|Me....many moons ago in the Fannichs|
Over the last seven days the pageant of Autumn has passed it's best. On Saturday, as I ran between avenues of trees and along the River Wharfe, leaves were gently parachuting down, littering the ground or twirling downstream like fleets of tiny coracles. After a disastrous summer, the worst most of us can remember, a couple of weeks of autumn sunshine went some way towards restoring our flagging spirits before, once again, we're plunged into the gloom of winter. Many moons ago, in common with other outdoor friends, I looked forward to winter with mounting excitement. Snow and ice was an added challenge to our mountaineering skills, elements to be enjoyed as we cramponed over snowy summits, chipped our way up icy gullies, camped by frozen rivers or shared the sparse comforts of remote highland bothies. My blood was thicker then, my joints more supple, my bones less sensitive to arctic temperatures, and I'd far more strength to withstand the buffetting blizzards that would sometimes blow me off my feet.
|Appletreewick with Simon's Seat rising in the distance|
Now, in my dotage, I'm ashamed to admit that winter has become a mostly unwelcome season of the year. The change likely coincided with the installation of central heating in my humble cottage about ten years ago. My old bones have grown accustomed to the soothing warmth so that now I can no longer function properly without it. However, there are usually a few enjoyable spells when I'll strap on my Yaktrax to run icy trails or hurtle down snowy slopes, generating enough heat to maintain body temperature for a few hours, but it always feels nice to creep back into my cosy cottage. (Not that it's very cosy at the moment. A new central heating boiler installed four days ago lasted all of five hours before deciding to go on strike. It still hasn't been fixed).
To get back to the present, I've been taking it easy this week, a gentle 25 miles over four days, trying to hone my uphill technique with a view to running a couple of very hilly races early next year. My longest run, an eight miler on Saturday, linked three of Yorkshire's prettiest villages, Hebden, Appletreewick and Burnsall. It was warm enough for customers to sit outside the Craven Arms quaffing pints of fine ale while watching the world (and me) go by. A party of girls taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme marched along the riverbank towards Howgill, heavily laden with large rucksacks but all smiles and chattering away happily in the marvellous conditions. They always seem happier than their male counterparts!
|Squirrel at Burnsall - probably no more!|
While running through Burnsall it occurred to me that the population of squirrels had decreased somewhat in recent times. In fact, I only saw one whereas usually there are quite a number flitting among the branches of riverside trees. A few years ago one of them was tame enough to leap onto people's shoulders as they passed by, frightening the life out of more timid walkers. On mentioning this current dearth to a local lady she said most of them had been trapped, and killed, by someone in the village 'playing at God' - deciding what can live, and what can't. The poor lady seemed quite distraught, not to mention annoyed, as if she'd lost some cherished pets. I could sympathize with her, I missed them too.
|Back into Hebden|
On Sunday we awoke to grey skies, mist and dampness, but we managed a steady six mile run before the threatened rain arrived with a vengeance later in the morning. I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for our minister, Rev David Macha, who'd be running in the rain after sneaking away for the weekend to take part in a two day mountain marathon among the rolling Howgill Fells between the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria. I wasn't sure who'd be suffering most, David or his stand-in, Rev Fiona Jenkins who'd already conducted three services before arriving to take ours in Hebden. Understandably, she was a little hoarse and could find no kind words for David's fondness for hill running which she referred to as a form of self abuse. I kept my mouth firmly shut!