Tuesday 5 March 2013

Harbingers of Spring

Sure sign of Spring - me in shorts
for the first time this year!
I dream'd that as I wandered by the way
Bare winter suddenly was changed to spring,
And gentle odours led my steps astray,
Mix'd with a sound of waters murmuring
Along a shelving bank of turf........
     So wrote the romantic Percy Bysshe Shelley in his flowery poem 'A Dream of the Unknown'. Similar words came to mind last weekend as I jogged gently along sunlit trails by lonely streams and up into the hills where lapwings were whirling and filling the air with their beautiful noise. I wouldn't go so far as to say Winter has 'suddenly' turned to Spring though there's abundant evidence of its awakening, not just in flowers, new born lambs and birds becoming territorial, but in a surge of energy that had me donning shorts for the first time in months and running longer distances with seemingly less effort.
     After a couple of four mile runs during the week, over what I morbidly refer to as my graveyard route, I was lured into new territory back in the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday.  On a previous run to Wig Stones, we'd noticed a new track leading up onto the moor and disappearing into the heather. My wonderful partner, ever on the lookout for new U3A walking routes, decided it was time to investigate and discover where it goes. So, what better place for a run on a beautiful sunny day?
Mallard on Grimwith reservoir
     We ran round Grimwith reservoir, a great bowl in the hills where Mallard formed little rafts and Canada Geese bugled across the water. From a shooting hut we took the steep track by a long straight wall through Trunla Allotment, over Trunla Gill and up to a gate leading to Wig Stones Moss. From here our new track zig-zagged north into unknown territory, adjacent to Sykes Dike, until finally finishing at a 1,000 litre diesel tank gamekeepers have installed to refuel their vehicles in the absolute back of beyond. We reckoned it was feasible to run/walk due west from here, past Great Wolfrey Crag and return to Grimwith via Gate Up Ghyll. I was secretly pleased when my wonderful partner announced she didn't feel quite up to doing the full circuit that day and suggested we return by the way we'd come. A pleasant seven miles that set us up nicely for our evening banquet of roast chicken and celebratory wine. Well, we'd earned it.
Crocuses among the rubbish in my garden
     She sneaked out for a run while I was recharging my batteries at a Communion service in Hebden Chapel on Sunday morning, and didn't get home till lunchtime. So I'd to go it alone in the afternoon. At this time of year we derive great pleasure from seeing, hearing and recording signs of Spring - the first curlews, skylarks and wheatears to arrive at their nest sites, frogs back to their spawning grounds, coltsfoot, lesser celandine, violets and primroses in the ghyll - and we spend hours combing wild places, looking and listening for these welcome first arrivals. And that's what I was doing on Sunday afternoon but, sad to say, none of the afore mentioned harbingers had yet returned to their usual haunts.
      Nevertheless, I'd a very pleasant run to places little visited since the onset of winter, an eight mile circuit round the upper reaches of Hebden Ghyll and back by quiet trails and little known paths, far from the madding crowd. What's more, I was running easily - nay, effortlessly - so apparently fully recovered from the sneezy lurgy and hacking cough that struck me down in the unseasonably cold Canary Islands a month ago. Hopefully I can build on this fitness, boost the mileage and have enough confidence to return to racing though, guess what, low pressure is forecast with the prospect of more snow in the next few days. That might set me back a bit!


  1. I think if one waits till one is fit enough to race one might never race...

    So aim at getting to the races as soon as you can, and then sooner than you know you will be on the start line and saying to yourself: Today we race...

    alway nice to find new routes, OK most of the routes are always were, it's just us running the same old... May spring bring many new trails for you the explore.

  2. Isn't it wonderful how a bit of sunshine makes everything better? I can't believe you're forecast snow. Fingers crossed for more sunny weather soon!

  3. Shorts? March. SHORTS!!? They breed 'em tough over your way. I refuse to consider such a thing until the clocks go forward! Glad you're running easily again. Spring's still a little on hold over here. Not too many lambs around yet. Have heard the lapwings though - and a curlew while out walking on Thursday. So it's on its way....