Wild Ennerdale

It was a rather dreary October morning when Tim and Tricia C. came to fetch Mark (from across the road), Bella (my daughter) and me in order to drive down to Ennerdale for the Ennerdale trail race.  I realised with surprise that it had been 6 years since I last ran this particular race, organised by High Terrain Events.  I had done the 15-mile route just two weeks after running/walking Kielder marathon – after one of the wettest summers I had ever know, that October had provided glorious sunny autumnal days, and at the end of the race I sat in a deckchair in the sun, drinking a coffee, soaking up the warmth and admiring the view.  Partners and children waiting for runners to complete the race had splashed in the lake in a beach area near to the finish.

Today however was completely different.  As we drove further west the weather deteriorated until there was a persistent chilly rain.  We passed the pub in Ennerdale Bridge where Penny & Tim O. had stayed overnight in their camper van and headed towards the lake, Tim C. thinking he’d drop us off and then go to find somewhere to park.  In fact we were incredibly lucky and got one of the last spaces in the car park by the Scout Hut.

There was the normal milling around before the race began, drinking coffee, getting cold outside and too hot inside, and going to the loo numerous times: and then it was time for the 25km race to begin.  The last time I had done the race all 3 distances had taken place on the same day – this time the 50km ultra (two laps around the lake and up to Black Sail YHA) had taken place the day before.  15 minutes after the 25km runners started, those of us doing the 10km set off.

Ennerdale-Water-mapThe first half of the route is relatively easy and level.  You head around the lake in a clockwise (south-easterly) direction, wending your way on a fairly narrow path with the lake on your right and trees on your left, until you reach Bowness Knott car park (please note we were going in the opposite direction to that shown on the map above).  At Bowness Knott you get on to a forest road which again stays parallel to the edge of the lake.  The land ownership around here is a mixture of National Trust, Forestry Commission and Unitied Utilities, and they’re doing very little in the way of management in order to allow it to be as wild as possible and for nature to get its own way (Wild Ennerdale).

Following the floods of recent years, bridges have been repaired and replaced across the rivers at the eastern end of the lake and Penny was telling me how they had had to work out a solution which fitted with wild Ennerdale but also allowed for flood water.  The bridges are therefore concrete, so water can just wash over them.  We stopped for a photo at this end of the lake: as this was a race I didn’t keep stopping and taking photos like I normally would, hence fewer photos in this blogpost.20181021_1110101.jpg

We now have quite a collection of the two of us looking into the camera with a lake in the background.  This time of course the hills can’t be seen clearly – the rain was persisting and the views were non-existent.

As the path turns up the south-western side of the lake, it wriggles through trees and over/through streams and becomes very rocky.  I love this bit and like the good friend I am (not), as I saw the chance to overtake a few people who were slightly more hesitant on the potentially slippery rocks, my competitive instinct arose.  I left Penny behind – something she has never done to me in all the times we have run together.  I have no excuses – I was enjoying myself.

It’s quite a demanding section as you need to pick a good line through the rocks and make sure you don’t slip and fall.  At one point I slipped into a stream – however by then I was so wet anyway it didn’t really make any difference.  The streams were running quite high and fast with all the rain and they cross the path at relatively frequent intervals.

There’s a bit of a clamber up and over Angler’s Crag, and marshalls were there to make sure you don’t fall in – there’s a significant drop down to the lake.  I knew by now that I wasn’t too far from the end.  As I overtook a couple more people, I wondered if they would overtake me back on the flatter section – always a spur to keep you running!

The beach where previously families with children had been splashing didn’t exist today as the water level was so high, and as I crossed the river Ehen evidence of the water pipeline which is being installed from Thirlmere to Ennerdale was all around to my left, the natural landscape a temporary muddy construction site, the large blue pipes lying on the ground ready to be buried.  I could hear someone coming up behind me, which spurred me on to keep running – and as I headed over the finish line even managed to put on a bit of a sprint.

And there was my daughter, soaking wet and cold and desperate to get home to the warmth: but it was nice to see a family face waiting for me.  Hanging around in the cold and wet is always far worse than running in the cold and wet – I always feel appreciative of the marshalls who stand on the course making sure runners are OK and cheering us on, but who are slowly getting colder and colder waiting for us all to run past. I was so wet I could just have swum across the lake and it would have made little difference, but at least I was warm from running.

We had all run well and as we travelled back in the car chatted happily and debated which run to do next – a night run may well be on the cards.  Penny and I still have Coniston, Ullswater and Windermere to do, the aim being to complete them within the year of starting the ‘runs round the biggest lakes’, which I think means the end of April… it means one 14 mile, and three 20 mile runs (we’re going to split Windermere into two so that we can do the off-road 40 miles route but over two days…).

Wild Ennerdale is a beautiful run – and all off road – and one I’d happily do again.  But I have to admit it is far more beautiful on a sunny day!

And here are some of the official photos (purchased by Mark Britton) as we run along the forest road… Tricia looking happy and fit; me looking worried; Mark already semi-clothed despite the weather; and Penny smiling nicely at the camera.  That pink jacket of mine does not go with that purple top………



Buttermere and Crummock Water

I ran round Buttermere several years ago, while the two older children cycled.  My memory was of a relatively level path through woods on the lower side of the lake (and of Bella having several paddies even about small hills on her bike while Alex shot ahead), a farmyard at the end, and then a long slog chivvying and trying to keep safe, two young children on bikes back along a narrow road on the northern side of the lake.  It didn’t seem to be that far and having just done Cartmel 10km I thought Buttermere trail race wouldn’t be a problem.

I had been entered almost before I knew it and before I realised that it was 10 miles and that you don’t go around Buttermere but in fact along the edge of Buttermere before turning back to go around Crummock Water.  But hey, I’d done 10 miles before, and the gruelling but stunning Howgills half marathon last May… could it really be that hard?

There was the usual ‘what shall I wear’ dilemma.  It’s almost as bad preparing for a run as it is for a party or a hot date.  It was going to prove to be one of those days which start of freezing and end up really warm… so, as usual, too many layers…

Despite an early morning frost it was already sunny when we arrived in Buttermere village to find that with just 20 minutes before registration closed there was hardly anywhere to park – except up the hill towards the Newlands Pass.  What would this feel like when we had to walk back up the hill after the run?

Around the registration area and the portaloos was a sea of farmyard mud but fortunately because we were cutting it a bit fine in terms of time there wasn’t too much time to hang around and get cold. After a bit of chatting with fellow runners we set off along the southern edge of Buttermere through the woods and then turned uphill to run back through fields.  This was where the mud started… thank goodness (again) for goretex trainers.  Having said that, by the end of the race the water had gone up over the tops of my trainers and into them, and being goretex of course there was less potential for it to get out again… but that was a minor discomfort.

As we went round Crummock Water I began to realise how unfit I was (certainly not 10-mile fit anyway).  As I had been going through a sentimental phase of feeling sad about my marriage break-up – not for myself but just for losing the entire ‘family’ thing – the children and parents cheering the other, running, parent on or else the families out for a walk in the sun at the side of the lake also added to my feeling of despondency.  If someone had said to me ‘don’t worry, you can just walk back if you want’ then I’d have done so.


Fortunately they didn’t and having crossed over the road on the northern side of Crummock Water to head uphill, the welcome sight of a water station with jelly teddies appeared.  The run was then undulating and I began to catch up on a couple of women who had overtaken me earlier, finally overtaking them on a downhill section.  There was then a nasty almost vertical (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration but it was very steep and not run-able by most) uphill before another downhill (I had to slow up to cross the road as there was a bus coming) and then the final part around the rest of Crummock Water and back to the start/finish line on the plain between the two lakes.

It was a gorgeous run and I was glad I had done it – but next time I’m going to make sure I’m fitter!