Friday, 25 April 2014

A coast run

A dull overcast day but not cold or too breezy, at home at least. The objective today was to run along the coast from Beer Head, however I had to negotiate 3 lots of road works traffic lights in the few miles to Axminster, with those and commuter traffic, it took longer than normal. But! After Axminster, the roads were empty, Seaton and Beer showed few signs the holiday season had begun. The car park on the hill was empty but for one van, who clearly had spent the night there, curtains were still shut, however, one sign of summer was that I now had to pay to park at £1 an hour, always difficult to judge, in case you go further than expected or perhaps an injury, so I played safe and went for three hours, more than enough, with enough time for a cuppa, on return, advantages of a camper, portable changing room and travelling canteen!
It was chilly on the cliffs so long sleeve, but threequarter tights, and of course my new favourite Fellraiser shoes. The cloud was lifting with a hint of sunshine as I set off, the track was very dry given the rain we had over the last couple of days.
The route to Beer Head was deserted, no dog walkers? Bit early for ramblers, maybe the chilly northerly breeze put them off, sad, as they were missing some lovely bluebells at the path side that gave off a strong scent as I ran past them.  had warmed up considerably by the time I got to the top and it was a joy to run along the cliffs with views towards Sidmouth. My descent into Branscombe Mouth was steep, and care taken as dew was still on the grass. This along with the waxy grasses that appear on the coast made it slippery in places, my Fellraisers coped well and gave me confidence, to try to descend a little faster, using my arms as windmills to keep balance.
Once at sea level the only way is up. Several visitors in the car park, booting up for walking.
I went through the gate signposted coast path and jogged the first part of the climb before easing back to walk zig zag over the last 50yds, the steepest point.
I entered the woods and was amazed as the smell of wild garlic and blue bells was almost overpowering, the whole floor was covered in either wild garlic, just starting to flower or bluebells, most of which were in full bloom. I climbed up the steps, trying to keep a rhythm of left foot on, then right, then alternating when my left leg ached! Along the top views over Branscombe were starting to disappear behind new growth on the trees. Out into fields before descending again to the Fountains Inn at the end of Branscombe. Again the woods were full of garlic and bluebells (see picture)

 I joined the road and ran downhill on the road at a good pace, sometimes a bit of road downhill is nice to speed up a little. I turned off back towards the sea at Branscombe Mouth. The next hill loomed above! I decided to take the under cliff path that terminates in the 'Grizzly stairway to heaven' but provides a really nice single track run with lots of ups, downs and sharp turns always with a fantastic view of the sea shore and the sound of the sea crashing over the shingle, however, later on the path this sound was replaced by bird song, very noticeable, even above my heavy breathing! I passed no one on the path, which was a surprise. I started the ascent of the stairway, never easy, but never as hard as I expect, red faced and a sweaty brow I emerged at the top of the cliff (picture from stair way to heaven)

 breathless, but not too bad, knees felt it a little, bit of lactic acid! Or just old age. A swig of ISO drink before the final mile back to the van, a fabulous run and completed just as the sun came out, tea and flapjack and use of my personal changing room before driving home to mow lawns etc. 6.65 miles covered, big hills, lots of climbing 1500 ft, not a fast time but fast enough for me to enjoy it, taking in the views and peace that a run like this brings, why do I do it? This is why, see above! And no niggle on my knee sh,sh!!
Very pleased with today as I did 42 miles on my bike yesterday with an average speed of 15+ mph, I had no intention of going that fast, and was surprised to see the end result, the weather was beautiful, I was able to wear my new 'Marmite' jersey, a birthday pressie from one of my sons. Very comfortable and bright.
I also dropped into the bike shop today, Andy had my new Hope hubs, ready to be assembled into wheels, a lovely piece of engineering!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tuesday  22nd April

My plans for a long early in the day run down the coast or on the Quantocks were thwarted as I awoke to heavy rain drops on the roof.  This continued for most of the morning, so decision was to run later over Neroche.
The car park was deserted for a late afternoon, heavy clouds hung over the Blackdowns, but hopefully I should get round before anymore downpours.
I was unsure of what to wear as it was quite chilly when the sun was not shining. However, I set off in the sun, trees were now getting more and more greenery, after the heavy rain my woodland stage of the run was quite muddy. As I crossed the farmland near Britty, Exmoor ponies are now grazing as an experiment, they completely ignored my presence! There were bluebells just emerging in the open ground but the woodland, most were still just very green shoots.
I managed to jog up the ‘stairway to heaven’ up to Neroche castle at a slow pace, small steps, a bit of walking near the top. The run back down from the castle was enjoyable and I noticed a 7:52 pace on my Garmin!
Crossing the road and the climb started back up to Staple Hill car park, resurfaced by the Forestry people [not sure why!]  Back over the open ground and the final climb back up to the car park – 7.10 miles, no rain, an enjoyable run.
In the mean time I have been using my newly acquired Kindle [birthday pressie] reading two books ‘Run Wild’ by Boff Whalley, a great book, very philosophical as he spends time looking and trying to understand  runners who run marathons on the road, with all the technology and pressures of times and placings, with that of running off road, trail and mountain running and the simple pleasures this gives, without the pressures – I found the book really interesting, with lots of references to running on trails and mountains, and really questions why anyone wants to run a marathon on the road! However, he is very sympathetic and acknowledges  that they do raise a lot of money and draw attention to charities, and many people would not run if it wasn’t for their commitment to raising money for a good cause, quite an inspirational read, by the end you want to get the trainers on and go off road running. By coincidence my current read is ‘Running Free –A runners journey back to nature’ by Richard Askwith, this book follows a similar vein but less reference to road marathons. He does make references to the ‘clutter’ of technology in running and celebrates the simple pleasures of running off road, whether its muddy fields around his Northampton home or running on the fells [I read Richards first book ‘Feet in the Clouds’ – a really good book about fell running and the Bob Graham round] he compares this again with running around the sterile streets of towns and cities – and questions why people run? What do they get from it? Etc. I am only 29% through [according to my Kindle white – a great piece of kit] so will complete my review when I have finished it, again, just like Bofs book,  inspirational that makes you want to go out and run up the nearest hill, off road of course!
Yesterdays warm sunny day gave me an opportunity to give the Camper a good clean inside and out, so its now ready for some fabulous trips this summer – hopefully Cornwall in a couple of weeks and of course the French trip in June, we still need to sort our final destination in France.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Sunday 20th April
A very wet day today, but managed to get out early (7am) before the rain came, very chilly at 4 degC  according to my Garmin! 28mile road ride, round through Barrington, the National Trust village and back round through Hatch Beauchamp. A sharp, North easterly wind, gave at head wind out to Hatch, but as I turned back towards home found a Tail wind, and a chance for the big ring. 28 miles covered at 14+mph average, good to be out on the Trek again, took a long time to warm up, in fact fingers and toes were very cold, even when I got back. Mug of coffee and thick toast on my return to de frost and warm up!
That made 2 rides this week the other being 26miles. I have also managed a couple of runs, my usual Neroche 7 mile off road run, really warm, enjoyable running in short sleeve jersey and shorts, the difference between running in winter clothes and summer kit is tremendous, much easier to run, giving far more freedom and lighter, the track was very dry, and given it was holidays very quiet.  An early morning 4.5 mile round town was enjoyable and surprisingly I felt good, doing one of my best times for that run.  I think my Welsh visit has helped my fitness. The good weather this week has certainly encouraged me to get out, but also managed to get some physical labour in by sorting out the garden.
Exercise wise a good week, especially as schools were off, so no Bikeability for the past two weeks, back to work this week.
I have also committed myself to my new road bike, ordering a pair of wheels hand built by Andy from the local bike shop, hope hubs and open pro rims. I also ordered my new titanium frame, a 'Qoroz' Road Won, seem a well made frame for general riding they are  manufactured in Gloucester. I now need to source other parts, already trying to sort the transmission, triple or double? And a range of gears suitable for my cycling, 52x11 is no use to me where 30x28/30 is far more use, however,  Shimano and Campag arent very flexible, they think we all live in flat areas and want big gears, ok if your in your teens. Finding information on saddles and handlebars is also difficult! So could be sometime before I actually get it on the road. So lots of time researching on the interweb!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday 13th April

Beautiful day today, managed to get on my bike and do a 50 mile road ride. Once again heading over Ham, North Curry, Athelney, Langport, Muchelney, Hambridge, Curry Mallet, Hatch Beachamp and returning over Broadway and Crock st. I did take some flapjack this time, so as not to repeat last time. Went well, to say no biking for over a week, felt strong on the final hills of the day. Things are looking ok for the New Forest Audax at the end of the month.

Two other things from this week., I picked up my new replacement Speedcross 3 shoes from Cotswold at Darts farm.  So glad I took them back, well done Salomon and Cotswold for a quick decision, design hasnt changed, so will be back again after a short time(if I keep them?)The second was, whilst in Wales got a chance to use my fajllraven 25litre Funas rucksack I won in the Great outdoors article writing competition as a runner up, last year. I was impressed, very comfortable, good size.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Trip to Wales

Monday 7th April
See after photos for commentary!  
 On the way to Moel Lefn looking over Moel Elio
 Some of the FP were difficult because of fallen trees

 View from Moel Lefn
 Looking back from Moel Hebog to Moel Ogof
 View of Porthmadog from Moel Hebog
 Trig on Moel Hebog

 Views over Beddgelert
 Looking back along the ridge Moel Ogof and Moel Lefn
 At Camp
 Beddgelert bridge
 Lake Dinas
 Snowdon in the cloud
 View down Watkin path
 Previous days ridge Moel Lefn on right Moel Hebog in the mist left
 Sterile bridleway from Beddgelert to Rhyddu
Lyn y Gadar

The drive up to North Wales was hard work with the roads being very busy and very heavy rain. After 5 hours of driving to cover the 250 miles I called in Betws y coed to buy a new map as mine was dated 1995! then over the Nant Gwynant pass down to the Forest site at Beddgelert. The wardens were very friendly and helpful, finally deciphering the site map, I selected a pitch out of the trees, dripping on the van can be very annoying! fortunately the pitches were hard standing. it was raining hard and the site was reasonably quiet given it was the first week of the Easter holidays, however more vans and tents arrived early evening. The weather forecast was good for the next couple of days.

Tea was quorn and dumplings in an ale sauce ready meal, cooked in the ramoska, very nice and the van was nice and warm from the oil filled radiator! thanks to electrical hook up.
Tuesday dawned grey and overcast, and cloud was down on my intended peak of the day Moel Hebog via the Moel Lefn and Moel Y Ogof ridge. My first task was to find the path up through the trees which was difficult with many trees damaged from winter storms blocking the climb up. Exiting the forest brought me to the base of Moel Lefn, no sign of any path so a rough scramble through heather, long grass and rocks before reaching my first summit, sunshine kept breaking through, but a sharp chilly breeze reminded me it was still early April, first views of the trip didn't disappoint, (see photos).
A steep up and down route over Moel Y Ogof before a very steep climb up following the stone wall to the summit of Moel Hebog, just as the cloud lifted exposing fantastic views over Porthmadog, Beddgelert and over towards Snowdon, I had not seen anyone all morning, surprising as the peak is close to Beddgelert. I made my way down the ridge and met a couple on their way up, they were displeased as they were at the false summit, thinking it was the top. I assured them it was only another five minutes to the real summit and the trig point.
The way down was steep and loose in places, so careful footwork needed, meeting the newly surfaced Beddgelert to Rhyddu bridleway back to the campsite and mug of tea! late sunshine and the shelter of the forest meant the temperature was very pleasant, enabling me to sit outside. 6.5 miles only covered but a hard walk.

Wednesday was again overcast but, promised to be dry. I planned to walk down to Beddgelert catch a bus over to Bethania and then walk up the Watkin path over to Rhyddu deciding on whether to vist Snowdon cloud level permitting [cant see much point in walking in thick cloud! been to Snowdon summit on many occasions]. I was very early for the bus so my decision was  to walk the whole way. I had a very pleasant walk up the Nant Gwynant, past the Sygun copper mine [looks worth a visit] on a good path, past Lyn Dinas a lovely spot in the mountains. I started up the Watkin path, with several other walkers setting off to climb Snowden, I soon diverted onto the old tramway, which climbs quickly away from the main path. A shepherd was sending his dogs to collect sheep up the mountain side, a great spectacle to watch, the shepherd using shouts and whistles to guide the dogs over the very steep ground, I wish I had their energy and skill over rough ground! A very steep pull up to the col at the bottom of the South Ridge and a welcome break , time for a sandwich and decision time Snowdon or not! the sun came out and it was warm, but cloud sat on the summit of Snowdon, not looking as though it would shift at any time. so decision made, I would continue over the col and down to Rhyddu.
The slate quarry below the col was a testament to the hard lives of those who worked there, the track down was good, easy walking, with good views over yesterdays route, again I saw no one until emerging at the station at Rhyddu. I picked up the path back to Beddgelert, a newly surfaced and very sterile path round Lyn Y Gadar. The path wound its way back through the woods back to the campsite, 14+ miles and 2500+ feet climbed, so a welcome mug of tea, a well earned chocolate biscuit sitting in the sun.

Thursday was going home day, but I wanted to make the most of my time in the mountains so  a run would be nice, despite aching legs from the previous days. I headed down the track to Beddgelert, intending to head up the Aberglaslyn pass and some way up Cwm Buchan and return by the same route. The track after Beddgelert followed closely the river as the train line replaced the old footpath. In places the track was very rocky and lots of scrambling, rather than running, but it made an interesting trip. Reaching the car park at Cwm Buchan I had covered 3.5 miles so decided my turning point would be 4 miles. The bottom of the Cwm was quite steep, but enjoyable running, on a good track. I finally turned at the mountain wall, part way up the Cwm, I think an ascent over the whole Cwm and down to the Lake Dinas would be a good run in future, but too far today. My return run was enjoyable and just over 8 miles covered on return to the campsite, calf muscles ached, but pleased with my efforts.
Time to pack up and drive home, after a quick drive to Llanberis to have a look in Joe Browns and Petes eat.
The drive home was a nightmare with the A5 being closed, at Oswestry, so a long detour and lots of traffic, five hours to get to Grand daughters at Gloucester, normally a couple of hours.
Overall a great trip, first overnight trip in the van this year, now all I have to do is clean the van out!!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sunday 6th April

A very wet and miserable day today, not heavy rain, just drizzle and fog, which I suppose is low cloud. The town we live in is the highest in Somerset, so must attract low cloud.
My plans for today were for a long bike ride 40miles + or a good offload run down the coast, but after getting up nice and early it didn't take long for me to wimp out, telling myself I would have a good run tomorrow, more about that later. I had an email from my mate DaveP who wimped out of an Audax over Exmoor and a climb of Porlock hill, he said he didn't fancy a day of wind and rain on the highest parts of Exmoor, can't blame him really, I hope the weather is better for the New Forest Audax at beginning of May.
A leisurely breakfast, muesli with lots of fruit, followed by thick whole meal  toast and Marmite. Thwarted by the weather and not fancying practising my DIY skills, We ended up having coffee at Joshua's in Ottery St Mary on the pretence of getting another 3kg bag of their muesli.
The rest of the day was spent 'faffing' about preparing my walking gear and the campervan for a trip to North Wales tomorrow, I am booked in Beddgelery campsite for a few nights. A solo trip with Moel Hebog ridge, south ridge of Snowdon and finally the Glyders in my plans, and hopefully a couple of  off road runs.

Not been a good week for getting out, 3days of Bikeability I managed to get a pleasant run over Neroche, 7miles I went well and felt good. Friday was cracking weather so out came the bike. I decided to go and have a look at Athelney and the floods, roads were good, Athelney seems to have got off likely, Burrowbridge looked a little more worn, fields were very brown and still very damp, but floods seem to have gone. Down through Staithe crossing huge pipes from the pumping stations, and on to Langport. The sun shone and it was very warm. The road from Langport to Muchelney which was on tv a lot during the crisis, but was very clear and surprisingly in good condition. Back through Drayton, Hatch and finally over the hills through Horton and Broadway. Unfortunately I had gone far further than I intended and only took a small  bottle of drink and several marzipan marbles, insufficient for the 50 miles I had covered, so by the time I got home felt quite hungry, and tired, think the onset of 'bonk' the Garmin said I had used 2400 calories! still a great ride, to be followed by a snooze in the chair after lunch of home made leek and potato soup, and thick homemade cheese bread, large mug of tea included.
Another surprise this week, I managed to get to Cotswold camping at Darts farm to return my Speedcross shoes, after much haggling as I didn't have proof of purchase, they agreed to send the back to Salomon for the cost of the postage. They sent them off the same day AND! The next day I had a phone call from Cotswold saying that Salomon had agreed to replace  them and would send a new pair, RESULT! :-) worth the trouble sending them back.
So all in all a good week, oh! Forgot we went to Trago Mills on Saturday and on the way back called in Mark Partridge cycles at Kenneford, lots of people buying bikes and they had a secondhand Dawes folding bike, just the right pried and condition for a purchase, we now have 2 folders we can use I the van.
So now it's off to pack the sleeping bag ready forte off first thing tomorrow!