Owls were calling from deep in Mellor Wood as I ran through frosted fields towards a red light hundreds of feet above me, the beacon on top of the tower on Castle Hill. Dawn was still far away as I reached the summit in almost total darkness but for a thin red line across the eastern horizon. There was a dark shadow in the grassy kite flying area so I moved onto the path to avoid it and almost collided with a tripod set up to film the sunrise. The shadow was a photographer sat amongst all his paraphernalia, waiting, expectantly.
After a quick circuit of the hill I ran back down, sliding over mud in the breaking light, branches brushing my face, blackbirds beginning their morning matins and a fierce redness spreading ever further across the morning sky. Before the sun rose, before neighbours had stirred from their beds, I was home again, feeling good, smug, satisfied - and hungry. It was my first pre-dawn run for many a week and boy, did I enjoy it..
With Sunday morning's lack of sunshine to open up early wood anemones around Appletreewick, we set off in the opposite direction in search of wheatears in the ghyll.
Past a green haze of hawthorn hedges, where chaffinches, robins and dunnocks will soon be nesting, we crossed the old Miner's Bridge bedecked with young ferns and ran up the stony track into wilder regions. "Look, there on the wall" my wonderful partner whispered excitedly, "that's a wheatear". Sure enough, before we'd reached Bolton Ghyll, we'd spotted our first of the year.
We carried on running, up the 'slag heaps' where another wheatear crossed our path, on towards Yarnbury serenaded by curlews, lapwings and skylarks, across fields where hungry sheep thought we might have something interesting for them to eat, and back to the village through sodden fields - the last one boggy enough for a pair of mallard to have taken up residence.
We arrived home spattered in mud, with filthy shoes and soaking wet feet. As we stripped and bundled dirty clothes into the washing machine I was jokingly accused of leading my wonderful partner astray, of taking her off-route through places we'd no business to be. And I was thinking to myself 'but we're fell runners and we'll run wherever we jolly well like!' Then again, it might be time for a re-think. We can't run as fast as we used to do!
|Back home at breaking dawn (Click pictures to enlarge)|
|Along muddy Tinker Lane on Sunday|
|Young ferns growing from the moss on the Miner's Bridge|
|A stile, so must be on route.....|
|....but off route among the sheep|