Burbage Snow

A couple of hours of heavy snow followed by clearing skies made for an interesting fell run in the Peak District.

To join me for a guided run or navigation training visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Return of the Sun

A ridge of high pressure extended a friendly finger across the UK making running in the Peak District a pleasure once more.

The drab, grey skies were replaced by blue and a bright sun enticed me to take to the hills in eager anticipation of splendid views, something that I had missed over the last month.  The weak sun was fighting to burn off the remnants of an inversion as I passed Surprise View and mist remained over Froggatt, however the skies above Bamford were crystal clear.
Parking by Ladybower reservoir I headed for the high ground to the west, passing Crookhill Farm onto access land and onto the delightful subsidiary to Crook Hill.  Cold valley air was soon left behind as I climbed the hillside and up the grassy flank.
Crook Hill with Ladybower and Bamford Edge behind
The reward for my effort was a fantastic panorama and I stopped to take in the view, there was no need to rush today, I wanted to drink in the sights, satisfy my craving, to scratch the itch that had been growing for weeks under leaden skies.
Away to the south-west the Great Ridge along Lose Hill and Back Tor, to Mam Tor and Rushup Edge was etched sharp whilst the northern flanks of Kinder stretched to the west under a line of thin cirrus.
Lose Hill, Back Tor and Mam Tor
Northern Flanks of Kinder
My route took me north-west along the thin ridge, bordering the woodland on my right until reaching the bridleway leading to Hagg Farm.  Crossing this I headed for Lockerbrook Heights.  A quick look at the map and I decided to “handrail” a wall, down through woodland, heading east-wards to the valley.  The open ride between the conifers, runnable at first, was blocked by fallen trees in a couple of places but a little ducking and weaving saw me emerge on the bridleway.
Down through the trees
Straight ahead a well maintained track led down through mixed woodland and allowed good running for a few hundred metres before it popped out of the trees at Fairholmes with its visitor centre and cafe.
Good path through the woods
Good running terrain
No tea and cakes for me, a brief pause to admire the view of Ladybower; the tranquil waters unruffled and highly reflective in the still air before I pressed on, heading for the eastern shore and the more remote hills once again.
Still reflections on Ladybower
Crossing below the dam wall a short climb on the road led me to Jubilee Cottages and the smell of woodsmoke.  Although the next stretch is a popular walking & biking route it is quiet in midweek and I met only a couple of walkers.  
Ladybower’s eastern shore
The road fades to track and the easy running ended abruptly as I chose the bridleway climbing steeply up Grindle Clough.  As I reached the old barn I looked back to the west, across the reservoir and saw on the skyline the outline of Crook Hill again.
Crook Hill, high to the west
A lovely narrow, walled track led me up the hillside and onto access land where it gave way to a rough path across rough moorland.  Ahead of me the rocks of  the Wheel Stones stood proud against the blue sky on the near horizon, their profile resembling an ancient stagecoach and horses. 
Rocks or a coach and horses?
I was heading for the skyline and the final uphill effort again gave stunning views as a reward.
The final climb
From the high ground above Hurkling Stones the view reinforced why the Peak District is such a fantastic place to run. 

I stood a while, taking in the glory before heading off along the rocky path to Whinstone Lee and down into the trees before meeting the main road at the viaduct.
Run with a view
The last woodland
Ashopton viaduct
Taking the path alongside the reservoir I ran the last leg enjoying the warmth, the light, the colour in the landscape, tired yet somehow invigorated by the return of the sun.
16km and 800m climb

 To join me on a guided run visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Grey Festive Days

Christmas week, bleak.  

Not the bleak mid-winter of tales and imagination with deep snow and icy winds, the landscape frozen in nature’s frigid grasp.
Just wet, windy, dark.  Incessant rain, water levels rising.

High water

Days that didn’t seem to grow light as if the sun, hungover on festive excess, found the effort of rising beyond midday too much and slumped once more, dragging any vestiges of brightness with it.
Days without sky, just a low, wet fog blurring the boundary of land and air.
Days when colour drained from the landscape; land, water, sky all monochrome.

Running continued despite less than inspiring conditions – a couple of days on the high fells with map and compass in hand, enclosed in a grey world extending 100 metres, sometimes less.  Good practice.
Sub hour runs fighting wind and rain.  Returning cold and wet.
Short hill reps on a day when I couldn’t face battling the elements on the higher hills, hoping the effort would overcome the strong wind and rain and keep me warm.  A vain hope, cold and wet again.

A day with a little respite, a brief hour when the sun tried, weak shafts reaching tentatively through the grey, a fleeting glimpse before the sky’s steely grey shutters slammed once more and the rain returned.

A brief snatch of sunlight 

And now the rain has finally stopped, its mark has been made, the land sodden, rivers swollen, fields flooded.

Swollen stream

But at last, now that the year has turned, for a short while at least there is a little ray of hope.

To join me for a guided run or navigation training visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Hill Forts and Limestone Ravines

It was a dull, damp and dreary morning in the Peak District – not at all inspiring for running in the hills.

Cloud capped Peak District hills
With the air in the valley full of fine drizzle and the higher ground cloaked in wet hill fog the only positive was that the weather was much better than yesterday’s deluge and than that predicted for tomorrow.  I decided on a high circle of Castleton, with a sharp climb from the valley to gain height followed by the undulating ridge.
Heading out across the fields towards Losehill Hall the evidence of the recent rain was clear, sodden fields and footpaths awash as ditches struggled to remove the rainwater from the saturated ground.  Past the farms by muddy rights of way, glad of the aggressive tread and waterproof socks, rising, gently at first then more steeply to gain the narrow spur to the south-east of the summit.  Over the stile onto the access land, side-stepping the slippery slabs, preferring the grass in order to maintain traction on the final steep section leading up to the cairn on Lose Hill.
Approaching Lose Hill summit
Heading westwards the route undulates, first dropping then rising over a number of cols and tops along the Great Ridge: Back Tor, Barker Bank, Hollins Cross before the final pull up to Mam Tor.
Along the Great Ridge towards Mam Tor
Eschewing the slippery, flagged descent off Lose Hill to the stile then onto an unimproved section, weaving between rocks and puddles, crossing the broken down wall, focussing, in the zone as I subconsciously seek the best line. 
At Back Tor my pace is briefly broken by the short, steep, rocky descent before I pick up again to Hollins Cross, feeling the cold now I work harder, along the flag-stoned approach to Mam Tor.  Bleak and windswept it is hard to imagine that our ancestors inhabited a hill fort here 3000 years ago.
The ancient hill fort of Mam Tor
Approaching the summit with the ridge to Lose Hill behind
A keen, cold wind greets me at the trig point, deterring me from any sojourn and turning sharp left I drop steeply down the southern flank of the great landslip.
The unstable east face
The rotten, crumbling east face clearly showing the horizontal bedding of shale the instability of which lends the name “shivering mountain”
Steeply down off Mam Tor
An exhilarating couple of minutes sees me down to the old road, once a main route between Sheffield and Manchester, regularly repaired after falling further down the hillside before engineers finally admitted defeat in their battle with mother nature.
No through road
Passing Blue John cavern, named after the semi precious stone found only here, I cross grassland to the abrupt drop into the limestone ravine of Winnats Pass and look down onto the sinuous road way below.
High above Winnats Pass
I spend a few moments here, taking in the fantastic natural spectacle, the towering limestone castles above the impossibly steep grassy slopes.
Limestone towers above Winnats Pass
Making a mental note to return and exploit these slopes for training and exploration I head off, running down the steep north spur to Speedwell Castle and my starting point in the valley below.
The last drop, into the valley
11km and 650m ascent

To join me for a guided run or navigation training visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

Howden Reflections

Not a breath of wind disturbed the surface of Howden Reservoir.

Reflections on Howden Reservoir
The air was cold and still, the glassy water mirroring the trees and hills on either bank, the sky a pale blue showing through the milk of high cirrus and aircraft contrails and a low, silvery winter sun reflecting brightly off the surface.
Reflective Running

Perfect conditions to explore the high moors of the Peak District where even in summer the ground can remain wet and after this year’s weather is particularly sodden.  Today, after the recent sub zero temperatures the peat would be frozen allowing easier progress across the usual mire.

Despite the cold nights and recent flurries of snow the hills were surprisingly bare with only a few patches of icy snow remaining in north facing hollows.  Now the landscape’s colours are subdued, dormant after the purple of summer and autumn’s blaze of gold.
Subdued moorland colours
I headed uphill following a rough compass bearing and picking the easiest lines through the heather and exploring anything that caught my eye.  A group of gritstone boulders catching the winter sun looked significant from a distance but were actually little more than 8 feet high.  Hands on rock: rough, coarse, cold – no boulderer’s chalk here despite the challenge.
Gritstone boulder
A short distance away something stood out, silvery amidst all the brown.  Water trickling over rock had frozen causing smoothly ridged ice with irregular icicles fingering down to the peaty ground.  Replicating flowstone and stalactites nature had contrived in days to produce out of water what it takes millennia to do with Limestone. 
Icicles or stalactites?

Further on I startled a mountain hare which dashed off zig zagging through the heather, its winter coat ironically conspicuous against the browns and visible long after it would have been in its summer colours. No predators were evident on the moor today and as if to celebrate a brace of grouse flapped away cackling, safe from the guns for now.

The sun was fading now, dimmed as the milky white cloud thickened and the sky became opaque.  The landscape flattened and the cold seemed to increase.  I turned for home, again taking a rough line across the moor to pick up the valley that would lead me back to the start.

Back at the reservoir the mirror remained intact.

Reflections on Howden Reservoir

To book a guided run, walk or navigation training visit http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/

Winter Coming

The high moors of the Peak District have had their first dusting of snow.

Winter comes to the Peak District

And with a cold, crisp winter’s day giving an ideal opportunity for a run I decided to visit some less frequented parts of the Peak.  Starting at the turning circle at the northern end of Derwent reservoir I immediately noticed a keen wind.  The water, glassy and mirror like on my last visit now rippled under the northerly breeze.

Thankful of the meagre heat from a wintery sun in an almost cloudless sky I set off along the woodland track towards slippery stones and the ancient bridge spanning the river Derwent.  Icy puddles and a frosting of snow fringed the path as I ran over a carpet of needles beneath the trees.  After crossing the old bridge I took the path up Cranberry Clough, suddenly in shadow the air was colder, harsh against my face and I pulled my Buff over my mouth in an attempt to banish the numbness.  The higher, south-facing slopes, kissed by the low sun showed their usual hues of bronze whilst those in shadow and on the north-facing slopes retained a thin dusting of frost and snow.
Climbing Cranberry Clough

Emerging from the shade as I climbed higher, the sun and exercise battled with the sharp wind to determine my temperature and once I gained the plateau the wind prevailed.

Bull Stones

Leaving the main path and picking up a faint sheep trod I headed for the Bull Stones, a lonely gritstone outcrop high above the infant Derwent, stark today against the snow and sky.  Atop one of the boulders a solitary grouse had walked, leaving in the snow its arrow print trail as if to point the way.

Walk this way

From there it was on towards Outer Edge, the notoriously boggy ground just frozen enough to prevent sinking into the underlying morass.  

Outer Edge, firm for once

My route now took me westwards across pathless heather to the splendidly named Rocking Stones.  These weathered outcrops present a fascinating natural sculpture, their gargoyle visages facing the elements, defying gravity, enhanced today in profile against the harsh winter sky.

Rocking Stones

Onwards across bleak moorland I headed for the Horse Stone, checking the compass before contouring round Stainery Clough, seeking out the line of least resistance, a faint trod petering out into deep heather, hard going and warm now with Howden Edge giving temporary lee from the north wind.  Then as I crest the rise of the hill the stone is before me, bleak and solitary, a lonely sentinel on the bare moor.

Horse Stone

Today she stands in a moat of ice, horizontal beddings tilted slightly and on the southern side, incongruously, lies a vertical slab of gritstone, a relic of an ancient top perhaps that finally succumbed to millennia of weathering.  This presented a tantalising invite to climb the stone, as if placed there deliberately offering a foot up, bridging the icy water.  The view from the top was worth the risk of an icy bath.

Horse Stone – invitation to climb

I dropped on a compass bearing south-eastwards now into a small plantation and crossed the clough at a stream junction following it downstream to emerge on the track by the infant Derwent.

Track alongside river Derwent

Turning left, I was on easy terrain now and was soon back at Slippery Stones, aptly named today.  It was only here that I saw my first human beings since starting out, startling the couple as I overtook.

The lovely, low sun created patterns of light and shade as it filtered through the pines along the track, the snow and frost remaining where the weak, warm sun had failed to penetrate.

Sunlight & Shade
Out of the reach of the sun

Emerging from the woods I ran alongside the reservoir in full sunlight, warm again to the car.

Journey’s end
13km 660m climb

To book a guided run or navigation training visit http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/

I Spy Blue Sky

The deluge that affected most of the country this week made running in the Peak District an unpleasant experience.

However the worst seems to be over, for now anyway, and I looked out this morning to see blue sky and sunshine. Having only managed some short flat runs in the past 2 weeks I felt the urge to hit the hills and decided to take on a double ascent of the grandly named Win Hill.  Although relatively small at 463 metres Win Hill dominates the western skyline when approached by the A57 from Sheffield.  It stands proud above the southern shore of Ladybower, green on its lower flanks with its rocky tor emerging from the conifers below. 
Ladybower, the plug hole and a distant Win Hill
The twin reservoir overflows were thundering frighteningly as I ran along the dam wall and I paused briefly to look into one’s Stygian maw, consuming countless gallons into the bowels of the dam.
With “that feeling” that this view always provokes: a brief shudder at the thought of being swept over the edge and into the abyss, I ran on turning immediately into the woods up a steep, stony path to emerge on a good track.  Sunlight found its way easily through the denuded branches, dappling the ground and reflecting off the puddles as I pressed on uphill.  
Sunlit woodland
The final steep section overcome I emerged from the trees and into the sun, running on up the rocky steps to reach the summit, breathless, and the reward of a 360 degree vista, surely one of the finest in the Peak District.  I have stood here many times, this being one of my favourite training runs, but I will never tire of the view.
Win Hill summit
Win Hill trig point and views to the west
After a few moments soaking up the view the cold northerly wind prompted me to move again as the heat of the uphill effort quickly ebbed away and keen to stay warm I ran on along Hope Brink towards Wooler Knoll.  Ahead of me Lose Hill, Mam Tor and Kinder lay splendid under blue sky and fragmented cloud, a patchwork of sunshine and shade.  
Mam Tor, Lose Hill and Kinder
The deep incision of Jaggers Clough was accentuated by deep shadow, the sun low now even at midday.
Heading down with Jaggers Clough behind
On a different day I would have run on towards the horizon but not now, and so I turned sharp left to drop to the lane, wet today with water running off the hill, and on to Fullwood Stile Farm. 
Sunshine & puddles
I stopped to say hello to a pair of tiny ponies, friendly at first but soon indifferent to my attention when they realised I had nothing to offer but words.
Wot no sugarlumps?
Recovery over it was time to make the second ascent and I headed up the long drive to Twitchill Farm.  The field behind the farm must be one of the steepest in the Peak and it’s an effort of will not to stop running.  A stile marks the end of the farmland and a stony path now leads up past a single windswept Hawthorn tree, stark today against the blue sky. 
Hawthorn and Win Hill
Striding out to Win
And then to the summit again to soak in the view once more, the sun casting long shadows, the wind cold and bracing, the sight splendid.
Me and my shadow 
Homeward bound now I retraced my steps down into the woodland to emerge at the reservoir and cross the long dam wall.
Almost there, along the dam wall
And so, after the rain, it felt great to be running again under blue skies in wonderful Peak District scenery.

12km with 675m climb

Contact me to arrange a guided run or navigation training: http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/

Deer on the Moor

The weather in the Peak District has not been good for running this week.

Strong winds and heavy rain combined with a niggling injury has seen me reduced to walking and practising my map & compass skills.  After almost a week off running I was itching to get out and a “suckers gap” in the weather on Friday gave the opportunity I was waiting for. 
I’d mentioned seeing deer on Big Moor so 3 of us decided to run a White Edge, Curbar, Froggatt loop hoping to catch a glimpse.

The recent heavy rain meant that muddy shoes and wet feet were the order of the day but this was a small price to pay for the light winds and blue skies, so welcome after a grim, grey week.

Contact me to arrange a guided run or navigation training: http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/

Bright Jewels on a Dull Day

Some days the Peak District is shrouded in low cloud or hill fog and the splendid views are replaced by a damp, dreary clag.

It is harder to be inspired on these dull days, no yonder far horizon of blue hills nor sun dappled heather and bracken. But wait, there is a visual reward to be had if you look more closely.

One such day finds me running on the moorland around Derwent Edge practising some navigation skills.  The reduced visibility creates a smaller world and as I run it forces me to focus more on my immediate surroundings.  I notice things that on a dry, sunny day I would run past or would simply not be there.

spider’s web

The silvery web of a heathland spider lies low amongst the mosses and close inspection reveals an intricate network of gossamer threads suspending thousands of tiny water droplets.

gossamer threads and water droplets

Amongst the heather, crowberry is adorned with an intertwined jewelled necklace, each precious stone a perfect orb of moisture, so tiny and yet detached from its neighbour, impossibly suspended on such a slender thread.

nature’s own necklace

And for a few fleeting moments the sky brightens, a false promise of sun but enough to illuminate a myriad of dew drops, sparkling pendants on the moor grass.

dew drops on moor grass
a myriad of sparkling pendants

And so a damp Peak District run, from which I return wet legged with sodden feet – but if you look closely, there are bright jewels to be found, even on  a dull day.fell running guide

Fell Running: Frosty Morning, White Edge

A beautiful frosty morning fell run in the Peak District

It was the kind of morning I love.  As the daylight increased it revealed a pale, cloud free sky as far as the horizon.  I wanted to make the most of the day before the sun rose too high and by 7.30 I was in the Peak District under a stunning azure blue sky.

The sun was still low and I cast a long shadow over the frosty ground as I set off along White Edge.  The air was cold and still and ice had formed on the puddles but the early sun and gentle pace were enough to warm me.

The views across the Peak District were stunning, the cold, dry air giving excellent visibility to the distant hills, crisply defined on the far horizon.  A high half-moon added to the spectacle.

Such were the conditions that I spent lots of time stopping to admire the views around me: bracken fringed with frost; a gritstone boulder, its lichen enhanced by tiny ice crystals; the changing colour of the sky – pale bluish white on the horizon darkening to cobalt overhead.

There would be plenty of time for hard training runs, days when the wet and the wind require extra exertion in order to stay warm and the horizon is close, damp and drab. But today was a jewel to savour, to remind me how lucky I am to be able to run in such beautiful surroundings.
On to the triangulation pillar, one face bright white catching the sun square on, tapering up towards the suspended moon.

Moving on I left the moor and took the path through birch woodland, sun and shade dappling the ground, damp earth and fallen leaves and the unmistakeable scent of autumn.

Across the road and down to the lovely little stream, hopping over the stones to keep my feet dry then up towards the Grouse Inn.  It was warmer now, the sun is higher and I was running uphill on the route that takes me past White Edge Lodge so hat and gloves came off. 

As I approached the car I noticed how traffic had built up, it was not long after 9am but I knew I had seen the best part of the day, tranquil, peaceful, glorious. 

Contact me to arrange a guided run or navigation training: http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/