I'm not sure what the official temperature was yesterday. All I know is that for the first time this year I reckoned it was warm enough to run in shorts, and I did. After a poorly attended, yet inspiring service in our local Chapel, I decided to further top up my spiritual batteries with a little jog round Grassington Moor.
Around Hebden lambing time officially begins on the first day of Spring - March 21st - but I reckon one or two crafty tups must obviously have thought this is perhaps a bit late. Some of their ewes have already produced fluffy bundles a little before that specified date!
The pond at the bottom of Yarnbury zig-zags was heaving with frogs on their annual migration to their mating area. Two days earlier scores of the little green jumping creatures were trying to fit into a wee splash of water barely a foot in circumference but overnight rain had turned it into a swamp. The frogs ecstatically croaked their approval! Farther up the ghyll is another pond with an even larger population that entirely covered the surface, all croaking away happily as they went about their courtship rituals. Until I stuck my head over the wall. They promptly submerged, as if feeling a bit embarrassed about being caught in the act!
Heather burning had recently taken place and the acrid smell still lingered in the warm air. Grouse called "go-back, go-back, go-back". Cheeky blighters! I took no notice and ran on, my legs feeling stronger than they had for some months.
Approaching Gill House the air pulsed with the sound of Lapwings as they tumbled and wheeled and dived over their potential nesting sites. Curlews were calling too, that welcome harbinger of Spring whose beautiful bubbling notes cascade from the air like liquid music, what Ted Hughes referred to as 'A wobbling water-call, A wet-footed god of the horizons'. Wish I could write like that!
After about 700' of climbing I reached the high point. Turning for home there was a new spring in my step, an urge to run faster, something I haven't felt all winter. Sweeping downhill towards Hebden I felt to be almost floating. There's no doubt about it. Spring has most definitely sprung - and that's official!
P.S. A week after writing this I discovered that in my absence, whilst I'd been galivanting round the Dales, Longwood Harriers A.C. had presented me with the Bob Mathieson memorial trophy for the best performance by a veteran athlete throughout 2009. It was in recognition of my performances in the following races:
Meltham 10K road: 1st MV75
Grizedale 10 mile trail: 1st MV70
Wharfedale ½ marathon trail: 1st MV70
Burn Valley ½ marathon road: 1st MV70
Harrogate 10K road: 1st MV70 (48.04 gave me 2nd place in the 2009 British MV75 10K Rankings)
Lowther 13 mile fell run: 1st MV70
Burnsall 10 mile road: 1st local (1.21.36 gave me 1st place in the 2009 British MV75 10 mile Rankings)
Richmond 10K road: 1st MV70
Benidorm ½ marathon: Unofficially 1st MV75 (1.49.52 gave me 3rd place in the 2009 British MV75 ½ marathon Rankings)
THE BOB MATHIESON TROPHY