On the edge of town
The final event in the Nightrunner series was always going to have a different flavour. Three of Lancashire’s four panopticons are situated in remote, hilltop locations. Colourfields, however, sits in a municipal park within earshot of a busy road.
Rather than being an entirely modern creation, Colourfields is a historic site, erected in the middle of the nineteenth century to house two Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War. The former battery has been restored, providing a splendid perch from which to observe – and perhaps worry about – the spread of the urban environment. But if you fancy a trip to see it, unlike the other installations we’ve visited after dark, this one is very accessible.
But, hey, wouldn’t it be dull to take a direct route? When you could have a mini moonlit adventure, navigating a route through ginnels and woodland, across bumpy fields and patches of scrubland? Why not explore the byways as well as the highways? At the risk of getting a bit new-agey, LTR events are as much about the journey as they are about the destination.
Wouldn’t it be intriguing to spot a road junction you recognise, and to be unable to fathom quite how you’d arrived at that spot? Several on the event expressed surprise of the oh-I-know-where-I-am-now variety before they were led down a lane, over a stile and found themselves in brand new territory. And that’s one of the reasons this run had its own magic. Even in places you think you know, even on the edge of town, there are trails all around, waiting to be discovered.
We started the run from the Traders Arms in Mellor. It had been a beautiful afternoon and we still had daylight, with mild and calm conditions. Within a couple of minutes, we were out in open country, sinking just a little into soft, soggy pastureland. A group of deer saw us coming and made their getaway and a big fat yellow moon appeared between the trees. As we ran downhill the moon started to climb.
As the dusk began to settle, we were picking our way across rickety footbridges or choosing instead to jump across tiny streams. A confused cockerel imagined the rising moon his morning alarm and crowed his joyous welcome to the new day. At Billinge Scar we zig-zagged through trees, avoiding the twin perils of lurking root and low branch. Back in the fields, the dew was settling, soaking feet, chilling toes.
A snaking route around Beardwood took us to the outskirts of the golf club, and despite the proximity of roads and houses, we saw no one. The trails were our playground, the sideroads that took us down to Corporation Park were deserted and in the park itself, there were just a few kids, chilling after school, hanging out with friends. Despite the moon, headtorches reduced our visible world to their cone of light, flights of cobbled and stone steps, holly and overhanging rhododendrons bushes.
We didn’t see the Panopticon itself until we were on it. A few walked out onto the raised platforms to admire the view while others fell on the stash of goodies. With hot Vimto, sweets and biscuits set up and waiting, the atmosphere was festive. Some of those there had done all the other routes in the series, and this run, with its settled weather and supermoon light show, had the mood of celebration. But, with a meal in the Traders Arms waiting, fun though it was, we couldn’t spend all night looking at the bright lights of Blackburn while scoffing Jammie Dodgers.
We headed back to the golf course – and who knew that if you went around the back of the terrace, and down by the side of the garage, you’d be back on the soft green slopes, natures own scents and running through an avenue of trees?
Where other runners would have been sticking to the pavements, we were using short stretches of them to connect the open spaces. These bits of greenery are often referred to as the lungs of our urban areas and we were stringing these together, around the edges of sports fields, down tracks, across patches of rough meadow. We ran through farmsteads and gardens, through gates and by brooks. Every so often we’d come to a road and take the less obvious route. Some of the land we ran across has been earmarked for possible development and showed the evidence of recent work to improve its drainage. We should be making the most of our green spaces and enjoying them whenever we can.
The last stretch of our run was uphill, a tough section for tired legs but rewarding. Those who paused to take a breath or look at the view would have seen the clustered lights of housing estates and between them, islands of darkness. Through both the estates and the patches of green, there’s a vast network of footpaths and trails. Let’s get out there and discover them.
Colourfields is built on the base of the former battery in Blackburn’s Corporation Park. Stripes of colour lead to the raised viewing points, and on a clear day, you can see to the Lancashire coast. By night, even with the full moon, that’s a bit more difficult.
In addition to the Nightrunner Series (returning in Autumn 2019), LTR events take place all year round. There are seasonal half marathons, Regular and Intro events every month, weekend trail running breaks and, new for summer 2019, a series of midweek Sunset Trail Running events.