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


  1. Here's to 2017, and while I'm still reading lots of blogs I'm lazy so haven't blogged for over 6 months! maybe 2017 I'll get things working again.

    1. Happy New Year Coach, I really hope you'll soon be back to running seriously again - and blogging. I need folk like you to keep me motivated...... Cheers!

  2. Looks like a great Christmas, nicely followed by your Scottish trip. I too have a BCC, spotted last September finally appointment in March, none life threatening I am told��
    Happy New Year to you and your partner long may you run��

    1. ...and a Very Happy New Year to you and yours.
      Yeah, after getting over the C word shock, and that terrible stiff neck, other aspects of Christmas and Hogmanay couldn't have gone better. We were unbelievably lucky with the weather north of the border and certainly made the most of it.
      Cheers Ian.

  3. Such amazing scenery - good for the soul!

    1. ....and for re-charging the old batteries.
      Happy New Year Karien.

  4. Yes, the C word is a shock, and then getting that stiff neck, not very good weeks. But glad to read that you were able to enjoy Christmas and New Year (Hogmanay).

    The weather you were able to enjoy looks incredible, and your photo's are lovely.

    Here's to a good 2017 - and plenty more runs!
    Take care

    All the best Jan

    1. Thanks Jan, and a very good 2017 to you too.
      Throwing everything at that stiff neck, looking for a fast cure, was not a good idea! But Scotland more than made up for prior discomforts, very photogenic in the wonderful weather and, as Karien (above) said, good for the soul. Cheers!