Sunday 27 September 2015

Autumn of my life......

 Isn't Autumn wonderful? Not just a feast for the eyes or the soul but for the inner man too with all its wild fruits, flavour filled treats picked straight from the field, the bush or the tree. I could make myself ill!
Not wild, but one or two overhanging the fence could still end up in a pie!  (Click to enlarge)
This last week has been glorious with contrasting seasonal colours of clear sunny days and pastel shades of mild, misty mornings. I couldn't get out of bed quick enough to don my vest, shorts and studs before running out into the dawn to have my fill of the unfolding pageant.
'Good morning world' - the red ball peeping over the horizon
There is something intensely satisfying about seeing that first tiny red spot peeping over the eastern horizon before the whole sky bursts into flame. Inevitably, it stops me in my tracks, to watch it spread, to photograph it (for at least the hundredth time) and to revel in the experience of just being there to witness that amazing sight. Then to run, run for home, my inner batteries primed with elemental energy to sustain me throughout the unfolding day.
......and setting the sky on fire

Becoming a runner was one of the better decisions I made in life, one I wish I'd made years earlier. On that fateful day - April 9th, 1986 and over 38,000 miles ago - the world became a richer place, akin to what religious folk would call a born again experience. It added more life to my days and, I believe, more days to my life.
Misty morning. Reminds me of Susan Boyle's 'WILD HORSES' (click to play)
Without various changes running brought about, in social, eating, drinking, and sleeping habits, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't be sat here compiling this at 83 years old. Nor stepping out into misty dawns to run the hills and woods and fields to enjoy the company of all the wild creatures of this wonderful world.
Weekly total: 21 miles/2,059ft ascent

Sunday 20 September 2015

A twinge of Autumn......

It was wonderful to run the commons and coast paths in warm Cornish sunshine with the constant croon of the ocean, refreshing salt laden sea air and white gulls gliding across the blue sky. It's funny how we remember good things and obliterate the bad. Looking back over many holidays, I remember little of cold, discomfort or lashing rain, even while backpacking throughout the Highlands bagging all the Scottish Munros, some of the more favoured ones several times. Likewise the sound of storms buffetting our tent in Cornwall will soon fade from our brains.
Everything in the garden is beautiful..... (Click pictures to enlarge)
But back to normality, whatever that might be. My garden was a truly colourful sight when I got home, the lush grass of my handkerchief size lawn 6" taller than when I left. Scented pink phlox, fuschia, marguerites and crocosmia were all at their flowering best but so, unfortunately, were the weeds! Bird feeders were all completely empty. So I'd a bit of work to do before I could think about running.
.....and things happening over the garden wall
Mornings are getting darker now so I've reset the alarm to waken me half an hour later - 6am instead of 5.30 - but reckon it wont be long before I've to reset it again. This morning's jaunt in semi-darkness, down a steep path into Mollicar Wood with wet uneven steps and tree roots criss-crossing it, slowed me to a wary walk. That, and the equally steep climb out the other side, upset my rhythm to an extent from which I never really recovered.
Early morning sun lighting up windows across the stubble field
While I was away vast acres of corn have been cut and as I ran through the stubble fields clouds of wood pigeons rose into the air at my approach. Pheasants too were filling their crops with the excess of corn littering the ground. Do farmers only harvest it for the straw? Sometimes I wish I still had my old 12 bore shotgun. I'd love one of those corn fed pheasants.
Struggling uphill at sunrise....
Making my way onto Castle Hill to complete a planned six miles the rising sun highlighted clusters of luscious ripe blackberries - a handful of which just had to be eaten. Then two terriers came hurtling towards me, barking and growling, but as I greeted them and bent to sooth them they decided to be friendly and offered their backs so I could smooth their bristling hackles.
.....onto this lovely running path, already showing tints of autumn
Uneven terrain, frightened horses, cows blocking a stile, ripe blackberries and loose dogs all combined to make a mockery of my run today. Stopping, starting, walking and eating made it a very slow jaunt. But the sun shone (eventually), there was a twinge of autumn in the air and I enjoyed every minute of it. Blackberries were so good I've been out to fill a polythene container with enough to make a couple of crumbles that should last the week. The first will be in the oven any minute now. 
Bon appetit!
Week's total: 21 miles: 2,200ft ascent

Sunday 13 September 2015

A Southern jaunt.......

For the past umpteen years (I'm sorry, I've lost count) we've been visiting Crantock in the month of June when sea pinks light up the coastal fringes, when Cubert Common is adorned with yellow rattle and wonderful purple orchids, and a myriad skylarks serenade our morning runs. Alas, there are no such treats in the month of September. Neither is there much daylight, especially on cold, overcast evenings such as one when I recall sliding into my sleeping bag at 7.38pm!
The beach at Polly Joke   (Click pictures to enlarge)
Not that I'm complaing for in my dotage I need all the sleep I can get. There were two stormy nights but there is something wonderfully satisfying about being cosy, snug and warm when the wind is thundering in from the sea and rain is hammering the canvas. Indeed, those sounds are far more preferable than various other campsite noises that often go on well into the night.
Running on the Cornish Coast Path
People could be forgiven for thinking that all we do while on holiday is run, and in fact our various destinations are facetiously referred to by friends as 'warm weather training camps'. Wherever we go, home or abroad, on coasts or in the mountains, we invariably run between four and seven miles each morning - which can't be bad for a couple currently boasting 152 years between us.  Over nine mornings on this occasion we ran a total of 48 miles with 3,560ft of ascent - but I wont divulge how long it took us.
Wandering by Vugga Cove on a braw afternoon
So far as running goes, Crantock is one of our favourite places. The Cornish Coast Path undulates along its fringes providing turquoise seascapes, crashing waves, gulls crying, seals basking on the rocks and kestrels hunting over the lush grassland.
'The Chick' - an island beloved by basking seals, six near centre of picture
"Just look at that" I said to an otherwise engaged girl walking blindly behind her friends past Holywell Bay as windblown waves curled in one after the other, "It's a scene to feast your eyes on - and all you can do is gaze into that bloomin' phone".
Waves rolling into Holywell Bay
 Paths around Cubert Common are popular with horse riders, dog walkers, butterfly hunters - and runners. Rarely do we walk or run these lovely places without passing other runners, often with their dogs, and usually galloping along quite a bit faster than us!
Butterfly - of some sort. (A Gatekeeper, I'm told)
Back home in Yorkshire we can put names to the majority of butterflies we encounter but there appears to be an entirely different set of colourful species in Cornwall. I recognized the Red Admiral that kissed my cheek as I ran by the golf course, but most of the others were unfamiliar to me. A lady we met had seen a bright yellow one which she identified by seeing a picture of it on a bottle of beer that went by the name of  'Clouded Yellow'.
Sarah, the Canicross lady, setting out for a run with Bess.
 That same lady, a seasoned camper with a tent pitched adjacent to ours at Higher Moor, had two trail hounds, Archie and Bess, the latter of which she harnessed and used for Canicross activities around the Common. Being considerably younger than me I couldn't help thinking it was she who should be free running whilst I had that powerful looking dog to help me along. Or maybe not....
Male Sparrowhawk devouring pigeon on campsite
Another couple alongside our tent were relaxing quietly under their gazebo when a terrified wood pigeon flew past their very noses towards the open field hotly pursued by a hungry sparrowhawk that snapped up its prey amid a cloud of feathers and tore it to pieces only yards away from surrounding tents and gobstruck campers.
Damselfly - a male Banded Demoiselle
All in all we'd a very pleasant holiday. In spite of the lack of June flowers and Spring songbirds there were other colourful compensations. Not just butterflies but purple loosestrife, lingering water lilies, fleabane, some luscious blackberries that frequently stopped my gallop for a free feast, and startling green/black damselflies we think were male Banded Demoiselles.
Crow on his treetop perch -- our alarm clock each morning
 But most of all we missed the birds. Blackbirds, robins, thrushes, pheasant and patrolling mallard were all missing from the campsite, ousted, we suspect, by growing numbers of carrion crows, thieving magpies and noisy wood pigeons that called and called and made sure we never overslept in the morning. I don't know where larks disappear to after the nesting season but we never heard one. Next year, we've decided, we'll revert to our June dates...
48 miles run with 3,560ft ascent

Tuesday 1 September 2015


......and de-flagging, that's what I seem to have spent an awful lot of time doing this past weekend. Hebden Village Sports, involving four separate fell races for different age groups, is held each year on August Bank Holiday Monday. Flagging and marking out of the under 9's fell race, two 750m circuits of a steep field, is easy for me but given how the grass is always unmown and knee high, I always feel sorry for young competitors and wish things could be made easier for them. But that's how it's always been and that's how it always will be.
Zoomed shot of Hebden Village sports field from under 14's turnaround  (Click to enlarge)

Over ambitious parents shouting and encouraging their tiny tots often results in tears as also, I've noticed, happens in the under 12's fell race which involves climbing a wall, which even I struggle with, before a very steep climb to the turnaround point. Under 14's run half as far again, but are usually running club members and more used to such things.
Under 17's and seniors use the same course, wading the fast flowing beck in Hebden Ghyll, ascending steeply to the brackeny zig-zag path at the foot of the crag, an almost vertical hands-on climb to the top, then a fast descent involving the scaling of two high walls which I always circumnavigate when flagging the route. OK, I'm a wuss!
They're coming - leaders in the Senior fell race, having crossed the beck and on their way to the Crag
Three of us were involved with flagging the various routes, then marshalling and carrying the huge flag of St George to the top of each fell route on race day.  This year we were also asked by the committee to take photographs for the local press.
Come the day, it was overcast and not too warm (which suited the fell runners) but the rain held off, bar a few spits, and the meeting was judged a huge success. Lots of people spent lots of money and so many children turned up for the novelty races that extra heats had to be run.
Climbing the Crag
Yours truly got loads of exercise wading the beck, scrambling up the crag (three times), bashing through bracken with an armloads of flags and roll of barrier tape, then marshalling on the day. But so far as I was concerned, it was all preferable to racing. I could never handle those high walls with ground that slopes away on the landing side.
Jeannie Powell of Wharfedale Harriers
So, with umpteen miles of staggering about with armfulls of gear, plus 18 miles of running, I reckon it was a fairly productive week which should help keep the weight down and ward off the much talked about Type 2 Diabetes for a little longer. Well, that's what I'm hoping.....