Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunay Morning in Saddleworth

With one or two Sunday morning runners nursing sore heads, after last night's wedding, a good strong group set off from the Castleshaw Centre, in Saddleworth.

Heading up the valley we made our way onto a windy Millstone Edge, before heading north along the
Pennine Way. At the Nant Sarah's Road we continued north for a short while before crossing access land to Readycon Dean Reservoir. From here we picked up the Pennine Bridleway and passed below Lurden Top, on route to Dowry Reservoir.

After a morning of showers, the sky now cleared and we removed wet cags as the sun broke through the scattering clouds. Continuing on, we climbed the PBW and picked up Moor Lane and then on to Four Lane Ends. Enjoying the delightful grassy descent we dropped into the valley to return to the car park on waterworks Road.

Another great Sunday morning run.

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Walk Round Dove Stone Reservoir

Dove Stone Reservoir, situated in the Chew Valley, Greenfield, is a popular tourist attraction for Oldham residents and visitors from farther afield. Considered as the northern gateway to the Peak District this beautiful valley offers an array of low level strolls and high moorland walks.

Setting out from the RSPB operated car park, adjacent to the Sailing Club, I made my way along the southern shores of Dove Stone Reservoir, with the evening sun warming my back. Turning north, at Chew Brook I watched a flotilla of sailing dinghy’s straining to make forward progress as their crews attempted to harness the light breeze in loosely flapping sails.

Passing below Dean Rocks the air was still and quiet, except for the distinctive calls of the Peregrine Falcons which nest high on the cliffs. Reaching the foot of Ashway Gap I sat on a bench in the grounds of the former Victorian Hunting Lodge, called Ashway House, and trained my binoculars to the sky in search of the high speed raptors. Previously owned by the wealthy Platt family the once majestic, castle-like, building was sadly demolished in the early 1980’s.

Continuing north I made my way along the eastern shores of Yeoman Hey Reservoir, which was the first to be constructed in the valley. Following the clear path I climbed to the south-east corner of Greenfield Reservoir and crossed the dam to reach the far bank.

Looking up the valley I watched two climbers scaling the formidable tower of gritstone rock, known as the Trinacle. The sound of their clanging ironmongery drifted down the valley on the still air.

As the setting sun bathed the valley’s upper, west facing slopes, in a blanket of orange light, I turned south and headed along the wide track, below Bill o’ Jacks plantation. Named after a 19th century pub which once stood close by, on the Saddleworth to Holmfirth Road, it was the scene of a most gruesome murder.

At the end of the track I dropped down the path and continued along the shores of Dove Stone Reservoir, as a pair of ducks escorted their young brood along the water’s edge. Crossing the dam wall I made my return to the car park to complete what had been a wonderful evening’s stroll in the Chew Valley.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Saddleworth Runners Summer Solstice Coffee Run

The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and is also the birthday of one of the members of Saddleworth Runners. At 8pm on Friday 21st June over twenty club members met at the Clarence Hotel, Greenfield, for birthday drinks before departing on a night-time round of the 20 mile Saddleworth Trigs route. Inspired by a previous, nocturnal winter round by two fellow SRC members, Nicky Torr wanted to complete the route, with friends, to celebrate her 40th Birthday.

Arriving at the half-way point
Starting out at 9pm, on what was a perfectly mild summers evening, the group was full of laughter and joy, as the 20 strong group made their way up Alphin Pike to the first trig point of the night. With a bright moon peaking from behind dark clouds the contingent made their way along the Chew Valley edges past Wimberry Rocks to Chew Reservoir and onto the 2nd   , and most remote trig point of the round, upon Featherbed Moss.  With the conditions ideal the miles were quickly ticked off as the going underfoot, along the Pennine Way, was ideal and Black Hill trig point was soon attained.

Get the coffee on love they're coming
Happy birthday Nicky
At Snoopy’s lay-by, on the Saddleworth to Holmfirth Road, another group of SRC members were waiting to join the first group for the second leg of their overnight journey. Husband and wife duo, Ruth and Stuart Hutchinson, had offered to set up their outside catering van to provide everyone with copious amounts of their finest coffee. Recently married, the SRC couple, who’s relationship was cemented by a love of the outdoors and a passion for fell running, own a newly established business called ‘Coffee Run’. Their specially kitted-out van can be seen every day, outside Greenfield Railway Station, serving Tea and Coffee to Saddleworth’s early morning commuters. At lunch times they provide hungry workers, at several business premises, with quality sustenance to see them through the remainder of the working day. Having a passion for fell racing they are now looking to set up stall at local fell races, to share their wonderful range of coffee’s and light snacks with fellow hill loving folk. Indeed they recently quenched the thirst of runner’s at two of SRC’s popular races, the Cake Race and the Saddleworth Fell Race.

Thanks for the wonderful coffee!
No sooner had their stall been set out, with lanterns glowing and birthday balloons floating in the wind, when a line of head-torches could be seen descending the northern flanks of Black Hill. As the group arrived, Ruth and Stuart set to work serving cup after cup of freshly brewed coffee to the parched runners. Within the space of a few minutes they had served around thirty nocturnal runners with freshly brewed coffee’s and home-baked cakes.

West Nab trig point - one to go
With everyone suitably refreshed, the ever growing group set off on the final leg of their Summer Solstice run. Under an angry looking sky we reached the trig point upon the rocky summit of West Nab in good time. A heavy rain now moved in, on an ever increasing wind, and it was time to don cags for the remainder of the outing. Making good progress down Wessenden Valley we once again followed the Pennine Way past Swellands and Black Moss reservoirs before traversing Broadhead Brow to reach South Clough.

With the weather now turning to near winter conditions and the driving rain reducing visibility to only a few metres ,everyone was still in high spirits as we marched on a bearing across the bleak and featureless Wicken Clough Moss. Crossing the Cotton Famine Road we drifted a little too far south and had to readjust our sights in order to reach the final, elusive trig point of the night.

Wessenden Valley
Upon reaching Sykes Pillar (Broadstone trig point), named on OS Maps after the late Frank Sykes, one of Saddleworth Runner’s founding members, we didn’t linger long as some of the group were now beginning to feel the effects of this unusually chilling weather. Dropping off the hill, to escape the worst of the driving rain and bone chilling wind, we headed down Broadstone Clough and past Slades Barn to reach Pobgreen. With dawn now breaking we followed a much more sheltered course along the lower flanks of Primrose Hill, below the Pot’s and Pan’s War Memorial, and into Greenfield were yet another strong contingent of club members had turned out to toast Nicky’s birthday and mark the passing of the solstice.

Nicky had thoroughly enjoyed her birthday run with her husband, Matt – a member of Oldham Mountain Rescue Team – her sister-in-law, who had travelled up from Sheffield to take part in the fun, and all her friends from Saddleworth Runners Club, for making her birthday so special. Nicky would like to pass on her thanks to everyone who turned out to support the run and a special thanks to Ruth and Stuart for providing the freshly brewed, energy giving, coffee’s. If you would like to book the ‘Coffee Run’ to support a race or club event, you can contact them via their facebook page at

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Walk Along the Denshaw Valley to Heights

On Bank Holiday Monday my son enjoyed a rare opportunity for a rest day from swimming training. With me just having returned from a weekend in the Lake District, working with a group of Youth Workers on a Forest School and Bush Craft training course, we decided to get out and enjoy a pleasant evening walk in Saddleworth.

Setting out from Denshaw we made our way along the upper-reaches of the River Tame, where a lone Heron stalked the shallow waters in search of an evening meal. At New Years Bridge Reservoir we made our way over to Ox Hey Farm, where, more used to being seen in the high mountains of Peru, Llama grazed in the lush grassy meadows .

With a light rain being blown in, from the south-west, we headed over to Heights where we looked around Heights Chapel, which has appeared in many a film and TV production. Afterwards we enjoyed a coke and a packet of nuts each in the Royal Oak, opposite. Sitting in front of the open fire we chatted with the landlord and his wife, who were very friendly and welcoming. Soon afterwards their son arrived, and we discussed a trekking trip to Nepal which he was about to embark on in a few days time. Over-hearing several conversations it was clear that many of the regulars were keen walkers and anyone calling in, when passing by, would fit in and be made very welcome.

With the refreshments and warming fire taking effect we left the comfort of the pub and made our
way down into the Denshaw Valley, past the cricket club. Crossing the fields we discovered a Lapwing's nest complete with incubating eggs. The protective parents had taken to the skies to chase off a couple of marauding Carrion Crow. Hopefully the batch of eggs will hatch and the chicks survive to adulthood, as unfortunately the lapwing (or Peewit as it is also known, in imitation of its display calls) is now on the RSPB's 'RED', endangered, list.

Continuing north we made our way along the valley bottom to return to Denshaw. We had enjoyed a couple of hours gentle stroll and had seen a range of wildlife on route. With a great sense of humour and an ability to hold varied and interesting conversations my son is fantastic company to be in and we had enjoyed some great Father and Son time together.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Cross-border skirmishing into West Yorkshire

Due to a busy work schedule and my son's swimming commitments it's been awhile now since I've managed to get out for a Sunday morning run. With a free morning slot in my diary I was determined to get out on the hill today. I decided a walk, instead of a run, would give me a chance to assess how my injured knee was recovering.

Setting out from Standedge Cutting, which is a century's old trade route crossing, I headed along the old Turnpike Road to Pule Hill. The climb up the southern face of Pule Hill is steep and a great test of leg strength. The views from the summit are wonderful and reach far across the windswept moors. The route to the Memorial Cross, which over-looks Marsden, was a delight on such a lovely spring morning. Passing several groups of walkers I could here the clanging of metal, drifting by on the wind, from the rattling racks of ironmongery clipped to the harnesses of climbers on the crags below.
Descending to Intake Head Farm I crossed the busy A62 and made my way to the Tunnel End Visitor Centre where I enjoyed a fresh cup of Yorkshire tea and a cream bun. The visitor centre is well worth a visit and if you're lucky you may see canal boats emerging from the dark tunnel after their deep passage from Diggle on the opposite side of the Pennines.

Heading along Waters Road I made my way to Close Gate Bridge which spans Haigh Clough. This narrow packhorse bridge stands at the start of an ancient trail that once crossed the moors to Rochdale. The course of the trail is now a designated Bridleway which I followed up the flanks of Willykay Clough. The moorland grasses appeared to flow in the wind like waves in the ocean and on the leeward slopes, new-born lambs were nestled amongst the grassy tussocks, sheltering from the wind, as their mothers stood close-by grazing.

At the top of the climb, on Little Moss, I turned south and followed the course of the Pennine Way along Millstone Edge to return to Standedge cutting. The morning had been lovely and whilst a strong wind had blown throughout, the weather had been mild and dry. However, I had timed my return perfectly for dark menacing clouds had now blown in and were beginning to unleash their sodden contents upon the parched moors.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Joe Mbu - The Running Man

A few years ago, whilst out on an evenings run in the Pentland Hills, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, I bumped into the comedian Eddie Izzard. At the time I didn't recognise him as we ran together and chatted about his 40 marathons in 40 days, to raise money for Sport Relief. It was only later that day, whilst writing a report which I had promised to do for him to raise more awareness and hopefully funds for his chosen charity, that I discovered just who's pleasant company I had enjoyed that evening whilst out running.
Today a running friend of mine, whilst out for a run around the hills of Saddleworth, bumped into and got chatting to a gentleman who was running Lands End to John O'Groats, to raise money for charity. That gentleman turned out to be, Joseph Mbu.
Below is a short statement from Joe's website. Please take a look at his site and, if possible support his cause and help spread the word.
Former professional rugby player Joe Mbu is running from Lands End to John Groats to raise money for charity

On 29th March 2013, Joe embarked upon an epic challenge to raise money for a good cause close to his heart. Joe is running solo...
from Lands End to John O’Groats to raise money for a hospital built by his grandparents in Okundi, Western Nigeria. The hospital was built in 1998 in memory of his late father and uncle and is called The Joedy Memorial Hospital. Originally built as a maternity hospital, it soon found itself treating everyone who came through its doors. It is now in great need of refurbishment as well as ongoing financial support to ensure that there is free medical treatment available for everyone in the surrounding area. Joe is trying to raise £100,000 through his UK contacts and about £500,000 worldwide.

Just £5 will pay for a mosquito net to protect a child or pregnant mother.

You learn more about Joe's challenge and follow his daily blog at:

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Castleshaw Skyline - A lovely winters morning

Date: 31st March 2013

Only a small contingent of seven runners met at Brownhill’s on what was a gloriously sunny Easter Sunday morning. Many of the regular Sunday morning crowd either had family commitments or must have forgoten to change their clocks to British Summer Time and therefore were still lying content under warm bed sheets.

Brownhill countryside visitor centre is the traditional meeting point for the Saddleworth Runners Club’s Sunday morning outings. Operated by Oldham Council’s Countryside Service, the visitor centre and Lime Kiln CafĂ© is situated in the heart of Saddleworth, on the banks of the Huddersfield canal.

Leaving the visitor centre car park, at just gone 10.00am, we headed North along the canal for a short while before picking up the A670 for the short stretch of tarmac to the Navigation Inn. Passing through the little wooden gate, at the side of the pub, we ascending the series of paths which provide a route up onto Lark Hill. Turning North along Harrop Edge Lane we were confronted by a cold wind blowing in from the East. It was these chilling Easterly’s which had brought in the recent bout of snow over the past weeks which, although now receding, as the spring temperatures begin to rise, was lying in deep drifts upon the frozen ground.

As we dropped into the saddle before Hunters Hill a couple of our group muttered suggestions of dropping down past the Saddleworth Hotel into the Castleshaw Valley, to avoid the wind, and follow a route back along the Tame Valley Way. Not wanting to miss the delights of running on the high moors on such a beautiful morning I instigated a coup and led a break-away group in the direction of Millstone Edge.

Parting company with the others we headed for Bleak Hey Nook and, after crossing the normally busy A62, passed behind the old, now long derelict, Horse & Jockey pub and headed up Whimberry Lee Lane. At Stanedge the remaining five ascended pure white, crisp snow fields to attain the trig point on Millstone Edge. Under a clear sky there was not but a breath of wind on this rocky edge which marks the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. The views all around were magnificent and far reaching and we reflected on what the others were missing after opting for lower ground.
Whilst today was glorious this rocky edge is often battered by strong winds, the year round. In bad winter weather this must have been a grim posting for the Roman soldiers stationed at the fort in the valley below, who’s job it was to guard the military road from Chester to York. One of a series of Roman Forts the original stronghold covered over three acres and garrisoned around 500 infantry. At some point it was abandoned until being re-occupied in the early 2nd century A.D. as a small out-post.

Following the Oldham Way we made good progress over the firm snow, the frozen surface of which was yet to thaw under the warming sun. Looking over to the West, the Denshaw reservoirs could be seen glistening in the morning sunlight.

Picking up the Pennine Bridleway we dropped down Moor Lane where it meets Ox Hey Lane, at the old Cross Roads known as Four Lane Ends. Continuing South we enjoyed running on the deep snow drifts that had completely filled the sunken track that is Broad Lane. The views down into the Castleshaw Valley were a delight as we headed towards Heights.

Although we wouldn’t be passing it today, St Thomas’s church is located just a few hundred metres further along the lane. Known locally as Height’s Church it has featured in many film and TV productions. Opposite is a small public house called the Royal Oak which is well worth a visit, if passing this way, as they are reputed to offer fine ales and good food.

Opposite the entrance to Spring Hill we turned South East, towards Grange, and descended the sunken bridleway, which is believed to have been an old packhorse road or ‘saltway’. This area of Saddleworth was part of Friarmere which in turn was part of the Roche Abbey estate.  Local historians believe that the Black Friars had a house or ‘Grange’ here which possibly lends its name to the area.
Our descent once again took us over deep snowdrifts and we eventually emerged at the ford which crosses Hull Brook. In summer, after a long run, crossing the ford offers a welcoming, cool relief to hot, tired feet. However, with the brook flowing cold from melt-waters gathered from the frozen moors high above the valley we chose to cross the wooden bridge, a little further upstream, and keep our feet warm and dry.

With our morning outing nearing the end we followed the course of Hull Brook, picked up the Tame Valley Way and followed its route through Delph and Dobcross and back to Brownhill’s in Uppermill.

We had had a fantastic run and marked the start of British Summer Time on what was a beautifully clear sunny morning. A nice hot brew and bacon butty was all that was now needed to end what had been a perfect Easter Sunday morning.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

High peak Marathon 2013

It was over two years ago since my last encounter with the High Peak Marathon. On that occasion, probably due to the lack of training, after we got a last minute entry as a reserve team, I had struggled over the last section of the route from Snake Top. So with a guaranteed entry this year, surely I would arrive at the start line race fit?
Whilst I hadn’t been able to do any regular long distance training, due to work commitments and a busy schedule with my son’s swimming training, I had got some decent runs in with fellow club mates. Andy Gartside and I had completed a night-time round of the Saddleworth 5 Trigs and Howard Chambers joined us for a night round of the new 5 Trigs a couple of weeks later. In addition, fellow HPM team member Gaynor Keane and I had a good run around the 26 mile Anglezark Amble at the beginning of February. With three weeks to go to the HPM I had planned a couple of other long runs on the hills that would stand me in good stead. Like all best laid plans it wasn’t to be. Work etc. got in the way and I had to fly out to the Middle East where I wouldn’t run another step until returning home. Spending all my time cooped on board aircraft, sat in vehicles and hanging around in hotels I could feel my legs wasting away.

Returning home to the UK, I went out for a six mile run on the Tuesday previous to the HPM. Whilst the run went well I woke the following morning with my legs aching. With only 3 days to go it wasn’t a positive sign. With the exception of breaking a leg, or something similar, I knew I would complete the route but I didn’t want a repeat of the last outing.

The High Peak Marathon has a reputation as a tuff and daunting challenge that traverses some of the most severe upland terrain in the Peak District. Combined with the distance and severe weather conditions that can be encountered, along with the fact that the majority of the route will be completed in darkness, it is not for the faint-hearted. Lack of sleep is another contributing factor to the events toughness. With most competitors arriving at the start-line after finishing a full day at work they will be setting out into the night for what, for most, will be over 12 hours of arduous, sleep deprived, running.

Race day arrived and I spent all day at work looking forward to getting down to Edale and getting the challenge underway. My kit was sat at home packed and ready to go and I was eager for the off. After finishing work there would be no time for going home and putting my feet up for a rest. As always I was running about doing one thing another. With the team meeting at my house for 8.30pm I called at the chippy for a late tea. Chips, Pie and Peas. The food of Athlete’s!

Chris Webb and Roy Gardner arrived at my house bang on time. We loaded the kit and collected Gaynor Keane on route to Edale. Chris, Roy and myself know each other well and the drive down was full of chatter and banter. Chris, in his usual joyful manner was going on about us setting, and maintaining, a 7 minute mile pace across Bleaklow and on into Edale. I glanced across to see the look on Gaynors face, who was doing the HPM for the first time, which read, “What the hell have I let myself in for here”.

I ran the HPM with Chris on my last outing. Chris was unsuccessful at getting his team into this year’s event but joined our team after Colin Bishop had to pull out due to work commitments. Chris is a very experienced ultra-distance runner. Extremely fit and highly motivated, with an infectious enthusiasm, he completed the 145 mile Grand Union Canal race, a couple of years ago, in a very good time. There are a handful of people who are a pleasure to run with on long-distance outings and Chris is definitely one of them. Whilst he is capable of quick times over long distances he is a great team player and never looks down on people just because they don’t move at the same pace as himself.

Not long to go now

Arriving at the event centre in Edale we conducted the mandatory kit inspection and then set about devouring the mountains of pre-race food and drinks that are laid on for the competitors. The atmosphere in the village hall is always buzzing and it’s an opportunity to catch up with people you haven’t seen for a while. This event attracts some of the biggest names in ultra-distance fell running but there is no sense of elitism from anyone. The whole room is filled with a vibrant, friendly atmosphere and the students of Sheffield University, who organise the event, can’t do enough for you.

Our start time of 11:29pm soon arrived and we were off out of the door to a round of applause and shouts of ‘good luck’ from organisors and competitors alike. The route to the first check point is straight forward enough and involves a direct ascent up to Hollins Cross. Full of enthusiasm and spring in their steps many teams set out too fast, in these early stages, only to burn out later on. With it always taking me at least an hour to warm up and settle down, on any run, I took the ascent nice and steady. With a couple of teams passing by and the rest of Team SRC waiting at the check point my legs felt good.

The route to the second check point, on Lose Hill, is only a couple of kilometres away but teams chose a variety of lines. The decent towards hope is good going underfoot and on normal occasions is a down-hillers paradise. However, tonight, in a bid to save leg strength, the descent is conducted in a controlled manner.

Passing the Cheshire Cheese public house Roy had the sudden urge to need to find a secluded spot in the woods. Earlier in the evening, at his daughter’s birthday party, she had given him a bottle of Coconut Water. Telling him it was the latest energy giving drink, he had consumed the whole bottle just before we crossed the start-line. Obviously she was getting her revenge on her father who had had to leave her party early to go off and do some mad-capped run. When she gave him the witches brew she could not have envisaged just how many times her Dad would pay for his crimes, throughout the night.

Roy was a last minute addition to the team after Howard Chambers had been forced to pull out due to injury. Standing at over 6 feet tall he is a strong, talented runner and a great team asset. With his relaxed, friendly attitude and supportive nature he is the ideal person to be out on the hills with for any extended period of time.

With Chris setting a quick pace we soon reached Win Hill and made our decent to Yorkshire Bridge. Chris continued the quick walk/jog pace up the long road section that is New Road. Deciding that this was too quick a pace, at this still early stage, I deliberately dropped off the back a little and chatted with an all-female team who were moving at my preferred pace. Always with a spring in her step, and still experiencing the early stage highs of the event, Gaynor was happy to go at Chris’s pace. However, we still had many more miles to go and we still hadn’t stepped foot on any real rough ground yet. Being her first event I wanted to ensure that we moved at the right pace to ensure success and save energy for later on. Besides, I didn’t want to burn myself out either.

It was whilst on this road section that I began to feel a sharp pulling under the arch of my left foot. Whilst not causing any real pain, the nagging worry that it may develop into something worse would plague me for some time to come.

Catching the others up at the track which leads up to Stanege Edge I joked with them about the merits of adopting the ‘Maylor Shuffle’ and jogged by, on route to High Nebb. Another check point down we moved at a good pace over Moscar Moor to the food station on the A57. As with all the check points we were greeted by a group of joyous students in fancy dress.

Grabbing a cup of tea and a sandwich we headed off down the A57 to the checkpoint at Cuthroat Bridge, before striking out across the moor to Derwent Edge. The edge is runnable virtually the whole way and we made good progress to Lost Lad where Roy, yet again, had to pay the price for crimes against his daughter.

Dropping down to Sheepfold Clough we climbed up onto Howden Edge and made way to the Trig Point at Outer Edge, via Cut Gate. From here on the ground is extremely rough and notoriously boggy. However, with temperatures down to around minus six degrees and, in parts, covered in snow we were able to make good progress. The firm snow was a delight to run on and, using it to our advantage, we passed teams who were travelling on rough frozen ground and had not yet recognised the advantages of our new found friend.

Check Point on Outer Edge

With a cold wind now blowing head-on the temperature dropped again and rucksacks and cags became encrusted in a layer of frost. My water bottle had frozen and I couldn’t open the valve to access the solidifying solution within. The traverse across Harden Moss to Swains Head passed by with relative ease, although both Roy and I did break through a frozen bog together and ended up knee deep in its freezing cold contents.

The next section onto Bleaklow is one of the most difficult sections as far as navigation is concerned. Whilst visibility was perfect we wanted a good line across this rough ground which is bisected with countless deep peat groughs. This is where Chris’s intimate route knowledge is an advantage. We decided to continue to use the snow to our benefit and, whilst many other teams seemed to be going across country on a direct bearing, we followed the meandering, snow filled, peat groughs. It was definitely a good choice as we made good progress, whilst saving valuable energy, and emerged just a couple of hundred metres short of the checkpoint at Bleaklow Stones.

The long awaited sunrise

Whilst grabbing a quick bite to eat we enjoyed watching a much awaited sun rise over to the East. It was a beautiful sight and one that we would have missed had we opted to stay at home tucked up in warm beds.

Once again using the tried and tested method of following the meandering, snow filled, groughs we headed for Bleaklow Wainstones. With a warming sun now emerging on our backs we could, at last, turn off the head torches as we picked up the Pennine Way and made our way to the second feed station at Snake Road Top.

After a quick cup of tea we crossed the Snake Road and followed the paved, runnable, path up onto Mill Hill. The temperature was warming up now and Roy and I opted to take off our cags. I only wish that I had had my shorts with me because I was desperate to lose my longs too and get some air to my legs.

Friendly students at Snake Road Top

After Mill Hill we made the short but steep climb onto Kinder Scout and followed the edges past Kinder Downfall over towards Kinder Low. Normally, when running along this edge you would be skipping and flitting from rock to rock with the grace of a ballet dancer. However, with tiring legs and aching joints every rock and boulder now becomes an annoying and unwanted obstacle in the way of forward progress. Many people mistakenly think that if you can make it to the Snake Road Top you are almost home. In fact, this last section, back to Edale, is much further than appreciated and it is now that the dividends of adopting a sensible pace throughout will pay off. Unlike my last HPM I was feeling good. Whilst not running fast I was feeling comfortable and enjoying the whole experience.

Dropping down off the Kinder Plateau Gaynor was starting to suffer badly from a pain in her knee. She had had a great run, so far, but was now beginning to feel the effects of moving into untested distance. Gaynor has a natural running talent. Full of energy and light on her feet, she is fast over the shorter distances and has proven that she also has a talent for long distances too. She is a great person to run with and an ideal team member for an event like this. Knowing how Gaynor likes a challenge she will deffinately be looking to enter the HPM again. Now that she has experienced it, and with the right training and the right team she will probably look to go for a faster time in future.

Reaching the checkpoint to the East of Edale Cross, and whilst waiting for Gaynor, the marshal’s produced a packet of chocolate chip cookies from within the depths of their tent. Offering some to us they tasted fantastic. The taste gave us an instant lift and we set off with new found energy and enthusiasm. Passing Brown knoll we enjoyed running on the last of the snow, and like my water bottle, it was beginning to Thaw. My foot broke through a small snow bridge, over a stream, causing a tumble.

Although Gaynor was now clearly suffering from the pain in her knee, and lagging behind a little, she maintained the effort and we soon reached Rushop Edge before skirting around the bottom of Mam Tor for the final traverse of high ground.

With the last checkpoint in the bag, at Hollins Cross, all that was left was the final decent into the valley below, from whence we came many hours before. The last time I completed the HPM, it took me as long to make this descent has it had done to climb it on the way out. This time I flitted down with relative ease to the road at the bottom.

Joined by the rest of the team we made the short return trip along the road to the event centre and, applauded by organisors and competitors, we clocked in with a very credible time of 11 hours 39 minutes.

Job done

We had had a fantastic event and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience together. The make-up of the characters within the team was ideal and we all worked well together, throughout. I am already looking forward to next year’s event and would gladly run it again with Roy, Chris and Gaynor. Thanks to you all for your wonderful company.

The final words have to go to all the High Peak Marathon organisors. Without the relentless energy and enthusiasm that these students show this successful event would not be what it is. The organisation is second to none and faultless. In addition to all the pre-event organisation, they arrive at the event centre at 07.30 on the Friday morning to get everything prepared. They make all the sandwiches, cakes, pre and post-race meals themselves and transport food out to the two feed stations. Marshalls go out to the remote checkpoints as early as 5:00pm and are there to greet you, in the dead of night, with big smiles and boundless energy and support. Then when it’s all over, and the competitors are heading home to have hot baths and put their feet up, these enthusiastic students still have to pack up and come in off the hills.

Long after the race was done, and just as I was going to bed at gone 11pm, I was reflecting on how I’d been awake since 6am on Friday morning. Forty one hours in total. As I contemplated enjoying a nice Sunday morning lie-in I thought about a conversation I’d had with one of the students after the race. She had told me that she had been at the event centre since 7.30am on Friday morning. Saying that she must be looking forward to putting her feet up on Sunday, she told me that she was studying Neurology and that she had a dissertation to get done. Whilst I was thinking that she probably had a few weeks to get it completed she duly informed me that it had to be written and handed in by Monday morning!

Hats off and a big THANK YOU to them all!!!

Monday, 18 February 2013

London Marathon 2011

In 2011 I ran the London Marathon in memeory of my good friend Ray Glazer, who had recently passed away of a long battle with cancer. In Ray's memory I raised money for two worthwile charities, MacMillian Cancer Support and the Alzheimer's Society.

Below is my original report, posted on the Adventure Fundraising website.
After not getting to bed until gone 01.00 I was back up again at 05.30 ready to make my way to the start line. After a quick breakfast I hit the tube system on route to my start point at Blackheath. The tube was very busy and once on the DLR & South Eastern trains everyone was crammed into the carraiges shoulder to shoulder. However, all the train operators ran the services very well with extra trains put on and plenty of station staff to assist.

The atmosphere at the runners start area was very friendly, with people chatting to each other whilst getting ready and loading their kit bags onto the trucks, to be transported to the finish area. I have to say that the logistical organisation of the whole event was second to none.

After suffering from a bout of the 'Man Flu' and missing most of the last two weeks of my training I thought that I would be running much slower than I had intended and therefore decided to put myself further back in the start line, than my allocated position according to my predicted time of 3hrs 30mins. This proved to be a big mistake as once across the start line it took a long time and several miles for the thousands of runners, who were running shoulder to shoulder, to thin out enough for me to be able to pass people and work my way up through the crowds. Eventually though gaps did appear and it was possible to start striding out and make good progress.

Once I was underway and running well I calculated that I should be able to do a 3:45 or even a 3:40 if all went well. The atmosphere was fantastic with thousands of people cheering the runners on and bands playing on virtualy every corner. Kids were everywhere wanting to 'high five' with the runners as they went by. With water stations placed every few miles I was able to take on board plenty of water, which was essential in the heat. By about mile 6 I was already seeing people lying at the sides of the road in difficulty and the numbers increased, further into the route. Quite a few appeared to be in a bad way and were being tended to by medics.

By mile 7 I was feeling quite hungry, and passing various fast food outlets I was tempted to peel off for a quick bite to eat! However, I had the Lucozade Sport drinks stations to look forward to and my usual supply of sweets, in my bumbag, to provide me with sustanance. Whoopee!!

I felt I was running well now and enjoying the whole carnival atmosphere and the miles just dissapeared without me realising it. At mile 15, around Canary Wharf, the roads seemed to narrow causing the pace to drop again due to the congestion of runners. By mile 18, and approaching the heart of the cities financial district, my legs were staring to feel it a little. However, my spirits where high and you couldn't help but be carried along by the crowd and the fantastic atmosphere. At this stage I calculated that I was on for a 3hr:45min finish which I would have been happy with considering having been unwell and the level of training I'd done.

The 20 mile mark was a significant milestone as I was now counting down the miles instead of up. After mile 23 I would now be running in completely new terroritory as 21 miles was the furthest road miles I had done during training. Entering Blackfriars Tunnel was a short welcome relief from the baking sun and once out on the other side there would only be roughly a couple of miles to go to the finish.

My pace seemed to drop off considerably at around 24 miles and I had to have a word with myself to keep moving at a running pace and not a jog. Just before the 25 mile marker I heard my son Lewis shouting out from the crowd. I spotted him at Embankment with Pam and Lucy, all out to cheer both myself and the other runners on.

With a mile to go I realised that I wasn't even going to make the 3hr 50min mark. I don't know what had happened in those last few miles but I must have slowed the pace quite a bit. After passing through Parliment Square and running alongside St James' Park, with only 800 metres to go, I passed a man who could barely stand up. He had lost all control of his legs and fell to the ground in a heap. I still feel guilty about running by and not helping him but there were plenty of medics around who would be able to offer him assisstance. I hope he is ok and hopefully he was still able to cross the finish line and receive his medal. It must be heart renching for anyone not to be able to complete the marathon but to make it that far and falter, so close to the finish, must be heart breaking, after all those months of training.

With only 400 metres to go it was time to put a bit of a spurt on. At the end of St James's Park the route turns right passing Buckingham Palace and then turns into the Mall for the final 200 metres to the finish line. I sprinted this final 200metres (well as best you can after 26.2 miles) to finish in some sort of respectable fashion, crossing the finish line in 3hours 51 minutes and 41 seconds.

Although very disapointed with my time I had fully enjoyed the event and was happy that I'd ran in memory of my friend Ray Glazer and was able to raise money for two very worthy charities - MacMillan Cancer Support and Alzheimer's Society.

Now that a few days have passed and I've had time to reflect I suppose, as others have told me, that I shouldn't be too dissapointed with my time. After all I never originally set out to run a certain time. I ran the London Marathon because it was always something I'd wanted to do. Being a fellrunner, I only intended to run it the once and therefore wanted to enjoy the whole event whilst raising money for charity. Because I was running for charity I'd deliberalty conducted my training carefully and with caution so as not to get injured and ensure I made it to the start line. Coupled with not being to well and missing alot of my training, over the last two weeks, and starting too far back in the line-up, I suppose I can't complain.

However, I know I can run a much faster time, and as I told myself, within the first couple of miles, I will be running another to try to get a better time.

Two days after the marathon I was back out running on the hills and already formulating plans for my next fundraising adventure.

Thanks to all the people who sent messages of support and to those who donated to MacMillan Cancer Support and the Alzheimer's Society. Your donations will help to make a difference to peoples lives.

Chris M

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Saddleworth Northern 5 Trigs

On Tuesday 29th January Andy G, Howard and myself completed an Owls run around the Northern 5 Trigs.

Setting out from the Black Lad
We decided to start from the Black Lad, on Buckstones Road, instead of leaving the cars at Grains Bar. Just as we were getting ready for the off a lady came out of the pub and enquired about what we were doing. When we explained the plan for our evening's activities she declared us insane and, after taking our photo, left with a look of bewilderment on her face.

Striking out at 20:00 hrs, we followed public footpaths for the short section across the fields which would lead us to the edge of Crompton Moor. Another reason for not setting out from the traditional start point was to avoid a notoriously boggy section of footpath early on in the run. However, after the recent heavy rain and subsequent thawing of the snow the fields weren't in much better state.

We reached the first trig point of the night, on Crompton Moor, within 18 minutes. Pausing only briefly, for the obligatory trig photo, we were soon under way and heading through Ogden and Peithorn valleys on route to Blackstone Edge.

Following much of the Blackstone Boundary route now (Pennine Plod) we again made good time and soon reached the drain which makes its course past the Roman Road. Part-way along the drain we broke tracks and made a direct assault on the trig point. The last few metres of ascent being an easy scramble up the Gritstone rocks to attain the summit.

Blackstone Edge
With the second trig now in the bag we stopped a while to eat and drink, whilst admiring the display of illuminated patterns from streetlights in the towns far below and to the West. Before we set out it had been a wild wet night. However, the wind and rain had stopped just before the off and now we were feeling the effects of what had turned out to be a warm and balmy night. Gulping fluids down we realised that between us we hadn't brought enough to drink.

Still running at a good pace we soon covered the ground to Windy Hill and crossed Ripponden Road for the ascent up onto White Hill. In total contrast to Sunday mornings outing the path was free of the deep snow which had concealed freezing cold melt-water, running off the moors, and we were able to run the whole way to the trig point. The decent to the Nont-Sarahs Road was again completely runnable with only patches of snow managing to cling onto the last remnants of life in ditches and on North facing slopes.

Andy's last drops of fluids, consumed upon White Hill, must have contained some special energy giving powers for he now moved up in front and set an even quicker pace along Millstone Edge to the fourth trig point of the night.

After delving into the Liquorice Allsorts & Jelly Babies and sharing out the last drops of my drink we took a direct decent to escape the ever present wind which sweeps up from the Castleshaw Valley and batters the entire length of Millstone Edge. Passing the Roman Fort, which once guarded the Manchester to York Road, we soon reached the valley floor and followed the course of the river and the early section of the Castleshaw Canter route into Delph.

With the pubs now kicking out we had just missed the opportunity for a quick pint so pressed on through the village before taking a right up Grains Road in search of a suitable footpath which would lead us to Bishops Park. With this long thin strip of moor seeing little footfall our chosen path proved over-grown and the pace slowed as we clambered through energy sapping heather. However, Andy soon found a narrow gully, which offered an easier course, and our progress once more continued progressively forward instead of one step forward and three back, has had been the case only moments earlier.

5th and final trig point - Bishops park
With the clock ticking shy of midnight we reached our fifth and final trig point of the night at Bishops Park. Time for the final summit photo. Before we had set off we had made a bet - the wager being a round of drinks - how long it would take us to complete the round. With that in mind we didn't linger and set out across the golf course and down Buckstones Road to return from whence we came.

We arrived back at the Black Lad in 4 hours 4 minutes 30 seconds. Not a bad time for a what was a steady night-time training run.

The Northern 5 Trigs is a great route with a whole album of pleasing views on offer if run during the day. Unlike the Saddleworth 5 trigs which is a little longer with more ascent and rougher underfoot, it is easily runnable all the way.

The Best Coffee in the World - a night time round of the Saddleworth 5 trigs

With the Owls having a well earned rest from nocturnal flying over the Christmas period it was time to get the head torches back out and once again hit the hills for some night time adventure. The chosen route for the first owls run of 2013 was 'The Saddleworth 5 Trigs'.

The Owls about to set off on the Nocturnal 5 Trigs Run

The owls, Chris M, Andy G, Howard H and Bruce B, assisted by Charlie B, who kindly volunteered to be our support crew, assembled in the car park of the Clarence public house, Greenfield, in preparation for a midnight departure.

Leaving the Clarence we headed off towards Mossley ad then turned left up past the old co-op building on route to our first trig point upon Alphin. The night was so mild that we ran this section in just long sleeved running tops and didn't don cag's until reaching Chew Reservoir. Chatting away happily between ourselves we made good time up to the summit of Alphin, in around 30 minutes.

1st trig point of the night - Alphin Pike
One trig point down we headed along the edges, again at a reasonable pace. Due to all the recent rain the vast expanses of peat which are crossed on this section was the consistency of thick porridge. However, we soon reached Indians Head followed by Stable Stones Brow, Chew Hurdles and then Chew Reservoir.

At Chew reservoir we intended to stop briefly for a quick bite to eat so now put on our cag's to keep at bay the chilly wind which was blowing up the valley. After running with us over this first leg it was time for Bruce and Howard to make their return for home via the Dove Stones Valley. It had been great running with them and Andy and I where grateful for their company. Howard, never wanting to miss a little bit of adventure, had come out in the dead of night, even though he wasn't fully recovered from his recent bout of illness. When they left, with the plan of phoning Charlie when they got back to inform him of their safe return, it was time for Andy and myself to continue around the remaining four trigs.

Howard and Bruce about to descend into the Dovestone Valley
As we ran along the shores of Chew Reservoir the clag began to close in and as the light from our head torches bounced back at us off the mist, it became clear that it would not be the easiest of tasks to find the second trig point on Featherbed Moss. After spending some time finding and confirming that we were at the outflow of Green Grain, Andy and I remembered that we were both carrying GPS's. Firing Andy's up we confirmed our position and set off across the moor to locate the elusive white pyramid. The trig point upon Featherbed Moss can be difficult to locate even in good weather. Even when picking a good line you can be almost upon it before it appears out of the peat. With this in mind I kept a constant eye on our bearing whilst Andy would read out the GPS co-ordinates at regular intervals. Each time I would check the map and was always happy where we where. Eventually the trig point appeared out of the mist, caught in Andy's torch light just a little over to our left.

Trig point No: 2 - Featherbed Moss

After a short stop for some liquorice Allsorts and to set a new bearing we set off in search of the next trig point on Black Hill. Moving on a bearing across the wet and sodden moor our feet were by now soaked and we were caked in wet mud up to the knees. After a while we intercepted the foot path leading from Chew Reservoir to Laddow Rocks as planned. Favouring this route instead of heading further across the moor, as often done in daylight, we made good time along the runnable path. Reaching Laddow Rocks we headed generally north, following the Pennine Way, and again made reasonable time in a bid to claw back some of the time spent in the fog on Featherbed Moss.

Black Hill was attained without any problems and we were both still going strong. By now we were thinking of Charlie who was waiting for us at New Snoopy's and we were sure that we could smell the waiting coffee drifting upon the wind. The descent along the flagged section of the Pennine Way was very slippy underfoot and we had to heed caution so has not to slip. With the sky now clearing we enjoyed far reaching views over the illuminated streets of Holmfirth and Huddersfield, where presumably most people were tucked up in warm beds. Suddenly a bright light shot through the sky and illuminated us still high upon the hill. What could be the source of such a powerful beam? Was it the police helicopter or an alien space craft maybe? No it was Charlies million candle watt, super charged, hand lamp guiding us in to New Snoopy's layby. The coffee was waiting! We signalled back to him and continued on, paying less regard now to the slippery slabs underfoot as we hurried to the coffee stop.

3rd trig - Black Hill

Charlie greeted us with that big friendly smile he has and full of the enthusiasm that only fellow fellrunners can muster in the early hours of the morning when involved in some similar mad capped idea. He duly pulled out a flask of steaming coffee and poured it into two large Costa Coffee cups. "Get that down you", he said. "I've got two flasks here for you." It was like drinking nectar! Stood there in a windy lay-by, on the Isle of Sky Road, at around 3.30 am in the morning, that coffee was the best coffee I'd tasted anywhere in the world. If Charlie was to make his coffee and sell it on the high street he would put Costa Coffee out of business in no time. Whilst drinking our welcoming brews Charlie informed us of his own adventures, whilst parked in the lay-by, awaiting our arrival. He'd had cars pull up and flash their lights at him hoping for some sort of coded response, the Police had stopped and ask what he was doing there and soon after he witnessed the same police officers in a high speed car chase from Holmfirth towards Saddleworth.

After spending about 10 or 15 minutes with Charlie it was time to set off before our legs seized up. Just as we were getting ready for the off we spotted two head-torches descending the the Pennine Way path from Black Hill. Torn between hanging around to see who else could be out on the hill at this hour and needing to get going we left Charlie with the task of solving the mystery.

Now refuelled with Charlies wonderful coffee we headed off, at a good pace, along the Meltham road for what is a short stretch of tarmac leading to the foot of West Nab. Leaving the road and crossing the fence we made the short ascent to the summit of West Nab and the fourth trig point of the night.

Four down, one to go - West Nab

The fifth section of this round is the roughest under foot with barely a trod to be found in daylight let alone at night. Heading west along the flat summit we crossed the fence and then hand-railed Leyzing Clough. Even in winter, when the Turks Heads have died back, this is still a rough and difficult decent where tired legs fail to lift properly and a toe caught on a tussock can cause a fall or at best cursing and swearing as you loose your balance and your stride. Hitting the wide path which runs down Wessenden Valley we turned South East for a short while heading for the Dam Wall of Wessenden Head Reservoir. At this point we met the two individuals who's torches we had seen earlier descending Black Hill. They were male and female members of the Rucksack Club walking Edale to Marsden return, which is a traditional challenge for their club.

After crossing the dam we began our trog up Shiny Brook Clough. In the dark, with the moon occasionally peaking from behind moody clouds, we failed to find the faint trods which can sometimes be located in daylight hours. Even though we were walking we still made good time and we were soon crossing the peat groughs which bisected our route, running into West Grain.

With the fence line attained, we made a quick check of our exact location and planned to follow it south for four hundred meters in order to make the shortest crossing possible to the PW footpath, across what is notoriously a very wet and boggy section of moor. Deviating from our plan a little too early we encountered several tracts of moor which were impassable peat bogs. Like arctic explorers searching for routes around unfrozen leads we wandered back and forth picking our way around the deep bogs, across what little firm ground we could find, loosing time in the process.

Hitting the Pennine Way at a point that should have been a little South of the Cotton Famine Road we made a quick check on the GPS. Bingo! We were 100 meters south. Once again, as done on a couple of occasions tonight, we paced out the distance. " One Hundred meters. Check the GPS Andy." Spot on! we were at the end of the Cotton Famine. Or so we hoped. Setting a bearing we headed off across the moor. Less than a hundred meters west and we were delighted to find that we truly were on the old Cotton Famine Road. Go West young men, go West.

The run along the Cotton Famine was a delight after trudging over sodden tussocky ground where the legs had become caked in heavy wet peat, up to the knees, which saps the energy from already tiring limbs. With the mist once again rolling in, reducing visibility, we encountered a broken section of this early Victorian highway where its course turns North West. Dropping into the sodden gap we made a slight mistake climbing out a little to the South. Looking at the map we where only 400 to 500 meters East of Broadstones Trig Point. "We'll go for it straight on", we decided, instead of retracing our steps back onto the Cotton Famine. Heading across the moor we soon reached Broadstone Clough, close to the rocky outcrop that is Broadstones. In the mist we couldn't accurately recognise a location which we had run past so often in the past. Turning North we soon came upon Sykes Pillar (Broadstones Trig Point) named after the late Frank Sykes, one of the founding members of Saddleworth Runners Club. Now at our fifth and final trig point Andy sent a quick text message home to let Monica know we were ok. Probably more in the hope that she would have bacon butties ready for when he got home! There's Bob Hope and in Andy's case there's NO HOPE!

Fifth and final trig - Sykes Pillar (Broadstones trig point)

Homeward bound now, we set off along the hill passing Slade Rocks, Shaw Rocks and onto the Sugar Loaf before descending the track to the war memorial at Pot's & Pan's. Following the course of the return leg of the Saddleworth Fell Race we descended off the hill, picked up Tunstead Lane and returned to the Clarence to the sound of the birds playing their morning chorus.

Back at the Clarence after 7 hours on the hills

We had been out on the hill for a little over 7 hours in total. I had envisaged it would take us about 6 hours to complete the 18 to 20 miles circuit, if the weather was kind to us. With stops of about 5 minutes at each trig point for, food and map checks, plus 10 to 15 minutes spent with Charlie and then some time delays in the mist and slow going across a really boggy section of moor we had done quite well for a night round of the Saddleworth 5 Trigs.

It was a fantastic outing enjoyed with great friends. Thanks to Howard and Bruce for joining us over the first part of our journey and a special thanks to Charlie for waiting for us at New Snoopy's with 'The Best Coffee in the World'.

Special Owl points are awarded tonight:

Howard and Bruce get 4 points for running in support, Andy and I get 4 for completing the night time round and Charlie gets 4 honorary points for his support and a further 4 points for is Owl Coffee.

Kit carried between Andy and myself:

  • Rucksacks x 2
  • Map & Compass x 2
  • GPS x 2
  • Head-torches x 2 plus spare torch and batteries.
  • Mobile phones x 2
  • Spare warm clothing including hat, gloves, waterproof cag and over trousers.
  • Emergency Bivvi shelter
  • Small first aid kit
  • Mixed sweets, drinks, ham sandwich, cerial bars, 2 pieces of christmas cake & Kendal Mint Cake.