Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Another weekend in Wasdale.

(Bit late posting this!) After having a great time at Three Shires last week where the only real drama was almost straying too high coming down off Swirl Howe I was in two minds whether to drive back up North to do the Scafell Pike Race the week after. (By the way Al, I was feeling a bit carsick too by the time we got to Langdale - must be Mark's driving).

It's a long way to travel for such a short race but we hadn't been to visit some friends of ours who farm the fells in Wasdale for a while either so that provided enough justification to head into the hills for the weekend.

The usual Friday M6 issues meant we only arrived late Friday night just after 11 to a very quiet farmhouse, the farmer and his missus having already gone to bed - they had been gathering sheep all week in the fells so were catching up on some rest.

Up early Saturday and straight out after breakfast. The kids, well my two boys anyway, always pester the farmer for rides on his quad bike so four of us jumped on it and rode to the fields near the campsite to move the cattle out of the ones that the race was to go through. Mark wasn't sure which route the race was taking this year but thankfully one of Richard's (the organiser) friends came to meet us as we started shifting the cows to ask whether it was ok to leave all the gates open, he was about to start flagging the route. My plan to keep at least a pair of shoes and my jeans clean fell apart straight away as I got covered in mud and cow shit, serves me right for not putting a pair of wellies on! We got the cows moved into the next field, Mark taking the piss since I almost missed two that were down near the first field from the campsite, Galloways are BIG and not hard to spot!

Once we got the gate shut he showed me the ones which were ready for calving then we rode back to the farm.

It wasn't long before it was time to get my number so the kids saw that as another excuse to go for a ride on the quad bike.

The bloke in front of me at registration didn't seem to speak much English and failed to understand what the purpose of the two tags we were given was. Back to the farm, again, to drop the bike and kids off where the farmer's missus offered me a lift back to the race. On the quad bike. This was getting a bit silly.

The sun was trying to come out though the Scafells were still in cloud, we gathered at the start where Richard gave the usual warnings and then we were off. It made a change running through fields where I have spent days chasing sheep and it was also
good to be able to watch the quick lads at the front for so long since you climb all the way up Lingmell nose similar to Lingmell Dash. As usual I was passed by a third of the field on this bit before I got settled into my position. It wasn't long before we reached the top of the nose where we could start running again and head off towards the pike, as you reach the tourist path there is a route almost straight up the manages to stay on the grass for quite a while so I tried to stick to that and memorise bits for the descent. The leaders come past on their way back down further to my left then Simon Booth came past who obviously knew about this grassy route.

The mist wasn't too thick up here and as we got higher things got brighter again until the sun came out! We had climbed above the clouds just before reaching the summit which was bathed in sunshine. It was a wonderful sight turning round at the top as I handed my tag in and saw above the clouds. Back into the mist on the way down, as usual the top was busy and progress down the path was quite slow at times what with the runners still climbing and groups of walkers everywhere. I caught up to a group then chose the grassy route, feeling a little surprised that none of those in front I could see strayed from the path and it wasn't long before we came out of the mist and I crossed the path to head back down towards Lingmell nose.

I fell here last year and was lucky not to break something the speed I hit the floor but not this year, I love this descent it's just a shame you have to keep your eyes on the ground and not the view. I caught a guy from Wharfedale near the bottom and he said he was saving his legs for the 3 Peaks CX race tomorrow!

Back through the fields is always a struggle with the jelly legs but there were a few spectators here which helped brighten the mood then onto the path and the missus took a picture with my youngest lad chasing me to the finish. I beat last year's time but the route was different so that doesn't mean much. Just like last year there was a large bucket full of flapjack at the finish which was lovely. We had to wait around for ages for the presentation for the last 3 runners from Stroud, I think they got lost at the top. They won the women's team prize nonetheless which just proves you need to be in it to win it!

My little toe on my left foot was really sore, it felt like I had got a blister. I don't get many these days but I have been running slightly differently on that side since I developed an ache on the ball of my foot. I thanked Richard for putting the race on then we cleared off to Egremont to Mark's other farm. He has a new shepherd starting soon so we said we would help clear up the farmhouse there ready for him and his partner to move in.

Later on we all went for a lovely meal at Low Wood Hall in Nether Wasdale. Mark supplies the restaurant there with lamb but I plumped for the fish and chips. I was starving, it's funny going out for a meal after a couple of hours running in the hills people are shocked by how greedy I can be. I was a bit tipsy heading back to the farm (Lisa drove!) and I gave up on plans for an early morning jaunt. Instead I went for a jog up onto the screes while Lisa cooked us all a Sunday roast in the morning.

Mark & Karen went to help the shepherd move into the farmhouse at Egremont, he had driven up the day before from Somerset but had trouble with getting a van so only turned up at 4am that morning! He then had to move in, get the van back down to Somerset and drive back up Tuesday. Mark said one of the cows we had moved yesterday calved overnight and was doing ok.

My legs were a bit tender from the race so I took my time jogging up through the fields to join the path behind the woods, the weather wasn't too great today the clouds were really low and it was threatening rain but it was still lovely to be out there again; I couldn't waste a day at the farm without going for a run. I prefer this side of Wasdale since it's always quieter, most people making the trek out here do it to go up the big hills or just to go up the Pike so whenever we visit Mark & Karen I try and make my way to the less busy parts. The amount of times I have been for a jog up Scafell (not the pike!) and back without seeing another soul is surprising considering how close it is to the highest hill in England. I love sitting on the summit looking west over the Wasdale hills as the sun sets it is so peaceful.

Not today though, I had a quick stop near Illgill Head in the rain and mist before heading back down for lunch. This hurt a bit with the sore thighs but the view was lovely. I took a couple of pics but you can never quite capture the atmosphere of being there.

After lunch it was time to say our goodbyes and make the long drive home. Shame really to be leaving so quick it didn't seem two minutes since we arrived. I loaded up the car with meat before we left and arranged to go up there again towards the end of November.

As usual the M6 was snarled up, this time near J35 so for a change I drove over the Dales and came home that way instead. Took us ages but it made a change, the trip was well worth it but I need a rest now from all this driving. Shame Mark and his clan couldn't make it up to see us but I'll be up to see him in a couple of weeks.

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