Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Over the hills and far away.......

Last week saw a return to my early morning runs, pre-breakfast though not before sunrise.  Getting up Castle Hill before 04.45 is a little too early for me nowadays.  I'm getting lazy in my dotage.
A speed session over Castle Hill   (Click to enlarge pictures)
A cuckoo was calling as I set foot on the summit around 6am and I wondered if it was trying to tell me something, like "What the heck is someone of your vintage doing up here so early in the morning?".  I'll admit, I didn't see any others.  After a few circuits and hill reps was pleasantly surprised when TomTom told me I'd just achieved my fastest 5 miles.  Just.  I'd improved my pace by 0.03 min/mile - without actually trying.  A run over the hill two days later was aborted after 3 miles.  Don't ask why...
On several occasions lately I've had a rather exotic visitor for breakfast.  In addition to various members of the tit family, goldfinches, greenfinches - and an occasional bullfinch - a great spotted woodpecker arrived on the scene to hack away at the nuts.  Hopefully he's here to stay.
Orchids in hospital grounds
 Weatherwise, we'd another gorgeous weekend with temperatures generally hovering around the 70º mark and exceeding that by mid-afternoon when all yours truly wanted to do was sit among the flowers, shirt off and a can of beer to hand.
Stampeding stirks

We ran in the mornings before the sun reached its zenith. Saturday' run started through the hospital grounds, past wild orchids and stampeding stirks to the outskirts of Grassington before crossing the river at what locals call the tin bridge.
The River Wharfe reduced to barely a trickle at Linton Falls

Water was exceedingly low and I reckoned it's time Theresa May appointed a Minister for Droughts akin to Denis Howell in 1976 who was so successful that he later became Minister for Floods then Minister for Snow! 
I also remember Denis being invited to a British Mountaineering Council dinner as guest speaker in Great Langdale. Arriving early he expressed a desire to be taken up a climb so we took him up Middlefell Buttress, an easy climb immediately behind the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel. The late Peter Boardman was at the sharp end of the rope whilst I was below Denis checking his foot placements.  Shock horror, he became 'gripped' i.e. frightened to move either up or down, and we'd great difficulty getting him back down. 
A colourful corner of Thorpe

herd of young heifers thought it great fun to help us on our way as we ran up a steeply inclined field towards Thorpe Lane.  We slowed to a walk and they lost interest, thankfully, so pretty soon we were able to resume running.
Leaving Thorpe on the Burnsall track

Thorpe is a hidden village tucked away in the hills and only visible from the air. There is a steep climb 8 miles into the Burnsall 10 mile race before dropping down into Thorpe and climbing back out again which most runners hate.
Fish farm in Hebden Ghyll

Passing a large party of walkers we left Thorpe on the Burnsall track, running through pleasant fields, then down Postman's Steps to recross the river and a last brief climb to the fish farm, and back home.  
5.94 miles with 639ft of ascent. 
The climb onto Grassington Moor
Sunday's route over Grassington Moor was always one of my favourites until constant rains made it so wet and boggy that running it became too much like hard work.  Currently the ground is parched with great cracks appearing, so we crossed it dry shod.
Rough track to the high point

Skylarks were singing as we took a trail through old lead mining country to a high point by a tumble-down building at 1,316ft.  It was getting hot so I'd to take a layer off and tie it round my waist (after a while I'd to put it back on again to prevent chafing under my arms).
Time for a breather 

Unusually, upon reaching the dams there was neither sight nor sound of any resident waterfowl.  Teal normally nest there and the occasional Canada goose, but the place was deserted.
Rampant bog cotton

Onwards towards Blea Beck, enjoying the dry conditions, clear air and healing sunshine.  At first we couldn't understand why the moorland ahead had turned so white but soon realised it was rampant bog cotton that this year has gone a bit berserk.
Rough, enjoyable running across the moor

Leaving the dams at the junction with Blea Beck there's an awful long stretch of bleak moorland passing high above Grimwith reservoir before reaching the peat cuttings where a solitary cutter, hard at work, invited us to join him.  Later perhaps...
View down to Grimwith reservoir

We'd a brief stop whilst my wonderful partner collected sphagnum moss to line her hanging baskets.  It was bone dry and had to be immersed in a bucket of water as soon as we reached home.
Backstone Edge lane

Leaving the peat cuttings we closed the gate behind us for the long run down Backstone Edge lane where once upon a time, in marathon running days, I'd do dozens of long repetition runs.  Once, as the sky blackened, I raced for home at what must have been 6 min/mile pace and reached the door just as the heavens opened.  Funny the things we remember...
The last stretch down into the ghyll

We crossed the main road to cruise down easy fields and, into the ghyll, past the fish farm - and home.   7.27 miles with 800ft of ascent.  For a couple with 159 years between them I reckon we'd had a good weekend 
Over the hills and far away 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Don't ask......

Saturday was wet and dismal so nothing got done in the way of running.  Morning had passed rather too quickly due to commuting, shopping and attending a coffee morning arranged to raise funds for our local Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue team. There were some rather nice biscuits that needed consuming before we could drag ourselves away from the latter event which, I'm told, raised £240. 
Organ in St Peters, Hebden  (Click to enlarge)

As rain persisted throughout the afternoon I rather excelled myself by finishing off the Craven Herald's cryptic crossword as a warm-up to completing both the concise and Phi's cryptic crossword in The I.
Plaque on organ

Problems with my nether regions (don't ask) meant a late start on Sunday.  It was almost 11am when we closed the door, first of all to nip round the corner and photograph the old organ in our local church as part of the National Park's Buildings At Risk survey.  The organ, still in excellent working order, was dedicated to St Peter's Church in Hebden on Easter day, 1894.
Recording bridge repair in 1674
There were two further diversions back home (don't ask) before eventually setting off along the river to Burnsall where more Buildings At Risk photography took place at the old bridge.  It's been repaired on a number of occasions since being built in 1609 and a couple of old inscriptions record two of the dates. One is quite legible, but I couldn't decipher the other.
Keeping cool in the River Wharfe
A parking area in a field over the bridge was filling up with cars, picnickers, canoeists and paddlers. We ran on, surprisingly without yours truly having to avail myself of the toilet facilities there!  Nor had I any money with me for an ice cream.  Boo hoo...
Bistort growing by the river
After a three mile loop around Woodhouse Farm and Appletreewick campsite we headed back home, peep-peeping at weekend walkers blocking the narrow paths by the river.  All were very obliging.  
Hebden suspension bridge and reflections
However, some are not too friendly when squeezing my sweaty body past them on Hebden's narrow suspension bridge, particularly the well built ladies!
By Hebden beck with just a few hundred yards still to run
TomTom said we'd run (with a few scheduled stops) 6.09 miles with 369ft of ascent.  And that, I'm afraid is all the running I did last week.
Don't ask......

Monday, 28 May 2018

Shorts and vest weather......

It's been almost as hot in Yorkshire as it was in Menorca, shorts and vest weather.  Maybe we should have stayed at home and saved money.  But then, the nightingales wouldn't have enchanted us, we'd have missed the amazing flowers, waves breaking on the shore under our window and all the wonderful runs through entirely new territory.
Grimwith millpond  (Click to enlarge pictures)
I'll confess to having run very little since our return, a mere 15 miles but, with well over 1,000ft of ascent, it's better than nothing and perhaps considerably more than most 86 year old folk have done..  
Bluebell trail
And TomTom still reckons I have a Fitness Age of 68.  So I'm happy, even if it has got the figures the wrong way round!
Getting the bird
Grimwith was like a mill pond as we ran round in early morning light.  Greylags bugled across the water, bluebells lighted the way round an empty trail, pewits flapped ahead noisily to lure us away from their chicks while a yellow carpet of cowslips lined the car park verge. Quite idyllic.
A flotilla of mallard
Trouble with my nether regions meant we'd to set off late in the morning for a six mile run round what we call the Appletreewick lollipop.  Lots of mallard ducklings swirled around in the river, staying close to their parents.
Greylags have taken up residence on a pebbly bit of shoreline near Woodhouse farm but no sign of any chicks.   
Another greylag
They've become far more numerous since the demise of Canada geese in the area though we've noticed the latter could be making a comeback at Grimwith.
En route to Grassington Bridge

We'd a scorcher of a run to Grassington Bridge dodging the hordes of tourists walking, camping and picnicking along the riverbank. 
Geese and goslings
We chose a different way home specifically to avoid the crowds and were rewarded with sightings of geese and goslings with the same mind as us.
One I recognized - a grey wagtail

There were also mallard, lapwings and agitated curlews together with lots of little brown jobbies my deteriorating eyes couldn't recognize.
Shorts and vest weather

All in all, a good week was had by all and one can only hope this shorts and vest weather continues throughout a long, hot summer.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

86 not out......and Menorca at its best

To celebrate my 86th birthday we were back on the beautiful island of Menorca. 
The Lord Nelson at San Tomas   (Click pictures top enlarge)
This time we chose a different resort, San Tomas, a little farther west from our usual stomping ground at Alcaufar - reason being we couldn't resist a greatly reduced package holiday at the recently renovated Lord Nelson hotel that afforded 4* luxury.  Thanks Tui...
Lord Nelson Hotel and beach
It was but yards away from a safe, sheen white beach with Lifeguards in attendance throughout the day.  Between the hotel and beach runs the island's circular trail, Cami de Cavalls, the way of horses, making it an ideal spot for runners.
Good for running
It's become something of a tradition to mark my birthdays with a run though I'm not sure how many more years this can continue.  Maybe future runs will have to be shorter, or flatter, which could get a bit boring. There was nothing boring about this year's run.
On Binnigaus beach
The first mile was along the Cami de Cavalls to the wonderful Binigaus beach, popular with sun worshippers, naturists and horse riders.  I'm not allowed sneaky photographs of naturists. Fully dressed riders are not quite the same, I know, but it was such a beautiful horse...
A little care required
We left the Cami de Cavalls at the end of the beach to turn Lt along Route 23, easy at first but soon calling for precise footwork as the terrain became increasingly rugged and exposed.
Time for an aria...
It was my sort of country, a route I'd pre-planned months before for my actual birthday and it was exactly how I'd imagined it to be.  Such terrain invokes bursts of song which I'm not sure my wonderful partner appreciates so I tend to stay well ahead of her, out of earshot!
At Cala Escorxada
After scrambling in and out of limestone coves with the sea lurking beneath us we eventually arrived at the remote and beautiful Cala Escorxada beach. 
Solitary gull
It was deserted except for a solitary gull and a lovely girl who'd somehow managed to get there before us.  "Only me" she said excitedly, before taking off all her clothes and laying naked in the sun for the duration of our three hour stay.  I could have joined her in my birthday suit (which has got a bit crumpled over the years), but needless to say I was dragged away to the other end of the beach.
For those happy to see the back of me.
We wallowed in hot sunshine, ate our well earned sandwiches (bread and meat stolen from the hotel at breakfast), gazed at awesome seascapes and jagged coastlines before psyching up strength for the return journey.  With a final "Adios" to the beauty on the beach we set off up the rocks.
The rocky journey home
We passed a few late starters, mainly Germans, making their way towards the beach, and another party who'd seemingly attempted one of the rocky sections but found it a bit too much. 
A refreshing swim
We danced by, dropped into a cove, climbed to a rocky highway teetering on the seas edge, then through a scrubby woodland to a more level trail leading back to Binigaus - and Lord Nelson where I couldn't wait to plunge into the pool.
On the Cami de Cavalls to Binigaus
The guide book mentions a cave of cathedral-like proportions - Cova des Coloms - some way to the north of us.  We set off in search of it.
Lots of these, whatever they are!
Initially, the route is same as that to Escorxada but veers Rt instead of Lt beyond Binigaus, continuing a short distance along the Cami de Cavalls  before leaving it in favour of a lush valley filled with flowers and birdsong.
What thrilled us most was the constant singing of nightingales, with the odd hoopoe joining in, all the way along this colourful valley.  They literally stopped us in our tracks. The sound is so beautiful. They're shy birds, seldom seen, but we managed to get a glimpse of one and take a rough picture of it.
Cova des Coloms
Along the way we met a couple who said the cave was closed, but we soldiered on if only to listen to the birds.  They'd obviously gone to the wrong cave for it would be virtually impossible to close the Cova des Coloms.  Such is its huge size.
The vast interior.
A lady was trying to photograph birds nesting on high ledges.  Another couple with torches were intent on exploring its nether regions.  I'm told bats can be heard squeaking as darkness falls.
Down for an evening swim, the pool area almost deserted - unusually
We returned to the Lord Nelson where most sunbeds around the pool were occupied - as usual. It annoyed us that folk were reserving sunbeds with their towels as early as 7am.  Our only chance of getting a sunbed after our morning run was to reluctantly do the same as others.
Cova des Moro with roof still intact since the Iron Age
We did a few other things.  Ancient burial chambers and Talayots were high on the list, the most impressive one being Cova des Moro at Son Mercer de Baix.  I only agreed to accompany my wonderful partner if we ran the 7½ miles from Ferreries rather than walk it!  We did, and had time for a cappuccino before catching the bus back.
The central well in the Convent at Ciutadella.
Ciutadella, Menorca's past capital with its magnificent Cathedral and Convent came under scrutiny. The latter contained a museum of old artifacts, ancient tools and machinery, stuffed animals and birds.  I like birds!
The Marina at Ciutadella
What we didn't like was a cafe on the waterfront where two cappuccinos cost the earth and were hardly worth drinking, cold and hardly enough to wet the throat.  We wont go there again.
A foray into Mahon, mainly to buy new sandals, was all over and done without a single photograph being taken.  But we did find an excellent watering spot for future reference, i.e. in September.
Cala Galdana
Highlight of our holiday, for me, was a wonderful run along the coast from Cala Galdana to San Tomas, a challenging 7 miles of unimaginable beauty with an undulating 1,316ft of ascent.  A couple who'd been to Cala Galdana the previous day were unimpressed but we thought it rather nice and would certainly go again.
A busy beach leaving Cala Galdana
Our actual running time was 2hrs 23mins but with time lost consulting the guide book initially, photographic stops and 20 minute lunch stop the total time was 3hrs 14mins.  We were admonished for running.  "Slow down" shouted a plodding German with trekking poles.  I told him we'd a long way to go.  Besides, I didn't get to 86 by slowing down!
Brief stop above the beach to consult the guide book
We descended a flight of wooden steps, crossed a beautiful beach and climbed steeply into woodland at the other side where we'd a brief stop to consult the guide book and admire the view.
Scrambling down to the beach at Cala Treboluger where there's often a river to cross
From here the going got decidedly rough as the trail rose and fell, rose and fell again over some of the rockiest terrain I've ever encountered. It wasn't long before the music began to flow.  I was loving it.   Onwards, to strains of Wild Mountain Thyme and Allelujahs until I turned a corner into a view that literally took my breath away.
Breathtaking approach to Cala Fustam
It was the little bay of Cala Fustam surrounded by rocks and trees, all presented in glorious technicolour. A solitary hiker sat on the beach and got commandeered into taking a photograph of a couple on horseback paddling in the water.
Running for home after lunch at Escorxada
The horses left before us taking an easy trail to Cala Escorxada but we passed them before they reached it and found a place on the rocks to devour our lunch.  Co-incidentally, a naked girl was lying in the sun in almost the exact spot where the one had lain on my birthday. The rest of the beach was deserted.
Almost home. Just another two miles..
Then the run for home over familiar rocks and dirt tracks, enjoying our steady rhythm over challenging terrain. I bless the day I became a runner, closer to nature, nearer to God.
A bit of pruning
One of the things that shook us a little on arrival at our hotel was the demand for 72 Euros in respect of Tourist Tax.  I believe we paid only 14 Euros at Xuroy in Alcaufar but that's only 1* as opposed to Lord Nelson's 4*.
And there are flowers everywhere
But everywhere around San Tomas is clean and tidy, hedges clipped and trees pruned with not a hint of litter on beaches or walkways.  Hours are spent cleaning the pool and surrounds each morning.  So we supposed that was where our Tourist tax was being spent.  Cala Galdana was immaculate too.
Free ranging horses...
We ran to Son Bou on one or two occasions, passing free ranging pigs and horses that gave us no bother at all.  Except one or two were anxious to get through a gateway with us bent on greener pastures.
...and pigs en route to Son Bou
Pigs roaming around and wallowing in the swamp must be the most photographed in the world.  They've become tired of posing!
Goats (one hoppled) with Talayot in background 
There were goats too, friendly little fellows, or ladies, that came to say hello to us as we passed by.
Cheerio everyone, I'm going for a rest......
Of course, we did a lot more things but I'm afraid cramp is threatening my typing finger(s).  Folk will just have to visit Menorca themselves to catch up on all the things I've missed out.
Bon Voyage