Wednesday 27 June 2018

A good week......

It's difficult to sit up here in my den tapping away at a keyboard when the weather is so wonderful outside.  I'm very much an outdoor person, especially when the sun is out, so I'm afraid this posting will be fairly brief.
Castle Hill in early morning light  (Click to enlarge)
I'm glad to say my mojo returned stonkingly well last week enabling me to vastly improve on the previous weeks mileage.  Well, maybe not vastly, but 13 miles to 21 seems like a reasonably good percentage for a doddering old has-been.
Still going strong, last push up on Tuesday's run
Tuesdays 5 miler was tough running over uneven tracks through dark woodland beloved by horse riders.  Normally it's soft and churned up but now it's all hard ankle twisting stuff.  Chuck in an undulating 615 ft of ascent finishing over Castle Hill and I was sweating abit when I got home, even though it was only 6.02 am.
Solstice sunrise - 4.40 am
Thursday's run was even earlier.  It was the summer solstice so I rolled out of bed at 3.45, had a quick cup of coffee then trogged up Castle Hill to watch the 4.36 am sunrise.  There were some strange people up there but not the ones I'd expected.  For the past few years a Morris dance group, Thieving Magpie, have danced at every solstice, summer and winter.  This year they were conspicuous by their absence.
Castle Hill beacon and solstice sunrise
There were a lot of cars in the car park, people huddled up in sleeping bags, others dressed strangely and carrying lanterns.  I suspect they were druids.  I ran a few circuits hoping the dancers would turn up.  They failed so I jogged home after only 3 miles. I was tempted to go back to bed but had to get over to Grassington for a talk by Chris Mason (Political correspondent) in the Festival hall.
Hot day on the Dales Way - Saturday's run
Saturdays run was short (4 miles) but interesting.  Leaving Grassington we stopped once again by a recently formed pond that has attracted an increasing amount of bird life.
Lapwing and young redshank
Geese were there again wit their goslings, moorhens swam around with chicks, immature lapwings poked around in the mud, a black headed gull sailed majestically across the water and what we thought was an immature redshank skulked along the far shore.
Oystercatchers up the ghyll en route to Grassington Moor
Sunday's run was an 9 miler to investigate a plot high on Grassington Moor where new owners of the estate are planning to erect a new wooden shooting hut on the site of an old stone one that was pulled down.  I'd sheltered in the old one many times from storms and blizzards, once in a heavy snowstorm when a kestrel hovered in the doorway  but was too frightened to join me.
Setting off back from site of old shooting hut
We returned over Bycliffe Hill where the trod has become very indistinct since all the sheep were taken off it.  But our navigation was spot on and we soon arrived at the main track across the Moor right by the side of our old marker cairn.
Reaching our marker cairn - spot on!
It was all downhill from there.  "Not far to go now" a walker said as we passed him by.  Neither of us had a clue who he was but he obviously knew us!
So that was the week that was, a steady 21 miles to get back on track again.  Hopefully...

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Not at my best...

Last week was rather humdrum insomuch as I can't remember doing or seeing much that hadn't happened before.  Normally, I enjoy repeating things, running routes I've run a hundred, or even a thousand, times over the last 34 years.  
My 1,000th plus run over Castle Hill  (Click to enlarge)
At different times of day, in different lighting, at different times of year, there is almost always something new.  The last seven days seemed to be the exception.
I was feeling a little off colour, as green as that bird on the feeders, as if someone had switched the power off or sneaked a slow release sleeping pill into my evening glass of wine. The world passed by in a blur. 
Grimwith on a dreich morning
Our run round Grimwith left me cold and unmoved.  In the early hours it was cold and grim, what the Scots would call dreich, and before long it began to spot with rain.  "Let's just get this over with" I thought.
Fly past
Surprisingly for the time of year there was an almost total absence of bird life, no pewits wheeling around the sky, no mallard squawking or teal whistling across the water: except, as we ran to the finish along the dam wall, a gaggle of greylags cheered us with their noisy fly past.
All in all I ran a total of 13 miles. 
Unlucky for some...

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Over the hills and far away.......

Last week saw a return to my early morning runs, pre-breakfast though not before sunrise.  Getting up Castle Hill before 04.45 is a little too early for me nowadays.  I'm getting lazy in my dotage.
A speed session over Castle Hill   (Click to enlarge pictures)
A cuckoo was calling as I set foot on the summit around 6am and I wondered if it was trying to tell me something, like "What the heck is someone of your vintage doing up here so early in the morning?".  I'll admit, I didn't see any others.  After a few circuits and hill reps was pleasantly surprised when TomTom told me I'd just achieved my fastest 5 miles.  Just.  I'd improved my pace by 0.03 min/mile - without actually trying.  A run over the hill two days later was aborted after 3 miles.  Don't ask why...
On several occasions lately I've had a rather exotic visitor for breakfast.  In addition to various members of the tit family, goldfinches, greenfinches - and an occasional bullfinch - a great spotted woodpecker arrived on the scene to hack away at the nuts.  Hopefully he's here to stay.
Orchids in hospital grounds
 Weatherwise, we'd another gorgeous weekend with temperatures generally hovering around the 70ยบ mark and exceeding that by mid-afternoon when all yours truly wanted to do was sit among the flowers, shirt off and a can of beer to hand.
Stampeding stirks

We ran in the mornings before the sun reached its zenith. Saturday' run started through the hospital grounds, past wild orchids and stampeding stirks to the outskirts of Grassington before crossing the river at what locals call the tin bridge.
The River Wharfe reduced to barely a trickle at Linton Falls

Water was exceedingly low and I reckoned it's time Theresa May appointed a Minister for Droughts akin to Denis Howell in 1976 who was so successful that he later became Minister for Floods then Minister for Snow! 
I also remember Denis being invited to a British Mountaineering Council dinner as guest speaker in Great Langdale. Arriving early he expressed a desire to be taken up a climb so we took him up Middlefell Buttress, an easy climb immediately behind the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel. The late Peter Boardman was at the sharp end of the rope whilst I was below Denis checking his foot placements.  Shock horror, he became 'gripped' i.e. frightened to move either up or down, and we'd great difficulty getting him back down. 
A colourful corner of Thorpe

herd of young heifers thought it great fun to help us on our way as we ran up a steeply inclined field towards Thorpe Lane.  We slowed to a walk and they lost interest, thankfully, so pretty soon we were able to resume running.
Leaving Thorpe on the Burnsall track

Thorpe is a hidden village tucked away in the hills and only visible from the air. There is a steep climb 8 miles into the Burnsall 10 mile race before dropping down into Thorpe and climbing back out again which most runners hate.
Fish farm in Hebden Ghyll

Passing a large party of walkers we left Thorpe on the Burnsall track, running through pleasant fields, then down Postman's Steps to recross the river and a last brief climb to the fish farm, and back home.  
5.94 miles with 639ft of ascent. 
The climb onto Grassington Moor
Sunday's route over Grassington Moor was always one of my favourites until constant rains made it so wet and boggy that running it became too much like hard work.  Currently the ground is parched with great cracks appearing, so we crossed it dry shod.
Rough track to the high point

Skylarks were singing as we took a trail through old lead mining country to a high point by a tumble-down building at 1,316ft.  It was getting hot so I'd to take a layer off and tie it round my waist (after a while I'd to put it back on again to prevent chafing under my arms).
Time for a breather 

Unusually, upon reaching the dams there was neither sight nor sound of any resident waterfowl.  Teal normally nest there and the occasional Canada goose, but the place was deserted.
Rampant bog cotton

Onwards towards Blea Beck, enjoying the dry conditions, clear air and healing sunshine.  At first we couldn't understand why the moorland ahead had turned so white but soon realised it was rampant bog cotton that this year has gone a bit berserk.
Rough, enjoyable running across the moor

Leaving the dams at the junction with Blea Beck there's an awful long stretch of bleak moorland passing high above Grimwith reservoir before reaching the peat cuttings where a solitary cutter, hard at work, invited us to join him.  Later perhaps...
View down to Grimwith reservoir

We'd a brief stop whilst my wonderful partner collected sphagnum moss to line her hanging baskets.  It was bone dry and had to be immersed in a bucket of water as soon as we reached home.
Backstone Edge lane

Leaving the peat cuttings we closed the gate behind us for the long run down Backstone Edge lane where once upon a time, in marathon running days, I'd do dozens of long repetition runs.  Once, as the sky blackened, I raced for home at what must have been 6 min/mile pace and reached the door just as the heavens opened.  Funny the things we remember...
The last stretch down into the ghyll

We crossed the main road to cruise down easy fields and, into the ghyll, past the fish farm - and home.   7.27 miles with 800ft of ascent.  For a couple with 159 years between them I reckon we'd had a good weekend 
Over the hills and far away 

Tuesday 5 June 2018

Don't ask......

Saturday was wet and dismal so nothing got done in the way of running.  Morning had passed rather too quickly due to commuting, shopping and attending a coffee morning arranged to raise funds for our local Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue team. There were some rather nice biscuits that needed consuming before we could drag ourselves away from the latter event which, I'm told, raised £240. 
Organ in St Peters, Hebden  (Click to enlarge)

As rain persisted throughout the afternoon I rather excelled myself by finishing off the Craven Herald's cryptic crossword as a warm-up to completing both the concise and Phi's cryptic crossword in The I.
Plaque on organ

Problems with my nether regions (don't ask) meant a late start on Sunday.  It was almost 11am when we closed the door, first of all to nip round the corner and photograph the old organ in our local church as part of the National Park's Buildings At Risk survey.  The organ, still in excellent working order, was dedicated to St Peter's Church in Hebden on Easter day, 1894.
Recording bridge repair in 1674
There were two further diversions back home (don't ask) before eventually setting off along the river to Burnsall where more Buildings At Risk photography took place at the old bridge.  It's been repaired on a number of occasions since being built in 1609 and a couple of old inscriptions record two of the dates. One is quite legible, but I couldn't decipher the other.
Keeping cool in the River Wharfe
A parking area in a field over the bridge was filling up with cars, picnickers, canoeists and paddlers. We ran on, surprisingly without yours truly having to avail myself of the toilet facilities there!  Nor had I any money with me for an ice cream.  Boo hoo...
Bistort growing by the river
After a three mile loop around Woodhouse Farm and Appletreewick campsite we headed back home, peep-peeping at weekend walkers blocking the narrow paths by the river.  All were very obliging.  
Hebden suspension bridge and reflections
However, some are not too friendly when squeezing my sweaty body past them on Hebden's narrow suspension bridge, particularly the well built ladies!
By Hebden beck with just a few hundred yards still to run
TomTom said we'd run (with a few scheduled stops) 6.09 miles with 369ft of ascent.  And that, I'm afraid is all the running I did last week.
Don't ask......