Posts Tagged With: walking

Taking the plunge on parkrainday aquaplaning the undulations at Sheffield Castle parkrun

Digested read:  went back to Sheffield Castle parkrun today, it rained.  It’s been a while.

Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do a blog post today, as it’s sort of my home patch and I’ve done a post about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, loved it then, two years ago – they had tadpoles* for goodness sake – what’s not to like?  But then this is such a fabulous parkrun and so under-recognised in my view, I changed my mind.  Putting up a post, even if no-one ever reads it, is my way of sort of writing a thank you letter to the individual and collective awesomeness that is the Sheffield Castle parkrun team.  They are dedicated, welcoming and cheerful, and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back for another visit.  It’s a great run, and hardly ever cancels.  Once because of black ice, and once because of another event in the park, which isn’t bad going for a parkrun which started way back in August 2013.  Today was their 318th run.  And the ratio of volunteers to runners is impressive, how they pull it off week in week out is a minor miracle.  It would take more than apocalyptic flooding for them to pull the plug on their run.  Though to be fair, the irony is if that flooding did make them pull a plug, then the water would all drain away and everyone could run without getting their feet wet, so they wouldn’t need to pull the plug after all.  I know, the contradictory logic messes with your head!  Still, point is, lovely parkrun, why not celebrate it in a post.   Thank you lovely Sheffield Castle parkrun people, your parkrun is epic, as indeed are you!

Also, on the subject of plug holes, check this one out at Ladybower, not a magic portal to a parallel universe unfortunately, but pretty impressive all the same, although not a good idea to dive into it I’d venture.  It would have taken something on this scale to dry out the roads of Sheffield this weekend though.

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So there has been was a lot of rain.  No really a lot.  They say every cloud has a silver lining, and that is true, but they also hold an enormous amount of rain, and a great many large clouds have been jettisoning biblical quantities of rain for what seems like forever.   This plays havoc with my parkrun plans!  What to do?  I was thinking earlier in the week of venturing away from Sheffield before winter properly sets in.  However, parkrunning tourism isn’t that appealing when it might involve aquaplaning down motorways in early morning darkness through zero disability torrential rain.  I’m a bit of chicken driving, unlike rats, surprisingly.  No really.  Look, it was on the BBC website so it must be true check this out:   Rats taught to drive tiny cars to reduce stress levels.  I mean, they’d probably be less stressed if not in a lab in the first place, but even so.  Amazing.  Counterintuitive, as I find driving incredibly stressful, but then again, I’m not a rat, and maybe the roads are better in Canada?

Fab ratmobile though…  I wonder if this was inspired by the bat or popemobile, or vice versa. So hard to establish what is cause and what is effect sometimes, or indeed correlation.  We live in a world of mystery and wonder.  On the subject of bats (yes we were, albeit tenuously) did you see this?  Sweetest thing ever.   Bumblebee bat apparently.

bumblebee bat avant gardens

Stop distracting me by asking about the bat, I’ll never get to tell you all about the Castle of parkrun adventure at this rate what with all these pesky interruptions!

The other complication, was the amount of cancellations popping up.  Wouldn’t want to risk life, limb and worst of all sense of humour bypass, from turning up somewhere only to find it cancelled at the last minute.  I’m desperate to get my running challenges gold running obsessive badge this year by completing 50 parkruns within one calendar year. I know it’s basically a virtual sticker chart for grown ups and inherently pointless, but I don’t care.  I seek it out.  This compulsion hurts no-one.  Sigh, it would be awesome on my profile…  Blooming love the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.

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I’ve actually not missed a parkrun this year, but at three of them I didn’t get to run.  Two of them I ended up watching with my mum including supporting her getting her Spirit of parkrun award which was amazing by the way (parkrun royalty, had to be done, and well worth it), and one I turned up at only to find it had been cancelled at the last minute due to high winds, which I completely support – difficult decision for RDs and all that – but it meant it was too late to go anywhere else.  Can’t afford for that to happen again this year.  I’ve just one parkrun in hand, perilously close… in my reach, but not in my reach, like blooming parkrun bingo.  The idea for Stopwatch Bingo , is that you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times.  I’m on my 227th run, and yet STILL the 20 second time eludes me.  So near and yet so far.  Aaaargh.  Would today be the day I scooped it.  Spoiler alert, nope, it wouldn’t.  But I did a whole lot worse than that, though you’ll have to read on to find out why.  Blooming hate the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.  Pointless stress-inducing obsessive-behaviour-cultivating oojamaflip.   As if life isn’t fraught enough!

Where was I?  Oh yes, in Sheffield, watching the parkrun cancellations tally be revised ever upwards on the parkrun cancellations page.

parkrun cancellations

Bit of a theme emerging eh?  It’s worth looking at this page from time to time, some parkruns are quite creative with their cancellation reasons.  My favourite was one stating the parkrun had actual polar bears on their course, such were the arctic conditions, which I daresay they did, though I can’t remember which one it was now… oh hang on, I can check.  Give me a minute…  it was Bradford parkrun!  I mentioned it in an earlier blog post.  I’m almost disappointed they didn’t cancel today, because they have a gift for communicating their cancellation reasons.  They’d have been building an ark or something.  Wish we’d thought to do that in Sheffield too to be fair.  And, of course I wouldn’t really wish a parkrun cancellation on anyone.  The horror of turning up and finding only tumbleweed or a solitary sodden marshal detailed with breaking the bad news to you.  Too cruel anywhere, as has been said before…

Best stay local.  I was thinking Millhouses parkrun, to continue to support it, what with it being both local and new having only had its inaugural last Saturday.  Then that became definite, because I was going to stand in and be tailwalker for someone else (complicated story), and then there was a suggestion it might be cancelled, due to stretches being not so much puddled as underwater and then it was cancelled.  Oh dear.  Now where?  And then there was a chance Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be cancelled too, on account of the fact it basically being a pond.  I didn’t want to leave it too late to decide where to go if I was going to need to drive.  I wasn’t 100% about whether Graves parkrun would go ahead (also good choice for halloween theme of course) it usually does.  Then as I was browsing through various Sheffield parkrun Facebook pages there was a little comment on one of the posts for Sheffield Castle parkrun Facebook page, just saying almost coyly – ‘yes, we’ll be there in the morning‘ with some fine running emojis.

we ll be there

It was meant to be dear reader, it was meant to be.  I’m in!  Sheffield Castle parkrun has slipped off my radar lately, mainly because it involves driving without the incentive of Highland coos at the end of it, but it’s a great reliable parkrun, so why not.  Make a change.  It’ll be fun, it’ll be fine.

In the morning there was some conferring and some last minute call outs and checks.  Smilie Selfie Queen was going for Castle, Sheffield Hallam reported flooding but would try to go ahead -though not confirming til 8.30.  It’s astonishing those that did as well as those that didn’t.  Penistone parkrun cancelled the night before on account of a bog:

Sheffield Hallam parkrun went ahead, too good an opportunity for triathlon training to pass up.  Plus, must have been hilarious to be fair.  Not to mention a triumph of hope over experience, as one parkrunner at least clung to a King Canute like belief he could turn back the tide.  You have to admire this kind of tenacity, not to mention my boundless appreciation for any parkrunner who seemingly never travels without a yard broom in case of just such a parkrun eventuality.  Yes, that is on the actual course by the way, and what’s more, a bit you get to run/ splash/ swim through four times.  The joy!

Sheffield Castle parkrun facebook page hadn’t got a more recent update, but that’s OK, I’d go there.  Point of information if you don’t know this particular parkrun, it’s a really cool parkrun (get me and my trendy yoof speak**), small (by Sheffield standards) and ‘proper’ community one.  It’s held in Manor Fields Park, which to be honest, when I first moved to Sheffield about ten years ago had a reputation for being something of a dump.  Dog shit and fly tipping, a sad and derelict site.  In recent years, it has been utterly transformed with wildflower planting, sculptures and – best of all – it’s very own parkrun!

Sheffield Castle parkrun is small but perfectly formed, so we can forgive it for being devoid of an actual castle.  The committed team of volunteers who run it are locals invested in the area rather than necessarily runners as such. This gives the run a uniquely friendly, welcoming and community vibe.  It also has a sort of informality to it, which to the uninitiated may seem disconcerting. For example, if you look at the volunteering rota as a way to check its on as tourists often do (blank rota usually means no run) you’ll just see a void, stretching into eternity, it only gets populated immediately after the run when they are events processing for the days parkrun.  In fact, they don’t really bother with it in advance, they have a dedicated team, who presumably rock up each week and sort it out on the day I think.  It works anyway, but is unnerving if you are traveling any great distance I imagine!  Concord parkrun similarly don’t really bother with their volunteer roster in advance either.  Nerves of steel to travel a long way to go there too, but each Christmas day they deliver parkrun magic, no excel spreadsheet required!

castle vol rota

The website also doesn’t list any facilities, but dear reader, on arrival you will find there is a loo, and a little warm room to wait at the start and ‘free’ (for an optional donation) tea and coffee in the community room at the end. Some limited free parking, but it’s on a tram route so accessible by public transport anyway.  if you are driving, I went with the postcode for the premier store next door at 525 City Road with a postcode of S2 1GF, and that worked fine, but be warned, it isn’t a premier store anymore, it’s called something else, so you could miss the turning on arriva.  However, the postcode will get you there – make sure you don’t use the store carpark, turn into the Manor Fields Park area instead.

Right, whilst I’m doing the routine stuff, I might as well tell you about the course, don’t think I did last time, honestly can’t remember. Anyway, the Sheffield Castle parkrun course blah de blah on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

Course Description
The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction.
The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road.
From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right.
Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground.
Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge.
Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park.
Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb.
Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line.

Which makes it sound reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally complicated.  It’s not, you can either just follow the person in front, or just be guided by the strategically positioned cones and smiley marshals.  You won’t be lost.  You do need to be able to count to three though, or you might over or under shoot your parkrun experience.  It has happened.  I was definitely at a parkrun where a first timer did an extra lap once, but then again, I like to think how chuffed he would have been on completing his ‘difficult second parkrun’ where he must have got a stupendous personal best!  Not sure if that would be absolute consolation though.

The course looks like this:

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What they don’t tell you with quite sufficient emphasis in my opinion, is that it’s Sheffield Flat.  i.e. undulating, i.e. some really quite big hills, two in fact, each of which you do three times.  The views are fab though, and what goes up must come down, so you do get to whizz down them again, which is always a boon.

Anyway, that’s the background info.  My day involved waking up early and thinking it was the middle of the night it was so pitch dark outside.  It wasn’t.  It sounded like torrential rain was beating down on my attic window, shudder.  It was.  This was definitely going to be a wet one. What’s more, at the minute my back is stuffed, so I’m just walking.  In a way, this was something of a relief as it legitimised me wearing waterproofs and even a scarf and woolly hat, but I am getting so sick of not being able to run or do anything very much.  It’s soooooooooooooooo frustrating just pootling round, I wonder if I’ll ever get back to running again, however ineffectually.  Mind you, pootling might be the better option to running to the point of collapse.  Super speedy runners are impressive, but sometimes I worry they don’t have as much fun as the walkers.  Here’s one trying to emulate Mr Kipchoge’s marathon pace for just a kilometer.

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It didn’t end well.  Worth a gander though, and if it’s still raining and you now know what happened in the Rugby***, what else are you going to do today?

Sometimes slow and steady will get you there more reliably.  Hare and tortoise anyone?  For longer distance challenges, pause for a moment to celebrate this woman.  Maggie Guterl.

Maggie Gurtel winner ultra

Oh yes she did!!! Maggie Guterl just won Big’s Backyard Ultra. She ran 250 miles straight and was on her feet for 60 hours!! She is the last WOMAN standing and the first woman to win this race. History is made and barriers have been smashed.

Both ends of the distance are impressive.  Beyond impressive, but I’m thinking for me the goldilocks zone is somewhere between a flat out 1 miler and 250 miles straight (averaging 4.1 miles an hour – about my parkrun speed today, so I’m on target 😉 ) that is, a nice 5k parkrun distance.  I’ll try that, but note the achievements of others in terms of acknowledging what is possible.  Maybe not for each one of us, but within the potential of humankind at least.

So up and out and off to Sheffield Castle parkrun.  My satnav obviously felt my life needed an element of surprise and enrichment, and not only took me the most roundabout route imaginable, I’m pretty sure I went via Aberystwyth, or possibly Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun, but also had a 3 second delay as the signal dropped in and out, so I kept misunderstanding or missing altogether directional instructions.  Probably those things are related, but I choose to believe my satnav is sentient and mischievious, trick or treating me in keeping with the season.

It was pyjama parkrun day, so in theory you could run with your duvet, which would have been fab, but susceptible to extreme waterlogging, so that didn’t happen. Oh well.

I still arrived really early, and was seriously impressed to see a cheery finish funnel already up.  Welcoming lights gleamed out from the community building, this run was happening!

I love the sculptures in this park too, they truly are spectacular.  It’s a while since I’ve been, and I went for a quick wander a  gander.  I  think it was winter when I was here last, so I didn’t fully appreciate the amazing wetland bit with huge bulrushes and boardwalks as well as ducks, and I do love a duck as my regular reader will know.  There was also a great playground, and even though it’s basically winter now, still lots of flowers around.  It’s an amazing place.  It has taken real imagination, passion and dedication to transform this site, it’s astonishing.  It’s not promising when you approach, and then you find the oasis of green space for wildlife and people alike.

I also spotted another slow and steady potential parkrun participant.  This is the parkrun pact, thou shalt not finish last, there shalt be a tailwalker, and possibly even a mollusc, to reassure you there is a chance you’ll get to storm ahead of some living creature at least!

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And, for the first time, I spotted this fabulous revelation.   Finally, a pb parkrun, even if three laps!  I know, I know, the jokes been made before, but with an open goal like this one what are you supposed to do?  It might be raining, but this is doable, very doable indeed!

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It was definitely still raining, really rather a lot.  So I used the facilities for my precautionary pee.  Top tip, the light switch is inside and low down, you will be plunged into darkness if you shut the door first without locating it.  Just passing on the info for a friend, obvs.  Next door there is a store room, where the innovative Sheffield Castle parkrun team have completely solved the impossible challenge of working out how to pack away the start/finish banner.  Just leave it popped up the whole time!  Genius.  No more ritual humiliation trying to contort the parkrun pop-up banner cat back in the proverbial bag! Talented team here at Manor Fields Park like I said.

I went to join the little huddle in the brightly lit community room.  I didn’t take a picture as it didn’t seem appropriate.  But volunteers were assembling and hot steaming cups of tea and coffee were available as hi-vis was donned.  A few tourists appeared, I like to think it was quality if not quantity.  Some from Nottingham, braving it in shorts – skin is waterproof being their mantra.  I know they are right, but even so, brave and bold parkrunners there.  Properly hardcore.  There was a Rother Valley ‘local’, who like me had decided venturing too far for tourism with so many cancellations potentially pending was not the best move, so keeping it relatively local and visiting a too long neglected parkrun friend.  There were also some refugees from Millhouses parkrun as well as some who were clearly regulars.  A friendly and even optimistic vibe.  Call that rain?  Hardly drizzling!

This parkrun prides itself on starting bang on 9.00 (my watch today said I started my run at 9.01, which is pretty darned close).  So about 15 minutes before the run director braved the rain to put out the final course touches pre run briefings.  Seeing the activity, parkrunners began to emerge from their cars like crabs from under rocks.  It’s always amazing how from nothing a parkrun appears just at the last minute.

The unique selling point of this parkrun is that the volunteers are all spectacularly photogenic, and also have the most extensive collection of golfing umbrellas ever held aloft at a parkrun.  FACT****.  I had no idea golf was so big up at the Manor.  Assume nothing dear reader, rather expect and embrace the unexpected.  I don’t know (or care) enough about golf to make any golf-related small talk, but if it’s your thing I daresay you could give it a whirl.

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Whilst chatting with volunteers I also learned more about Manor Fields.  For example, it was among the first in the UK to adopt

an exemplar SuDS system reproducing natural wetland features to assist with drainage solutions designed to cope with major wet weather incidents.

That means, all the run off from the surrounding houses collects in Manor Fields, and so creates that amazing wetland habitat.   I also learned that the work that has gone into creating wildlife habitat has started to pay off.  I’m not a twitcher as such, so might be getting this wrong, but various endangered species have somewhat surprisingly found a safe haven here, including I think the grasshopper warbler.   According the the RSPB website:

The high, insect-like reeling song of the grasshopper warbler is the best clue to its presence. Even when you hear one it can be difficult to locate it due to the ventriloquial effect of its singing. If seen on migration it moves like a little mouse, creeping through the foliage. Dramatic population declines have made this a Red List species.

Who knew a bird could be a ventriloquist!  Every day’s a learning day!

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So that was great, but we were here to parkrun, and so volunteers headed off to the far corners of the fields, and parkrunners materialised in time for briefings.

Smiley Selfie Queen and her making-an-effort comrade were just in time arrivals, but appropriately attired.  Good work my running friends, good work.  Also, handily posing in the doorway of the community room, so you get a little hint of how welcoming and roasty toasty it was in there, pre or post run.

CS made an effort

There was a little comradely huddle of first timers:

the atmosphere built, the crowds assembled:

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and then the RD was astride his podium.  I like to think this was put in place especially for this purpose, but reluctantly concede it is part of the kit for an outdoor gym type initiative:

The brief was pretty focused and brief, with a pleasingly attentive but small cluster of a select 56 runners.  A late arrival didn’t mean there wasn’t time for a bit of parkrun posing.  Shame not to.  After all, if you can’t flash your boo at the parkrun nearest to halloween, when can you?  There were some fine skeleton earrings donned by a participant today, but you might need to be rather eagle eyed to spot them.  … Anyway, ages since I’ve been at such an intimate parkrun gathering.

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quick shuffle round to get in position

and then – a la junior parkrun – there was a collective countdown from ten, nine, eight… to go!  This was great, as it meant I had an accurate start time, creating the giddy possibility I might be able to help along acquisition of my last outstanding parkrun bingo number.  Ye gods, if only!

Awf we went.  Two tail walkers at the back, I wanted to keep just ahead of them.  Despite appreciating the social aspect of parkrun, I can’t bear running with other people, I just find it really stressful.  There was a jeffing run/walker with the tails, so I sort of did impromptu jeffing to keep just away from them, but interspersed with pauses for photo ops.  One thing about being really slow at the moment, is I can appreciate routes more and stop to take pictures on the way round.  Might as well quite frankly.  I think I overheard the tailwalkers say to one another ‘oh no, only runners today!’ which made me feel better in the event I was last one in.  They were looking forward to a walk and talk perhaps.  They were lovely anyway, I warned them I might have to walk a lot because of my back and they just said ‘no problem, that’s what we’re here for’ and more than saying it, clearly meant it.  I could feel the wave of relief wash over me.   The inclement weather did seem to mean only the more hardcore runners had turned out, numbers were definitely down – well, that and the Rugby apparently – so fewer slow and steady participants than usual perhaps.

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It’s a three lapper, and I normally don’t like them, but honestly, there’s so much of interest to look at going round this course is isn’t boring at all.  You can see the other runners in the distance, you can admire the views across Sheffield or the cemetery, you can admire the autumn leaves on the trees or the weird and wondrous sculptures, AND, as if that wasn’t bounty enough, you can interact with the cheery marshals on the way round.  No chance of getting bored here! 

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You start off down hill, but pretty soon have to go up, but it’s fun, no really it is, like a DIY roller coaster.  And it looked spectacular.  Those golfing umbrellas are great for creating a cheery and colourful vibe too!

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Check out the wildflowers too.  Reet nice oot!  Reet nice marshals too, which was fortuitous as you pass them at least three times, more if you are wandering around pre and post parkrun.  Here is one, strategically places at the bottom of heartbreak hill.

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What’s that you say?  Why heartbreak hill?  Erm. Tell you what, come find out for yourself, put on a spurt as you go past the entrance to the conveniently placed cemetery and you might be able to make an educated guess.  Alternatively, if like me you are walking at parkrun on the day, you can pause to admire the bog plants thriving at the wayside, look in admiration at the community orchard, planted so people can help themselves to the fruitful bounty (brilliant idea, don’t know if that’s a thing elsewhere too) and watch in wonder as front runners – admittedly somewhat sodden, come steaming by!

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Walking at parkrun is fine by the way, parkrun are rather proud of their walkers as it shows it is creating opportunities to be active for people who might not otherwise be so.  There is even a Walking at parkrun Facebook group.  Good to know.

You have a tantalising glimpse of the finish funnel, with a concentration of high-vis heroes all tooled up and ready to go, and then round you go for lap two.  Or lap three, if you are faster than me, and have just lapped me.

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Ding ding, round two.  Looking lovely curving round the uphill ahead.

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I love that you can see the houses, it really highlights how the park is city based resource.  There weren’t all that many other users out and about today, a couple of dog walkers.  And one guy with a huge umbrella in one hand and an enormous bap in the other, chomping away.  I’m not going to line, I did have a moment of thinking his approach to a walk in the park looked like it was potentially a bit more fun than mine – but then again, he didn’t have the camaraderie of an entire parkrun community alongside him.  Though he did have breakfast…  tough call.  Still, no breakfast is better than a post parkrun breakfast.  FACT!*****

As I went round again, I espied a different style umbrella, this one with unicorns.  Not real unicorns, just a pattern of them.  Not sure if this was here as an emergency resource, much like one of the volunteers was despatched to their spot clutching a first aid kit, and there’s a defibrillator somewhere – or if it was just soooooooooooooo wet now, even the bushes wanted a bit of respite from the inclement weather.

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Round we go, wave at marshals, back to heartbreak hill, oh look, more runners coming through, and sprinting to their finish.  Yay!  Go them.  Some still had time to shout encouragement or offer up a cheery wave as they sped on by.

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Past the finish again.  Inexplicably, I am never thought to have already done two laps, but I got cheers of encouragement as I set off for the final lap.

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In truth, I think it was me, the jeffer behind and the tail walkers on our own for the final lap.  A couple of the volunteers had started to wander back towards the start to see where we were.  They were still directing, just checking everything out, which was fair enough.  The tailwalkers were a bit further back, as they ‘released’ marshals as they passed, and scooped up the cones that had signalled the way.

In the final stretch, Smiley Selfie Queen appeared.  I thought she’d have had to rush off, so that was great.  And also, of course she obliged with photos.  Yay!  I concede I’m hardly dressed for running, but I was dressed for the elements.  And I still got wet through to my knickers.  It was a wet one, seriously, very wet indeed!

CS not very action stations

Finally, the end was in sight, and I glimpsed my watch.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  So close to time, I jogged and then sprinted through the finish, and the time called something 20!!  BINGO!!  BLOOMING BINGO!!!  DONE IT DONE IT DONE IT!!!  If this comes good, I’ll get a pointless virtual badge that only I can see on my running profile!  I wondered if it was cheating to have helped it along, but decided not, because it’s not like I waited, and it’s so arbitrary, and anyway, it felt goo.  Hurrah.  This is the parkrun that keeps on giving.  Could this get any better?

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Through the fun of the funnel, token issue, 15th birthday flat-band scanned.  Job done.  Smilies reunited.  Boo!  I wasn’t alone in getting wet en route methinks!

Time for the obligatory group selfie, courtesy of Smiley Selfie Queen and facilitated by a volunteers golfing umbrella!

CS selfie

And that was that.  Team stood down.  Course dismantled, and volunteers disappearing off to the community hut, splashing through the standing water en route to get there.

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I had wanted to stay for coffee to be sociable, but I was so wet I decided to head home after thanking the team.  It was an excellent choice, and I’m really glad to have Sheffield Castle parkrun back on my radar once again.  It’s such an intimate run, and it’s an interesting course, challenging if you want it to be, but supportive if you are wanting to take it more slowly for whatever reason.  A good inclusive parkrun community.

Rained on the way home, but some nice views across the city from on high.  Don’t worry, I was stationary when I took the photo.

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And as I stepped through my front door, super fast results processing meant I heard the ping of the results coming through on my phone.  Just a formality to check.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Not my twenty second time as expected, worse it was twenty-one seconds.  One second awry!  That’s hard to take dear reader, I’d rather miss it by a mile.   If there’s one thing worse than not getting a bingo number, it is to miss it by just one second.  I don’t think I’m ever going to get that elusive 20, it is so very random.  Oh well, perhaps I should be grateful to have it still outstanding and something to chase.  Who knows, when all my bingo dreams are fulfilled, perhaps life will seem strangely pointless?  Best not to know.

Oh, and in a parallel universe, they were showcasing the joy of running, if not singing in the rain over at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Good work behind the camera George, with these pics you have surpassed even yourself!  Just a bit of surface water, no great drama.

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There was a fair bit of water at Poolsbrook parkrun too!  Never have so many parkrunners had soooooo much fun, splashing through puddles.  You have to pity the poor trolls that normally live under the Poolsbrook parkrun bridge – where would they have gone to hide?  Heaton parkrun had a water feature too! 

So that’s that, thank you fellow parkrunners in general and Sheffield Castle parkrun team in particular for another precious parkrunday.  What a cracking parkrun Sheffield Castle is, I’m not going to leave it quite so long between visits next time!  Special thanks to the amazing volunteers who kept cheerful and enthusiastic with their clapping and directional pointing despite what might be referred to euphemistically as ‘sub-optimal’ conditions. You are all superstars!

What did we ever do with our Saturday mornings before.  I know one thing, as I stood dripping in my hallway, gazing at my one second out bingo time, there is no way on earth I’d have spontaneously out of the house for any sort of outdoor exercise today were it not for the pull of parkrun.  It’s been life changing for me as well as life enhancing.  #loveparkrun hope you do too!

That’s it for now then.  Don’t forget, clocks go back tonight, we all get an extra hour in bed in which to dream about parkrun, sigh.  Lucky it was a day full of adventures!

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You can waste more hours of your life by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Enter at your own risk.

You’re welcome.

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*just to be clear, the tadpoles were present, but not actually participating. That would be stupid.  Little did I know back then that 2 1/2 years later, I’d have tadpoles of my own.  Just goes to show, you never really know what the future holds.  Giddy times.

**sarcasm alert people, sarcasm alert.

***don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really care about the Rugby, and haven’t found out the result yet therefore.  Hence you’ll find no spoilers here.

****Lucy fact, that is, I choose to believe this to be true.  Works for me.

*****also Lucy fact.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What lies beneath. Scrutinising Ladybower’s bottom in search of Atlantis Sheffield

Digested read: lured by Smiley Selfie Queen, went in search of the underwater village ruins at Ladybower reservoir.  Found them.  It was epic!  Go see for yourself before the waters rise again.

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Unabridged read:

Honestly, I’m really torn.  I mean I do get the general point about literal jumps into the unknown being potentially perilous, but then again, it’s the metaphorical leaps into the unknown that make life interesting.  If we only ever keep hanging on to what we know already we’ll never learn anything new, and if we only do what we’ve always done then nothing will ever evolve.  So I note the signage at the Ladybower Reservoir, and totally endorse not risking paralysis by dive bombing into possibly shallow waters, whilst simultaneously believing a bit of exploration and adventure is fine and dandy, recommended even – but maybe just do your risk assessments properly at the outset.

And on the subject of signs, did you see this BBC news story on an Edinburgh initiative to improve road signage?  It’s quite marvellous!  Bringing joy to a joyless world…

 

 

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to talk about signage, lovely as that would be, it is to tell you about my adventures with Smiley Selfie Queen, exploring the exposed bottom of Ladybower Reservoir.  Generally speaking, one shouldn’t explore exposed bottoms with such public abandon, but in this case it’s OK because it’s a rare treat and not of a living thing.  No dear reader, rather it is a consequence of the extreme heat of the summer of 2018, which has led to the dropping of the water levels of Ladybower and the associated reservoirs so low, that you  can see once again the remnants of the villages that were flooded when the dams were constructed and the reservoirs filled.  I’ve been meaning to go for ages in a vague ‘really must go and do that sometime‘ sort of way, ‘before it’s too late‘ much as I did with intending to visit the millennium dome.  I never did get to see that, and it is most definitely too late now, but with the viewing of Sheffield’s Atlantis it was a different matter altogether.  I was prompted to take the proverbial plunge into the waters of Ladybower by Smiley Selfie Queen who proposed an excursion. ‘Fab idea, why not?’  So that is what we agreed to do.  I knew the water level was really low, but I’d actually thought part of it was because some had been pumped to facilitate some sort of maintenance work, but it seems I must have made that up, because there was no evidence of it, and no reference to it when I googled, so there you go.

The day dawned, and rain fell.  No worries, we can still have an adventure in the rain.  She scooped me up, and we drove over to the lay by just a few hundred metres (if that) ahead of the Fairholmes visitor centre so we could park for free.  (More about the visitors’ centre here). On a rainy Wednesday morning there was no-one much about, so we had the place to ourselves.  I was astonished at how beautiful the autumn colours were. The rain cleared and gave way to sunshine, and get a load of this, magnificent!

 

It was crazily beautiful, the pictures nowhere near do it justice.  I had a faff about what to wear, I took my hat in the end as you can see, though for a lot of the time it was in my coat pocket rather than on my head.  You might think therefore dear reader that I’d come to regret having taken it with me, but dear reader, you would be wrong!  This fetching hat, which I’ve had for a great many years, and which rather pretentiously I bought from a vendor on a floating island on Lake Titicaca in Peru, who had knitted it himself today had its moment of glory.  It has done me many quiet years of service, nearly 20 years I think, and I am grateful for that, but today it also came into its own as an indispensable aid to our progress – more of that later.  Yes, it does have a llama on it, but no need to be allarmared by that!

Meantime more views, look:

 

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Sigh, it really was glorious, you should have been there, the photos don’t do it justice.

We followed the signs to the dam, there is a well-marked path that take you up, so we had a little explore.  No time to walk the entire circumference of the water today, so we just had a squint at the dam and accompanying points of interest which included, a monument to a dog that stayed by its dead master for 15 weeks.  Fifteen weeks!  Seriously, that’s extraordinary, but also somewhat unlikely, how did it survive, what happened there?  There were also some tributes for remembrance day which is coming up, info panels about the testing of the bouncing bombs, and interesting man-made constructions peeking out from the water.  I don’t know enough about civil engineering in general or dam construction in particular to know what we were looking at exactly, but it was all quite intriguing and made me wish I’d concentrated more in school.  We probably covered this kind of thing in human geography at some point.  That’s the trouble with education, wasted on the young…

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Tempting as it was to march round the top reservoir, which is apparently Derwent, with Howden beyond, our focus was to get to the bottom(ish) of Ladybower, where the sunken village of Ashopton is currently in view, well, what’s left of it.

We paused to look at the Dam from below, and then followed some inviting looking steps that took us up and above the water.  All good exploring territory, though I’ve realised a limitation of me relying on Smiley Selfie Queen to take all the photos is that it gives the impression I am forever scurrying along behind her.  This may be an accurate representation of how it was of course, but I don’t really like it being immortalised in jpegs. Oh well.  The truth will out.

After much scurrying around and posing in various locations, my Smiley Buddy started having flash backs of having been there before.   This very place was, it turned out, an early date with her partner when she presumes they were trying to impress one another by agreeing to do something outdoorsy and cultural together which ironically wasn’t really either of their things a decade or so ago though it most definitely is now.  How the wheels of time and fortune turn full circle eh?  I found that entertaining, but then again, I am on record as being easily amused.

We back tracked, then and searching for a way down to the water line, once we’d crossed over, followed a little detour which turned out to be the sweetest little nature trail with signs identifying trees and wooden sculptures including ginormous moles and teeny tiny locomotives – perfect posing opportunity for me and my training buddy!

 

See what I did there – with us on the train…. genius!

We had to clamber our way up and out of this nature reserve, alongside a fence, and emerged on a wide tarmac path.  We were just ahead of some dog walkers with boisterous dogs that kept charging up alongside and between us.  They weren’t aggressive but they were very annoying.  We’d passed a sign earlier saying dogs should be on leads, but I’m not sure if that rule applied on this part or not.  In fairness to these owners I don’t think it was clear either way.  Even so,  I do wish dog owners would understand however much they may love their ‘adorable hounds’, others don’t necessarily appreciate these slobbering, bounding canines invading their personal space.  It got tense.  I am getting less and less tolerant of dogs these days.  Dogs in general that is. Particularly out of control, off lead ones, I don’t care if you say they are friendly, keep them away from me unless invited thank you very much.   Individual dogs I know are lovely of course, and Tilly is the loveliest of them all.  Actually, I like Skip too, although he just ignores me, it’s a bit one-sided there.  Harry and Barry are all right as well.  Basically, well behaved dogs where we’ve been introduced, or those who are adoring are fine, but random slobbering ones are not.  I think that’s pretty clear…

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We got jumped as we were admiring a somewhat incongruously placed but beauteous telephone box.  We inadvertently went full circle and as swamp creatures emerging from the mud came back to here later on.

 

We tried to walk briskly ahead to keep out-of-the-way of the bloody dogs.  Trouble is, we were obviously all heading for the same boggy bottom.  Now, I know you have to be careful out there because it’s incredibly tempting to venture out too far and then you get stuck in the mud and have to be rescued.  Only last week Edale Mountain Rescue had to haul someone out that’s awful and everything of course, though it did give me a little flash of an idea and a spark of embittered hope…

Incident 101 – Saturday 3rd November 2018 12.10hrs

The duty team leader received a call from Derbyshire police regarding a gentleman who had, given the low water level, walked out across Ladybower reservoir to take a closer look at the currently exposed ruins. The mud is however extremely thick in places and he got himself completely stuck. Due to concern for his temperature and general welfare his partner ran round to the rangers station at Fairholmes to summon assistance.
The team was able to access the casualty with a variety of specialist equipment designed to spread an individual’s weight over a muddy surface and after approximately 30 minutes of digging was able to free the gentleman and walk him back to solid ground. Team members then returned to base to start a long session of equipment cleaning!

 

I just was thinking, nay secretly hoping that these wayward canines might go out to explore a bit too far and soon find themselves sinking in the mud sufficiently that their owners would rush to rescue them*, only for the hounds to break free and the owners to be entombed and slowly sucked under by the clogging mud.  Obviously I’d rush to get assistance, but who knows whether I’d make it back in time, and despite what you may have been led to believe from watching Lassie films or even the monument to the loyal sheep dog from earlier, not all canines are of practical assistance in a crisis.   It’s often what happens though isn’t it? Dogs in peril escape from the watery peril of the sea or outrun stampeding cattle, or extricate themselves from  bogs or whatever and their hapless concerned owners perish whilst misguidedly trying to save them.  I know I sound mean, but you weren’t there.  And anyway, I don’t believe you have never experienced Schadenfreude, even if you choose not to admit it even to yourself.  Also, my fantasy mud-sucking scenario didn’t occur, so no harm done on this occasion, unfortunately.

*No dogs were injured in the conjuring of this fantasy rage scenario, so don’t judge!

Apart from nursing gnawing resentment about being hounded by the bloody dogs, we were partially distracted by the increasingly amazing views.

 

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After a bit, we found a way to scramble down to the water’s edge, and it was instantly amazing and distracting, and oh, so very tempting to walk out much further than you ought.  The exposed reservoir base looked like an alien planet or something.  Just the mud alone looked like a lifeless lunar landscape, perfect film location for next Dr who say and a striking contrast to the Park Hill Flats.  Then it was set off by the frame of autumnal gold on the banks.  It was extraordinary.

 

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We’d been tipped off about what we might be able to see, so that gave us a bit of tenacity in exploring.  At first, we couldn’t really make out much at all.  There was an exposed bridge, and some generic bricks that might have been from the old church but it was hard to be sure. However, emboldened by the sight of other people further out, we ventured further.  I am pretty risk averse, so was cautious about stepping out, but if you were sensible and careful, you could pick a route over to a great heap of stones which contained within them an actual fire-place! It is weird-looking at it, and imagining others sitting by a lit fire, you can still see the soot stains in the hearth and within the shattered breast of a collapsed red-brick chimney.  Then there was the grand pillar and the outline of rooms that you could sort of move through.  Very eerie, and compelling too.

Turns out that in this context, I was a bit more of a trail blazer than Selfie Queen.  I had the advantage of better footwear partly.  I was wearing walking boots, she was in trail shoes.  The muddy clay just gripped and infilled the tread of her running shoes so she might as well have been trying to get around on greased skis by the end of it.  Still, between us we were intrepid, within the bounds of reason.

 

We saw a fair bit, but decided against venturing out beyond the collapsed hall to another bit of projecting stone work a bit further out.  We were mindful of the mountain rescue exploits of others and didn’t really want to add to those stats.  It was  a good call actually, because when we started back across the mud flats it was harder to retrace our steps than it had been to find a path heading out.  Oh well, we lived to try another day.

As we exited, a very jolly pair of men with cameras were swapping places with us. They have visited the reservoir bottom over the years and were full of information about what was there and how it had changed.  The arched structure I couldn’t identify was actually an old pumping station from when the series of dams was being built for example. They also were able to tell us that where we were standing was originally the main village/ manor hall, but had also been a chapel and a school too at various points, most educational.  We took photos of each other, which amuses me, here they are.  Being informative and convivial!

 

They were joking about taking away some of the abandoned masonry, I say good luck to them, if they think they can carry away a door mantle on their shoulders without being squelched down into the mud then why not!  We left then sliding about, holding their cameras aloft to keep them safe.

We opted to find a route back from the waterside.  We did achieve this, but there was a flaw in our plan in that of course normally the water level is never this low (it is actually at only 35% capacity at present according to signs in the visitors centre), therefore, there aren’t obvious entry points or footpaths leading back to where we were.  Oops.

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In theory, we could have retraced our steps, but that seemed like an awfully long way round and surely there’d be a short cut.  Plus we were running out of time due to other commitments for the day.  We skirted the edge, alongside us was quite a determined looking and unbreachable fence.  I was pretty confident there’d be a get out at some point, and sure enough, eventually, just as I was losing faith a bit, we saw an old gateway and road, passed through and… hit a dead-end.  Oh.

We walked on a bit, still the wrong side of the fence, though above the waterline and tantalizingly, could see the ‘proper path’ up the hillside above us, with two fences in between. After some consultation, we decided there was nothing for it but to clamber out.  Well I decided that.  Selfie Queen was a bit more dubious about the realism of this plan.  However, I’ve clambered a great many gates and fences in my time, and even done Endurer Events (tough mudder light) for goodness sake, it takes more than a strand of wire to defeat me!  The upshot was I would lead by example, but she wasn’t having the barbed wire hamper her progress. Well, this dear reader is where my hat had its day!  I got my fine Peruvian beret and used it to wrap round the barbs of the wire so we wouldn’t get them caught up on our leggings.  Finding the strongest post to steady us, it was a simple matter of quick leap over and voila, ’twas done!

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That was progress, but then I was a bit paranoid (which I didn’t share) that we were probably now trespassing and I didn’t want to find out the hard way we’d encroached on a field of cows, and probably a pack of dogs too.  Fortunately, we were both distracted by heavy rain which was short-lived but stinging and the presence of a fenceless gateway, which is one of our very favourite things to find on walks.  We did what we had to do:

 

Also, to be honest, I was fairly confident I knew the field was empty as we’d passed it earlier, but even so, I was relieved when we eventually found a path, which became a track, which led to a gate which led us out to the phone box aforementioned above!  Hurrah!  Job done.

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Then just a little matter of a scurry back to the car, via the loos at the visitors’ centre and a quick peak in their shop.  They sell a book of walks I might be tempted to get next time, only £2, bargain.

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And that was that.  Another adventure with Smiley Selfie Queen done and dusted, and a very fine and unexpected one too.

Of course, there was plenty we didn’t get round to see – low water has also revealed dwellings from Birchinlee Village under Derwent too, and the plug holes of course, need to go back for them one day soon.  Could be a long day out given how long it took us just to amble 5 miles or so this morning.  This is where we went by the way, Strava never lies.

 

Although the water levels were low today, Sheffield has not always been so depleted of the wet stuff.   I’ve googled so you don’t have to, about previous times in history when Sheffield flooded.  I had a vague sense there was a catastrophic flood when a dam burst a hundred years or so ago, and Wikipedia confirms this.  The Great Sheffield Flood:

 was a flood that devastated parts of Sheffield, England, on 11 March 1864, when the Dale Dyke Dam broke as its reservoir was being filled for the first time. At least 240 people died[1] and more than 600 houses were damaged or destroyed by the flood. The immediate cause was a crack in the embankment, but the source of the crack was never determined. The dam’s failure led to reforms in engineering practice, setting standards on specifics that needed to be met when constructing such large-scale structures. The dam was rebuilt in 1875.

The account is worth reading actually, it seems the rush of water wiped out whole sections of Malin bridge and Hillsborough.  Completely devastating.  I even found a little YouTube account of the flood, but I think we can safely assume it wasn’t made contemporaneously! Then there were more floods in 2007, from shere deluge of rain causing the River Don to burst its banks.  No wonder there is a whole list of Sheffield Floods to refer to.  For the first time in ages, I’m quite relieved I live at the top of a hill.  Something I rarely feel pleasure about as head down I climb up it carrying shopping on the way home.  The Star did a Retro feature about the 2007 floods, it was before I moved here. Quite astonishing to see the photos though.  Anyone would think it was part of our emergent Sheffield Atlantis discovery at the base of Ladybower reservoir rather than a snap shot on the way to complete submergence…

 

So there you go, well worth the trip out.  It always is.  I feel really blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world, I don’t care what the posters say, sometimes it is worth taking a dive into the unknown – metaphorically at least.

Look, we saw this:

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What’s not to like?

You’re welcome.

More about the sunken ruins here: BBC Ladybower Reservoir’s low water levels reveal abandoned village

and here: “Come see the ruins but stick to the shore” – warning as exposed ruins of Ladybower reservoir’s lost villages entice sightseers into danger

 

Categories: off road | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Brill walk for Halloween. Top bird interaction.

Digested read: went for a walk to explore new paths. Found a vineyard, a top bird and some jaw dropping dwellings along the way.

Unabridged version:

It’s a bad sign when it’s so long since you ventured out onto the moors you don’t even know what to wear.  How cold will it be up top? What about wind chill?  I don’t know if I’m on to something here or not, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just possible there may be some sort of link between my seemingly increasing inability to ‘just get out and run’ and the fact that my parkrun performances are getting ever more woeful.  I wouldn’t want to jump ahead of myself and the evidence but suggesting at this stage the effect is causal, but there does seem to be a correlation at least. Coincidence?  Who knows.

Anyway, today was a day for a new, and pleasing adventure.  It was agreed, me and my most loyal recce buddy from Dig Deep explorations earlier in the year would try out a new route.  Just a walk, just to see what was out there.  She was in possession of an idea, and I was happy enough to trot along behind.  It was a Brill walk in fact.  It said so on the cover:

Brill walks book one

‘Oh my gawd!’ exclaimed I.  Seeing the book from which the walk was sourced. ‘What a brilliant name for a walking book.  Because that’s what you say isn’t it? “I know a brill walk, or I’ve got a fab route.” Inspired!’ I was slightly disappointed when I realised it was actually the name of the author, one of them anyway, as it made it more of an appropriate witty pun as opposed to an exclamation of unabashed enthusiasm.    On the other hand, what a Brill name.  Literally and metaphorically.  So I suppose what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, or something like that anyway…

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading out for a rendezvous. I actually failed at the first hurdle because I couldn’t fathom which of the many car parking areas we were supposed to meet at, despite comprehensive directions.    There is no signal around Fiddler’s Elbow, but we opted to meet there and then go to the first parking area along from there.  We picked a grand day for it, the weather was perfection. Crisp but not too cold, quite still and the most amazing views in all directions, which was counter intuitive because it was misty, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so far from there, the photos don’t do it justice as the light had a bleaching effect, and also I’m not very good at taking photos, but maybe if you squint a bit and use your imagination you’ll get the general idea.

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I sat in the car for a bit, marvelling at the view, and wondering whether or not to wear my waterproof over-trousers (they restrict mobility a bit, but do keep you warm) and then when my walking buddy drove up, we exchanged pleasantries through our car windows as she kept her engine running, before she sped off to the proper parking point to start the route with me following on behind.  If you were either a lover of conspiracy theories or had an overactive imagination and had witnessed this, I like to think you’d have thought you were witnessing at the very least spies exchanging secrets, otherwise maybe a drugs deal or some other suspicious and clandestine endeavour, perhaps en route to check out spots for disposal of bodies or evidence or some such.  It wasn’t… but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.

To get to the official starting point for the walk, you veer right at Fiddlers Elbow and then take first right & park there where there is some hard standing on the side of the road at the base of Stanage Edge.  Spoiler alert, this is the route we took, it was more up and down than expected 1,169 ft of elevation, according to Strava, which never lies.  Except when it does, and it puts you splashing through a pond or reservoir or something instead of on an adjacent path, but those instances are for the most part entertaining rather than ruinous, so I’ll take their elevation estimate.  It felt like quite a bit.

Brill halloween walk strava

Parked up, we both faffed over what to wear.  I did go with the waterproof trousers, also sunglasses and a woollen hat.  Also a scarf.  I did get a bit hot though. It seems I have learned nothing from my Dronfield Round Walk excursion of a few weeks back.

First off, up the hill to Stanage Edge. This is very familiar territory.  I’d thought we were going to go towards Stanage Pole, but we actually went up to the trig point and came off down the paved path back to Fiddlers Elbow.  It was beautiful of course, it always is, but no surprises here.

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We descended to the car park where we’d rendezvoused earlier, then after a bit of bovine appraisal – lots of cows out and about on the path – we headed over the style from the main car park and took a right along the main path to Higger Tor.  I learned, from the walk book, or more accurately from my exploring buddy reading out to me from said book, that Higger Tor is so-called because it goes back to Viking origins.  Something like that, I can’t remember all that well. The walk would have been even more educational if I’d concentrated a bit more.  The book was a good guide to be fair.  Although it has no map as such, just a sketch of approximate route – it included little nuggets of local and historical knowledge and ideas of add ons and places to stop.  The written instructions were clear enough that we could work them out mostly without too much confusion. Then again, I didn’t have custody of the book, maybe the route finding was uncomplicated because of my recce buddy’s powers of deduction which exceed mine.  Oh, and I tried to find out more about why bits of the landscape are named as they are, and came across this blog post discussing archaeological features of the are, which seems credible to me.

The cattle were completely uninterested in  us, which was fortunate, as we had to squeeze past them on the track.  I found a Halloween spider, which seemed apt, but which I removed, as it’s still litter isn’t it. That was my only litter pick of the morning, not that impressive, but every little helps eh?

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No sooner had we got to the top of the path, we were directed off back again, down the track that leads back to the road. Though there was an option ‘if you wish to explore Higger tor, carry on, but come back to this point to continue the walk’ sort of blah de blah.  I was a bit perplexed the walk didn’t include going along Higger, but it made sense by the end.  As we descended, we had a really bizarre wildlife encounter with this top bird.

I’ve seen them before – red grouse, but normally they are squawking and bolting for cover, crashing through the heather undergrowth.  On this occasion though the bird was blocking our path.  We descended slowly,  not wanting to disturb or scare it, assuming it would move aside.  It didn’t.  It basically started swearing at us noisily, and then actually came towards us.  It seemed particularly taken by my recce buddy, chasing after her and chuntering away.  Another couple of walkers further up the hill looked on with amusement. It seemed strange behaviour, but it was grand to get up close and personal to what is on closer inspection actually quite a remarkable looking bird. Rich brown and red feathers and a half-moon bright red ‘eye lid’, so scarlet it looked almost fake.   I’m sorry we ruined it’s day – or maybe we didn’t, as it saw us off its land all right, so maybe it considered that was a win. I googled it subsequently and learned this much from the moorland species section of the peak district website:

RED GROUSERed-grouse

Scientific Name: Lagopus lagopus
Distribution: Widespread in the uplands
Conservation Status: UK BAP species, Amber Listed species
Where to see: Any heather moorland in the Peak District
When to see: All year round

Resident in the Peak District all year round, the red grouse is a familiar sight (and sound) of the heather moors and blanket bogs.  They feed on heather, seeds, berries and insects and nest amongst the heather.  The UK population is in decline, hence this species was added to the UK BAP priority list in 2007.

So now we know.  Splendid.

So far, so familiar.  I was even wondering if this walk was going to be worth the effort of  navigation, not that it wasn’t lovely, but it was all known roads.  We crossed back over Ringinglow road, over a style, and then after a bit started a descent. This was unknown territory, and you know what dear reader, it quite rapidly took us to completely new and unexpected areas.  I had no idea there was a sort of ‘hidden’ tree rich valley down there. By which I mean, admittedly not that hidden if you bother to explore, but previously unknown to me which amounts to the same thing.  We ventured down towards a ruined and collapsing building – wondering what its history might be..

Then, we took a clear path towards a hidden dwelling.

I didn’t take any photos of the residence because I thought it might be a bit stalkery and inappropriate – not that that always stops me, but on this occasion it did.  It was absolutely extraordinary.  Huge and beautifully maintained but the real appeal was the breathtaking views back across to Higger Tor and in fact in all directions really.  I don’t know what the reality of living there would be like, I would have thought you’d get cut off pretty regularly in the snow, but if you like a view, hard to beat surely.

You skirt round the side of this amazing converted farmhouse presumably, I think Mitchell Field Farm and through what feels like their back garden, over a wall, and head off through fields and up hill again.  Can’t really remember the details, but it was all pretty darned nice.

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We got great views of various rock formations as we walked along.  My companion was not only tour guide and navigator, but had also done some sort of archaeology course that included a visit to a bronze age site we could see from the path.  If you go explore, you can see evidence of entrance ways apparently.  I’ve only ever gone underneath this, so not explored, and I’ve not even really explored Carl Wark either which is more obviously an old fort with clear man-made additions to the natural rock structures. Whatever the outcrop may be called, it was in fine silhouette today.

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As we walked and talked, we suddenly came upon another incredibly impressive stone house.  As we approached, a guy there called us over saying we could come on to the property to avoid a really wet and boggy patch where the path was temporarily diverted.  That was quite something, even just walking down the driveway as we exited, marvelling at the views the occupiers would have from the huge front windows that looked out across the moor.  Excitingly, as we approached the gate to exit the land, they opened as if by magic, our saviour having operated the electric gizmo automatically to ease our path.  Wow.   I’m hoping this photo is taken from sufficiently far away not to be categorised as creepy behaviour.

Actually, it’s fine.  I’ve just googled it, loads of far more searching pictures there.  It’s apparently a listed building, and Scraperlow Farmhouse and attached outbuildings, so now we know.

We walked on, heading towards Hathersage now.

I was really excited, because we came out onto the main Hathersage Road (from Sheffield) down a little path that I’ve often noticed and idly wondered where it led to.  It’s grand to join up places in this way.  That’s why I need to get off my backside and start going off-piste a bit more.  Especially in these last precious days of Autumn, before winter sets in and no-one with their wits about them ventures out again until Spring.  Obviously people training for spring marathons or similar are included in the witless category for this purpose, they will be out however inclement the weather.  And Dark Peak Runners, clearly.  Nothing stops them.

You go almost into Hathersage, except that you don’t.  The guide-book thoughtfully suggests you can if you wish, and so avail yourself of coffee shops or whatever, but we took the right hand road, past the little school and the Scotsman Pub and then up a little path that leads to the church.  We took a detour here, to go and look at the Church, and more specifically, the grave of Little John.  I was surprised on two counts, firstly, because I had no idea that there was a connection between him and Hathersage, and secondly, because I’d always thought/ presumed him to be a fictitious character.  As I said earlier, this walk was most educational.  To be fair, I’m still not completely sold on the idea that he did really exist, but an interesting bit of local history all the same.

A pretty church, that rewarded the detour and extra hoik up the hill, also roasty toasty warm and with nice stained glass windows.

We walked on.  Exiting the village and coming across… hang on, what is this place?  It looked for all the world like a vineyard!  The most immaculately maintained lines of plants each lovingly trained along wires. There was a flourishing rose in bloom at the end of each line and a poppy too.  It’s hard to imagine this would be a financially viable proposition given it’s location, but a vineyard it most definitely was.

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According to Derbyshire Life, this is Carr Head Farm Vineyard and wine isn’t really commercially sold as yet, though it does exist for those in the know who pre-order.  It doesn’t seem the most promising of locations in which to grow wine, but I’d be up for trying it.  There are  occasional tours too, but not sure how you get to go on one of those.

The Derbyshire Life article also puzzlingly (to me) refers to the Vineyard Challenge running race, which sounds suspiciously like the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle to me, but then again, maybe they organise another run.  Hang on, let me google that for you…

Nope, can’t find another race, must be the same one.

They had a nice line in sheep sculpting too, a sort of steam punk one graced their gardens, made of possibly bicycle parts, I wonder if they made it themselves.  Very fine though, however created or sourced.

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Emerging from the farm was the only place we got a bit discombobulated by the instructions.  Not sure which farm we were supposed to keep behind us, but we worked it out in the end having espied an old footpath sign and triangulating with my actual map, which showed the farm and the car park we’d started from just over the hill.  Hookcar Sitch for future reference.

All too soon, we ended back on the road just down from where we started.

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It had indeed been a brill walk!  I was a bit puffier going up the hills than I’d have liked, but I felt like we’d been beneficiaries of a gift of a day, and plenty of unexpected sights and sounds along the way.  The excessively interactive Red Grouse was for me a particular highlight and hilarious – but then again I’m easily entertained, and I can’t guarantee to those of you that come after us that it will still be there. However, I really think it might be, it was us who were required to shift from its territory not vice versa after all!  Add in historic sites and links to myth and legend AND a vineyard, I’d say this walk was a win.  Speaking of which, the views even stretched to Win Hill at times too, that’s how good the visibility was.

It was less than six miles, but we sauntered round, putting the world to rights.  We didn’t do that all that effectively to be fair, as it was all still bad news as far as I could tell when I got home.  Apart from this story.  This is good news.  Brill news in fact, which is appropriate, given it was a Brill walk which we embarked on from the outset.  Not that our walk was silly at all, au contraire, it was brill.

silly walks

So all done.  We concluded our adventure by heading to The Scotsman pub for a late lunch.  Apart from the rather eccentric layout of parking spaces this was a most excellent hostelry and we had grand lunches. I had the cheese and potato pie as they’d run out of veggie sausages for the yorkshire pud and sausage option, but it all looked pretty good, very friendly.

So all in all, today was a bit like being on holiday. Hurrah.

Reyt nice out.  Go find out for yourself!

🙂

One day I’ll get back out running again, but in the interim, let’s just think of these walks as in fact recces for future runs – which to be fair they may well be.  And all is fine and dandy in the running world.  I thank you.

 

 

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Giving Dronfield the run around. Recce of Round Dronfield Walk

Digested read: can now tick the Round Dronfield Walk route off my to-do list.  Hillier than expected, more strenuous than expected, good in parts, with a lot of stiles, some of which were less than stylishly negotiated. 14.5 miles with a surprising 1873 ft of elevation.

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Unabridged version:

Blimey, that was complicated.

I do feel like my life is mainly taken up with running round in pointless circles as it is, so you might think doing a circular walk/run route would be a breeze as I’ve had so much practice. Turns out, it isn’t entirely, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the effort.

Ok, so for the wilfully ignorant out there, there is a Dronfield Round Walk, strictly speaking, it’s re-launch of the Dronfield Rotary 2000 Walk – and now known as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk, but I’m going to call it the Round Dronfield Walk and thereby sow confusion henceforth and potentially in perpetuity.  What we can all agree on though, is that this is a circular countryside walk round (spoiler alert) Dronfield.  A walk promoted and cared for by The Dronfield Hall Barn group. It passes through the hamlet of Summerley and the villages of Coal Aston, Mickley and Holmesfield.  It’s about 14½ miles, and includes 11+ stiles.  Apparently.  Anyways, Smiley Selfie Queen has been on about doing this route for a while, and why not?  Could be interesting.  A chance to find new routes and flex newly found navigational skills.  The problem is, it’s harder than you might think to find the walk route.

You can buy a useful (well, let’s find out) book all about the route for £3, the proceeds for this go to supporting the maintenance and upkeep of the path. You can buy the book at the Dronfield Hall Barn apparently, I don’t know, I just parasitised the one Smiley Selfie Queen brought along.  Mind you, our fates were intertwined, she may have sourced the book, but it was I who would step up to take the navigational lead (I know, desperate times) so it was in here interests to ensure I was properly equipped to do so!

Fair play, the presentation is lovely, and there are photos and descriptors, but… and I consider this a major omission, no actual maps, and no indication of how long each section is.  Also, something of a sense of a treasure map that is fixed at a singular point in time.  Helpful the day it was written, but I can a walker/runner really rely on a direction that suggests you look out for a stile in a holly bush…   It means you are potentially a hostage to fortune if landmarks shift and change as inevitably they do. Stiles may come and go, boundaries shift.  The airstrip will probably stay put, but who knows?  I wasn’t feeling overly confident in the book as sole source of finding our way.

I did find an OS map link for the Dronfield 2000 Rotary walk, and it looks OK, but couldn’t work out how to print it off and also it describes the walk as 11 miles, so that might be a jolly nice walk, to do, but possibly isn’t The Walk we were reckoning on.

os route

In the end, we went for belt and braces.  Smiley Selfie Queen would bring the book, I ordered a bespoke OS  map with Dronfield at its core (yes, you can, I had no idea either ’til a couple of weeks ago, genius gizmo, if an expensive one).  I used a Strava route acquired through Smiley Selfie Queen’s contacts or stalking behaviour, depending on your point of view.  Once we’d identified this mark who’d done the route pretty accurately, I basically tried to transcribe that path onto my OS map.  It might not be massively close to the intended route, who knows, but it did mean even if we deviated from the ‘correct’ path we’d never actually be lost.  It was really hard, and involved prescription glasses, a magnifying class and lots of swearing.

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Also, I realised belatedly that whilst it was ‘logical’ to put Dronfield at the centre of my customised map, this was also the worst possible design for a user-friendly map as it meant I was constantly having to fold and refold and unfold the blooming map.  It was helpful en route certainly, but a pain to use.  Why people voluntarily do orienteering challenges I can’t imagine.  Maps are such a blooming faff!  Much better to be hopelessly slow at running events and so you can just follow the lead of those in front.  I accept this strategy is flawed, as it depends on keeping the other runners in sight, which I can’t always do to be fair, due to lacking the necessary turn of speed to keep visual contact.  However,  for the most part this strategy has served me well. You basically need to follow my advice and other runners’ leads at your own risk.  If you are on the fells in the snow and the last little dot of a runner disappears over the horizon then clearly you may as well just lay down and die, because it’s game over then, if you don’t know where you are.  Just to be clear. Works OK at most parkruns though, so that’s the main thing.

Where was I?  Oh yes, planning a route recce of the Dronfield Round Walk or whatever you choose to call it.

We agreed on provisions and timings.  It is only 14.5 miles, but with faffing and getting lost etc and it being unknown terrain and elevation we could be out for hours.  Interestingly, I found a reference to a guided walk of the route online, and they describe it as ‘strenuous’ and recommended allowing 6 1/2 hours, which seems generous.  Recceing routes is always time-consuming though, so we figured we could be out for a while. We’d meet early, so as not to have to rush.

It’s humbling really.  Only last Sunday, some ultra runners took on the Sheffield Way Relay 47 + miles and also there was a Ladybower 50 (50+ miles). They didn’t only embark on this, they even accomplished these challenges without  having to lie down in a foetal position bleeding from their ears afterwards!.  I know, I would have thought such a fate inevitable.  Yet, I  myself can testify that one of them at least was to be seen cheerily tucking into a pot noodle* barely an hour after the event, when by rights she should have been at the very least lying on the floor in a star shape with a foil blanket carelessly tossed across her.  These people are clearly super-human however, whereas I am not.   Lightweight I may be (not in every sense alas) but even for this 14.5 mile sojourn I would head out prepared.  I would take a fleece and maybe even sandwiches, and a magnifying glass to go with my map, which even with a 4cm to the km scale is still too tiny to make out with my over 50 eyesight.  I’d always thought people were exaggerating when they did that thing in the supermarket of holding jars at arms length squinting, trying to make out ingredients or whatever.  Now I am that person.  It’s hard being me, it really is.

One thing we could agree on was starting point.  Car park behind Coal Aston village hall on the Eckington Road.  Postcode S18 3AX.   This is a recommended place from which to set off.  There is a map of the route there too apparently, and hopefully therefore reasonable signage to get us underway…  The walk was relaunched as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk in March 2018 to some aplomb, so we were hopeful.  Hope over experience hasn’t always served me well, but this time maybe.  It matters not anyway, life should be full of surprises, that is how micro-adventures are made!

So the day dawned, the forecast was fair, but it has been nippy of late and I was taking no chances, so I basically covered up as if for an arctic storm.  Lots of layers.  I drove out to our rendezvous squinting into the sun. Curses, why didn’t I think to bring my sun glasses, I should have anticipated snow blindness if not bright autumn rays.  Oh well, next time.  We planned to meet 8.15 for 8.30 departure.  We did achieve this, but the traffic getting to Coal Aston at that time in the morning was horrendous.  I’d imagined it would be a sleepy little place, but not so, it was heaving, congested even, though easy enough to find the village hall and loads of parking round the back.

So the first thing we did, was get back in a car, and nip back up/down the road to the rather grand route map of where we were heading. It’s important to document these things for posterity.  What a vacuum in the world of JPEGs would there be had we not paused to take this shot?

I know!  Might be that the known universe would have imploded, but fortunately we’ll never know, as we the recceing dream team took the shot so you won’t have to!  Also, it reminded us what the signs were we needed to look out for en route, so that’s good to know:

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Only, they didn’t all look quite like that to be honest, but near enough.

So once my recce partner had finished laughing at my kit, we headed off, trying to use the book. I’m still not wholly convinced by the book. It’s beautifully done, and lovingly put together but the instructions assume some local knowledge.  So the first direction to ‘walk downhill to the allotment site’ makes sense because of the downhill bit, but no sense in that you don’t know where the allotments are until you reach them, and even then you don’t because they weren’t visible from the path we followed, so it was all a bit confusing. Similarly ‘follow way marks through Owler Car Wood’ only make sense if you know where this wood is.  The upshot was I did a lot of squinting at the map to try to marry up the directions, and we did get round OK, but it wasn’t an entirely smooth navigational process.  With the map and the book though, we might have been a bit off piste at times, but we were always ‘lost’ in the right direction, which is a good start.

Anyways, we ended up on a broad open, flat path and set off at a fair old lick.  It is still extraordinary to me how quickly you can be in open countryside once you walk away from the main roads.  This path was really obvious (we were going clockwise by the way) and although sadly some footpath signs had tumbled into the undergrowth, the runes were good.  The marking of the route wasn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the number of lovingly restored stiles, hard landscaping by putting in new steps and extra benches that are clearly part of the relaunch of the route earlier in the year.  Impressive, but also fragile, it was heartening how good the route was in some places, but astonishing how in others already routes were overgrown and signs broken by either accident or design.  The Dronfield Heritage Trust request that users make donations to help with the upkeep of the route. If the mood should take you, you can do that here www.dronfieldhallbarn.org

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So off we trotted.  Incidentally, one important consideration when finding a recce buddy, is not only compatibility in walk/ run/ yomping pace and distance expectations, but also shared communication objectives.  For some this might be companionable silence, and I can like that too, but on this occasion we were to be out for a while.  We both agreed that therefore in planning this recce it had been mutually important to find someone  with whom we’d be able to pass the time with idle chit chat important putting the world to rights conversation and sharing tips on running craft.  We didn’t want a walk where the last 6 hours would be just extended awkward silences as conversation faded away to nothing until we could only hear the noise of each other breathing and only the occasional passing of tumbleweed to break the tension in the air.  I can report that we have yomped out together before, and this situation has never yet arisen.  Rather more likely, is frantic Facebook messaging later of the ‘oh, I forgot to tell you’ variety. Point of information, if you are heading out on this route, choose your companion wisely, it’s potentially a long one first time out if you are stopping and starting to find the way.

Through the fields, over a stile – there were squillions of those today. If you have an i-spy sticker book of styles you are in for a rare treat on this route.  Not gonna lie, the novelty of spotting different styles of stile did fade during the day, but not at this point.  Off to the right, through a hedge and into the woods.

There was a great deal of up and over stiles, and also a lot of in and out of the woods.  Plenty of little footbridges – some of which we were directed to ignore, which seems a little harsh…

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There were lots of arrows, so that was grand, but the lack of clarity about the distance between various landmarks was perplexing.  I felt I had to refer to the map a lot, although interestingly, the book did become more usable in the later sections, whether that’s because I’d got more comfortable with how it was set out, or because it was more accurately described I’m honestly not sure.  The important thing though, is that just half an hour in, and I was way too hot. Way too hot, and also, a bit squinty.  I needed my glasses for map reading purposes but they seemed to just concentrate the suns rays in my eyes like a laser.  Not ideal.  I tried not to moan too much.  It makes me look like a rambling librarian though don’t you think?

I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  I do know, that having to wear glasses for such purposes is a new thing for me.  I used to manage fine without them apart from for working at the computer and watching TV, and I do have a really tiny telly.   I am definitely ageing now.  No wonder I’m slowing down…  The photos are a really good example of task allocation and team work by the way.  Smiley Selfie Queen is in charge of selfie shots, and I was in charge of route finding… albeit often from the rear. In my defence, you can’t walk and map read simultaneously, so I did have to keep stopping to clarify here you were and also Smiley Selfie Queen has 10 youthfulness years on me plus the unfair advantage of actually training and running regularly, so I was always going to be scampering along behind.  It worked.  Don’t knock it.

The first section seemed to take an age, we were constantly trying to get our bearings, and trying to second guess the instructions in the map.  When it says continue through so many fields, what constitutes a field boundary.  I mean, does it have to be an actual hedge line say, or might it be some memory in the earth with a raised ridge of soil.

Although we kept moving, we also were also in these early stages prone to keep stopping to look at features of interest.  The views were pretty good, and quite fun to try to work out where we were.  Plus I kept having vague flashbacks as I had been in these parts before in a different life exploring with a friend and her equine companions.  This explains why I got very excited when I recognised the pig farm next to the wind turbine at one point, and my yomping companion was similarly captivated by the water tower which you can espy pretty clearly for large sections of the route.  Each to their own eh?  And no, I can’t now remember which sections gave which views, you’ll just have to go check it out for yourself and make sure you annotate your route guide for future reference.

Some instructions were very section specific, but quite helpful  That field really did have an awkwardly sloping start, and would indeed be treacherous if wet under foot.  Weather was perfect for us though.

One cause for excitement was the mysterious constructions within the woods, remnants of an industrial past.  We found what looked like a sunken doorway – a portal to a subterranean alternative world perhaps?  Nope, disappointingly, it was just a bridge when viewed from the other side, then again, what better cloak  for a parallel universe than to pass it off as but a little ancient woodland bridge, now devoid of its troll?  Just saying.  Be careful out there people, anomalies and passageways in the space / time continuum are everywhere.  You have been warned.  Selfie Queen was fearless cavorting above, but I didn’t see her volunteering to run through that particular vortex on this outing.  It was noted.  You can sense these things sometimes, even without consciously knowing them…

On reflection, this was quite an eventful section, so maybe that’s why it took us blooming ages to get round.  Emerging from the woods, we had further challenges to overcome. Specifically, cows.  Mean looking bovines, blocking the stile ahead…

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OK, really not mean looking ones at all.  But it is a consideration, small cows grow into big ones, and there is much contradictory advice on what to do.  Some advocate the go large, make yourself as huge and loud as possible to shoo them off, and let your dog loose.   Not sure what you do if you don’t have a dog to loosen – sacrifice your running buddy presumably, so best go out with a few, preferably some slower than yourself (that’s hard for me to achieve) and including some you are willing to return home without.  Also challenging, as most of the runners I know are lovely, and granted, in an ideal world you’d most probably want to keep them all.  Then again, you can’t keep everything or you’ll end up on the UK equivalent of ‘Hoarders’ assuming the film crews can fight their way through the junk mail and stacks of other miscellaneous detritus you’ve piled up in the hall and find a way in…   The point is, cattle do need to be treated with respect.  Other advice is to calmly placate them according to a more recent Trail Runners article.  This Plymouth herald article what to do when cows attack seems sensible too, but then again, who knows what their cattle calming credentials really are?  I do try to avoid them, cows that is, not (knowingly) Plymouth Herald journalists, and with cows and young calves would take a massive detour if necessary.  I actually think the best strategy is be calm, but then if they do charge, that’s when you ‘go large’ and get the hell outta there as best you can.

These few were fairly cute though. Young and unsure.  We had a brief stand off, oh and photo op (obvs)

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Then just slowly walked towards them along the wall line, me acting as a human shield for Selfie Queen (I might die, but at least she would be able to document my final moments) and as we got close they snorted a bit and trotted away from the stile so we could safely pass.  Great team work there, and all involved lived to tell the tale.

Onward.  Through the cow field, ending up on the Troway road, and back to Eckington Road (which really is scarily busy – the speed those cars come past!)  and then more stiles, and hedges and open fields and comedy gates, standing alone and proud, despite the absence of any notable boundary fencing that required their presence as a way through.  We espied weird tape that might have been from a crime scene, or a hang over from some sporting event. You never can quite tell.  And a hidden treasures van.  Bit of feedback for them, your treasure isn’t going to remain hidden for long if you keep advertising its presence.  I wouldn’t rely on it as a landmark if you are retracing our steps though, it might move.  Mind you, I was grateful for the seemingly  unmoving blue van parked up in Bradwell when I did the Dig Deep 30 mile ultra the other month.  Useful landmark for which way to go on the day when 18 miles in my brain was fried.

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We ventured onward, puzzling over the references to the airstrip.  You are told to walk parallel to this at one point, but as we couldn’t see it or fathom what it was doing there.  In fact, when you do reach it, its presence was proclaimed due to the flamboyant disporting of a wind sock.  Turns out, if we’d read the book, we’d know this to be Apperknowle Airfield, which is still used, and was originally used by the English Steel Corporation (later British Steel) for business flights.   Who knew?

This was quite a fun bit, the weather was gorgeous, even though I was far too hot, and trying to fight the urge to complain too much about being overdressed.  You have pretty good views, though we didn’t know to look out for the Chesterfield Crooked spire which was it seems a missed opportunity.   Personally, I also particularly enjoyed the presence of another gate without a border, and also the heavy plant kit provided for marshals in these parts.  Normally at junior parkrun I’ll make do with a high viz, but the addition of machinery like this could well be a game changer in future.

Somehow, really don’t know how, we missed the path beyond the airstrip and ended up joining the minor road at the ‘wrong’ bit, not that it mattered too much, due to my map reading deciphering skills which are now legend.  Not legend enough to stop us going wrong, but legend enough for me to find out where we were instead.  Go me.  The path we should have taken emerges next to a handily located bench which would have been great for sitting in and taking in views and sustenance.  We didn’t really stop as such, but there were quite a few handily located benches and even a few pubs along the way, even if they were mostly shut on a Wednesday morning.

Finally, onto second part of the walk. That’s two out of seven.  Oops, don’t worry, my photographing and attention to detail started to tail off, and I’ll speed up in my account too.

So onward.  Next challenge was fence clambering skills.  The true pros save time by fence vaulting apparently.  We didn’t try this.  Point of information, a true one, is that I learned that one of the relay runners for the Sheffield Way Relay actually went to recce every gate on the 10 mile section to suss how they could most quickly be negotiated and by what means.  Talk about marginal gains!  This is what marks out the elite I suppose. In my world I like to faff about assessing which end opens and give a gate a bit of a shake to see if it will take my weight before attempted to clamber over the hinge end if necessary.  Given our lack of experience in this respect, I think our gate clambering was pretty good.

So then we had horses to contend with.  They came over to say hello.  This was past Summerley Hall which is an astonishing building, built in the 1600’s apparently.  That’s according to the guide-book, I have no way of telling.  There was a footpath sign pointing into a field just beyond this to the left, but no obvious path, and it did feel like we were trespassing although there must be a path.  I wondered if the farm had sent us round away from the official route, it wasn’t difficult to find our way, but I was a bit uncomfortable about whether we should be passing that way.  Our new equine friend was pleased to see us though, though finding us polo-free, didn’t bother to follow us back down to the bottom of the field from whence he’d come.

more stiles – so many stiles:

Amazing gate at the bottom (we didn’t try to clamber over this one).  PMT stables eh?  Not sure of that as a marketing ploy, maybe that’s why the gate is now rusted over.

and then you go under an unexpected railway. Well, it was unexpected for me, I suppose I’ve spoiled the surprise for you now.

You emerge a bit later and cross the road and then, just when you think there can’t possibly be a footpath anywhere around here, you might, if you are a) lucky, b) eagle-eyed and c) in possession of a map and a certain amount of logic, you can deduce you do go through a little side gate into the yard of what looks very much like private property.  It is legit though, the signs say so, so hold your nerve!

This was a bit strange, you go through the yard, in our case, towards the light, which was pretty much blinding at this point.  There were some large silos, which back-lit by the morning sun looked to me like some weird shipwreck, ripped up in a tsunami and dumped unexpectedly inland.  I had to have a sandwich break at this point, not because I was overwhelmed with the beauteous sights, but because I was peckish, and also thirsty, because I’d been sweating buckets from my inappropriately numerous layers of clothing.

My photos might be out of sequence, but I think it was here there was a newly built section of fencing, presumably to give privacy to the houses that are adjacent to the path.  However, this meant the path for Dronfield Round Walk users such as our good selves was narrow and nettly, it is very prone to getting overgrown, and just needs more people to keep walking the path to stop it becoming impassable.  This was the first nettle injury of the morning.  Long leggings most definitely required. At least we didn’t get attacked by hornets and go into anaphylactic shock or anything. That would be a bad day out running indeed.

It seemed a long hike up hill at this point.  The sun was strong and hot and the slope endless.  If you were to do this as a run, once you had familiarised yourself with the route it would be a good training one, quite tough.  I still can’t make my mind up about the route, parts of it were really genuinely lovely, but it lacked the truly spectacular panoramas of say Stanage or Burbage, but that’s probably an unfair comparison.  What it did have though was woods, stiles, interesting fungi and the potential to get lost.

In what I know now to be Monk wood, we could hear the main road, but initially missed the path that would take us to the bridge crossing for the A61.  I realised we were going wrong and we backtracked and found a way through, but not sure what happened there, lapse in concentration (we do know how to talk) or maybe the path we needed to pick up to the left wasn’t all that clear.

Going over the bridge is entertaining, but the best bit, is there is a helter-skelter like descent at the end, the spiral bridge no less, my photos of it aren’t great, but there was a nice one in the guide-book.  Would be fun to run down that full pelt, though we decided to save that excitement for another day!

It is a hard right into the woods at the bottom, and more woodness and stile ness, including the instruction ‘turn half right towards the holly bushes to find a hidden stile’, so many holly bushes – some laden with red berries already, and so many stiles.  You know, stiles can really lose their novelty value after a bit. The route is described somewhere as having 11+ stiles, but it was more like a gazillion +, no idea why 11 is deemed to be the appropriate scale of stiley-ness for a walk.  Below that is presumably ‘fine’, more than that in number tips a walk over into the more challenging territory of 11+ .  This leads to much shuddering and shaking of heads.   It makes it even more impressive that a work team has been out and revamped, replaced or built from scratch all of these in recent months if their appearance is anything to go by.  They may have been obstacles, but they were well maintained ones.  Stiles also meant directional arrows, which are always a boon when out exploring!  🙂 Might have been here somewhere my yomping friend got lacerated by brambles.  There were many about.  She lived to tell the tale, but the scars will endure also.  Vicious stuff brambles, it’s lucky blackberries are nice and make up for it.

Nice views though, and the most enormously high gateway I’ve ever seen, either that or we somehow shrank en route, or maybe they have particularly enormous livestock roaming in these parts.  If that is the case, I’m quite glad we didn’t encounter them, I mean that is some gateway is it not?  Cattle that big I’d not be offering myself up as a human shield, rather offering up my yomping buddy as a human sacrifice. Harsh but true, none of us really know what we would do when it really came down to it, best hope is that we never have to find out.  Don’t let on though, I have few enough people willing to venture out on the trails with me as it is…

I want to pause for a moment to mention about the bench and gate and stile dedications along the route.  You can sponsor any one of these additions to the route for a fee, and it was quite nice reading the placards.  Not only people, but some enterprising or possibly publicity seeking pooches had also got themselves immortalised along the way.  Nice touch.  Hurrah for Bess and Peg and also to Dot and Des Dunkley with their fabulously alliterated names, what a great thing to do.

After section four, comes the imaginatively named fifth part of the walk.

The ‘board walk’ was surrounded on all sides with huge bull rushes which was spectacular and fun, not so much a ‘wet area’ as a full-blown lake in season I’d say.  When you emerge into what I now know to be Cartledge there are some seriously nice houses.  So nice you can’t quite believe they are private dwellings, but I think they must be.  One had a full on box hedge maze in its front garden.  Really lovely, though I wonder if it would actually be a little strange to live somewhere like here.

I’m reading the blurb after the walk, but wish I’d paused a bit more en route now.

I am told that from Holmesfield Church for example – which we just scampered on by – ‘there are extensive views eastwards from here and the nearest high ground is far away across the great plains of Europe, in the Ural Mountains of Russia!’  That is actually quite remarkable and indeed a point of interest.  Does that mean if I’d taken my binoculars with me and really squinted I might have seen Russian Cossack dancing going on somewhere on them there mountains?  I’m pretty sure it must do.  Next time eh.  We couldn’t have had a better day for clear skies and long views though, so can’t promise you’ll see that yourself if you do go to check it out.  Maybe it will be enough to know it’s happening on your sight lines.  Impressive eh?

ural mountains

Holmesfield Park Wood was quite sweet, with lots of signs and a picnic spot and clearly a lot of love and care has gone into making this a good interactive space.  My pictures don’t really do it justice.  It was all pretty quiet as we went through.  We saw hardly anyone all morning now I come to think of it, masses of horses, a few cows, two dog-walkers and that was about it.

Can you guess what comes next dear reader?  Yes!  That’s right!  The sixth part of the walk!  You are on fire now.

From here, the route was much simpler to follow, and it was possible to pretty much rely on the book.  Well once we made it to the golf course it was.  En route to that point though we had to cross a scary road towards Birchitt Farm where one of the signs has been knocked off – farm machinery rather than vandalism I think, but you needed your wits about you to find the turning.   Some friendly ponies, narrow tracks.  A dead magpie.  You don’t often see them dead, I wonder what had happened to it, I hope not poison, it was just odd to see it lying there on a track and not predated.

This section also eventually opened up into much more runnable sections with some great views.  Although there were some exceptions to that.  When we got to the golf course – which seemed a bit incongruous with its manicured greens alongside farm land, there was a narrow tree-lined track which Selfie Queen Smiley remarked would prevent you from ever being found if a stray golf ball came whizzing through the undergrowth and struck you with such force you dropped dead on impact.  This didn’t happen to us today, but consider yourself to have heard the health and safety briefing and been alerted to our very own risk assessment.  We could hear some golfers thwacking away.  Really don’t understand the point of golf, but each to their own eh.

We’d been out for hours now, and it started to get a bit stressful as my Smiley Selfie Queen Buddy was needing to get back, and we’d been out longer than expected.  However,  we still needed to check the route and to be honest I wasn’t really up for a late turn of speed.  We pressed on to the final seventh part of the walk.  We agreed to press on together.

we passed under the requisite two bridges to reach the main road

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this part of the route was something of a shock.  It was really busy with cars going a bit too fast for comfort.  I couldn’t work out where they were heading, as there isn’t really anywhere up the track other than a dead-end.  Oh well, a mystery for another time.

Very nearly back to the start now.  Across a busy road, and pretty much a straight line across some fields various through hedges and ducking down allies until you emerge back on Eckington road where we started.  At this point we said our farewells.  Smiley Selfie Queen sprinted off to get her car and head home, I nipped into the garage for some orange juice and took the official route back, which goes behind the little garden area with the sign we’d photographed at the start and dodges through a mini housing estate for no apparent reason beyond avoiding the busy main road I suppose.  It would be fair to say it was something of an anticlimactic finish.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, my Strava route – of course my watch gave up on me again.  Of course it did.  Not that you missed much in the last little bit, just the dodge through a housing estate for no obvious purpose I was telling you about.  Oh well.

strava route

So that was that.  Walk done.

It’s definitely interesting to have done it because it shows you how everywhere links up and there are some unexpectedly lovely bits along the way.  It would be a good run route if you were training for trail marathons as it has good distance and surprisingly a lot of hills.  You could have paused at any number of pubs or cafes along the way had you wanted to – clearly we were hard-core and self-sufficient so didn’t – though you might want to think about time of day you are out as they won’t necessarily be open.  I’d like to see this path stay clear, and the best way to achieve that is for people to go out and use it – oh, and buy the book guide too, as whatever it’s limitations, it is a way to fund the upkeep of the footpaths.  Some of the work they’ve put in to rebuild steps and put up really strong stiles is very impressive, and will cost money to maintain.  The signage and new stiles, fencing and even laboriously laid steps and little bridges in some areas are an absolute labour of love by the team that put this together.  Virtual high-fives to all of them.  I might be curious enough to go back some time and do it in the other direction, just because, and I expect next time round would be a lot quicker because obviously there would be a lot less faffing.  Probably not ever going to lure me away from the hills and the heather, however, I would cautiously recommend, but keep your wits about you navigationally.  I think honestly, it’s a route that once you’ve done and ‘ticked off’ you might not rush to go back and do again, but if it’s on your doorstep, as it is mine then yep, you should do it.  Keep those footpaths clear and who knows, it may even put you in good stead for future legs of the Sheffield Way Relay, leg 4 in particular… just saying….

In other news, we also saw a rather lovely ladybird, but unfortunately it’s a harlequin one, and they aren’t good news.  I’ve actually reported its presence to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey people, does that make me weirdly geeky, a responsible citizen or a latent entomologist?  I have no idea.  Oh well.  Other shots worthy of inclusion are below:

My conclusion then is ‘good in parts’ with a recommendation for it as a winter option as I think it would be beautiful in the frost and the paths would stay passable, but what do I know.

There you go then, not my most inspired blog post ever, but hopefully you’ll get the gist if you fancy stepping out in Dronfield, and why wouldn’t you.  You can nip in to the myriad of nurseries/ garden centres on the way home should the mood take you if your legs hold up that long.

Oh, and can we have a minute’s applause to the good people who decided to revamp and renew the route, your labours are much appreciated.  I thank you!  Thank you too lovely Dronfield for opening your paths for us to discover your delights.

Happy recceing and running until next time.

🙂

 

*Oh, and by the way, as I like to be helpful, if you are an ultra runner with an interest in pot noodles, or even if you are not an ultra runner but are still interested in pot noodles, add a visit to the instant noodle museum to your bucket list, you’re welcome.

cup noodle museum

That will give the Sulabh International Toilet museum a run for its money.  In fact, they may be yin to each others yan.  Go check it out people, you know you want to!

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Where the wind blows… looping the loops in the cause of the Dig Deep recce, stoataly gorgeous!

Digested read: familiar route this time out, back to 12.12 territory, gusty out, lost my glasses to the wind, but found a striped caterpillar and met a family of stoats.  Also, whilst contemplating that 30 miles seems an awfully long way, met a trio of people running 190 miles (not all in one day though).  Perspective people, but bow down and worship them  all the same, or at least lend them a towel and shove then under the hand drier in the toilets to help them dry off a bit before sending them on their way.  Windy out though, hold onto your hat.

It’s good to know that even in the second half century of life, in which I am now firmly situated, there are still surprising new experiences to encounter out and about. Specifically, yesterday, that is on Saturday, the wind was wooshing and gusting so strongly at the top of Higger Tor, that it literally scooped my spectacles off my face and hurled them onto a rock!  No really, it did!  I had no idea the wind could do that.  This is why recces are important, I have learned that I don’t only need to hold onto my hat whilst hiking up the hills on the Dig Deep route, I may have to invest in a spectacle chain.  And I thought I’d nailed the kit list by investing in a compass.  Still, there you go, it’s good to be reminded there is always something new to discover or learn, if we are but open to doing so.

strava

This particular excursion was fairly routine in terms of the route it covered, but remarkable in how it was executed.  I say this dear reader, because for the first time EVER, I was the person most in the know about the road not taken before by my recce companion for the morning.  The story is this. Bouncing back from the devastating news that my ultra buddies are still willing to be my recce buddies but are not now planning on doing the Dig Deep/ Peak Trail 30 I have widened my net in terms of recruiting others to take part in the Dig Deep running weekend.  The upshot was, another in my running circle has now signed up for the 12.12, but never done the route, despite often walking from Fiddlers Elbow/ Burbage bridge car park.  No worries, I dear reader would be able to show her the way.  Get me, leading the way, this is an absolute first.  Well, I reccied it enough last year, and although it isn’t especially a priority for me to recce again for the ultra, it’s a lovely route and it would be good to be reminded of the terrain where it overlaps with the 30 mile path.

The consequence was, another Saturday morning rendezvous – again no Sheffield Hallam parkrun, though I have missed my parkrun fix.  I figured I’d get it on Sunday at Graves junior parkrun instead.  However, this morning the gales were soooooooooooooo very savage that the run director had to make the very sensible call to cancel at the last minute.  I was off setting the course up at the time when another volunteer came to break the news.  A big tree branch had fallen off on the path just where we all gather round for the run director’s briefing, where children run past three times (it’s a two lap course and then back through the funnel) and where many spectators sit or stand cheering on the scampering, sprinting and ambling parkrun participants.  If that tree had fallen a few minutes later when parkrunners were gathered it would have been catastrophic.  We saturated volunteers assembled round the fallen branch, remarking at how very dangerous it would have been to carry on with the event in such circumstances as we piled our directional arrows back in the wheelie bin and squeezed out our sodden hi-viz before squishing it back in the event standard issue chequered laundry bag … ‘The problem is‘, we all agreed, ‘there is a whole line of trees along this path if this tree is structurally unsound, there is little doubt that all the others will be too.  Any one of these trees might shed its branches at any moment Doesn’t bear thinking about what might have happened if that landed on a group of children!’  We gazed upwards, realising simultaneously, that maybe standing right in the line of branch drop was possibly not the best choice of location for post event pack up chit chat whilst the gale blew around us.  We shifted pretty sharpish, not wanting to think about what might happen if branches should land on us either, a lot of squishing basically.  Here is the tree branch by way of illustration:
graves junior branch

It was still good to see my volunteering comrades though, and I also took the opportunity to walk through the animal park to say hello to the animals before leaving.   They didn’t return the favour, peering out from the sanctuary of their shelters as I stood in torrential rain, holding onto my hat.  The pigs were still lying down.  Only the deer greeted me, but that was because their breakfast was late, they were shouting for room service, and pacing as they caught sight of one of the animal keepers making his way towards them, belatedly I presume, with a bucket.

I’d lingered to help pack away stuff, and then 9.00 a.m. having come and gone, seeing no point in hanging around unnecessarily risking trench foot, or indeed drowning or being blown away entirely I clambered back into the car, being sure to saturate the entire interior with the run off from my coat and hat, and drove off, leaving the solitary bedraggled figure of the RD standing in the deserted car park ready to turn back any late arrivals if necessary, like a captain going down with their ship.  That’s commitment for you.

Anyway, why are you asking me about junior parkrun?  That’s not the point of this post at all, this post is all about looping the loops for the 12.12.  Starting at Lady Cannings, or more specifically, the lay-by opposite the Norfolk Arms, which was our rendezvous point.  I was early, of course, hate being late.  Which gave me the opportunity to eye up the cattle penned near the lay-by.  I do declare these are the infamous Limb Valley cattle, but they were looking chilled and innocuous munching on their silage yesterday morning.

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This was to be a walk recce – I still cling to the belief I will eventually do some run recces at some point, but this was not the day.  I was in possession of new shoes for one thing.  I feel a bit guilty because I got them on the internet, but the thing is, whilst I do try to be loyal to local running shops, I really wanted last year’s model as I’ve loved my inov-8 parkclaw, even though they’ve not worn all that well, giving at one of the seams – and do not want to risk ‘new improved’ versions.  It drives me mad with running shoes, you find a pair you really like and then the manufacturers tweak them and the new versions don’t fit anymore.  So anyway, wiggle it was, and they came and it made me realise wow, I should have replaced my old shoes a while back. These have much better tread and much better cushioning. However, they do also feel strange, and I admit, I picked up a few weird twinges that I am sure from having slightly different contours on my feet at the end of the excursion. Still, glad I have replaced them in time to break them in a bit.

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The idiosyncratic lacing is to take account of my bunions.  Sad but true.

My recce companion did have some very nice altra trail shoes though, tempting, looked like a nice comfy wide fit … maybe a running shop visit is in order at some future point too…

The shoes also matched my hat, which I won in a competition over a decade ago by writing my name and address on a postcard.  Actually, it must have been more like two decades ago now I come to think of it, as it was pre internet days, can you even remember such a time?  Doesn’t time fly…  I thought to hold onto my hat on Higger Tor, it was these very glasses that were flung off by the wind:

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Waiting for my stomping companion I wandered up to look at the new fence down the Limb.  Wow, that went up quick after the crowd sourcing campaign.  I did contribute so was interested to see what it looks like.  It’s way more substantial than I expected,  really wide and it looks like they are putting down a compacted gravel track, which I hadn’t expected.  I was a bit taken aback, as it’s lost its off-roadiness, but to be fair, it was a quagmire in winter, and if a job’s worth doing…  I am definitely relieved it is from henceforth a cattle free zone, and it’s a generous width, no more playing chicken as you venture down that footpath in future.  Good job.

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So we met up, nipped into the Norfolk arms for a precautionary pee.  We used their loos, we didn’t just pee on the carpet or anything, then off we went.  On the subject of peeing, it had been pissing down with rain earlier on, a welcome relief for the ground after weeks of sun-scorched drought.  Off we strode.  Up through Lady Cannings, dodging bikes, actually, that’s not fair, the bikes dodged us.  I’ve always found the mountain bikers there pretty courteous, though their antics terrify me.  I saw a reality helicopter heroes thing that showed a biker  with a dislocated shoulder being attended to by mountain rescue ‘in woodland on the outskirts of Sheffield’ and I’m sure it was Lady Cannings.  They have put in some pretty impressive off-road obstacle run routes for cyclists to use, I always assumed it was part of the outdoor city initiative to improve facilities for these off road enthusiasts, but, now I come to think about it,  maybe it was to concentrate all the cycling accidents into an easy access area to make life easier for the emergency services.  They are up there all the time apparently, they should have their own kiosk really.

 

Despite the rain, it was still pretty sticky hot.  And the landscape still looks dry.  I found it hard going just trudging up the hill through the trees.  I really do need to up my game fitness wise, but today was just about showing my new buddy a new route.

We emerged from the woods to the expansive view of heather.  I love that moment when you step out from the trees and ‘suddenly’ the landscape opens up in front of you.  I know now that there are plenty more spectacular views in the peaks, some of which we took in on this route, but I still remember that giddy feeling when I first moved to Sheffield and exploring ‘discovered’ how close to the heather the city was.  Love it.

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The only thing that slightly burst our bubble, was that as we were walking a couple of people with a golden retriever dog were walking towards us, we exchanged companionable nods.  Then, after we’d passed each other, and there was a good 50 metres distance between us, and we were walking way, the dog came charging back towards us and then barked ferociously at our heels for a while, until its owner was able to call it back.  It was odd, because I didn’t think golden retrievers are particularly aggressive generally, and it wasn’t at all clear what might have provoked him.  Weirdly, at woodrun in Ecclesall woods a couple of weeks ago there was a similar golden retriever out with a pack with a professional dog walker.  It too ran at us barking, was put on a lead by the apologetic dog walker and led off.  Once it was a 100 metres or so away from us, the walker let it off the lead again, and it came charging back to chase us and bark again.  I wonder if it was the same dog.  I was not impressed. Dog owners, I don’t care that ‘he won’t hurt you‘ I don’t want an unknown dog – or indeed any dog –  to run at me barking when I’m just mooching about.  And yes, I know it’s not the dog’s fault, might not even be the current owners if the dog is a rescue, but if the dog is in your charge, please keep it under control.  And don’t hang bags of dog poo in trees either whilst I’m on the subject.  Rant over.  (Not suggesting this particular dog owner or dog walker did by the way, but others certainly do).  Why can’t all dogs be like Tilly. She’s perfect.  Other dogs, not so much.  I’d rather be stalked by a mountain lion, at least that takes you out of the ordinary and generates more anecdotes.  If it did take you out, I’m hoping  you wouldn’t know and it would be a very much more interesting demise than a slow decline into old age and penury.  I don’t think we have cougars in the peaks though, then again, I didn’t expect the wildlife encounters that came later in our foray out, so who knows…

tilly rocking windswept look

I was quite surprised how purple the heather was, it seems to have started to emerge after the rain, it was all closed up just a couple of days ago.  Now it is promising a sea of purple imminently – hope it doesn’t mean it vanishes  just as rapidly.  Nothing beats the August heather landscape, I’d love it to be in full bloom for Dig Deep itself.  We headed alongside the plantation, towards the track I call the roman road, because I’m sure it must be, though actually it’s Houndkirk Road if you want to be navigationally accurate, and obviously I now do, what with my newfound orienteering accessories.

 

turn right at the footpath, through the gate, up the stony path til you get to the next gate, and look out for… the white heather!  Yep, my little patch is still there, saw it last year, and I wondered if it would still be there, so happy it is.  It brings me joy whenever I see it.  I feel lucky!  So lucky… etc (feel free to sing along dear reader, it’s my adaptation from the west side story song list, don’t be shy, singing is good for the soul, though not always for your neighbours/house mates stress levels to be fair, but don’t let that stand in your way).  It’s not open yet, but is full of promise, on the cusp of blooming, can’t wait to go and inspect it again.  I clearly need to get out more.

 

Burst through the gate, onto Houndkirk moor, and as you descend the path – which had been quite washed away in parts from the overnight storm – you start to see Higger Tor, Carl Wark and even Stanedge over the horizon as Burbage Edge reveals itself to your right.  It was and is a gorgeous route, we saw no-one at this stage in the day, it really feels like you have the whole place to yourself.

 

Down to the lower path so you can admire the climbers on Burbage Edge.  There were a few more people around now.

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We got to Burbage Bridge and then headed onwards and upwards towards Higger Tor.  This is where the wind started to really pick up.  It was already ‘breezy’, but as we got higher the wind seemed to rip the oxygen out of your lungs, and it was almost comical.  We couldn’t communicate, only press on, leaning into the elemental forces that would have flung anyone less earth-bound than me off the hill altogether. I knew carrying extra ballast round my midriff would come in  handy one day!

Of course my photos don’t do it justice, but the ground had a sort of surreal quality.  The torrential rain had washed off the top service revealing layers of white and black sand, it was very strange, and rather beautiful, but you couldn’t fail to see the erosive power of the rain, great swathes of peat were piled up where they had been scoured off the hill overnight and settled lower down.

 

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We got to the top of Higger Tor, where I was all prepared for my usual quest to find the best route off.  There isn’t one, well if there is, it must be like at Hogwarts, it perpetually moves, as you never find the same path twice.  I went to the edge to peer over, to see the path we were aiming for and great gusts of wind were like a punch in the stomach.  I guess it was like being literally winded. I’d never thought about that before, that being caught in the full force of a wind does make it impossible to breathe, I wonder if that is where the phrase has come from.  I’ve been winded a few times from falling off horses, it’s horrible, this time though, it was bizarre. You could lean into the wind if the inclination took you and it carried your full weight. I did a bit, and then lost my nerve as it dawned on me that if the gust changed direction I’d basically just belly flop off the edge which was not the descent I had in mind when I set out earlier in the day.  As I write this account it occurs to me that what with the leaning over the edge of a precipice held aloft only by the wind on the Saturday and standing under trees of dubious structural integrity on the Sunday I am a strong contender for the Darwin Awards at some future point.  I don’t mind being a joint winner if appropriate – I wasn’t alone standing under the tree canopy earlier on today after all, but it would be nice to get recognition for something.

As I was playing in the wind, leaning over the edge, and hanging onto my hat, it suddenly gusted and snatched my glasses off my face and hurled them on the ground.  It was so strange.  A first in my varied life.  Who knew the wind could do that?  Well, we all know now.

We eventually found a way to scramble down.  I went down largely on my bottom, as I’m a bit of a scaredy cat descending at the best of times, and joking about the precipitous descent and gale force winds made it more challenging that usual.  The wind didn’t drop all that much until we got into the shade of Carl Wark.  Here we met some walkers coming up the other way, who proclaimed the path to be ‘boggy’ it was a bit, but nothing like as bad as I’ve seen it in the past, just a localised little bog section at one point.  It’s straightforward, and then we ended up at the little stone bridge, which looks like it should have trolls under it, but they’ve always been out when I’ve called to date.

 

Just a simple matter of retracing our steps back really, but there was still excitement to come.  First bit of excitement, a fine striped caterpillar:

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but then subsequently, as we were back on the compacted gravel track, my buddy spotted something crossing the path out of the corner of her eye.  We both paused and retraced our steps to see if we could find a clue of what we’d seen. OH!  MY! GAWD!  I glimpsed it two.  Actually I glimpsed it three.  Stoats.  Pretty sure it was a family of stoats.  She’d seen one run down the bank, I saw three on the opposite site of the road.  I’ve since checked on google so it must be true – and you do get stoats on the moor.  They predate the rare birds which is a shame, but I was just massively excited to see a family of them.  I presume it was a family, as I think they are solitary creatures otherwise.  But actually, I don’t really know.  I don’t even know for sure they were stoats not weasels, which is silly really as everyone knows that they can be told apart because weasels are weasily distinguishable whereas stoats are stoatally different.  Stoats have black tips on their tails, but we couldn’t see them.  They were like little dark brown cucumbers, darting about.  Very exciting.  What with that and nearly losing my glasses and my new shoes and everything it was a more eventful outing than anticipated.  It’s always stepping out, always a micro adventure awaiting!  This is what it looked like where they were, so this is a photo where either a stoat family or a weasel family have passed by.  Gripping isn’t it?

 

Onwards and upwards. Back across Houndkirk

 

and back to Houndkirk road, walking onwards until Lady Canning’s plantation came back into view

 

and then suddenly we were back at the Norfolk Arms.  So we went in for coffee – well rude not to. And were just in time to dodge the rain.

In one of life’s pleasing but unexpected coincidences, as we were leaving I bumped into another running buddy, looking somewhat bedraggled to be fair, after being caught in a soaking of torrential rain. She and her comrades are at the half way point of a mega run over several days, they are covering the Peak District Boundary Walk, which sounds gorgeous, but they’ve had the hottest and most humid weather imaginable, followed by storms of near biblical proportions, so I’m not sure they picked the best climate window in which to undertake it.  It’s 190 miles, so not for the faint hearted.  And judging from the hollow laughs that rang out when I asked them how they’d found their guide-book it was ‘good in parts’.  Still, respect.  What a great idea for a project.  Runners I salute you.

peak district boundary walk book

So there you go, another fine morning’s yomping through the Peak district.  For those of you who are interested in such details, Strava tells me we covered around 8.6 miles and 1208 ft.  I am trying not to think how much harder it will be to cover 30 miles and 1388 metres.  Instead I will think of the feed stations.  They are supposed to be really good.  Spinach and feta cheese filo pastry anyone?

Whatever it takes to motivate you dear reader, whatever it takes.

So there you go, work in progress, but still one foot in front of the other, and that dear reader, is how the very longest of journeys starts.  Fact.

🙂

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

Categories: off road | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Setting forth in hope… Dig Deep recce Hope to Hathersage

Digested read: still recceing for the Peak Trails 30.  Hope to Hathersage, blimey that was heavy going on the hottest day of the year to date.  Some getting lost, much getting dehydrated, but the restorative powers of a recce buddy with Les Brutelles credentials and a chip butty ensured all ended happily.  Still project in progress though, no idea whether or not it will be game on just yet.  Map still works. Hurrah!

Well, setting forth from hope, strictly speaking, but I didn’t think that was such a good title, so go on, sue me.  Good luck with that.  You might think from the photographic record, that the objective for the day was to get a panoramic perspective of the Hope cement works, viewing from on high from all conceivable angles, with the cement works being celebrated as the glorious epicentre of the known universe, but actually, that was but a happy bonus from this day’s travels.  Though quite apt as me and my recceing buddy cemented our technique and our mutual support tagging along the way.  See what I did there?  Not contrived at all.  High five to me! (Also no mean feat, it’s really hard to give yourself a convincing hi-five, it’s basically rather affected clapping, not recommended at all, this is why most organised running events have cheery race marshals to oblige.)

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Now I have discovered my new super-power of navigation, I’m trying to work out how best to harness it for good.   I guess all superheroes have a few teething problems whilst they are trying to work out the extent of their abilities and how to utilise them, and I’m no different.  Still, the plan was to do another recce of a section of the Dig Deep 30 Ultra/ Peak Trails 30 Challenge this time from Hope to Hathersage.  Here’s the map so you can see where I mean…

PeakTrails30Map

only of course you can’t because the map is crap.  Fortunately, as you my regular reader already know, I am now in possession of a new, bigger, better map – this, coupled with my prescription glasses, means I have a sporting chance of finding my way.  Even so, I’m new to this map-reading, authoritative pathfinder/ lead orienteer role, so I took the precaution of having a buddy come along too.  More specifically, a buddy whose idea it was to do the recce in the first place, as she  had already recced this part of the route before, but got a bit lost so suggested a second attempt and the meet up as she had an uncharacteristic day off.  Basically, it wasn’t my idea at all, I was parasitising someone else’s initiative as passively as ever.   Well, I can only take leadership and my new-found resolve to be more proactive so far.   I was mightily relieved and grateful she was up for this – more so when we were actually doing it.

We had all day, so agreed on a leisurely start at 10.00 ish, and to meet at Hathersage public car park, then we’d drive in one car to Hope to start our walk from there so we could do a straight leg of the route rather than an out and back.   I got to Hathersage a bit early.  It was already blisteringly hot.  Maybe the leisurely start idea was not one of our best.  We were going to be out in the midday sun for sure and I loathe this heat.  On the other hand I suppose the likelihood is that I’ll be doing this section around noon, so perhaps it’s as well to practise at the same time.

My micro adventure started early on.  I found a parking place no problem but then found the ticket payment machine wasn’t working.  It was a great exercise in people watching.  If I could only find a job opportunity based on this I’d be giddy as a piglet with joy.  A free range, not-bred-to-be-eaten piglet obviously.  Maybe a wart hoglet them, they know how to have good time.  Great runners too – they have purpose and attitude.  Also, did you know if you scratch a wart hog under it’s belly it makes its hair stand on end?  Also useful for pub quizzes in the future.  Unfortunately, I’ve not yet sourced one – a job based on people watching that is, not a juvenile wart hog as a running buddy that is –  they have CCTV for that these days. Anyway,  we all took it in turns to approach the machine, try to use it, look puzzled and then inwardly debate what to do.  It was like watching squirrels try to negotiate a baffle on a bird feeder.  We were individually non-plussed.  This must be possible?  But no.

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Eventually we decided to talk to one another about it, and the consensus was that if we all left the same note on our dashboards with a time we’d be OK.  I don’t know if we were all necessarily particularly law-abiding, I think we were rather more fearful of being landed with a fine, a less noble but more authentic sentiment.  The feeling was that the machine was full after the weekend (wasn’t it the Hathersage Hilly Tri only the day before) so the fear was that is someone came along and emptied it, it would start working later on in the day, and all those of us without tickets would be landed with mahoosive fines.  A life lived in fear is a life half-lived as we all know, so once there was consensus we all collectively breathed  a sigh of relief.  Pens and paper scraps were shared amongst us – one person even went the extra mile and left a note on the machine as well, just wow!  Then we all went our separate ways with a bit more of a spring in our step.  Especially in my case because that saved me over five quid in parking.  Yay!  As I waited, eventually a man in a white van appeared and prodded the machine, some new potential car parkees had appeared by this point and I watched from afar as some pointed at the machine and it was explained again about it not working, and then the white van man said something and everyone dispersed smiling.  Apparently white van man had proclaimed ‘it’ll be fine‘ and everyone believed him.  If that man had a hi viz and a clipboard too he could have set up his own cult.

 

I tried to find some shade whilst waiting for my running buddy.   She was delayed and sent me a message via Facebook, but as I am the last person in the known world not have a smart phone I didn’t get it. It didn’t matter, she arrived explaining she’d had to go back for something or other, but figured it wouldn’t matter too much as we were up for a leisurely morning out.  Morning!  Blimey, how fast was she reckoning on tackling this route?  At least one of us was going to be in for a shock.

We agreed as we drove over to Hope that I’d route find and she’d only intervene if I was going to take us a bit too far off piste for comfort.  We had a plan people!  It dawned on me as we motored over that this felt like a long way, and yet was barely a third of the distance we’d be required to tackle on the day.  Gulp.  No point in dwelling on that for now.  One foot in front of another and see how we go.  Parked up, and we alighted from the car, and got our bearings.  It immediately became apparent that we have rather different approaches to this sun.  I am loathing it.  I’m pale skinned and blue-eyed and, erm, in possession of a silken layer (euphemism for extra packing of sub-cutaneous fat dear reader, what did you think I meant).  I don’t like the temperature, but I also recoil from the actual bright sunlight too, I must have vampire heritage.  Not in the blood sucking or avoiding garlic traits mercifully (a vegetarian that doesn’t eat garlic would have a dull gastronomic time indeed) but I’ve definitely got the genes for cringing and recoiling in the light.  I’m not good with crosses and organised religion either to be fair, but that’s a post for another platform another time.

vampire light

The only way I can cope with it is by covering up.  Unflattering hat?  Check.  Sunglasses?  Check.  Full length leggings?  Check.  I was basically wearing a ghillie suit with a duffle coat over the top for good measure.  She on the other hand was all minimalist and light and loving it.  We must have looked an ill-matched pair!  Mind you, to be fair I was so well camouflaged you possibly couldn’t make me out, I am in the photo too you know!

 

The first challenge was navigating my way out of a paper bag getting my bearings in Hope, but after a brief episode of constantly rotating my map and staring around me vacantly, I was on it.  Off we trotted.   Well, not really trotting as such to be fair, we needed to conserve our energy, away we went.

Pleasingly, my first observation is that the start at least is/was quite straightforward.   Also, without wishing to sound too like I’m giving into negative thinking, as the route passes through the village there is the option of taking either a snack detour, a loo break, or even abandoning the endeavour altogether and getting a bus home.  As this will be a step into the unknown for me, if I do embark on it, it’s reassuring to know that at the half way point I can buy an ice cream rather than lie down on an exposed mountain face to die if it’s all been a bit too much.  Carry cash as well as a compass for this one people.  Incidentally, I have now bought a compass as it is part of the kit requirement.  The irony of having to carry a bit of kit I don’t really know how to use does not escape me, but show willing eh. I mean obvs I’d be able to work out where north is, but then what.  I know which way is the sky and which way is the earth too but that doesn’t necessarily help me stay upright, I’ve fallen over a fair few times running despite that insight.  Maybe it’s my centre of gravity rather than orientation that is the issue.  Incidentally, top tip, in an avalanche scenario (not that I’m expecting that in the environs of Hope in August to be honest) after all that tumbling around in the snow you can tell which way is up by spitting and seeing which way the saliva runs down your face, works with blood too, then you can dig your way out.  Obviously if your air pocket isn’t big enough for you to spit in you will die of oxygen deprivation anyway, and if the snow has set around you like concrete you wont be able to dig either, so which way up you are is the least of your worries. Might help you out at that pub quiz sometime though.  You’re welcome.  I have a feeling knowing which way is north will be of similar practical use when lost, but you never know.  I am enjoying having it all the same.  Makes me feel hardcore.

So, waving goodbye to the coffee shop we frequented last time we were in these parts, we hooked right and back on the Peak Ultra  30 route, or whatever it’s called now – Peak Trails 30 Challenge I think…  I forget.  As long as I haven’t accidentally entered the 60 miler it’ll be fine.

 

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This first section of our recce was roady and unremarkable, and very straightforward to navigate to be fair.  I got disproportionately excited when I realised we were going right past the entrance to the cement works.  I was even giddier later when we transversed it from within…

You pootle along, past an outdoor pursuits centre and campsite where a cat was snoozing contentedly on a bird table.  There is no way of knowing how many birds it had scoffed, but it was quite squashed into the space so I’m guessing quite a few.

 

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Shortly after Pindale Farm you get to a turn in the road where there was a fairly obvious left turn through a gate and along a trail that went through the cement works.  It was a shaded track, but the humidity as well as heat was building, we’d hardly gone any distance at all and I was flagging already, this does not bode well…

The route took in a DANGER sign, which I enjoyed.  A frissance of risk is always an asset on a micro adventure.  There were a couple of footpaths dissecting the path now and again, but essentially you just follow the trail ahead.

 

Eventually we emerged onto first a more pronounced track that took us past a rather quaint community orchard.  Here we had a brief detour just to see what it was all about, though we did obey the directive to ‘stay away from the hives’ not because we are risk averse, but because we couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way to the other side of the orchard.

 

After a little distance more, we emerged onto road and the edge of Bradwell.  Now, here we need to be canny on the day.  There is a check point, but to get to it, you have to go along two sides of a triangle, instead of straight ahead.  This is not a complicated manoeuvre, but it’s one to be mindful of.   The more obvious route is straight ahead.  We decided not to add on that extra bit as it would surely be unmissable on the day… only I subsequently found out that last year’s ‘winning’ runner, actually ran on by this check point and in missing it, incurred a penalty and so missed out on the top spot.  So it’s worth noting people.  Personally I doubt I’ll be running so fast at this point I’ll speed on by, especially if this could even be a feed station.  We’d hardly gone any distance at all and I was already fighting the urge to ask ‘are we nearly there yet?’

 

Through the village, and very soon you get to a pub on the right and there’s a mini green and some steps up to the left, and there you go, next bit, this navigational malarkey is a breeze!

 

Uh oh.  Things started to unravel.  I don’t know quite how, but it got really confusing from hereonin.  Maybe we were distracted by the loveliness of Bradway/ Bradford/ Bradwell, wherever it was we were.  I had a mental block about the name of the place which created some confusion.  The village itself though was a little nest of quaint buildings with elaborate flower arrangements and lots of little run throughs and alleys all over the place.  It reminded me a bit of  Portmeirion, but without the prisoner running through all over the place.  Well not when we were there, though it was pretty deserted to be honest…

 

I’m not absolutely sure how we went wrong here but we did, taking a premature right hook through the village, and ending up in what was obviously the wrong spot as a path headed out of the settlement in completely the wrong direction.  My heart sank a bit as we had just hoiked up a long hot hill to get there, and the temptation to try to get back to where we were supposed to be without retracing our steps was strong. If you are looking at this view, you are off course my friend…

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Fortunately we managed to hold out and follow reason, and duly went back to the steps to try again.  This time we went right through the village, which is what we should have done in the first place.  We met a friendly man with a blue van who explained the path ahead, basically head on up to Rebellion Knoll.  It sounded straightforward.  I don’t know if there will be another man with a differently coloured van there on the day, but I do rather hope so.

We headed up, oh my goodness, after the road bit it got really steep.  There seemed to be some ground works going on, so there wasn’t really a single obvious path, just rutted, very rutted steep narrow and overgrown tracks heading skyward, and wide tracks made by vehicles crossing traversing them. It was very confusing and didn’t correspond obviously to the map at all.  Not even when my buddy got her OS map out and even tried finding our location using the mysterious magic of her phone tracking system.  I was getting distinctly hot and bothered now, and were we not in this together, would have been sorely tempted to abandon the endeavour and put the whole thing down to sorry experience.  We went up and down, and out and back along various tracks, hitting dead ends or high bracken.  Eventually, we used logic just to head upwards and in the vague direction of the knoll we could locate on our map due to our fantastic map reading skills.  Also, because as already identified, I know which way is up, didn’t even have to spit, which was lucky, as we needed to preserve all the fluid we could.

 

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On the plus side, when we stopped to draw breath, we could see new views of the cement works and down over Bradford, I was so shattered by heat at this point, it was easy to think we had indeed walked from there.  The Portmeirion analogy seemed even more plausible from on high..

 

Finally we came out and hit an obvious path at the summit of our climb!  Hurrah, this must be it… my recce buddy cautioned me that on her previous recce it all went wrong here too.  I couldn’t see how, there was literally nowhere else to go, so we turned left and followed until… we hit a fence, there was no way the path was continuing.  It did not compute, I  thought my brain would implode, we couldn’t see where we’d gone wrong.  We went back to where we’d emerged from the undergrowth.  This was another bit where you really can’t improvise as there was supposed to be a checkpoint somewhere.  Curses!  Eventually my buddy had a moment of genius inspiration, and suddenly all the neurons – or whatever they are in her brain – fired off, and she saw where we needed to be.  Long story short, we’d over shot on our exit point, so had to go back a couple of hundred metres to where there was an obvious footpath and gate.  We just had to cross a field and ended up on a really proper, proper road,  It was dry and dusty, but where we needed to be.  We wasted an age though.  I’m hoping on the day they’ll have put up something in the way of markers as it was very confusing, on the other hand if they don’t I suppose that’s the point of the recce.  You are going to end up somewhere along that ridge, and it’s just a question of finding the main gate once at the top, who knows, on the day I might even get lucky and come up the intended path! Still, let’s not get too carried away with delusional thinking.

 

So we ended up on this long, dry, downhill path.  On the one hand we were quite pleased to have got back on track.  On the other hand this wasn’t the nicest of routes on a hot dry day.  The surface wasn’t that great, contrary to expectations.  It was downhill, which ought to have been a boon, but covered with a loose, dry gravel, which made it slippery. I’d be scared to run down that, I don’t know quite how speedier runners do it, it can’t just be fearlessness, maybe they are literally running so fast, they have moved their feet on before the stones beneath them have a chance to slide away?  Whatever, I can see some limiting factors to my participation in this event, running wise.   Aside from the obvious issues around lack of training, fitness and inherent disinclination to run, there is the little matter of I can’t run up hill because it’s too hard and the inclines are too steep, and I can’t run down hill because it’s too skiddy and scary and I don’t want to do a face plant, and there aren’t really that many unflat bits as such, and I wont be able to run them because it turns out I’m not massively enamoured with running after all.  Oops.  I’m beginning to think there might be a problem with this event.  Oh well, they say at distance it’s more a mental game than a physical one, have to say, that’s just as well in my case, because I think I’ve already capitulated in relation to embracing the physical part of the challenge.

It wasn’t all bad though.  We chatted companionably.  We realised we were on Hathersage Hurtle territory, we were very relieved we’d not gone all the way over to Abney, which is where by buddy had ended up on her earlier recce.  Also, some high points, more views of the cement works – I am beginning to think these are to the environs of Hope as the Christ the Redeemer statue is to Rio de Janeiro.  Best bit though, was the fine face in the wall.  What act of anonymous creative genius was this?  So impressed, completely unexpected.  Thank you whoever you were:

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that, and the rather cute baby pheasants, hiding on their mum’s back.  Cute eh?  Shame they’ll all be shot in due course no doubt…

 

So these sights cheered us as we trudged onward, marvelling at how little distance we had actually covered and how long it had taken us to do so.  I suppose this is the point of doing recces, we won’t waste so much time next time, this is the theory – I suppose I have to accept I’ll need to do a recce of this section again, can’t say I relish the thought, oh well.

After this though, it was straightforward.  The landscape seemed dry, and I struggled to link it with the Hathersage Hurtle views from a few weeks ago.   Even Shatton didn’t raise a giggle this time – we were both feeling the heat by now and water was running low, though we weren’t yet at the point where we were each eyeing up the other with a view to sating our hunger… that time could come though, it could….

 

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Navigationally, it was all easy enough, there was a bit where you have to dodge through a narrow set of gate posts – very narrow, bit of a squeeze if you didn’t watch what you were doing with your back pack, and ducked down along the river for the final haul to Hathersage.  Even here it was dry, but there was some shade from trees, and the water looked nice.  We passed the stepping-stones which looked incredibly tempting, but which were fully occupied by playing families so we didn’t feel we could plunge right in.  Not that we had the energy to do so.  And then after miles and miles – trottable miles if you had the energy and inclination to do so, you ‘suddenly’ emerge onto the road, cross a bridge, and on the day this is I think another marshal/ dibbing point.

 

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For now though we are done for the day!  Hurrah!  We made our way wearily up back into Hathersage, having long since left Hope behind.

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Fortunately, refreshments awaited us in the form of a chip butty – paid extra for an egg, and gallons and gallons of water, which you could replenish from the outside tap.  I had an unguarded moment of manifest eccentricity by choosing to eat my chip butty with a knife and fork, yes I know it’s mad, but my hands were grubby and they are on the small side for wrestling with a butty of the dimensions I was faced with, didn’t want to do a public battle with it in the circumstances.  I can’t help my southern foibles, I’ll own them.

And then, restored and revived that was it.  Job done, we did about 9.5 miles, not even a third of the route, and it took forever.  My verdict, well apart from the notable exception of Bradwell, where I did very nearly lose the will to live, this is a very straightforward leg, but some of the uphills were brutal.  I was astonished how little ascent we did on this stretch according to Strava as it felt unforgiving, but I wonder if that was perhaps partly because of the heat on the tracks and tarmac radiating back up at you.  It’s not as scenic as the earlier sections, but interesting enough, and I’ll be so relieved if I make it to that point that should be its own reward.  Today’s effort hasn’t give me confidence in terms of my ability to complete the challenge, but I do feel increased confidence I can find my way.   And not just because the Dig Deep Races event organisers offered reassurance to another nervous navigator entrant that they’d help her find her way by sellotaping arrows on to the backs of faster runners, so she’d be fine following them as long as she didn’t get over-confident and try to overtake.  It’s a thought.

I’m still a bit hey ho about it all though. Then again, the organisers are on record as saying this is a good one for first time ultra ‘runners’ as the cut offs are the same as for the 60 milers, so you should be able to do the 30 mile at a really slow walk and still make it.

Cut offs:
Yes, and no! The cut offs which are in place for the Peak Trails 30 are based on the Ultra Tour of the Peak District. So, in order to have any chance of being cut off you would need to walk (slowly) all the way!

That’s all well and good, but I’m not sure what my crawl pace actually is.  One to test for next time.  Oh, and I’m reminded of the vital stats – Distance: 30 miles, Ascent: 1388 metres.  Note to self, sort anti – chafing options.

I drove us back to Hope, in order that my Les Brutelle companion/ recce buddy could pick up her car.  She once again proved herself to be an asset on any occasion by pointing out to me how the air con in my car works.  I honestly had no idea I had any, wow, what a revelation. It’s been one discovery after another the last couple of weeks, mind-blowing doesn’t begin to cover it.  I’ve only had the car 3 years though, so you mustn’t judge me…

Oh, here’s where we went:

hope to hathersage strava

Distance 9.5 miles and ascent 1387 ft.  That’s pretty pitiful isn’t it really.  Ah well, work in progress, and I’m sure it’ll be speedier next time round.

Or not.

Eek.

Crap.

Etc.

 

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On Mam for Mom Mom purposes. Mend Our Mountains, Make One Million, seeing the light.

Digested read:  headed up to Mam Tor with a headtorch with hundreds of other people to get my photo taken.  A grand adventure, to help Mend Our Mountains.   Really hope that works.

Well that was weird.  Good weird, but definitely weird.  I wonder if we had a glimpse of what it will be like when the world ends.  People bumbling about in the dark, desperately seeking a leader, but finding everyone else equally clueless about what to do for the best.  Still, more of that later.

BMC MOM image

Yesterday was most educational. For a start, do you know what BMC stands for?  That’s right, The British Medical Council!  Only it doesn’t you muppet. That’s actually the GMC, and this explains why it was not so strange to find the BMC supporting this Mam Tor skyline event.  Because, people, the BMC is actually The British Mountaineering Council which you probably already knew all about, but was a complete revelation to me.  Just in case you are also in that minority that didn’t know any better, according to their website:

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) is the representative body that exists to protect the freedoms and promote the interests of climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers, including ski-mountaineers. The BMC recognises that climbing, hill walking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions. 

So I suppose the reference to risk of injury and death might potentially overlap in a venn diagram of common features between the GMC and the BMC but otherwise clearly not the same thing at all actually, so glad we have cleared all that up.

That’s all very well, but what has this all got to do with the price of eggs you are probably wondering.  I’ll refrain from lamenting the welfare of chickens for now, and try to fill you in.  So, a few weeks back, I saw some random Facebook post, seeking volunteers/ participants, to sign up for an initiative that is part of an apparently nationwide campaign ‘Mend Our Mountains.’  Despite  the absence of either a medal or T-shirt for those who take part – which is becoming my standard expectation if I’m to be persuaded to venture out these days – it did look interesting. It was free to take part, but you did have to register in advance.  The idea was to basically light up the Mam Tor skyline by packing it with lots of people wearing head torches.  This all to raise awareness of Britain’s amazing landscapes, and the challenges they face.  Raising funds too – Mend Our Mountains, Make One Million to help maintain and preserve some of the pathways that give access to such stunning locations.

Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million is a call to action to everyone who values the hills, mountains and landscapes of Britain. It aims to galvanise mass support for things we all use: the paths, bridleways and bridges which underpin our experiences in the great outdoors. Through a year-long appeal we aim to raise £1 million in total for a range of vital projects within the UK’s entire family of 15 National Parks. Navigate our website to find out more.

Volunteers needed

The event is inspired by events like the Lakeland Festival of Light (coming up on May 5) and the lighting up of the Matterhorn.

To fully illuminate the Great Ridge, we need hundreds of volunteers to turn out on the night and pack the length of the route, from Mam Tor (the ‘Shivering Mountain’) on the western end of the ridge, all the way across to Lose Hill at the eastern end. Headline sponsors Cotswold Outdoor and Snow + Rock will be helping us drum up support in-store and online.

A combination of head torches worn by the volunteers and high-powered lanterns will create a snaking line of light across the route which will then be captured on camera. The resulting publicity will give a big boost to the BMC’s Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal, as well as highlighting National Camping and Caravanning Week.

Not sure about the caravan thing, but a romp up Mam Tor on a summer’s evening sounded fun, yeah, that’ll be fine, sign up, don’t really think about it, wait and see how things unfold.

Mend our mountains logo

So finally the day dawned. The Light Night 22 May 2018.  I’d got an email giving some details of the event, but despite its length it lacked basic details. Embarrassingly, given that I live in Sheffield in close proximity to Castleton and Mam Tor I don’t really know the area at all.  I ventured up Mam Tor once, on a winter day, within weeks of relocating to Sheffield.  I was practically blown off the top by horizontal wind and rain, it was an entirely unpleasant wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience to be fair, though it was memorable.  ‘Nippy out’ doesn’t really cover it.  Parking was described as being in ‘Goosehill’ and the email gave a link that presumed you had a smart phone, which I don’t and said vague things referring to marshals as being around to direct you, and it being a 30 minute walk to the Mam Tor control point where you had to meet.  Oh well, how hard can it be to find?  I thought to myself, as I squished a headtorch, a water bottle, loads of clothes and some naked bars into my battered backpack. It’ll all be clear in the end.

I was hoping to go with other Smilies, as a fair number had planned on going.  Then, due to communication failures, my paranoia, extenuating circumstances, confusion and no doubt contributory negligence on my part, many bailed, and long story short, I ended up going on my own.  Oh my life, the scenery heading out was absolutely stunning!  I am so lucky to live in this part of the world where on my doorstep is such stupendous beauty.  As is always the way, I inwardly berated myself for not heading out further afield more often.  It was breathtaking out there.  Perfect views across the moors and mountain.  I’m not going to lie, my enthusiasm waned somewhat as I headed to Goosehill, using a postcode scavenged from the internet, and ended up in a cul-de-sac, totally lost.  I then headed off towards the peak caverns – or whatever they are called, again, absolutely stunning, and I found the Devil’s Arse car park, but remembered vaguely reading somewhere that this was not where to park.  I didn’t see a single sign anywhere, I asked loads of random people if they were heading to the Mend our mountains event and got blank uncomprehending looks back in return.  This did not bode well.  I headed up through the extraordinary landscape scouting for clues.  It was certainly picturesque, but I had no clue where I was supposed to be, and there was zero signage, and no Close Encounters style gathering in progress that I could see.  I was torn between annoyance and disappointment.  If hundreds were out to support this that would be magnificent, but it would be such a shame if like me, wannabe participants were just aimlessly driving around tantalisingly close to proceedings but might as well be diving a coral reef in the antipodes as with no sense of where to rendezvous there seemed little chance of anyone getting to take part in this noble endeavour.  I wanted the event to succeed, but was massively frustrated that it was so hard to locate it.

Eventually, in desperation I used the postcode on my event ticket.  I know, I know, you are probably thinking why didn’t I use that in the first place.  OK wise arse, well the thing is, that postcode didn’t correspond to the other directions we’d been given, and wasn’t a ‘proper’ carpark such that 800 participants might reasonably gather there.  S33 8WA is in fact the point nearest the paths that lead to the Broken Road. I  know this now, I didn’t last night.

I arrived at a pretty much deserted dead-end, from where you could see Mam Tor above but it was not at all obvious how to get to the check point from here.  There was a camper van, and two other vehicles.  In a last-ditch attempt to salvage things i asked some walkers who were donning walking boots if they were here for the Mend Our Mountains thing. They were!  Hurrrah!  They too were a bit discombobulated (I just really wanted to use that word today to be honest) as had seen neither any other potential participants, signage or marshals. However, they did know the area, and were confident that from where we were parked, we could walk up to the Mam Tor control point via the broken road.  Nope, no idea what they were saying, white noise basically. They offered to let me walk up with them, but there was another new arrival who was just getting sorted, so I opted to follow them up with her, as they were confident it would be pretty much impossible to get lost.

We duly pootled on behind them. It was quite a haul.  I didn’t put my watch on which is really annoying, as it would be interesting to see where we actually went. However, I can report that it was a long, hot, uphill trudge.  Significantly further than I’d expected to walk.  I was already fretting a bit about how on earth I’d find my way back again in the pitch dark.  Particularly as the broken road – which it turns out, is exactly that, a broken road!  Involved a fair bit of clambering as it just plummets away vertiginously.  I learned later that this was at various times the Mam Tor Road was intended to be quite a major roadway, but the shivering mountain kept producing landslides that made it completely nonviable, and attempts to keep maintaining it were officially abandoned back in the late seventies. It was amazing though to look at, so unexpected in that landscape.  Learn something every day. Sometimes lots of things!

Having hoiked our weary carcasses up the broken road, and past some cavern or other we were soon confused all over again.  We kept asking people if they knew about the event, but nobody did. Eventually, we struck lucky and some walkers also participating in the event directed us to a patch of woodland, within which is the car park from which you can access Mam Tor. We got there eventually, but even when you were right on top of it there was not a solitary sign.  Only the glimpse of hi-vis reflective clothing through the trees gave any clue that we were in the right place. This did not bode well for people finding the rendezvous point unaided, even if they set off intending to come….

Once in the car park, there was a jolly registration desk, with BMC bunting, and a big sign up saying ‘Mend Our Mountains’.  A gaggle of marshals wearing hi-viz were mid-briefing with the organisers.  The gist seemed to be that there was a super-race of senior marshals who would head off first and be placed at 300 metre intervals all along the ridge top.  These were generally mountain leader qualified or equivalent.  Other marshals would lead participants off in groups of ten, and then the idea was one head-torch donned participant would be placed at every 10 metres along the ridge.  Then, to capture photos, participants would have to walk forward for about 5 metres, and then walk backwards over the same distance?  Eh?  Long exposure photography would then be able to capture the image of a line of light, as opposed to loads of little dots I think.  The aspiration was something like this:

Lakeland festival of light

this was taken at The Lakeland Festival of light, and is pretty cool.  Well, we’ll have to wait and see won’t we.

Part of the briefing included a plea to preserve such spaces.  Brexit means there is no European funding for such projects; austerity has resulted in a loss of public funding it seems the fate of many such places could come down to private individuals, or organisations such as the BMC that try to fundraise to maintain access paths and similar.  There was also general safety points about if there is an incident on the mountain, basically, call 999/ mountain rescue as you would in any ‘real’ emergency, though obviously there was an event HQ to assist.  Particular mention was made of the importance of NOT SMOKING.  There have been some devastating fires in the peaks in recent days.  Some from BBQ kits but possibly some deliberately started too.  Heartbreaking. One fire on the Eastern Moors covered around 45 hectares and will have had a severe impact on wildlife is believed to have been started deliberately.  How crap is that.

 

The registration area was well organised, a long list of printed names of participants so we could be ticked off an issued with a wrist band as we arrived.  There were collection buckets for change, and some merchandise.  The mood was upbeat, and there was considerable optimism from the organisers that hundreds would be coming.    Personally I was a bit dubious.  So many I knew had dropped out and finding it was a challenge worthy of The Today Programme’s current penchant for setting a fiendish puzzle for today. I can never even understand the questions.  Starting the day feeling inadequate is no fun at all.

Still, things were looking up, I espied a Smiley after all.  Hurrah, there would be companionable yomping after all.  As we were amongst the early arrivals, we were herded together in a group of ten, and started the trek across the ridge.  Mam Tor to lose hill. This was most educational for me, as I’ve never known what all the various bits are called.  We had the furthest to walk, as we’d set off early, so plenty of time to get to Losehill.  It was quite a trek.  It was gorgeous as we headed off, the sun slowly falling.  It was still warm and the views were just stunning.  My camera can’t do it justice, but you’ll get the idea maybe.

 

My camera might not have done it justice, but fortunately Phil Sproson’s did – check this image out, just wow!  He is seeking donations for the cause so click on the link and donate to show your appreciation.  And I was there people!  You can just make out some people gathering in the distance.

PS light up the mountain shot

The path is pretty clear, but quite scrambly in parts.  I was increasingly doubtful about how I’d cope with the return leg in darkness.  Oh well, in for a penny…

 

It was good fun really, being out in the landscape, chit chatting with other participants.  I was reunited with the couple who I’d met parking up earlier. I  was relieved, I was banking on them to get me back to my car later.  We all chit chatted merrily.  One had been to try to watch the flyby of the Lancaster Bomber at Derwent Dam to mark the Dambusters 75th anniversary.  This entire event passed me by, I’d heard of it, then forgot, and because I’m essentially shallow, was almost pleased when it was cancelled because this removed my otherwise insurmountable fear of missing out.  I accept it makes me a terrible human being that even if I may try to pretend otherwise, I was secretly momentarily relived the wind got in the way of everyone else’s fun because if I couldn’t enjoy it why should they. How terrible am I?  A typhoon went instead, but was so much later than expected many of those who rocked up to see it missed that as well.  Instead the Lancaster fly by took place later, unexpectedly, so everyone got to miss it basically.  Oh well. Good that Johnny got his flight in the end I suppose.

battle of britain memorial flight

Our companions turned out to be something of a media sensation.  One having recently been featured in some cycling magazine.  I know!  The other had links to radio so we were mingling with the stars indeed.  Mind you, everyone out and about on the ridge is now essentially a sporting superstar, as this event was graced with none other than Julia Bradbury!  Oh my gawd, contain yourself people.  Also, someone from Made in Chelsea, which none of us had ever seen, so, nope, no idea.   So we all get to be TV superstars by association now.  Mind you, whilst I don’t like to brag, I would like to point out that my own media career began with a BBC appearance whilst an audience member for the original Sooty and Sweep show.  Just sayin.

Apparently, you can sometimes see the Aurora from Mam Tor.  Wow, didn’t know that.  We wondered whether we might see them, and whether we did or not we should just tell everyone we had, just because.   We didn’t though, and we didn’t.

northern lights from mam tor

We tramped on and up, past many a senior marshal sat back and enjoying the views, often smiling broadly and/or munching on their sandwiches whilst waiting for the evening to unfold.  It was all pretty relaxed and very, very spectacular.  Here I am, trudging… thanks Smiley Buddy for the photo.

IE trudging up hill

Eventually, we arrived at Losehill, which initially was to be our designated base camp.  My smiley buddy settled down with her coffee flask for the duration.  Almost immediately we were advised that we had to trek onward, to the next base camp. Just like an Everest expedition I imagine, where different satellite camps bring you ever closer to your final destination.  Actually, it turned into a bit of a theme for the evening.  Every time my Smiley buddy settled, unpacked her back pack and made herself comfy, we were shunted onward.

 

It was certainly picturesque, but it was also a bit confusing.  We were all shooed up to the far end of the ridge, and looking back you could see that basically there were loads of us all squished up in one place, and a noticeable sparsity of any headtorch wearing walkers below.  It seemed stupid that more walkers were being sent to join us, but there was this great gap of path with no-one on it.  We all started speculating on what the plan was?  Was there even a plan?  If there was a plan, who was in possession of it?  Nobody knew. This is where I started to wonder if this is what it will be like when the world ends.  Loads of us stumbling around in the dark, clueless, asking each other what we should do, but nobody really showing any initiative. Wearing a  hi-viz didn’t seem to confer any particular knowledge advantage either, and having a walkie-talkie didn’t necessarily help as not all were working.  Oh dear.   Dusk started to fall. The temperature dropped, plummeted even.  I was glad of all my extra layers.  It’s astonishing how the wind picks up and the sun goes in, and suddenly you realise just how exposed it is up there.  It was positively nippy all over again.

Despite the confusion, it was quite jolly surrendering to the event and shunting back and forth up the mountain.  At one point a red light appeared in the sky like a monitoring UFO, which is basically what it was, in the form of a drone.  After this, frantic chit-chat ensued, and, as some of us had predicted, we were instructed to head back down the trail, back towards Mam Tor, to spread out more and infill the gaps. As little ants on the landscape, whilst important for the overall implementation of the vision, it was actually incredibly hard to judge where we should be.  I got lucky at one point, finding myself on nice even path protected by a wall, but subsequent juggling meant I ended up on an exposed high point with a wind chill that was more than bracing as it whipped up my layers of clothing like a ferret on heat up a pair of trouser legs.  Probably, I don’t really know from personal experience to be honest, but the analogy pleases me nevertheless.

 

Astonishingly, facilitated by much running to and fro from a particularly long-legged marshal, we did end up sort of in place, with head torches on.  I started to believe that this might actually work, as we could see the lights way, way back on Mam Tor.  Headtorches give off an incredible amount of light it seems.  Because it was now dark, we had to communicate with shouts.   But of course, every time someone turned their head to hear the instructions over the rush of wind and considerable distances, it meant their torches were facing the wrong way.  Eventually, we were told to just face towards first Losehill, then Winhill (I think) where there was small beacon of white light we had to look at, and finally to stare ahead at Mam Tor itself for about 4 minutes, and then we all had to move as automatons, slowly walking forwards, I think that is where they hoped to get The Shot.  According to the original briefing, we were then expected to walk backwards over the same distance.  Mercifully, this plan was abandoned, it would have been impossible on that terrain.  I’d love to have seen the paperwork for the risk assessment of that idea!

Suddenly, it seemed we were done!  Oh!  Is that it then?  More confusion, but mainly a trail of people, like a great human caravan of migrants crossing a desert in search of water, we all started to file back off the hilltop.  Four of us in our group of ten decided to take the ‘short cut’ off the mountainside, to take us more directly back to our cars, rather than go all the way back to the Mam Tor check point and then back down the broken road.  To do this, we first had to surrender our wrist bands to our marshal so she could henceforth relinquish all responsibility for our safety.  I say we all did, but actually the other three did, but my wrist band had mysteriously disappeared, much to my horror.  Surely I’d not inadvertently dropped it and so littered the very terrain I was hoping to protect?  Aaargh.

Having so signed our lives away, we headed off through a gate, over a style and plunged down the mountain.  Ooops.  Maybe this wasn’t the best of ideas.  It was very steep, and very rough ground.  The headtorches did illuminate the path, such as it was, but they also cast shadows, it made the grass look like it was three D film seen without the necessary special glasses.  The ground seemed to move and it was all a bit out of focus.  I was really picking my way down.  Some bits required going on my arse to negotiate steep bits.  I wasn’t having fun really.  At one point I felt a bolt of pain go through my knee.  Oops.  It did pass, but that wasn’t good.  Our guides though were incredibly attentive – the two walkers i met earlier who offered to guide me back were thoughtful and discrete.  One went in front, and one behind at a tactful distance and carefully slow pace, for which I was very grateful.  It’s ages since I’ve been out with a headtorch, and not ever over such unfamiliar terrain.  It was quite lose shingle in places, and felt precarious.  Then, just to keep you on your toes, periodically there’d be a really boggy patch – which I preferred as I’d rather have wet feet than go flying over the rough stones.  Even so, I did some unscheduled fast bits as I stumbled on the slopes. There were some high points though, like the comedy style, which some of us clambered over, before reealising it had literally no purpose, being a style without a fence.  Also, you could see the head torch lights of other walkers snaking down various paths, it was quite impressive.

After a mile or so of scrambling, we came across a fallen walker.  She was trembling with shock, and I thought at first she might have broken an ankle.  She was with calm friends, who were reassuring her, and encouraging her to take her time, but she was most insistent she wanted to get up. We sort of hovered at a distance in case help was needed, but her friends got her up and helped her, and we all walked on together for a bit, until we reached a sign that was the parting of the ways. They dropped down onto a tarmac road that would take them to Castleton, we headed back up for some reason, alongside a farm in darkness, and ending up back on the broken road.  I had absolutely no idea where I was, and was very grateful that it wasn’t some ghastly orienteering challenge where we’d all have to take turns in leading the route or we’d still be out there.  Slowly dying.

Whilst walking back, I learned that Julia whatsit is bivvying on Mam Tor with the Made in Chelsea chap.  They must be mad, freezing out there, and there are some lovely B&Bs locally.  Oh well, each to their own.

We didn’t die slowly though.  Oh no.  We ‘suddenly’ emerged at the turning point ahead of where we’d parked our cars.

This is how we got there – forgot to turn on my tomtom for first part.  Doh:

strava mend our mountains

There was one car lurking with headlights on.  My Smiley Buddy confidently pronounced this to be her lift.  I was more cautions, much more likely to be a mad axe murderer in my book, why else would you be parked up on a remote hillside near midnight other than to lie in wait for returning lost walkers I ask you?  Still, she went calmly to her fate.  We all said our farewells, and I clambered back into my car, discovering my lost wrist band stuffed up my sleeve as I delayered to allow sufficient movement to operate my car controls for the journey home.

It was now about 11.30.  You know what, it was a really good event.  The organisation wasn’t great, well not unless you already knew the area, but it was probably good enough. The cause is really important though, and I’m genuinely excited at the prospect of seeing the photo, which I think we will get to do.  I understand some prints are being sold off, but presumably the photo itself is for publicity purposes.

IF I GET IT, IT WILL GO HERE!  And I did, and here it is, one of them anyway

MOM official photo

Yep, pretty good – you can buy quality prints too from the BMC shop.  They say ‘All profits from sales of the prints will go towards the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million appeal, and help to repair exponentially worsening erosion damage in some of our most treasured landscapes.’ and I’m sure they will.  Some pictures on the BMC Facebook post about the event too.

So, the goal of the event for them, was to get that winning night light shot along the ridge and so to help raise a million, and raise awareness of the issues facing our open spaces along the way too.  If you’d like to donate to the Mend Our Mountains appeal, you can do so here.  I hope they achieved that.

My goal was to have a micro adventure and explore an area of outstanding beauty that despite being on my doorstep I just haven’t really got out to see very much.  I think I met my objective for the occasion too.  It was grand.

Today is the day after.  Tomorrow if you will.  I’m sorry to say my knee is sore and my shins ouchy again too.  Maybe just ignoring this and hoping it will go away isn’t working any more.  I think the Hathersage Hurtle, lovely as it was, has taken a bit of a toll.  Oh dear.

Anyways, that was  my Mom Mom night out on Mam.  Very fine it was too.  Reet good even.

I’m very excited about seeing the photo now.  We didn’t have to wait very long for that!  There wasn’t a lot of other coverage about the event, though I did find a very grand BBC video of Light Up the Mountain later on.  The link is below.   Meantime though, check out this epic photo from Phil Sproson photography I love his photos from events all over, but this one is especially awesome!  You can see a lovely black and white version and donate to the cause by way of appreciation here.  Go on, go on – you know you want to!

PS photo make our mountains

Oh, and the pretty cool video the BBC did about Lighting up the peak is here.  Wow, we were ‘absolutely fantastic’ apparently.  Go us.  As well as being like something out of a science fiction movie and being a great thing to do on a Tuesday night!  Hurrah.  It’s nice to be absolutely fantastic I find, especially on a Tuesday.

Night y’all.

Categories: off road | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hathersage Turtle or Hathersage Hurt? Run it, walk it, love it! Hurtling through the peaks. Hathersage Hurtle 2018

Digested read: Last saturday, I hurtled round Hathersage.  I say ‘hurtled’ but what I actually mean is I walked, but for 20 miles (ish), and you know what, it was lovely!  Corker of an event with fabulous views and the option of eating your body weight in cake (vegan options available).  Pathologically friendly organisers, cheery marshals, good parking, guaranteed sunshine* and you can either run or walk depending on your preferences – though you do need to decide in advance.  What’s not to like?  Fun** guaranteed!  Miss it, miss out.  You have been warned.

*maybe not that

**type two fun also available

HH shot

Saturday 19th May 2018 will be immortalised in history due to event memorabilia.  Quite right too, mementos of special events are to be treasured.  I went home after this one with one of these: