Monday, 1 July 2019

A favourite place....

Last week I'd an appointment with the one doctor in our local practice who's sport orientated,  one who understands how my body works, one to whom I can reveal all.  It was on the insistence of my wonderful partner whose been none too happy about me cancelling an operation for a blocked and swollen kidney, an operation considered 'extremely urgent' by a hospital doctor back in April.  My reasoning that I felt fine and the other kidney is working perfectly OK doesn't seem to wash with anyone. 
Nowt wrong wi' me...      (Click to enlarge pictures)
 Anyway, the outcome was that my doctor will contact the surgeon concerned to ascertain whether he is still willing to do the operation and whether it can be done at our BMI private hospital. 
So, somewhat against my will, I may yet be knocked out and set upon by that guy in a mask with his slashing knife.
Thyme along the Skuff road  
 Next morning I was back in Hebden doing hill reps (only four) with my wonderful partner along the Skuff road before breakfast.  Hedgerows and roadside verges are at their summer best with a profusion of flowers and cushions of wild thyme with lots of busy bees intent on producing honey for Sainsburys. 
House martins hawking around Hebden village
Swallows and swifts are a bit thin in the air this year but house martins have returned to their usual nest sites tucked under the eaves.
Foxgloves by the fish farm in Hebden Ghyll
Foxgloves in the ghyll are in full bloom and a gentleman passing by as I photograhed some of them commented on the 'fox' connection between the flowers and my 'runningfox' vest.
Looks like aliens have landed...
On Saturday morning I set out on a favourite 8 mile run over Grassington Moor and Bycliffe Hill, hoping to get round before it got really hot.  I failed, and I suffered.
The reason I rarely see anyone - it's dangerous!  And I love it.
I love this route, its wildness and loneliness, nature in the raw where I can sit in some remote spot, close my eyes and be transported by muttering winds, a curlew calling, the occasional bleating of a faraway sheep - or a tingling silence.
Taking it easy in the heat
The Met Office had forecast wall to wall sunshine with temperatures in the region of 80º and high humidity.  They were right on the last two but only occasionally did sunshine oblige.
This sheep maybe thought I was crackers.
It was uphill for the first four miles, nigh on a thousand feet past all the trappings associated with past lead mining activities. 
Path beside the flue up to the chimney
Sweat poured from me as I ran beside the flue that took fumes from the old smelt mill to be released through a chimney high on the moor..
Heath bedstraw
Other than a purple haze of heather in autumn there are few flowering plants on the moor, the odd asphodel and venus flytrap, cloudberries, patches of cotton grass and heath bedstraw.
Onwards and upwards to Casino Royale
Past the chimney there was a rough, ankle twisting section before the long stony track leading to what we refer to as Casino Royale - because that's where the opening scene of that film was shot.
Trackless Bycliffe Hill ahead of me
I would shortly be turning onto Bycliffe Hill, the roughest part of the route where I was to learn that even the old sheep trod I used to follow is no longer there.
Being a bit careful through tricky, trackless territory
 I was in rough, tussocky territory I'd never crossed before, but I'd run over this hill so many times previously I knew exactly where I was heading.
Stones in the middle of nowhere
A strange pile of white stones had me wondering why they'd been put there?  Or who'd put them there?  I'd never seen them before.
The big rabbit hole high on the hill
My navigation was spot on and in another few minutes I came upon my first rest spot, a deep shakehole which, ever since I've visited it, has been inhabited by rabbits. A strange place for them to live! 
My marker cairn coming off the moor
I left and ran along the rim of the hill towards the Mossdale track, past peat hags and down through a short rocky section to hit my little marker cairn - spot on.
Brakes off - cruising past the high point at 1,500ft
From here I could throw caution to the wind while winding things up a bit along the level track to the 'stone man' at 1,500ft.
View along the Mossdale track from the stone man
It might be mainly downhill all the way from here but all that running uphill in the heat had sapped my energy and I was slipping into automatic pilot.
Setting off down the long wall
In days gone by I'd do a fast, measured mile down the long wall from the Mossdale track to a sheep pen far below.  It was one of three consecutive sub 6 minute miles on my way back to Hebden,  an enjoyable ingredient of sub three hour marathon training.
In my 60's.
One day a heap of bones like this on the moor will probably be me!
Since I stopped racing I never time myself but reckon that same mile must take almost three times as long as before.  Fitness and fun on my feet are all that matter now.  A Facebook posting the other day said 'Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die'.
I'll go with that!
I came across this wheatear suddenly and made it jump!
In days gone by in Spring and early summer I'd sometimes see ring ouzels perched on the long wall.  All I saw on this occasion were meadow pipits and wheatears.
Wonderful springy turf near the sheep pens
At one point a curlew got very agitated and I tried to record it.   It wasn't very successful because it could hardly be heard beyond the sound of my heavy breathing!
Rocky crossing of Coalgrove Beck
Some blue sky and beautiful cloud formations appeared towards the north as I leapt across the almost dried up Coalgrove Beck
 but I wasn't going in that direction.
Last sultry mile down Hebden Ghyll
Back in Hebden Ghyll the overcast, sultry conditions were much the same as when I'd set off.   My vest was soaked and I reckoned my temperature was going through the roof.   Reaching home I filled a milk bottle with cold water and poured it over my head.  Three times.
TomTom said I'd run 8.20 miles with 933ft of ascent and I reckoned that called for a rest over the next couple of days.  
At least. 

Monday, 24 June 2019

Another week, another few miles...

On the morning of summer solstice I crawled out of bed at 3.45am, donned my running gear and drank an extra strong cup of coffee.  Half an hour later I was jogging up Castle Hill to greet the sun.  Strewth, I couldn't believe how many others were there already.  The car park was heaving, a crowd had gathered round the tower while various individuals and couples were spaced around the hill, all facing east to witness the imminent sunrise.
Solstice sunrise   (Click to enlarge)
At exactly 4.36am the sun duly obliged and as it peeped over the horizon a group by the tower began singing softly, words and music quite unfamiliar to me.
Solstice service.
Others, some in druidic robes,  appeared to be reciting a form of litany from sheets of notes.   Dressed only in shorts and vest I felt rather uncomfortable and out of place in such company so, after taking a few pictures, quickly scurried home.
Setting off on Saturday's run
 Weekend activities were a repeat of runs I've recorded scores of times in my blog so a few photographs will have to suffice.
The road loop
We set off on Saturday to run what we call the Appletreewick lollipop.
Passing the camp site
It goes mainly along the River Wharfe and back with a loop out onto the road and back round the camp site at the far end.
Burnsall Bridge
 We abandoned the riverside path at Burnsall Bridge on account of hoards of people with their children and dogs.
Anyone know what this is?
  We ascended a steep bank up to the Skuff road where we came upon a strange, tall plant that has only appeared this year.
Brakes off, full speed ahead
Once out onto the Skuff road we'd a section of fast running back towards Hebden.
  We were out of bed early on Sunday morning for another favourite run round Grimwith reservoir.
Foxgloves, orchids, yellow rattle and bugle lined our path back 'o Grimwith.
Amazingly, among the bracken we came across more of that strange plant we'd seen the day before.
Agitated mum
At the lagoon a mallard was very agitated as it waddled back and forth along the top of a weir.
Mother duck sliding down to rejoin her family.
 It transpired all its ducklings had been having great fun whizzing down the weir into the drain below.
Together again
They were all united in the drain below, though goodness knows how long it would take them to find their way out..
Early purple orchids
We left them to figure it out (the drain passes under the road and empties into the reservoir) and continued along the orchid lined path. 
Through thick carpets of alchemilla,
over the wee bridge, up to the car park and away home for porridge, toast and coffee
 - a well earned breakfast

Monday, 17 June 2019

A funny week......

My appointment classed as 'extremely urgent' back in April, the one I was advised to cancel my holiday for, finally materialised last Thursday - June 13th.  After getting up at 5am and booking into hospital at 7am, I was told I was second on the theatre list.   I sat around suitably garbed in theatre gown and compression stockings until 2pm at which point the surgeon, Mr Brian, informed me he'd run out of space. 
 "I've arranged for you to be admitted to Ward 22 overnight and you'll be first on my list in the morning" he said.
Fast forward 18 hours and I'm sat there again with gown and stockings, starving because I hadn't been allowed anything to eat or drink, when a surgeon arrived by my bed, and it wasn't Mr Brian.
"I believe I'm first on Mr Brian's list today" I said to him.  
 "I'm afraid Mr Brian isn't in today, I'll be doing your operation" he said.
(Like hell you will, I thought)
"I'm sorry, but I'd prefer Mr Brian to do it" I told him.
So, I was given transport home and told I'd have transport back some time the following week.
I was in rather a bad mood when I got home!
After mulling things over I phoned the hospital and told them to forget it.   I'd been messed about too many times and had quite enough.   As I put the phone down I felt a great weight had been lifted from me.  I'd had a bad feeling about this operation from the word go and felt in my heart I'd done the right thing.
I couldn't wait to go for a run...
Meanwhile, Mr Nutkins cheered me up    (Click to enlarge pictures)

...goldfinches were back as soon as he'd gone

...and this little fellow seemed happy on my astrantias

I felt to be flying next day

especially on downhill bits
Things kept interrupting our Sunday run - like this orchid oystercatcher
...a twayblade
...another orchid
but eventually we got under way.
...chugging up hills
...stopping for an occasional breather
...happy to be out on the trails again.
And that was the week that was, a great deal of frustration and not much mileage. 
Things can only get better.
One hopes!