Tuesday 4 October 2011

For everything a reason

    For the serious athlete I'm told every training session should have a specific purpose relevant to the distance, or type, of forthcoming race. After five weeks of inactivity a lot of strength had gone out of my old legs so my primary purpose over the last week has been to restore some of that strength - one way or another. So, along with my wonderful partner, I took to the hills. We based ourselves at Ravencragg, on the shores of Ullswater, in a flat kindly loaned to us by mutual friends.
Approaching Sharp Edge 
   On a warm day of bright sunshine we plodded up the steep path that borders Scales Fell bound for the rocky heights of Blencathra, or Saddleback as it's sometimes called, a 2,847ft peak at the northern end of the Lake District. Passing Scales Tarn a gravelly path leads to the start of an imposing ridge. From hereon to the top we enjoyed an airy scramble, sometimes on delicate holds where the route was not always obvious.This is Sharp Edge, a name to strike terror into the minds of more timid travellers but a sheer delight for enthusiastic rock athletes. 
Climbing Sharp Edge
    At times a gusting wind threatened to tear us from the rock, making progress a little 'interesting', but it was a warm wind, blowing from the south, that helped restore our fading summer tans. Wearing shorts and a support round my injured knee, I finished up with a two-tone leg! Ravens 'cronked' their joy as they were flung hither and thither in strong updraughts, enjoying the situation as much as us. There were no flowers to be seen, yet there were late butterflies warming their delicate bodies on reflected heat in sheltered corners of the rocks. 
    On the slabby knee-wrecking descent of Hall's Fell I realised just how unfit I'd become. Not many years ago I'd have danced down here in no time at all. Now I was wincing at almost every downward step - for 2,000ft. By the time I reached the bottom my legs were crying out for more pain-killers! We returned to Ravencragg, took chairs onto the lawn and enjoyed the luxury of healing sunshine on our aching limbs.
Martindale's old Church and ancient Yew trees
   Rather disappointingly, the next day dawned cloudy with distant hills fading into a milky haze, but it was fine and still rather warm. We drove to Martindale, past the old Churches and parked at Dale Head for a walk up Bannerdale. It's a kind of pilgrimage we make every year in the season of 'The Rut' and we hadn't gone far before the sound of roaring came drifting down the dale from the direction of a high cone shaped hill known as The Nab, a designated deer forest.  Watchers were already installed with their powerful telescopes set up for long distance viewing. We continued for another mile up the dale, climbing to a high grassy platform under Heck Crag that afforded a grandstand view over the extensive deer forest.
Looking up Bannerdale - deer country
    The sun broke through, lighting up the landscape. There were deer everywhere. A herd of possibly eighty hinds grazed peacefully below us. A lone stag bellowed his territorial rights from a vantage point just below the skyline - one of very few that was actually roaring. We wondered if recent strange weather patterns had altered the time of the rut, whether it was nearing its end, or only just beginning? 
    On our side of the dale, in the broad confines of Heck Cove, another stag with a huge set of antlers was wallowing in a mud hole, usually the prelude to a fight. Instead he went stomping after his parcel of hinds, apparently with other ideas in mind. They were having none of it. "Go and get yourself cleaned up before you come anywhere near us" we could almost hear them saying!  On this occasion we saw more deer than ever before, but fewer signs of the actual rut.
Yacht race on Ullswater
    We returned to Ravencragg for a bite to eat before setting off for another relaxing walk to Auterstones and back along the track to Swarthbeck. A yacht race was in progrees on Ullswater, a mass of what looked like little paper boats, all with red sails, skimming along in a stretched out line round the spaced out buoys. A mewing cry attracted our attention to a buzzard circling above us before gliding into a nearby tree to survey his domain. By 4pm the sun had disappeared again, and so did we. Back to the comfortable confines of Ravencragg, back to our books, a beefy casserole and a fine wine to round off the day.
    The following morning, following a relaxed five mile run as far as Martindale, the weather finally broke. We loaded the car and returned home. 
John Le Mesurier as M's chauffeur on Grassington Moor for the filming
of Casino Royale. I don't think the sheep were supposed to be there!
Picture courtesy of t' internet
    Finally, to assess the effects of the past week's strengthening programme, I went for a lone eight mile run over Grassington Moor, a route that rises 1,000ft in four miles, and I was determined to run every inch of it. The turning point is on desolate moorland where the opening scenes of Casino Royale were filmed way back in 1966. Today there was only sheep for company and a fair number of Grouse that had luckily escaped the ravages of the Glorious Twelfth. 
    As I turned for home a pair of vociferous ravens circled overhead and stayed with me for almost a mile, one of them hanging virtually motionless, riding the wind. The other had a curious high pitched 'cronk' which had me wondering whether it was the female of the species or whether some stray shotgun pellet had wrought havoc in it's nether regions? 
    The last three miles were sheer enjoyment, running easily down springy turf before reaching the stony track running parallel to the beck all the way into Hebden. Old Runningfox is back in business, I think!


  1. Fantastic post RF. So glad to hear you're back on the trails. As ever, you put my pathetic efforts into perspective. And, as ever, you inspire. Welcome back!

  2. Hi Old Running Fox! I think that Scotland should hire you to head the tourism department. Your pictures are so enchanting.

    Glad to know that you're up and at 'em.

    :-) Marion

  3. Wow, I finally got round to reading a couple of your posts - you write so beautifully and your lifestyle is truly inspirational! I have to get the boys up and ready for school now, but will be back to read more soon! I would love to be like you in my seventies! (minus the beard hopefully!!)

    Do you ever come over Norfolk way? If you do I'd love to go for a run with you :D I can recommend a guesthouse in Gayton... :)

  4. Stunning photos again! Especially that one of Sharp Edge, it looks pretty scary! Enjoy getting back into running.

  5. Good to hear that the strengthening medicine is working!

  6. I'm feeling vertiginous just looking at the pic Mrs Running Fox teetering on top of Sharp Edge.. what a brave and adventurous pair you are!

    Glad you're feeling some spring back in those legs after your endurance break! See you at Thirsk maybe..?


  7. "Grassington Moor, a route that rises 1,000ft in four miles..." It takes some ambition to run that kind of elevation. :)

    Great writing and photos! Here the deer go into rut in late October, early November.

  8. So very glad you are back in business as usual. What a lovely piece. And photos. And now I'll have to pursue a copy of Casino Royale. Check out Grassington Moor and the lay of the land of your run.