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/

Higger Tor at Dusk

Peak District Running

Evening sky over Higger Tor

As the nights are drawing in, evening runs in the Peak District are occasionally accompanied by a lovely sunset.  I put a small torch in my bum bag so that I can keep running as it gets dark rather than have to stop before it gets dark.
An October evening found me on my usual training ground of the Burbage Valley. Parking at the upper bridge I ran down the main path below the crags before cutting right, down across the stream and working hard on the ascent of Carl Wark.  Looking right I see the sun going down behind Higger Tor and notice that the notch of Winyard’s Nick was perfectly aligned as it dropped below the horizon.

Sun sinking over Winyard’s nick

By the time I crested Carl Wark the sun had already dropped below the horizon leaving hues of pink on the higher clouds and a salmon glow in the western sky.  I worked hard on the short climb up Higger Tor and then stopped to appreciate the sunset as the gritstone boulders were silhouetted against the evening sky.  I dropped down towards the road crossing to take the path to Toothill Farm, seeing the lights of Hathersage twinkling in the distance and the sun’s afterglow over Mam Tor and the western hills.

Looking west over Hathersage towards Mam Tor

Dropping down through the fields it became too dark to run in the gloom so I put on my head torch to light the way.

Head torch running

Head torch running

In the gathering darkness I crossed the field and turned right to pick up the track that leads up past the derelict building and steepens as it rises Callow Bank.  From the I aim to reach the top in 5 minutes and need a few moments to recover at the top before trotting along the road and back to the car park.

A lovely evening run with wonderful skies.

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

Evening Run over White Edge

Evening light on White Edge

White Edge, high to the east of Grindleford in the Peak District is a lovely location for a run.  There are interesting things to discover off the main path and it offers great views across Big Moor towards Sheffield, Chesterfield and westwards across the National Park in the direction of Tideswell.  This westerly aspect makes it ideal for an evening run when broken high cloud offers the prospect of a fine sunset and the orange rays enhance the purple of the heather.

Starting at the junction of the A625 and B6054 I head up onto the moor and my first intention is to visit Lady’s Cross which is marked on the Ordnance Survey map off to the east.  It is easy to find as it stands less that 100m off the path.  The ancient crossroads and boundary marker, although no longer having its cross piece it is well preserved.

Lady’s Cross

My next destination is the Hurkling Stone and cairn marked about 800m to the south.  Navigation is easy by first finding the old wall and following it southwards to its corner.  Here I find a large boulder but no evidence of a cairn.

The Hurkling stone


Returning to the main path I pass the fingerpost and drop down, steeply a first to cross the road at the Grouse Inn and cross the fields into the woods.  Passing by the parking I dip down to cross the stream and startle a hind which bounds away and is gone before I can fumble for the camera.  Steeply up the other side and crossing the road again to the path leading south along Froggatt Edge I pass climbers walking back after a day on the crags.  Through the Birch woodland I am heading for Stoke Flat stone circle tucked just to the left of the path.  In late summer the bracken is high and hides the stones from view but after a little exploring I emerge into the clear space of the circle.  I wonder about the significance and history of these Bronze Age artefacts: who erected them and what was their life like?

Remains of Stoke Flat stone circle

Rather than take the main path along the crag top I opt to cross the centre of the moor, heading south eastwards below White Edge and after a couple of minutes of rough ground I pick up a good path.  I pass a small sheepfold and glance up and left looking for the trig point that is my next stop.  The light is starting to fade as I reach it with the sun now only just above the horizon.

The last of the sun on White Edge trig.

After savouring the views for a few minutes I turn northwards, passing by gritsone boulders, the few clouds tinted salmon pink by the lowering sun dropping below Sir William Hill.

The sun dropping below Sir William Hill

I take a last look at the sky before picking up the pace, heading north along the good path which undulates along the edge.

Salmon pink clouds and purple heather
I make it back to the car in the afterglow of sunset and take a final look, the lodge house silhouetted against a pastel sky.
Fantastic sky above White Edge Lodge
Another lovely run completed, I head for home.
White Edge 10km with 230m climb

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

Night Run on Houndkirk

The nights are drawing in but recent good weather has given a great opportunity for evening running in wonderful conditions.

Twilight running

Grabbing the opportunity to squeeze in a late evening run I picked up my mate Matt and headed out to the nearest part of the Peak District for a twilight run.  The sun was setting by the time we set off but there was just enough light to run without torches for 20 minutes or so. The light was fantastic, salmon pink in the west and a deep indigo to the east above the city lights starting to shimmer in the distance.

Running into the sunset

We picked our way through the heather visiting the Ox Stones, eyes gradually adjusting to the increasing darkness before we finally had to put our our head torches.  Running past the trees of Lady Canning’s plantation, bats flitted about overhead catching our peripheral vision but changing direction too quickly in the gloom for us to get a proper look.
When running with a head torch your world shrinks to the pool of light immediately ahead of you and your concentration increases as you focus carefully on your footsteps.  We ran along the edge of the woods with the neon glow of the city behind us, enjoying the tranquillity that is so special to the Peak District; close to the city yet remote.

Peak District night running with city lights behind

Running through the woods we lost the last of the light and were totally reliant on our torches to pick out the terrain ahead although the clear path didn’t present too many obstacles and we were able to maintain a reasonable pace.  The beauty of night running is that it forces to slow down and become more in tune with your senses, your awareness heightened compared to running in daylight.
We were soon back at the car and off back towards the city leaving the moors and woods behind, glad to have experienced them as few other people do and looking forwards to venturing out again after dark.

Night Running through Lady Canning’s plantation

A big thank you to Justin Grainge for the photographs.

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

Crowden & Kinder

Crowden Clough

The climb up Crowden is a challenge for any fell runner: uneven, loose, slippery and so steep in its upper reaches that most people will be slowed to a hands on knees walk.  But the rewards are fantastic views and good running on the path flanking the Kinder plateau.

Accessed from Upper Booth rather than Edale, Crowden sees less traffic than its neighbour Grindsbrook Clough but shares the same characteristics.  Starting in Edale I work my way through a network of fields and footpaths to Upper Booth and immediately take the path through the woods by the stream which leads to open country.  The path emerges abruptly from the trees giving a view of the clough as it rises northwards, steeply towards the guardian of Crowden Tower.

I stop to take in the view for a few moments before running again eyes fixed to the ground; the path is rough, skipping over boulders and flitting from one side of the brook to the other as it seeks the line of least resistance.  As the clough steepens to enclose the brook the path leaves to take the left flank of the hill below the imposing gritstone sentinel of the tower.  The gradient eventually eases and I take a rest, looking back at the route far below.

Looking down on Crowden Brook

Turning right I pick up the path to rejoin the brook where it emerges off Kinder, its peaty brown water pooling briefly before tumbling down the boulders to the valley.

The top of Crowden Brook

The running becomes easier now as the path follows the plateau edge, firm and sandy with large flagstones laid in sections to prevent erosion.  I can take in more of the view now and soak up the vistas as I progress eastwards, the steep sided Grindsbrook Clough, the rocky Ringing Rodger further ahead and way across the valley the twins of Lose and Win Hill looking small from this lofty setting.  Hundreds of thousands of years of wind and rain have shaped the gritstone outcrops into strange shapes, nature’s own sculpture park .

Natural Sculptures
Weathered gritstone framing a distant Lose Hill
Erosion control

After a short run along the edge path I turn left and head northwards to cross Kinder at its narrowest point to Blackden Edge and the northern hills come into view.  Just before I reach the north rim of the plateau I chance upon a pool reflecting the blue of the sky.

Pools on Kinder

I reach the edge and view from here is equally impressive, Blackden Brook drops down to the artery of the snake road far below and on the horizon the distant hills of Bleaklow and Howden Moor.

Looking North across Blackden Moor

Running eastwards I pass Madwoman’s Stones, wondering about the story that must be behind their odd name, and swing round southwards to cross the head of Jagger’s Clough.  The sky is cloudier now and sunbeams break through as I reach the Druid’s Stone, again the name conjuring thoughts of the history behind the name.

Crepuscular rays over the Druid’s Stone

Towards the end of the run now I drop below the imposing rocks of Ringing Roger that stand tall above the village of Edale and pick up the zig zag path leading down to Grindsbrook.

Looking back up Grindsbrook

I pause one last time to look back to where I stood earlier, taking in the view up the steep valley of Grindsbrook reaching westwards onto Kinder.  Then its down to the fields and onto the road back to the start, happily tired.

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

Fell Running: You Win, You Lose, You Win Again

The Peak District, despite it’s name, doesn’t have the high mountains of the Lakes, Wales or Scotland and so doesn’t give the opportunity for running constantly uphill for much more than 300 metres (1000ft).  But if you know where to go you can combine multiple climbs and descents in order to pack a decent amount of ascent into your run.

Win Hill and Lose Hill are less than 4km apart and stand as guardians over the southern side of Ladybower reservoir.  At 462m and 476m respectively they are not the highest points in the Peak, in fact Kinder is more than 150m higher. However unlike the higher plateaus of Kinder and Bleaklow these two hills are in fact peaks having relatively steep aspects, dropping 300m from their summits into the surrounding valleys of the Derwent and the Noe.  Viewed from certain aspects Win Hill gives the feel of a mountain with its rocky “Pike” dominating the skyline.

A wintry Win Hill viewed from the west

The pair are easily accessible from several points and so give numerous places to start and finish as well as offering different distances of route.

My regular run starts at the car park on the east side of Ladybower.  I cross the road and dam wall and depending on my mood turn left or right to either tackle the fiercely steep Parkin Clough or take the just steep path which switchbacks up through the woodland.  Both paths emerge at a gate and the route follows a path due west.  I push on hard to the summit, rewarding my effort with a pause at the top to take in the fantastic views.  My gaze is draw across Ladybower and the A57 to the rocky crest of Derwent Edge and then the darker hills to the north.  Turning to the west I see a distant Mam Tor and closer, Lose Hill just over 3km away as the crow flies, this is my next target.

Mam Tor (left) and Lose Hill (centre) seen from Win Hill summit

I have a choice of routes, today choosing to continue northwest towards Wooler Knoll before kinking left and down to pick up the road to Fullwood Stile Farm.  I back off the pace as I cross the railway and drop down to the river – I know from experience that the 2km climb to come will hurt.  I glance at my watch as I turn off the road and start the climb, it will be about 15 minutes to the top on a good day.  Although there are steeper climbs to come I always find this one the hardest and I try to block out the pain and focus on staying relaxed.  A walker is coming down the path from the summit and I set myself the challenge of getting to the stile before they do.  A cheery “howdo” from the walker as I start the rocky steps and change my stride, taking shorter, faster steps as I hit each slab. I think of the hard work that went into constructing the path and wonder how many times I have run up it, how many heartbeats I have spent on it, how many breaths?

The summit gives a welcome rest and even though I’ve been here many times I never tire of the scenery, taking time to soak up the views: the ridge continuing west to Back Tor, Mam Tor and on along the Edale skyline towards the remote Brown Knoll; then the Edale valley with the village itself tucked away below Grindslow Knoll; and to the north west across the valley the flank of Kinder and its deep incisions of Ollerbrook, Lady Booth and Jaggers’ Clough.  

I have choices to make now, I could retrace my steps down the flagstones then off down through the fields towards Hope and back up via Twitchill Farm and the steep, steep fields leading back to Win Hill.  But today I seek a longer run and my eyes turn to the north as I look over to the route I am going to take, down to cross the Edale valley and back up to the edge of Kinder.
So I press on along the well worn path, up and steeply down Back Tor taking care not to trip on the tricky descent and then, glimpsing Castleton below on my left, onwards to Hollins Cross.  Down now on the rough path and tiptoe through the slurry and inquisitive cows at Peter Barn before crossing the road and taking the path to Ollerbrook.  I’m off the tourist trail now and the steep bilberry clad slopes and rocky outcrops beckon me to my favourite part of the route, the steep climb to the gritstone prominence above Rowland Cote moor.

Steep ground above Ollerbrook Clough

Heather and bilberry ally with the steepness of the slope to slow me to a walk as I take the line of least resistance up to cross the fence then up the final steep few metres, hands on rock and heather to emerge on the plateau.  Here again a rest, sitting down facing south, a handful of jelly sweets the physical reward, the view and the solitude offering a deeper, intangible satisfaction that will stay with me not burn away with the coming miles.

I am now eastbound, skirting the head of Jaggers Clough and losing height as the rough path gives way to grassy fields down Crookstone Hill and meets the bridleway passing Hope Cross.  The early part of the Edale Skyline fell race takes this route, the runners still fresh before the toil to come.  For me tiredness is beginning to creep into the legs but the ground allows me to maintain a steady pace and I can see in the distance the summit of Win Hill, my next target.  For some reason this stretch can seem to take ages so I play mind games, not allowing myself to look towards my goal until the next wall, that way it looks much closer when I finally allow myself a glance.  Along the last flat stretch and up the final path, keeping running until I touch the trig point and the last climb is done.  I take in the view again, this time looking back over the route I’ve taken.

Been there done that – looking back towards Kinder from Win Hill

Satisfied, I set off on the descent back to Ladybower taking care with tired legs on the rocky steps.  Into the woods again, reversing my outward route to emerge at the reservoir and glance at the scary “plughole”, overflowing after recent rain, as I pass it by. (I always wonder what’s down there).  

The “plughole”

Across the dam wall again and the final 400m to the car, happily tired – I won, I lost, no I won!

Win, Lose,Win – 25km and 1250m climb

Profile showing 3 big climbs

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

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; http://www.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 http://www.fellrunningguide.co.uk/guided-runs-2/