Thursday 16 August 2018

A Lakeland jaunt......

The 'Glorious 12th' usually finds us high on the moor smelling the heather, scattering the grouse and revelling in that purple phenomena whose season is far too short.
Home, for four nights  (Click pictures to enlarge)
This year we were involved in a long commute from Almondbury to Keelham, on to Hebden then up the M6 to Penrith before finally settling into a luxurious flat a few metres from the eastern shore of Ullswater.
Setting off to attack Hallin Fell
Friends had kindly granted us use of their flat for a four night break that enabled us to renew acquaintance with a couple of our favourite running routes and an invigorating walk around the hills across the lake.
Crossing the bridge over Fusedale beck with Steel Knotts and
Pike 'o Wassa looming overhead.
The Hallin Fell circuit was always one of our favourites but with 159 years between us we weren't sure we could still run to its 1,273ft summit.
The Hallin Fell route
  We set off with high hopes. 
Ever upwards - Hallin Fell in the far distance
It was a dreich sort of morning with nary a ray of sunshine, a pattern of weather that continued throughout our stay in Cumbria.  It kept us cool.
Herdwicks by St Peter's church
We passed lots of grey Herdwick sheep and their black lambs on the long drag to St Peter's Church in the jaws of Martindale.
Starting the steep ascent to that far summit.
The path on the right is the one we ran down
 Herdwicks always appear to me to have been got at by a Bedlington Terrier somewhere back in their ancestry and that putting them back to a greyhound would produce the perfect machine for coursing blue mountain hares!
Made it!    At the obelisk overlooking Ullswater
There were lots of cars parked by the Church but no-one was venturing up the slopes beyond.  We had the hill to ourselves - which was just as well for we find it a little embarrassing if folk catch us at those odd times when we're reduced to a walk.
On top of our little world
I'm ashamed to admit there were a few of those occasions on Sunday's ascent, but I kept them short and concentrated on maintaining speed.  At least, I didn't stop!
It looked a long way down
There were a few rocky outcrops round the summit but most of our running was on delightful springy turf, the sort that gives you the feeling you can run forever.  Especially downhill.
On the grassy descent to Howtown
Ullswater seemed a long way below as we set off down a traversing path that took us all the way to the landing stage at Howtown. 
Ferry arriving at Howtown
The ferries 'Lady of the Lake' and 'Raven' regularly discharge tourist hoards to wander the hills, picnic by the lake or avail themselves of  Howtown Hotel's hospitality before returning by a later ferry.
Two minutes rest at the lake by Howtown landing stage
From the landing stage we'd a choice of returning to base by a mile of roadwork or cutting uphill through fields to a quieter trail beyond.  We didn't fancy any more uphill work so we chose the easier option.
Getting away from it all by the River Eamont on Monday's run 
The hardest part of next day's run was finding somewhere to park among all the tourist traffic at Pooley Bridge.  It had rained heavily all night, keeping me awake, so I was a zombie at breakfast.  But after four strong coffees I was ready to run.  Sort of.
Running towards the historic family home of Dalemain 
We set off by the River Eamont en route for a circuit of Dalemain estate and Dacre Village.  Dalemain is open for the public to wander round it's gardens, buy plants, browse the gift shop, drink morning coffee or afternoon tea, inside or outside on the terrace.
Fallow stag...
We don't do any of those things.  On a previous visit we'd been delighted to see red squirrels rummaging around the feeders.  This time the feeders were all empty and there wasn't a furry coffee pot in sight.
...and hind
It was getting towards the end of the rutting season for deer the last time we were there and a rampant stag had learned how to trap hinds in a tight corner between wall and buildings.  A cervid rapist.
Running past Dacre Castle.
We pressed on, down a long track to the little village of Dacre, passing the 14th century castle on our way to say hello to the four stone bears in the grounds of St Andrew's Church. 
One of the four stone bears of Dacre Churchyard
Viscount (William) Whitelaw, a former Conservative Home Secretary, occupies a plot in the churchyard and the Norman design Church has associations with Lady Anne Clifford, a baroness and former High Sheriff of Westmorland.
It's over - returning hot and sweaty
After paying our respects we hot footed it back to Pooley Bridge, steeply up tarmac then across fields to the wooded Dunmallard Hill, once the site of an Iron Age hill fort.  We were anxious to get back before our parking ticket expired!  We made it with 20 minutes to spare.
Storm clouds approaching

A little later I strolled down to the lake for some phone reception, mainly to sync the day's run to my phone.  A pair of greylags flew south chatting to each other, probably about the storm clouds ahead. All done, I stepped back inside as the heavens opened.  Wasn't I the lucky one?
The Aira Force walk - and slightly beyond
The next day was a walking day.  I'd suggested we have a gentle stroll round the waterfalls at Aira Force and maybe out to the viewpoint under Gowbarrow Fell.  Things got a bit out of hand.
One of the upper falls
"Where on earth are you taking me?" I inquired of my wonderful partner as we headed north at a great rate of knots.  The falls, the money log and ancient woodland were all long behind us and I didn't have a clue where we were or where we were heading.
I was still no wiser..
"Shouldn't we be heading uphill onto Gowbarrow?" I asked as we circumnavigated round the north of that said hill, past Todgill. 
 "The uphill bit comes towards the end" I was told.  
Oh, that's wonderful I thought, considering we'd climbed what felt like a thousand feet already.  Worst of all, a great deal of it was on tarmac. Who on earth would devise a country walk with so much tarmac?
After 5 miles or so we turned right along a lovely running trail.  Except we were walking and walking is boring.  There was a crag to our right  and a vast forest ahead of us.  A wee plaque led us to believe there were red squirrels around but we didn't see any.  There was also a light smurring of rain.
Bumble bee feeding on heather
Beyond the forest were patches of heather that bumble bees had discovered and were eagerly feeding.  Ullswater came back into view and a signpost said it was only 1½ miles to Aira Force.  It lied.
Looking across to Hallin Fell from Yew Crag
A couple with two children stood atop Yew Crag gazing into the gloom.  We joined them, trying to focus our eyes across the lake to Hallin Fell with its tall cairn.  Gradually it came into view.
The rocky trail back to Aira Force
We continued down through the rain passing a pair of guys on their way up, one of them dark tanned and shirtless.  "Ey up, 'ere comes bladdy Tarzan" I said, making sure he heard.  He only laughed.  
Thank goodness.
Looking towards Patterdale.
The trail became rockier as we descended, once again making me wish we were running, going faster.  A fenced off cairn afforded a great view down the lake towards Patterdale with misty hills beyond. It was the view that will remain in my mind the most.  After leaving there it was all downhill to Aira Force - with its hundreds of double parked cars and heaving summer hoards.  
Good luck to you all, I thought.  
Let me get home.

Monday 6 August 2018

Dog days without the dog......

Two midweek runs over Castle Hill passed without incident. The scary black dog was nowhere in sight.  Neither was it's owner's car on the car park so I could run my circuits and reps with complete peace of mind.
Running up that hill with no hassle from unruly dogs
(Click to enlarge pictures)
An email from Emma, the Police Community Support Officer, said she hadn't yet got around to speaking to the offending owner.  I wondered if her recent change of name from Wood to Goddard might account for a temporary suspension of Policing duties?   Regardless, my Bite Back spray seems to have proved a suitable deterrent.
Statue of Harold Wilson presiding over Huddersfield's
Food and Drinks festival last weekend
We wondered if Saturday was National Walking Day (though back in sunny Huddersfield it was National Eating & Drinking Day).  Other than in races we'd never before encountered so many people - or dogs - on our weekend runs.  Even in more remote places, along little known footpaths, we couldn't escape them.  The world and his wife were out enjoying the  glorious, warm weather.
And so were we.
Red Admiral
Leaving an endless stream of people along the riverbank we crossed the bridge at Linton Falls and struck uphill to Langerton Lane.  Early mushrooms dotted the fields and a Red Admiral butterfly posed just long enough for a photograph.
Tripping down the lane towards Burnsall
A posse of walkers were dawdling in the village of Thorpe, perhaps slowed in their tracks by the mid-day heat.  We ignored the 'Slow' sign on the uphill bit and turned right at the top along a trail leading to Burnsall.
Burnsall Fell turning purple with heather
On previous runs we've almost always had this stretch to ourselves, but not on this occasion.  Could it be that someone has written a new guide book to the area, or is it that more folk are learning to read maps?
Harebells by a mossy wall
We've no idea what breed they are but we came across a field full of sheep with 'sticky out' ears. Any shepherds among my blog readers?
Big ears...
And just beyond them, a motley gathering of tents in a secluded field where there hadn't been any before (nor is there any mention of a Burnsall campsite on the internet). We wondered if they were there legally?  Likewise whether a herd of beasties should be rampaging through a new plantation by Hebden Suspension Bridge?
How did those beasties get in there?
TomTom told us we'd run a respectable 7.14 miles with 622ft of ascent so good enough reason for a cooling can of beer in the garden after lunch.
The steep climb up to the top of Hebden Crag on Sunday's run
We'd planned a shorter run for Sunday but somehow miscalculated and finished up running a circuit of exactly the same distance. The heather is currently in bloom and we were anxious to get among it - and smell it.
Happy among the heather
  We'd barely gone a mile before it bombarded our nostrils with its wonderful scent.  We carried on, seeking more of it, crossing the dam at a dried up Mossy Mere.
Water shortage at Mossy Mere
Then over rushy haunts of zig-zagging snipe into Backstone Edge lane leading up to our peat cuttings on Hebden Moor.
Solitary peat cutter
A solitary, bare chested figure was stacking newly cut peat and bagging some that had dried.  It's hard work, as my wonderful partner can vouch for, and we didn't envy him toiling away in the mounting heat.
Miles of nothingness over Grassington Moor
Then again, I don't suppose he envied us either, running across the broad, empty expanse of Grassington Moor towards Blea Ghyll, miles from civilisation or any habitation. In 75ºF.
Looking into Blea Ghyll.
Blea Ghyll is a delectable spot where I've bathed in a pool at the foot of a waterfall where rainbows formed in the sunlit spray.  On a cliff overlooking the waterfall a kestrel nested in splendid isolation.  On Sunday there was hardly a trickle of water.  Only an eerie silence. Not even a bird cry.
Ooh look, helicopters....
We carried on over the moor, herding sheep as we ran the broad track, past a tarn where  damsel flies darted hither and thither, iridescent turquoise needles with wings sparkling in the sunlight.
Air planing downhill
My old bones were beginning to feel the strain.  I was glad to cross the 1,300ft contour to start the downhill run for home.  Passing familiar landmarks we swept down into Hebden Ghyll, past the bent tree and alongside the dried up beck where a rabbit was either dying of thirst or in the first throes of myxomatosis.
Hebden Ghyll
  TomTom registered 7.14 miles with 769ft of ascent.  Also, in the heat, I'd burnt nearly 1,000 calories and was mighty anxious to replace them.
 Not quite sure how many there are in a pork pie, half a jar of biscuits, half a bottle of electrolyte juice and a can of lager.
But it seemed to do the trick!

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Another dawn run......

 I was out the house before the clock struck six this morning, and a very pleasant morning it turned out to be.  A local farmer had been mowing fields of grass almost into the wee small hours so a wonderful smell greeted me as I stepped out the door.
New mown hay - though a bit sparse...  (Click to enlarge) 
I hadn't run for five days so my legs were fresh and moved easily along the lane to cross the road into the fields beyond.  A waning moon hung in a clearing sky above Castle Hill.  Blackbirds sung their morning matins.  A cock pheasant crowed and shook his feathers, violently, as they do.
Spread over a mile the 250ft of ascent to Victoria Tower didn't feel too bad.  I cruised round the perimeter path and was relieved to note that a certain person with a vicious black dog was nowhere in sight.  Neither was his car. 
A path to myself

 After several attacks I'd reported him to the local Police Community Support Officer who assured me she'd contact the guy and stress to him that his dog must be kept under stricter control.  Meanwhile, I'd taken matters into my own hands and sprayed the snarling creature with Bite Back on the last occasion it came hurtling towards me. 
 I haven't seen it since!
Recommended to stave off dog attacks

After my third circuit a car arrived with the first of the morning dog walkers.  Except they didn't walk.  The car door opened, a dog shot out and went rampaging round the hill at great speed in search of rabbits while it's owner remained in situ.
A fresh breeze kept me cool as I launched into a short session of hill reps.  Or should that read a session of short hill reps?  Well both actually, they're only 100m and nowadays I never do more than ten.  Especially if anyone is watching!
A splash of rainbow colour...
Towards the west a swathe of rainbow colours enhanced the sunlit landscape, a focal point to gaze upon, and photograph, between reps. Any excuse for a rest!  Alongside the perimeter path fireweed was growing in profusion and I wondered whether those curious looking elephant hawk moth caterpillars still crawled among the stems.  I couldn't be bothered to look...
...and more colour - fireweed
An abundance of apples on a tree just over a garden fence are ripening nicely.  It's a shame the branches don't extend over the fence to make picking legal.  Not that I can't reach over on the way back from some early morning jaunt.  And most probably will...
Ripe for the picking
Arriving home after a very enjoyable 4 miles, a neighbour was just coming out the door to climb into his car on the way to work.  My work-out was finished.  
Now, what on earth was I going to do for the rest of the day?