Monday 30 January 2017


      It's not been a good week, not for my camera, my eyes or my broadband connection. They've all conspired against me.  A series of pictures taken in perfect conditions on a dawn run last Thursday were all out of focus.  My old Panasonic Lumix seems none too keen on early morning activities but graciously agreed to take this one picture of Thursdays sunrise. 
Sunrise on a braw morning   (Click pictures to enlarge)
 I've since had words with it, tinkered with its settings and it seemed OK on Sunday's test run.  Here are some I took.
Hebden beck meandering through the village
      Actually, it wasn't a run, it was a walk. This time it was my Rt eye that was out of focus after another of those dreaded triamcinolone injections that didn't go quite right on Saturday.  I reckon most of the tetracaine ran down my cheek instead of into the eye to anaesthetize it. 
Signs of Spring (?) in Hebden Churchyard. 
      Iodine swabs stung like hell and I nearly leapt off the operating table when the needle pierced my eyeball to inject nearly 8 mgms of cortico-steroid, double the usual amount.  High strength Ibuprofen relieved much of the soreness afterwards, allowing me to go into hibernation mode for the rest of that day.  And night.
Hebden's only functional Church - St Peter's
      Church went by the board on Sunday. I was in no mood for company so set off up the ghyll for a solitary walk with my camera. Except it didn't work out quite like that.
Passing Pickering End
   Other people were up the ghyll, friendly souls from the village who were all too damn sociable. I was too polite to tell them to beggar off but gradually out-walked them to spend a couple of hours bumbling around on my own, having strong words with my camera.
..and Hebden Crag

      Fast forward to Monday when I've commuted back home, had lunch, warmed up my den and switched on the computer ready for work.  Except my broadband is playing up and there is insufficient download speed to get my pictures into Google for editing and getting them into my Blog.
..a quick visit to Scala Force
      I phoned Plusnet, my broadband provider, where a guy called Josh seemed more intent on talking me into an upgraded package than sorting out my problem.
...into the rough stuff farther up the ghyll
He later emailed me, blinding me with science about SNR margins and decibels and asking me to switch off my router in 4 hours, then switch it back on and leave it on in order to fix the problem. After ten days it should be OK.  Huh!  In ten days I might have switched to BT.
...across the Miner's Bridge
Some good news at the end of the day - I've managed to edit pictures in Google and get some into my blog.
..and a darkening sky towards end of day
No running shots as we never managed to get out together last weekend with hospital matters on Saturday and consequently in no fit state on Sunday.
Things can only get better...

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Running and an Ode to Joy......

      At a Covenant service conducted by Rev Richard Atkinson last Sunday four stalwarts of the defunct Hebden Chapel were given tickets of membership to Grassington Methodist Chapel. With time to spare before the service we flicked through their unfamiliar hymn book and were a little perplexed to discover four of five hymns planned for that morning were unfamiliar to us.  We needn't have worried for although the words were different we knew four of the five tunes, the first one from Beethoven's Ode to Joy which we Methodists sang with considerable gusto!
'The Route' round Grimwith    (Click pictures to enlarge)
      Prior to the service I'd been running round Grimwith with my wonderful partner, frost crunching underfoot, dawn breaking across the ruffled water, the sky a delicate pink, geese arrowing in to their feeding grounds while mallard swam around making their usual racket.
It was -1ºC  -  so well wrapped up
There's nothing like a morning run for priming the system and preparing it for anything the rest of the day might throw at it.  Another strange thing I've found is the way it affects my singing voice.  It's always stronger after a run. My breathing is more controlled and I can hit those top notes without straining.  Not everyone appreciates this!
The pond - back 'o Grimwith
      Two nondescript cloudy runs over Castle Hill during the week and an eight miler up the ghyll on Saturday brought my total to twenty.
Mist in the valleys below Castle Hill
 The main feature of these runs was the muddy conditions. I've been shooting off at a tangent and clambering through two barbed wire fences to avoid the slutch up Castle Hill.
Trying to dodge the mud on Tinker Lane
      Likewise on Saturday's run it was impossible to keep our shoes clean, particularly in the latter stages along Tinker Lane where sheep looked on,  surprised we should even try!
Still on Tinker Lane
      After formatting the SD card my camera is now fully operational again - which is more than can be said for its owner.  But I can still run.......

Monday 16 January 2017

A good octogenarian day out......

      A Christmas present bought for me by my wonderful partner's sister-in-law is an incredibly warm pair of slippers I slip into within minutes of entering the house. Printed on the soles it says 'The walk to the breakfast table is exercise enough for any gentleman'. Not everyone agrees.... 
Saturday's route    (Click pictures to enlarge)
Take Saturday morning for instance. I'd just made myself comfortable, sprawled in my favourite chair in front of a warm stove with a nice mug of coffee when I heard the words "I think we'll have an early lunch, then go for that run over Buckden Pike". Oh yes....
Leaving Buckden
      It was after noon when we eventually set off to drive to Buckden in Upper Wharfedale where we parked the car in an area that could have doubled as a skating rink. We stripped down to running gear, donned our Yaktrax and set off up the waterfall route as the sun sailed past its zenith.
A scrambly bit on the waterfall route
      I was struggling in the snow and icy conditions. Not to mention over 1500ft of climbing.  So far as the ascent was concerned the word 'running' was far from the truth
Plodding upward
We didn't break into a run until reaching the level path to the Trig point and summit cairn, halfway to heaven in the frosty air, blue sky, icicles, sunshine and sparkling snow. Days don't come much better than this.
Icicles showing how cold it was
      Back in 2004, in the Buckden Pike fell race, I actually ran the whole way to the summit and back (not by the waterfall route, I hasten to add) finishing in 53mins 2secs to win the men's O/70 category.
The MV70's sweat shirt I won in 2004
"That'll take some beating" the late Bill Smith said at the prize-giving, intimating it was an O/70 course record. He'd know.
Approaching the summit
It was the second race, of four, to determine the winner of the inaugural Fell Runners Association Championship for runners over 70 years old, a championship I went on to win.
At the summit Trig point
      We left the summit, running, for we still had over ¾ of our route to complete and the sun was already sinking towards the horizon.
Starting the run down in a cold wind
We could have taken the shorter route down Walden Road from the Memorial Cross but we were in full flight now and kept to our original plan, returning to Buckden via Tor Mere top, Starbotton and the Dales Way along the west side of the River Wharfe.
The Memorial Cross
      It was rough going through tussocks and bog to Tor Mere Top, a lot of it still frozen under a covering of snow, but we made good progress and were racing down Starbotton Cam Road as the sun disappeared behind the moor ahead of us.
 Reaching Starbotton there was some discussion about whether to take the main road back to Buckden, saving time, or stick to the Dales Way route. We agreed on the latter.
A cairn near Tor Mere Top, flanks of Great Whernside behind
      A couple with a boisterous Hungarian Vizsla approached us as we crossed the river.  "Are you Gordon?" the gentleman asked. Affirmative. "I thought I recognized you, you left a comment on my Blog last week.  "I'm Derby Tup" he said before hurrying off, anxious to reach the Falcon Inn at Arncliffe over the heights of Old Cote Moor before dark.  A man of few words......
Those slippers - so nice to come home to....
     For us it was level going all the way to Buckden, though the snow covered path was a little icy in parts.   Darkness fell as we drove home through freezing conditions to our cosy cottage where I donned those warm slippers that told me the morning's breakfast table would have been quite far enough.
 I can't help thinking they might be better suited to somebody else....someone a little older perhaps......
......or more of a gentleman!
PS. All pictures except Saturdays route and MV70 sweat shirt were taken by my wonderful partner. My camera (or was it my brain) failed to function. I'd neglected to Format the SD card....

Monday 9 January 2017

The bad, the good and the simply marvellous...

      Bad news, bad weather and a bad neck were all part and parcel of an otherwise wonderful festive season.   A visit to my doctor on 22nd to have stitches removed from an area of my forehead where he’d performed a biopsy resulted in some news I’d have preferred not to hear.  
“Your biopsy indicated a BCC” he said.  
“Pardon, what’s a BCC?”  
How to get BCC's - Scilly Isles 2014  (Click pictures to enlarge)
“It's a Basal Cell Carcinoma” he replied, adding quickly “but don’t get worried, it’s only a minor form of cancer, it’s not life threatening”.
Nevertheless, the dreaded ‘C’ word always comes as a shock. It’s already killed three of my siblings, all younger than me.  
“That’s all I wanted to know three days before Christmas” I said.
“Well, I’m sorry, but really, there’s nothing to worry about, I reckon for someone of your lifestyle you could be OK for another ten to fifteen years” he reassured. 
 Oh, so I may yet get that birthday card from Buckingham Palace..
On a wet Christmas Day run to Burnsall
Christmas Eve was a real howler, rain and gale force wind battering the windows all night long and into Christmas Day morning. I struggled up the lane to ‘Salute the happy morn’ at a candle lit communion service at St Peter’s Church. Singing was somewhat subdued.  Not enough Methodists!
Goosanders swirling in the river
After morning coffee we battled the elements once again in a four mile run along the riverbank to Burnsall, and back.  The Wharfe was a raging torrent.  Goosanders were enjoying themselves in the swirling eddies.  In a masochistic sort of way, we were enjoying ourselves too.
Running back from Burnsall Bridge - Christmas day
 After a quick shower we felt smug and justified uncorking a choice bubbly and throwing another log on the fire before dragging presents one by one from under the tree.  What did I do to deserve all those?  A bird with traditional trimmings and accompaniments (and wine, of course) later completed a wonderful Christmas day.  We went to bed happy and replete.
Relaxing with a good book, Christmas day
Boxing Day dawned windy and bitterly cold, not to mention dark, as we drove up the road to the start of our morning run.  Young partridge did their avian version of Usain Bolt in the headlights. Miniature road-runners.  Remnants of Storm Conor reduced the temperature to -5º C as we headed across the dam at the start of a pre-dawn run round Grimwith.
Boxing Day run back o'Grimwith
 Foolishly, I didn’t wear enough protection round my neck, a mistake for which I was to suffer. Horribly.  By teatime the merest twist of my head had me shrieking with pain. Megadoses of Ibuprofen and lashings of Voltarol gel failed to relieve it.  Those, together with a residual cortico-steroid (triamcinalone), Percutane and ¾ bottle of red wine produced the most frightening whirly-gigs I've ever experienced. I'd great difficulty fumbling
my way to the loo without falling over.
 The next three days passed by in something of a blur!
The view from our cottage window at Balcary Bay
  On Friday we drove north into Scotland to replenish our systems with haggis, tatties, neeps and a delectable single malt whisky in our annual celebration of Hogmanay.  As all true Scotsmen know, Hogmanay lasts for a week.  Sometimes longer!  A week was long enough for us.  And what a glorious week it was. 
Sussing out 'The Route' on New Year's Eve

...and looking down from the cliff path
Sub zero temperatures and clear skies were perfect for pre-breakfast runs, afternoon walks and evenings of star-gazing.  We're creatures of habit, running the same routes, walking the same trails and climbing the same hills wherever we  go.
New Year fireworks on the telly
We broke with tradition on New Year's Eve by setting off to run 'The Route' after breakfast, rather than before, to check it out in daylight in case anything had changed.
Setting off at breaking dawn
 In darkness the rocky path through the wood can be tricky and the uneven coast path, teetering along the cliff top, a wee bit risky, particularly when icy.  But that's the beauty of it.  If it wasn't a tad dangerous it wouldn't be much fun. Anyone can run on roads but it's boring as hell.  Fells, mountains, coast paths and undulating off-road trails have kept me running for the last thirty years. And long may they continue to do so.
Waiting for sunrise

Further runs were all pre-breakfast, crunching our way across a long frozen field, through a kissing gate and into the darkness of the whispering wood.  The next kissing gate opens onto the first rocky steps of coast path, through patches of flowering gorse, gently rising over perilous cliff tops with a heavy swell crashing noisily onto the rocks below.
Gulls cry and curlews call as we press on to some high point where we'll greet the sun as it peeps over the tops of Cumbrian hills far across the Solway Firth.
Sunrise across the Solway - highlighting the wind turbines
We continue past a frozen Loch Mackie, through a field where wild horses stand motionless, usually facing east to catch the first rays of warming sunlight on their shaggy faces.
 By a frozen Loch Mackie
Not a hoof moves as we run by within a couple of metres of them.  They're beautiful animals, but all getting rather old.  They probably think we are too!
Wild Horses
After such a run porridge goes down a treat and after toast and coffee we're soon ready to be off again on further meanderings, albeit it at a more gentle pace.
Balcary Point and Tower at sunset
We visited so many places I've difficulty remembering them all!   The Ken-Dee wetland trail was a waste of time and energy.  There wasn't a single bird on the water and, because the feeders were all empty, no woodland birds or red squirrels showed themselves either.  We did spot a willow tit, a first for us both, and that was it.
Sky full of red kites
We cut across country to Lauriston, to the red kite feeding station where scores of these birds arrive for their daily feast.  They didn't disappoint. At 2pm the sky was full of them, dipping and circling, diving and rising as food was thrown for them.  We watched from a distance from where it was difficult to focus our cameras on the moving mass.
Barnacle geese feeding at Mersehead
Another wetland trail at Mersehead had a more interesting selection of bird life.  Thousands of barnacle geese flock here in winter-time. Skein after skein arrowed across the skies, their wild bugling prickling the hackles of our necks. Fields were full of them.  There may have been other species of geese but we didn't see them.
And geese on the move
Shovellers moved back and forth in front of us, tails in the air as they scooped through the mud below the surface.  There were teal a-plenty, redshank, pintail and gaudy shelduck.  Curlew and oystercatchers called across the water as we made our way back along the coast.  We enjoyed Mersehead.
Owl sculpture in Doich Wood
After another glorious coastal run under cloudless skies, a walk round Doich Wood to the viewpoint on Galgrie Hill was a little disappointing. We'd hoped to get clear views of the Lake Hills across the Firth but they were hidden in haze.  
We continued on our way, parked the car at Orchardton Tower and walked the three miles or so to Horse Isles Bay.  
Shelduck at Horse Isles Bay
Redshank piped a welcome as we sat having lunch while shelduck paddled around in the shallow water, showing off their gorgeous plumage.  Edges of the sea were frozen, the sky a raving blue, turf a wondrous green. A delectable spot we'll surely visit again.
Lunchtime at Horse Isles Bay
Sweetheart Abbey, Torr Point and Red Haven also felt the weight of our boots before returning home to Yorkshire through driving rain on Friday.
Sweetheart Abbey
Throughout the week the only other rain had fallen on New Year's Eve when we were too full of bubbly, malt whisky and haggis to really notice it.  Otherwise the weather was really kind to us and it was two very contented bunnies who returned home to face the challenges of 2017.   A Happy New Year to all my blogger friends and readers.....

PS.  Karien Potgieter, one of my blog followers and a very good runner in her own right, mentioned me in an article she wrote for  You can read her article here