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The Northern Adventures

It’s funny how something becomes so familiar in your life, take for example my jounery by tram to New Street every month. The early morning walks through my town, cash machine and then board the tram. Seeing people on their way to work, some sleeping, some immersed in their phones or staring blankly from the window.

View from urban life

I’ll miss this little part when project ends, seeing all the different people going about their day, me guessing their narrative and stories, seeing the world go by in the early hours.

The early starts become a common part of Park run, but on this occasion I’m not setting off as I arrive at my start, I’m afforded a quick stop over in Ilkley to catch up with mother beard, my sister and sister in law. This month’s jaunt promises to be outstanding in scenery, 2 national parks back to back. The plan hacked out over the last week with the logistic giving me a headache and causing me to become temporarily insane.

Starting from Ilkley I’ll join the dales way into Windermere (80 miles) before cutting west and ending in Ravenglass, home team advantage for me, I miss the lakes and have not ventured this way for some 7 years, but even longer for any kind of exploring the many and varied mountain trails.

I’m afforded a brief stop over In Ilkley to catch up with family, the train journey being a simple affair with only 2 changes went without incident and I was soon arriving in Burley-in-Wharfe Dale, we head out for a nice meal and I go with the rather large fancy steak complete with fries, mac and cheese with large prawns on the side, I see this as more carbs and protein for the coming days.

Morning arrived, But I couldn’t be bothered to raise at 5am the temp had noticeably dropped over the last few days, with previous day marking the official meteorological start of autumn, so I just nodded off for a little longer, it was 6:30am before I was leaving, the start of the Dales Way begins at Ilkley and I opted to add a few more miles and take a little scenic route from mother beards home to the start, the route was wonderful as Yorkshire can be, the sun rising behind me and spreading a warm auburn glow over the land, before long I had arrived at my start point, interestingly the OS map shows the route starting well before here and I’m not sure why this is.

The official sign was found just by a garden centre and off I set into another adventure, the route follows the meandering river Wharfe flowing from the Upper Wharfe Dale, it twists and turns effortlessly through vallies and farmlands. I pass the little village of Addingham, rather large and expensive houses watch my every step before I pass into a more fancy holiday park, the large American log cabins standing as a definite statement of look what I can afford, open farmlands soon follows and takes me away from the world of people. crossing a road and just before Bolton Abbey I come across Farfield Quaker Meeting House, built around 1689 a signifcant place for people to worship freely, a little place hidden away. Before long the remains of Bolton Abbey come into view, in its day it must have provided a most impressive feature on the landscape for pilgrims to come upon after a long journey.

Now it provides a fantastic backdrop to the landscape around it, its Gothic and ruinous feature gives the visitor feast for the imagination, at the time i passed through it was yet to open, but a few people mulled around, I crossed the Wharfe and stood for a moment to watch a family spread the ashes of a loved one, I felt very fortunate to be able to witness this moment and said a silent few words in my head, before taking off along the path marked by the OS.

It worth noting here, that once inside the land of Bolton Abbey estate, the signs for the for the Dales Way vanish, there is none at all and I can only assume that this is due to some clash between the footpath and the estate own sings. My route takes me through a children’s walk, little challenges lay to the side of the paths making for a fun walk for the little ones or the slightly bigger ones like me as I make us of the obstacles. Your soon crossing a small bridge and into the bustle of the many day visitors, here I stop and make use to the cafe and after 12 miles of running and walking Im ready for a brew and cake.

People mull by, families walking dogs, children running and playing with more cyclist than I’ve ever seen in one place, I still hold the thought that middle aged men in Lycra is not a good look, I set forth and off into a wooded area the signs still very much absent, I arrive at an area known as the Strid, I had read about this section of the Wharf before I set off, on first glance the rock faces strewn with moss invites a sense of mystery and fairies frolicking on the banks, but this otherwise burbling river is one of the deadliest in the UK, here the water funnels from a wide open river into this small gully, it changes direction as it hits the narrow and craggy sides creating massive undercurrents and chambers below the water which have taken a number of lives over the years.

Innocent looking but deadly.

Barden tower a 15th Century hunting lodge now lies in ruins flashes by to my left as I pass more walkers heading in the direction of Bolton Abbey, fancy ornate bridges are crossed before heading across brief sections of road and into more farmland before I enter the small parish of Burnsall, I take the opportunity to take in the local delights and consume a fine bacon sandwich and cup of tea, a chicken wanders around the tables offering a distraction from the multitude of people wandering around the village.

As I headed off, I could see the clouds beginning to descend on the hills behind me, I quickly took shelter under the bridge and clad my body in my waterproofs and braced myself for the coming wetness, I passed the day walkers who were not as prepared as myself for the rain, some took shelter under trees and some just grin and bared it. The river was now taking on a more rough and ready appearance, as it coursed over the rocky outcrops and provided some fantastic weirs near to Hebden. I took a seat at an interesting spot, the seat carved from a tree trunk made a good spot for an insta shot, a short trot over a bouncy bridge which I took delight in making it bounce even more much to the bemusment of onlookers.

I was soon coming into the village of Grassington, it was an odd feeling to be around so many people early on, all my other parks I had walked away from people and into people barely seeing anyone for days on end. As nice as Grassington was, it was a little busy for me, I stopped had a few moments where I had some pop and set off, glad to be leaving the busy place behind me.

fancy bridge to Grassington

From here I took to my first lofty climb up wards onto Lea Green, the whole area a site once dominated by a medieval village, the area is a series of lumps and bumps in the landscape and has been in occupation since the Bronze age. The local cow population now the only residents here, along with a few walkers of course, the land took in a more isolated feel, with the large looming crags of the moors to my right and left you feel a tad enclosed, but this was proper hill walking country and just the type of terrain I loved.

I managed to catch a group of walkers along the way who were contemplating what to do about the group of cows congregating around the style, I wandered up and clapped my hands making the heard move until I came across the rather muscle buttocks of a bull, he just looked at me and I at him before I walked around the large chap and on wards. From here the route takes you over an escarpment overlooking Conistone, but the views were spectacular, to the left lay Kilnesy Crag, Kettlewell to the centre right and Hawswick moor in front, a perfect Yorkshire valley view. I took a moment and snapped some shots of the vast landscape ahead of me before setting off.

I caught up to a group of walkers here, now they irritated me alot every time I went through a style or gate after them they had decided not to latch or in some instances close the things, I’m not sure why people are so lazy but i takes a few seconds to do this and prevents livestock from running away and getting injured of lost. Its a basic country side rule, always close gates after you.

I decided to run past them all and took delight in passing the entire group very quickly and making a point of shutting the gates loudly, I was soon heading down a steep path and onto a minor road and into Kettlewell, I was by now fed up the constant climbing of the narrow walled styles, I must have climb 100 over the day and they definitely made your legs ache.

lazy walkers

Kettlewell came into view and my camp for the night, I set up my tent near to the shower block which afforded me some protection from the wind coming over, after showering I begged some tea bags from another group who were happy to do this, a little later a lady popped over and offered me a few cans of pop, I thanked her greatly for these and she stated ‘its the mother in me’ I’m not sure if she felt sorry for me or worried but I accepted the pop, I had also chatted with another group who were admiring my one man tent, I chatted and told them of my adventure which they seemed suitably impressed by, especially after telling them that I was 28miles in for the day.

camp at last

Fed, watered and clean I climb into my quilt and lay dozing on and off, by 7pm the rain came and briefly went before descending again, people once laughing and enjoying the late evening sun scampered inside their tents for shelter.

Operation day

Returning home from a week in hospital feels emotional, I sit and enjoy a takeaway with the family, the kids laughing rake up emotional feelings in me, I make my excuse and take myself off for a bath. Listening to their laughter feels at odds with the recent few days and diagnosis.

We wait a few weeks, numerous calls to the surgery department bring the same result, top of list, no beds due to covid. I spend my days just pottering around and building lego to try and occupy myself. I restrict my activities to very little, my wife keeping tabs on my movements.

We move the wedding forward, under special circumstances, we gather at the registry office and the ceremony is quicker than I thought it would be, I cry, kerry cries. Our witnesses sign the forms and we are now Mr and Mrs Creighton.

An hour before we leave for the wedding the call comes and I get the date, 4th March, brain tumor day. I attend the hospital, kiss kerry goodbye and inform her where to look for the essential information and last wishes files. You never think you’d need to, but this proves that you never know.

I spend a night in a side room, watch TV and make calls, the next day dawns and I done the sexy gown and lacey hospital knickers and I am escorted to theatre. Everyone is nice and welcoming. A quick injection and I’m fast asleep.

3hrs later I awake in recovery surrounded by people, the Dr comes to see me and I’m my post op haze I’m told it was all a success. No more tumor.

Things don’t go as planned though, my catheter seems to have rejected and after having been touched every which way from Sunday, a super pubic catheter is in place, a further complication to my already odd life. There is nothing I can do but accept my fate and go with the flow.

4days in hospital and I’m allowed home, a few people pass through and I chat with my other bed fellows which helps to pass the time. We speak to the kids more about what is going on, but nothing specific. I’m restricted to doing very little, carrying around a bag of wee presents new issues for me now.

Cancer day

Thursday 9th Feb, I get a drive out today, the transport takes me from Walsall Manor and drives the 30minutes to the Qeeun Elizabeth in Birmingham. My first outing in nearly a week.

Kerry gets to meet me there, the nurse with me today is pleasant and jolly, we chat crap about the world, about nursing and about the covid crisis and our worries as nhs staff what will happen. It all helps to relax me from the inevitable news to come.

Wintery outside

I’ve not slept properly for about a week now, hospitals are a noisey and boisterous place, alarms, staff and patients snoring create a rather awful fan fair of music to relax by.

Day trip out

We arrive and find our clinic, me and kerry sit together and I cry periodically at what is to come, cry at the memories I’ve had and things I’ve experienced, thankful in one breath and sad in another. Cancer waiting rooms are probably the most depressing waiting room, they come with an palpable air of misery and upset.

Whilst we wait I can hear other conversations, an elderly lady can’t have anymore operations, her tumor is to large and risky, her family comfort her and kerry asks if I want to move away from thus area, I reason what’s the point, the whole place is depressing really, another man sits waiting, his first appointment like me, he looks worried like me.

40 minutes and the meeting is done, I’m explained that I have renal cell carcinoma or kidney cancer, the brain tumor is secondary. It appears to cause no concerns and is simply just on the surface of my brain. The Dr makes this all sound quite benine in nature, no more than a few hours of surgery and it’s all done and dusted.

The blob in my head

It seemed odd, quite matter of fact, the brain is complex but the surgery is everyday. Risk are there but as I have said to kerry, I’ve had so many operations in the past that being told I could die is quite common.

We leave feeling a tad more buoyed by the news, I have cancer, I need to own it, fight it and make myself comfortable for the inevitable long journey ahead.

Me, myself and cancer

It seems 2021 was not meant to be the year I had quite envisaged, in February I turned the 40, I was suffering from the effects of having had covid in November 2020 struggling to move away from the longer term effects of lethargy and breathing difficulties.

It seemed that long covid would dominate my life, 2 months post illness I was finding life difficult, long periods of tiredness and general fatigued plagued everyday with bouts of insomnia and sleeping for 15+ hours had pretty much stopped any grand plans for adventure.

4 weeks headaches had started to target me, this was knew. Low grade general headaches, slowly getting worse and making it difficult to move around, the act of bending a cause for pause and consideration. I carried on doing little odd jobs around the home, redecorated my eldest daughters bedroom and built her a new wall mounted book case, built another wardrobe and even started to decorate our bedroom. All the time fighting these headaches and lethargy.

I remember that week well, Monday I had spoke to my gp, him sat nicely at home on the phone seemed to think it was a good idea I returned to work after having 2 months off, I worriedly explained that I couldn’t even bend down these days, let alone concentrate on work or driving.

He ignored my pleas, in favour of getting me back to work and ‘normality’ I knew this was never going to happen. That week I got gradually worse, 2 periods of thunder clap headaches the worse pain one could ever feel. A feeling that a metal spike was being driven through my brain making me feel as if I was going to die. The act of going to the toilet was an game of chance, I often refer to it now as ‘dying like Elvis’, never knowing if having a simple poo would be my last.

Kerry became more concerned and threatened 999, I rang 111 and spoke to my gp but still no real answer, I opted to attend AnE, our thoughts then were of high blood pressure nothing more.

With in a few hours I was being told I had suffered a brain hemorrhage and needed admitting to hospital. The words of tumour and growth and mass were bounded around thst evening whilst I sat in ambulatory care, no one could say for definate what was happening. I know now that I wa close to having a stroke or worse at my AnE attendance, my brain had began to cone, my squidgy pink mass starting to be pushed through the small skull opening and getting dangerously close to my spinal cord.

I was started on medication that evening and for the first time, no headaches, 2 months of almost constant discomfort where gone and I was able to settle and relax. The next week became a massive whirlwind of people, tests, scans and news. Each Dr’s visit seemed to bring worse news, the hemorrhage disappeared and was replaced with word tumor, a growth in my kidney was then found, starting at a cist and quickly esculating into a growth and then Cancer.

These snippets of information given in 10 minutes segments just seemed to mess with my mental health, I became tearful, labile, worried, not worried. Bored and frustrated at everything around me. I wasn’t even sure where life would now take me.

Cancer, what a word, I was fit, well and healthy. I did everything I should do, ate little meat, barely drank alcohol, didn’t smoke, although covid had put pain to my running I was still fit. Non of it made sense. I took the decision to pour positive attitude into this new adventure, I couldn’t be angry, who would I be angry at, it was no ones fault, just my time.

Mountain running

It’s not often these that my legs get to hit some serious hills, so when we recently took a week long break in the heart of the Western Lakes, you can bet I was chomping at the bit to get out.

Our little cottage nestled just outside of Bassenthwaite afforded a superb view of the accompanying fells and hills, with Skidaw providing the looming focus.

Washing up with a view.

With Wednesday set as ‘my day’ I eagerly reviewed OS mapping and examined the Ridge line heading up towards the top.

Groaning, the alarm sprang to life at 4.30am, the world outside remained dark as I attempted to carry a well rehearsed nightime nija manoeuvre so as not to wake anyone, with porridge consumed and trainers fixed to my feet, I left adventure dog at home due to the humid temperature outside and off I set into dark morning.

The world outside still bathed in a dark blue hue, I ran the short distance into Bassenthwaite winding my way through the still sleepy streets and threading out onto empty country lanes that held no names, the little hamlet of Burthwaite passed quickly before crossing Walk Mill Bridge.

View back across Bassenthwaite

I passed one local out walking their dog who seemed to eye me with suprise, I bid good morning before stopping to admire the inversion which held sway over Bassenthwaite and the outer edges of the lake.

I hoped onto the footpath near to Barkbeth Hill and followed the steep hill towards Ling How and the start of a relatively short but sharp ascent towards the top of Skidaw.

It has been some time since I have had the pleasure of any meaningful hill and my legs definitely reminded me of that fact. It wasn’t long before I was bringing out the ‘win sticks’ to provide me with some extra momentum upwards.

Sheep in the mist

As I climbed The Ridge, I stopped periodically to take in one of the most amazing views behind me, the inversion had shifted little and continued to emerse the valley below in a mysterious and otherworldly aura.

I noticed behind me and quickly gaining ground on me, a solitary walker, I took this as a race and set off determined to beat my unknown foe to the top, after all I can’t let a mere walker beat now can I.

The long Ridge

My particular route seemed to vear away from the main throng of day walkers, the path made up of boulders and small craggy outcrops with loose shale in betwee5kep me alert and on my feet. With a rather severe drop either side this was the place to be miss-placing my step. My walker foe appeared to have slowed on the final steep ascent of Ulock Picke and once summited I took off running along The Long Ridge.

This equally nifty ridge line gave me that all important Kilian esq feeling as my feet danced across the boulderous pathway. I was thankful of the now downward path that took me towards Carl Side tarn, the local sheep hangout now found, it looked a tad rough for me so I plodded on, happy that I had massively increased my lead over my opponent.

From here however, the landscape took a decidingly upward slant, the path became almost vertical as my win sticks dug in deep to move me forward, I stopped briefly, drank water and ate some breakfast before making my final push to the top.

Ullock Pike

I edged over the Ridge and onto Skidaw proper, the sun rising and desperately trying to burn off the haze from the morning. I touched the trig, took some photos before taking in the hazey views all around me, a mom and son were bid good morning and I began to descend down towards Sale How a more boggier route it would seem. I did consider cutting across as per my usual routine but opted for sticking to actual paths today.

Skidaw proper
The boggy option

I passed by a large house sat smack bang in the middle of open and dramatic countryside. I learn later that this is a YHA and can be privately rented, no road access so a brisk walk in but what a place to stop.

Cumbrian Way.

I hoped onto the Cumbria way and headed North East towards home. I took a dip in a cooling stream before coming to the conclusion that my my inner thighs where now chaffing some what, I took some moist moss from a near-by bank and strategically placed it, instant relief, along with sitting my hot arse in every river I came across certainly helped.

The path was easy to follow and required no navigation from me, I was soon coming upon Whitewater Dash Falls and what a site to behold, it never ceases to astound me the power of these waterways, carving out the landscape.

Dash Falls

A few people were passed along the way as I headed along pathways leading to disused mines and rolling farmlands, crossing a road I passed by Peter House Farm and followed the conveniant White dots painted onto trees and walls.

Fields crossed and cows avoided, I entered into Bassenthwaite and took the opertunity to eat some rather delicious plums overhanging the pathway, I loved last year, wandering and eating wild berries and fruits and these were super sweet. The village was a little more alive now, people wandered around and children played.

My few hours up Skidaw reminded me why I love the wilder places, routes that are a little more dramatic to run and walk. Having been absent from my home turf for a prolonged time, I definitely miss this landscape, ancient, bold and dramatic and complete with thousands of years worth of history.

Park run, the end?

Having thoroughly enjoyed myself exploring the quieter areas of mighty Snowdonia national park, I was pretty buoyed to be heading off again on my final leg of this amazing adventure.

The plan was fairly simple, do the middle, that is to join up sections between Bala and Harlach that I had yet to complete, a journey of around 30 miles or so once looped.

I arrived early to my spot, the land still shed it darkness, it was a little after 7am on a rather chilly November morning, the frost had crept in over the last few weeks and the world glistened and sparked in the pale morning light as I drove to my destination. Dolhendre Isaf is better known for the little caravan park that offers some amazing door step adventures, I had checked google before hand seeking a car park or a space to plonk my car and was pleased to see a little spot just over a bridge, however when I arrived some building work had taken place and the space was now a dumping ground for a rather large pile of hardcore. I drove back and forth unsure where to park and finally settled on sticking it next to the phone box which seemed to be out of the way of traffic.

Early morning sunrise

I changed into my gear, prepped Millie and off we set, the familiar beep of my watch starting signaled Millie to start running (she is well trained to this now), the roads here held little in the way of name, my original plan was to head off onto Castell Cardochan and run west across the open area of Waun y Grifafolen, but having discussed with people more familiar with the area and hearing of the certainty of the bog of doom, I opted to navigate around this area and instead took a footpath that linked Craig-y-tan and Baurthmeni.

As per my usual routine, my path became something of a mission in itself, I was pretty certain that this was rather less than visited area, the absence of footpath signs and any actual path on the ground signaled the usual palaver of getting temporarily misplaced in the space. Despite this the world began to come alive with a color I have become familiar with over the course of running Wales, a pink hue bathed the land in the most amazing glow, the crystal white frost picking up the warm pinks and red.

I trudged across the land, familiar with the wet that seeps from underneath in Wales, we walked some and ran some, stopping periodically to recheck my position, a farmer looked on but paid me no more attention as I definitely looked lost. Across from Coed Dolfudr I took the path across a small footbridge here I had to utilise the handle on my Gopro to bash open the latch, frozen solid in the early morning it was fairly impossible to open otherwise.

I joined the road by the farm, but as I neared what was supposed to be the footpath, I lost track of where it went. A farm sat stead fast in the way with no actual sign the path was there, a rather boisterous farm dog sounded its disapproval at our presence and with no visible through road I opted not to try this and instead try to cross the river further up.

From the farm, I was able to spot a rather impressive looking waterfall in the distance and started making my way to it. Again there was no formal path, so the usual slog through the undergrowth was had as I headed in its general direction, the roaring and elemental sound produced by big waterfalls always fills me with a sense of wonder. I stood for a few moments and gazed at the sight, before following a rough sheep track along the Afon Lliw, having seen that the footpath ran directly opposite my side, I intended to try and cross and thus rejoining the path at this part, unfortunately this was not going to be possible, despite the river only being some 5/6ft wide, it was more than waist deep and ran quickly, with the temp today below 3, taking a dip was not on the cards and I had to make the decision to turn back, this pretty much dealt a death blow to my plans to complete Snowdonia, only 20 miles short I had no choice, there was no real way of joining this up and my time was short.

Looking back from where I had come

I headed back down to the road, passed the farm and took another look for the path, which appeared to go straight across the farm yard, but with both gates tied shut, there was no real way of getting through. I ran the road, not passing another person, in fact in the whole time I had been out so far I had not seen anyone else. People often talk about how busy Snowdonia is, yes the actual mountain is, but Snowdonia national park is a lot bigger than one place.

The roads are barely used in this part of the world, life is quiet here, roads are covered in moss and grass advertising the lack of footfall, all the while the hills of Moel Llyfnant and Ban y Merddwr capped in a dusting of snow offered a glimpse into an alpine style view and adventures yet to be had.

I backtracked following the route with ease, passing dense forests and quiet lanes and farms, I cut through the dense and rather spooky woodland of Coed Wanalt, despite the rather spooky nature of this still and quite woodland, I cant help but feel more at home in its presence than other habbitats, a short and downward paths led me towards the back of the caravan park where I was soon back at my car.

I made the decision to head back where I had come from and make the ascent to Castle Carndochan, there was no formal footpaths signs here, a dirt track led upwards past newly installed electrical substation and past disused mine workings where gold was mined up until 1902, quartz boulders were also found scattered around the hillside and contained gold. perhaps it was worked during the castles time and the Roman presence in the area may not have gone un-noticed but there is little archaeological evidence to suggest they mined here.

There was a steep gradual climb up along a rough farm track where the direction of the track dictated I cover some rougher uneven ground, more bog followed and slowly the remains of the castle began to take shape. I have always been more fascinated by the boulder/rubble remains of castles than actual still standing castles, they were remarkably well preserved with quite well defined structures, the lay out still noticeable today.

From this vantage point, it offers an outstanding view across to Lake Bala and the Roman fort of Caer Gari, although there is little evidence to suggest the Romans occupied this area, but given its strategic point it would hard for the Romans to have not had anything here. I looked out across my original planed route, which from the vantage appeared quite a straight forward affair, but I was made aware that the area was pot marked with underground streams, hidden bogs and other risky walking bit that would make any crossing difficult even in good weather.

The end of Parkrun

I recorded a Facebook video, mulled over my time spent running across all the parks and you know what, I’m happy. I didn’t fully complete my ultimate goal, but I have learned a lot about myself and my abilities. what I am capable of and that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve some pretty awesome things.

Frosty Snowdonia

These were carried out pre- lockdown, some that I have forgotten to write up last November.

With the first foray into the mighty Snowdonia national park, I was definitely pumped to start the next round, this time I opted to start at the other end, a small sea side village called Harlech, a castle built in the 13th Century holds sway over the lowlands and offered protection from the marauding Welsh tribes and part of the ring of Iron constructed by the Normal Conquests of England.

The journey in was an adventure in it’s self, the car beeped at me signalling a temp of -2.5, a frosty mist hung over the roads with some smaller parts covered in ice, as I drove I struggled to see more that 10ft and the twisting nature of the B4391 made for a scary journey across open and foreboding moorland, the speed kept to a steady 20mp as I edged my way through a cold and icy mist towards my starting destination.

Setting out from Harlech

I was soon pulling into the car park and I have to say pleased to see the the cost of parking was very reasonable, I tore myself from the warmth of my car and began getting myself and adventure pup ready. We set forth briefly running into Harlech before taking off up a rather steep section of road, the view behind was nothing short of spectacular, the sun began to rise spreading a cold sunny glow over the land, the roads and grass verges sparkled like jewels in the light and offered glorious company in what was otherwise a very isolated run.

We passed only one person over the course of 2 miles before coming upon a rather wonderful standing stone (yes my route was planed around this), Fonlief Hair is an ancient track-way and consist of 5 standing stones, as with many megalithic structures they sit perfectly in their environments and hint at a larger purpose as yet undiscovered.

A simple little used road, the center overgrown with a mossy and grassy blanket provided an easy surface the run, following its twists and turns all the while the rugged and inviting hills of Foel Ddu flanked my approach. The roads here held no names, covered in a mossy blanket they saw little motorised traffic and lured the outdoors lover further into the hills, Cwm-yr-Afon car park went by, before I again began to climb and hit the first of the cold wet paths along farm land. We hopped the styles and gates with ease and took dainty steps around the wild goats, this was a first for me as I never knew that Snowdonia had wild goats until today. Their large circular horns made them an impressive foe stood atop the gnarled rocky outcrops above me, but thankfully they were more scared of us and moved on.

Gloyw Lyn Lake

I made sure to take my time and look at the most amazing vistas that followed and surrounded me, I began a climb along wet and marshy ground heading toward Glowyn Lyn the air frosty and with a little bite made for good company, the path became a little indistinct and I became a little confused as I tried to find what should of been a rather large lake, I scratched my head as I struggled to locate it, I muttered to Millie and took a slightly different route and there like an oasis in a desert it appeared.

It shimmered in the early morning cold sun, providing a perfect reflective surface for the mountains that surrounded it, I took up a seat in the slightly cold heather and ate a delicious Outdoor Provisions bar, Millie partook of this as well and gives her paws up. I snapped some photos and took note for a wild camp the following year, here was a truly wild place, void of any people or noise. I set off along the wet path and made a steady and steep scrambling climb along what I thought was the path but as I began to descend the path slowly gave way to just overgrown fields, I cut across the ground and headed for the high point of Foel Ddu here lay in wait a rather larger flock of goats, they eyed us but again made a hasty retreat over the ridge and out of site.

For some reason Millie began to look behind us, it made me a tad paranoid as if we were being followed. At this point my knee began to hurt, the familiar sting of weak arse muscles now rearing their ugly head and making it difficult to run down any hills. From Hen Dolbedin I took a myriad of different paths, having to negotiate very overgrown lanes and rather dodgy iron styles where rails gave way as I gingerly climb over them, having to carry the dog over each made for heavy and difficult going.

I made a specific beeline for the burial chamber of Gwern Einion, it was a little difficult to access as the path is somewhat non existent, I managed to locate it behind an old and ruined farm building, a quick hop of a wall and what a find, I understand that it has been damaged over time as most of these places have, used or dismembered by farmers for other purposes. Still it offers a little look back into a bygone age.

From here I followed my OS app, the green line roughly pointing me in the correct way, well almost, it pretty much led me into a rather large swamp the ground swaying and moving under my feet as I attempted to not sink to my death. Millie on the other hand just looked at me I’m not sure if it was disgust or enjoyment. Once extricated from the swamp of death the path became more normal and as I passed the remains of an old slate mine, the giant banks of slate appeared to hold up the hillside here offering a glimpse of a time long gone

The view back along the little A-road afforded some fantastic view over the beach of Harlech and people went about their Sunday routines of washing cars and tending to pretty gardens. I was soon arriving back at the car, a little warmer and happier at my route for the day. With 15 miles covered it was a splendid day out.

Inviting but very cold

The year of gear

As we sit around wondering what to do with ourselves at the moment, I thought it would be a good idea to do a round up of the kit I used over the #projectparkrun2019.

The Klymit Static V insulated sleeping pad has to be the stand out item I have used this year. weighing in at around 560kg it is roughly the size of a 1 ltr pop bottle. Obviously the insulated nature comes at a higher weigh gain but from kipping out in -6 temps in January I have to say it is worth it. The material it self is kind to the body, one that does not make you overly sweaty and the design of the raised platform conforms nicely to the body offering a wide base to rest easily on. It’s R Value (thermal conductivity) of 4.4 means that you get a good nights sleep  in the coldest of temps, most of the heat loss will be from below as the ground sucks the warmth from you so you need to invest in something that will last and do the job well.

Cumlus Quilt 350– there were a lot of doubters out there who felt that a quilt would not provide enough warmth and comfort for a years worth of adventure in all weathers, In the 12 months I have been using it, I can say that I have never felt cold at any time. Now I’m not saying this will be everyone, I sleep fairly warm anyway. It is light, extremely compressible due to the down and offers a pretty good warmth ratio for the design. During January I coupled this with a silk liner and survival bivvy but ended up to hot. It clips onto the underside so provides a snug fit from drafts and has a little foot box for the feet. I worried about condensation and I guest that will depend largely on the type of tent used as well and the ventilation offered, it has been damp on the odd occasions but never caused any significant issues at all.

Tent Ferrino Lightent– I toyed with 2 tents this year, the faithful little one man and the more recent acquisition of Flames Creed 1 The Ferinno served me well over the course of 13 parks but I did feel that it became a little tight inside at times, as the weather changed I was left with no where to cook outside, this meant finding a sheltered spot or cooking inside the rather small porch which is never ideal. To add to this, there is limited height which means that you cannot sit up and end up laying down all the time. I cant really fault it though, having seen out some extreme weather and rain it has held up well and been reliable. Quick and easy to assemble I had it down to an art of only 5min. Its a pitch inner first so if it is raining you have to be quick to get it put together. I have re-proofed it this year, that’s more for my peace of mind than actually needing to be done. This has been a great, low profile wild camping tent that doesn’t cost the equivalent to a small second hand car.

The Flames Creed 1 was a new purchase from Ali Express, at only £100 ish and under the 900kg mark it was a good buy for the weight, these are pretty much knock offs of the far more expensive MSR type brands which retail for rather large sums of money. I only go to use this once of the fated Scotland trip where the rather crazy level of rain put a stop to my adventure. Before leaving I have erected this in my garden at home and applied some proofer to certain point I had read about online. On arriving at camp I set it up but really struggled to get the porch correct and it was a tad limp, but saying that it is roomy, it was a pleasure to sit up inside a tent and cook and be dry. It held up reasonably well in the weather, but where the guy line attach to the tent, water would ingress around the stitching and leaked onto my head and feet. This would be a simple application of sealant to the area but i am pretty happy with its first use.

Jetboil– there are numerous version of the little pot of awesomeness, there are also quite a few knock off versions that I have heard about and read many reviews for. I Have use a Jetboil for over 3 years on different adventures, the only issue I had was with a previous version where the auto lighter stopped working and I had no other way of lighting the stove (don’t worry I went to the Pub), other than this I haven’t had any issues at all. I have read a lot of tales around the melting of them? I’m not sure why this has occurred some perhaps through improper use as you have to use the correct pans etc. It all depends on what you want to cook, I’m happy with freeze dried foods that just takes water to eat, you could cook actual food as you can buy frying pans and so on.

Bags– I used 2 bags during this adventure, the first being my faithful OMM Classic 32l, one which I have used since taking up fastpacking. I loved this bag when I first used it, the fit was second to non and it held well on my back with little movement or issues. I was able to extend the capacity by buying the add on items, such as a compression sack for the front, small pouches on the straps and also other little add on bits can take this up to 45ltr. It holds well but I found after a number of uses the shoulder straps begin to pinch and where hurting, this was remedied by adding some extra padding and it was again comfortable. I did find that at times I seemed to be messing more with packing stuff in and it became a little bothersome.

The other bag I made use of over the later months of 2019 was the Fjallraven Abisko Friluft 35, now it seems daft to exchange the same size for the same size but from having used it, it is far roomier than the OMM. It comes with a heavier weight and the ‘new’ price is scary ( I bought mine second hand), but the fit is unreal, despite loading up with around 8/9kg of gear i cant say i noticed it. the framed back, chest, waist and shoulder straps once adjusted offer an almost floating fit to the back, there was limited movement when running and no worry about trying to fit in all my gear which was just thrown in with room to spare. This has now become my go to bag for future multi-day trips.

Food– through the journey I relied on freeze dried food from various manufacturers, but have seemed to favor the summit to eat ones. I found overall that they all lacked salt and pepper, but they were hearty meals, quick and simple to prepare and the taste was fairly good. You can source them cheaper than the main website if you shop around. Its worth noting that I would eat one of these a day, Breakfast would consist of porridge if I felt hungry in the morning and then snack items during the day such as chocolate, harribo and sesame seed snaps. I wasn’t much of an eater when running and my body adapted to a reduced diet. Over the course of the day, I think I would be lucky to push 2000 calories overall but seemed to have managed well and never really felt massively fatigued.

Clothing– a purely personal choice here, in the colder days I would opt for leggings and short combo with a thermal top. To sleep in would pretty much be the same but clean and dry gear. I cant say I was every really cold, once on Exmoor simply through misjudging the sleeping gear. I took with me an Alpkit synthetic jacket for the cooler nights and sometimes jogging bottoms. Socks were the usual affair with a stint trying out waterproof ones, there ok for a few runs but once washed seem to loose their waterproof ability, but during winter running they keep the feet warm. Waterproofs are always a bone of contention, I used the gear from Decathlon, their trail running jackets and bottoms, but I have learned all waterproofs are only waterproof for a short time and tend to wet out after a few hours of heavy down pours. So bear in mind paying hundreds of pounds wont mean you will get anything more waterproof. I have found the Decathlon gear to be pretty good and reliable, some has lasted well, some hasn’t.

Trainers– One of the most important aspects, I tended to stick to what I knew and ran almost entirely in Innov8 Rocklites through the parks. These were great trainers and remained comfortable through out, the only time I struggled was during the Norfolk Broads where only full on trail runners would of worked in the sticky and slippy mud.

Gear I broke– 12 months of extreme running can have its effect on gear, socks where often thrown away, the smell to much even for the boil setting on the washing machine, gloves were a constant need as the stitching failed from the cold, wet weather. One set of waterproof bottoms went after an unfortunate event with a barbed wire fence, whilst 2 sets of legging wore out or tore. One Jetboil broke and couldn’t be repaired, one pair of trainers also gave way in the usual places. Waterproof jacket mainly as I could’t reproof it fully.

The art of nothing

I sit, atop a small hillock, taking time to just enjoy being there in the moment, my time spent watching a sunset, a sunrise or the stars. Life at these points is as simple as it can be, my luxurious derriere becomes my makeshift cushion for the evenings entertainment of nature at its finest.

Nature carries on and provides no second glance, just another new anomaly in the landscape to be weary of for next time, wandering and running has taught me my level of need, the simple equation of stuff=comfort sustained me over each and every park I crossed.

Solitude

It has taught me what I am capable of and also what I am not, teaching me humility and respect for the natural environment that I choose to inhabit for brief periods of time. Wandering for multiple days teaches you something very important, that want does not equal need.

In my home I have numerous objects and belongings which I believe make my life easier and happier, like anyone I love buying something new and shiny the momentary joy then subsides and the item is left to the side to be stared at for months and not used. I’ve long held that these items are just that, items, they mean little in the grand scheme of things other than brief glimpses of enjoyment and they contribute little to my general feeling of contentedness.

Walking for days across the remotest parts of the UK helps one to strip back that life, to get back to what simplicity of need over want. Maslow would argue that there are 5 different levels of need in order to be fully content or happy, psychologically speaking, that each level needs to be fulfilled before moving onto the next but in reality it is much simpler than that, its subjective what one person believes to be the need is not the case for others.

My 9kg of basic items sustained me through my various treks, warmth came from a few clothes and my sleeping bag, shelter from my little tent and food in the form of dried meals gave me sustenance to fuel my journey. The simple act of seeking a warm drink and cake became an event in itself, one to savour the reward of hard work, the warm sweet liquid coursing into my body and warming and reviving every part of me.

It was simple, no frills, living my life confined into a 40ltr bag of items that provided everything that the body and mind required for the purpose, I laugh, that little chuckle of amusement when I read blogs or posts around what is the top 10 essential items for camping or running, some people make doo with a little bivvy bag and sleeping bag, others carry 14kg of kit for a single overnight camp in the wild. Bulging bags adorn the backs of weary campers who trod like laden snails across the countryside in search of that ‘break from society’ but inherently we are all a little unwilling to give up some connections to society.

I’m no different in this respect, I fully enjoy the stripped back living arrangements, but the warmth and comfort of a shower always held a certain sway for me and lure me in like a sirens call, but its greeting and welcome are brief and the next day I leave again for the unknown.

How much kit? “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” Socrates. If a Greek philosopher was aware of this at a time when people had far less than we do now then why dose it escape us today. You learn a lot being away from the safety of home, lessons that I feel will improve my wellbeing.

For me its not about being happy with stuff, it’s about being content with what I already have in my life.

Simplicity of nature

Starting Snowdonia

I have to admit since my return from Scotland I have been a tad lazy, but in my defence I had a small bout of the flu again followed by a dodgy stomach so running has taken a little back seat.

Finally after weeks of promising myself I decided that I would make a start on crossing Snowdonia, I had tried to figure a few routes in the weeks leading up to this, the original route was some 90 miles but given the way in which I had to do this there was little time for this run and with the advent of winter snow now topping the higher climbs I decided to opt for a less crazier route of around 30 miles.

The final route commenced in a little town named Bala, a small historic market town on the edge of Snowdonia national park, once famous for making stockings apparently.

It was an early start at 5 am, a journey that would take me some 2 hrs in total, once past the M54 the route cut its way around some fantastic roads, you could almost imagine being nestled in a miniature Alps. Being stuck behind a slow moving lorry gave me ample opportunity to fully enjoy the drive in.

Looking back on Bala

I parked up in a little car park and was pleasantly surprised at how cheap it was for a full day here, making ready adventure pooch, I rechecked my route and set off towards the first climb of the day, we crossed the quiet main road and cut up a little path by the side of a housing estate. I took a look back and marvelled at the inversion creeping in off the lake below, I joined a brief section of road followed by some very damp grass, road and more damp grass. As I cross the second field I became a little lost as the path seemed to dip in and out of existence.

Underfoot became increasingly wetter and I was soon waterlogged, a short hill climb led me to an amazing view of Lake Bala which at this early hour was now bathed in an eerie mist which spread across the valley like a slowly moving monster consuming the view as it went. A short climb followed as I topped Moel y Garnedd, I took the time to admire the early morning view (the video you may have seen) and set off in a rough direction of my path.

Spooky morning

Once again I had manged to find no path on the ground and tread the many lumps and bumps of tough grass through a bog, Millie in her element just carried on happily through the dampness. The roads were quiet, you wouldn’t have thought I was in Snowdonia, I crossed more fields and met a few gates that were tied shut, this was to become a regular feature of today. Having to haul a 15kg dog over gates, fences and styles was not fun.

Having followed a short road towards a farm, the path cut across the edge of a forest, the overgrown and little used, underfoot was sqidgy and springy affair thanks to the abundant and extremely damp moss, careful footing was needed as I tried to avoid sinking anywhere, cows watched with amusement as I went by, I always wonder what they are thinking as they watch me amble by. The forest beside the small hillock of Y Lordship contained a fine and dense collection of conifers, the ground all over covered in a soft and damp carpet of moss, any routes that braved to show above the ground became clothed in the ever present moss, it added a sense of maturity to my route and is always a sign of good air quality.

We stopped at the top of a rather steep climb, water was taken and a wonderful outdoor provisions bar shared with the pup before I was once setting off again, I took what I thought was the path only to be met by nothing but a ditch, a quick climb to my left showed that I was in fact running along a ditch and the path was just above me, the route now split between damp steamy and rock, running was easier than had been and a slow pace was once again taken up as I neared the 8 mile mark.

I had wanted to go to 15 but I was already feeling the rough route, my lack of running since Scotland was defiantly showing as my legs became heavy and unwilling to do what I wanted of them. I passed the little hill of Bryn Cau and decided to cut down the road here and loop back, this would take me to some 18 miles for the day which I felt was more than enough. From my vantage point here it offered an expansive of the area with a view that wouldn’t look out of place in the lake district, it was wild and remote but strangely there was a car parked here.

My route down was much kinder to me, consisting of a rough gravelly track it thread a way past yet more stunning little hills, offering a rather majestic horse a spot to look stunning stood atop and watching me go by. I passed small farms who waved me as I passed and was treated to a stunning view across the little valley towards Craig-y-tan, the whole area was awash with the fiery colours of Autumn. Red, amber and umber browns dotted the landscape and gave the appearance of a valley on fire. This was the time to be out in the hills, crisp clean air and little cloud provided a stunning backdrop to the route.

Before long I was dropping down into the little village of Lanuwchllyn where interestingly the majority of people here speak Welsh and was home the author Owen Morgan Edwards. It was peaceful here, with only a few people coming and going and I was able to pass through quickly, I entered the little railway station that served to take tourist along the shores of Lake Bala and after a quick search my route crossed up and through some nasty and deep mud, Millie again wasn’t bothered by this fact and happily pulled me along into deeper mud.

Famous folk

A short road section followed by a climb up Lech Weddystrad and another sit down to take in the enormous view provided by not only Lake Bala but of the route I had just come from, there is nothing more heartening than the views of rugged hills to provide a sense of adventure, I was now on the Cambrian Way but as I started to descend, my knee began to provide the simple and unmistakable feeling that it was no longer happy. A sharp and stabbing pain wrapped itself around my knee, I hadn’t felt this for some months and I was pretty sure it was due to the fact that I had not run for some time.

I opted to stick to the road as I knew my knee could longer provide the support of running down hills, luckily it was extremely quiet on the roads and I was able to bimbler along undisturbed. The line was in the process of being repaired and men busied themselves on short sections providing a nice little distraction, I marvelled at the views across the lake and passed some stunning homes.

Before long I was passing again into the outskirts of Bala, crossing a bridge and again treated to a stunning view of the Lake, a man had even parked up his van to capture what could easily be a work of art that could adorn any gallery, 18.5 miles finished the day off, my knee ached but I was wholly satisfied with the route I had chosen.

Snowdonia was definitely a magnificent place to be running so far.

Stunning Lake Bala

2019

The year begins to come to an end and it becomes a time of reflection for everyone as we go over how the year has turned out.

What a year I have had, I’ve covered a 1000miles, climb the equivalent of Everest in asent and seem some amazing things, its been hard at times but this it what I was looking for, an out of my comfort zone adventure like no other.

You’ve watched, followed and commented on my journey, supported the charities and supported me along the way and for that I thank you all for every bit of support you have all given.

I didn’t quite complete the 14 parks, just narrowly missing the mighty Cairngorms but its a lesson learned (Scotland is wet) and one I can take with me for the coming year. We’ve raised nearly £500 for the 2 charities which is great in its self and the page has grown to a whopping 700 odd people which I still find crazy.

One thing I will ultimately take from this year is that whilst being out of my comfort zone I am distinctly in it at the same time, trodding the non paths, getting lost, going where no one else has for 100’s of years does not feel alien at all to me, I can instead say that I feel completely at home in the unknown and have revelled in the discovery of places long forgotten.

Its given a greater sense of the ‘wilder place’ the UK has and that despite the issues around over use of some of our more popular parks there are hidden gems beset with oodles of solitude provided freely.

So what does 2020 hold for me, my biggest adventure next year, getting married to the lovely Mrs Beard in May (its only taken 9 years), I have some ideas but nothing concrete.

Cairngorms still needs to be completed, but this means I can plan a different route, maybe a combination of running and kayaking across the mighty park. Id love to take my adventure running up a  notch and complete some fantastic ridge lines around the UK taking in the scary edge of Crib Goch and the like, I’m not afraid of heights as such but definitely have the belly flutter looking down.

Of course there will be the hidden trails runs I plan to arrange, exploring the familiar but hidden parts of popular places, I may even incorporate some of the routes from my Parks into this as well so if you come you will get to see true solitude.

I think overall my perspective on life has changed, I’ve switched off from the main stream news and media, Facebook, unless in blogging or posting on the bumbler page is done more out of habit than need these days and I recognise this and aim to reduce that more.

A few people have asked about a book or photo album of some form, I like the sound of this but I’ve yet to write anything cohesive around a book type of idea and I’m not even sure where to start with such a thing. Photo wise I have over 3000 images, that’s not including the 4000 short video clips yet to be pieced together in some form of documentary, so still lots to do on that front. I would love to get more involved in short documentary style journeys and there are ideas swirling around my head as to what these could be.

overall this year has been pretty amazing, I set out to show that an amazing adventure can be attained by us mere mortals, that despite a fulltime and demanding job, family and personal commitments you can adventure and make time to seek personal greatness. I’ve met lots of fantastic people, some just fleeting and isolated and some that I have become firm friends with.

Most importantly, been kind to yourself, if things do not turn out as you expect, that’s ok as well, its a lesson learned.

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