Wednesday 23 October 2013

Slow runs and salmon runs......

Worth stopping for - autumn tints along the Wharfe at Hebden...
I was glad of my camera for company last week as I snuffled and sneezed my way through seventeen assorted miles over a seven day period. An intended five mile tempo run became very much a stop/start affair as riotous autumn tints provided the perfect excuse for numerous random stops to shoot scenes I always imagine are going to be unrepeatable whilst, in truth, they'll return year after year long after I've faded into oblivion. Another five mile run with my wonderful partner ended with me walking up the final hill after puffing our way through two miles of fartlek along the riverbank. Neither of us were at our best.
      Amazingly, the session that felt easiest was a
Wet through, but happy.... Theo and me
four mile road run around Burnsall in pouring rain with three friends from Papandrecht in the western Netherlands. Stefan and Jerome were undoubtedly the greyhounds of our intrepid quartet whilst Theo and I, dare I say, of a more mature vintage, lumbered along at talking pace sharing all the latest news. On being reduced to a walk up the final hill Theo casually remarked he'd have to go for another injection as soon as he got home. It seems every now and again when his knees give trouble his doctor injects a kind of gel straight into the joint to free things up.  Strange, that. My wonderful partner often says that when God invented the human body he made a major design fault by not placing grease nipple alongside major joints. Theo appears to have found the next best thing!

The Ribble in spate,,,but it didn't stop the salmon...
     A forecast of heavy rain on Sunday was all we needed to abandon any ideas of running and go for a pleasant walk instead. We made our way to Stainforth Foss on the River Ribble to watch the annual migration of salmon to their upstream breeding haunts. After much heavy rain the river was in spate, a roaring torrent of brown, peaty water thundering through the narrow strait and over the triple falls. Surely, nothing can get up there, we thought. But we were wrong. It seems nothing can stop a salmon on its way to spawn and breed. At first there was little activity. Maybe they were resting awhile in the deep pool below the falls after a few failed attempts. They never give up. One by one, they hurtled skywards to disappear into the pool above where they'd further rest before attempting the next cataract. They'd get there in the end. They always do.
      Among many bits of memorabilia adorning the walls of my study is a framed certificate for achieving 1st place in an Open Poetry competition way back in 1989. It was the centenary year of this prestigious event which made its winning even more memorable. I reckon the adjudicator, a gentleman called Norman Howlings, was likely very pro-Scottish, and most probably a fisherman, which contributed to my success. In fact, I can think of no other reasons! As I read each line I could tell by expressions on his face, and by his audible "Yes" at the final stanza, that the poem had found favour. For what it's worth, here it is:


Late July, the parched hills
If at first you don't succeed......
Flickering in the heat,
The Sealga burn a cobbled gash
Scarring the strath from An Teallach
Past brooding Shenaval.
Beyond the rowan tree a mossy step
Seeps the last dregs of the last storm,
Damping the scales of a migrant salmon
Stranded, a drip from death.

      His red back is all too conspicuous
      On the granite pebbles
      As he arches and bends,
      Thrashes and thrusts,
      Eyeballs out and mouth agape,
      Striving with resolute fecundity
      To gain some high predestined pool.

I can picture him days ago,
This ecstatic rainbow torpedo
Ripping through the flash flood,
Bending against the cataracts,
Then the long grovel
Through receding shallows
To the final emptiness
Of this dank, desolate spot.

      Even now he would climb
      If he could, his compass set
      To seasonal bearings of A to Breed.
      No devil-fish could lure him back
      To enticing estuary
      Or bright, gleaming loch.
      He would swim through fire,
      He would die for love.

But here on the moor
Outside Shenavall
My cold knife
Grallochs the silken belly
Onto bleached stones.
Let the world mourn
While the king dines.

      That's enough of the serious stuff. To end on a much lighter note click on this Fellraiser link for a very amusing video which Fellephant describes as 'an off the wall take on fell running' accompanied by his own music. Some people are very clever! 


  1. I see the fall colors you mentioned in your comment in that top pic - such a pretty photo! And the fish pic, with the fish in the air - perfect!

  2. Great photo of the salmon leaping and the accompanying poem equals it!
    Glad to see you are still out running around, enjoying life. I have to concur with your partner about the grease nipple. ha!

  3. So you didn't catch one of the Salmon for dinner? My Wife would have been in there to catch one...