|Galloping down Castle Hill to escape a nithering north-easterly|
Weather-wise, it's been a week of contrasts in the wilds of Yorkshire, from clear skies and bare landscapes to thick snow, misty horizons and biting winds. I was out in all it's changing moods, savouring every minute as I romped over hills, by twisting trails, through rutted fields, silent woods and quiet riverbanks for a weekly total of 24 eventful miles.
Wednesday was intervals day on what is normally the leeward side of Castle Hill, but not so on this occasion. A nithering north-easterly had me donning my jacket before launching into eleven faster runs at an average 6.26 pace. They'd started off at a conservative 6.48 pace but got progressively faster as I hurried things along to sooner escape the biting headwind that was stinging my face on each run. At 900ft above sea level I call it altitude training, though that might be stretching it a bit! Eight miles away, across the valley, Holme Moss rose a thousand feet higher and was plastered with snow. In the clear air it appeared but a hop, skip and jump away.
|Friday's fiery sunset - from my garden|
On Thursday and Friday the temperature hardly rose above freezing. I kept low for most of the time on gentle runs through sleepy Mollicar and Roydhouse woods, across clarty fields of winter wheat where mud built up on my trail shoes till I was almost running on stilts! Crossing tarmac lanes I was able to kick most of it off before final circuits of Castle Hill (again) to complete what were mainly pleasant, but sometimes laborious, five mile runs.
Due to wind-chill the temperature on Saturday plummeted even lower. Getting out of the car at Keelham, a hilltop Farmer's market, to buy meat on our way back to the Dales, was like stepping into a wind blasted super-freezer. The lowering sky had turned an angry grey, presageing snow, so we drove home with all haste, fed the stove, donned our thermals and went for a swift six mile run around Appletreewick. On the inky water of the River Wharfe a male Goosander was displaying his startling white plumage to doting crested wives while on a mid-stream stone a Dipper was in full song - each of them seemingly oblivious to the icy blasts that had us hurtling back along the riverbank as fast as our legs would carry us. The first flakes of snow came fluttering from the sky as we ran through Burnsall, a couple of miles from home, and continued throughout the day and all night.
|Sunday - running by a snowy riverbank - wearing Yaktrax|
We peered out the window on Sunday morning into a blinding winter wonderland. The snow plough and gritter had cleared main roads during the night but villages were pretty much snow-bound, including ours. I was sat by the fire, going over the lesson I'd been asked to read in Church that morning, when the phone rang. The service had been cancelled. Our Minister was reluctant to attempt the 2½ mile journey to our village in decidedly dodgy driving conditions. Just as well, for some of our congregation that live farther afield wouldn't be here either.
|The Wharfe at Loup Scar|
So, for the first time this winter, we fitted Yaktrax to our trail shoes and ventured out into our other Church - that great outdoor world which, on this February morning, was dressed in all her shining white finery, like a bride ready for her groom, to borrow a biblical analogy. It was very much a stop/start affair as we ran from one vantage point to another, clicking away with our cameras, hoping for the perfect shot but, such is the contrast between black and white, modern cameras find snow scenes difficult to cope with, even on all the relevant settings.
After four miles we returned home, stoked up the stove, made cups of strong coffee and downloaded our pictures onto the computer. Totally disappointing! Ah well, our digital images might turn out a bit blue and fuzzy but at least they remain sharp in our minds. Problem is, I haven't yet discovered a way to transfer pictures directly from my mind into my Blog, though an artist friend of mine with a photographic memory can recall scenes and draw them just as he saw them 20/30/40 years ago. Some people are really gifted. All I can do is run!