Inaugural Green Man Ultra

The first Green Man Ultra was organised by Steve Worrallo and Ken Shivyer of Ultra Running, starting from Redwood Lodge Country Club. It was to have started from Cotham Rugby Club, but that fell through so these large premises not far down Beggar Bush Lane seemed a good substitute. However, it added quite a distance to the course, and the hall we were allotted seemed too large and draughty by the time the less quick people got back. I was yearning for a log fire and a foaming pint by the time I left in the evening.

At 8am, I set off in a pair of “barefoot” Merrills to keep the competitors company until  Pensford.

This version of the route left out the Green Man’s Head, but I noticed that the views over Bristol were particularly attractive from this angle.

From Colliter’s Brook, the instructions supplied by Ultra Running diverged from the map they had supplied and from the route of the Community Forest Path so people were milling about when I got there. People had found the CFP route away from the path mentioned in the instructions so I encouraged those who had found the CFP to persevere in that direction.

As I was not racing, I was able to pause before each stile of kissing gate to enjoy the view back towards the Suspension Bridge. In Dundry, the map and instructions again diverged. I was with Phillip Howells, who was determined to follow the “official” route, so we went along the escarpment to enjoy the tremendous views across Bristol. I think it is the best view in within 50 miles. Maria Davis said that she would bottle it in her mind to keep her going when things got tougher later on. There was a group of lads from “Community Pay-back” clearing up the rubbish that has disfigured this spot for some time, and I noticed that Adrian Walcott from North Somerset PROW team had installed some kissing gates to improve this section as well.

Across Broad Oak Hill (a well used B-road rather than a lane) the map and instructions again diverged. I followed the map taking a merry band with me. The attraction of this part of the route is the valley of the stream that rises at Maidenhead and runs into the Chew opposite Stanton Drew stone circle. It must have been a sacred stream from time immemorial. As we followed it down from North Wick I noticed how this valley is dominated by the bulk of the Maes Knoll hill fort behind Model Farm.

Beyond Norton Hawkfield, the path has been diverted and seats installed to make the best of the views downwards towards Whistley Wood and Hammerhill Wood, which conceal the junction of the Maidenhead Stream and the Norton Malreward Brook. On the other side Maes Knoll rises above Norton Court.

The first checkpoint was over the brook in Norton Malreward Village Hall, so I made use of the toilets instead of the usual hedge! At this stage I felt I could have carried on for ever, but by the time we had crossed the grass airstrip, I was very glad that I had arranged for Libby to pick me up in Pensford as my knees were beginning to play up, especially after the descent of the stony track down Guy’s Hill to the B3130. My Merrills offered little protection to the stones, but it was actually my calves that were complaining the most as they encouraged me onto the forefoot (which is why I had bought them in the first place.)

I got back to Redwood Lodge with Libby in time to see Darryl Carter take nearly 12 minutes off the record held by Martins Indge and Beale – finishing in 7 hours 8 mins. Martin Indge was hoping to get inside 7 hours, but fell behind when he made a navigational error somewhere between Warmley and Shortwood. Local man Bill Graham scooped the Veteran’s prize, finishing in just over 8 hours and Liz Wiggins took the women’s record in 8 hours 21 mins thanks to sticking with Alex Foster, who knew the course backwards having completed it in December.

Matthew Gilliard was the first to come in accompanied by a dog, having been inspired by Jim Plunkett Cole and Alfie who had run around in about 11 hours in 2009. Matthew was pleased to have taken an hour and a quarter off Jim and Alfie’s time.

It was nice to see old friends Bryan Stadden, Judith Chubb-Whittle and Woodwose I, Chris Smart turning in respectable performances, together with some new faces from Southville running club.

But the most heart warming response was from Sarah Sweeting and Rob Dickson, who had been exporing the course for the past five months and knew it thoroughly. They declared it the best race they had ever done.

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