Wednesday 7 April 2010

A Happy Easter

EASTER SATURDAY was a 'go it alone day' when I set off for a gentle run round Grassington Moor, desperate to get my old legs working again and, hopefully, back into racing mode within the next few months. The problem with this run is that the first three miles are all steeply uphill, so I was huffing and puffing from the start. I stopped to investigate the frog pond up the long wall, not that I was interested in overrated froggy activities but more because I needed the rest.
Half a mile further along, I took the track that cuts across to Hebden Ghyll, where the crow trap used to be, and where I discovered an old unfenced mine shaft I thought might interest one of my speleological friends. Naturally, I stopped, rummaged in my bum-bag, took out the camera and assessed the best setting for a photograph, then switched on the GPS for a Grid Reference before fishing out my notebook and pen to record it. All of this took time, the more, the better, because my old bones jolly well needed REST.
After ten minutes or so I jogged merrily on, eyes peeled for some of the many snares set by our over-zealous gamekeeper. I climbed the wall into the ghyll, increasing my pace down the wonderful springy turf into Ring Ouzel country where I stopped, looked, and listened - and of course RESTED which was the main thing! But as yet, the Ouzels have not yet returned to their customary nesting sites.
From hereon it was all downhill. I'd had the whole moor to myself. The Curlews, Plovers and Skylarks had sung their wondrous songs for me alone. I was trotting happily back down the ghyll when a smiling girl came gliding towards me, moving easily at a good pace, her dark hair bouncing in the breeze, and full of that infectious vitality that made me intensely aware that SPRING is here.


The world sleeps
Deep in winter hills

Vernal youth
Folds back her blanket

Earth pants, and
Ah love, Spring has come.

EASTER SUNDAY was the day we intended to park the car at Starbotton, run over Buckden Pike, down into Buckden, steeply up onto Old Cote Moor, along its boggy top, then back down into Starbotton. But it didn't quite work out like that.
In spite of a coolish breeze it was otherwise a beautiful day but we were struggling from the start. Initially the track was steep and stony, then gave way to parts that had been mashed into a muddy morass by the passage of modern day giant tractors with their wide chevron tyres. There is a Fox staring from a memorial on Buckden Pike to commemorate one of it's kind that reputedly saved the life of a Polish airman whose plane crashed in a snowstorm during the 2nd world war. Nothing to do with Old Runningfox, you understand! The summit of Buckden Pike was a veritable swamp churned by the boots of a million walkers - and runners - but, joy of joys, a Skylark was pouring out his heart over the cairn.
We trod gingerly past a bank of snow down the man-made steps, then squelched down the Pike's flooded flanks to the more hospitable path that led us gently down to Buckden. After jogging/running/walking through such a hostile environment we were both totally knackered! As we sat on a stone in the car park for a quick bite to eat and a swig of juice we unanimously agreed that High Cote Moor would have to wait until another day, or perhaps another year! So, ignoring the track that climbed into the clouds, we jogged along the more gentle path that meandered beside the River Wharfe, along the Dales Way, back to the welcome sight of our car, and blessed rest, at Starbotton. According to my Garmin we'd run 7.61 miles with 2,102 ft ascent in a time I'm too embarrassed to record. Back in 2004 I think (and no doubt someone will correct me if I'm wrong) I set an MV70 course record when I ran up and down Buckden Pike in 53.02 on my way to winning the inaugural English MV70 Fell Running Championship for that year. How the mighty are fallen!

EASTER MONDAY was the feeding of the five thousand, give or take a few, in the Village Institute. Every year on this day villagers rally round to donate soup, sandwiches, cakes, buns, pies, tea, coffee, etc.. to feed hungry tourists and visitors to raise funds in support of our local Chapel. Folk arrive from far and wide on what has become, for many, an annual pilgrimage, the same faces, year after year, chattering away and queueing for tables at this Dales Mecca. And their generosity is overwhelming. I'm told that catering alone this Easter Monday raised £800 whilst another £600 was given in donations.
But the sad thing is that in a village surrounded by so much beauty so few people venture through our Chapel doors to express their praise or gratitude for God's wonderful and boundless creation. We have so much to be thankful for, so many blessings to count, but in this modern age people take it all for granted. Spiritual values have become lost in cyber space. On many Sundays a minister who has spent hours preparing his/her sermon, and having arrived from many miles away, will find themselves preaching to a congregation of just six people - most of whom are sat at the back! It's very embarrassing having to regularly apologize to preachers about low attendances.
We left the packed village with its scores of cars parked at jaunty angles and drove to the more secluded area of Grimwith for a 4 mile run round the reservoir. It was cloudy and there was a chill wind driving white horses across the water. It urged us to run faster to generate heat and warmth. The usual masses of Mallard, Teal and Canada Geese were conspicuous by their absense. The only birdsong, if we could call it that, came from a noisy flock of Oystercatchers that crossed our path along the dam wall. Kestrels have long since deserted their nest site in the old thatched cottage and in a section of land at the bottom of Blea Gill, where Partridge and Pheasant are bred in their thousands, there was no sign of life. Perhaps many were sat on eggs, deeply hidden in cover. Or perhaps they were sheltering from the fierce wind that rattled the trees. But the place seemed utterly deserted, strangely reminiscent of Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring'.
We enjoyed our run, finishing happy and refreshed, unlike after yesterday's battle with the underfoot miseries.

TUESDAY was another 'go it alone' day, running up the ghyll whilst my wonderful partner was in Linton auditioning for another part in the great play that is called 'Life'.
Again, it was one of those stop/start days when, ostensibly, I was looking for Ring Ouzels, but with plenty opportunities to stand and stare and listen, breaking up the running into enjoyable little stints. Normally, the Ouzels are here before the end of March, and I've done my duty by reporting their arrival to the BTO. Not this year. Another gentleman was lurking around their potential breeding grounds too, equipped with both camera and sound recording equipment. He too was disappointed, having heard of their arrival in Britain some time ago and certain they should have been in the Dale by early April. Perhaps they've reverted to Dales timing! Whatever, they're grossly overdue.
I ran farther up the ghyll, serenaded by resident upland birds, climbed up onto the moor (where I noted Great Whernside still had patches of snow lingering on its flanks), then turned and ran gently back home where I silently proclaimed to no-one other than myself that Easter was officially over. Funnily enough, I'd intended finalising matters in the evening with a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor's excellent beer in the Clarendon, but finished up too tired to celebrate!


  1. Hi Runningfox,
    It sounds like you have a few pretty exciting days! Thanks for sharing the lovely pictures and the beautiful poem:) I hope that you continue to stay strong and healthy! May your legs be fresh and energized so that you will run fast as a fox!! I hope that you have a wonderful week!!

  2. WOW! Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing those beautiful pictures! You really know how to enjoy running!