Burbage Evening Fell Run – Racing the Clouds

My favourite running area is the Burbage Valley, close to Hathersage in the Peak District.  

It is only 10km from the city centre yet gives the feel of being rugged and remote, especially if you can avoid the weekend crowds.
There is plenty of parking at the top and bottom of the valley and a choice of terrain to run on including trail, fell and steep hill.  It has everything an off road runner needs and if you park at the Fox House you can reward your efforts with a little “liquid refreshment” afterwards.

Carl Wark & Higger Tor above Burbage Brook

I took advantage a brief gap in the wet summer weather to enjoy an evening run around “Burbage”.

Starting from the car park at Burbage North I take the upper path above the crags, heading southwards. Recent heavy rain had made the ground wet and boggy and it is a case of dodging puddles and looking for the driest line.  After a couple of kilometres a stream makes a natural break in the rocky outcrops separating the north and south sections of the valley and I drop down its side to pick up the lower track.  This has been recently improved and makes for faster more even trail running in contrast to the higher path which is more fell running terrain.

The lower path offers trail running terrain

Continuing southwards I look across the valley on my right and see the 2 summits of Carl Wark and Higger Tor under a threatening sky, maybe I won’t escape a drenching after all.

Stormy Skies over the Burbage Valley

I could continue to follow the track down to the road and on towards Padley Gorge but I  decide to cut right towards Carl Wark on a grassy path and cross the stream by a tricky leap across some rocks. Sometimes this is a simple stride but occasionally after heavy rain it is more a leap of faith!  I then climb up through a boggy patch (wet feet again despite it being mid summer) to the ancient hill fort of Carl Wark.  It fascinates me to think that this flat topped hill with its natural defences was occupied around 4000 years ago!

Running on Carl Wark with Higger Tor behind

A quick trot across the flat, boulder studded plateau and then a short, steep drop before climbing again to Higger Tor and its fantastic views.  I pause to look over at the route I’ve taken and gaze at the towering cotton wool clouds, pure brilliant white from afar but dark and threatening at close quarters with the threat of further rain.

  Burbage South quarries and Carl Wark from Higger Tor

Racing the gathering clouds I press onwards now on the final leg towards Burbage Bridge where the brook passes under the road in 2 sturdy tunnels.  

Burbage Bridge

I take a quick peek into one before it’s back to the car, pleased to have avoided the rain.

Under Burbage Bridge
Racing the Clouds

For information on joining me for a guided run visit; https://fellrunningguide.co.uk/guided-runs-2/

Fell Running: It’s not just about the sun

Much as I love fell running in warm sunshine, sometimes (just sometimes) the Great British Weather has other ideas.

Higger Tor shrouded in low cloud

Driving out through the rain to my favourite running spot wasn’t particularly inspiring and although the rain had eased when I parked, the sight wasn’t encouraging – low cloud shrouded the hills obscuring the usual panoramic view from Abney out to the far heights of Bleaklow.

Emerging from cloud on Higger Tor

Undeterred I set off, I had run from here throughout the winter and this wasn’t the worst weather I’d encountered.  I was expecting a soaking so wore a waterproof top but as I descended off Higger Tor the cloud lifted to reveal the trees of the Burbage Valley with tendrils of mist clinging like smoke.

The trees of the Burbage Valley wreathed in mist

I crossed the streams at the head of the valley and took the high line above the crags, no climbers today, and sensed a brightening.  Briefly the clouds broke to reveal a small patch of blue, a promise of a change to come?

A fleeting glimpse of blue – a false promise

It proved to be only a fleeting glimpse as the skies soon darkened again, threatening more rain
and by the time I had returned to the car the English summer was once again upon us.

Dark clouds threaten Higger and Owler Tors

For information on joining me for a guided run visit; https://fellrunningguide.co.uk/guided-runs-2/

Fell Running: Into Bleaklow

I love fell running, getting away from the crowds and off the beaten track. 

It allows me to keep on top of my navigation skills but more importantly offers peace and tranquility and a feeling of being at one with nature.  This is my meditation, nothing but the natural sounds around me: a skylark singing on the breeze, a curlew calling my attention away from its young, my own footsteps, my own breathing, the sound of my own heartbeat.

Taking advantage of a fine midweek forecast and wanting a long run I decided to head into the heart of the Peak District. Parking on the west shore of the Howden reservoir I set off northwards along the track to Slippery Stones, passing a walker and a family on bikes.  These were the only people I would meet for the next 3 hours.  The track is easy at this point, allowing 4 wheeled access for landowners of the grouse moorlands.  Soon I am enclosed by the steep sides of Oaken Bank with the infant river Derwent reflecting the sun as it meanders north-westwards to its source.  

The infant River Derwent

Below the Horse Stone high and remote, the track gives way to a path and I need to concentrate on my footing a little more.  The valley is opening out now as it gets higher and the path is becoming less well defined and by Hoar Clough there is no obvious line.  I could go north to Shepherds Meeting Stones but that is for another day.  (I will visit and sit amongst them, maybe on a day very unlike today with wind, rain and mist and will wonder about the hardships those men endured whilst tending their flock).  Pressing on I find a faint line through the heather which takes me up to Swains Head.  From this vantage point I can see the main Woodhead road less than 2 kilometres away with its constant stream of traffic. I wonder how many of those thousands of people who pass by every day ever take time to visit the beauty of their surroundings.

The strange shapes of Bleaklow Stones

A check of the map here as getting to my next target, Bleaklow Stones isn’t straightforward with the route following a watershed and deep, boggy groughs lie in wait.  I manage to find a good line, the recent dry weather has left the ground firm and I find myself approaching the short climb to Bleaklow.  At a height of over 620m this is almost the highest point in the Peak District and today offers fantastic views: the mast of Holme Moss to the north; Margery Hill to the east; the high, flat plateau of Kinder to the south and over in west the haze of Manchester and Stockport.
I spend some time at this vantage point, taking in my surroundings and familiarising myself with the lie of the land. I’m not following any marked paths from now on so I need to be sure of my route.  Once I’ve decided where to head next my attention comes back to my immediate surroundings and the strangely shaped boulders scattered around.  You could believe that nature has a sense of humour in sculpting these hard lumps of grit.

Heading on now I run south towards the Ridge and swing around the head of Raven’s Clough.  This is the hardest part of the route as the terrain is thick heather and I slow to a walk until I am on the brink of a steep drop into the Westend Valley.  I rapidly lose 300 feet of height as I plummet down then work hard to regain the height on the other side, using a wall as a handrail I emerge at the head of the strange gulley that is Black Dyke.  This now gives easy running in a gradual descent and I take a final look around from my high vantage point before dropping down Linch Clough and finally emerging back at Howden Reservoir.

The Route

For a guided run visit https://fellrunningguide.co.uk/guided-runs-2/