Seizing the day
Part way around this morning’s route we ran past a cluster of stone buildings. They were being repointed but were all at the stage where the old mortar had been chased out but no new mortar had yet been applied. One of the builders shouted a greeting, “nice day for it.” I think there was a touch of sarcasm in his tone. It was grey, a bit of drizzle on the wind, wet underfoot. Another, a younger man, stared at us from within a protective shell of yellow waterproofs, the hose of a power washer trailing around his feet. He was splattered with grit and looked bored, chilled and miserable. Perhaps there were a thousand things he would rather have been doing. Maybe one of them was running but maybe he, like his colleague, couldn’t quite grasp why we were charging past, chattering, red-faced and windswept, with a good coating of mud halfway up the legs.
I think every one of us who was running got it. Despite the drizzle, despite the clag that obscured what would have been marvellous views from Weets Hill, and despite the Bog of Doom (which turned out to be much easier to traverse than the alternative – the Bridge of Doom), this was a smashing route. Even with a tough-ish climb and occasional slip-slidey conditions, it was a billion times more enjoyable than power washing loose mortar out of stonework. I might be biased but I think it was more enjoyable than what most people get up to on Saturday mornings. It certainly knocked the spots off a trip to the supermarket or getting stuck into some DIY, and as a bonus, we got to enjoy the Esse Factory Cafés breakfast when we’d finished.
Of course, it can take a bit of time to get warmed up when you’re running. I, for one, was still in shuffling-mode when we passed the Silentnight warehouse, and could have happily crawled off to test a mattress, but moments later we were trotting between trees on a damp muddy trail, surprised at how quickly we had left the urban setting behind.
Surrounded by fields we made our way up towards Letcliffe Park and as we began to climb, the wind started to pick up speed. It blew the drizzle away and took with it any cobwebs. The heart rate was up, the legs were working and although the pace was steady, my nose had definitely started to run. It’s winter, it happens.
Britain has a way with place names. I’m enough of a kid to still be amused that we ran along Lane Bottom before we crossed a stretch of heathery moorland, and I think it was folly that we lost so much hard-earned elevation running down Folly Lane before tackling the climb of Weets Hill, but it’s the variety that I love about these mini-adventures. Just when you’ve dug in for a monster hill, you’ll find yourself hanging a left and pottering through a wandering bit of woodland. One of today’s treats was a stone footbridge, so thickly overgrown with moss that it looked and felt like it had been carpeted. But I digress – we were heading up Weets Hill, where – even though the nice weather chap from the BBC had promised “mild” conditions – it was turning somewhat fresh. Hats and gloves that had been stashed were retrieved, and helpfully the wind brought back the drizzle and turned it into something abrasive.
I’m not complaining. Yes, it would have been brilliant up at the trig point on a calm clear day, but there were a couple of dogs up there demonstrating the sheer joy of being alive, and I knew how they felt. It wasn’t those of us up on that hilltop who were suffering, it was those who’d looked at the morning and chosen to stay indoors.
And there’s always the plus point of being able to run downhill when you’ve reached the highest point around. We set off in the direction of Blacko and found a tremendous drystone wall to run alongside. Beyond it, we could hear the wind tearing across the fields, but in its lee, it could have been a spring day. The blood returned to cheeks and ears numbed by the wind. We stopped for a drink and some goodies and then – once more unto the breach – climbed over the tremendous wall and into the blowy stuff.
As we slowly and steadily lost height the wind lost some of its oomph. We crossed fields and climbed stiles, ran through stands of young trees and the cobbled yards of old houses. Below us, the reservoirs at Foulridge were pale and grey in the winter light, but the grass was still growing and, in the trees, and hedgerows, birds were singing. Three springer spaniels wanted to join our party, but their owner had other ideas.
Now we were heading north. To the west the bulk of White Moor that we’d circuited. Behind us a delightful little holly-bush-lined stony trail that was doubling as a brook, and somewhere to the east lay the Leeds Liverpool canal, alongside which stood our destination – the Esse Factory in Barnoldswick.
Before we reached the canal, we found a field that clogged our shoes with sticky clay and a puddled road to wash them in. A quick breeze along the towpath, then over a bridge and we were back in the woods by Silentnight. Either my legs were knackered, or the flat terrain had become hilly in the last couple of hours. I’ve heard it rumoured that Barnoldswick sits on the junction of tectonic plates.
Back in the carpark, we swapped the muddy shoes for clean, and those who could stay piled into the café for breakfast. Or cake. Or cookies and coffee to take away. It was cosy. My face was glowing beetroot red – I’ll blame the wind, not the exertion.
It was when I was eating the very yellow scrambled egg on my plate that I remembered the young man in the yellow waterproofs. I wondered whether he’d be telling people he’d had a great weekend. Would he be grateful for his earnings or moaning about having had to work? And I thought briefly about how short and cruel life can sometimes be, and that we should make sure we have good times.
And then I finished my eggs. They were very good indeed.