Archive for November, 2007

A Date with Fate

November 29, 2007

Three runners from Town and Country Harriers are determined to attempt the Green Man Challenge in Spring. The latest target date is on Sunday 10th February, starting at or about dawn.

More Long Ones

November 29, 2007

Four twenty-mile runs are planned for December and January. So far there seem to be three of us up for it, but any one who wants to join us would be very welcome.

The first is from Eastville Park and follows the Frome Valley Walkway, the Community Forest Path and the Avon River Path on Sunday 9th December.

The second is an A to B along the Two Rivers Way (the Chew and the Yeo) from Keynsham to Congresbury on Saturday 22nd.

One of the January Runs will be from Dundry and the other will be in the Mendips or the Cotswolds.

Times etc are not finalised yet, but all runs are likely to start at 9 or 10.

Anybody out there interested?

Long ones

November 29, 2007

Since the Janus Beast, I’ve done a couple more 15-milers.

Last week, I decided to get out a bit further and have a go at the longer loop of the Gordano Round, which is supposed to be about 15 miles. I decided to start from the Black Horse at Clapton in Gordano, because I knew the route back to the pub thoroughly, which meant that I would get the bits I wasn’t so sure of whilst I was relatively fresh. Also, the Black Horse is an excellent place to end up!

On the way out to Portishead, I had some problems with my ‘Camel Back’, which managed to spring a leak and soak my back. I think I hadn’t done the top up properly. It wasn’t really a problem, but it rather set the tone. The path below Weston Big Wood was as dubious as ever, so I had to cut through the houses a field earlier than I should have, which made me unnecessarily tetchy with the old lady who asked me if I was training for ‘the Marathon’. The roadie trail through Portishead is easy enough to follow if you know it, but the turning off St Mary’s road is easy to miss if you don’t know Portishead. The coastal path to Clevedon is easy enough to follow, but it seems much longer than it appears on the map due to its winding nature, the narrowness of the track and the slippery mud, stones and roots. These rather distract one from the view. I had taken the precaution of copying the instructions from the booklet to get me through Clevedon. These were only moderately helpful. There was enough information about the town section to make it possible to deduce the correct path, but the description of the climb into Court Wood was hopelessly confused. I was only able to find my way because I came across a landmark by accident.

The rest of the route was straightforward and familiar, but I was feeling weary and didn’t enjoy it as much as I should. The black pudding and mushroom baguette and a pint of Butcombe went down well though.

That 15-mile route took me over three hours. Yesterday, I did the ‘Raging Bull’ route from my new book and did rather better. It helps that I know the route thoroughly, so there was no dithering over directions. I decided to start from Sea Mills, because it always easy to park there and it is close to home. This version of the route has the additional advantage of a finish down the Mariners’ Walk.

The river was high when I set off and the weir was underwater when I crossed it. The route follows the Community Forest Path through Three Acre Covert and up the golf course to the Iron Bridge. From there it is along to Penpole Point and down the treacherous steps Lower High Street Shirehampton. The cycle path alongside the motorway bridge was filled with smelly maintenance vehicles, but these were hardly a problem.

I wound my way through the outskirts of Pill to Easton in Gordano and then up through Summerhouse Wood and Sandy Lane to Lower Failand, where I was rewarded with views across the Severn Bridges and a banana. The whole thing was as smooth as a velvet ribbon. They have even surfaced the path through Fifty-acre Wood for the cyclists.

I finished in less than two and a quarter hours, which represents an improvement of three-quarters of an hour since last week!

The Janus Beast

November 15, 2007

A few of us have decided to have a go at doing the solo version of the Green Man Challenge in February 2008, so I am trying to increase my mileage. In negotiation with my wife, I have come up with Wednesday as the best time for a retired man to go on a long run, so yesterday I was looking for a 15-miler. I decided to use some of the routes from Crossing Boundaries by Christopher Bloor, so I started with The Ratepayers’ Arms Route from Filton Recreation Centre, other wise known as the Janus Beast, because on the map it resembles two faces looking in opposite directions. Partly to be perverse and partly because it meant running a section of the Community Forest Path  the ‘right’ way, I decided to run it it in the opposite direction from the book.

It is funny how often running a route backwards gives it a totally different feel. In this case, I began by running down the the recreation ground, which offered unexpected views towards the distant hills. The back lane from Filton Avenue to the back of the MoD buildings was obstructed by a couple of railway maintenance vans, but my tracksters enabked me to squeeze past through the nettles with no problem. The path around the complex is boring tarmac underfoot until I reach edSplatts Abbey Wood, which offered a natural respite until I reached the car parks. A cross the ring road, there was another stretch of road to Stoke Gifford to endure until I reached the grassy field leading to ‘Nowhere’ a corner that belonged to no parish, which is being developed as a nature area with trees and three ponds. A couple more fields led to a stretch on tarmac  round the back to Parkway station and through Stoke Gifford to Winterbourne Road. This is probably my least favourite bit of the Community Forest Path, but there is evidence of the older village community still to be seen in the stone walls and Victorian Cottages. On the Bradley Stoke side, the conditions underfoot are more varied once you reach Sherbourn’s Brake. There is a muddy woodland path through the Brake to the Three Brooks Lake, then a gritty path to Savage’s Wood, where the exact line of the path was obscured by fallen leaves. The section from the wood to the Primrose Bridge is a varied mixture of grass and mud. From the bridge to the underpass under the A38, the tarmac road is relieved by a path a long a grass verge and some interestingly old buildings, one of which was being demolished as I passed. The brick path through the Aztec West Estate was surprisingly comfortable underfoot, but there were no ducks on the pond, which had been taken over by gulls. It is amazing how the conditions underfoot seem to matter when you are increasing your mileage!

Once out of the business park, the worst of the tarmac was finished. There was a pleasant path through the Tumps (overgrown heaps of spoil left from digging the railway tunnel underneath) to the Banana Bridge over the motorway and more leaves covering the descent through Pegwell Brake. The road down towards Catty Brook had a green patch down the middle. the sun was shining, there were cattle standing picturesquely in a field on the left and there were splendid views over towards the Seven Crossings, which you don’t see from here if you are going the other way.  The nettles on the enclosed path had lost the worst of their sting and were no match for my tracksters. The barking retriever by the stables caused a bit of a hold up, but it went to heel eventually so I could get into the open fields on the way to Easter Compton.

My legs were getting a bit weary as I approached the foot of Spaniorum Hill, which Chris Smart had found a problem after thirty odd miles (hardly surprising!) I picked up a stick as I ascended to make me feel braver when I went through the horses, but I needn’t have bothered. The horses certainly didn’t! The field where Chris found my directions obscure has been ploughed up, and there is now a stone bridge over a deep ditch out ofthe field, so I will have to revise the instructions at this point.

The return to Filton from Henbury was unremarkable, except that I ate a banana in Henbury to accustom my body to eating on the run, and I managed to take a couple of wrong turns on the road. I really do find it much easier to navigate in the countryside!

I was not too tired when I got back to the van. But I will have to go three times as far to complete the Green Man Challenge.

The Green Man

November 15, 2007

I have just finished a short book about the Green Man by Jane Gardam, illustrated by Mary Fedden and published by The Windrush Press, Gloucestershire in 1998. (ISBN 1 900624 21 4)

It is a beautiful book by an accomplished short story writer, and provides an excellent introduction to the idea of the Green Man for anybody contemplating the Green Man Challenge. Jane Gardam’s idea of the Green Man is not exactly the same as mine, but that is alright, because the Green Man defies and scorns definitions.

A Mendip Reccie

November 4, 2007

Libby and I had Sunday to ourselves for the first time in a while, so we decided to reccie the route we are running a week on Thursday from the Waldegrave Arms in East Harptree.

It was misty and unpromising when we set out from Bristol, but by the time we got over the Dundry ridge the sun was shining brightly and the autumn colours were glowing along the hedgerows and the Chew Valley Lake was picturesque millpond for the ducks as we drove past. By the time we pulled up between the pub and St Lawrence’s Church, we were beginning to wish we had dressed for the summer.

We were not the only people who thought it was a good day to go out into the country. There were two cars in the car park beside the church and a couple in another car drove up as we were setting off down the oath beside the church.

The first stretch through the fields behind the church was unknown to me, but straightforward enough as was the stretch down to the stream, but the section up the stream proved very treacherous underfoot. It should be very interesting at night!

The route becomes very steep after we crossed a road into some grazing land, but we easily overhauled a man, who appeared to be taking his border collie out for a game of tennis. At the top of the climb, we passed some cows with calfs, thankfully well before the collie arrived. A short climb took us up to a cornish chimney left over from a lead recovering operation. It has been preserved because it is the last of its kind in the area apparently.

After the chimney, things got very interesting and we took a couple of wrong turns before we found the correct route through the trees. We were very grateful to see daylight as we came out into the fields. It is a good job we checked the route out as it would have been tricky finding the route in the dark!

Out in the open, we negotiated a path past the overexcitable cows, which seem to be a feature of these fields.  The next stretch was reasonably level, with no more menacing hazard than a flock of sheep. We passed a mother and two daughters, who did not acknowledge our greetings and began the descent to the pub.

The first few fields are level, and the route follows a broad headland. The grass is a little rough, but by no means rough enough to trip any one up (famous last words!) The distant views were pleasant enough, but there was still a bit of residual mist in the distance, which diminished their splendour. The descent down Greenbatch Lane was delightful, however, due to the colour of the leaves crowding in overhead. It was a little muddy underfoot at the top and rocky at the bottom, where we bumped into the couple we had met at the church. As we sedscended the road and through some splendid grassy fields, Libby recalled what a slog it had been following this part of the route in the opposite direction.

We got back to the pub without incident, except for a few motorbikes, some children on a death wire and a couple of skittish horses. As we wer changing, the man with the dog arrived back at his car and exchanged a few words.

Afterwards, Libby and I enjoyed the best Sunday lunch we had had for a long time. The beef was rare, the Yorkshires crispy and filled with fresh herbs and the vegetables was freshly cooked and delightful. My pint of Exmoor Bitter was in very good heart, and I finished off with an excellent sweet of hot bananas and ice cream with blackberries. We are looking forward to returning a week on Thursday!

Night Run from the Carpenters’ Arms Wick

November 2, 2007

Another run out with TACH: Ant, John, Rob, Mike and the Gaveller; Libby on a separate run along the road.

The main group did a route from my forthcoming book, Beyond the Urban Fringe.

We began by entering the Golden Valley Nature Reserve and followed the River Boyd until it entered the confines of the quarry. We then had a severe climb or scramble up to the Raven Rock viewpoint, which is not at its best in the dark! Coming out onto Rocks Road, we crossed over into cow pasture to emerge at Ketcheshill Farm, where the nettles I had encountered on a previous visit had died back, thankfully. The horse paddocks were empty, so we had an incident free run over the grass to Clover Mead Farm. A stretch of driveway and a rough lane took us to a series of empty grass fields leading to Siston. The only incident was a fleeting glimpse of a probable roe deer. The alpacas were indoors, apparently.

A short stretch of road took us past some invisible plantations and a descent to the Community Forest Path next to Mangotsfield Golf Course. This stretch of the Forest Path goes through grassland and paddocks and Warmley Forest Park to join the Dramway Path, which goes through two evocative cuttings, one before the Midland Spinner on London Road and an even better one after it. The route is slightly spoiled by new housing and an industrial estate at North Cutting, but we only had about 500m of road to get us to Cann Farm and a steep climb through horse paddocks onto the Highfield plateau. This was mainly grass, except for one field, where we had to keep to the headland round some autumn-sown corn.

The descent to the River Boyd is steep and difficult in the dark and the sheep track along the slope was particularly trying. However, we soon had only a short stretch of lane and a couple of fields around the back of Wick Court to get us back to the pub.

The route ran really well in the dark, and the others appreciated the long stretches where they could run freely without having to pause for directions. We shal definitely have another go at it in the summer, or better in the spring, before the nettles at Ketcheshill Farm have a chance to get out of hand.

The pub seems to be in good heart, with well presented Gem (Ant dissenting). There seemed to be a wide range of different customers, but we were able to gain possesssion of the best table, a round one in a bay window, dominated by an enthroned halloween skeleton.

I was interested to see that the South Gloucestershire Council’s Wildtracks scheme has invested in some beer mats showing a route from the pub (it also passes the Cross House at Doynton. What a good idea!


November 1, 2007

I was going to write up yesterday’s run down to the River Avon and back up the River Trym, but I have written it up before, and I’ll probably write it up again.

Instead, I pondered on how many off road routes in towns run alongside streams. I suppose the risk of flooding discourages developers. Then a found the following poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet I don’t normally get on with, because he tends to wear his religion on his sleeve. I particularly like the last four lines, which have a woodwosish flavour.

The darksome burn, horseback brown,

His rollrock highroad roaring down,

In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam

Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fawn-froth

Turns and twindles over the broth

Of a pool so pitchblack, fell-frowning,

It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew

As the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,

Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,

And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Yes I know he uses too many words that no one has heard of but I have to agree with the sentiment of the last quatrain, especially the last line.