Archive for October, 2007

A long run over Hanging Hill

October 28, 2007

On Friday, I was checking through the typescript of my latest book  of runs/walks, when I realised thatI had not actually run one of the routes in its entirety. I had been over most of it several times, but there was a short linking section that I had never explored. Oops!

I could have just checked that bit, but I needed a longish run, so I decided to run the whole eleven miles+. The published route will start at the Swan at Swineford, because that is where I would chose to end up for a meal, but I was short of time, so I started near the Lockkeeper at Keynsham instead. That meant that I started with the level two and a half miles through the meadows alongside the River Avon.

The hard bit began at the Swan, with a sharp climb across a field to a stony enclosed track, resplendent with falling leaves, around the village of North Stoke. The clim levels off a bit as it comes out onto the road up to the church, but from there, the road deteriorates into a stony slog up the grassy slopes to Lansdown Gilf Course. There the route levels off a bit as it winds through the course and up to the kissing gate on Hanging Hill.

This point marked the outer edge of the left flank of Waller’s Parliamentary army at the battle of Lansdown in the English Civil War. The widespread views suggest that it ought to have been an inpregnable position, but this battle was a Royalist victory, albiet something of a phyrric one.

The descent of Hanging Hill is complicated by rough grass and encroaching scrub, but I eventually found the hunting gate into a descending, enclosed track, similar to the one up to North Stoke, but complicated by slippery, sloping, natuaral stone steps towards the bottom. A short stretch of very minor road took me to the beginning of another rocky track. The fact that thois track through woods, fields and a ford descended for the best part of a kilometre gives some indication of how far I had had to climb up to Hanging Hill.

A short stretch of road and some paddocks brought me out into Wick opposite the Carpenters’ Arms and the start of the stretch I had not done before. It did not turn out to be very complicated, and my instructions would have worked OK as they were, except that a few new kissing gates had been put in where I had expected stiles – a regular hazard! The bonus was another stretch of descending stony track enlivened with overarching autumn leaves.

There was rather too much tarmac for my taste on the next section, which linked up with the Bristol and Bath Railway Cycle Path to Willsbridge Mill nature reserve.

I made the mistake of following the Comunity Forest Path down to Londonderry Wharf on the Avon. It is unpleasantly rutted by cattle’s feet – the Dramway alternative is much smoother!

I was getting tired at this point, so I opted for a cheaty shortcut across Sydenham Mead, and was rewarded for my laziness by finding a handful of delicious field mushrooms for my supper!

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Town Run

October 27, 2007

This Thursday, we (the Gaveller, Ant, John, Mike, Mark, Pete de B and Ruth and Jason) did a town run from The Eldon House, a new Bath Ales pub off the Triangle in Bristol.

Since it was a TACH run, it was predominantly 0ff-road, even if only a couple of fields venturted past the city boundary. We began by gaining height past Clifton Hill House and Goldney Hall before descending the steps down to the Marchants’ Arms and the Nova Scotia. As we crossed the road onto the path beside the New Cut to the railway bridge, we tangled with a group out from Bad Tri. They seemed to be running around the docks. I am sure they would have found our route more interesting.

Over the bridge, we caut across Greville Smythe Park and they around the City Ground to pick up the path across the railway line and along Colliter’s Brook. Across the Brook we looped round the sheep fields, where central government wants to build houses and local dogwalkers take those animals that cannot be trusted near other dogs in the park. We cut back along another branch of the stream into the Ashton Vale Trading Estate and then across the footbridge over the railway onto Bedminster Down. After a good stretch along the grass, we climbed up to the Cross Hands and crossed over to a smaller section of the Down before descending by back lanes to Hartcliffe Way. Here we crossed over and mad our way up Parson Street to pick up the Malago Greenway into Victoria Park. We had a little wobble finding our way over the hill to St Luke’s Road – I wonder if St Luke’s is the church that was turned into a mosque?

We made our way under the railway tunnel and over the footbridge to the back of St Mary Redcliffe Church (the fairest parish church in all England according the Queen Elizabeth I). Around the Church, we took in Queen’s Square, Pero’s Bridge, @Bristol, the Cathedral and the stature of Rajah Ram Mohan Roy before we cut through Brandon Hill Nature Park to Jaconbs Wells Road and the pub.

There we drank Spa, Gem and Barnstormer and enjoyed a chinwag.

Hogweed Trotters – Green Man Challenge

October 27, 2007

Hogweed Trotters are keen to put a team or two to do the Green Man Challenge as a 4-man relay in April of May. I wonder if there is a free date? I am sure that some of them will have a go at a solo effort too.

Making a Hash of it

October 24, 2007

The day after a severe race is a good time to go out on a short undemanding run to loosen up and check that everything is in working order, so, on Monday I decided to go on a Hash with Bristol Greyhounds. There was a time when I went out with the Greyhounds every week, but, lately, for a number of reasons, I have hardly been out at all.

I suppose I ought to explain hashing. It is basically an old fahioned paper-chase or a game of hare and hounds, where one person – ‘the hare’ – sets a trail – it is usually laid in flour rather than paper nowadays to avoid littering the countryside – and the pack follows the trail. The modern form of the ‘sport’ was popularised by ex-pats in Malaya and spread from there, with the additon of some bizarre rituals that probably originated in Oxbridge or some such place.

This particular Hash was from the White Horse in Pilning, which has been cut off from the village by the diversin of the M4 over the second Severn Crossing. For some reason I like this pub, which was another reason for going there.

After the usual rituals, we set off along the cycle path alongside the motorway, but we were soon exploring a more interesting path along the grass alongside The Pill, which here has the appearance of a large drainage ditch or ‘rhine’ as such ditches are called in Sonerset and Gloucestershire.

At the next bridge, we crossed over into a series of fields full of eminently runnable grass. There was a bit of a hiccup, when we emerged onto a road and had to run alongside the major road between Avonmouth and the M48, but we were soon back on the grass, and I was congratulating the hare in my mind for finding some paths i had not run on before – always a bit of a bonus.

Then we emerged on a minor road in Northwick village, which has a church tower and a graveyard, but no church.

To be fair, we had been warned that the next section was problematic – but there are some principles (there are no rules) in hashing – and these seem to have been thrown out of the window.

Firstly, it is the job of the hare to lay a trail. Secondly, it is his job to make sure that no-one gets into difficulties following it.

In this case, the hare had been frightened by a field full of heifers and had not laid a trail through the following fields. To compound the error, he sloped off back to the pub on a shortcut along the road, leaving the pack in a situation that he thought was dangerous. It wasn’t – but that is hardly the point.

The situation was not helped by the pack calling ‘on’ when there was no flour. The net result was that a new hasher had to deal with an angry farmer. Luckily, this was the only mishap, and everyone got back to the pub, where most people snsibly got stuck into the scrumpy.

Racing

October 22, 2007

I haven’t run in many races lately, but the revered captain of Town and Country Harriers (TACH), John McD, talked me into entering the Exmoor Stagger, a 15-mile milti-terrain race up the Quantocks to Dunkery Beacon from Minehead. It was, after all, high time I had another go. However, on the day, the said revered captain had a nasty cold, so he could not participate personally. So. on Sunday 21st October, I set off in our van with Emma and Lucien of GWR, to whom said captain had offered a lift.

As it happened, Emma and Lucien were charming company up and down the M5 and back and forth along the coast road to Minehead. We got there in very good time, which was ‘a good thing’, because it meant we found a parking place close to the race HQ and had time to find our bearings.

In the event, there were only three TACH runners at the start line, Turtle, Patrick and myself. The weather was perfect for such a long run – bright and cool. We set off in the opposite direction from the one I expected, and it turned out that the whole course was completely different from how I rememberd it. When I questioned those around me, I discovered that the course had been more or less the same for five years, which means it must have been at least six years since I last ran the race.

I started quite strongly and avoided the ignominy of being switched to the shorter Exmoor Stumble with comparative ease. However, I found the climb up to Dunkery Beacon very testing and I had to walk much of it. I was hoping to make up time on the descent, but instead of the wide track I was expecting, there was a narrow, rocky, slippery sheep track, which allowed younger legs to scamper away from me down the hillside. Under other circumstances, I would have enjoyed the switchback path that wound in and out of narrow combes cut by gurgling streams with rocky waterfalls and the distant views, but my legs were beginning to lose interest in any pace faster than a walk, and I had to give up all hope of catching Jim White of Weston AC, whose yellow vest in the dstance had acted as a spur on the way up. I ven had to allow his daughre Ruth to overtake as well.

Eventually, James Garland of Bad Tri caught me up, which proved to be a god-send. I didn’t know who he was, but he recognised me, because he had run in some of our TACH races, and introduced himself. He kept me talking until we reached the bottom of the descent from Dunkery Beacon. He pulled away during the cruel climb up the final ridge, but I caught up again at the last drinks station, where I was encouraged to take a couple of jelly babies and half a banana as well as a drink of water. Whether it was the banana or the jelly babies or the gradient of the final descent, I am not sure; but I seemed to have acquired a completely new set of legs. I could now enjoy the distant view of Porlock Bay and the light shining between the pine trees. I even started overtaking a few people, although there was one man with a camel back (water container), whom I could not quite catch.

I was greeted by Patrick and the contingent from Weston AC at the finish. (I was even invited to join the Weston team photo!) Turtle came in a few minutes later behind another man with a camel back, whom I had overtaken on the last descent.

Later, I found out that Emma had won a prize in the V35 category. Lucien finished some time after Turtle. It turned out that it was the first time Lucien had ever run that far – he looked a bit shell-shocked! I also finished ahead of James Eastwood. I won no prize, but I am definitely back into racing. As I write I am calculating how much I will have to increase my weekly mileage to finish ahead of Jim and Ruth!

The Song of the Woodwoses

October 20, 2007

Beware you quango-planners

You men in suits of grey

You faceless men in offices

Who care not what we say

Beware the curse of Woodwoses

Will haunt you till you die

And ghostly feet you’ll hear at night

Of wild men rushing by

 

In ancient days they bellowed here

Their eyes with passion burned

Uprooted trees and herded stones

In circles as they turned

And now they have returned again

To Avon’s Forest ring

To stamp their feet upon the earth

And make the ley lines sing:

 

The song of the Earth

 

The Earth has greater powers than you

You nameless suited men

Your Mother longs to suck your blood

And play your bones again

And dance again as once She danced

To make all life begin

To the rhythm of the drums She’s made

From stretched out human skin

 

© C.J. Bloor 2007

Night run with Town and Country Harriers from the ‘Live and Let Live’ at Frampton Cotterell

October 19, 2007

6 miles – Ant, John, Mike, Rob and the Gaveller

There were five of us in the car park on a fine night lit by a misty, waxing moon. I had left home in a rush due to a plumbing crisis – don’t ask – so I had forgotten my headtorch – but, luckily Ant had a spare!

We set off up a side road and crossed the main street towards the countryside to the accompaniment of squeals from some girls in a 4X4 – an unusually extreme effect of naked male legs by moolight! Another side road led to a path between houses into the fields.

I was a little unsure of the route through the first few fields as ihad only been that way once, but Ant’s headtorch picked out the path across the grass with no problem – except for one field that had been ploughed; but the path across that had been smoothed by frequent feet.

Once we reached Mayshill, I was on much more familiar territory – a short stretch of very minor road and a path down to the Frome Valley Walkway. The sound of running water and the reflected glint of torchlight always add to the enjoyment of a night run. This one had the added mystery of screech owls, the Tubbs Bottom Detention Reservoir and Algars Manor on the site of a mill mentioned in Domesday Book. There were no problems on the rest of the riverside route, except for the faster runners over-running a couple of stiles – to let me catch up – and ferocious barking from a caravan site on the far side of the river.

Once we had crossed a steel footbridge, we cut right through some trees to pick up a trail leading to a crossing of the road to Yate. The track on the far side, leading up to the low ridge of the Marle Hills, is muddy, rocky, grassy and nearly a kilometre long, so thefaster runners had a chance to let off steam.

The route along the ridge starts on a tarmac rack (which turned off to the right allowing me to catch up again). It then follows the headland past two seeded fields to a stile into a long ield of grass mown short by grazing sheep. Some nettles at the stile onto the road led to a short search for a non-existant alternative route, by a coupleof sensitive souls, before we picked up the route through some horse fields to the main road past Frampton Cotterell.

A path through the houses took us past the social club, which seemed well used by army cadets, rugby players, indoor-keep-fit fans and random children, and eventually down to the river at Nightingale Bridge past yet more horses. A short section of the riverside path and a suburban road took us back to the pub.

The Live and Let Live was decorated in the bath ales country style – IE green and cream, which works well here. Two strange pictures, which look like framed wallpaper, presumably the work of the pub designer, had been relegated to the porch. More conventional modern prints adorn the walls inside.

We found a suitable table in a side room for an animated chat, oiled by several excellent samples of Gem, Spa, Rare Hare and shandy for the driver (strictly for rehydration you understand) together with Salty Dog crisps to replace lost minerals and carbs.

The Green Man Challenge

October 17, 2007

‘Not for the fainthearted, the Green Man Challenge is set to become one of the iconic long-distance events of the West’s athletics scene,’ says Kevin Fahey in the Evening Post (Saturday, 13th October 2007). The challenge is the brainchild of Chris Bloor, routemaster of Town and Country Harriers running club. Fahey calls it ‘a tour de force of Greater Bristol, revealing wonderful running trails and paths right on the doorstep of the city.’

‘All’ you have to do is complete one circuit of the 45-mile Community Forest Path around Bristol within 24-hours to earn the title of Woodwose, the Old English word for a wild man of the woods.

So far the standard has been set by Chris Smart  of Nailsea Running Club, who completed the route in 11 hours and 38 mins, to become the first winner of the Green Man Challenge trophy, which he will hold until someone registers a better time.

Are you up for it?

Details can be found at www.tach.org.uk and at www.closertothecountryside.co.uk

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October 17, 2007

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