Tuesday, 25 November 2014

August Challenge: The Great Yorkshire River Run - Day 1 (Garsdale to Ripon)

Good morning Wensleydale!
For this first big day I was up just after 5.30am, which isn't that much of a shock as I'm up at 6 most days. As Mark and I would be setting out before breakfast the owners had left cereal, OJ and milk in fridge. I got some granola down and got packed up. 7:02 out the door. It was a cool start, despite sunny spells I was in thin baselayer and wind-jacket at first. Nice opening section undulating along the north-bank of the fledgling river Ure on an often faint path in the rugged western bit of Wensleydale amongst the higher hills of the dale.

The 'wild' west of Wensleydale
We crossed the river and main dale road at Thwaite Bridge and followed farm tracks and more undulating grassy paths. A first nervous moment passing cows with calves but no other issues. Jacket was off before Hawes as the sun came out. Grabbed a pasty in Hawes bakery for brunch. Then north along road passing big bends in river and joining a b-road part way up the north-bank of the dale and following west. All good so far and a lovely sunny and slightly cool day. We joined the old railway bank path to Askrigg. Through the pretty village (think 'All Creature Great and Small' from 80's) and we moved further up north-bank of dale to follow a higher-level track through old lead mine and a generally scarred area of mid-dale, still some big hills enclosing us but not the same scale as where we started and slightly more populated areas in dale below.

A lonely postcode
This path took us to Castle Bolton and Redmire - where the Wensleydale railway ends (line used to go a lot further west into dale). Now moving into the wider and lower-hill flanked east of dale we followed decent tracks through working plantations, woodlands, passed grand houses into Wensley. We bypassed the larger settlement of Leyburn and crossed the Ure at 'tower flanked' Middleham bridge.

Into Middleham and its lunchtime. loads of pubs (for all the stable lads and lasses to relax in this race-horse town), but not great for on the go food is our first impression. I got a pretty dry packet sandwich from a shop and a fizzy drink and some water to top up my bottles. I only noticed nice sandwich shop on the way out of town (DOH!).

We passed impressive Middleham castle ruins. A little walk to get going again, legs pretty good for over a marathon done. If anything just a little stiff from plod mode. A few hotspots on feet though, not good! Over some grassy land and along River Cover for awhile, which then feeds into Ure. Some nice riverbank running on what has been a greatly varied route so far. Good track passed Jervaulx abbey. Then a few slightly frustrating miles trying to follow little used paths through farming land over small hills.

...need I say more
Hitting the A6108 into Masham, for first time in day I'm feeling a little fed up as still many miles to go and feet are worrying me. A pick-me-up for me and Mark in Masham as we get to append our meagre Middleham lunch with salty chips in the fish and chip shop which opened at 4.30pm as we arrived. Washed that down with a fizzy drink from co-op.

Being buoyed by the food was almost outweighed
Middleham Castle
by a feeling my feet were probably blistered and still quite a few miles to go today. Taking the road out of a Masham we were now well out of the dale and the surroundings had changed to agricultural and quarrying. We took roads and a few field crossings through several villages. When the route took a field-crossing footpath it was a lottery in this section whether it would be ok running, or a ploughed field, or the gates/stiles in field would be overgrown or not visible. One such stile was invisible at first as completely overgrown by a huge solid plant which was hard to push through and covered us in those sticky, spiky things. But either side of 'the plant' the field footpath was obvious and looked used? These kind of areas can be nearly as tough as hardcore trail moorlands in their effect on tired bodies and time took to pass.

The rivers getting wider...
I was slightly cursing my decision to dog-leg into this area when I could have taken us a shorter southerly route to Ripon. As the day was starting to look like it would finish well into darkness and closer to 60m - than the  initial plotted 54. Which would cutdown on my recovery time quite a lot. But I had a reason to come out this way and it was to visit the tiny village of Sutton Howgrave where my late mother - who I was doing this in memory of and whose charity my fundraising would support - was brought up. Whilst in the village I took a walk around and tried to imagine it in her day.

Sutton Howgrave
After a few more tiring fields and a small detour adding more distance I realised there may be a more direct route for the remainder. And Mark confirmed from his local knowledge that there was. I'd done enough that day not to worry about not visiting a couple more on route villages for no particular reason. So we followed a mostly straight road-based route south to get to Copt Hewick (small village outside of Ripon) and Marks house minutes before darkness at 9 pm and having covered 53 miles.

The spicy Thai curry that Marks wife served up was most welcome, as were a few beers for hydration purposes and a bath. I didn't dwell too long on my blistering feet, deciding to sort them in the morning and try and get some restorative sleep. Overall a really good route for the first 2/3 of the day that I'd recommend to any touring off-road runner.

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