Archive for the ‘nature’ 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.

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.

News Release – Signs of Spring

March 3, 2010

As the Equinox approaches, the rising sap is summoning up a new crop of “Woodwoses” alongside the snowdrops and crocuses.

These shy creatures, also known as Pelosi or Wildmen, are drawn to liminal areas that mark the boundary between civilisation and wilderness. Increasing numbers of them are being attracted to the 45-mile long Community Forest Path that runs through the Green Belt around Bristol. They are difficult to spot, but they can sometimes be seen around dawn and dusk in a grove of oak trees surrounding the stone Green Man’s head in the deer park near the Clifton Gateway to the Ashton Court Estate.

“Woodwoses” (from the Anglo-Saxon wuduwasa) can be mistaken for ordinary men and women, but their true nature becomes apparent when they complete the 45-mile circuit of Bristol between dawn and dusk. 16 Woodwoses have been identified so far, including internationally renown, Bristol artist, Richard Long, who completed the circuit in 1998. But the current crop of sightings began when Chris Smart of Long Ashton completed a circuit in September 2007. This began a flurry of sightings including Martin Beale and Martin Indge of Team Vasque, who completed a circuit in an incredible 7 hours, 19 minutes and 52 seconds in May 2009.

Predicted sightings

Three of the more solitary type of Woodwose are predicted to appear at the Green Man’s head during March. The first is expected to pass the Green Man around 7-40am on Saturday 6th. The second will set out on Sunday 14th with pacemakers at 7am. The third, a contrary specimen, may not emerge until dusk on Saturday 20th, which is the official date of the Spring Equinox.

The Equinox has also attracted a batch of younger Woodwoses, who tend to be more sociable. They intend to set out at from the Green Man’s head at 7am on the 20th and finish at exactly 5-32 pm, which is the precise time of the Equinox according to authoritative sources. It is rumoured that appropriate, but novel pagan rites will occur to celebrate this moment.

Three Peaks of Somerset

January 16, 2009

On Sunday, 15th February, a group of us are having a go at the Three Peaks Route that starts in Chew Magna. I made the mistake of calling it the Three Peaks of Somerset to differentiate it form other Three Peaks challenges involving Ben Nevis etc. It was promptly pointed out that the Three Peaks of Somerset ought to be Dunkery Beacon on Exmoor, Wills Neck in the Quantocks and Beacon Batch on the Mendips.

Various point of view have been bandied about as to the best way of accomplishing such a challenge.

Originally, I though that it would be best to start at Porlock to attack Dunkery Beacon, but on reflection, it would be easier to start at Exford, in the heart of Exmoor, which has a car park, a hostel and two pubs.

From Exford, you could follow the Samaritans Way Southwest up onto Exford Common and then switch onto the Macmillan Way West to Dunkery Beacon and on to Dunster – why reinvent the wheeel? The Macmillan Way from here to Wills Neck looks very complicated, so I think it would be easier to cut down through Marsh Street to the coast and follow the coast path to Watchet. Then you could follow the road through Doniford and on up to Beacon Hill and Wills Neck.

From Wills Neck, the Samaritan’s Way provides the quickest route through Goathurst and Bridgwater to Chedzoy and the brisge over the King’s Sedgemoor Drain at Parchey

The next obstacles are the Huntspill River and the River Brue. There is rather a lot of tarmac on the next stretch, but I thik the best route goes through Stawell and Chilton Polden then across Chilton Moor to River House Farm, where there is a crossing over the Brue. Then there are roads and paths to take you through Westham and Blackford onto a bridle path that goes round West Stoughton to Ashton, Chapel Allerton and Stone Allerton, where there is a path down to Weare.

From here, the easiest option is the more easterly of the pairs of bridges over the Axe and the Cheddar Yeo. and then Stubbington Drove and Middle Moor will take you into the outsj=kirts of Cheddar. There is then a route through Barrows that leads to the bridle path round Batts Combe Quarry that leads to Warrens Hill Road and Tynings Farm – well known to all who have done the Mendip Muddle.

From Tynings Farm, there is an obvious route to Beacon Batch, from which there are several routes Down to Blagdon.

It’s about 60 miles if anybody’s interested!

It’ all a blur

January 15, 2009

Just read the following in Alex James’ Column in yesterday’s Independent:

No distance to run in the country

Run! Run! alone over open fields, all through the wooded hillsides, in secret along the narrowest trails, badger roads and deer tracks, half-dodging wet, scratching brambles, ducking branches. Leaping and swerving over dead tree trunks, with startled squirrels and scattering rabbits springing from nowhere. Dawn, dusk, noon, under the Moon and stars, run as far as you can. Run like the wind, run when it’s raining, run in the sun. Run, run, run – pnanting, blowing, steaming through the cool, soft greys and greens. Run for an hour, run for miles, without seeing anybody, heart pounding, flying weightless downhill, feet crashing through puddles, splattering the fluffy, caressing mud, careless and carefree. Free at last, exhilarated by body whirring at capacity, on limits, singing. There is nothing else: no distractions, just the steady rhythms, absolutes, of breath, heart and hypnotic footfall beating, one two, one, two…

There are no fat bass players of any significance.

The Rising Sun

March 23, 2008

We did a bit of the Green Man Challenge route from the Rising Sun at Pensford last Thursday. I was hoping Turtle would turn up as he got lost on this route last year and I thought he might enjoy it better this time. As it happened, he was on baby-sitting duty so there were just the six of us, half being Woodwoses.

The pub is a bit more down market than the George and Dragon on the other side of the Wells Road; but the parking is infinitely better.

The planned route was a version of “The Caterpillar,” which is described among the free-shorter routes on the Closer to the Countryside website ( ). I would have included it my first walk book, but there is a section of the original route from the Whitchurch Sports Centre that has been erased by a farmer, which he can get away with due to the negligence of past councils. However, it works really well from Pensford, if you don’t mind a bit of climbing on minor roads.

We started by following the Community Path across the fields to Publow and then took off up the hill towards Charlton Field and then took off across the fields towards Blackrock, which involved a bit of a paddle up a stream. Another hillclimb on the road took us up Hursley Hill to the A37.

From there we went through a series of flat buy wet firlds, past a garden nursery to Whitchurch. We negotiated the Dundry Hill housing estate to get to another sharp climb up East Dundry Lane, which leads to the footpath folowing the contour through the fields to Maes Knoll.

This iron age hill fort offers quite splendid views across Bristol on one side and Chew Valley on the other; but on this night, the ferocious winds cured the inadequately dressed of their ability to appreciate such things and they descended as if they had been blown off the hill. Unfortunately, the two Woodwoses who knew the way were dawdling at the back, so the hasty ones overshot the footpath down and had to climb back up about 90 metres to get back on track.

The cross country route back to the pub through Norton Malreward was negotiated without further incident, but I did notice Woodwose 1 looking askance at the slightly off-right-of-way path we took down to the river! As we arrived back at the pub, my Garmin registered 7 miles exactly, but it would have been slightly less if we hadn’t gone back to look for the hast ones on Maes Knoll.

The Rising Sun was sufficiently cosy and friendly and there was a choice between well kept Bath Ales’ Gem or Thatchers’ Cider. We managed to find a table that would accommodate the six of us and a good time was had by all.

The Grizzly – over the hill?

March 10, 2008

The awesome Grizzly used to be one of my all-time favourite races. The course, starting in Seaton on the southest coast of Devon, can be anything up to twenty miles long and winds across the shingle, along the coast path up steepsided, wooded valleys, through streams and knee-deep black mud, more hundreds of metres of shingle, up a winding path up a cliff and across the grassy cliff-top path, which offers spectacular views of the shingle beach leading to the finish on the esplanade two miles below.

The race is a community affair and all sorts of people participate in the organisation. There were pipers on the hills and bands of all kinds at strategic points, including a folk band and a folk duo and  a drum band in a barn booming out across the hills.

Out on the course, everything was as I remembered it, except my ability to cover the terrain, which rather got in the way of my appreciation of the Kantian and Taoist jokes and Buddhist shrines along the route. At the pace I started, I used to pick people off as the race progressed. But this time I had to look on as fat old men and young girls hurried past me in the later stages. In my late fifties, I am definitely over the hill, and it was silly to suppose thatI would find it easy, just because I had managed to complete the 45-mile Green Man Challenge a few weeks before. As my much younger Green Man partner, Peter DeBoer, remarked it is whole different thing – and he too suffered in the last three miles (although he was way ahead of me!)

But at over 20-years old,the Grizzly too is showing its age. In the past, the race had the use of a holiday centre with a big hall, in which the participants could meet up before the race and could congregate afterwards to exchange experiences and wait for the prize-giving.

Now all that has gone. The only group of runners that were able to pose for a pre-race team photo were the Axe Valley Runners who organise the race. Members of other clubs, who I happened to bump into at the start and on the course, had no idea whether other members with entries had actually made it to the race. In the absence of a proper gathering place afterwards it would have been impossible to find out afterwards either. 

I found the post-race experience a let-down, a definite anti-climax. It could have been better if a hail storm hadn’t driven everyone into the surrounding pubs, restaurants and cafes shortly before I finished. But this year’s perfunctory Grizzly T-shirt was definitely below the standard that had been set by earlier models and the organisers cannot possibly rely of fine weather at the beginning of March for a satisfying end to the Grizzly experience.