Archive for the ‘pubs’ Category

The View from the Front by Darryl Carter

March 13, 2012


Saturday 3 March 2012

The Green Man Ultra is a 47mile race organised by UltraRunningUK.   Its course closely follows the Green Man Challenge route around Bristol’s Community Forest Path (CFP). 

More details at

I had been keen to do the Green Man Ultra ever since I saw its inception on the UltraRunning website.  It is quite an interesting course that loops around Bristol and has some fantastic views.  My only concerns were a) fitness and b) navigation.  I had spent most of February in Lanzarote working and getting in a lot of off-road (lava) running and scrambling.  As well as sea swims and the occasional bike ride I managed 50/110/70miles running over the three weeks.  My legs were completely shot when I returned home and I suffered a little ‘over-reaching’.  I spent most of race week resting and taking my Elagen supplements, and fortunately by Thursday I felt a lot better and ready to race.

At 3:45am on Saturday morning the alarm went off!  I wasn’t looking forward to a 2hr+ drive from Teddington (Middlesex), but at least it meant I could have a decent breakfast in advance of the race.  Once at the race venue (The Redwood Lodge Hotel & Country Club)  I had just enough time to sort myself out, meet the organisers and the Gaveller, some fellow competitors, and check out the OMM stand (I’m always looking for an upgrade!).

It was interesting to see a number of canicross competitors and their dogs for this race. At the start of the race one dog got a little excited, broke free from its owner and gave the leading runner a fright.  Only a few hundred metres into the race a group of four formed at the front – Martin Indge, Alex Foster, Liz Wiggins and myself.  I’d never met any of them before, but they all seemed quite comfortable with up to 7:15/M pace.  After just over a mile we joined the Green Man Challenge Route, heading south along the CFP.

Despite the cold and intermittent showers we were all in good spirits and Alex was doing a fine job of directing us along the route having recced it in advance.  I had also done a recce of the first 27miles of the route with a friend in January.  We were hoping to recce the whole route but ran out of time thanks to a number of small navigational errors.  It didn’t fill me with much confidence on the day, although I had a decent map and a garmin watch, so at least I wouldn’t get completely lost.

Miles 2-6 went over rolling fields of grass and mud, climbing over stiles and gates, and dodging the occasional cow and horse.  At the start of the race I was contemplating how quickly we were running and what it translated to in terms of an overall time.  It wasn’t until 6 miles into the race with shoes full of mud that I appreciated just how tough the 47mile course was going to be. I was already getting quite sore and stiff, particularly in the hamstrings and glutes.  I never expect to get through an Ultra run without some amount of pain but this was a lot earlier than expected, and I put it down to the training block in Lanzarote the weeks before.  It certainly left me somewhat concerned and uncomfortable.  In contrast Martin was running very comfortably beside me and seemingly enjoying himself.  He had a quick leg turnover and if he dropped back to do something he would sprint back beside me in seconds. This could be a long hard day.

I considered the first significant climb to be at Dundry Quarry and thought I’d seize the opportunity to test my fellow competitors out by running all the way up.  I didn’t consider it to be a risk as I’d run much longer and steeper climbs in the Brecon Ultra.  At the top of the hill, where the course starts to head east, I glanced back and didn’t see anyone.  I eased off on the run into Dundry but just as I reached the main gate I could hear the fast turnover of feet from behind and Martin was there once again, only probably in better shape from a more balanced effort!  There were a number of ladies with huge dogs in Dundry and for a moment I thought the canicross runners had taken a different route.

From Dundry the route continued east towards Norton Malreward and Checkpoint1.  Martin and I continued at quite a strong pace, but due to a few small navigational errors would find ourselves picked up again by Alex and Liz.  This was particularly the case at East Dundry where just like in my recce we took the wrong route down another path and had to backtrack.  This would happen many more times during the race, but thankfully I would become aware of my errors within about 10-15 seconds thanks to the Garmin watch and could either backtrack or divert.  The four of us made it to Checkpoint1 at the Norton Malreward town hall within 1 minute of each other.

The weather had improved over the first 2hrs of the race and it was now getting quite warm.  Martin and I kept up a strong pace through Pensford, Woolard, Compton Dando and Checkpoint2 in Kenysham at 16 miles.  I was struggling with a lot of stiffness at this point and decided that after the aid station I would take a short break to shed some clothes, drink plenty of electrolytes, stretch and take a toilet stop (not all at once of course!).  I didn’t mind giving Martin a couple of minutes lead as I was hoping I’d feel a lot more invigorated after the break and then entertain myself by trying to gradually bridge the gap.  However, it wasn’t until I turned the next corner near Londonderry Farm and the start of the Dramway that I noticed he had disappeared.  I didn’t know whether he had taken a wrong turn or simply speeded up, so I increased my effort past the Mill and along the Dramway before continuing along the CFP into the countryside once again. 

At 26 miles the course ran through the Kendleshire golf course and on exiting the grounds I heard a shout from a roadside (refreshments) van “You’re the first one!”.  It dawned on me now that Martin had indeed taken a wrong turn, and this encouraged me to work even harder.  At Damson’s Bridge I thought I had reached Checkpoint 3 when I spotted what looked like a pub across a stream to my left and a man in a bright yellow jacket bending over a crate of beer.  If only!  Although I did hang around for a couple of minutes double checking the map while salivating.  I weighed up the map against the Garmin and it seemed I was a little short, so continued.  At around 28 miles I finally reached Checkpoint 3.  I was tired, sore and stiff but it was good to know I now had less than 20 miles to go to the finish.  Checkpoint 3 and 4 were slow transitions.  It could be I was glad of the brief chat and something other than energy gel!

The next 10 miles to Checkpoint 4 involved a lot of running on roads and paths through residential estates and traversing the M4, M32 and M5 motorways.  Personally I don’t mind a few miles on tarmac in XC shoes.  The increase in muscle fatigue/soreness is off-set by the increase in pace – it’s nice to see those miles tick by a little quicker!  I vividly remember mile 32 at Bradley Stoke being a bad patch.  I really didn’t want to walk so I took another toilet break, drank a good 300-400ml and within 5mins I felt much better again.  Strangely enough I went through a bit of a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for the next couple of miles.  The ascent of Spaniorum Hill at 36-37 miles was tough.  But despite a lot of pain in the glutes I didn’t want to break into a continuous walk so ‘ran’ as much as possible.  I started glancing back occasionally to see if I could spot anyone, but no-one was in sight.  I told myself that as long as I kept the pace up to the other side of the Clifton Suspension then I would be safe.  After 38 miles I entered Henbury and once again I ran with map in hand to make sure I didn’t take any wrong turns before Checkpoint 4. 

The reception from the volunteers at Checkpoint 4 was fantastic.  My only complaint (if it is one) is that they are ‘too friendly’ and you can get suckered into a conversation with cup of tea and slice of cake in hand!   I have to find a way of extracting myself from race checkpoints much quicker in the future.  

The Green Man route continues through the Blaise Estate on towards the river Avon.  There was another athletics XC event taking place, which may have caused some confusion to the marshals present, but as the last of the runners were finishing I nipped in and out without issue.  I was starting to get a little ‘lazy’ at this point.   I would find the excuse of checking the map, readjusting my backpack and/or taking nutrition to justify short walking breaks.  I’d been keeping an eye on my pacing and total distance at this point.  I thought I would be easily inside the green man course record and even break 7hrs.  However, I didn’t realise there was a lot of climbing still to come.  Miles 42-46 from Sea Mills through Sneyd Park estate and on to the Clifton Suspension Bridge were generally uphill and ate into the clock.  It was hard not to stop and appreciate the views high up over the bridge and the river Avon but I was leading a race, so immediately turned away and headed down to the bridge itself.

The final two miles over the bridge and back into Ashton Court were tough, going uphill into a headwind.  I would occasionally glance over my shoulder and take a few short strides to break it up.  I could now finally appreciate what I had done and enjoy the finish.  I’d taken part in a terrific race and enjoyed some wonderful views around Bristol.   The Gaveller was on hand at the finish to provide me with my Woodwose (‘wild medieval man of the forest’) certificate. 

My final time was 7hr8min, which was 11min quicker than the old record.  I made a number of navigational errors and perhaps wasn’t completely rested so I would like to come back later in the year when the weather is good, have less weight to carry and I’m more familiar with the course.

Darryl Carter  (Woodwose LIV)

Gear : 2XU compression calf guards and shorts, Ironman shorts, Helly Hansen LS top, Bjoern Dhaelie gillet, inov8 roclite 295 shoes.  I had a OMM race smock packed in my Olmo5 backpack along with compulsory race equipment and a couple of protein bars.  I started with 2 x 750ml bottles of electrolytes and added tablets to water at Checkpoints.

Official Race Results :

UltraRunningUK :



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.


Female walking record

July 31, 2011

5am outsidePatchway Community College

I wasn’t going to see off Matthew Hall and Tracy Darch yesterday, because 5am is too early for me, but we had grandchildren to stay, so I had a human alarm call at 4-23, just the right time to get down to Patchway. As far as I know, they are the first from the LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) to have a go at the Green Man Challenge, so I was keen to see haw they would get on and had reglar updates by text during the day. They started off strongly, but Tracy picked up a knee injury on the way up to Dundry which caused problems for the rest of the trip. Consequently, it was past 9pm before I set out for the appropriately named Travellers’ Rest (or the Hungry Horse) in Patchway to see them in. The good news was they had Greene King IPA on special offer at £2-20. The slightly less good news was it was music night of the kind that attracts middle aged blokes. Matthew and Tracy were footsore and weary when they appeared round the corner shortly before 10 with a time of approximately sixteen hours forty five minutes. Tracy is the third woman to have finished the Challenge and her effort also sets the walking record for women.

The first person I know to have completed a circuit of the CFP was Bristol artist, Richard Long, who did it in about sixteen hours in 1998. The current walking record is 11 hours 35 mins set by Rob “Strider” Burrows in April 2010.

Ancestral voices

March 27, 2008

 Just before I went on the last torch-lit TACH run of the spring, before the clocks change, I came across the following passage from the War Diary of my great-uncle, Billy Bloor, who was killed in the First World War:July 30th 1917

At midnight stopped at Opoutre about two miles from Poperinghe, which was as far as the train could go, as Poperinghe was being shelled and a train, which had run in there two hours before, had caught it nicely – with about 80 casualties. The R.T.O. at Opoutre informed me that the guide sent for me had been killed en route, but he told me my destination, and showed me the way as best he could. I had to leave my kit there and start a seven mile march without a map on a pitch black night and through rain which was falling – this after 23 hours in the train. Arrived at Ouderdom at 2-30 a.m. and spoiled Captain Sutherland’s beauty sleep (of the D.A.C). He was jolly glad to see me none the less and turned out the Adjutant, who got the men in somewhere – and jolly tired and fed up they were, too. They found me a couple of blankets and put me up on Colonel Stanley’s bed – he being on leave, and after a drink – or two – and a good long “chin-wag” I turned in about 4-30 a.m.

Obviously navigating in the dark with a drink to follow is wired in the blood!

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.

Woodwose 7

March 4, 2008

I have just received Martin Beale’s report of his record breaking circuit of the Community Forest Path to complete the Green Man Challenge. I have published it in the adjacent pages, so it will always come up near the top.

Hydration is obviously the big problem in an unsupported solo attempt. As Martin noted, the streams on the route can not be regarded as safe. He used the Tesco Express in Bradley Stoke, which is a little way off the route. Woodwose 1 and 2 used the White Horse at Hambrook and the Lockkeeper at Keynsham to top up their reserves. I think there is also an external tap at the White Horse. It might be worthwhile to produce a definitive list of rehydration opportunities.

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!

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!

A long run over Hanging Hill

October 28, 2007

On Friday, I was checking through the typescript of my latest book  of runs/walks, when I realised thatI had not actually run one of the routes in its entirety. I had been over most of it several times, but there was a short linking section that I had never explored. Oops!

I could have just checked that bit, but I needed a longish run, so I decided to run the whole eleven miles+. The published route will start at the Swan at Swineford, because that is where I would chose to end up for a meal, but I was short of time, so I started near the Lockkeeper at Keynsham instead. That meant that I started with the level two and a half miles through the meadows alongside the River Avon.

The hard bit began at the Swan, with a sharp climb across a field to a stony enclosed track, resplendent with falling leaves, around the village of North Stoke. The clim levels off a bit as it comes out onto the road up to the church, but from there, the road deteriorates into a stony slog up the grassy slopes to Lansdown Gilf Course. There the route levels off a bit as it winds through the course and up to the kissing gate on Hanging Hill.

This point marked the outer edge of the left flank of Waller’s Parliamentary army at the battle of Lansdown in the English Civil War. The widespread views suggest that it ought to have been an inpregnable position, but this battle was a Royalist victory, albiet something of a phyrric one.

The descent of Hanging Hill is complicated by rough grass and encroaching scrub, but I eventually found the hunting gate into a descending, enclosed track, similar to the one up to North Stoke, but complicated by slippery, sloping, natuaral stone steps towards the bottom. A short stretch of very minor road took me to the beginning of another rocky track. The fact that thois track through woods, fields and a ford descended for the best part of a kilometre gives some indication of how far I had had to climb up to Hanging Hill.

A short stretch of road and some paddocks brought me out into Wick opposite the Carpenters’ Arms and the start of the stretch I had not done before. It did not turn out to be very complicated, and my instructions would have worked OK as they were, except that a few new kissing gates had been put in where I had expected stiles – a regular hazard! The bonus was another stretch of descending stony track enlivened with overarching autumn leaves.

There was rather too much tarmac for my taste on the next section, which linked up with the Bristol and Bath Railway Cycle Path to Willsbridge Mill nature reserve.

I made the mistake of following the Comunity Forest Path down to Londonderry Wharf on the Avon. It is unpleasantly rutted by cattle’s feet – the Dramway alternative is much smoother!

I was getting tired at this point, so I opted for a cheaty shortcut across Sydenham Mead, and was rewarded for my laziness by finding a handful of delicious field mushrooms for my supper!