Hanging around on the hillsides (not)
I sometimes wonder if I’m too gushing in my praise of LTR runs. So, in the interest of balance, I’d like to register a complaint. It’s a minor issue, and to be fair I do understand the reasons, but when it’s suggested that you might take a minute to grab your breath, and there are clearly fabulous views already on offer, I’d like that minute. Not fifty-nine seconds.
In truth, I wasn’t looking at the watch, and moving on quickly was the wise move. We had a good way to go, a film star and a boxer to visit, and it wasn’t all that warm on Noyna Hill.
Never heard of Noyna Hill? Neither had I. It’s a nobbly bit of ground above Foulridge and the best way to get there is in great company. I suggest meeting fellow trail running enthusiasts by Café Cargo at Foulridge Wharf. That way you’ll have somewhere convivial for breakfast later. In the car park, you should moan a bit about it being a tad chilly, then set off up some hills and wish you’d taken a layer off, not added one on. You need to nip around the back of the allotments, climb over a stile, head up a lovely grassy bank, then hang a right at the farm, and drop down to the Leeds–Liverpool canal again. Cross it, then follow a lane filled with glossy-leaved holly bushes and about a billion singing birds. When you get to the end of the field, don’t miss the moss-covered steps. The sun will be filtering through and capturing them perfectly (the colour reminded me of lime-jelly). Don’t climb the steps, though, just admire them and take the stile on the right.
Lost yet? Without someone to follow, I would have been. I wouldn’t have crossed the road, followed the quiet leafy lane at the back and started up the steep bit. My lungs wouldn’t have been heaving as I made it to top of the nobbly knoll, but I wouldn’t have felt half so alive. Having said all that, I would still have liked an extra second or two to recover. But as I said earlier, places to go, people to see and a long drystone wall to follow. We were heading east, past trees sculpted by the winds and watching skylarks pop up from the scrub, like singing jump jets bouncing into the air, just a few feet ahead.
At Earl Hall, a dog ran out barking. It proved to be soft as muck and milled around whining for a bit of attention, but we had to get on. Kelbrook Moor was waiting for us. (Okay, when I promised a boxer, I was stretching it a bit). The moorland was brilliant fun. The paths, where you could make them out, dodged and weaved, and a deft bit of footwork was required. The heather was fragile and dry. The sphagnum moss was spongy and decidedly soggy. The rushes, however, were playing a game. They were either dense enough to take your weight, or they weren’t, and you couldn’t really tell until it was too late. It was a case of keep moving or sink.
We kept moving and Kelbrook Moor morphed into Roger Moor (no ‘e’ I’m afraid) and we swung around the base of it, following a good track that climbed gently and appeared to continue zig-zagging up a great big hill in the distance. Surely, not? Surely, we wouldn’t be running up there? Head down, prepare to dig in. This nice gentle gradient was going to get a lot tougher.
It didn’t. We continued past a herd of Belted Galloway cattle (I want to call them fluffy, but I’m resisting the urge – they’ll moult their winter coats soon enough) up to a farm and the track was gone. Finished. Done. Dusted. We were back on soft fields, trying to skip across the wettest bits without losing a shoe.
We came to a secluded house, ran through its gardens – where a golden cascade of daffodils charged down the hillside – and stopped for drinks by a vibrant, red-flowered rhododendron. This house was the one served by the mysterious track we’d seen earlier.
We’d almost circuited the moor and were now heading south again. A short stretch on the Pendle Way route and then another great section below Piked Edge. Over the last couple of weeks, the rain has eased (I know, if the heavens open again, you can blame me). The ground is firming. We were crossing fields without sinking, turning onto lanes that weren’t rivers. Puddles were disappointing, but it made the running easier. Around us were small stands of deciduous woodland. From a distance, and with leaves still unfurling, the trees looked merely smudged with green. As we got closer and scooted under the boughs, it was easy to see that the shady canopy is definitely on its way.
Running along Great Edge was easy. We made it down, crossed the stream and then paid the price, with a short energy sapping climb. A few minutes later we were in a field made of lumps, bumps and ankle-snagging holes, the whole thinly disguised with grass. Maybe the legs were tiring, but I slowed, and it was a relief to get onto easier ground.
Almost home. Through a field that dropped to the edge of Foulridge Upper Reservoir, and which boasted a small patch of glorious flower-filled bog (I kid you not. Just follow the directions above and see for yourself). Then it was a gentle trot down leafy passages, soft underfoot and filled with spring growth – emerging Butterbur, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Forget-me-nots. A quick run along the banks of the other Foulridge reservoir and we were back to our start point.
I would love to tell you about the views we enjoyed. The amazing wide skies and the light, and the towns below us: Barnoldswick, Earby, Colne. I’d like to mention the shining slate roofs of rows of terraces, the wind turbines along the ridges and the masts of Winter Hill. In the far distance, reduced to the merest nubbin, a tower, and – strangely dark and disturbing – the bulk of Pendle Hill. I’d love to have taken it all in, made sense of it, framed that mix of the industrial, the agricultural and the high-tech, but I didn’t, I couldn’t. We didn’t hang around long enough. But if we had have done, we might have sunk into the boggy bits.
Worse still, we might have missed breakfast. And that really would have been awful.
In retrospect, no complaints. No complaints at all.