Tuesday 30 July 2013

Seek and you will find.......

   The exertions of last Sunday's hilly 10K race left me feeling a bit shattered so I didn't venture out for
Our route.... 9 miles/1,200ft
another run until Wednesday. But that couple of days rest must have done me good for I sailed up Castle Hill with the greatest of ease for the start of an enjoyable five mile circuit through shady woods and fields of ripening corn. Then I'd two more days rest before the weekend activities when, once again, things didn't quite go according to plan. Saturday was yet another of those occasions when my wonderful partner wanted to refresh her memory about a route over which she'll be leading her intrepid (and very brave) U3A walkers in ten days time. She was anxious to re-acquaint herself with the lie of the land, check compass bearings in case of mist or stormy conditions, and to check cellphone reception from various points in case of emergency. Not relishing the idea of her traversing such remote and mainly trackless country on her own, I volunteered to jog round with her. After all, it was only 9 miles, though there was also a little matter of 1,200ft of ascent to make it more 'interesting'.

Memorial cairn with Great Whernside beyond...
Saturday was a beautiful day, sunny and warm with clear views as we left Yarnbury to jog up Old Moor Lane, past the sheepfold where our local shepherd was shearing his flock, and in half a mile had reached the access gate onto open moorland. From here on our route would be trackless for the next five miles though there are some navigational aids in the form of walls and fences leading to the wild interior. We followed one of these walls for a mile before climbing more steeply into Howgill Nick where a ruined shooting hut overlooks a wide sinkhole that swallows the water from Black Edge Dyke. After our recent heatwave there wasn't the slightest trickle. Beyond the ruined hut was a faint dusty track that quad bikes will soon be using to transport the shooting aristocracy to allotted stances for their annual slaughter of the grouse population. 
   We followed the tyre marks until they ended at a narrow bridge over a dried up ditch from which point we
Running up the long fence to the boundary...
roughly guessed a compass bearing to a memorial cairn marking the spot where six cavers are entombed hundreds of feet below in Mossdale Caverns. This was a bearing my wonderful partner was anxious to get right because the cairn remains hidden over the horizon until almost within spitting distance of it, but after half a mile at 15º the top of the cairn loomed out of the heather immediately ahead. Spot on. We veered left to a long fence leading past Priest's Tarn, then upwards for another half mile to the Nidderdale boundary. I'd one foot on the fence, about to climb over into Nidderdale, when there was a plaintive cry from behind me. "I've lost my camera" she said. Like me, she'd had it slotted onto the belt of her waist pouch but it must have slipped off unnoticed when she'd taken off the pouch to check her phone. 
"There's Meugher"......rising out of the bog.
We'd a rough idea where she'd done this, so jogged back down to Priest's Tarn and began our search. Backwards and forwards and sideways we scoured the ground over a 50m stretch of heather and grass and a boggy ditch, but to no avail. After much wasted time and fruitless searching we had to admit defeat and continue on our way, retracing our steps to the boundary fence and climbing over into the obstacle course that marked the next stage of our route. We were making for a high cone shaped hill called Meugher (pronounced Moofer) which, in normal conditions, is totally surrounded by watery groughs and slimy peat hags. It has a reputation of being one of the most unvisited hills in northern England and, true enough, on all my flying visits I've yet to encounter another stranger on its windswept summit, or anywhere in its immediate vicinity.     
   Other than my wonderful partner and a late fell running friend I know of only one other person who's been
At Meugher's windswept trig point...
there - the shepherd/farmer who waved to us as we ran past at the beginning of our jaunt earlier in the day. Usually, the way ahead is akin to a watery version of Hampton Court maze, with ditches instead of hedges, but after the semi drought it was reasonably dry, making it more accessible and allowing us to take a more direct line, though it involved climbing in and out of several deep groughs. The final slopes are a mixture of tussocky grass and feathery bog cotton crossed by half hidden drainage ditches. Gaining the summit we'd a bite to eat and a quick drink by the redundant Trig point before following a 155º bearing across Meugher Dike and up to Henstone Band, a high point along the boundary fence ¾ mile away where we'd climb back into Wharfedale to run down the long straight wall that divides Hebden Moor from Grassington Moor. 
At Henstone Band, climbing back into Wharfedale...
Near the bottom of this wall we diverted west onto Sleet Moor where, in the ankle twisting tussocks, my left adductors decided they'd had enough of the rough stuff and cramped up solid. Fortunately, we discovered another of those faint quad bike tracks that had flattened the ground a little and made it more runnable. We followed it to a bridge over the beck, from which point we could follow good gravel tracks all the way back to Yarnbury. On a steepish hill just before the finish my right adductors decided that anything the left ones could do, they could do better. I strutted stiff legged to the top of the hill like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, making all sorts of funny noises, before easing back into a run for the last ½ mile back to our car.  Boy, was I glad it was over!
   Come Sunday morning, I'd have really enjoyed an extra hour in bed to aid recovery, but my presence had
Our Chapel - where God works in mysterious ways.......
been requested to read a lesson for Rev Janet Clasper at a joint communion service for Anglicans and Methodists in our village Chapel.  My wonderful partner was scheduled to spend the day on National Park duty, roaming around Barden Moor, so no chance of a lie in for her either. I wandered wearily along to Chapel at 9am, my Bible tucked under my arm, feeling only half awake. I'm a bit naughty when it comes to reading lessons. Methodists traditionally use the Good News version of the Bible which I like but don't always use. In fact, I seldom use it. My iPad has around 36 different versions, all slightly differently worded, and I choose the one I like best, or which better suits my voice. Sometimes (nay, often) I'll further tweak the wording so it flows a little better and is easier to read. The finished result is my own personal interpretation which doesn't always contain the exact text on which the Minister has based his/her sermon!
That fence post, one among thousands...
Such was the case on Sunday when I read a slightly tweaked rendering of Luke 11, v 1 - 13 from the New International Version, all about prayer and being persistent in our requests.  I'd to stifle a little laugh at my version's reference to 'shameless audacity' but when I sat down and got to thinking about it I became so engrossed in its meaning that I've really no recollection of what the sermon was all about. Sorry Janet! My mind and my prayers were totally focused on a camera lying in the bog somewhere up on the moor and the sadness on my wonderful partner's face on yesterday's realisation of its loss. It hurt, I wanted that camera back and only God knew where it was. I went home, made myself a mug of strong coffee and went on the computer to study the photographs I'd taken the previous day. I remembered taking a shot of Great Whernside, looking across the boundary close to where my wonderful partner had taken out her cellphone to check if there was any reception. My attention focused on a particular fence post, near to where she'd stood, one of a long line leading to the Nidderdale boundary. Zooming in to get a clearer view of it, I noted two black markings and felt sure I'd recognize that particular wooden post again, though in other respects it differed little from the hundreds of others. I printed off the zoomed version onto A4 paper, stuck it into my waist pouch and, after another mug of coffee, set off in search of it.
   After heavy overnight rain the landscape had changed dramatically. Everywhere was oozing water. Black
Up Old Moor Lane, there'd been a drop of rain overnight...
Edge Dike had filled and was roaring noisily down the sinkhole at Howgill Nick. Saturday's dusty quad bike track was a dank ribbon of dark peat through which I left a line of stud marks that would no doubt tell our hawk-eyed gamekeeper old Runningfox had passed that way. The memorial cairn had a little moat of water surrounding it whilst remote Priest's Tarn had increased threefold in size overnight. I jogged happily along, feeling as refreshed as my surroundings, to the line of fence posts where I took out the folded A4 picture and began my search for the particular post I wanted. It didn't take long to find it, whereupon I dropped to hands and knees and began a fingertip search of the rough ground. Eureka! Within minutes my hand alighted on the sodden black case perfectly camouflaged in a peaty hollow beneath overhanging grass only feet away from the fence. 

Cotton grass - cleaning my legs on the way home...
Inside its case, the camera was still perfectly dry and unharmed. I let out an exultant cry that would have had any nearby grouse quaking in their feathery boots. Gone was the morning lethargy. I never felt more alive as I jogged triumphantly back across the moor in a shower of cooling rain with wet cotton grass brushing my bare legs, then up the old lane to where I'd parked the car.  Mission accomplished - as they say - albeit with quite a large dose of divine help!  Needless to say my wonderful partner was absolutely ecstatic when I phoned the good news to her on Barden Moor. I reckon I've scored enough brownie points to last the remainder of the year!


  1. I love that story, good on you, brownie points all the way.

    I can tell you a story about a friend who was kloofing down a river and his glasses fell in... so he dived till he found them at the bottom of a deep pool, along with a go-pro camera!!! The battery was flat after months at the bottom of the pool, but after charging it, it worked and with the date of the footage and the sign-in book they found the owner in the UK!!!

  2. Wow, you are a partner 10 000! So happy you found the camera!