Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Best Laid Plans

on 9 May 2020

“Hello! Can you come and pick me up from the Burnopfield parking and bring two carrier bags please?”

“What type of carrier bags?”

“Plastic – I found a new bog and I’m very muddy and smell bad.”

“Ok, see you in five.”

My hubby is a blessedly tolerant man – especially when his wife insists on tracking half the countryside through the car and house on a not infrequent basis, and he doesn’t run himself!

Last week was the Greener Miles Team Virtual Hill Climb Challenge – 10 runners, 5M + 5F, 30 mins, how much cumulative elevation can you get. I chose Ebchester bank, hilled my little heart out, waved the Bounders flag and died for the rest of the week. We came 8th out of 37 teams – very respectable I feel and I’m proud to have been part of it. 🙂

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This weekend, it’s the ‘Hutchy’s Full Tilt 30 Mins’ – same team set up, how far can you go, highest cumulative distance wins – so terrain friendly routes on the list! This time the Bounders have a whopping five teams entered. Some people are heading to the local track, down the Derwent walk, anywhere that’s flat or downhill! In my wisdom, I decided I would do a new route I’d worked out from an Ordnance Survey map of the area. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t run down the Dene (where I always get my fastest mile) and down the Derwent Walk towards Rowlands Gill, but in all honesty it didn’t occur to me! Brain must still be fuddled from last week – I know it wiped my knees out!

My new route is not complicated. On paper. And I’m not usually bad with maps. Today is going a long way to discrediting that statement. I went off piste three times from my intended route – in all cases knowing where I was, how to get home – not technically ‘lost’ but definitely not where I’d intended to be!

The first long downhill stretch of my run is one I have done several times before as part of routes in both directions – so off we go. Someone has shut all the gates so I’m handicapped by six stiles needing to be crossed by the time I reach the bottom. Looking at my decided outfit it may also have been a style handicap as I don’t think I could have picked more clashing colours if I tried! Think I’m only missing purple!

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I know I have to turn right at the bottom before the farm and then the path will turn left. Turns out there’s two right turns. I want the second one. Who knew right? So, I end up continuing on familiar paths thinking maybe there’s a left turn I’ve just not noticed before (there’s not) and get to the bottom where the stream is and turn left on a path I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, even though I know from the maps that it heads to Dipton – uphill – and not the way I want to go today.

I end up stepping-stone jumping across the stream (we’re about halfway through our 30 mins by this point) and the track starts to creep up again. It’s turning into a Trail Outlaws type route – I’m dodging collapsed tree roots and jumping several other downed trunks. There is for some reason several more of those weird lettered headstones I’ve seen over Ebchester Woods in the middle of this little wood (with a ‘P’ on this time!). I end up looking out at this and know exactly where I’ve come out from the Red Kite Trail Race two years ago. That path goes to Dipton – not, as mentioned before, where I want to be going today.

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I turn left, maybe there’s a path that turns off towards Burnopfield round that bend? There’s not – and being at the bottom of a valley is not the best place to be trying to do a speed challenge as it’s all uphill from here. I turn round thinking I’ll just start my 30 mins again when I get back to the farm and find the right downwards path – I have confirmed my error as I’ve photos of the map on my phone. I head back in a more leisurely manner, taking photos as I go of the path I’ve already covered but leaving the clock running figuring I might as well enjoy the scenery and get a breather for now.

There’s an info board explaining what the headstones are – so if nothing else I’ve cleared up that mystery today. I haven’t seen a soul; it’s in the middle of nowhere but it must get more traffic than is evident today!

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I get back to where I turned off just as my watch hits 30 mins and stop it. I’ve done 2.22 miles when I was hoping to break 3 today – I was well on track for the first mile down too!

Right, we’ve confirmed and found the path we’re supposed to take. Start watch and set off for Round 2. Can’t let the D team down. Take the path on the right and then follow it straight on. Don’t take the right turn. Simple? Yeah…we took the right turn. It was clearly labelled as a Public Footpath – which the proper track straight ahead was not (it’s even on the map as a proper track) and the farmer was also working next to that so I really didn’t want to be going to wrong way and accidentally trespassing. I get down to the woods at the bottom, and there’s another footpath sign and a kissing gate which I go through. I’ve hit DEEP mud. Seriously, just call me the Bogfinder – I always seem to end up in boggy patches, usually over my trainers. Just need to find a job where that’s actually a benefit now…

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I’ve done this path before too – on the Red Kite Trail Race again, and I know where it’s heading – those forestry tracks I hit on attempt one and Dipton again. I don’t have anything against Dipton, but it’s not where I want to go today!

I turn back again through the bog thinking I’ve maybe missed a turn – the map says the path goes along the side of the woods not through them – but it really didn’t look like a track down the side of that field. I’m less careful going back through the mud. I end up halfway to my shins and can feel my trainer wanting to come off. I escape, and just have to laugh as I wade back up to the gate. My legs are black and the smell is awful.

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There’s a path along the side of the woods I’d missed after getting through the gate! I take it – and realise that I might be the only human visitor this path has had in about five years looking at the tree growth. There is a path, but I’m going over and in one case under fallen trees again, and I’ve been through every holly bush between Medomsley and Burnopfield. And I’ve found another boggy bit and another stream to cross.

I finally make it back up, ending up coming to the track I should have been on if I’d not taken Wrong Turn II, and I know where I am again – I’m out the back of Hamsterley Hall. It’s a clear track (even for me!!!) all the way to the Burnopfield Road and the Derwent Walk. I’m on 25 minutes of my 30 and I’ve done just over a mile. Attempt 2 is going even worse than Attempt 1! I make it down to the road and the viaduct (which I’ve crossed many times but never seen from the bottom) and stop my watch at 1.5 miles. I feel like I’ve let my team down with my distances (we’ll go with 2.22!), but I really don’t have another attempt left in the tank and my knees are already very unhappy with me. I smell like a bog and am covered in scrapes and holly scratches. I’m frustrated with my distance, but I’ve gotta admit I’ve loved it apart from the distance challenge and will be back to explore some of these paths again. I might even get to Dipton!

I shuffled plastic-shod from the car straight to the bathroom and into the bath – bags removed in bath and I had to shower my shoes and socks before I could even remove them and then strip off to have a proper wash! Much soap was sacrificed this day.

Derwent Walk next time 😉


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