Friday, 27 April 2018

A braw day on Castle Hill

My mind is constantly telling me to "Get running, you've rested long enough".  My body, in no uncertain terms says "Sod off, I need sunshine on my skin with healing ultra-violet, like I'll soon be getting in Menorca".
A little jog up to the Castle   (Click to enlarge)
Not that I've been completely inactive.  Every now and then I'll break into a little jog for a hundred yards or so, just to remind the old legs I'm not done yet.  Like last week on a braw day up Castle Hill when all the world, and their dogs, were taking advantage of warm Spring sunshine.
A well behaved Labradoodle playing with children
Gorse was flowering at its glorious best giving off a heavy scent of vanilla. In years gone by it was a favourite haunt of yellowhammers that bombarded us with their constant requests of 'a little bit of bread and no cheese'.  Last week I heard not one.
Blackthorn was looking good too.  At its best it often presages a cold spell of weather - the dreaded blackthorn winter.  It may have been thinking about it for days later the temperature certainly plummeted.  Each Spring when I see the wonderful blossoms I make a mental note to revisit them in September and gather their juicy sloes.  I never remember!
In Springtime next door's garden puts mine to shame when a beautiful camelia comes into flower and outshines everything else in the neighbourhood.  I really must sneak some cuttings off it when they aren't looking...
In the  gloaming, just after sunset, a strange object appeared in the sky. It resembled a comet and stayed there unmoving until light faded. It was a long way away, just above the horizon and difficult to photograph without a tripod to steady the camera when zooming.  My old hands tend to shake a little, but I did my best.
Comet?  Or what?
Lastly, after 65 years, my service medal arrived in the post.  Upon demob I was homeless, so nowhere to post a medal to at that stage.   My guardian had died while I was on active service in the Canal Zone, her house sold and all my belongings mysteriously vanished.
For services in the Canal Zone.
Earlier this year I got talking to a guy on a bus who'd also served in Egypt during the Suez crisis.  "Did you get your medal?" he asked  "No" I replied, "didn't even know I was entitled to one".   At the guy's suggestion I applied to the Ministry of Defence and after a couple of months they duly obliged with my boxed souvenir.
It brought back many memories.  I was a medic at RAF Kabrit on the Great Bitter Lake.  I was also a marksman and often had to ride shotgun on ambulances driving the 22 miles to the Military Hospital at Fayid. 
Thankfully, I never had to shoot anyone!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The good - not so good - and distinctly ugly....

We made the right choice by visiting Staithes during a quiet few days prior to Easter rather than in the official Easter week.  We enjoyed some of the best weather in Britain with far more sunshine than we'd had in Tenerife a month earlier.
Staithes    (Click pictures to enlarge)
 The old village of Staithes is a geometric mish-mash of a thousand steps and dark passageways zig-zagging between random architecture on a steep hillside overlooking the harbour.   From our cottage eyrie high on Cowbar Lane we looked out over roofs of blue slate and red pantiles which, as coal fires were lit on chilly evenings, were sometimes shrouded in a blue haze.
Nesting gulls
 There was a constant crying of gulls and noisy nattering of jackdaws that nested on precarious ledges of surrounding cliffs.  Yellow flowering wild cabbage has taken advantage of any waste ground it can find on steep uncultivated slopes and roadside verges.  I don't think it's edible...
Rough sea
 It was coming up to full moon with resultant high tides that flung clouds of spray high up the cliffs and pounded the rocky breakwaters.  All very dramatic. 
A fishing boat arrives with screaming gulls
A mere half dozen boats bobbled in the harbour, vastly different from years gone by when Staithes was the busiest fishing port north of the Wash.  Hundreds of creels and lobster pots were stacked neatly by the harbour wall.  None appeared to be currently in use though we noticed some being repaired.
A wonderful watering hole - the Cod and Lobster
 The only general food store is a Co-op situated on the main Whitby road, 25 minutes walk away from where we stayed, but a few vegetables, cheese and milk can be obtained from Betsy & Bo in the old village.  The Cod and Lobster was a hive of activity making it difficult to move freely among drinkers, diners and dogs.  But it was warm and welcoming offering excellent value for money on all its commodities. We couldn't visit Staithes without sampling freshly caught fish from the pub's extensive menu.  It was excellent, but huge.
Inside the cosy Cod and Lobster
 "When I decided I should eat more fish, a whole haddock wasn't quite what I meant" I remarked to Mine Host.   He laughed, glad that we'd enjoyed it.  We departed, puffing and panting up the steep hill to our rented cottage.
On the Cleveland way towards Runswick Bay
 Conveniently, for us runners, the Cleveland Way undulates along the cliff tops on its 109 mile route from Filey to Helmsley.  We took full advantage of it for our morning runs clocking up 18 wonderful miles over 3 days.
Gently does it - running north
 We weren't running fast but gently and enjoyably as befits a pair of senior citizens with 158 years between them.  We began by running 7 miles south to Runswick Bay and back on a day of blinding sunshine, blue sky and extensive views.  Gorse was flowering, skylarks sang and all was well with the world.
Doesn't get much better than this
 The next day we ran the opposite direction past Boulby mine and Red House Nab, up Rockhole Hill to a viewpoint at 2½ miles.  We stopped for the obligatory photographs against sunlit seascapes, of waves rolling in and breaking on the rocks below while a strange object drifted across the horizon.
Strange contraption floating by
 We repeated the same run two days later but ventured a little farther, as far as a deep hole in the path surrounded by poles and wire netting at the 3 mile mark.  We needed sun glasses to shield our eyes from dazzling sunlight.  The sky was a beautiful Titian blue.
The path over dramatic cliffs
 As on our Runswick Bay run, flowering gorse and lesser celandine enhanced our route as skylarks scattered their joyous notes into the clear air.  Gulls crying over the sound of the sea and a gentle breeze brushing our faces, kept us cool and happy as we ran the undulating path high over dramatic cliffs and breaking surf.
Enjoying wonderful blue sky while most of Britain got soaked
 On Good Friday, as many folk were setting off on their Easter holidays, we drove home to rain, snow and bitterly cold temperatures. We managed an Easter Sunday run round a snow grizzled Grimwith reservoir where greylags, oystercatchers, curlews, lapwings, chaffinches and wonderful whistling teal formed a combined choir to cheer us on our way.
Grey sky and snow round Grimwith reservoir on Easter Sunday
 But, to be honest, we were glad to get home to our porridge, toast and hot, reviving coffee.
Dunno when I'll run again. 
Note that tiny spot over my left eye
I'm grounded for a wee while after recently having my perishing skin cancer thingy hacked out.
...and the mess after all its roots had been dug out
It was only a little raised spot but it's roots spread all over the place, like a bloomin' octopus.  It made rather a mess.....but I'm recovering.

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.