Archive for February, 2008

What is possible?

February 25, 2008

The latest Woodwose, Martin Beale, completed the challenge in 7h 48m, which is remarkably quick. But he puts that achievement in context.

My feeling is that with good support it would be possible to do the Green Man Challenge in under 7 hours. The record for the Round Rotherham race is about 6h20m and that is 50 miles long. I don’t know how hilly it is compared to the Green Man Challenge though (I’m not saying that I’d do it in under 7 hours).
I thought you did a good time with 9h33m. Pete and Tim have done some good things. I think they both have top 20 Bob Graham times!

The Bob Graham Round is reckoned by some to be one of the ultimate running challenges in the UK. It is 75 miles long and involves climbing 42 peaks in the Lake District in under 24 hours. I checked out the Bob Graham website at and found Peter Darwood and Martin Beale listed as members under 2006. Tim Laney is listed under 1987, but I don’t know whether that is the same man as the Tim who completed the Green Man Challenge. I also noted a Jack Bloor (1979) and Hilary Bloor (1991), who are not close relatives of mine. The point being that I could have done it then and now if I had been fit enough.

Martin also had some ideas about the best time to do the Green Man Challenge: 
I reckon that spring or autumn would be the best time for the Green Man: you need it to be somewhat cool, but I think it helps to have the ground a bit soft as it eases the going over the cow and horse hoofprints (which is significant over the southern part of the course). I had pretty good conditions on Saturday.

Durer’s Woodwoses

February 24, 2008

Dogman   This Woodwose comes from a woodcut by Albrecht Durer, the famous German, classical artist. Note cloven hooves, absence of clothes and greyhounds tied to his wrist. It is not clear whether the rope is to stop the dogs or the woodwose from running off. The athletic physique and beard are typical, but not compulsory!

The picture is a detail from a coat of arms produced by Durer for his friend, Johann Tscherte, an architect from Nurenburg in about 1521. (In the Bohemian language Tscherte means devil or wild man.

Green Man Record – Smashed again

February 24, 2008

The Green Man Challenge record has fallen yet again!

Another fell runner, Martin Beale, has had a go and claims to have taken another hour off the record.

Martin, a friend of current record holders Pete Darwood and Tim Laney, filed this report yesterday:

Hi Gaveller,

I did the Green Man Challenge. It was a fine route. I particularly like the southern section from the Suspension Bridge to Keynsham. I’m hoping to write a report soon.

This a solo unsupported round. The supporter I had for Patchway to the Suspension Bridge had to pull out at the last minute due to family reasons. This made things a little difficult for the last 12 miles!

I started and finished on the Bristol side of the Suspension Bridge (this made most sense as I live in Kingsdown / Bristol).

I did the route in 7h 48m 14s. My GPS gave me a distance of 47.14M (I went slightly wrong in Stoke Gifford and Warmley and had to cut back at right angles to get back on the line: this added to the distance). My altimeter gave an ascent of 1000m.

I mates with Pete Darwood and Tim Laney so we carved from the same block running -wise.

Thanks for inventing this challenge. It’s great to have this in the Bristol area.

Best regards


Congratulations Martin! It is good to be able to welcome another Woodwose.

The Meaning of the Green Man

February 14, 2008

As I crossed the bridge towards the setting sun, there were tears in my eyes. I had done it!

True, I had set the challenge in the first place, but, until that moment, I had no idea that I could do it. I though I would keep Pete and Mike company for a bit over half the 45-mile run and then fade away to  let them finish without me. But Mike had to drop out because of a cold, and there I was, nine and a half hours after we had set off from the Dovecote in the frosty dawn, jogging across the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The pink sky over Dundry Down looked the same as it had at 7-15am, but this time it reflected the glory of the sun setting behind the trees of Leigh Woods and Ashton Court.

I had already imbued the westward crossing over the Avon Gorge with special significance in the first chapter of my new book (‘Around Bristol, Off-Road, On Foot – Beyond the Urban Fringe’ – it should be in the shops by April). There, I linked it with the meeting between the hermit sage, Lao Tzu and the Keeper of the Pass, who persuaded Lao Tzu to write down his thoughts in the Tao Te Ching before he passed over the western mountains on his way out of China.

Now the bridge had personal significance for me as it took me on the returning path past the Green Man to the Dovecote.

But what did it all mean after the euphoria had passed and the pain and the stiffness had subsided?

By coincidence, before my legs had recovered, I had to drag my self to the solicitors to discuss my will, and I was inspired to send off for ‘The Natural Death Handbook’, which arrived almost immediately. This proved an amazingly positive book, including all you need to know about green funerals and an injunction –

‘Live each day as though it were your last.’

Perhaps that is the meaning of the Green Man with the tendrils of a tree growing from his mouth – accept death and, in the light of its inevitability, achieve what you can, whilst you can.


February 13, 2008

Town and Country Harriers seems to appeal to people who like a challenge.

One of the founder members of TACH, Tony Robinson, who has moved on to pastures new in deepest Somerset, visited the highest point of every county of England in 2007.

For details of this achievement, visit


February 11, 2008

img_0904.jpg Yesterday, Pete de Boer and I completed the Green Man Challenge in 9hrs 33mins. My Garmin registered 44.75 miles at the finish.

Our main fuel was dietician Sue Baic’s homemade isotonic jungle juice, of which I personally consumed 4 litres from my Camelback. (Pete had a waist bottle.)

At the end of each stage of 5-6 miles Libby Bloor supported us with supplies of jungle juice, coffee, tea, malt loaf, bananas, jelly babies, sandwiches and changes of clothes and shoes. We both changed our socks regularly and I changed my clothes to take account of different temperatures during the day. I also changed my shoes to vary the wear on my ankle, which had caused anxiety during training.

We started in a rosy dawn and finished in a glorious sunset in the car park of the Dovecote in Long Ashton. The amazing weather came as something of a surprise, because most of our training had taken place in a sodden gloom. It was cold when we started, but the temperature rose as we climbed out of a frost pocket towards Dundry. The descent towards Pensford yielded brilliant views over misty valleys. The Chew Valley was still soggy underfoot until we came amongst the Sunday strollers at Keynsham. Libby was waiting at the Lockkeeper, where I changed out of my tracksters and windproof gilet into shorts and road shoes for the run along the Bristol and Bath Cycle Track, which was packed with cyclists. We transferred onto the Dramway Path to Warmley, where we came across a child on a pony. The climb up through Warmley Forest Park was soggy again, but it was drier underfoot by the time we had got up to Shortwood Hill. My Garmin registered 20 miles as we pulled away with another set of shoes. We passed the halfway mark close to the Half Way House café on Kendleshire golf course and joined the Frome Walkway close to Winterbourne Viaduct. The stop at the White Horse at Hambrook came at a marathon 26 point something miles after which we were into a zone we hadn’t entered before. The next section through Stoke Gifford and Bradley Stoke to the Patchway Community School is  one of the more urban sections of the route, but it was nevertheless one of the muddiest, particularly alongside the Patchway Brook. Antony Clark joined us at Patchway, leaving his wife and twins to accompany us to the finish. We had now completed over thirty miles and I was beginning to get a bit tetchy as we approached Easter Compton (Sorry Antony!) My personal lowest point was probably when I was stumbling through the mud to the crossing over the M5 near Berwick Lodge, but I kept going to the next stage ending at Blaise car park, where we had to weave our way through the crowds brought out by the spring weather. John McDonough joined the party here and we made good progress along Kingsweston Ridge to the Iron Bridge and down Shirehampton Golf Course towards Pete’s personal goal the bottom of Mariners’ Walk, which he thought of as almost there. As we were well past 40 miles, I felt it was safe to ring up my boys with a progress report, as I was content to walk up the hill to the Downs, where we met up with Antony’s wife, Jan, who was feeding the twins in the car. It was a pleasant jog across the Downs to the peregrine viewpoint and along the cliff side to our first view of the Suspension Bridge. As we approached the Observatory, we were met by Woodwose One (Chris Smart), who had run out to meet us. I felt really quite emotional as we jogged across the Suspension Bridge as I felt by then that we were home and the view was splendid. We took the long way round by Leigh Woods and the Hole in the Wall into the Blaise Estate and, at the Green Man Libby joined us for a jog down to the pub. As we climbed the stile into the playing field before the pub, Pete whispered ‘sprint finish’ into my ear and to my astonishment, we both proved able to hare across the grass to the finish.

After the others had gone off to their suppers, Libby, Pete and I repaired to the Dovecote for a well earned pint or two and a great deal of self congratulation. While we were there, Mike Bastow, who had trained with us, but was unable to come with us due to a cold, came in to congratulate us as well. He had apparently come half way through a meal. Nice one Mike! We are looking forward to helping you with your attempt!