Monday, 20 February 2017

Curlews, and the Snowdrop run......

      After a couple of 4 mile runs over the Castle mid-week it was time to up the mileage a bit on Saturday.  We set off to visit the village of Linton on what we call the snowdrop run.
The Snowdrop run   (Click pictures to enlarge)
      After recent rain it was a bit clarty alongside the Wharfe and I was skidding around a bit in my worn down studs. But if old ladies could cope with it, albeit with walking sticks, then so could I.
Beside the River Wharfe
      The temperature had risen to double figures and I could feel the warmth of the sun on bare legs. Hopefully, it will soon be warm enough for bare arms too for the start of my summer tan.
Running towards Linton Falls
      A loud roar filled the air as we approached the 'tin bridge' at Linton Falls where white water was thundering over the rocks and over the twin weirs beyond.
Bridge over troubled waters
      A pair of gaudy mallard were laying claim to a wee island in calmer water above the falls. We hoped they'd have enough sense not to nest there for they'd be in real danger of being washed away after the next heavy storm.
      Leaving the falls we took a route through fields from Threshfield school to cross and re-cross the old dismantled railway line to pick up a mossy lane to Linton village.
      Running up the hill beyond the school we were stopped in our tracks by the wonderful sound of the first curlew back to our area. It could have been navigating along the Wharfe to a favoured nest site in some quiet pasture. It's a favourite bird and a favourite sound I look forward to hearing each year, a sound that tells me winter is over, that Spring and new life are blossoming in the dale.

Ted Hughes was inspired to write:
Curlews in April
Hang their harps over the misty valleys
A wobbling water-call
A web-footed god of the horizons

New moons sink into the heather
And full golden moons
Bulge over spent walls

Mossy lane to Linton
      In a few more minutes we were passing through the gates of Linton House where lawns were smothered with shining white snowdrops, the most we'd ever seen. But perhaps we say that every year when we visit this site.
Snowdrops at Linton House
      Reluctantly, we left them to jog through the pretty little village, watching mallard playing in the water by the bridge and revelling in the warmth of sun on our bodies before striking steeply uphill to Langerton Lane and the hidden hamlet of Thorpe.
Running down to Thorpe
      Daffodils buds were thinking seriously about opening in a wild bit of garden where aconites and snowdrops were flowering among a mass of fallen berries.  And hiding among them was a solitary primrose, a bright splash of yellow in the kaleidoscope of colour.
Early primrose
      From Thorpe we'd a mile of enjoyable downhill running to the suspension bridge over the Wharfe before striking up through the ghyll back to our village. A steady 7 miles to put our snowdrop run to bed for another year.
Back to the suspension bridge
      We were up early on Sunday morning for what's becoming a regular run round Grimwith reservoir. And we were glad we did. The sky was burnished copper as we drove towards Dibbles Bridge but it disappeared behind the hills as we turned into the huge bowl of Grimwith.
Waterfown at Grimwith
      A noisy gang of oystercatchers wheeled away over the water as we ran across the dam.  Then greylags kicked up a rumpus as we passed a favourite grazing area below the old ruined barn.
On our regular run
      But best of all, a pair of curlews were calling across the water and another solitary one answered from the moor high on our left.  Before that we'd spotted a lone lapwing but further along a whole flock of them took to the air as we approached.
Toiling uphill to the finish
 All those harbingers of Spring lifted our spirits and filled our hearts with joy.  And a field of lambs at Turf Gate on our drive home only added to the euphoria. 
      A couple of hours later in a crowded chapel in Grassington I'd an awful lot to be thankful for. 
      I'm sure I out-sang everyone.  Judging by the looks I got......      

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Four seasons

      A light covering of snow on last Thursday's morning run over Castle Hill.
Snow  (Click to enlarge)
 Ice on a proposed Sunday morning run round Grimwith with a wind chill of -5ºC. Not wearing Yaktrax we aborted on grounds it was too dangerous.
      Cold, clammy mist on Tuesday's run.
      A gorgeous sunrise on today's (Thursday) run.

There are new born lambs in the fields, crocuses are flowering, oystercatchers are back on the river and feathered friends are coming to the bird table in pairs. 

Can Spring be far away?

Monday, 6 February 2017

Clothes don't always make the man......

      "Charles Booth please" a voice shouted my Sunday name from somewhere down the corridor in the Plastic Surgery unit. I set off in the direction from whence it came but no-one was there. I pushed partially opened doors. Rooms were deserted.  Eventually two nurses appeared, chatting cheerfully. One of them checked my name and led me to a room where an immaculately dressed man sat at a table peering stony faced at notes in front of him.  
      "Ah, the gentleman I came up in the lift with" I said, recognizing him. I assumed it was Mr Mahajan, for that was the name on the appointment form. But he didn't have the courtesy to introduce himself.  Without so much as a glance he ordered "Sit down" - as if he was speaking to a dog. Immediately my hackles rose.  I took off my coat, ready for him to inspect the eruptions on my back and arm. 
      "Where was the biopsy taken from?" he asked. I pointed to the wee scar on my forehead. He got up from his chair, yanked my head round to examine the spot, then proceeded to do a little drawing of my forehead, shading the area where he planned to operate and telling me there'd be a little scar afterwards. Meanwhile the nurse, Amanda, unceremoniously stuck a swab stick up both my nostrils to test for bacteria. 
      I told him about the potential BCC's on my back and on my arm, how they itched and sometimes bled onto the bed sheets. He wasn't even listening. "That's all, you'll receive an appointment for day surgery in two to three weeks".  
Like hell I will, not with you matey. As soon as I got home I rang the hospital to cancel the operation, effectively discharging myself.   I don't want to see that rude, ill mannered and unfriendly Mr Mahajan (?) again, ever.
New vest, courtesy of Terry Lonergan at 'Complete Runner'   (Click to enlarge)
Running-wise, it was another poor week. Twice I'd rolled out of bed in darkness, donned my running gear and stuck my nose out the door to start my run only to find it was windy, raining and misty.  I aborted on both occasions, not wishing to get cold in my eye to aggravate any remaining inflammation. 
My guardian angel at Cupola Corner on Saturday's run 
      So it was Saturday before I braved the elements to set off with my wonderful partner for an 8 mile run over Bycliffe Hill.  It had forecast wall to wall sunshine in the afternoon but guess what, we'd set off in the morning into a nithering south westerly and sporadic showers.  And where did the first shower hit us?  At 1,500ft on the windiest and most exposed part of the moor.  I didn't mind, I'd stopped to don a windproof jacket and my eyes were protected with wrap around shades and a cap.
A sprinkling of snow at the marker cairn
      To make things more atmospheric and enjoyable there was a light dusting of snow across the higher part of the moor, highlighting a sheep trod all the way across to the Mossdale track. The shower soon fizzled out to allow a smooth 3½ mile run for home, down the long wall and into the ghyll just as the sun came out again.   It would, wouldn't it, when we'd nearly finished.
Back into the ghyll as the sun came out
      I've a bit of catching up to do this coming week - between a visit to my doctor and an appointment with the optician...... 
I sometimes wonder if I'm starting to get old?  

Monday, 30 January 2017


      It's not been a good week, not for my camera, my eyes or my broadband connection. They've all conspired against me.  A series of pictures taken in perfect conditions on a dawn run last Thursday were all out of focus.  My old Panasonic Lumix seems none too keen on early morning activities but graciously agreed to take this one picture of Thursdays sunrise. 
Sunrise on a braw morning   (Click pictures to enlarge)
 I've since had words with it, tinkered with its settings and it seemed OK on Sunday's test run.  Here are some I took.
Hebden beck meandering through the village
      Actually, it wasn't a run, it was a walk. This time it was my Rt eye that was out of focus after another of those dreaded triamcinolone injections that didn't go quite right on Saturday.  I reckon most of the tetracaine ran down my cheek instead of into the eye to anaesthetize it. 
Signs of Spring (?) in Hebden Churchyard. 
      Iodine swabs stung like hell and I nearly leapt off the operating table when the needle pierced my eyeball to inject nearly 8 mgms of cortico-steroid, double the usual amount.  High strength Ibuprofen relieved much of the soreness afterwards, allowing me to go into hibernation mode for the rest of that day.  And night.
Hebden's only functional Church - St Peter's
      Church went by the board on Sunday. I was in no mood for company so set off up the ghyll for a solitary walk with my camera. Except it didn't work out quite like that.
Passing Pickering End
   Other people were up the ghyll, friendly souls from the village who were all too damn sociable. I was too polite to tell them to beggar off but gradually out-walked them to spend a couple of hours bumbling around on my own, having strong words with my camera.
..and Hebden Crag

      Fast forward to Monday when I've commuted back home, had lunch, warmed up my den and switched on the computer ready for work.  Except my broadband is playing up and there is insufficient download speed to get my pictures into Google for editing and getting them into my Blog.
..a quick visit to Scala Force
      I phoned Plusnet, my broadband provider, where a guy called Josh seemed more intent on talking me into an upgraded package than sorting out my problem.
...into the rough stuff farther up the ghyll
He later emailed me, blinding me with science about SNR margins and decibels and asking me to switch off my router in 4 hours, then switch it back on and leave it on in order to fix the problem. After ten days it should be OK.  Huh!  In ten days I might have switched to BT.
...across the Miner's Bridge
Some good news at the end of the day - I've managed to edit pictures in Google and get some into my blog.
..and a darkening sky towards end of day
No running shots as we never managed to get out together last weekend with hospital matters on Saturday and consequently in no fit state on Sunday.
Things can only get better...

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Running and an Ode to Joy......

      At a Covenant service conducted by Rev Richard Atkinson last Sunday four stalwarts of the defunct Hebden Chapel were given tickets of membership to Grassington Methodist Chapel. With time to spare before the service we flicked through their unfamiliar hymn book and were a little perplexed to discover four of five hymns planned for that morning were unfamiliar to us.  We needn't have worried for although the words were different we knew four of the five tunes, the first one from Beethoven's Ode to Joy which we Methodists sang with considerable gusto!
'The Route' round Grimwith    (Click pictures to enlarge)
      Prior to the service I'd been running round Grimwith with my wonderful partner, frost crunching underfoot, dawn breaking across the ruffled water, the sky a delicate pink, geese arrowing in to their feeding grounds while mallard swam around making their usual racket.
It was -1ºC  -  so well wrapped up
There's nothing like a morning run for priming the system and preparing it for anything the rest of the day might throw at it.  Another strange thing I've found is the way it affects my singing voice.  It's always stronger after a run. My breathing is more controlled and I can hit those top notes without straining.  Not everyone appreciates this!
The pond - back 'o Grimwith
      Two nondescript cloudy runs over Castle Hill during the week and an eight miler up the ghyll on Saturday brought my total to twenty.
Mist in the valleys below Castle Hill
 The main feature of these runs was the muddy conditions. I've been shooting off at a tangent and clambering through two barbed wire fences to avoid the slutch up Castle Hill.
Trying to dodge the mud on Tinker Lane
      Likewise on Saturday's run it was impossible to keep our shoes clean, particularly in the latter stages along Tinker Lane where sheep looked on,  surprised we should even try!
Still on Tinker Lane
      After formatting the SD card my camera is now fully operational again - which is more than can be said for its owner.  But I can still run.......

Monday, 16 January 2017

A good octogenarian day out......

      A Christmas present bought for me by my wonderful partner's sister-in-law is an incredibly warm pair of slippers I slip into within minutes of entering the house. Printed on the soles it says 'The walk to the breakfast table is exercise enough for any gentleman'. Not everyone agrees.... 
Saturday's route    (Click pictures to enlarge)
Take Saturday morning for instance. I'd just made myself comfortable, sprawled in my favourite chair in front of a warm stove with a nice mug of coffee when I heard the words "I think we'll have an early lunch, then go for that run over Buckden Pike". Oh yes....
Leaving Buckden
      It was after noon when we eventually set off to drive to Buckden in Upper Wharfedale where we parked the car in an area that could have doubled as a skating rink. We stripped down to running gear, donned our Yaktrax and set off up the waterfall route as the sun sailed past its zenith.
A scrambly bit on the waterfall route
      I was struggling in the snow and icy conditions. Not to mention over 1500ft of climbing.  So far as the ascent was concerned the word 'running' was far from the truth
Plodding upward
We didn't break into a run until reaching the level path to the Trig point and summit cairn, halfway to heaven in the frosty air, blue sky, icicles, sunshine and sparkling snow. Days don't come much better than this.
Icicles showing how cold it was
      Back in 2004, in the Buckden Pike fell race, I actually ran the whole way to the summit and back (not by the waterfall route, I hasten to add) finishing in 53mins 2secs to win the men's O/70 category.
The MV70's sweat shirt I won in 2004
"That'll take some beating" the late Bill Smith said at the prize-giving, intimating it was an O/70 course record. He'd know.
Approaching the summit
It was the second race, of four, to determine the winner of the inaugural Fell Runners Association Championship for runners over 70 years old, a championship I went on to win.
At the summit Trig point
      We left the summit, running, for we still had over ¾ of our route to complete and the sun was already sinking towards the horizon.
Starting the run down in a cold wind
We could have taken the shorter route down Walden Road from the Memorial Cross but we were in full flight now and kept to our original plan, returning to Buckden via Tor Mere top, Starbotton and the Dales Way along the west side of the River Wharfe.
The Memorial Cross
      It was rough going through tussocks and bog to Tor Mere Top, a lot of it still frozen under a covering of snow, but we made good progress and were racing down Starbotton Cam Road as the sun disappeared behind the moor ahead of us.
 Reaching Starbotton there was some discussion about whether to take the main road back to Buckden, saving time, or stick to the Dales Way route. We agreed on the latter.
A cairn near Tor Mere Top, flanks of Great Whernside behind
      A couple with a boisterous Hungarian Vizsla approached us as we crossed the river.  "Are you Gordon?" the gentleman asked. Affirmative. "I thought I recognized you, you left a comment on my Blog last week.  "I'm Derby Tup" he said before hurrying off, anxious to reach the Falcon Inn at Arncliffe over the heights of Old Cote Moor before dark.  A man of few words......
Those slippers - so nice to come home to....
     For us it was level going all the way to Buckden, though the snow covered path was a little icy in parts.   Darkness fell as we drove home through freezing conditions to our cosy cottage where I donned those warm slippers that told me the morning's breakfast table would have been quite far enough.
 I can't help thinking they might be better suited to somebody else....someone a little older perhaps......
......or more of a gentleman!
PS. All pictures except Saturdays route and MV70 sweat shirt were taken by my wonderful partner. My camera (or was it my brain) failed to function. I'd neglected to Format the SD card....