Thursday, 13 January 2022

Settle Harriers WInter Handicap 2022 - Lichens - Clapham - Austwick - Wharf - Norber

The Settle Harriers Winter Handicap is a 6 to 7 mile run from Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales, and has been taking place for over 30 years. 

 This post is dedicated to

  1. Chris Beesley who organised the Mike Wynne  Memorial race for the nth time
  2. The members of Settle Harriers for supporting it
  3. The YDNP to whom I gave £5-00 for the privilege of parking my car in their car park - (The other competitors would only have to put in c £2-50 because they could get round in less  than 2 hrs). Still the YDNP do a good job maintaining the footpaths that we are using.
  4. The people of Clapham, Austwick, Wharf and area who put up with us running past once a year
  5. To all my lichen friends at the BLS (British Lichen Society)  and to others interested in Lichens - there are some interesting pictures of lichens lower down
  6. To Maxine and all friends at Settle Slimming World - who enabled me to get half way to my target weight loss for running this race. 
See a short video here of the presentations in 2015 by Mike Wynn

This post includes
- The race and description of route
-  A few pictures from warmer visits to this route - including lichens and plants 

This year's race is the coldest wettest I have experienced .. but I still did it!

Here is a picture of some of the runners near the end to show it was cold and wet (Race pictures by Martin Dearden)

This race is the one Settle Harriers Race I enter each year - They give everyone a handicap with the intention of everyone arriving back at the same time.  I now hold the record for the most times a person has run it. I see everyone on the race because  they all overtake me!! 

Also It is a delightful route.  This post will tell you about it.

Before telling you about the route - Here are notes on some of the preparations - As I only enter this one race a year (and last year was missed because of Covid)  I have to work hard to remember what to do.

1. I have been on a few 4 mile walks recently. 1. The Clapham/Keasden New Year Day Walk to Keasden Head, 2. A Walk by the river to Stainforth Foss, then back along the road via 2 farmers to try and get permission to go on their land to look for lichens; 3. A walk up to Lower Winskill then Catrigg Foss. I practiced using my very new waterproof Solomon running shoes, size 5. I discovered they are better with two pairs of socks in - with just one pair my feet roll around a bit inside, especially on steep slopes. As they are new they have very good grips for steep muddy slopes. (My old, non-waterproof ones have worn flat)

2. But not too many walks - I don't want to do my knee in.  Also I read in t'internet that as you get older you should have longer periods between hard exercise days, to allow your muscles to regrow. Long rests are fine by me.

3. I searched for waterproof  trousers. I bought some new waterproof trousers from Castleberg Sports in Settle on Thursday - but in the end decided I liked my old ones best - INOV-8 - trail size XL - because they are made if this wonderful stretch material. So I put elastoplast across the two holes I could find in my old pair, and cut the bottom off the too-long legs  and turned the hem up.

4. What you are supposed to eat the day before a marathon or half marathon? According to t'internet:  

Lots of carbohydrate food.
Your body can turn carbohydrate into glycogen and store it in the muscles. It takes the body more time to digest protein and fat, and more time to break down protein and fat to produce energy

I go down to the Coop and buy some remaindered Easter hot-cross buns (yes Christmas is over now, so it's time for Easter goods).
I also buy some jelly baby equivalent - children's sugar -jelly sweets ready for the race: Coop Strawberry Fizzy Lances. And some Haribo Tangfastics.

I have a little veg and fish stew for supper but mostly potato and porridge and a hot cross bun  (carbohydrates). I sew up the hems on my waterproof trouser legs. Bedtime is early - 10.30 ready to wake up early in the morning 

to have breakfast early (7am) to allow digestion to take before my start time of 9.40.

This allows time to stick chiropody felt and corn plaster to my feet in places that might  experience rubbing or pressure in the race. 

It allows me time to do a few Pilates type exercises that Jess (from the Harriers) once taught me at classes..

And time to make to race labels that we had been asked to provide. I am number 24. 

The Big Day

I drive to Clapham YDNP Carpark with 10 minutes to spare. Of course no one is there. I am scheduled to be the first person to start (by 20 minutes). I am wearing my traditional red track suit bottoms but no one can see them because they are under my black waterproof trousers. I have my almost-new yellow waterproof jacket, and a red hat (not my Christmas Pudding one - I don't want it to get too wet). And I wear my label 24 that is sewn to a thin reflective running bib used for running/walking at night.  Bang on 9.40 I set off and see a car with a Settle Harrier arriving. I wave. At least they  know I have set off at my scheduled time.

The Route:

Clapham to Austwick

After 100 yards the route leaves the  farmer's- yard concrete drive and enters the ALWAYS extremely muddy wet corner of a field. This year three wooden beams have been placed next to the fence through the mud which is excellent as it means that ones shoes are not wrecked within the very first 100 yards of the race.

There are at least four stiles as you progress from field to field. If you look under some of the steps of the stiles there is carved writing. - the "throughs" are recycled memorial stones.

At Austwick there is no time to stop at the friendly village store (which sells coffee), nor to have a luxurious special occasion evening meal at the Traddock, nor to visit the "Shed" nearly always open "second hand bookshop" in the Anglican church grounds. Or even to go inside the church and see the colourful stained glass window of St Francis, patron saint of animals.

But one can glance at the Caloplaca flavo-virens on top of cement flat topped garden wall opposite the Traddock as one descends south ready to take the walled track just beyond the stream.

Austwick, below Oxenber Wood to Wharf

The walled stony farmers track is flattish, just slightly ascending. The rain is only light, I feel quite warm. I am glad I did not bring an extra layer. I have not bothered to get out my woollen gloves. I  have set my bleeper/pacemaker at 134 beats per minute.

Bleep bleep bleep bleep.  This is a fast walking pace but a very slow jogging pace.

I force myself to lean forward and take longer strides whilst it is flat. I try to remember to  take deeper longer breaths in. One two three in, One two out.

Normally I would extol the walled footpath section (below Oxenber Woods) with its sloe and wild flowers but today the footpath is muddy, with patches of ice; the sky is grey, and January is not a time for wildflowers. I eat the second of my Strawberry Fizzy Lances.  On, down to the tarmac road.

100 m along the main road then turn left, next to what is usually a barely noticeable streamlet, but today is quite a torrent. Here is a photo I took an hour and half later.

 If I had proceeded up the road to the right for 300metres, to the other entrance to Wharf, and if it had been sunny, I could have had this view - with bright green Map Lichen Rhizocarpon geographicum  on the greywacke wall top (greywacke is an acid rock, a very hard sandstone with particles of mixed sizes formed in an area of turbidity currents)  and also on the greywacke of the rock slabs of the hillside above.

 In the hill above Wharf there are big exposures of  Silurian rock These support large colonies of Rhizocarpon geographicum a flourescent yellow-green Lichen easily seen from a distance, more typical of the Lake District or North Wales than our area that is mostly limestone.. Today the cliffs are lost in mist. Not quite - there is a white gushing cascade down a cliff in the distance. That stream is not normally there.

Wharf to the Clapper Bridge

But I carried on up next to the roadside stream up what had been a stony track two years ago but what is now a newly tarmacked road (though of no use to tourists because the road is a dead end) , to the hamlet of Wharf. 

No-one has caught up with me yet - that is good. By now I must have been going over 50min.  The fastest runners must be just setting off.

Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep

 The walled footpath/bridleway has many species of fern on either side- Hard Fern, Male Fern Broad Buckler Fern..

 After 1/4 mile there is a barn with Xanthoria calcicola growing on the walls. (I recorded this on the "Walk for the Climate walk" we did with Churches Together and Craven Conservation Group on  1 November 2021, 11 weeks ago.)

Xanthoria calcicola - This is uncommon around here, but when I have found it it has often been on old bans like this. It has warty lumpy appearance to the thallus, and rarely any apothecia (yellow jam tart shaped structures) It is different to the VERY common Xanthoria parietina which has  no warts, and lots of apothecia)

Back to today. Patches of the track have frozen slush/hail. I must take care not to slip. Mostly it is mud/ shallow water flowing down the hill, or puddles - whoops that one was deeper than I thought. A little icy water trickles down inside my waterproof running shoes. Up and down the narrow walled footpath continues. My muscles are beginning to feel the strain.

I descend towards the clapper bridge. Oh. I do like this bridge. It is made out of long beams of slate, spanning Clapham Beck. I plan to stand on it as usual  and look upstream and downstream and spend a moment just enjoying the scenery, the beauty and the wildness of the place. 

As I descend, I realise the approach on the track to it is filled with water 50cm deep. (i.e. the stream is a foot deeper than usual). I carefully stretch my feet out to stones protruding at the base of the wall and then shift my balance over to step onto the bridge - I step onto the bridge - but - maybe step to far - my balance is gone - and only regain as I find myself shin/knee deep in the flowing water filling the track beside the bridge.


So much for my dignity. So much for keeping my feet dry.

Onto the bridge again,  and I do admire the view.  

But I will have to be careful - Perhaps the coldness and the tiredness is taking effect. (Actually not too tired at the speed I am going).  I gingerly avoid some of the sleety/icy/frozen puddles as I go up the hill from the bridge. The water squelches inside my shoes.

Clapper Bridge  via Norber to the gate onto Long Lane

I turn left. Half a mile along the road track now on the level and look out for the stile to Norber.  I note there are two runners behind .. and eventually  these first two runners jog past me. then just before the stile two more running much faster overtake.

Up the grassy slope to the cliffs above the waterfall before Norber.

Here is a view of the slope up to Norber taken on 1 November

Several more people pass.

 This "The Unconformity" is the other place I always love to stop. Momentarily. 

I stand, my feet on the ledge of slate at the floor of the cliff and my hands on the limestone rock of the cliff. 

I am straddling 100 million years of history.

100,000,000 years.


Runners pass. 

Jess (of Pilates fame) beams, says "Well done Judith!"  as I squeeze in on the ledge to let her jog past. "Hello!" I reply.

On up the slope to the Norber Erratics. May others pass at this point.

"Well done Judith!"  They say. "Happy New Year!" I reply.

Actually I miss the Erratics because I decide to take the first path down the slope rather than the second 100m further on. I gingerly climb down the cliffy bouldery slope for 20 m - Yes on a warmer day with dry rocks, and in my youth, I would have been much quicker - but now better safe than sorry.  

For the record I do not notice any beautiful waxcap toadstools at this point, which I have done in many previous years - I think cold weather in  November has seen them off.

It is a big field across to Long Lane, but I just keep plodding on Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep.  I get to the gate, Long Lane is very long, but I have covered 4/5 of the route, and apart from the tunnel there is no more difficult terrain. I just have to keep going and I will get back.

Another runner, also with a yellow jacket takes the stile whilst I go through the gate.  We chat a little as we  "amble" along.  Then I say "You must not go slowly for me". He picks up speed slightly and the gap between us grows. "That's it" I think. "There is no-one else." 

But then a girl appears - She says" My shoes did not have enough grip and then when I lost sight of everyone I decided not to do Norber and came round by the lane instead." She still has more energy (or willpower) than me and disappears ahead. 

So, as at the beginning I was left by myself.. along the very long Long Lane.. towards the tunnel. 

Meanwhile... Has been photographing the others as they approach the tunnel:

In previous years - Non covid years - and years with good weather not freezing rain, a group member had photographed us as we descended towards the tunnel.

I take my rain splattered glasses off briefly as I go through the tunnel to try and see the uneven ground more carefully - and then dry them on my t-shirt - Well that shows I wasn't soaked through.

I pass Clapham Church where we  made a botanical survey of the vegetation three months ago, I jog through the village back to the car park where Chris Beeseley and Mark are waiting - glad that I had turned up so that they can go home. John Osborne waves.

Chris goes home to process the results.

Richard is changing into dry cloths and shoes. I have dry clothes and shoes in the car, but just decide to drive home and change when I get there. I stop to photograph the stream near Wharf, carry on and then get cramp in both my feet. So I stop at Helwith Bridge and take my wet waterproof trousers and wet shoes off and put my dry shoes on - Let that be a lesson to me - to put dry shoes on in future. 

Normally we have a meal - chilli and garlic bread - at Clapham and Chris analyses the results and announces them. With Covid we cannot meet afterwards and have strict instructions to disperse,

I come home and have  a lovely bath  with bubble bath and put the heater on max. in the living room. Two years ago after the race I was happy to do a lichen survey and meet people on Langcliffe High Road - today I REALLY ENJOY just being in a warm room .. and telling you all about it.

Next day (Sun) I go online and read about the Montane Spine Challenge Race which started at 8am 8 Jan on the Saturday of our race - and how so many of their competitors dropped out because of the extreme wet icy conditions and flooded streams that day.  On Monday  I drive the road between Fountains Fell and Penyghent and later to Horton in Ribblesdale and meet a few of the competitors en route of the Montane Spine Challenger  and the Montane Spine Race - full route. Glad our event was only 7 miles long not 108. or 268.

Link to A facebook picture of me on the race two years ago

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