Monday 27 June 2016

Rememberance of things past.......

On the morning of the solstice I was out of bed by 4am and out on the hill to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the sun didn't cooperate but stayed hidden under a thick blanket of cloud. It didn't deter a group of Morris dancers, Thieving Magpie, from celebrating with great gusto, performing their wild dances with much clacking of sticks and shouts of joy while a full moon shone from behind the tower.
Thieving Magpie arriving to dance at dawn  (Click to enlarge)
"We usually invite the audience to share a dance with us, and you are the audience this morning" one said. I declined the invitation, saying I was too old for such things. "Fair enough" he said, "my mother is 83 and was talking of giving up badminton when I saw her last week". I ran home entertaining wicked thoughts of his old mum hurtling around Badminton in the horse trials....
Running a new path in yellowhammer territory
.In past years gorse bushes on Castle Hill have attracted lots of yellowhammers, their brightly coloured heads blending with the flowers. This year I'd been lamenting to all and sundry that they'd all gone missing. On Thursday, running a different path, one almost collided with my nose end. Then came its cheery little song - 'a little bit of bread and no cheeeese'.  It made my day...
Oops, nearly got my foot wet
With only eight miles in the bank there was some making up to do at weekend.  There was also new shoes to be tested by my wonderful partner, a pair of Saucony Jazz the gaudy colour of which matched the name. She was anxious to tone them down with a bit of mud or peat!
The long track over the moor
We headed north onto the moor for an eight mile circuit that's one of my favourites with its steady climb of 900ft to half way, then an enjoyable 4 miles downhill to the finish.
An awful lot of quiet nothingness running over Bycliffe
There was none of the wild music of last weekends walk beyond Grimwith that cheered us with a constant stream of birdsong. On the long track over the moor there was nothing but an occasional piping from golden plovers and a faint soughing of wind in the grass - sounds of utter loneliness.
Note those jazzy shoes...
It was cloudy but dry although the sky looked threatening as we ran over Bycliffe towards the high point. I felt to be moving a little easier than of late, possibly due to the re-introduction of meat, and therefore iron, into my midweek diet. My alimentary tract doesn't like bits of dead animals, but I do!
The Sauconys were just as jazzy when we got home as when we'd set off but might not have been if we'd stayed out a little longer. As we changed into dry clothes there was a loud crack of thunder and heavens opened, rain sluicing from the sky, no doubt turning dusty tracks into ribbons of mud. We were lucky...
Sheep against a darkening sky
An amazing co-incidence happened on Sundays 5 mile run. We were passing a bungalow where I happened to know that the owner had a scale model of the Cuillin Ridge, a classic mountaineering route on the Isle of Skye over thirty or so testing summits. I stopped for a brief chat, ascertaining she still had the model and telling her of my traverse of the ridge 32 years ago with a mountaineering partner I'd lost contact with and hadn't seen for many years. Within seconds of leaving her who should I bump into but that very same guy I'd been talking to her about - John Mortimer, a fellow member of Vibram Mountaineering Club and a great musician.
The meeting brought on a fit of nostalgia as many wonderful memories of great climbing days came flooding back. We'd completed the Cuillin Ridge in 11 hours, a Club record that still stands, and raced down to the Sligachan Inn to celebrate with a dram or two before darkness fell.
John piping in the haggis (me with haggis) at a New Year mountaineering club meet in Western Scotland
Another unforgettable climb with John was Agag's Groove up the Rannoch Wall of Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe with lots of exposure and exciting verticality. We lunched atop Crowberry Tower watching cars as big as ants crawling along the road far below. We swooped down to Glen Etive in the summer heat, stripped and edged our way out onto rocks beneath a mighty waterfall that pummelled all the aches and stiffness from legs, arms, shoulders and backs - all this in smithereens of rainbow light. "Eeh, I've never done this before" John chortled. They were good mountaineering days....
Getting high - on Agag's Groove, Glencoe - a long time ago
.On Sunday we were so busy talking and reminiscing it never entered my head to take out my camera, or to knock on that door less than a dozen yards away to have our pictures taken together alongside that bronze model of the Cuillin Ridge. A golden opportunity missed.
My thoughtlessness rankled all the way home. I could do with a new brain...

Monday 20 June 2016

Waiting for the sun.....

      I wish the weather would settle down. One day I'm sat on the lawn with a cold beer wearing shorts and T-shirt, the next I'm back in the house togged up in thermal top, buff and tracksters. And why on earth did I have that haircut?
A few seconds rest on Saturday's run round Grimwith  (Click pictures to enlarge)

      This weeks walks and runs were literally under a cloud, the sun peeping out for no more than a few tantalizing seconds to reassure us it was still there. Ashamedly, I'll admit to just one early morning run midweek, the weather being so misty and dire that none of my pictures were worthy of publication.
Upside down Nuthatch
      My camera seems incapable of focusing in thick clag, nor would it produce sharp enough images when pointing it through the kitchen window to capture latest visitors to the bird feeder. Last week a greater spotted woodpecker discovered the nuts, along with a little nuthatch that prefers to feed upside down.
A friendly pheasant strutting by at Grimwith
      Weekend activities centred around and above Grimwith Reservoir. Saturday's 4 mile run was void of birdsong or any forms of life until discovering something rather beautiful we'd never seen there before. Orchids. To be more precise, some Common Twayblade and Northern Marsh varieties.
Common Twayblade beside two Northern Marsh Orchids

      In spite of bearing the name 'common' we'd never seen a Twayblade before or, for that matter, ever even heard of it. We'd probably have missed it on this occasion too had it not been growing just inches away from its Northern Marsh relatives.
Cormorant drying his wings - a long way from the sea
      Birds were back in their territories for our six mile walk on Sunday. Curlew, lapwing, redshank and oystercatchers were calling constantly as we took the steep track north from Grimwith over Appletreewick Moor and up to Sikes Head. Goldfinches were feeding on thistle heads and a cormorant was drying his wings on the bank of a lagoon.
We'd a few followers....
      Grouse chicks ran up the track ahead of us, past the neat iline of shooting butts. A flock of sheep mistook us for shepherds and came running for food. Our two Brunch Bars wouldn't have satisfied that lot.
Wild track over Appletreewick Moor to Grimwith
      We reached our marker post from which we took a compass bearing across to Great Wolfrey Crag. And that, would you believe, is all we'd walked up there to do, in readiness for when my wonderful partner leads a U3A walking group across Wolfrey Moss in a few weeks time.
Lady's Mantle lining the path
      From that point we headed back under threatening skies and strengthening wind to where we'd parked the car. Yachts skimmed across the water. Lady's Mantle, Ragged Robin and little blue Forget-me-nots lined the path and we discovered yet another species of orchid, the Common Spotted Heath, just as we reached the car park.
Common Spotted Heath orchid

 And then it rained - again.  So back to our crosswords, and to watch a video of Andy Triggs Hodge's 8 man crew winning Silver a second behind Germany at the rowing World Cup in Poland.
Hopefully, it will be Gold in Rio.

Monday 13 June 2016


      A couple of early morning runs mid week, a street party on Saturday and a 15 mile walk around the parish boundary on Sunday were the main events leading up to and during the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations. And in spite of dire weather warnings all concerned managed to remain dry throughout. Well, except for our feet...
Early mist beginning to clear   (Click to enlarge pictures)
Thick mist mid week muffled traffic sounds, birdsong and just about everything else as I ran through a landscape of eerie silence. Resident rabbits were in friendly mood, hopping aside to let me pass.
Friendly rabbits...."Don't bother to move"
Young beef cattle raced me across their field one morning but graciously allowed me to win. Occasionally they'll get ahead of me and block the path to the stile. Maybe they enjoy the human contact as I slap them out of the way!
One of the chasing group...
The main street through Hebden was closed to traffic for five hours on Saturday afternoon as almost the entire village turned out to celebrate the Queen's birthday with a huge street party.
Hebden's Street party in full swing...
Though skies looked threatening it remained fine to allow for a happy social occasion with masses of home cooked delicacies, a huge birthday cake and the odd glass or two of tipple. Amongst the winners of 'Best Crown' competition was neighbour, Helen Davey.
Helen with her winning crown
Sunday's boundary walk organised by Peter Hodge (father of double Olympic rowing gold medallist, Andy Triggs Hodge) proved a little more difficult than some, including me, had anticipated.
Hebden Parish boundary
            Even my Garmin gave up the ghost. After 8 hours 10 minutes its face went blank. Fortunately we were less than ½ mile from the finish so its recordings gave a good idea of the severity of the walk when plugged into the computer.
Intrepid boundary walkers all set to go
Had we been doing this circuit on our own my wonderful partner and I might have deviated slightly onto less severe parallel tracks for ease of movement (i.e. running) past one or two hard parts of the terrain, notably Deep Cut and the river bank.
On the move. Peter (left with cap) and Liv (middle with fair hair)
. But Peter, purist that he is, was having none of that and stayed as close as possible to the true boundary line as marked on the OS map, regardless of how difficult that might be.
Getting spread out a bit along Deep Cut
He strayed a little, reluctantly I'd think, where the boundary ran straight up the middle of the rushing River Wharfe, though even that might have been preferable to the steep and slippery, rocky route through thistles and nettles, hanging foliage and tree roots, keeping as close to the bank as possible, sometimes just inches from the water.
Even more spread out in this mossy, boggy stuff.  I was at the back!
Peter and his Norwegian wife, Liv, fly to Poznan this coming week to watch their son competing in the World Rowing Cup races. By the end of Sundays walk I was wishing they'd gone last week, and stayed!  It's a long time since I finished a walk feeling so knackered.
Welcome break by Henstone Crag
We'd booked a meal at the Clarendon for 6:30 and wondered whether we'd make it in time, or whether I'd still have strength to eat it!  But after showering, easing away the cramp and changing into more respectable clothes we made it with minutes to spare.
A bit of easy track - before more horrors....
The first pint of Timothy Taylors never touched the sides while local trout and a calorie filled chocolate fondue transformed the rigours of the day into a smug sense of achievement and the meal into a well earned celebration.
Sticking by the river. I'd cheated to get in front!
Basking in such an aura it was easy to forgive Peter for the horrors inflicted upon us and actually thank him for organising the event and being such a stickler for accuracy. As he said, "If you're going to do a job, you might as well do it right".
      Yeah, I know. That's how son Andy came by those gold medals in the last two Olympics.......

Monday 6 June 2016

21 again......

      No, nothing to do with age (though exactly four times that) but the number of miles in the bank last week - which isn't bad considering I'd had my latest eye operation only the week before. 21 is my preferred optimum, an average of 3 miles per day, though with increasing age it becomes a little harder to achieve. Belief is what it takes, as in the quote below by the most famous sportsman of all time, Muhammad Ali.  Never, ever, say you can't...
A lesson from the late, great Muhammad Ali   (Click pictures to enlarge)
. Three miles on Thursday and four on Friday were what I call bread and butter runs taken early morning over Castle Hill. The latter was superb with a cloudless sky, woods alive with birdsong, a cuckoo calling incessantly, rabbits playing tig in the early sun and the clearest of views all around.
Back in action
      At 6am I was surprised to find another bearded gentleman running circuits round the hill but was so engrossed in what was blasting through his earphones that it was impossible to communicate with him.  Sad really......
The sun caught in Castle Hill Beacon
      Saturday was another glorious day giving the impression summer really had arrived. We opted for a gentle run along part of Hebden Parish boundary - the whole 15 miles of which we're planning to walk as a group next weekend. It's rough country with some serious ascents so will need to be reasonably fit to see it through.
Rough country by Tinker Lane
      The section we tackled on Saturday climbed to a mere 951ft, from the bank of the River Wharfe to where the boundary crosses Blea Beck high on Grassington Moor, way short of next weeks total.
Boundary stone. H is for Hebden
      Cloudless skies prevailed and it was dry under foot, a rare luxury amongst the bog cotton and ankle twisting tussocks of Sand Haw Moss. It felt good to be running in shorts again with studs on my feet and wings on my heels - the freedom of the hills shared with curlews and lapwings, snipe and grouse, redshank and happy little skylarks singing as they rose into the blue.
Cotton grass by our lunch stop at Blea Beck
      Lunch at Blea Beck was nothing more than a Brunch Bar (we'd forgotten to take anything to drink) but it sufficed as we left the boundary to jog over Hebden Moor, along Backstone Edge, past Mossy Mere, down the crag path to the village, and home. That can of cold beer in the garden never tasted so good....
Dancing down the crag path on the way home
      As I opened my eyes on Sunday morning another cloudless sky greeted me through the bedroom window giving promise of a scorching hot day.  And it sure was.  After Saturdays strenuous 8¼ miles we opted for a shorter, flatter run along the road to Appletreewick and back along the river, a mere six miles.
Beautiful Burnsall basking under the boundless blue...
      "A bright morning and some brightly coloured runners" a neighbour remarked as we ran through the village. Burnsall village never looked lovelier as we ran along the Skuff.
Rampant ranunculus at Woodhouse farm
      Farmers had obviously heard of the imminent good weather and cut field after field of grass that was drying nicely in the sun.  By Monday the balers would arrive to make perfect hay. At Woodhouse Farm a field was yellow with buttercups.
Daggett's field beginning to fill in Burnsall
      Children let loose from the overflowing campsite at Appletreewick were happily playing by the river while Daggett's field at Burnsall was rapidly filling with cars and picnickers.  We ran through, enjoying all the sights and sounds of a Dales summer.
Running for home - and somewhere cool
      I've no idea what the temperature rose to in the afternoon but it was too hot and oppressive for me. I abandoned the garden, opened front and back doors of the cottage for a through draught and sat in the shade with a cold beer.
Summer has definitely arrived......