Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Last night I spent the night in a little hotel on the North West side of Newcastle, before I site visit this morning.

I plotted a run route on my Garmin before leaving but a slight mix up with location meant I had a short run over to the route from my hotel.  It wasn't quite dark so I had the (pleasure?) of seeing the long straight road I had to run along before getting on to the footpaths but I did see the sign for the Cheese factory called, "Make me Rich".

The only traffic I saw was a single cyclist whose road tyre noise combined with the honking of geese in a nearby field completely confused me for an alarming moment.  There were a few doggers in cars but otherwise, the world was as nature intended it.  I counted off the hundreds of feet by counting the running steps between telephone poles (how did I ever do urban running - oh yeah, I never), there was really little else to do on a road in the fading light but count.

I had consumed all my interest levels by realising I'd forgot my mobile phone with which to alert my colleague to any lateness for dinner or unfortunate mishaps and I had resolved the problem of having forgotten my gloves by first, removing a buff from my head and one from my neck to wear as mittens and second, running fast enough that I didn't care.

Finally I found the footpath at the edge of a wood.  I was so glad I had the Garmin because it would've been a long run had I navigated it all by map and compass (not to mention that I didn't have a paper map).  The first path disintegrated into nothing where I couldn't find a hedgerow crossing.  Instead I crossed by a fence then retraced my steps to the actual path.  This then struck out across the tussocky grass for a half mile before running up to a river.  The head torch picked out little else of the river but its steep, cliff edges.  Only about 10ft high but worryingly crumbly.

As I looked at the Garmap and thought, there's supposed to be a bridge here, I did at least discover the bridge in response to the self-posed question, "What do we do here then?".  Wholesome and good although a little mossy, possibly the only place I might've broken any bones.  The contrast between the green mossy bridge, captured in my head torch and the warm glow of Newcastle City beyond the horizon were the best scenery of the run and my one pause for a photo op.

In the next field I navigated through a series of non-paths and along side an ox-bow lake (also crumbly along the edges) where great swathes of path had, at some time, been eroded into the lake.  I avoided mishap although startled a few sheepy stampedes as I couldn't help but dazzle them as they stared at my torch.  I continued to the edge of the field and the next building which was completely empty.

On the other side of the property, the sheepyness continued in the form of two large rams.  I was a little more concerned as there seemed to be about 9 stone of sheep and a rather thick skull to do business with but I had no other route to take.  I calmly chatted to the sheep and asked his permission to cross through his field.  His approach was either with the intention of doing me in or in the hope of being fed.  Either way, I didn't turn my back and kept negotiating my passage for a good period of time before walking away calmly.  I didn't start running again until I was on the other side of the gate to his field.

From there the path descended to another bridge but to my dismay, this one involved a scramble down a slope to a set of well moulded concrete stepping stones and up the other side onto someone's well sculpted terraces.

Forgive me but building gardens on footpaths isn't a good idea if you don't want people to walk on "your land".  Signage might have been useful.  The security lights which followed me around their house served only to alarm and dazzle me and it took some time to negotiate my way around their property.  Having left one gate, I found that I needed to enter the front vehicle gate, pass the campervan, run over the front lawn and through a second vehicle gate before (finally) finding the footpath that probably one day went straight through their living room.

I always get lost in the most urban of places.

The next few fields were not a living hell but with a head torch and a time frame to meet for dinner, were tough work.  Mounting levels of mud attached itself to the bottom of my feet so instead I ran in the long grass which had been trodden by horses and was ankle-turning stuff.

I had 30 minutes to make it back for dinner.  I could forgo a shower.

The path reverted to a nice open bridle path for about 2 miles but then became a ploughed field again and I rambled far and wide, following nothing more than a little dotted line on the garmin screen and a hedgerow on my right.  Would I have enjoyed it any more by navigating with a paper map? I very much doubt it and I suspect I would have retreated long ago or someone would have dispatched a search party.

I finally exited the track opposite the Cheese Farm and the sudden realisation that I had a short road run to go was very welcome.  I checked my watch, I was 15 minutes late for dinner.  In one final throe of excitement, I had to jump into the hedgerow to avoid a well-lit, road-wide digger approaching in the opposite direction.  To his credit, he noticed me and gave me room.

As the rain started to pour down I wondered if I should put on my raincoat that I was carrying but it seemed such a shame to interrupt the constant silver fountain of rain drops falling through the light of my head torch.  It was a good 10 minutes before I remembered that by putting my coat on, I wasn't going to stop the rain, just stop me from getting wet.  Sometimes I wonder how I got that degree.

I waved my thanks, dodged puddles on the main road (car drivers did not notice me) and ran past reception, signalling my return to the concerned staff who had been consoling my minion that realised he had no way of getting hold of his absent semi-manageress.

My day was complete.  Caeasar salad and a glass of Riocca fixed whatever was left of it.

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