Wednesday 6 August 2014

One of those days.....

Crossing the retaining wall into wild country...(Click to enlarge)
     I shouldn't listen. I really shouldn't listen. When my wonderful partner casually mentions she's thought of another interesting route to inflict upon her U3A Walking Group I should have learnt by now to turn a deaf ear, refrain from showing the slightest interest, or feign some serious illness - a punctured lung or the onset of the dreaded Ebola virus from leaning too close to that nice African lady on the train. But I fell for it again.  "It's about 11 miles" she said, "but there's no need to run all of it, we're familiar with the last few miles". She was right about the last bit. It's on trails I still regularly run round Mossdale, but the first five miles was over wild, remote country I hadn't ventured into for many years. Ah well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
      It was cold, cloudy and blowing an 11 mph sou'westerly as we set off up the crag path, pushing aside
Through tall thistles and dense reeds
head high bracken as we laboured skywards towards Scar Top House. Unlike the previous week when I'd been running topless in 75º I'd donned tight shorts, thermal top and a buff as the temperature dropped down the scale. On the exposed open moor I was wishing I'd brought gloves too! The path along the holding wall of Mossy Mere was once a joy to run, or linger along while watching the sun set over the water, but is barely traceable now in a riot of reeds. Running was reduced to a jog, or even a walk in denser areas - a portent of things to come. After crossing the dam's outflow a machete would have been handy to hack a way through bracken, thistles and nettles to the stile beyond - the climbing of which proved to be one of the easier parts of the route so far.

The three stone men of Bolton Ghyll...and a threatening sky
     Beyond the wall we were greeted by more tall thistles and dense reeds as we began traversing the vast trackless wasteland en route to the three stone men of Bolton Ghyll. We made a slight faux pas (!) by ignoring the route I used to run in favour of what looked like a more direct route which in the end turned out to be totally impassable. We detoured back to our original route, climbed a wall in exactly the same place I remembered from long ago, and were able to commence running again towards the trio of lofty cairns silhouetted against a darkening sky. From this point we'd planned to cross the top of Bolton Ghyll and follow the Parish boundary as far as Blea Beck. No way! Covering the steep drop into the ghyll was another impenetrable jungle of tall bracken hiding dangerous rocks and goodness knows what other possible pitfalls that neither of us was prepared to risk.
      A Plan B came into operation. Or was it Plan C?  We struck N.E. running parallel to the stream
Showing the strain already - and I'd only run two miles!
that feeds the ghyll, through a vast bog known as The Wolf. I've no idea why it's called The Wolf. Maybe it was once clothed in sheep - but there were none to be seen as we battled through. I reckon they'd more sense. Due to the nature of our wild routes we're all too familiar with sphagnum moss but The Wolf has its very own variety in the form of two feet high hummocks which we'd to either circumnavigate or stride over with knees to chin. We were supposed to be running but The Wolf had other ideas.
It was fun running through these...
      I was mighty glad to climb out over the wall and head towards Blea Beck, though the reeds en route were so tall my wonderful partner kept disappearing among them. It seemed ages before we emerged into familiar territory. Well, almost familiar territory. A cloudburst and subsequent landslide of biblical proportions two weeks previously had totally transformed some areas of the landscape between Kettlewell and Grassington Moor. A sea of water, silt and debris had cascaded down the hillsides flooding becks and cave systems and shifting things to where they didn't used to be. One of the things it changed the shape of was my old crossing point over the beck so there was quite a bit of hithering and dithering before we located it. We leapt across to the far bank and hit the ground running.
      Storm debris was left behind as we climbed onto a ridge

running parallel to a beck known as the Deep Cut for a mile or so across Grassington
...and these
Moor. There was once a good sheep trod along here that was easy to run but it's totally disappeared under rampant heather and grassy tussocks that reduced us to a very slow jog. It's strange, since we fellrunners stopped using the trod, sheep have abandoned it too.  Shortly, there was yet another fast flowing beck to cross, and yet again the midstream boulders had been forced into different positions that called for some nifty footwork to gain the far bank dryshod. In my dotage I'm not very good at balancing and have toppled into the river on more than one occasion! But this time I was lucky.
Climbing onto the ridge...Grassington Moor
      A Landrover track gave easy running for all of 150m before veering right over Bycliffe Hill to allow my wonderful partner to exercise her navigational skills over some fairly featureless terrain before leading her U3A group across there later in the year, possibly in  winter conditions. She led it without difficulty in spite of more flood debris that obliterated the faint sheep trod we'd been following. As we neared our high point the wind grew stronger and colder. A heavy shower blotted out the landscape to our left as we hurried along to the stone man at 1,500ft after which we were much relieved to start our descent in the lee of the long wall. Our original intention had been to carry on round into Mossdale but we'd both had enough and were only too happy to head for home. Two hikers who'd stopped for lunch wanted to know where we'd been. It was a long story that took some explaining!
Completing her navigational exercise. Time to go home...Thank God!
      Then it rained, thankfully nothing of the magnitude of our previous cloudburst but heavy enough for us to don waterproof jackets before heading down into Hebden Ghyll, enjoying the luxury of a smoother surface under our feet to run the last couple of miles into the village. 
      I stretched, gave my legs a load of Stick before relaxing with two mugs of exceedingly strong coffee - Italian, of course - and silently vowed that next time U3A walking routes are due for submission I'll dig out my ear plugs and bury my nose in whatever book lies closest to hand. All in all we'd covered just over nine miles, with 967ft of ascent, but I'll refrain from mentioning how long it took us. It brought my total mileage for the week to around 24 which I'm completely happy with. Next Sunday my wonderful partner will be engaged in  National Park duties so no chance of being coerced into any more madcap meanderings, luckily for me.....


  1. Heehee, I'm extremely jealous of your partner's energy levels...!

  2. So am I Karien, wish I was her age again!

  3. One day when I have energy (or petrol money) I too might explore new route around Cape Town (in Cape Town no problem).

    1. In another 40 years CD? Make the best of what you're doing now. Tempus fugits!

  4. What a pleasure it was to read about your route and exploits from the comfort of my armchair and a cup of tea!

    How quickly our weather changes, we wouldn't expect anything else.

    All the best Jan

    1. Not half the pleasure I felt Jan, collapsed in my rocking chair with a great mug of coffee when the darned run was over. Only joking!
      Yes, the weather sure is fickle, ran six miles today in short shorts and vest again. Wonderful...

  5. A bit of an adventure! The bracken is really high in the Peak District now and I often need to engage in a spot of "Bracken Bashing" on my more remote runs. Certainly slows you down!

    1. Aye, it's been a good year for bracken, rushes, thistles, sphagnum, nettles and the like - a bad year for us! We've a lot of work to do clearing the stuff away before the Hebden fell race on Bank Holiday Monday, or we might be losing a few runners!
      Cheers Dave...