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/

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

Fell Running through Autumn Colours

The damp, grey blanket that has hung limply over the area for most of the week has finally gone and once again fell running in the Peak District is a pleasure.

The anticyclonic gloom replaced now by brighter but noticeably colder weather as the Northerly reminds us that winter is not far ahead.  Summer time is over and the shortening days have had their effect on the trees, the leaves turning through a kaleidoscope of green, yellow, brown and red as they give up the fight and fall, recycled into nature to provide shelter and nourishment.  The bracken, cursed during the summer as it enveloped and obliterated the smaller paths now gives its reward, turning rust and gold in its final throes before dying back completely.

Golden Autumn colours

The carefree running of the summer months now has to replaced by more considered planning as tee shirt and shorts give way to long sleeves and leggings.  The tiny bumbag no longer suffices for ventures other than a quick local run as my longer journeys require extra clothing to suit the worsening conditions.  The ground has never truly been dry for many months but now much of the Peak moorland is saturated and boggy and I change to mudclaws with their aggressive tread for my off track adventures.

My run today starts at the Norfolk Arms on Ringinglow and I take the path up through the trees of Lady Canning’s Plantation emerging to the small path through the heather, passing the Ox Stones.  Here the path becomes boggy as it crosses the moor towards Burbage Edge and I hurdle the puddles in a vain attempt to keep dry feet.

Bog hopping on Burbage Moor

I am rewarded with a fine view from the path above Burbage Edge, the first blue sky in 4 days and the colder air brings the distant Peak into sharp focus with the far hills clearly defined and closer, the Burbage Valley a mix of green and gold.

Clear views across the Peak District

I turn south and run along the edge path, weaving between puddles and skipping over the gritstone boulders, always alert as running over this kind of Peak District terrain requires constant attention.  It is not enough to simply put one foot in front of the other and repeat… ad nauseum – Peak District running requires attention to foot placement, stride length and knee lift, the unwary moment resulting in and inelegant stumble at best.

Running south on Burbage Edge

Dropping down off the edge I take the steep path down to the old packhorse bridge across Burbage Brook and stop to appreciate how the sun enhances the different hues in the conifer plantation below Higger Tor.

Running past the conifers below Higger Tor

The area where the old bridge crosses the brook is a wonderful place, shaded by trees on one side and steep hills on two more it is usually calm and I often spend a few moments here, contemplating the lives of those for whom the bridge was a necessity rather than a convenience.

Crossing the old packhorse bridge

I run on, a testing uphill pull to the saddle between Higger Tor & Carl Wark and on over marshy ground to a better path crossing Winyard’s Nick and Owler Tor.

Fine views of Higger Tor, Carl Wark and a distant Burbage Edge

On Owler Tor I pause to take in the fine views, the sculpted gritstone outcrops creating their own shadows and the distant horizon clear under a blue sky.  I move on a short distance to the largest of the tors, the Mother Cap which stands proud and clearly visible above the moor.  This lonely sentinel is easily recognisable, its anvil crown overtopping its sturdy base and from a distance it gives the appearance of a giant petrified mushroom.  Today, close up I can study its angled stratifications, see the layers of ancient sediment that, over millennia, brought this giant into being.

Mother Cap
Running past the Mother Cap

On down through the thin strip of Birch woodland the path emerges at Surprise View car park where I cross the road and take the parallel path that leads me on to the long, green drive below Lawrencefield quarry.  This is a favourite area of mine, the smooth grassy track a welcome contrast to the rough ground usually encountered and it is a chance to stretch the legs.  The track is a remnant of the quarrying industry several hundred years ago which produced millstones, many of which can be seen abandoned after the industry declined.

Abandoned millstones

As I turn onto the path it passes below Beech trees, still largely in leaf compared to the Birch and sunlight dapples the fallen leaves.

Easy running through sunlit autumn leaves

The path meanders gradually downhill through hundreds of mature Silver Birch, their metallic bark intensified today against the blue sky.

Silver Birch

Compared to the rugged gritstone moorland this place is tranquil, peaceful and welcoming and I soak up that feeling as I pass on through the tall, straight trees, their height more noticeable now as their leaf cover is limited to the uppermost branches.

Running through Birch woodland

The easy running ends abruptly at a clearing, dominated by bracken it glows today in the autumn sunshine.

Golden bracken

The path narrows and drops suddenly as I make my way past old quarry workings and join a vehicle track above Grindleford station.  I scent woodsmoke from the cottages and pause to look over the bridge at the stream emerging from the oak wooded Padley Gorge.

Stream below Padley Gorge

Crossing the main road and a tough uphill section takes me through a lovely mature deciduous woodland and handrailing a stream on my right I emerge into an unimproved field below the Longshaw estate.

Uphill running through mature woodland

Out of the shelter of the trees I notice that the sky is clouding, the earlier sun obscured and the wind has increased and with it a keen bite.
It’s still uphill and I work hard to gain the vehicle track through the estate.

Up the field to Longshaw

Turning left I take the good track for several hundred metres before turning right across rough grassland to the parallel track leading to the Lodge.

Track through the Longshaw estate

Under grey skies now I cross the road at the Fox House Inn and run uphill to climb a stile, the path leading back onto Burbage Edge.

Running above Burbage South with a distant Higger Tor

The path becomes rougher now, the same terrain as earlier, uneven with mud and gritstone boulders to contend with and my pace slows.  Soon I drop down slightly to leave the edge path for the diversion to the Houndkirk Road.

Tough running on Burbage Edge

Soon I am on the familiar Houndkirk Road, recently improved after hard years of erosion and I can stride out once more, on the last leg and hungry now.  My watch tells me I’ve run 18km and I estimate that I will be back in 10 minutes.

Home leg on the Houndkirk Road

The cold wind greets me head on as I run the last leg.  It is colder now, the sun gone and the blue sky overwhelmed by steely grey.  Once again I have been rewarded by venturing out early for my Peak District run, catching beautiful autumn colours as the season breathes its last.

Route details – 20km

fell running guide

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/