Report from Chris Pittaway


2 weekends – completely different weather but loads of muck!

THE ANGLEZARKE AMBLE, either 24.5 miles or a 16 mile option – last year a deep freeze, hopefully conditions this year will be a little more favourable!

It does not look hopeful on the drive there, low cloud and snow flurries over Parbold hill, but by the time I reached Rivington, any rain had stopped.

Only 2 others from SFWC – Billy and Paul both on the 16 mile route,  It’s a shame there is little interest from SFWC members as the Amble can be a wonderful outing over the Best Lancashire has to offer (or it can be an epic like last year!) Billy has been doing the Amble since 1988 (I think) but he said enough was enough, this was to be his last long challenge event.

As the 8:00am start approached, numbers became a problem, too many people trying to get into too small a hall, the event must have been close to its 300 max entry. Moving everyone that was inside, outside made enough space for those trying to register, and soon enough, a mass of walkers and runners formed a temporary moving roadblock until the route veered off and up.

Gaining height quickly put us back into the low cloud, reducing visibility to a few dozen feet,  soon followed by snow on the ground,  several inches at the top of Winter Hill, was this to be a repeat of last year? The snow was fresh and soft so not a problem. Down towards Belmont, out of the snow, out of the mist and into the mud/bogs.

Over the moors the bogs are deep and cold, trail running footwear is not meant to be waterproof and constant immersion in near freezing water was wrecking my feet, soon numb to the point where I could hardly feel them!.  The tracks leading around Turton reservoir, then back up onto Darwen Moor gave drier conditions and allowed my feet to warm up,  but this was short lived as more snow and  boggy ground lurked across the top of the moor.  Because of the mist, I had been running on my own for several miles – no problem, I know the route, but close to Darwen tower, a group caught up and I tagged on at the back – mistake – never assume others know where they are going!  As mistakes go this one was not too bad, it just meant that we had to run up the track  to the tower and check-point, to turn around and run back down the same track.

Slipper lowe car park and the 16 mile route rejoins, hot sweet tea and a wide choice of tasty foods, then it’s back to more bog monsters  on the approaches to Great hill. The run down to White Coppice is always fun and I finally have feeling returning to my feet. Along the reservoirs back towards Rivington, the road section is only short – no more than a mile, but 24 miles in it seems to last forever, a final muddy field then back to finish at the Village hall.

Hot-pot and pudding with loads of tea are most appreciated by all, and everyone is grateful that it was not a repeat of last year’s weather after all.

Move forward one week and things cannot be more different.

THE BEACON BASH -  21 miles over Parbold hill and Ashurst Beacon   February 2013

and it’s a clear, dry day with hardly a cloud to be seen. 7:30am sees close to 100 walkers getting ready,  but  last week’s  3  has become 2, as only Paul is here to represent SFWC walkers ( see previous moan about lack of support from SFWC - this is our local event!)  At  8:00am a quick confirmation that the course is as shown, the weather forecast is good all day and the ground is likely to be ‘soft’ (surprise, surprise) and off the walkers go, churning up the early stages of the course for the latter runners.

More tea and a relaxed sort for the 9:00am runners start, even with the Parbold hill fell race the day before, there was still a full contingent of 50 ‘runners’. The organisers are happy – the event is a sell-out, and rightly so.

The early stages along the canal, then up past the quarries to the top of Parbold and onto High Moor are OK, the first check-point at 3.5 miles is soon past, then down tracks and through fields back into Parbold, to repeat the up & down process twice more from different angles around Harrock Hill, to eventually run down the Fairy Glen and into Appley bridge and the half-way checkpoint. The effects of the  Amble must still be in my legs, I found it hard to leave this checkpoint and start running – at best a steady shuffle. In parts, the mud was particularly deep and clinging, sucking any remaining energy out of your legs. The Whitley rd track into Jollies i’th dean, freshly churned by farm vehicles  was of particular note, but the track beyond with deep, unavoidable puddles helped clear  the worst off for a while. The last stage, beyond the beacon is a memory of slippery, deep muddy tracks interspersed with deep boggy fields, then the end is in sight, a gentle downhill run through woodland beside a stream, struggle over the fallen tree across the path, more mud then you pop out in the middle of Newburgh, with just a short road run back to the finish.

There is a mass of discarded footwear around the door, almost unidentifiable under a thick crust of muck, hand in my tally and it’s done for another year.

A wonderful day – great weather, OK it was as mucky as anyone can remember, but it’s the same for every-one, and deep down, to abandon civilised practices and just plough straight through mud, puddles, streams etc is still a childlike pleasure that everyone should enjoy once in a while.  Now which are my trainers in the heap by the door?