Friday, 14 September 2018

Menorca again...

Following Burnsall Sports on Saturday 25th August, then a busy day marshalling fell races at Hebden Sports on 27th we flew South on 29th for a couple of weeks in the sun on a favourite island in the Balearics, Menorca.
Our hotel, the Xuroy  at Alcaufar, Menorca  (Click to enlarge images)

 Consequently, we've been too busy enjoying ourselves to have had any time for blogging or any other work involving computers, the internet, wifi and suchlike chores.   So there's a lot of catching up to do.
Sarah Cumber on her way to winning the Burnsall 10 mile race (again) in 1.04.31 

I'm so glad I went to Burnsall for history was made in the Classic Fell Race (2.4km/274m ascent) when an ex neighbour of ours smashed a women's record that had stood since 1984.  40 year old International mountain runner Victoria Wilkinson sliced 36 seconds off Carol Greenwood's old record to win in 15mins 58secs.
Victoria Wilkinson on her way to smashing the Classic Burnsall Fell Race record
Victoria broke 12 iconic fell race records in 2017 including the Classic Three Peaks of Yorkshire mentioned in my blog 1st May 2017.  What fell race enthusiasts find absolutely mind blowing is that one week after Burnsall she blew away Pauline Stuart's 34 year old record in the Ben Nevis race (14km/1347m ascent). She ran up and down Britain's highest mountain in 1 hour 43mins and 01sec.
My mind is still boggling......
Competitors in the Hebden Crag race

Hebden wasn't quite so lucky with the weather as Burnsall but it stayed fine and there was a good turn-out for all the planned activities including the various fell races.  Hebden is much more low key, classed as a family fun day with novelty races, traditional games and stalls. 
It's famous Crag race is a bit more serious.
Antonio was struggling a bit...but finally made it
Antonio Cardinale, a 69 year old veteran of Otley A.C . who turned up for the Crag race had maybe underestimated its severity which, I'm told, in years gone by included 13 walls, 5 gates, a river and 400ft of ascent. It's since been drastically modified.  Antonio completed the course to wild applause from an appreciative crowd.
Local lad Ted Mason of Wharfedale Harriers was the easy winner.
We flew to Menorca on Tui's amazing Dreamliner
Then came Menorca which I've enthused about extensively in the past. Being creatures of habit this year's activities on the island were much the same as before.  We ran the same wonderful routes west or north along the Cami de Cavalls (the way of horses), repeated some walks and swam in the same idyllic limestone cove.
View from Room 206
Here are a few pictures chosen at random from my files.
We'd emailed Xuroy's receptionist, Adela, weeks before arriving to ask for Room 206 which catches the early morning sun but is much cooler in the afternoon and evening than the brilliant white painted balconies overlooking the pool that face west and become stiflingly hot.  Adela duly obliged.
Morning glory
Other than two long-ish runs that were impossible to complete before breakfast we were up and away early enough to watch the sun rising as we passed the Martello tower.
Arrival at Punta Prima
On previous visits we'd discovered a trail through private grounds that avoided the main tourist path from Alcaufar to Punta Prima.  We rarely met anyone nor experienced any opposition along it.
Running back to Alcaufar
The coastal path back to our hotel is pocked with rough and jagged limestone that requires serious concentration.
Alcaufar from the Martello tower
We always detoured to the Martello tower for a brief breather and to admire the wonderful views along the Southern coastline while a colony of swifts swooped around us.
A Fly By runner at the Martello tower
Invariably, we passed other early morning runners most of whom returned our greetings.  A speedy girl in yellow could, according to Strava, have been Nicola Hearn from South Shields.   Hi!
Back just in time for breakfast
In a little over ¾ hour we were closing the wicker gate behind us to recross the sandy beach in time for a shower and well deserved breakfast. I believe other hotel guests regarded us as rather odd!
A doctor at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary kindly gave me this wrist brace
That beach may look rather smooth and harmless but it was the scene of a nasty fall that badly damaged my Lt wrist during our first week.  600mg of Ibuprofen morning and night, plus liberal smears of a strong Voltarol gel, relieved the pain sufficiently for me to continue running.
Until I fell again on a last 8 mile run before flying home!
One of our pace makers 
Another favourite route went North along the Cami de Cavalls as far as some farm buildings at Rafalet Vell. We call it the tortoise route for obvious reasons.  We invariably encountered some along the way.

Feeding time for the cats
On a couple of occasions we saw half a dozen wild, feral cats a Spanish gentleman regularly fed and watered.
Morning feast - a change from birds and lizards
They fled from us but flew to him for a morning feast of fresh meat and water.
Collector's item
There used to be pigs at Rafalet Vell that would come running towards us as we leaned over the wall, maybe thinking we had titbits for them.  Alas, they're no more though bits of them may well have been on our bacon tray at breakfast time!  An old tractor neither snorted nor proved quite so interesting.
A wild morning at S'Algar
We'd vary our route on the way back, sometimes returning the way we'd come because there was more shelter from the relentless sun.  Temperatures climbed into the 80's most days.  On less sunny mornings we'd divert to S'Algar for a slightly longer run.
Not so much a run, more of a dance down the Cami de Cavalls
We ran on 10 of our 14 days in Menorca racking up 42 miles, the highlights being 2 x 8 mile runs along the Cami de Cavalls to Cala de Saint Esteve, then back along the coast to incorporate a wild swim at Cala des Rafalet.
Cala de Saint Esteve comes into view
First view of Cala de Saint Esteve's quaint little harbour will stop most people in their tracks, a little jewel in a barren landscape.  It's main attractions are Fort Marlborough, built by the British in the 1720's, and nearby Torre Penjat
Passing Torre Penjat (or Hangman's Tower)
As runs go, they don't come much rougher than this one, but we love it.
Not everyone's favourite place to run
The way ahead is not always obvious, especially approaching Cala des Rafalet where we became disorientated and had to make a ½ mile detour to a known path down to our favourite swimming pool.
Our wild swimming pool at Cala des Rafalet
We could see our objective from a distance but failed abysmally to locate the rocky descent through the bushes.
Ah, sheer bliss after a long, hot run
It's popular for wild swimmers, especially the Spanish who are usually there in numbers whenever we visit. The little cove with it's high limestone walls is a veritable sun trap - conducive to topless ladies and naked men.
Swimming with fish around her toes
There are fish of various sizes to accompany swimmers out and back.  Snorkelling is popular, some with cameras to record the underwater wonderland. Dragonflies dart around in the sunlight and tiny crabs heave themselves up onto the rocks to enjoy the warmth.
What we do when we're not running.
Lunch and liquid refreshment at Piccolo Mundo
Arriving back at Xuroy we'd a quick shower and hasty change of clothing to celebrate our achievement with a value for money set lunch at Piccolo Mundo, a nearby restaurant with panoramic views overlooking S'Algar.
Windmill on our approach to Es Castell
Oh, and we did a bit of walking too. Notably, a 9 mile morning saunter from the island's capital, Mahon, all the way back to Alcaufar. Passing windmills along the way our first port of call was the beautiful little watering hole of Es Castell.
Es Castell
We wandered around it's peaceful harbour where a semi-circle of boats gently bobbled at their moorings. Then it was up the hill for morning coffee with the locals and their charming children.
Cala de Saint Esteve
Leaving the cheerful chatting we strolled on, past Santa Anna before leaving the main road and curving round to Cala de Saint Esteve, a sheltered haven overlooked by limestone rocks.  There was joyful laughter from a family swimming in the clear, green water.
Leaving Cala de Saint Esteve on a rocky trail 
Onwards, up the steep, rocky trail following the Cami de Cavalls, past Eugenia and the entrance to Son Vidal before branching off through scrubland above Cala Rafalet and descending to S'Algar for some well earned liquid refreshment before returning to Xuroy.
Es Grau
Another walk from Es Grau to the Nature Reserve at Albufera proved rather fruitless. Not to mention stiflingly hot and sweaty.  Others had recorded seeing a book full of birds including various raptors.
Cocky cockerel at Es Grau
 All we saw was a few coot, some unidentified fish, a frog, a tortoise and a rather splendid cockerel stomping around on the beach at Es Grau.
The arrival of the giants
The crowds were a little too much for us at Mahon's horse festival and we came away early after watching the arrival of the giants to the music of a youth band, then the caixers parade into the magnificent cathedral for a moving service and beautiful singing.
A youth band.  What shall we play next?
  People were gathering in their thousands in the sanded streets for the annual spectacle of rearing horses and it was all a bit too claustrophobic for yours truly.  Not to mention dangerous for someone of advancing years. Cafes had been transformed into bars selling only alcohol, shops were closed and many boarded up in case of trouble.  Some streets were littered with rubbish.
Gathering crowds
We left for an early bus back to Alcaufar, leaving the expectant crowds to enjoy their  festival, so sadly missed what to many was the main event of the day, brave people surging forward to pat the horse's bellies, even their hooves, as the magnificent animals reared high in the air.
One of the many beautifully groomed horses at the festival
With lack of photographs here is a video I found on Youtube that shows how brave (crazy) some of the people are.
Right, after all these hectic activities this old codger is going for a rest! 

Thursday, 16 August 2018

A Lakeland jaunt......

The 'Glorious 12th' usually finds us high on the moor smelling the heather, scattering the grouse and revelling in that purple phenomena whose season is far too short.
Home, for four nights  (Click pictures to enlarge)
This year we were involved in a long commute from Almondbury to Keelham, on to Hebden then up the M6 to Penrith before finally settling into a luxurious flat a few metres from the eastern shore of Ullswater.
Setting off to attack Hallin Fell
Friends had kindly granted us use of their flat for a four night break that enabled us to renew acquaintance with a couple of our favourite running routes and an invigorating walk around the hills across the lake.
Crossing the bridge over Fusedale beck with Steel Knotts and
Pike 'o Wassa looming overhead.
The Hallin Fell circuit was always one of our favourites but with 159 years between us we weren't sure we could still run to its 1,273ft summit.
The Hallin Fell route
  We set off with high hopes. 
Ever upwards - Hallin Fell in the far distance
It was a dreich sort of morning with nary a ray of sunshine, a pattern of weather that continued throughout our stay in Cumbria.  It kept us cool.
Herdwicks by St Peter's church
We passed lots of grey Herdwick sheep and their black lambs on the long drag to St Peter's Church in the jaws of Martindale.
Starting the steep ascent to that far summit.
The path on the right is the one we ran down
 Herdwicks always appear to me to have been got at by a Bedlington Terrier somewhere back in their ancestry and that putting them back to a greyhound would produce the perfect machine for coursing blue mountain hares!
Made it!    At the obelisk overlooking Ullswater
There were lots of cars parked by the Church but no-one was venturing up the slopes beyond.  We had the hill to ourselves - which was just as well for we find it a little embarrassing if folk catch us at those odd times when we're reduced to a walk.
On top of our little world
I'm ashamed to admit there were a few of those occasions on Sunday's ascent, but I kept them short and concentrated on maintaining speed.  At least, I didn't stop!
It looked a long way down
There were a few rocky outcrops round the summit but most of our running was on delightful springy turf, the sort that gives you the feeling you can run forever.  Especially downhill.
On the grassy descent to Howtown
Ullswater seemed a long way below as we set off down a traversing path that took us all the way to the landing stage at Howtown. 
Ferry arriving at Howtown
The ferries 'Lady of the Lake' and 'Raven' regularly discharge tourist hoards to wander the hills, picnic by the lake or avail themselves of  Howtown Hotel's hospitality before returning by a later ferry.
Two minutes rest at the lake by Howtown landing stage
From the landing stage we'd a choice of returning to base by a mile of roadwork or cutting uphill through fields to a quieter trail beyond.  We didn't fancy any more uphill work so we chose the easier option.
Getting away from it all by the River Eamont on Monday's run 
The hardest part of next day's run was finding somewhere to park among all the tourist traffic at Pooley Bridge.  It had rained heavily all night, keeping me awake, so I was a zombie at breakfast.  But after four strong coffees I was ready to run.  Sort of.
Running towards the historic family home of Dalemain 
We set off by the River Eamont en route for a circuit of Dalemain estate and Dacre Village.  Dalemain is open for the public to wander round it's gardens, buy plants, browse the gift shop, drink morning coffee or afternoon tea, inside or outside on the terrace.
Fallow stag...
We don't do any of those things.  On a previous visit we'd been delighted to see red squirrels rummaging around the feeders.  This time the feeders were all empty and there wasn't a furry coffee pot in sight.
...and hind
It was getting towards the end of the rutting season for deer the last time we were there and a rampant stag had learned how to trap hinds in a tight corner between wall and buildings.  A cervid rapist.
Running past Dacre Castle.
We pressed on, down a long track to the little village of Dacre, passing the 14th century castle on our way to say hello to the four stone bears in the grounds of St Andrew's Church. 
One of the four stone bears of Dacre Churchyard
Viscount (William) Whitelaw, a former Conservative Home Secretary, occupies a plot in the churchyard and the Norman design Church has associations with Lady Anne Clifford, a baroness and former High Sheriff of Westmorland.
It's over - returning hot and sweaty
After paying our respects we hot footed it back to Pooley Bridge, steeply up tarmac then across fields to the wooded Dunmallard Hill, once the site of an Iron Age hill fort.  We were anxious to get back before our parking ticket expired!  We made it with 20 minutes to spare.
Storm clouds approaching

A little later I strolled down to the lake for some phone reception, mainly to sync the day's run to my phone.  A pair of greylags flew south chatting to each other, probably about the storm clouds ahead. All done, I stepped back inside as the heavens opened.  Wasn't I the lucky one?
The Aira Force walk - and slightly beyond
The next day was a walking day.  I'd suggested we have a gentle stroll round the waterfalls at Aira Force and maybe out to the viewpoint under Gowbarrow Fell.  Things got a bit out of hand.
One of the upper falls
"Where on earth are you taking me?" I inquired of my wonderful partner as we headed north at a great rate of knots.  The falls, the money log and ancient woodland were all long behind us and I didn't have a clue where we were or where we were heading.
I was still no wiser..
"Shouldn't we be heading uphill onto Gowbarrow?" I asked as we circumnavigated round the north of that said hill, past Todgill. 
 "The uphill bit comes towards the end" I was told.  
Oh, that's wonderful I thought, considering we'd climbed what felt like a thousand feet already.  Worst of all, a great deal of it was on tarmac. Who on earth would devise a country walk with so much tarmac?
After 5 miles or so we turned right along a lovely running trail.  Except we were walking and walking is boring.  There was a crag to our right  and a vast forest ahead of us.  A wee plaque led us to believe there were red squirrels around but we didn't see any.  There was also a light smurring of rain.
Bumble bee feeding on heather
Beyond the forest were patches of heather that bumble bees had discovered and were eagerly feeding.  Ullswater came back into view and a signpost said it was only 1½ miles to Aira Force.  It lied.
Looking across to Hallin Fell from Yew Crag
A couple with two children stood atop Yew Crag gazing into the gloom.  We joined them, trying to focus our eyes across the lake to Hallin Fell with its tall cairn.  Gradually it came into view.
The rocky trail back to Aira Force
We continued down through the rain passing a pair of guys on their way up, one of them dark tanned and shirtless.  "Ey up, 'ere comes bladdy Tarzan" I said, making sure he heard.  He only laughed.  
Thank goodness.
Looking towards Patterdale.
The trail became rockier as we descended, once again making me wish we were running, going faster.  A fenced off cairn afforded a great view down the lake towards Patterdale with misty hills beyond. It was the view that will remain in my mind the most.  After leaving there it was all downhill to Aira Force - with its hundreds of double parked cars and heaving summer hoards.  
Good luck to you all, I thought.  
Let me get home.