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/

Fell Running: Edale Skyline

The Edale Skyline is a tough fell race covering over 20 miles of rough terrain above the Edale valley in the Peak District.

Taking place early in the season it is unreliable in terms of weather conditions, some years warm and sunny, others with snow and runners suffering from hypothermia.
warm and sunny one year..
..seriously cold another
For the most part navigation is straightforward with the race following good paths over the main summits of Win Hill, Lose Hill and Mam Tor and the main route along the southern edge of the Kinder plateau.
good paths making navigation easy
There is however a notorious, remote section over Brown Knoll which in poor visibility can lead to runners going astray if they are not confident in using map & compass.  Additionally there are a couple of areas where a detour from the main path can gain valuable time and positions and where skilled navigators use their knowledge to good effect.
the notorious section in poor visibility
Kinder in poor visibility
I have worked with several runners keen to develop the skills needed to get them round the Skyline.  On a clear day it all seems obvious and route finding is easy, however on a foggy day things can get tricky. 
easy on a clear day
but tricky in hill fog
The Edale Skyline: Don’t underestimate it!

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

Fell Running: Parkhouse & Chrome Hill

Pictures of a hilly fell run in the White Peak of Derbyshire

The steep climbs and narrow ridges of Parkhouse and Chrome Hills give an almost Alpine feel to this beautiful run. Parkhouse and Chrome Hills lie just north of the village of Longnor, close to the Derbyshire / Staffordshire border. Although their highest point is only 425 metres, their distinctive “Dragon’s Back” profiles and narrow ridgelines with steep slopes give a much more mountainous feel. Their summits offer fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. They are reef knolls, formed when the Peak District lay under a warm tropical sea. Running Blogs

Another pair of running shoes?

I own 9 pairs of running shoes. 

I had to search the house in order to count them all but there are 4 on the shoe shelf, 2 drying in the kitchen, 2 by the front door and today’s pair are outside the back door waiting to be cleaned.
If you could see where I ran you’d know why these are banned from the house until they’ve been in the bucket!

No Country for New Shoes

Plus I’ve just thrown 2 pairs away, coerced into doing so by my good lady despite my protestations that they hadn’t done 1000 miles yet.

8 of these are trail / fell shoes (yes I have one pair of road running shoes for my very rare runs from home)

You know you’re a fell runner when your Mrs questions why you need another pair of trainers, so how do I justify this seemingly Imeldian compulsion to keep Pete Bland Sport in business?

There are lots of factors to consider when convincing yourself that you need another pair of running shoes.

There’s terrain: Is it trail or fell? grass, bracken, heather or bog? Is it rocky, scree or a mix?
There’s weather: Is it wet, dry or somewhere in between?
There’s angle of slope: Is it steep, gentle or flat?
There’s type of run: Is it a race or a training run? Is it long, medium or short?
Then there’s the condition of your existing shoes: how much tread is left on them? Are your socks showing through the uppers? (Remember that shoes that are no longer suitable for racing, hard training, etc. don’t need to be thrown away – they’ll always come in useful for.. er.. something)
Then there’s the vouchers that you’ve been saving and need to be spent now before the prices go up again.

So what are all my shoes and what do I use them for?

My collection

Roclite 285 – for training when it’s not so boggy that I need Mudclaws but there’s wet rock.

New Balance 101 – for training when it’s boggy but no wet rock cos they’re useless on it.
X Talons – old, worn studs, my main race shoe if it’s not too muddy (wish I’d written this before the FRA Relays cos I wore them and it was muddy and they were useless)
X Talons – new, unused, saving them for best. (wish I’d taken them to FRA Relays but didn’t want to get them muddy)
Mudclaw 300 – nearly new, for winter racing and boggy training. Bought at the FRA Relays after I’d raced and realised I needed some decent studs.
Asics Gel something or other – 6 years old, were my summer trail race shoes for a couple of years and don’t want to throw them away. Occasionally wear them to run up through the park.
New Balance something or other – road shoes, 4 years old, good as new.
Terroc 330 – knackered, have been worn for work, the pub, shopping and once when I forgot my X Talons for a horrible, wet, slippy race. Almost threw them away when I bought a new pair but thought better of it. (they’re like a favourite pair of slippers) Now retired to gardening, (and going shopping if she doesn’t notice)
Terroc 330 – brand new, bought to replace my old pair for when I thought I was going to throw them away but didn’t. Wore them to go to a race but got them muddy in the car park so now wear my old pair. Will wear them for work, the pub (and shopping if I get caught trying to sneak out in my old pair)
So there it is, a definitive guide to one man’s shoes and what they’re for.  Not a mention of colour coordination, no “do they match my top?” just a review based on function alone.
Next time bumbags & rucksacks, that’s another story!

Running Blogs

Dark Peak Navigation Course

A small group of Dark Peak Fell Runners met at the Woodhead Mountain Rescue barn for an intensive day learning navigation skills.  It was a lovely autumn morning, the weather bright and sunny – nice for running but making navigation too easy!

The day started with an indoor theory session covering topics such as grid references, interpreting contour lines, estimating running speed over different terrain and route choice.  The runners then marked a series of small features on their maps before setting off to see if they could find them!

Where are we?!

Amused walkers stifled their grins as the runners ran past counting their paces for a hundred metres then turned round to do it again at a different speed.  Other topics including bearings, backbearings and resections were covered on the move as lots of instruction was given in the morning session.

We should be over there!

Over a working lunch back at the barn we discussed different scales of map and prepared the route for the afternoon session – this time over more featureless moorland terrain.  Then it was outdoors again to practice the mysterious skills of setting and thumbing the map, walking and running on a set bearing, aiming off and attack points plus more counting paces.

There should be a path somewhere

 

Set, thumb, bearing, go!

 

Found it!

 

Navigation – not just a boy thing

The afternoon finished back indoors with a discussion about equipment for fell running and safety on the hills.

All in all a successful day and hopefully a dozen runners who have developed some skills to enable then to run with confidence in the hills.

Shame about the weather though!

If you would like to develop your navigation skills, either on your own or in a group contact me to arrange a session:contact me

Autumn Fell Run above the Derwent Valley

Peak District Running

A stunning autumn day, calm with blue skies – perfect for fell running in the Peak District.

Uphill running above Ladybower reservoir

The car park at Fairholmes in the Derwent Valley is already busy with weekend visitors.  This honeypot attracts plenty of walkers and bikers but the joy of fell running means that within 5 minutes I am off the popular routes and on to Open Access land and on my 2 hour run I only see a handful of people.

The light is stunning with excellent visibility in the crisp air, only a thin veil of smoke from the managed moorland heather burning adding the illusion of cloud above the distant Derwent Edge.

Running under blue Autumn skies

I decide to make my own route which will take me across open moorland over Little Howden Moor to a ruined building in Cogman’s Clough.  From there I follow Abbey Brook up to Berrister’s Tor with its strange hummocks and steeply incised valleys – one of my favourite areas of the Peak District.

Fantastic running conditions
Berrister’s Tor
Enjoying the run
The steep valley of Abbey Brook

 From here its an uphill section, skirting south of Lost Lad and up to meet the paved path at Cakes of Bread.

Uphill towards Lost Lad
Uphill leaving Abbey Brook
Smoke from managed heather burning
Clear autumn skies above the high moors of the Dark Peak
Controlled heather burning
Smoke above the heather moorland
View west from Cakes of Bread

From Cakes of Bread I head due west across the rough open moorland of bracken and heather over John Field.  It’s a steep drop down into Far Deep Clough and a battle through deep bracken up the other side to the thin copse of trees.  The hard running is done now as I pick up my outward route to the west of Pike Low and drop down to run below the dam wall back to Fairholmes and the weekend crowds. A perfect day’s running in the Peak District.

Route details

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To join me for a guided run visit: http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/guided-runs-2/

Fell Running: Grey Skies to Blue

Peak District Running

Running in the Peak District on autumn mornings often means setting off in damp grey conditions.  

The colder nights combined with the still relatively warm ground can lead to early morning mist and fog, especially in the valleys.  However if the atmospheric conditions are right this low cloud can burn off giving fantastic views later in the day.

I set off on one such morning for a run around the Burbage and Stanage area.  Getting out of the car the air is cold and damp without a breath of wind.  Moisture hangs heavy on the branches of the trees, half stripped of their foliage now as November approaches.

Misty Autumn morning

Visibility is only a few hundred metres but I set off on the familiar path heading south down the Burbage Valley.  I must have run in this valley hundreds of times yet I never tire of it, there is always something that catches my eye as the seasons change and the weather, flora and fauna likewise.

Running down the Burbage Valley

I make my way down to emerge at the road and cross over, through the trees down to the little footbridge over Burbage Brook.  The run seems to have awoken my senses and I notice the smell of damp leaves and hear birdsong, clear in the still morning air.  Up the other side and across the road again I now head up to Winyard’s Nick hoping for signs that the fog is lifting as I reach higher ground but the blanket of moist air remains.  A heavy dew covers the grass, bracken and rush as I take the familiar route towards Mitchell Field, dropping down through the fields in order to climb again up Callow Bank.  I pass a couple of isolated trees which emerge out of the gloom as I approach.

Trees above Mitchell Field

I run hard up Callow Bank and as I stop to catch my breath at the top there is a very faint hint that the conditions are brightening.  The change in light is barely discernible and at first I think I am imagining it – light headed from my exertion, but it’s real, there is the merest hint of sun in the sky.

The first hints of brightness

After crossing the road and taking the path up towards Stanage I stop.  The conditions are changing rapidly, visibility is improving and distant features are emerging from the mist.  The rocks ahead of me are crisp and clear whilst behind me the fog is fragmenting to reveal some features whilst still cloaking others.
In less than 2 minutes the scene has changed dramatically.

Rapidly improving visibility
Fog dispersing

I head up onto Stanage and run north-west along the edge for a while, enjoying the clearer air and the views to the east whilst the Hope Valley is still under its canopy of fog below me to the west.
I would love to run all day but my schedule doesn’t allow and I need to head back.  My planned route would drop me down back into the damp blanket of fog so I decide to retrace my steps along the top of the crags in order to remain in the weak autumn sunlight which is now breaking through.

Running along Stanage Edge
Running along Stanage Edge

Dropping down past the Cowper Stone I pass through some remnants of fog again before emerging into clearer air at Burbage Bridge.  The valley below me was in thick cloud an hour ago, now tendrils of mist cling to the flanks of Higger Tor but the sky above is clearing and weak sunshine is reflecting off the puddles and dew on the clumps of rushes.
What started as a cold, damp morning has changed and given the promise of a beautiful autumn day and I am glad that I got out early to see the grey skies turn to blue.

Remnants of mist on Higger Tor

To join me for a guided run visit: http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/contact-us-2/

Lake District fell running

I do most of my running in the Peak District but I also get to other lovely areas of the country.  I was recently in the Lake District preparing for a race and enjoyed a fine day in the hills with great weather.
Here are a few images, hopefully they might inspire you to try fell running.

Peak District Twilight Run

Peak District Running

With the light fading at the end of a sunny autumn day, I set out for a quick run in the Peak District.  By the time I got to the car park at Surprise View above Hathersage the sun was almost below the horizon and I realised that I would only get a half hour run without a torch.

Twilight in the Peak District

I set off along the path towards Millstone Edge which offers fine views over the Hope Valley (not taking any photos as I needed to make the most of the light) and then turned right up to the Mother Cap and Over Owler Tor and on past Winyard’s Nick towards Higger Tor.

The sun was down now and I was running in the afterglow.   Needing to head back I took the path through the bracken taking care not to trip in the reduced light.  The final few hundred metres rewarded me with fantastic views as the cloudless sky silhouetted the trees, almost bare of foliage now as winter approaches.

To join me for a guided run visit: http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/contact-us-2/