Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

A new direction

March 10, 2012

The Gaveller is taking the idea of the Green Man to a wider audience in a fortnight’s time with a walk arranged in conjunction with the Aro Ling Buddhist art and meditation centre. Could be one to take your partner on?

Earthen Spirituality Walk

with Chris Bloor

11am Saturday 24th March

from the Aro Ling Art and Meditation Centre

 127 Gloucester Road,Bristol

The walk will serve as an introduction to the theme

Is Green Buddhism theNaturalState?

which will be presented in a talk by Aro Lamas, Shé-zér Khandro and Namgyal Dorje, at 2pm at Aro Ling


acclaimed environmentalist

Sky McCain

who will be answering questions and signing copies of his new book, “Planet as self”

‘An incisive and most helpful guide for developing an Earth-centred spirituality that is integral and holistic, collaborative rather than competitive, enabling us to become partners and co-creators of Gaia.’

Ursula King, Prof Emerita of Theology andReligiousStudiesUniversityof Bristol

The walk (up to 6 miles) explores Sky McCain’s idea of Earthen Spirituality, which teaches us that we have ‘no need to “go” anywhere to be with the powerful and sustaining spirit of the Earth’ through green spaces accessible from the Gloucester Road. The walk will be timed to get back to the Aro Ling centre in time for the talk. The exact length of the walk will depend on the abilities of participants, who will need appropriate footwear and clothing, and money for refreshments and the bus fair down the Gloucester Road if time gets short.


Inaugural Green Man Ultra

March 4, 2012

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.

The Green Man Video

August 21, 2011

Check this out. It’s a commercial, and does not give due credit to Martin Beale and Tim Down, without whom they might not have got round; but it’s worth a look for the atmospherics alone.

Woodwose XLV – in retrospect

August 7, 2011

It’s over. 11hr59’37. 23 under – plenty, in the end [**]. Jordan’s number. Gate’s still locked. No Chris. Text him – record the time

And it began 12 hours ago, in the rain with Chris Bloor and Neil Banwell, Green Man visible through the locked deer park gate, at Ashton Court

Finished a few minutes ago. Feel ok, a bit thirsty. Lovely evening …||… Finished 20min ago. Back at car. Raging thirst. Trying to ignore it. Can’t wait much longer for Chris  …||…  Finished 30min ago. Chris has snacks, but I don’t feel like swallowing, and spit them out. Is he interested in today’s events, or just trying to gauge my
state? – doesn’t matter. Can tell I’m slurring, and stomach keeps cramping. Will get worse staying here – need to get home

Or did it begin in February, with a conversation during Moti’s Green Man attempt?

Been home an hour or so. Had a cup of tea, shower and pizza, and feeling fine. Think I’ll stay in though

Actually, I meant to do the Green Man Challenge in 2010, but instead had to address the possibility of permanent running retirement. And I’d been asking Moti about it for a couple of years before that, to apparent disinterest, since Chris’s talk/run at their “Off-Road Day”. Moti and its staff were a key reason I began running though, opening in Bristol as I was reading Karnazes’ book, and for a long time I’d labelled the Green Man Challenge as both a physical and group event

It’s afternoon and the sun’s out. Only aware of distance and time in a very general sense. Neil’s gone [***], and the navigation’s feeling more natural, so I’m mostly ‘in the moment’, with the surroundings and some passing thoughts. The city’s noise enfolds me, changing with location and time of day. Why do so many runners block this out?

“Forest of Avon” still seems largely an oxymoron, but a great statement of intent. Oddly, the sense of ‘treeness’ and greenery has actually felt stronger where it’s more unexpected, following a narrow green corridor, entwined with the built environment, and I’ve enjoyed those sections. Today’s early (rural) stages I did with Moti in February : more attractive now, though long grass and nettles/brambles made it harder work, but their ‘familiarity’ (despite wrong turns) made them less interesting than others

When you see a bridge over a familiar motorway – a 4/6-lane slice of an orthogonal world – do you wonder who uses it, and what’s beyond each end? I just crossed one of those over M5, (after smacking my shin on a “cycle trap” – won’t forget what that is, nor “kg”). I’m in that world and I’m reminded for the nth time today of Will Self’s psychogeography pieces (which I didn’t really ‘get’) and hazy fragments of a radio programme about “A Walk Around the M25” [Iain Sinclair]. This is more what the Challenge has become about for me over the past year: discovery, identity, and a greater sense of the place I choose to live, not bound by predictable routes and views …though it is still coloured by others’ bias, with their choice of significant landmarks (in instructions and maps). Today is about the journey, not the destination (time) …which is apposite, given its circularity

Very aware of the cutoff now. Missing instructions – but got to Blaise.
Time tight – but think surprises are over. Terrain unfamiliar – tracklog a
simple shape. “Middle path” downhill too far left? Tracklog different?
Trust the instructions. No forks to work me right. Up&down the side slope,
versus fallen trees and brambles. Always can’t-quite-force-my-way-through
thick hedge at the top. Wasting time. Tumbling, sliding, mud all up my
back. Had to get out, quickly, anywhere. And here I am. Back on pavement
and in sight of the proper exit. Ready for a last effort

It’s not about a goal that’s worth the pain – it’s reaching a level of pain that makes the goal worthy” — Rich Roll

Nearly finished. Having to push hard [**], today’s fastest miles, HR over 160. Can’t stop taking walk breaks though – central governor or MTFU? Heh – channelled some G, there. You’ve got yourself back in a position to do this – failure is simply your choice. This cutoff does matter. The goal will be worthy. It’s uphill. Need a little cushion –
may have to dodge traffic at the top. Wonder if Chris is there

Finished yesterday. Knees are a bit tender down steep hills, but nothing like the soreness I get after a marathon at full pace, nor even a half.
The bike GPS I carried yesterday won’t divulge even the part that I got it working for, so at the moment my only record is the overall time and splits for the first 12 miles. A bit disappointing …but also fitting, in a good way

Finished just over a week ago. First post-Challenge run was this evening and sense of pace was a bit distorted. Still have remnants of the cold, but need to start main training bloc now. Then off-road training this winter, for next year’s X-Man, so maybe help some friends take on the Green Man

I don’t think it’s over

[** : Re-reading the rules, after writing this, I see various
definitions have changed. I actually had an extra 12 hours, or a few
hours to sunset. But it may not have been classified as a run]

[*** : Half way, with an injury. Great effort]

Mud People at Green Man’s Grove

February 22, 2011

When we got to the Green Man to meet the new Woodwoses, we found these two Mud People sitting on the Green Man’s head. Apparently they had found some interesting mud in the deer part and had thoroughly caked each other in it. They would have greeted the Woodwoses when they got in, but they got cold and left before they got in.

John Reynolds’ Run

March 20, 2010

The day had finally come to run the Green Man Challenge, over the previous Sundays I had run the eight sections, sometimes two at a time running them both ways to get familiar with the route and make it easier to concentrate on my running for the challenge.

Sunday 14th March was a white frosty morning, but the sun was starting to come out to produce what was to be a perfect day for the challenge, sunny and clear but at the same time there was a cool breeze to keep the temperature down.

After leaving Chris (Woodwose five) who had kindly come out to see us off at the start next to the Green man at the top of Ashton Court, I was on my way with Richard Pontin – my first support runner.

Wearing shorts & short sleeved running top, I knew that I would quickly warm up, especially as I was carrying eight bottles of drink,cakes and chocolate bars along with a spare top & bottom in case the weather changed. If I needed anything else, I had my mobile phone handy to ring other support runners.

I carried my own gear through five sections as I am in training for a long run in May. The run up to Dundry went really well with no navigational difficulties and clear route description.

Joining Kevin Wheeler my second support runner at Dundry car park we started the second section, soon to be on the decent towards Pensford. The views were stunning and really enjoyable as we looked down through the sun kissed valleys that led to the viaduct. I found that a lot of the fields were now a lot drier than when I had previously ran them.

Joining Tracey Bryant, my third pacer, at the Old Lock Up and leaving the others we made our way past the picturesque Publow Church and Compton Dando while following the pleasant River Chew on into Keynsham. Again the route description being very accurate.

Along the way I kept myself topped up with glucose / water drinks with snack bars at regular intervals to keep the energy levels maintained.

Leaving Tracey at the Lock keeper in Keynsham, I was joined by Pat Challis for leg four.  I felt comfortable and was slightly ahead of my target time. The route had gone well without any misnavigation and the fine weather was a real boost to morale. Warmley Forest Park was soggy underfoot but this soon dried out as we climbed up to Shortwood Hill.

We made good time past the old Colliery at Coxgrove Hill and its old disused shaft many fields further on. I found the Westerleigh road very busy and had to be very vigilant on the traffic before crossing as it is a paticularly fast section of road with limited views.

The Frome walkway with Winterbourne Viaduct in the background was a really scenic distraction as we made our way to the White Horse in Hambrook.

Trying to ignore the fabulous smells of the roast dinners being served up in the White Horse, I made do with some chocolate bars and headed into leg six with Jane Whittaker for the more urban sections of Stoke Gifford and Bradley Stoke. Following the route description proved essential and was really good at guiding us through the different paths and side streets. Patchway Community College soon appeared and I felt a lot more confident as we now had only two more sections to go.

Joining Bob Powell and Ian Carpenter for legs seven and eight, I had been running well through the last reasonably flat sections, but Spaniorum Hill suddenly felt like a mountain. Topping up on the energy levels, the rest of the run into Blaise car park was reasonably straight forward.

Passing through the crowds that were enjoying the best of the fine weather we made our way up the climb to the top of Kingsweston Ridge and on until we crossed the interesting little iron bridge that leads towards Shirehampton golf course.

Having strolled half of Spaniorum hill previously, I was determined not to let the climb up to the Downs beat me and with gritted teeth and under the breath cursing, I ran( trotted) the never ending path to the top. Once on the Downs the relieved legs sped up a little. On then, we passed the Peregrine viewpoint, past the Observatory and finally onto the Suspension Bridge with its magnificent views down the Avon Gorge. Resisting the urge to carry straight on, we did the long way round North Road by Leigh Woods and the mountain bike track back in, to be reunited, after a surprise sprint finish, with the Green Man.

Looking over Long Ashton and up to the top of Dundry where I could clearly see the church, I remembered how we had set off 10 hours, 4 minutes previously and according to my Garmin covered 45.42 miles.

See for print out.

Many thanks to Richard, Kevin, Tracey, Pat, Jane, Bob and Ian that completed the Challenge with me and to Chris for his support at the start and for making this Challenge possible.

Lawrence Weston Moor

July 2, 2008

On Tuesday, 2nd July, I needed to go on a run from home in Henleaze, so I decided to go out to Lawrence Weston Moor to see if anything had been done about the blocked paths, which I had last reported to the Rights of Way department on 3rd June 2008. (Nothing had been done of course!) I found a suitable route around Canford Park and the cemetery to Coombe Dingle and over Kingsweston Hill into Lawrence Weston.

When I went down Aylminton Walk towards Bank Leaze Primary School, I found a bunch of boys, who were playing a game with bikes or scooters rolling down the slope from the school gate. They were curious about me, which well they might have been as I was dressed in ancient orienteering kit in anticipation of nettles. I asked them about the path around the playing field. They did not know it existed, though they were standing next to it, and I suppose it must have been blocked for most of their lives. I noticed someone had used it as convenient spot for fly tipping. One boy thought I might be able to get through, but I knew that there was another route via the local nature reserve, so I headed down Atwood Drive toward Lawrence Weston Road.

On the corner, there was a gaggle of older boys and girls standing around chatting, but I thought nothing of it. A few moments later, I came across a fair haired youth in dark clothes running towards me at a nice even pace. I nodded at him as a fellow “athlete”  and noticed that his clothing was not that of a typical runner, but then not everybody can afford specialist running kit.

It was only then that I noticed a pall of black smoke rolling across the fields. I came across the inevitable red car burning away, just past the entrance to the nature reserve. The horn started to blare as I approached and I noticed a dog walker with a mobile phone in hand calling the police. I thought of adding my voice to his, but it was clear that even if I could have picked out the “athlete” in a police line up, there were ample witnesses to swear that had never left the corner of Atwood Road.

So, I hopped over the huge rock that had been strategically placed to stop young “athletes” from taking motor bikes into the nature reserve. Inside I found the remains of one bike that had managed to get in. It appeared to have been there for some time. Evidently no-one is responsible for removing such things. The whole reserve reeked of neglect. Substantial footbridges and gates showed that money had once been spent here, but there was no sign that the reserve was being managed. The gates were overgrown; but I had no need to use any of them as there were open field gates beside them.

The problem seems to be that every effort is being made to keep “the wrong sort of people” out of the reserve, and no effort at all is being made to get people onto it. It is about as different from other local nature reserves like Troopers Hill as it is possible to imagine. There, my wife and I met children who were in the reserve and were able to tell us which was the best path across it. Teenagers flew kites and talk together in the branches of trees.

On Lawrence Weston Moor, my only companions were a buzzard and a couple of woodpigeons. Unblocking the paths that give access to the moor would certainly help, as it would allow people to circulate through the area, but it is probably more important to find ways to connect the local “athletes” to the moor.

Is there a Woodwosish solution?

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

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.