Monthly Archives: March 2015

Berwick to Alnmouth (Nearly)

It was time for my big run,  as part of my training for the Hoka Highland Fling, 35 miles or so following the gloriously scenic Northumberland coast. It looked a superb route and I was really looking forward to the section from Holy Island causeway down to Bamburgh. The St Oswald’s way headed well inland over hills beyond the A1 at this point and there must be a path following the coast I thought, despite nothing being marked on the map, so it would just be a matter of following my nose with the chance to use my OS Map App bluetoothed to a state of the art Garmin GPS Reciever for the first time in earnest.

Things immediately failed to go to plan as I got on the 7.38 to Berwick only to hear the train guard say welcome to the Virgin Cross Country train to Southampton ! After (rather sheepishly) having to explain my mistake to more than a few station/train personnel I eventually arrived at Berwick a little over an hour after I had decanted at Durham. This prompted a little twinge of anxiety as I knew the last train to Newcastle from Alnmouth was at 18.58 so I didn’t have huge amounts of spare time to fanny about.

Steady rain was falling as I started my run over old berwick bridge and worked my way along to spittal and the Northumberland coastal path.  Things got increasingly scenic though hardly tranquil as the main east coast line absolutely hugged the coast at this point. Slowly the sky began to clear and I could see Holy Island and Bamburgh castles as small blobs on the horizon and I started to really feel as if I was on an epic journey across the landscape. I was feeling really good and once past Holy island causeway I started my quest into the unknown as I attempted to follow the coastline south. Things went   pearshaped fairly quicky though. Huge tussocks replaced any discernable path and then I hit the first of many muddy creeks that dissected the landscape. Up and down looking for places to cross without getting stuck up to my neck I went. This seemed to go on for ever but eventually I got back to reasonably dry land. Knackered ! The next section was lumpy and wet as I traversed the shoreline of Lindisfarne nature reserve, with the sun really starting to beat down at this point. I had a bit of a walk eating my sandwiches and stuffing in some trailmix hoping that I would soon feel better, I didn’t until I finally ate a bag of crisps and almost immediately felt fine. I carried on attemping to run but there was no path as such and it was tiring. Eventually I came to a point where a road intersected the coastline and I decided enough was enough and it was time to take an alternative route.

My Phone and Garmin Reciever worked superbly with my position pinpointed onto a downloaded 1:25k map pretty much instantaneously. The only trouble was that I was losing about 1% of my battery for every 1 minute of use not really what you need for an all dayer out in the sticks.

Much of the next section was totally forgettable as I tried to follow sections of public footpath, getting lost and spending hours running along tarmaced roads, not exactly how I had envisaged things. I eventually circumnavigated Budle Bay and was finally able to enjoy the terrain as I headed up the beach eventually getting into Bamburgh around 3.30pm. 22 Miles.

My plan of getting to Alnmouth and catching the train was in tatters as it was almost the same mileage away again and I didn’t have a clue about the transport options on route. Psychologically I was defeated and so I gave up and tramped around Bamburgh looking for a bus stop. It turned out there was a bus in just over an hour and so even though I could easily have run down to Beadnell or at least Seahouses I didn’t and decided to go to the pub instead. With a minimum spend of £10.00 on a card I managed to force down 3 pints before getting on a bus to Alnwick that pulled in shortly before 6pm. At least there was a connecting bus down to newcastle leaving at 18.12 though it was near enough a two hour trip !  I headed into the next door Morrisons getting a sandwich, 4 mini bottles of red wine and a paper to ease the tedium of my journey. Finally back home to South Shields for 9pm. Feeling more than a little deflated through the haze of alcohol.

Old Bridge Berwick
The Old Bridge at Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Start of the route proper, Bamburgh and Holy island castles small blobs on the horizon
Start of the route proper, Bamburgh and Holy island castles small blobs on the horizon
Trouble
Trouble
Scenic trouble though
Scenic trouble though
Bamburgh around the corner !
Bamburgh around the corner !

London Parks

After a weekend of no runs at all due to family commitments (mother’s day etc) I was determined to fit in a run at the next available opportunity. I was down in London on Monday and thought there might be just enough time to squeeze in a run before getting the train back, so I packed my running stuff in with the rest of my gear. Once out of the meeting I headed straight back to Kings Cross changed in the loos, dropped my bag at left luggage and then headed up Euston Road and into Regent’s Park. It was noticeable how totally unphased the park wildlife – ducks, geese, squirrels etc were even when running right alongside. Half way around Regent’s Park I diverted up onto Primrose Hill. Though it was hardly Conic Hill in scale and in fact was much more reminiscent of Cow Hill on Newcastle’s Town Moor which is my regular place for an after work run. There were lots of tall buildings visible from the top but it was so grey and clagged in that it was hardly worth a picture (though my phone had ran out of juice anyway). I traversed the back side of Primrose Hill and then returned to complete my circuit of Regents Park. Next an unpleasant and somewhat dangerous section along the busy commuter choked pavements of Baker Street and Edgware Road to Marble Arch and Hyde Park. I was looking forward to the specially formatted bridleways for horses that run the length of the park but found in reality that they were composed of hard compacted sand, very lumpy and generally unpleasant to run on so stuck to  grass wherever possible. After the long haul up to Kensington Palace it was back down again towards Hyde Park Corner and in the gathering gloom I headed past Buckingham Palace and into St James’ Park running past horse guards parade (rendevous point after the London Marathon). Finally it was down the Mall and into Green Park coming to a halt outside Green Park tube. It was nearly dark by this time and I didn’t have a lot of time to spare so it was straight into the tube station without any cool down/stretch only to find myself walking like a duck as my right foot started to cramp going down the escalators. I Picked up my luggage and got onto the 19.00 train back with about 5 minutes to spare. 10.22 miles London Park Run

Around Kielder

Time to be upping the mileage a bit more if I am to have a decent chance at the Hoka Highland Fling at the end of April, so it was up to Kielder Reservoir this Sunday.

Kielder is fantastic for me, not so much for the setting and the views (which are fantastic) but for the nature of the trail which is nice and soft and very forgiving on the knees. The Kielder circumnavigation is also perfect for bicycles which meant the rest of the family could accompany me too.

Starting from the Dam we proceeded in a clockwise direction, following the Lakeside route in its entirety apart from cutting over the big peninsular that jutts out after Tower Knowe so as to reduce the total mileage to something that would be manageable. I felt a step up in my ability today as I am nearly down to 12 stone which about 2 or 3 years ago was the limit for me running at all.  I had springs in my legs on all the uphills (of which there were more than a few) and despite tiring towards the end, really felt fine and muscles and fueling all felt in sync. I had a large bowl of curried chicken with onions and avocado for breakfast and then only needed one gluten free nakd bar all the way around.  Very pleased with how I got on and particularly the knees which were fine. 23 Miles.  View of Kielder 2 View of Kielder

Tour of the Piers

High winds, cold and general apathy meant that a planned trip up to Kielder did not go ahead and so it was my local coastal strip that was the venue for todays longer run. It is a lovely coastline but for someone who still shys away from running on pavement there is only about a 5 mile section that can be done on trails, never mind I thought I will just have to take it easy. First stop was The Groyne at the mouth of the Tyne, an attempt to run down to the end of Shield’s main pier was thwarted as the gates were shut, so it was on up the coast to Souter lighthouse, round the point, past Seaburn lighthouse and then finally along to Roker Pier in Sunderland which was also closed off. I returned along the same route. This was a run where getting fuel to my muscles was not a problem at all (a result of the mini carb. binge on Friday night ?) knee and calf pain was evident throughout though which I had to distract myself from and meant I adopted a scooting technique on the off-trail sections. Definitely some soreness in the MCL area of my right knee this evening which I shall have to be careful of. 17.22 miles

The Groyne
The Groyne, Mouth of the Tyne
Souter Lighthouse
On the way to Souter Lighthouse
Seaburn Lighthouse
Seaburn Lighthouse
Roker Lighthouse
Roker Pier, Wearmouth