Saunders Mountain Marathon – July 2023

It’s Pot Noodle for tea. I’m walking round with plastic bags on my feet, snot in my hair and a tired smile on my face. It can only mean one thing… it’s overnight camp on the Saunders.

After a break from this event for 12 years we found that while time marches on, much on the Saunders stays refreshingly the same. Still challenging, harder than you think it’s going to be, always one tricky checkpoint (invariably the first!). As good natured as ever, relaxed atmosphere, friendly and of course, beautiful… even in the clag.

The Saunders involves carrying everything you need for two days, over, in our case, 20 odd miles, up and down 8000ft, on largely pathless terrain while working out the best routes between checkpoints and finding them. Certainly tough, especially on two weeks’ notice and therefore zero training! However, we’d done lots of walking in the Lakes over the last few months, which we hoped would help. We were up for an adventure though, a weekend of escapism, and ultimately we trusted that might see us through.

The 2023 edition was from Coniston and we were in Harter Fell class. Overnight camp was at lovely Turner Hall in the Duddon Valley, although sadly the Newfield Inn was firmly out of bounds. Weather conditions were showery with sunny spells; up high it was very, very windy, the sort of conditions the weatherman would call ‘severe buffeting’ – we called it ferocious.

The first checkpoint was a Saunders classic – lots of folk milling around in the clag looking for a pond among ponds. John got his nav head on quickly – I’m not sure I found mine at all over the weekend but it didn’t matter as I just had to keep up.

The overnight camp offered chance to socialise (if you had enough energy!) with a beer or soft drink; milk and oat milk were also available. We caught up with fellow Harriers Frank & Liz, saw Phil Ward and John went to the rescue of our tent neighbours who had somehow lost all their gas during the day, boiling them some water for their meal.

We dibbed our way through day two to finish 33rd overall, delighted to have made it. On the walk to the start I’d discovered the sole of my right shoe was coming loose so I was relieved and amazed to get to the finish with it still in one piece. I was utterly exhausted and everything was sore, but it felt great to complete a Saunders again.

Highlights included discovering the brilliance of Drake and Macefield pork pies to give a boost when needed most. Protein, carbs and salt, all in a foodstuff which travelled relatively well. We also enjoyed the deja-vu from the Three Shires/Duddon long/Duddon short/Coniston fell race courses in any direction. Best of all was finding that first checkpoint!

Maybe we won’t leave it another 12 years until we do our next one.

Julia Murfin

Cross Fell Race – July 2023

The third of the long category races in the 2023 club championship, the Cross Fell race is an easy long category race to the one and only summit. Cross Fell is the highest point of the Pennine range and the highest peak in England outside of the Lake District at 893 metres (2,930 ft) above sea level. Driving up the M6 on a clear day, you can easily see Cross Fell with its close neighbour, Great Dunn Fell to the South with the white radar station domes on the skyline, often covered in snow in the winter months. Cross Fell is closely associated with the Helm wind, which is the only named wind in Britain, this occurs when a north-easterly air flow hits this high part of the Pennines. The result is a ferociously cold easterly wind which we feel the effects of.

Six Harriers made the journey across the Pennines to the starting point – the quaint little village of Garrigill, nesting in the South Tyne Valley.   At 14.9 miles and 2231 feet of ascent, the race is categorised as a ‘BL’ but it is more like a 12 mile trail race with a bit of a climb in the middle. It follows the Pennine Way on a well maintained game keeper’s shooting track amongst the grouse shooting moors which surround the area.

I had vowed not to do this race again because of the endless track there and back and I knew what to expect. However I decided to give it another go and joined the other 32 elite runners as we made our way into the headwind to the high ground in the distance.  For 6 miles all the way up the track, I had Kirsten and Simon hot on my heels no more than 25 metres behind. I was probably still tired from doing the Tebay race a few days prior to this one but hung on in there, (hat’s off to Jill who also did the Tebay race so was probably feeling the effects of that race also). Kirsten and Simon finally passed me in the clag when I missed the turn to the summit; I didn’t hear their frantic shouting from them and other runners in the wind! Luckily I glanced to my left and saw them disappearing into the clag to the summit. There were route options around the summit area with the race map showing a clockwise or anti clockwise loop to the summit checkpoint. But the only rule was to get to the summit and back and all three of us decided on doing an out-and-back route to avoid the risk of getting lost on the claggy summit and missing the left turn off the plateau. Cross Fell is a bleak and lonely place (think of a much larger summit plateau like Ingleborough), so not a place to get lost especially with its history – in ancient times it was known as Fiends Fell and believed to be the haunt of evil spirits.

The most enjoyable section of the race was the quick 10 minute descent off the summit across boggy ground only to soon end up on the track to retrace our steps to the finish. This was made slightly more enjoyable with the tail wind. We managed to drop Simon with Kirsten running strongly behind me. The three of us finishing a few minutes apart with Kirsten collecting a trio of lovely engraved glassware, not only the first lady but first lady V40 and the first women’s team with Carmel and Jill. Simon collecting the first V60 prize, so not a bad haul. Only me and Richard missing out.  

Tea and a selection of lovely cakes and scones made by local ladies was enjoyed in the little village hall afterwards, all included as part of the entry fee so good value for money I’d say.                                                    

Blooded knees but still smiling, Jill crossing the finishing line, not realising she was in the prizes.  

Settle Harriers cleaned up and collected a lovely selection of specially engraved glass tankards depicting the Cross Fell cross.

John Osborne (Oz)

A Hebridean Adventure – June 2022

The omens weren’t looking good – I was keeping an eye on the weather forecast days prior to the sailing from Oban to Castle Bay on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. I was joining the cycle trip organised by Andrew Hinde together with Kath Davis and her friend Linda. I’d been on this trip before, but it was calm on that crossing – this was going to be rough. So rough, in fact, that the previous day’s sailing had been cancelled, and our crossing today was in doubt. However, having driven up from Ingleton early on the Saturday morning, we arrived in Oban for the afternoon crossing we learned that the ferry would be sailing (I was secretly hoping that it would be delayed by another day, and we’d go on the Sunday). There were loads of bikes waiting to board all with various types of cycle luggage strapped to the frames which I was scrutinising and thinking it was all better than my rather wobbly set up. As the ferry was further delayed until 4pm, I decided to make an impromptu trip to B&Q in Oban to purchase some pipe lagging to help stabilise my bar bag.

Eventually, we boarded and were all rather apprehensive as to what we were letting ourselves in for. Our nerves were not helped when the captain announced that ‘I’ll be honest with ye, it’s nae gonna be comfortable’; we couldn’t jump ship now, oh well. Much to the amusement of my fellow cyclists, I’d been munching on crystallised ginger all morning and swigging ginger beer (having been told by various people that anything with ginger helps against sea sickness). So, I was uncertain if it was the combination of both sea sickness pills and the ginger that got me through the voyage without feeling seasick, but something worked. It was the roughest ferry journey I’d been on, and it was nearly six hours before we reached Barra at 10pm. We were all ok unlike one fellow cyclist who was trapped in the toilet for five hours – every time he stood up to go back to his seat, he had to sit down on the loo again! The mistake many folk made on a journey like this was to head straight for the restaurant and munch on fish and chips – we on the other hand ate next to nothing.

Our journey for the A Team (Tailwind Flyers) was a five-day journey from South to North, whilst the B team (Headwind Sloggers) consisting of Alex Pilkington, Mark Wildsmith and Martin Holroyd were going North to South, and we’d meet them somewhere on the road later into our respective journeys. There is definitely a good reason travelling the way we were going! We were booked into hostels on the way which consisted of 5 star accommodation and everything in between, but all were comfortable enough and clean. Definitely better than carrying camping gear. After leaving Barra we crossed South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist. Little has changed to the landscape in the years I’ve been visiting the Outer Hebrides, small crofts, quiet roads and well-stocked Co-op shops. One of the reasons I like going at this time of year apart from it barely gets dark is the amazing bird life. North Uist has the highest density of breeding waders in the UK, Redshanks everywhere, Snipe, Lapwing, Curlew and Dunlin. Other good birds spotted were Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier a pair of lovely Arctic Skuas and the diminutive and very rare Red-necked Phalarope.

Arctic Skuas (below) are very special birds; they have a unique feeding method by harassing other seabirds – forcing them to regurgitate their food, this is called kleptoparasitism. Two were seen together near the Solas at the North end of North Uist. They are known as the pirates of the seas, they look so cool as they patrol the skies looking for victims to chase and are indeed a cross between a bird of prey and a seagull; closely related to the Great Skua.

North Uist and nearby islands are known for the machair (local name for the flower-rich coastal grasslands) which is found here. June and July are wonderful times to visit these areas with a huge variety of wildflowers and home to the rare Corncrake, with their rasping call commonly heard from the smallest areas of nettle and iris beds. A visit to the RSPB reserve of Balranald to walk the nature trails and see the wonderful machair and birdlife is well worth the slight detour, even to visit the great mobile café serving scallop and bacon sandwiches and great cakes!

We stopped the night in Solas awaiting the ferry the next morning that would take us to the Island of Harris. This is where our rendezvous with our compatriots coming the other way – the B team (Headwind Sloggers), was arranged, funny who you meet on a road junction in the middle of nowhere. Pleasantries were exchanged and various bikes and luggage configurations scrutinised again, then the sloggers continued their battle into the relentless headwind to stay the night on Benbecula, still 30 miles away.

Our third cycling day took us across the short crossing that separates the small island of Berneray and Harris, this is where the hilly cycling starts that I enjoy and the famous Golden Road that weaves in and out and up and down the rugged and wild east coast of Harris. Despite the relentless wind and persistent drizzle, I feel this was very much part of the Harris experience and quite befitting of the bleak and rocky landscape. We reached the small village of Tarbert where the ferry from Skye comes in. There’s not an awful lot to see for such an important ferry port and the local hostel we were staying in that night had certainly not seen any improvements in the last seven years since I’d been there – it was functional though.

The only really big climb was negotiated past the major hills of Harris, and this is where we’d planned to do a walk up the highest of them – Clisham at nearly 800 metres. Unfortunately, the weather was not favourable, so this walk will have to wait till next time. I was really looking forward to seeing both Golden and White-tailed Sea eagles in this area, but neither were flying in this weather.

One thing that is really noticeable the further North one travels and onto Lewis is the lack of decent shops. Co-ops on the Uists are really well stocked (better than Bentham I’d say), but there is a serious lack of any half-decent shop on Lewis so the earliest convenient shop to purchase our evening meal was visited.

The famous landmark of the Calllanish Stones was visited en-route to the Blackhouse village museum of Gearrannan (below). This is a typical village of Lewis and one of the little houses had been made into a hostel where we stayed for the night. I was rather taken aback upon walking inside to see how modern it all was, not quite what I was expecting! We kept bumping into the same cyclists heading North that we’d met on the ferry and an interesting selection of people in the hostels!

The final leg of our trip North, the next day, would take us to the Butt of Lewis. This was to prove the most desolate and bleak section of our ride – over the single road North. Although we did have a tailwind, we knew that we’d only have to turn around and cycle back and onto our resting place for the night, Stornoway. The bulk of Lewis is pretty much a featureless landscape of rolling peat land, interspersed with the odd pile of cut peat stacked neatly to be burned on fires. Villages were passed and I wondered what on earth folk do to scrape a living out here; not a place I would want to live, and winter must be hellish with only a few hours of daylight. Shops are few and far between, well outnumbered by churches, the sabbath is strictly obeyed on Sunday when locals are forbidden to hang washing out and children can’t play outside. There were not even many birds for me to make the ride more interesting. Kath opted out of this section and sensibly headed to Stornoway to stock up on seasick pills, amongst other things. The slog back to Stornoway lived up to our expectations, and finally I’d bonked on this section. The Heb Hostel was very accommodating and after a final meal we had an early night ready for the early ferry to Ullapool.

Apparently is quite a rough crossing back, but I didn’t notice it, I think I’ve got my sea legs but didn’t overdose on crystallised ginger this time!

John Osbourne.

The Wadsworth Trog – a Beast of a race (by John Osborne)

No more than 2 miles into this 19.3 mile race and I’d fallen flat on my face three times on the very first steep and muddy descent to the first reservoir. The omens weren’t looking good as I knew there would be many treacherous descents to come. My feet were being sucked into the waterlogged peat and the tough heather scraped and scuffed at shins and running shoes. Roger and myself were the only Harriers doing this race and were now, slopping and stumbling about, trying to keep some sort of momentum going on the next section into a brutal headwind with driving rain. I wonder why I’d waited 18 years to return to the Trog since my first attempt in 2004, my only memory was the 5 mile second smaller loop with energy-sapping tussocks. It’s a pretty bleak and featureless landscape on a nice Summer’s day, but today was something else. I’m so glad I opted for thicker running gear, longer leggings and my extra warm mountain cap; only the top runners (or foolhardy) were wearing shorts on a day like today!

I must say the local cricket team clubhouse above Hebden Bridge in Calderdale, hadn’t had much money spent on it in the last eighteen years and was basic but functional. The weather forecast on the whiteboard didn’t help to lighten my spirits: rain, wind then becoming heavy rain and strong wind later. However, the fresh vegetables being prepared for the home-made soup afterwards was something worth looking forward to in our special 30th anniversary mugs. I ended up thinking of this soup most of the way round the course.

Today was a matter of getting your head down and surviving, getting the job done; this is good Haworth Hobble training; some of the route covered part of the Hobble course. I had no expectations for today’s race but was happy to treat it as a training run. The remote farmsteads with their solid and blackened gritstone walls were looking just as grim as the weather and featureless countryside, each with a collection of farmyard junk lying about. God who would choose to live out here? The friendly and rosy-cheeked face of Colin Valentine suddenly appeared to lighten the mood and shout encouragement. Some of you may know Colin, out walking his scruffy farm collie.

It felt like the weather was improving for a moment with the wind at my back, only for hopes to be dashed when turning into the wind again and into the relentless driving rain; my mountain cap was a wise choice and was working well with the little peak helping to keep the driving race off my face. Next familiar landmark was the remote ruins of Withins farmhouse high up on the moor.  We were on the Haworth Hobble route now and ten miles in. Then came a series of nasty, narrow step sections, typical of the area and made up of twisted miss-placed and eroded gritstone cobbles, thankfully this section was steeply uphill and could only be walked. Bang! What the hell……I’d headbutted a big low branch over the narrow ginnel. No damage done but bet I’m not the only one to hit this! I was waiting for a horrible descent and didn’t have to wait long but gingerly made my way to the bottom okay.

The second road crossing wasn’t far now and marked the end of the first 14 mile large lap but was the start of the second 5 mile small loop section I’d remembered from last time. This was really brutal now and battling into the head-wind and driving rain, Roger had caught me up. We were both surprised to see each other. Roger was moving fluently and I couldn’t be bothered to try to stick with him. Well done Roger, vet 60 record holders but wouldn’t beat his time on a day like today! A small flock of Golden plover flew past; hardy little birds, and they live up here, this weather is nothing to them. The thought of those already finished enjoying the lovely homemade soup kept me going; I would be enjoying the soup too very soon.

I wondered why a group of runners weren’t moving in the distance. It soon became clear as they were struggling to help one poor runner who was clearly suffering from hypothermia. I stopped to help him zip his jacket up and offer my foil survival bag; I noticed he was only wearing shorts and hadn’t managed to get his gloves on. There was no reaction from this poor soul, but I was relieved to see him later at the finish, having been helped off the moor to a marshal’s car. He was well wrapped up and being looked after at the clubhouse.

At last the little path started to drop away and off this evil place, and I was glad to be descending to humanity and the view of buildings, knowing that it couldn’t be too far to go, surely.  Another horrible descent down a very narrow ginnel with broken and miss-placed cobbles ready to trip the unwary followed, but was negotiated carefully. However, I knew that there would be a long uphill finish and this was a struggle, just hanging onto a small group of runners which seemed to take ages. I was glad I’d taken some salt tablets earlier, as the series of stiles near the end wouldn’t have helped if that horrible feeling of cramp was nagging at my calves.

I wasn’t going to sprint round the cricket pitch to catch the runner in front, and I was done. That lovely soup tasted so good in my shiny new mug! The top runners were all dressed and chatting away, just a stroll for them.

For the record, Roger finished in 3:43, and I finished in 3:50, but times didn’t matter on a day like today.

Would I do it again? Maybe just maybe……on a nice day.

Next race, the Hobble, only 13 miles further!

John Osborne

Becky’s Bob Graham Round

Going into Spring, Tom and I both felt a bit tied down: lambing was taking up many hours of the day and too many of the night and Tom was working too much. However, now we lived closer to the Lakes, the Bob Graham round that I had hoped to do before my accident was pressing unfinished business, giving us a necessary compulsion to get out in the hills. 

With a date set for an attempt in late July, we focused any days off on getting plenty of height climb in the legs. Feeling about as ready as anybody might, and with 3 weeks to go, we headed north to Scotland for 10 days of holiday. We were exceptionally lucky with the weather – clear skies, warm weather and cloud inversions, which meant that tapering was abandoned in favour of long alpine-esque adventures in the Cuillin and elsewhere! 

Back home in Cumbria, feeling fit, but with worryingly used legs, I started to finalise the logistics for the day. It was still so sweltering that sitting in the shade induced a sweat. On the one hand, running 65 miles and ascending 27000ft in the heat would be pretty unbearable, but if the weather broke it could be just as bad, if not worse! The forecast was certainly not stable and contingency plans for a midweek attempt were rapidly put together as the forecasted electric storms became more probable. As it turned out the weather was on our side and Saturday 28th July dawned with not a cloud to be seen and temperatures of “only 25c”.

Just as the campsite finally grew quiet enough for sleep, the late-night drone flying stopped and the ten o’clock ice-cream had van driven home, it was time to get up. Tom had got out of the tent a couple of hours before to tell a party to be quiet and they were still chatting around the campfire and looked very surprised to see us. It had been a perfect evening on one of the longest days of the year and the hot sun had been replaced by a bright full moon. I wiggled out of my sleeping bag, already dressed in my running kit, and bundled into the car for the short drive into Keswick.

Outside the Moot Hall, I loaded Dom Spracklen up with my food and water for the first leg and Roger Laycock with the spare layers and emergency kit; I was carrying nothing apart from a map in a money belt. I touched the door, poised and excited to begin whilst Roger counted down the seconds on his watch until 2am. I was so excited I had to stop myself from sprinting as we started. We jogged through the outskirts of town and out onto the track towards Skiddaw, our first peak. Our head torches illuminated the stony track, but the moon was bright enough to show the peaks in the distance. Unfortunately, Dom’s night had been even less successful at sleeping than mine, and rather than the restful day off work that I’d had, he’d endured a busy week and a long drive back from Scotland the day before so his body wanted to sleep rather than walk quickly uphill in the middle of the night. We carried on, expecting him to catch us up, but as we walked the flickering light of his torch became more distant. We paused at the fence corner on Great Calva and deliberated over whether we should wait. We still couldn’t see the head torch and time was passing so, guiltily, we climbed over the fence and ran down the trod amongst the bilberry bushes to the stream. We were effectively now a group of two. Roger had kindly brought a bottle of water to supplement what I had asked Dom to carry and I drank some before the next climb, although to our surprise he had accidentally bought fizzy water. I tipped it out and drank from the stream. I felt strong throughout the leg and enjoyed the time to talk as we easily navigated our way around the northern fells. The ground was much drier than when I had reccied the leg and the trods used by other teams had become more obvious over the last few weeks of summer. The sun rose as we climbed Mungrisedale common; the sky was orange and pink cloud rested on the top of Blencathra where Tom was waiting for us in the mist by the trig point. Roger waited for Dom and I descended the parachute in Tom’s footsteps after eating any snacks that he had carried up for himself. We were 6 minutes up. Jude had provided a mini feast in Threlkeld and, after a shoe change and some mini-rolls, I was ready for leg 2. 

The second leg of the BG which takes you over Helvellyn and the Dodds from Threlkeld to Dunmail was joyful. The early morning air was warm without being too hot and my legs still felt light. My pacers, Martin and Matt Holroyd, effortlessly guided me from one summit to the next quietly reassuring me at each peak that we were steadily gaining a couple of minutes here and there. I ate very little on the leg, just one packet of crumbled crisps, but drank sips of my water almost constantly as Matt ran with the bottle in his hand and kept giving it to me. I had chosen to descend Dollywagon via the fence posts to avoid any slippery stones on the zigzag path and did the descent entirely on my bottom, watched by Julia and John Murfin who had come to meet me at Grisedale tarn. After the out and back to Fairfied, my mum appeared through the bracken as I jogged gently down to the road at Dunmail. I felt free and was surprised that I was enjoying it so much. 


The furthest I had run in my preparation for the round was the first two legs together and so I was a little nervous starting the next leg. Legs 3 and 4 are the crux legs, being longest, roughest and hilliest. I had badly broken my leg in a rock-climbing accident two years previously and I wasn’t totally sure whether I would find myself struggling with my leg shortening or damage to my joints. Leg 3 felt like the most daunting obstacle to completing the round. It was long and hilly and would have been a big day in itself. I had also not run it in its entirety since being a pacer on it several years ago, largely because of the logistical difficulties in getting back to the car from Wasdale. However, up to steel fell, across to calf crag and onto the pikes, I felt like I was flying. I had eaten well at Dunmail raise (half a pizza and a can of peaches) and the combination of Steph Dwyer, Mike Bottomley and my sister as pacers provided constant conversation and entertainment. The high temperature was starting to be a problem, but I kept drinking water in the hope I would be spared from dehydration. Sabrina Verjee met me to accompany me from Pike of Stickle to Rossett pike and, humbled to be in her company, I felt like I ought to run that section really quickly! Sabrina sent Steph off to find water whilst Mike and I continued up Bowfell. When she left, however, I started to feel strange and my vision was going a bit blurry and it felt like I was giving myself water overload by drinking so much without taking on much salt. I lay down on the top of Bowfell and ate Steph and Mike’s packets of posh crisps. It may have been a placebo, or it could have been the calories, but it felt like the salt was making me feel better enough to stagger up Ill Crag and Broad Crag. At Mickledore, Tom’s dad had rigged a short rope up Broad Stand – easy when dry and fresh, but potentially disastrous when weary and wet. From here, Steph, Mike, and my sister left and headed off to Styhead tarn for a swim and Tom took over. At this stage, a swim felt like a much more sensible idea than running another 30 miles! However, Scafell did feel like a big milestone on the round and once I had passed it I was quietly confident that I would succeed.

The day was heating up and, whilst way ahead of schedule, I was starting to hit a rough patch. My back was really painful for the descent down to Wasdale and I lost time on my schedule. I don’t have very good posture at the best of times, but since my accident, my right leg has been shortened by about 1cm and the back pain is accentuated on long runs. I was sure I would make it round, but I definitely wasn’t sure if i would make it on time. 

Tom’s mum and Joe Hobbs (Lonsdale) met us in Wasdale with orange juice and a bacon sandwich. She also had poles, which I hoped would make me feel more comfortable on the climbs. We weren’t going fast for any of leg 4, but we were steady and I was able to keep up my pace and not lose any more time. We stayed with another pair from Dorset who were doing the round supported only by each other, and we were able to help them find some of the BG trods that they didn’t know. I wasn’t able to eat much until Joe mentioned that he had a veggie sausage sandwich in his bag. His food sounded much more appealing than mine so he dutifully donated me the sausages from inside, retaining the squished bap. 

It was amazing to arrive to so many supporters waiting for me in Honister. The temperature was cooling down and was much more comfortable and I once again felt energetic and injury free. I sat on a crate to eat a tin of rice pudding and then strode up the hill with Josh Westwood and my sister. I made up time rapidly on this leg, and was really surprised when Josh said that beating 21 hours was now well within my reach. Unfortunately, on Robinson, my sister started to slow down and throw up. She didn’t know the descent route and we deliberated over whether we should leave her, but Josh managed to get in touch with Tom and my mum who could come and pick her up from the road. Her pre-exercise dinner choice of three hard boiled eggs had not been particularly wise! Josh was fantastic down the rocks, despite living on the opposite side of the Dales, he had found time to learn where every rock was and skillfully led me down to the road where Joe and Andrena were waiting on the tandem to accompany us back into keswick. I jogged the road sections steadily but comfortably but I was worried that my sister and her search party wouldn’t see me finish, but fortunately, just after the outdoor centre in Portinscale I heard a whooping as they drove past. 

I ran into Keswick as fast as I could to a round of applause from strangers. My legs felt fine and I was ecstatic to finish in 20 hours and 23 minutes – 1 hour 37 minutes faster than my schedule. My Bob Graham was probably the best day of my life, and one that would not have been possible without the generous support from my friends – thank you!

Message from Kirsten Angus


Hi all, I’m Kirsten, and I joined the committee team last year as Women’s representative.  Things barely got going last year did they, for obvious reasons, but I felt I should introduce myself, to those who don’t know me, and let all the women, well anyone, in the club know I’m here for you. Apologies, if you haven’t come across me, work and childcare commitments often prevent me from joining regular harriers training (in normal times that is).  Despite being a Settle Harriers member since I was a junior, I’d never given much thought to how the club was run and what goes on behind the scenes, so this is a reminder that there are club members organising and planning in the background to support our great little club. I’m very passionate about our friendly and diverse little club.  I’ve been around most local races, taken part in the Harriers’ own fantastic and friendly events, I love to explore the local area, and now my kids are enjoying junior training too.

When I’m not on the hills, you’ll find me with the kids, teaching Pilates (shameless plug for Yorkshire Dales Pilates) or working as a Physiotherapist at a local hospital.

Anyhow, please get in touch if you’ve any questions, items for committee meetings, awesome ideas, or feedback for the club. I’d love to hear from you, and maybe one day soon, I’ll catch you on the fells.









Chris Beesley’s Lockdown challenges – November 2020

It wasn’t my original intention to do so many Lockdown Challenges in one day. I had planned to do the 3 Trig point and 5 Postbox route last Sunday but, being a Southern softie, I was put off by the weather. The forecast for today was much better and so I decided to make my attempt despite celebrating my elder grandson’s 18th birthday at a family Zoom party last night. By a pure fluke, I calculated that my route would cover 2 more Lockdown Challenges, 100km for the month and 3,000 metres of climbing.

Due to the aforementioned party, my 9.30am scheduled start was nearer 10am but, since I had no other plans for the day, I set off determined to do the whole route. The Postboxes on Church St and Townhead Ave were duly photographed. I had opted to do a clockwise route in order to get the steep climb over the saddle and up to Warrendale Knots done early on. In deference to my advancing years, I did walk a little on this bit. After Warrendale, a pleasant descent to Attermire but then a very wet section followed before I reached Stockdale Lane. I stuck to the Settle Loop and then traversed round the back of Ryeloaf Hill and up to Trig point number 2. The next section up to the radio mast would have been better done in waders, I don’t think I touched solid ground for nearly a mile and it was almost a relief to reach the tarmac.

A long road descent was followed by a pleasant run down Lambert Lane as far as the quarries. My intention had been to then cut straight across to the Hunter Bark Trig point. However, I hadn’t reckoned on the barbed wire fencing, so had to go down to the stile and trek back up to Trig point 3, and then return to the Cleatop Woods path. Through Cleatop Woods, across the fields, down Watery Lane – appropriately named this morning – and into town where I photographed  Postboxes at the PO, the Market Square and  Kirkgate. Then home for endless cups of tea.

My thanks to Becky for the Lockdown idea which has got many Harriers back out running with a purpose. My 7 Challenges completed today were #2-3 trig pillars, #7-5 postboxes, #9 – 100km (my total for November is 75 miles which is 120 km), # 14 – cleaning my fell shoes, # 15 – cleaning Anne’s fell shoes, #19 – climbing 3000m (my total is 3371m) and # 20 – write an article for the blog.

Chris Beesley

(click pictures for full size)

Postman Pat and the Trig Points – November 2020

Becky’s lockdown_2 challenges are a great motivator for dragging you away from another Netflix binge, and Roger and I fancied combining ticking a few trig points (Challenge #2) and some post boxes (Challenge #7). Three trig points seemed fair enough, but 5 post boxes was a bit on the easy side, so we spent hours analysing and cross-correlating with

This identified 3 trig points – one of which was new to both of us – and 21 post boxes / post offices, which looked like a feasible target from Settle; we just needed an optimum route between them. This is like the Travelling Salesman problem, which is notoriously difficult to solve – we clearly needed a quantum computer. Sadly, we didn’t have one, so we just resorted to shambling around aimlessly, hoping we’d accidentally come across our targets’ en route.

The first box – a standard Elizabeth II in Settle

Roger came up with the excellent idea of doing the run in Postman Pat fancy dress (lockdown challenge #16). I was all for this, but then it almost came to blows over who would have to be the cat. After relentless arguments we went for a vote, which I definitely won, but Roger refused to concede, so we had to scrap the fancy dress idea for the time being.

Our route was based around the 3 trig points with detours to collect as many post boxes as we could fit in. From Settle this was essentially up to Warrendale Knotts (whose official name is ‘TP S5521 Langcliffe’ according to trig point experts), via Langcliffe and Stainforth to Smearset Scar and then via Austwick to the last trig at New House Pasture above Black Bank before returning to Settle via Giggleswick.


Our route through Settle was pretty convoluted but cleared up all the boxes we knew about apart from three that were easier to collect to the way back. I later discovered that my online resources had let us down and had not listed the box at Limestone View, although we went with about 50m of it. So anyone wanting to repeat the route could Trump our efforts!

Warrendale Knotts to Austwick was all pretty familiar territory with 4 post boxes en route. While taking a photo of the Austwick letter box we got into conversation with a FEDEX guy who wanted us to know there was a golden post box in Eccleston near Chorley. I prodded Roger away with my 2m pole before he started getting ideas. 

From Austwick on, the paths were pretty unfamiliar to both of us. It’s worth running on those footpaths west of the A65 once in a while – just to remind yourself why you shouldn’t go running west of the A65. It was a succession of gloopy fields, suspicious cows and indistinct routes. To be fair, there were a few highlights. The Victorian letter box at Lawkland was the oldest we found and the one at Eldroth church probably the prettiest.

The trig point at New House Pasture was an odd one. I must have cycled within 100m of it loads of times without noticing it. It sits just above 200m in a wall corner on a sloping hill side that’s not remotely a summit. I guess it’s there to triangulate to Moughton and Smearset which you can see on the other side of the valley.

New House Pasture trig point

A few more gloopy fields, and we were safely back from the Dark Side west of the A65. Well, I say safe – but we still had the foot crossing of the railway, the Settle bypass and the unexploded ordnance of the Giggleswick School firing range to contend with.

We survived these and found ourselves clearing up the Gigg letter boxes and up to our final target on Cammock Lane. This one is a bit of a mystery as the lettering has been removed, but it looks like it could be another Victorian one. 

Anyway, here’s a picture of Roger trying to post his ballot there for the Postman Pat/Jess fancy dress vote – clearly fraudulent as the deadline had been yesterday.




Joss Naylor Challenge – July 2020

An account of a post lockdown Lakeland long traverse by Simon and Loz…

What it’s about – Simon

The Joss Naylor Challenge is a route conjured up by Joss in 1990 when he was 54. It traverses 30 summits on its way from Pooley Bridge to Joss’ village in Greendale (in Wasdale). This is about 67km and 5000m of ascent or 48 miles/17000’ in old money.  The route has become known as the ‘old man’s Bob Graham’ and this had probably put me off the idea for a while as memories of how hard I’d found the BG 30 odd years ago still run deep. But then after Loz and I had run the Lakes in a Day ultra a couple of times, we realised that the JNC should be not much harder. It’s a bit shorter but with more climb, although, unlike the LIAD, the climbing is loaded towards the end of the route over most of the big Wasdale fells. The other factor that – unusually – worked in our favour is being relatively ancient. The time limit for completing the challenge is on a sliding, age-dependent scale so at 50 you only have 12 hours but this increases to 15 hours at 55, 18 hours at 60 and a leisurely 24 hours at 65. So for us that gave 18 hours which seemed like a viable challenge, at least from the comfort of an Excel spreadsheet at the kitchen table.

The route is divided into four obvious legs: From the start along the High Street range to Kirkstone Pass; crossing the Fairfield group over to Dunmail Raise; a longish hack up to Bowfell and over Great End to Styhead and then the final leg over the high fells around the head of Wasdale to the finish at Greendale Bridge. A very cold recce last November with Roger over the first two legs suggested the required pace was OK – at least over 7 hours or so. But then of course lockdown brought a halt to anything that wasn’t out of the back door.


Once Boris allowed us to venture a bit further afield Loz and I did a 9 hour recce of the last half of the route from Dunmail Raise to the finish. The logistics of this are a bit tricky as you end up a long way from your car. Luckily Tom Oxley had just got his provisional driving licence and was easily conned into the idea that driving Hilary over Wrynose and Hardknott to pick us up would be good driving practice. Gill was also there to meet us and asked how we’d feel about turning round and doing another half of the route. We looked at her like she was crazy and, as always, we felt we really needed to get fitter to take on the full Challenge.

However, looking at diaries and family holiday plans suggested that the long summer days could easily slip by without an attempt being fitted in. So we’d better just get a grip and do it. By mid-July the brilliant weather of the early summer had turned into unstable squally stuff but a good weather window was forecast for a few days’ time on Sunday. Roger was keen to join in (as a leisurely recce to see where the hours would be knocked off on his ‘proper’ attempt later on) but was unavailable that day so we assembled a small team of supporters at short notice for a low-key traverse with a 4am start from Pooley Bridge.

Leg 1 – Loz

I’m not one for early starts.  In fact, if this start had been any earlier, I’d have just made a late night of it, the evening before. I hate the restless hours in bed, in a funk over how horribly soon I have to get up.  Once up though, it was a nice pre-dawn, T shirts and shorts even at 3:30.  Just light enough not to need our head torches, which was as well, since they were in Mark’s bag to meet us much later. It’s a slightly odd start through a large static caravan park but then you’re soon on the fell. First peak: Arthur’s Pike, crossing the route of the Lakeland 50 en route.



The sun popped up just before 5:00, just as we were keeping our fingers crossed that a stream we thought we remembered was there. If not, we’d be going thirsty. We carried our own kit throughout, so kept water to the bare minimum needed to get to the next source. Filling up and a few dawn pics lost us 6 mins on the schedule. Incidentally, Simon’s computations (spanning many spreadsheets and furrowed brows) had come up with the strikingly precise projection of 17h 9 m for arrival time at Wasdale. We pushed on. At this stage of an ultra it’s good to keep the pedal off the metal, and move efficiently, rather than to risk early flame-out.  We were back on schedule by Kidsty and then saved another 6 mins by Kirkstone. The wind was a bit fresh and cool from the west, but only my hands were cold: unlike my sensible companion, I hadn’t brought gloves.

The section had been enlivened by a fox on Arthur’s Pike and couple of Bambi-style fauns on Raven Howe. Other than that and a couple of tents, we’d seen no sign of life. Dropping towards Kirkstone, I spotted a couple of people on a knoll and to my surprise, they got up and ran towards us.  Turned out to be Becky and Tom. That was nice but even better was to follow when they offered chocolate pancakes straight out of the pan.  Now that was definitely a first, and very enjoyable too – thanks guys! That little burst of energy helped us get the ideal line down to Kirkstone and our first support.

Leg 2 – Simon

Jude and Dominic Spracklen had readily volunteered for a 7:45am rendezvous at Kirkstone where a mini rave seemed to have been going on over night. Rejuvenated by the smell of weed wafting over the fell-side we started the grind up Red Screes. Tom and Becky had also managed to pack up their pancake kitchen and joined us for the climb before peeling off somewhere near the top. Across Scandale Loz and Dom seemed to be deep in conversation about the economics of biomass power generation while Jude kept me entertained by drip feeding raspberry flapjacks – more my level at this point. We seemed to be making good progress though across the Fairfield section and were 18 minutes up on the schedule at Grisedale Hause. Here Jude and Dom ducked off down to Grisedale Tarn and Loz and I last had sight of them swimming around 500’ below as we climbed over Seat Sandal. The BG descent route is a quick way down to Dunmail Raise but you’re constantly aware of your immediate destiny up the apparently vertical face of Steel Fell dead ahead. Hilary’s impressive picnic table greeted us at the road – the last road crossing on the route and the lowest point between the start and finish. This is pretty much the half way point in distance but with most of the climbing still to do.

Leg 3 – Loz

If Fairfield and Hart Crag had reminded me of Lakes in a Day, a blurred Dunmail feeding frenzy followed by trudging off up a horribly steep fellside was pure BG throwback. Thanks to Hilary though for all the cakes!  Martin Holroyd was with us from here, and he did sterling work to Sty Head. Steep Steel Fell came and went. High Raise is a bit of a plod too. Happily, Joss took pity on his followers around here, and let us off the intervening Calf Crag and Sergeant Man. After that bit, it’s a good downhill to cross just below Stake Pass and into the rockier terrain of the western half of the route.

On Rossett Pike, we got the right line after our recce a few weeks earlier.  Then the third water stop on this leg (which is well provided with streams compared to the rest), at the foot of Bowfell.  That big steep climb up Hanging Knotts was a struggle for me. I had a roll I was trying to eat (and eating gets harder the longer you run); I had my two poles to carry and I was trying to grab a drink as well. Coupled with needing to touch rocks to balance up the steeper bits, I felt like an octopus missing half its tentacles.  Eventually I emerged onto the plateau feeling like my legs were spiralled together. The others seemed to be packing away their almost-finished copies of War and Peace by the time I staggered up to the summit. Politely, they pointed out the direction of Esk Pike and I managed to redeem myself a little by finding the racing line which I’d re-discovered on an earlier recce. It’s the way the Langdale comes (going the other way), but my brain on that occasion had been deep into oxygen starvation by that stage, so I’d remembered nothing.

Esk Pike is a fine hill and I was almost managing to keep the others in sight ahead going from there to Great End. Martin kept musing about turning back – he had to reverse most of the route back to Dunmail – but then he would “just come along one more top” with us, and so ended up dropping down the very rough descent to Sty Head (the slowest bit of the whole route) to complete the whole section with us. A heart-felt thanks to Martin, you really helped us keep moving.

Leg 4 – Simon

We’d been on the go for over 11 hours and were half an hour up on our target time here and so had 90 minutes in hand on the 18 hour schedule. Although nothing was said out loud, it seemed to me that barring disasters we should make it round fine and this allows you to relax a bit and enjoy the trip.

Mark Wildsmith had kindly made the big commitment to drive all the way round to Wasdale Head and met us at Styhead. His preparation for supporting us on leg 4 had been a 250km off-road bike ride the previous day – he rightly assumed we wouldn’t be pushing him too hard at this stage. The final leg is about 18km and 1500m with an immediate start-as-you-mean-to-go-on brutal bash up Great Gable. This was about the only place on the route we saw many other people but we were quickly down the other side and up onto Kirkfell. There’s a handy stream outlet from one of the summit tarns here – pretty much the last water before close to the finish. I think we carried about a litre and a half each from here.


Joss’s Gully is a rough but quick way down to Black Sail pass and we were then on the long slog up Pillar. In my mind this is the final crux and it seems sort of downhill after Pillar – psychologically rather than literally. It was somewhere here though that I suddenly felt light-headed and wobbly as Loz and Mark pulled ahead over the rocks. The sure sign of an incoming bonk – so I stuffed down a Mars Bar, quickly followed by a Snickers. On the whole I think we’d done very well on nutrition – eating pretty continuously and mostly proper food like sandwiches and pizza rather than fistfuls of Jelly Babies. But on these long runs you always seem to be not too far from hypoglycaemia so the emergency Mr Mars is a useful tool for me and I was fine again in 5 minutes.


After Pillar there’s a cunning traverse to avoid an unnecessary top and you’re on Scoat Fell. Confusingly Little Scoat Fell is higher than Great Scoat Fell and in between the two there’s the out-and-back to Steeple where we had great views across Ennerdale in the late afternoon sunshine.

Three hills to go now and Haycock doesn’t seem bad. There’s a choice of descent routes here and we opted for the fast scree shoot that we’d found on our recce a few weeks previously. There aren’t many runnable scree descents left in the Lakes so this one’s a bit of a surprise. Whatever time we made up here though was probably lost in the palaver of emptying small stones out the shoes at the bottom.




Seatallan was a grind but Middle Fell beckons as the final climb and is a great view point. This included a view of our parked vans down below in Greendale. Gill, Hilary and Tom had been swimming in Greendale Tarn but were there to greet us – although only briefly as we sped through the parking area on our way to the ‘true finish’ on Greendale Bridge 16 and a half hours after setting off.


Final thoughts – Loz

It was nice to finish and satisfying to have at least beaten Joss’s benchmark time. He must have been feeling generous towards the elderly when he set that one. It had been a brilliant day on the hills, as they usually are once you get going. We’d been lucky with the weather which was only cold a couple of times. And we’d had some very kind support given generously.

The route does have the feel of a real mountain route as opposed to a trail-type ultra. That makes it very worthwhile. I am glad we did it whilst still (just) able to put one foot in front of the other for long enough, and I’d recommend any other ageing runners to give it a whirl while they can.

GPX of the route

Here is a gpx file showing our route with some waypoints added with comments about route choices, water etc. added by Loz. You can upload this route for example at but the gpx file should also upload to other software.

Bleasdale Circle Saturday 15th February 2020

With Storm Denis on the horizon for last weekend I was considering my options on the Friday evening:

  • Bleasdale Circle on the Saturday – 8 km with 380 metres of ascent – a Settle Harriers Championship race
  • Or Barbon on the Sunday – 3 km with 360 metres of ascent – a Kendal Winter League race
  • Or both

Having studied the OS map for Bleasdale, curiosity got the better of me: a school, a church and a parish hall, all with no road leading to them??  I’d have to take a chance with Barbon and just hope that my knee would be up for another race on the Sunday.

The journey to Bleasdale was, thankfully, uneventful; it even stopped raining, and there was just one flood to negotiate which, so long as it stayed dry, I reckoned I’d be able to get back through.

I arrived in good time as I hadn’t pre-entered, but I needn’t have worried; with only 59 out of a maximum number of 120 there was plenty of room for everyone on the start line.  Spot checks were carried out to satisfy the full kit requirement, although by now a lot of runners were wearing most of their kit as it had started to rain again…

The route headed north from the parish hall, turned east to cross sodden farmland for a couple of kilometres past Bleasdale Circle (no time for sightseeing) and then climbed steeply up onto Fair Snape Fell at 510m.  While one couldn’t really describe the conditions as pleasant, the climb up to Paddy’s Pole on the summit was fantastic: the wind was so strong that I seriously considered unzipping my waterproof to harness this relentless stream of free energy.  Would this be classed as cheating I wondered?  In the end it was the reluctance to get soaked which made me desist rather than the ethics.

On the summit conditions really were atrocious as the marshal grabbed me by the arm to steer me round the stone shelter in case I got blown away.  The race organizer had very prudently decided to shorten the course that morning making it a there-and-back to Paddy’s Pole rather than continuing along the ridge to Parlick; in fact at the start line he told us that the summit marshals had been instructed to descend if conditions worsened and that the turnaround point would be wherever you happened to meet them!

As it was, there was only one DNF, everyone got back safely, and I finished a very respectable – for me – fourth from last.  And back at the parish hall there was a seemingly endless supply of hot soup, hot tea and delicious home made cakes.  It was still raining.

Once I was warm and dry and fed, my mind turned towards the homeward journey.  I set off and eventually reached the flood which, to my surprise, was not as bad as I had remembered it.  I drove through it, rounded the next bend, and realized that that was actually a new flood: the original flood was now twice as long as it had been a few hours ago and was receding into the distance!

As I drove home I thought about my daughter Chloe; having signed up for the university caving trip she had driven from Cambridge to South Wales on Friday evening bombarded with dire warnings from her mother about being sensible and intelligent students, and I wondered where she would get her sense and intelligence from…

And Barbon?  Obviously I was devastated when the race had to be cancelled, but secretly I think my knee was quite relieved.


Jill Gates