|Pen Hill from Zebra Hill|
Last Friday I went for run over Pen Hill. It's a long time since I was out running on the fells. For the last couple of years, when I've been out running, it's usually been on the road. Walking parts of Hadrian's Wall, climbing Helvellyn and -on a more sedentary note- seeing some great photos of running in the Dark Peak (and cake) recently over at Tea & Cake had really got me itching to get up a hill with my running shoes on again.
I started from a roadside layby half way up - a cheat I felt, in a way, as it's more satisfying to start from the bottom. I'd not done any hill work for ages though, so rather than wear myself out I thought I'd ease myself in gradually - a wise decision, I decided, as I struggled up the slope to the beacon that stands on the Eastern end of summit-plateau.
It was great to be running through flowering heather again, along the plateau's Southern edge with it's superb view of a distant Great Whernside, and the sky. Along that side the path fades into a network of faint desire-lines. Some lead nowhere, others join up at eroded nexus-points, from which other lines lead off. Sometimes the heather hides a treacherous surface of tumbled rocks which slows you down to a walk. I chose the lines which took me to my first objective - a miniature rocky outcrop, strung out along the Southern edge. I touched the rocks in greeting -it had been a long time since I'd been there- without stopping. I've run on Pen Hill a great deal in the past -it's the "local hill", just down the road from here- so I was quite surprised to find a path I'd not explored before. I took it, glad for a break from the awkward terrain.
The path took me down to a Land Rover-track that cuts up from the valley and across the middle of the plateau. As I've got out the habit of hill-running, the reascent seemed quite hard work. Then, all of a sudden, I realised that my field of vision -ahead, left, right- contained nothing but the moor immediately around me, skyline and sky. It was an exhilarating feeling. A minute later and I was looking down into Wensleydale - the valley on the Northern side. From there, it was a short run along the tops of the Northern cliffs, past the Iron Age chieftan's grave, to the beacon. I could see the car from there and after a steep descent it was no more than a jog across a couple of fields to the end of the first fell-run in ages.