Spring is early this year. On the very first day of March when morning frost contrasted sharply against a brilliant blue sky the countryside was alive with birdsong. Scores of new lambs snuggled up to their mums in sunlit fields around Bolton Abbey. Catkins shook like little lamb's tails in the gentle breeze. In village gardens crocuses saluted the sun, opening their purple, white and yellow petals to full extent. A local farmer said his fields had never looked so green so early in the year.
On Saturday we were joined by my eldest son for a walk around Burnsall in the morning and Hebden Ghyll in the afternoon. Alasdair is an environmentallist and wildlife enthusiast whose keen observations alerted us to all the exquisite sights and sounds of an enchanting day. Like the Dipper that bobbed and curtsied on his favourite stone before disappearing under the gushing waters of the Wharfe for some tasty morsel. Like the striking male Goosander that rode the rapids with his three crested wives. Like the Oyster Catchers, Lapwings and Curlews that filled the air with their joyous pipings. Like the wonderfully formed multi-coloured lichens which, when magnified, resembled miniature coral reefs. Like the recently arrived Redshank that sifted through the sandy shore of Mossy Mere. It was a truly memorable day that ended with a celebratory meal and a suitable vintage to mark the occasion.
High pressure dominated throughout the weekend as Sunday dawned clear and bright over a sparkling frosty landscape. After re-charging my batteries with some lusty singing at morning Eucharist I changed into running gear and set off along the banks of the Wharfe for a 'long run'. Not so long ago, in marathon training days, I would have clocked 18 - 22 miles. Nowadays, in my dotage, I rarely run more than 10. However, I have a 10 mile Championship race coming up on March 27th so felt obliged to run at least that distance, if not a little more. My Garmin actually registered 10.18 miles in a comfortable 1 hour 44 mins. Enough!
In spite of aching quads and painful backache I couldn't resist taking advantage of further good weather on Monday to slot in a bit of speedwork. After a couple of Paracetamols for breakfast I eased myself into gear with a two mile jog past the waterfall in Hebden Ghyll as far as Yarnbury. From the high point of Moor Lane, I unleashed a fast measured mile towards Grassington in 7.06. After another steady jog along Edge Lane and Tinker Lane I churned out another fast mile in exactly 7.00 minutes. It might have been faster if some agricultural vehicle hadn't got in the way down a narrow part of the track! From there on it was only a short jog home to complete a scenic six mile circuit.
And that, you might like to know, is how aspiring octagonarians spend their Spring weekends!