Well worth running through

Ahh … drizzle, low cloud – just what you want when you’re running up a big hill for spectacular views of the setting sun. 

The British summer is known for thwarting plans, but actually, it wasn’t really able to dampen the spirits of the crowd who ventured out on Wednesday. We might not have been able to see Blackpool tower, but I’m willing to bet a lot of money that it was still there, somewhere, on the murky horizon. 

We met up at the Bonny Inn which was surrounded by lavender bushes in full flower. Several of us popped indoors to order food for after the run, whilst others waited under the awning outside, sheltering. It was a tad soggy, but it was warm, and we knew that once we were moving, rain jackets would be peeled off. Just after 6.15 pm, we hit the trails.

The route totalled a little over twelve km. Starting in Salesbury, we ran a counter clockwise loop which headed out towards Mellor, then on towards Osbaldeston returning via Copster Green with a bloomin’ big hill to finish. The thought of the fish pie waiting in the pub kept me going when the legs and lungs began to protest. I should have been expecting it. If you start downhill on a circular route, you’re bound to pay for the easy start.

This was one of those routes that put most of the elevation into the first few kilometres. Overall it amounted to around 230 metres but by the time we’d got to the viewing point on top of Mellor Moor, around a third of the way around, we’d nailed most of the ascent. It was murky up there, which was a shame, but it wasn’t too bad, and we were still able to pick out the peaks around us:  Oswaldtwistle Moor, Hameldon Hill, Longridge, Darwen’s Jubilee tower compensating for the one hiding on the coast. 

Guide Sarah, sitting out this run, had volunteered to meet us at this point with drinks and goodies which we fell upon. I have never seen a bag of jelly babies disappear so quickly. The fudge and Jammie Dodgers were also gone in moments.  We were, of course, merely making sure we were adequately fuelled for the next part of the run, and also being considerate by preventing Sarah having to carry the stuff back down the hill. That’s my excuse, and I am sticking to it.

To get to the top of Mellor Moor, we’d negotiated a few livestock obstacles. Cattle are almost inevitable at this time of year, and we’d taken the long route around a field’s boundary to avoid disturbing a group of cows and calves. In the next field, however, a bunch of dairy heifers decided we needed investigating and trotted across to say hi. We slowed things to a walk, lowered the volume of chat and they soon lost interest. 

Although the curious heifers may have got some hearts pounding, a few minutes earlier it was our party which was spooking the animals, but believe me, it wasn’t intentional. The route took us along a footpath that went through a free-range egg unit. There were hens everywhere, clucking and scratching in the dirt, and I’m not sure they knew how to react to us lot invading their patch. A lot crouched submissively as we skipped around them. Hopefully, we’ve not put them off lay. 

After we’d come down from Mellor Moor, we faced a different sort of challenge. There’s a wonderfully silly bit of overgrown path that traverses the side of a hill, and it’s the place the rain pools. It’s damp, soggy and boggy, with rich black mud and unkempt trees. There are moss-covered branches at all heights, the trees here seem to grow sideways, tangled and twisted. It’s a spot for slowing down, for sinking, for embracing the madness, for remembering the fun of playing out, of rope swings and tree climbing, skinned knees and nettle rash. And although it was rather marvellous, it was equally good to crank the pace up again when we emerged onto open fields. 

After crossing the A59, we were motoring. The terrain was, at times, bumpy, the grass long, the hazards hidden, but the gradients were gentle. We switched from field to lane, from bridges over brooks to manicured lawns. We flew through a section where the springy earth path was clear and visible, we slowed as we jumped over roots that snaked out of the ground. Our path descended steeply into woodland and then climbed out again, leading to narrow sheep track through rough meadows liberally sprinkled with rushes and thistle. 

That early rain had all but gone. Its cooling effect would have been welcome. Somehow the idea of a curry waiting at the pub was affecting the pace. People were pushing on. It was exhilarating to run like that. In the group, there was a rhythm to the footfall, to the chat, to the warnings about watching your head, your eyes, the placing of your feet.

And then, we started to climb again. Up to Copster Green and beyond, through the green light of the tree’s canopy. At a spot where we waited to clamber over a stile, there was a giant of a tree, coarse barked, it’s uppermost reaches invisible from ground level. Over the stile, there was a last field, a gentle climb that felt anything but, and then we were back in Salesbury, just a few yards from the pub and a well-deserved drink. 

The kitchen staff had been tipped off about our impending arrival. We’d just got out of the muddy footwear; we’d just settled with a drink and the plates started arriving. Kievs and curries, burgers and fries, steak puddings and gravy, aromatic lamb kebabs …

If I’m making you hungry, good. Get yourself along to the Bonny Inn, the food’s great and the staff are friendly. And if the skies are clear, or just a wee bit murky, stand by the pub’s picture windows and look out at the landscape. It’s well worth running through.   

Kate Woodward

 

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