Monday, 12 March 2018

The time of the singing of birds......

What a difference a day makes, or even a couple of hours.  Last Thursday I woke to a winter wonderland, a study in black and white that had me reaching for my camera to grab the scene before it faded away.
From my window, Thursday's winter wonderland   (Click to enlarge pictures)
Amazingly, by lunchtime, the fields were green again.  In the space of a few hours winter had turned to Spring.  Birds were singing and being friendly to each other, crocuses opened wide to the sun and snowdrops were waving their little white heads in the breeze.
Where's my breakfast?
I could feel the change in the air and in my bones as I strolled down to the village.  It brought to mind a short poem I wrote many years ago.

The world sleeps
Deep in winter hills .
Vernal youth
Folds back her blanket.
Earth pants, and
Ah love, Spring has come.

For various reasons - a heavy cold, hospital appointments, being snowbound -  I hadn't run for almost two weeks.  And if I had managed to run I couldn't have posted anything to my Blog because I'd no Broadband or Internet connection.  After spending hours on the phone to Call Centres in South Africa and the Philippines it took 13 days for an engineer to arrive and sort things out.  Thanks Neil.
Crossing Hebden beck
Come weekend I was desperate to don some running gear and get out into the hills.  My wonderful partner is shortly to be leading a U3A walking group over a 10 mile circuit from Hebden and was a little unsure of a section over Bycliffe Hill.  It's a section I run regularly so was able to direct her. 
Running towards Grassington Moor
It was a balmy day and for the first time in many months, in England, I was wearing shorts.  It felt good.  As we set off up the ghyll curlews were calling and lapwings were wheeling in the air.  Golden plovers had returned to their haunts and kept up a constant piping over Grassington moor. Wild geese arrowed across the sky and a lone skylark sang his song.
Dollops of frogspawn
We soon reached the turn-off point for the trek over Bycliffe Hill.  There was a broadening of the track I always refer to as Casino Royale because that's where the opening scene of that 1967 film was shot.
At the turn-off point for Bycliffe at 'Casino Royale'
There is no path over Bycliffe Hill.  I've always followed a faint 'sheep trod' for ½ mile or so to a huge sink hole frequented by rabbits.  But we saw not a single sheep and their tracks had almost disappeared.  My wonderful partner had brought short pieces of ribbon and tied them round tufts of grass to mark the way across.
By the Bycliffe sink hole
From the sink hole the route is a little clearer across the top of the hill to where it drops down to a small marker cairn I put there many years ago.
Arriving at my wee marker cairn
We'd encountered snow across the hill, but nothing compared to that we had to cope with farther down. And it was unavoidable.
Then down a snow covered Mossdale track
We'd a foretaste of it as we ran down the Mossdale track but it was OK if we kept to the side.  Our path down the Long Wall was a different matter.
Will it hold me?
Fortunately the snow was fairly compacted and bore our weight as we trekked across.  Just as well, for lower down it must have been 5ft deep and level with the wall top.  Our path followed that wall with big cornices blocking any escape to our left.
I think we'll give that way a miss...
We blazed a way down, rather enjoying ourselves in the unusual conditions.  Occasionally we hit a soft patch and sank down a foot or so, but it was all good fun.
This is fun
After dropping around 400ft we were back into some greenery again, following the babbling beck down the ghyll and out of the wind where it felt 10º warmer. 
Back into the ghyll
A cacophony of bleating sheep filled the air as hungry lambing ewes teemed down the hillside, crossed the beck and made their way at great speed to where a shepherd was calling them and scattering hay for them to feed upon.
Feeding time
Understandably, it had been a slower run than usual and extra activity resulted in some minor aches for us both later in the day, but we'd appreciated the change and added interest.  We'd climbed a total of 945ft - to the 1,500ft contour - and run 8.43 miles.  
A good day's work. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

A week in Tenerife......

Anyone would think, looking at this week old photograph taken from our hotel room balcony, that we'd been to Scotland or maybe the Alps.  But no, this is actually Mount Teide on Tenerife which, at 12,198ft, is Spain's highest mountain.
Mount Teide    (Click to enlarge pictures)
Such was the amount of snow on its slopes that the main approach road from Puerto de la Cruz had barriers across, blocking access to both public and private transport. 
Descending through the forest near the end of our walk
 Consequently, the highest point we managed to reach was 4,265ft  on a boring circuit through the forest from La Caldera.  It was good exercise, climbing what seemed like a thousand steep, log steps but towering trees ensured there were no views throughout the whole of the walk.  Neither was there any birdsong, or flowers, or any movement  indicating life.  I was glad to say goodbye to it.
I call these tassel trees...
Not being much of a botanist, or interested in trees, a walk round the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz wasn't all that thrilling either.
Orchid...dunno what sort
  There were some rather nice orchids, the usual bird of paradise flowers and other strange blooms we couldn't begin to christen.
One of the strange blooms
What disappointed me though was the absence of terrapins in the lily pond.  There'd been quite a number of them on our last visit and I was looking forward to saying hello to them again.  But such was the state of the scummy water I guess it was no longer habitable for them.  I was tempted to ask for a refund on our way out!
Frisky terrapins
However, only feet away from the swimming pool at our hotel was a wee pond with running water where a close inspection revealed a pair of rather large healthy looking terrapins that seemed intent on increasing the population.  I hope they succeed.
Be Live, adults only, hotel - Puerto de la Cruz
Our hotel was rather plush and we were lucky enough to be given a quiet room away from traffic and other noises, and with a balcony that looked directly towards Mount Teide.  We had wonderful views in the morning but cloud always descended after lunch.
Meanwhile, across the road - on our running track.
But across the road, only a two minute jog away, was a running track.  Not a posh six lane tartan job but 400m of level gravel that was perfectly adequate for a few early morning repetitions.  Lots of runners took advantage of it, some of them very impressive, and one in particular Mo Farah might have had difficulty matching strides with.
Running the sea wall, dodging the waves
We ran every morning bar one, and always before breakfast. 
Our 3 mile anti-clockwise route round Puerto de la Cruz

It didn't take long to devise a 3 mile route that circuited the town and incorporated an exciting run along the sea wall.
Those great blocks were once the sea wall
Waves were crashing over to flood and cause havoc to the car parking area on the other side.
Wave after wave   (Click to play)

We were shouted at to get down before we were washed down but hey, we were on holiday and feeling good, dodging the waves, marvelling at dawn skies and revelling in the excitement.
Dawn surfer riding the waves
Red flags were flying on the beaches to warn people against entering the water.  It didn't stop one lady from swimming topless, or three surfers having the time of their lives.
What we do when we aren't running
The weather was good insomuch as it didn't rain and was always warm enough for shorts and T-shirts - other than when we climbed to over 4,000ft on the forest walk. 
Cooling off and putting some nice fluid back into the system
 The sea was always rough and never settled down the whole time we were there. 
A wild seascape
There was a constant roar and loud crashing noises as powerful waves smashed against the rocks and rattled down the pebble shore.
On board at breaking dawn
Time passed all too quickly - as it does on holiday.  We boarded our plane for the homeward flight just as dawn was breaking, the very time we'd been setting out each morning to dodge the waves on wonderful morning runs.
I've a feeling we'll be back.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Snow fun......

It's possible I'll soon be spending more time in surgeries, hospital waiting rooms, operating theatres  and opticians than I spend running.  Four appointments arrived in the same post last week, three relating to my eyes and the fourth to have my skin cancer hacked out.  "It's going to leave a scar" the doctor said, "it'll look like you've been in the wars".   
"At 85, that'll be the least of my worries, I'll tell people I was shot by a jealous husband" I told him. 
Better get running while I can   (Click to enlarge pictures)
The bumph says swimming will be out of the question for a couple of weeks (which doesn't bother me at all) and full body workouts in the gym shouldn't be attempted for at least 3 weeks.   What I'm anxious to know is whether running, too, constitutes a full body workout?  Answers on a postcard.  I'll adapt the one I like most...
Sunrise  over a frozen landscape   
Sub zero temperatures last week froze the muddy morass through the fields, along Clough Hall Lane and up the slopes onto Castle Hill. 
Moon over Victoria Tower
I got there and back with dry feet and clean shoes which is quite unusual.  I wish it would stay that way for a while for I'm fed up of coming home plastered (with mud, you understand).
Frozen moorland in the distance
I jogged up in the clear air while half of Huddersfield slept, my buff pulled up over my nose to warm the air, and circled a couple of times until the sun peeped over the horizon.
Sunlight spreading over Huddersfield
It's amazing how invigorating those first early morning rays can be.  I launched into a series of 100 metre hill reps before jogging gently back down as the town below warmed into life. 
Emley Moor mast against a dramatic, eastern sky......
Next morning I'd finished my workout long before sunrise but as I jogged home the sky turned a dramatic shade of red that had me dashing into the house for my camera.  Its blazing glory reminded me of a favourite song - Ghost Love Score - though not so much music, more a firework display.  Turn up the volume.  It's a cracker...
......and a strange phenomenon in the opposite direction at sunrise
Watson came running by as I stood outside, leaning against a fence composing shots (pointing my camera towards the mast and hoping for the best).  I felt rather smug having finished my workout as he was beginning his.  After a brief chat, something like Hi Dave, and Hi there, he continued on his way - at great speed!
I strolled leisurely back into the house for some protein laden chocolate milk
 - and breakfast.

Monday, 5 February 2018

A senior moment......

I took some great pictures while out running on Sunday, not just of my wonderful partner.   John Gill's beautiful working collie posed perfectly, and what looked like a white, flat-pack settee was stuck in the middle of the river at Loup Scar with icy water swirling round it, possibly abandoned by a frustrated owner.  Nice, new pictures for my blog, I thought.  Except, when I came to upload them onto the computer I discovered there was no memory card in my camera.  Silly me, I'd been shooting blanks.
What Watson does for me....(Click to enlarge pictures)
Due to a sore eye and inclement weather, not a great deal of running was done last week.  A brief foray around the cemetery on Friday, when my 'guardian angel' - Watson - squeezed another 'fastest time' out of me, and a six mile circuit of Appletreewick on Sunday proved the limit of my activities.
This primrose thinks Spring has arrived
Saturday was a non-day for al fresco events but in the evening we'd a delicious meal in the Clarendon.  From a menu that included mallard, partridge, grouse, pheasant, trout and roe deer we chose the grouse. And an excellent choice it turned out to be.  It limited my intake of Timothy Taylor's famous Yorkshire beer in case it washed away the wonderful flavour of wild, moorland game lingering in my mouth!
Running the riverbank near Appletreewick
Sunday dawned dull and cold but by 11am the sun was lighting up the landscape, tempting us to don our running gear and set off down the river bank.  A guy we saw with a drone at Burnsall maybe photographed us on the bridge as there there was a strange humming noise in the air behind us as we ran across.
A seat with a view
Alasdair on Dragon's Crest near Krabi, Thailand
As cold weather continues, with further snow forecast, I'm a little envious of my eldest son, Alasdair, who's currently enjoying balmy days in Thailand.  
I might have to book a flight...
PS.   I got a mention in a Spanish magazine - Here

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


I was pottering around the local cemetery immersed in my own thoughts, doing my own thing, a few downhill jogs and short walks interspersed by fast uphill reps while watching the dawn break; an easy, comfortable workout I often do before breakfast, if it's not raining.  Sounds of padding feet, a fair bit faster than mine, disturbed my reverie and a runner materialised from the gloom.  
Dave Watson, Holmfirth Harrier in flight   (Click to enlarge pictures)
"Just my luck", I thought, "I come out for an easy run and who should I meet but probably the fastest runner in Huddersfield, a guy who's lost count of his Parkrun wins, has a 15.02 5K to his name, not to mention a sub 51 minute 10 miles".  He's also very good at talking.  In fact, he rarely stops!
Our route
Slowly and imperceptibly, the pace must have been increasing for I didn't seem to be breathing quite so freely.  He chattered on.  "I've fallen out with Parkruns, they slow me down, I'm much better training on my own".  And I was secretly thinking, I wish he would!
I wasn't surprised..
"Right" I said, "I'm heading home, my stomach says it's breakfast time". He didn't seem to hear this and kept up his endless diatribe as we left the cemetery and jogged through the fields to where I live.  Yards from my door we parted company as he carried on for an extended run over Castle Hill - and all went blissfully quiet. It didn't surprise me when TomTom said it was my fastest short run to date...
That bloody eye
Four hours later, I was laid on an operating table at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for another cortico-steroid injection to my Rt eye.  It was sore and I felt ill after it so there was no way I was going to subject it to all the wind and rain that lashed Hebden at the weekend.  Even if my wonderful partner had allowed it!
Another glorious sunrise
But away from her, back in Huddersfield, Castle Hill was beckoning through my kitchen window.  "OK TomTom, let's go" I said, and stepped out into a breaking dawn to slosh through muddy fields to greet the sunrise..
They were very muddy fields
I was almost at the top, reaching for my camera to capture the blazing light on the eastern horizon, when I realized I wasn't alone. Approaching rapidly behind me were those phantom footsteps 
of Watson.
My guardian angel?  Watson on Castle Hill
We ran together briefly until he realised my photographic interludes were probably interfering too much with his training.  After a few circuits I jogged home wondering on the way down whether Watson was some sort of guardian angel sent to keep an eye on this old codger in case I might need help sometime.
Whether, in fact, I may be 'entertaining an angel unawares'.
Who knows....

Monday, 22 January 2018

Let it snow......

Travelling home by public transport I listened to passengers relating tales of woe regarding the snowy conditions and how weekend plans had been severely disrupted.  On running forums too there were stories of people staying indoors or resorting to treadmills rather than risk life and limb in the icy conditions.  I kept my mouth shut for fear of being labelled an idiot, or irresponsible, or something worse.....not daring to tell them my wonderful partner and I had been out running on both days and logged a respectable 12 miles.
Running towards Linton Falls    (Click to enlarge pictures)
Saturday's run was the longest, an enjoyable 7 mile route crunching through fields of snow/ice and back by a frozen riverbank path.  We wore Inov-8 Trailrocs and Hoka Speedgoats that gave us total confidence.  I speak for both of us in saying that any negative thoughts of sliding or falling never entered our heads.
Weir at Linton falls
Hundreds of black headed gulls passed over us, flying in the direction of the sewerage fields, as we traversed the big pasture towards Linton Falls and the big weir.
Heading towards thicker snow
From there on we started to climb, 300ft or so towards the hidden village of Thorpe.  As we climbed the snow got thicker, harder and icier but we took it all in our stride.
Dropping down to Burnsall
The road into Thorpe had not been gritted.  Tractors and cars had compacted snow into dangerous looking ice but we were able to avoid it by keeping to the side.
An eerie bit of world we passed through...
We headed towards Burnsall under a lowering sky with a big yellow patch where hazy sunshine filtered through grey cloud.  It gave the landscape an eerie appearance as light increased, then faded again.
A smoking brazier to keep smokers warm
Burnsall was totally clear of snow.  Outside the Red Lion a brazier was kept burning to keep al fresco customers warm, but no-one was taking advantage of it.  We stayed only long enough to take a photograph.
Leaving Burnsall Bridge
The riverbank path was clear around the Red Lion where many people had walked, briefly taking the air or admiring the view before retiring into the warmth of the bar for various forms of refreshment.
We briefly spotted goosanders, male and female, swimming and diving in the river but on the icy path our concentration centered more on where we were putting our feet rather than on local wildlife.
Sunshine ahead - briefly
As we approached the suspension bridge the sun poked it's nose from behind the clouds to welcome us back to Hebden, and home after 7.12 miles with 605ft of ascent.  If TomTom can be believed.
Alternative to Grimwith on Sunday - High Lane into Grassington
We got up on Sunday intending to drive to Grimwith for a run round the reservoir, but a glance out the window revealed a frozen car that had changed from red to white overnight.  It didn't bode well for Grimwith which sits on the 1,000ft contour.  The approach road and car park would be treacherous that morning in icy conditions .
Dancing on ice
But so, I suppose, was the icy lane up which we set off to run to Grassington Bridge between rimed walls after an early breakfast.  But our trail shoes coped well, even on ungritted side roads through Grassington where we'd to run flat-footed, stamping our studs into the frozen snow/ice to gain maximum grip.
Leaving Grassington Bridge.   Right, let's go...
We crossed the main road at Grassington Bridge, back onto more runnable terrain to join the riverbank path all the way to Hebden. I suspect the temperature of the river affects the state of its banks for snow had melted in places to be replaced with slippery mud.  No problem.
Into the last mile
I should mention that throughout this run we had a sprinkling of snow which, oddly, was pleasantly cooling.  Two years ago, prior to two cataract operations, my spectacles would have been spotted with snow on the outside and steamed up on the inside, thus making running a dicey pastime.  I'm much happier now, running without specs.
Snow speckled runner with Dracula teeth
TomTom said we'd run 4.86 miles, which I'm quite happy to call 5, with a mere 380ft of ascent. As we sat down for lunch snowing increased to almost white-out proportions, but we were back home, snug and warm, a full scuttle of coal at one side of the hearth and a brimming log basket at the other.  
Chores are over.  Relaxation comes easy now,  
and drowsy contentment...
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow