Gorillas in the Mist (Tour of Pendle)

Tour of Pendle / Saturday 15 November ’14
AL – 27km (16.8m)/1473m (4833ft)
Report by Scott Hitchen


A great deal of trepidation was met on the morning of the race as every excuse known to man had been used by myself, to avoid it for the last two years.

This eased with the banter on the journey over, car-sharing with Max Cole, Jon Tinman and Davina Raidy. With what looked to be a strong expected turn-out for Rossendale’s Team Racing, an anticipated fifteen members on the entry list, spirits were high.

Going through the usual OCD race prep on arrival, Davina kept us entertained with anecdotes from the previous weeks trip to Coniston. Far from me to say she’s an open book, it was just what was needed, calming any pre-race nerves. Met Ritchie Campbell looking like he was dealing organic race nutrition from his boot with enough provision for the entire field and singlehandedly responsible for a sudden stock rush at Wing Yip’s. Jason Craven and William Lowe later joined the chat whilst milling around the bustling village hall and car park. This would be Will’s first tour and a precursor in his preparation for his debut Three Peaks attempt next year – good luck with that.

Testament to the efficiency of the race organisers, registration was slick and without hiccup with a cracking t-shirt to boot and having barely chance to pass on nav pointers to our very own England international orienteer (a pointless exercise that was lost on me at the time but didn’t go unnoticed) we headed to the start. Joining the huddle, stalwart Allan Yeomans completed the Rossy contingent and with a to-the-point briefing from Kieran it was game-on!
Fuelled by Chia and Goji Ritchie made a break up the Tarmac track that was difficult to close at such an early stage. Jon the tactful took a more relaxed approach with time to chat; learning when unsure of someone’s age guessing their vet category, better to give the benefit of the doubt aiming ten years younger rather than older in future, as it doesn’t bode well for cheery banter!
Richard Campbell in about 12th at this point. No really.

Richard Campbell in about 12th at this point. No really. (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)

The field begins to spread out on reaching the fell and the slog up to the trig point. It was obvious the clag wasn’t shifting which could only add to the fun. The climb felt steady and on pulling alongside Max I tapped him on the shoulder for luck – schoolboy error, triggering a hidden ‘beast’ mode switch which saw him immediately bounding off. I wouldn’t see him again till checkpoint 5 (the point I told him the race really starts) defying all logical laws of smaller steps/steeper inclines, picking his way past the field and well on his way up Mearley Moor – aren’t hills great!
Don't worry Max. Yes there is lots more big hills. (SB)

Don’t worry Max. Yes there is lots more big hills. Yes Max, I promise. (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)

A surprisingly good line off Geronimo through the mist to checkpoint 4, only found me going back to retrieve someone’s lost tag I’d passed floating in the stream, on the off-chance it went unnoticed by the marshals. It’d be hard to stomach disqualification for anyone and didn’t want the outcome of someone’s efforts playing on my conscience for the rest of the race.
Jason Craven had an audition for Bacup Coconutters after the race. Photo by Andrew Mattison

Jason Craven  had an audition for Bacup Coconutters after the race.  Hope it went well JC. (Photo by Andrew Mattison, Andyspixels)


Geronimo! How steep does that look? (Photo by Andrew Mattison, Andyspixels)

The race began to take its toll climbing from Mearley Clough to checkpoint 8 and the ‘big end’ was and always will be the ‘big end’ but on reaching the trig for the second time the clag, as anticipated, added that ‘spot the checkpoint’ fun element. I’d done reccies but could only go off instinct and a bearing that wasn’t concrete so was reluctant to commit to the descent, until being passed that is by first lady Caitlyn Rice (enjoying an excellent season) and in a curious case of mistaken identity thought I was Jon Tinman, whom she had earlier mistook for Patrick Brennan; from behind! Obviously the legendary Irish craic but more to point, who’ll be the more offended?

Scott Hitchen? No. Pat Brennan? No. Dog whisperer Jon Tinman. Yes! (Photo by Andrew Mattison, Andyspixels)

This was to be the crux for many (the clag not Jon’s craic), with stories of runners veering too far left down onto the concrete track and having to double-back to checkpoint 11, or too far right and having to follow the path along Ogden Clough. With luck we nailed it and thankfully tossed our bread tags to the ever patient marshals holding out their bags like buskers.
Davina Raidy enjoying herself (SB)

Davina Raidy enjoying herself (Photo by Steve Bateson RunningPix)

William Lowe also enjoying himself (SB)

William Lowe also enjoying himself (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)

Thats more like it from Alan Yeomans (SB)

Thats a bit more like it from Alan Yeomans (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)

It was nearly over, one final push on the road took back some lost places and then there was Kieron, standing in the middle of the finish tunnel, his arms waving, shouting “it’s over” bringing each racer round from out of their trance. Finish time 2:49:29, shortly followed by Jon in 2:52:08 and a commendable performance from Jason, considering his struggle with injury (see earlier blog entry), in a time of 2:56:44. Max finished as first Rossy with an excellent debut time of 2:39:50 and let it be recorded that it took all of 9 minutes 40 seconds for him to get from the finish all the way down the road to his car; wash; wash the car; change into clothing and get back to the finish to meet his team mates – like we needed the finishing margin making any clearer. A superb effort from Ritchie saw him smash his PB by an incredible 30 mins from the previous year with a time of 2:58:20 – samples of his coconut water have been submitted to WADA for testing. Shout-outs also to Will, Allan and Davina finishing in 3:35:02, 3:47:24 and 3:57:22 respectively.
Enjoying some excellent hospitality and refreshments at the village hall, a quick change, then it was off to the pub to exchange stories, oblivious to Rossendale’s third team placement and unassumingly missing the presentation; that’ll teach us!
Of the fifteen potential Rossy entries only eight completed the race. Racing legend Michael Toman was dearly missed being on sabbatical writing his gourmet’s guide to fell running ‘The race’s I’ve run and the cake’s I’ve loved’. Putting his encyclopaedic knowledge of catering offered at various races throughout the UK to good use and following the success of his recent bestseller ‘My Story – The truth about David Bradley; what really happened at The Ben’.
This is a tough, demanding race and with more oldies in the top 10 placings than a Tony Blackburn playlist, requiring a certain level of maturity and respect to get the better of. Saying that, it seemed to be over in no time, with something for everyone it’s one of the more enjoyable races of the year. We all go through a phase of putting races off through for one reason or another but ultimately we only end up missing out. I certainly won’t be waiting another two years to revisit this gem.
Scott Hitchen
Many thanks to Steve Bateson (Running Pix) and Andrew Mattison (Andy’s Pixels), for the kind permission to use their cracking photos. Please do not reproduce these images, but do check out their websites with the above links.

Grin ‘N’ Bear it

Grin ‘N’ Bear it / 15.9m, 1939ft / Race Report by Richard Campbell

While the bulk of the Rossendale Harriers troops were holding the fort over on North eastern front with a big turn out at the Shepherds Skyline fell race, I went on a solo mission deep behind enemy lines, on the eastern front at Langsett, South Yorkshire. For the 16 mile Grin ’N’ Bear it Fell Race in the Peak District National Park.

Fact of the day & touristy bit for the road fairies! The Peak District is the second most visited National Park in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan.


Without a mega early start and the usual drive up to the lakes to endure Jason Craven’s M6 Farleton Knot Fell Race tourettes. It was just a shorter drive over Woodhead Pass to Langsett Barn. Getting there nice & early for race registration & kit check. While donning my mudclaws, which I used as my weapon of choice, due to previous experience of the soft underfoot running in the peak district, with it’s infamous peat bogs.

The buzz went around that the race was delayed to 1030hrs. Time for one extra kit faff then. Looking around I didn’t recognise many faces but there was plenty of Dark Peak vests knocking about. The weather was dry and windy with the unusually warm temperatures for this time of year.


Richy on the shoulder of fell running giant Nicky Spinks.

We made our way over to the start and it looked like, from a distance, that Flava flav was going to be the day’s race starter, but as i got closer I released it was just the Mayor of Sheffield.  We got our final race brief & with the tame blow of the whistle the race was under way. With an unusually flat first mile for a fell race we passed through Langsett woods then turned left over a stone bridge  onto the first and only true climb of the race. The runnable rocky path climb wound up onto open moor & across Hingcliff Common till the track started running parallel with Mickleden Beck.  Along Mickleden Edge & Cut Gate, south west to checkpoint A at Cut Gate End, manned by the excellent Woodhead Mountain rescue. From here onto the exposed edge with the warm winds blowing directly into our faces. Then turning onto Featherbed Moss along the first section of open moor, full of bogs & tussocks. Following the flag markers to the trig at Outer Edge I found myself at checkpoint B, near Cat Clough. Then heading due West along more boggy paths to Harden Moss. By now there was a lack of fellow runners to assist with navigation, but by keeping my eyes peeled on the leaders & learning from their mistakes of sinking up to there knees & sometimes waists, I managed to avoid any serious bog incidents.

Those pesky Dark Peakerse

Those pesky Dark Peakers (photo by Accelerate)

Then picking up the small stone cairn at Loftshaw Clough Head and following the indistinct passing the ‘1894’ stone. Over the stile at checkpoint C at Swains Head. I Checked in with the Woodhead Mountain rescue race marshall and turned North. Picked up a small trod on the bank of Far Small Clough which provided smoothing running & kept me out of the rocky stream bed. Over a stile to checkpoint D at Salter’s Brook Bridge. Here I was accompanied by a few local runners from Dark Peak, but as they departed from Salter’s Brook Bridge checkpoint they slowed down & appeared to not be that confident on knowing the route and stuck to my side. What they failed to realise however, was that  I didn’t have a clue of the route on this last section of the race either. Luckily, although the field was well & truly spread out, it was a crystal clear day and the land was low and reasonably flat. This ment that I could make out home – Langsett woods. None of the leading pack were visible. So up the old road past the remains of Lady Cross to arrive at Lasche. Then onto open moor again to Checkpoint E at Cabin Hill.

Nowt doin without these lads. Big thannks to http://woodheadmrt.org/

Nowt doin without these lads. Big thannks to http://woodheadmrt.org/

With the Dark Peak limpets sticking with me it was confirmed they weren’t confident of the route even in there own back yard bogs. We then picked up the Grouse butts at Wicken Hill & followed them to Checkpoint F at Upper Hordron Barn.  I remembered from the race instructions that this also contained the last food & drink checkpoint, but the refreshments were no where to be seen. Tiredness fueled self doubt and I wasn’t too sure I was at the correct checkpoint. Not to worry, I told myself. I had enough left in the tank.


Now I don’t know who this bloke is but it’s fair to say he did a better job than Richy at finding the feed station (photo by Accelerate)

Continuing along a Landrover track via Hordron & Little Moor on Hordron road to the ford crossing at Long Moor Clough. At this point the Dark Peakers, utilised a bit of local knowledge and made their move. Picking up racing lines during the final few miles of the race. I wasn’t having that.  I was determined  to stick with them to the finish. Down the final stretch of Hordron Road. Across the ford at Fox Clough & picking up Swinden lane till going through gate after gate, and finally through Langsett woods to the finish.

I even managed to break away from the Dark Peakers on the last flat mile & even put a few minutes on them. This made the finishing time of 2:35:13 & finishing 20th place even sweeter.

Now was the time time get some clean gear on, some warm food and a brew in the gorgeous setting of Langsett Barn itself.



Photos kindly supplied by Accelerate running store in Sheffield.

Shepherd’s Skyline

Shepherd’s Skyline, Lumbutts (nr Tod), 10km / 6.2m, 350m / 1148ft

Thanks to Scott Hitchen for photo

Thanks to Scott Hitchen for photo

Late Autumn sunshine and warm Westerly winds provided perfect conditions for the Shepherd’s Skyline Fell Race. A seasoned (i.e. mature) group of Rossendale Harriers lined up among the 234 starters for this fabulous, well organised race.nOnly 10 km with 350m of ascent – a fast moorland route with a steep descent off Stoodley Pike for the “flying squad” immediately followed by a stiff climb back up the hill.

It was a clean sweep for Calder Valley (1st Ben Mounsey; 2nd James Logue; 3rd Alex Whitten). Best placed Rossy was Rick Solman who barely touched the ground to finish 14th in a seemingly effortless 47.55. The incomparable Ken Taylor was first V65 in 57.33 and young Andrew Corbishley first V60 in 59.35.

Ken Taylor 1st V65

Ken Taylor 1st V65  (photo courtesy of http://www.woodentops.org)

Andrew Corbishly 1st V60 (photo courtesy of www.woodentops.org)

Andrew Corbishley 1st V60 (photo courtesy of http://www.woodentops.org)

Rick Solman

Rick Solman 14th (photo courtesy of http://www.woodentops.org)

Andy Preston returned after a long lay-off through injury; cycling 22 miles to the race; finishing 31st in 52.04; before cycling home again – presumably just in time for a few miles open water swimming. Patrick Brennan ran an impressive 50.53 for 26th place and gave a master-class in the art of suicidal downhill speed as he hurtled off Stoodley Pike oblivious to rocks and rutted ground beneath his flying feet. A competitor from Sale Harriers made the schoolboy error of trying to keep pace with Pat only to hit the ground in a tangle of twisted limbs and an ignominious DNF.

Andy 'Marine Machine' Preston

Andy ‘Marine Machine’ Preston (photo courtesy of http://www.woodentops.org)

Scott Hitchen ran a determined, well judged race, reining in Patrick and Jon Tinman on the tough, final climb to finish in 50.31 for 24th place (2nd V40). Michael Toman was able to run without the distraction of Dave Bradley at his heels to 75th in 57.09 and Dave Murphy came back in 57.28 for 82nd. David Greenwood completed the Rossy contingent in 71.42.

The Author

The Author (photo courtesy of http://www.woodentops.org)


Dave Greenwood (photo courtesy of http://www.woodentops.org)

Next year is the 30th Shepherd’s Skyline race. No doubt our friends at Tod Harriers will be extending legendary Yorkshire generosity with commemorative race t-shirts and other goodies. Don’t miss it   – this is a great race with a pub at the finish. What more do you want?

Jon Tinman

Full Results

Photos – www.woodentops.org