 2018, NCCW runs from 28 May to 3 June, with the theme of walking and celebrating the incredible trails in the country’s national parks.
To do this, the Club joined forces with the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) to produce the Great Ridge Light Night – that is, lighting up the Great Ridge in the Peak District – and to help raise awareness of the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal, which aims to raise funds for path repairs to some of the country’s most popular walks.
This involved assembling several hundred volunteers to ascend and line a two-mile stretch of the Great Ridge in the Peaks, all wearing head torches.
And to ice the cake, the walk was led by our Club President Julia Bradbury along with her friend Sam Thompson from TV show Made in Chelsea, enjoying his first taste of camping and glamping.
It was a massive logistical effort, and I joined in along with our own Stuart Kidman and David Guest. Our base for the activities was Fields Farm, a gorgeous little Certificated Site in Castleton, in the shadow of the Great Ridge, run by Janet and Mark Priestley.
Stuart and Dave camped in tents, while I luxuriated in our Carthago C-tourer long term test motorhome. (For more on this van, visit our video review here.)
Some 600 BMC members, Camping and Caravanning Club staff and volunteers from our own Mountain Activity Section, led by the Special Interest Section president Andrew Wood, were among that head count.
Conditions were as good as we could have hoped, and we were all well prepared with good walking boots, multiple layers, waterproofs and more – after all, ascending a 517m hill at dusk then walking a two-mile long ridge on a broken footpath and descending in the dark isn’t to be taken lightly.
The walk up Mam Tor was steep but brisk and we traversed the path to Back Tor bathed in golden sunlight – I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a walk in the Peaks in quite such idyllic conditions, and it was great to catch up with Andrew and the friendly MAS members.
Once all the 600 or so walkers were up on the ridge, and organised in place by marshalls, the last of the day’s light faded, and the instruction came over the walkie talkies to light up.
The effect was breath taking – a ribbon of torches that illuminated and followed the contours of the Great Ridge and literally shed light on one of Britain’s best-loved walking routes that’s in dire need of TLC.
Photographers from multiple vantage points coordinated to capture the effect, along with aerial drone video from the Club’s own videographer Matt Smith.
The wind whipped in, and with the sun now well gone it got cold fast, but spirits and morale among the volunteers lining the route was fabulous. It’s a night that no one who was present will forget in a hurry.
After an all clear across the radios that we had the images we needed, it was time to descend, which went without a hitch, and head back to the campsite for a well-earned glass of beer.
Check out our picture gallery from the event here.
Also, look out for the July issue of our magazine for further images, along with our behind the scenes video footage from the event, and visit the NCCW website for the findings from our research into camping and walking among 2,000 UK adults who camp.
There will a further NCCW hub event at Alton The Star Club Site on Thursday 31 May to 1 June, attended by Club VIPs and competition winners – look out for our videos of the event, which will star our own columnist Andy Torbet.
And for great ideas on where to walk from Club Sites around the UK during NCCW, visit our own routes produced in association with ViewRanger here.
Also check out our fun video below to celebrate this year’s NCCW and see Club President Julia Bradbury introduce Made in Chelsea’s Sam Thompson to camping, glamping and the wonders of the great outdoors. And he loved it!