Hot Holme Moss victory for Gray

One happy looking runner - photo courtesy of  Woodheads

One happy looking runner – photo courtesy of Woodheads

Another red hot day saw Karl Gray destroy the field in the Holme Moss race in just over 2 and half hours. Three years ago Karl won this race when it was in the English Championship against the best fell runners in the country, so without disrespect to this years’ field it was an expected win, but to win by over 11 minutes from Richard Pattinson of Pudsey & Bramley (2 hours 44 minutes), no slouch himself, was an incredible achievement. Richard was over 15 minutes clear of third place runner Ian Mills further emphasising Karl’s fantastic run on such a hot day. This was a test of Gray fitness over the longer distance before he heads out to Poland to represent his country in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Poland in early August. He’s accompanied by team mates Helen Fines and Jo Buckley.

Gray with team mates Paul Biddulph and Dave Culpan claimed the 2nd team prize on the day.

Hot stuff from Jonny to take first spot

Coutesy of Woodheads

Johnny on his way to first win – Courtesy of Woodheads

Saturday’s Heptonstall Festival Fell Race turned into a fabulous scrap between a string of worthy contenders with one vanquished runner being carted off in an ambulance. In sweltering conditions on a perfect summer’s day, it’s hard to imagine a better venue for a short fell race with freshly mown fields, glorious azure skies, breathtaking views and the faint sound of a German oompah-band in the background. The Teutonic theme was the brainchild of organiser-extraordinaire, Steve Grimley, who put on yet another splendid fell race to add to his growing list.

The race comprises 6 miles and 1647 ft of climb and in very hot conditions, this was a lungbusting test of stamina and resolve. The race takes you immediately down into Midgehole past the Blue Pig with then a gruelling climb all the way out of the valley floor and up onto High Brown Knoll. Tod Harrier’s Nick Barber set the early pace and crested Pecket Well road crossing in the lead with Wharfedale’s Dave Kirkham and Mark Sennett hot on his heels. These two were kept in close attendance by Calder Valley’s Joe Washington – fresh from his maiden victory on Wednesday at Cragg Vale – and new boy Jonny Helliwell. In the absence of some of Calder’s bigger names, these two are showing that the club has an enviable strength in depth and with veteran Mark Goldie summiting High Brown Knoll trig point in sixth place, the scene was set for a rip-roaring second half return back to Heptonstall.

As the group rattled past ‘Little Stoodley’ and back down into Midgehole, Wharfedale’s Dave Kirkham had nipped ahead of the rapidly expiring Nick Barber, with Washington and Helliwell pushing hard to stay in contention. Back past the Blue Pig again and the excellence of Steve Grimley’s route was there to behold as the final, withering climb back up to the finish line bore its teeth. Step forward Jonny Helliwell who crushed the leading pack with a masterful ascent, his renowned training regime of multiple reps of Scammonden Steps reaping huge dividend as he emerged from Lee Wood and onto Draper Lane in first place, and powered gloriously to the finish line in front of a rapturous crowd to claim his own maiden victory. Kirkham and Sennet took 2nd and 3rd while Barber somehow hauled himself over the line in 4th place, only to collapse in a crumpled heap with exhaustion, requiring the local ambulance to navigate the tricky streets. More water next time eh Nick?! Jonny, along with Goldie and Washington helped Calder claim the men’s prize.

In the ladies’ race, local lass Holly Page secured a comfortable victory and 15th place overall, and helped Calder to the ladies team prize along with Jackie Scarfe and new girl Sarah Tait. Post-race fun was provided in the main square with fine German lager, frankfurters and bratwurst, and delicious strudel. Great stuff Steve!

Ellis in good form at Memorial Race

darren_holloway_memorial_race_13_011On Saturday fell runners headed up to The Lakes for the Darren Holloway Memorial race. Darren, a hugely popular amateur runner who sadly died while competing in the nearby Ian Hodgson relay race last year. This Buttermere race was last run in 1990 and ascent route was being anticipated with a mixture of fear and dread as it takes in some of The Lakes’ toughest peaks. Many fell races claim to be tough but with 21 miles and 9000 ft to negotiate, this race can certainly back-up that claim with some of the hardest terrain on offer in UK fell running.

So for Calder Valley’s Tim Ellis to finish 5th in a very strong field was a brilliant achievement, Tim claiming it was easily the toughest race he’d taken part in. Blackshawhead’s Ian Symington took an excellent 24th place as was also heard to be in awe of the route. Big credit also goes to Bill Johnson who chose this not insignificant race to return form a long standing injury.

For those of you who know your Lakeland scenery, the following may make giddy reading. After an initial half mile or so along a back road from the village of Loweswater near Crummock Water, it’s straight into a 2000’ climb to the summit of Whiteside, to sort the men from the boys. But the climb continues: further on up to the higher summit of Hopegill Head.

From here a long, swooping, grassy run high above the valley floor leads in turn to Coledale Hause, Grasmoor summit and then the top of Whiteless Pike. Four lakeland summits gained and the race is only a quarter of the way through! The descent from Whiteless Pike is very steep and very fast and one of the best in the Lake District: 1500’ down a grassy slope in about 2/3 mile.

Now the race really starts to get going, with a long gradual climb, skirting around Robinson (where the key is all about finding the best line; Ian Symington and Tim Black didn’t, and ended up clinging to the crags to get through!) and finally ending up at Dale Head summit. Now we’re about halfway through.

Another big, fast descent down to Honister slate mines is followed by a good track, up and down (but mostly up) towards Hay Stacks. At this stage, those who can, will run; those who can’t will shuffle. Several runners were starting to get cramping muscles by this stage.

If you know the route, you skirt round Hay Stacks, before a stiff climb up to Seat and then a bigger, stiffer climb up to High Crag. There were some very tired bodies by this point. A grand ridge, with good views (on a day when you have the strength to look at the views), takes you to High Stile, the highest point on the route at 806m (2645’).

With the thought of the final climb to come, you now run on a glorious, grassy hillside around Red Pike and down, down to Scale Beck.

Finally, a steep descent through the heathery sides of Mellbreak came to a valley-floor track, and a final mile and a bit of trying to run as best you could to the finish at Loweswater village hall, where those who had already finished gathered to clap in every runner as they crossed the finish line. Local distance king Simon Booth won in a super time of 4hrs 2 mins.

Calder finishers:

5th: Tim Ellis: 4hrs 22seconds

24th: Ian Symington 4:53

44th: Bill Johnson 5:39

55th: Tim Black 5:52

77th: Tim Brooks: 6:37

Ist Wunderbar as Calder Valley members Keep On Running for Festival Funds Despite Road Closure


Photo courtesy of Woodentops

Photo courtesy of Woodentops

Heptonstall Festival Fell Race takes place on Saturday as local runners take on a Germanic theme to raise funds for the village festival despite the on going closure of Lee Wood Road. Heptonstall’s race organisers, who are mostly Calder Valley members, decided that with sufficient planning the challenging Category A Fell Race could be staged on its usual July date, with minimal impact on traffic flows.

The 6 mile, 1500 feet ascent, Heptonstall Festival Fell Race would normally take place as part the annual village festival traditionally held in early July, however the Village Festival has now been moved to September 21st. Festival organisers hope that the work on Lee Wood Road may be nearing completion by the autumn, allowing queues of frustrated motorists to make way for a parade, bunting, street entertainers, stalls, and caterers on Heptonstall’s famous cobbles. The runners were unable to alter their fell race date as the event has now become a popular fixture in the FRA calendar, but the race organisers were still keen to do all they could to support the festival.

Hept Fest 2012 Start Heptonstall July 2012-2 - First 3 menIt was decided that the 2013 Heptonstall Festival Fell Race would take place on its normal date, as an early summer fund raiser for the autumn village festival, helping to cover the cost of bands, artists, and parade costumes as the September event promises to be village’s biggest and best ever festival. This Saturday’s race will not be short on festival spirit, however. Heptonstall’s TV celebratory chef Jan Lymer is all set to host an outdoor feast of German cuisine, including Frankfurters, Sauerkraut, and Strudel. Jan, who is due to appear on “Come Dine With Me” in the autumn, was once a chef in Germany. In scenes more reminiscent of Heidelberg than Heptonstall, rows of tables and benches will fill Weaver’s Square, allowing weary fell runners fill-up on Teutonic delicacies (£3.50 a head – all funds to the village festival). Non alcoholic drinks will be served in the square, whilst the White Lion will have Austrian beers on draft to add to the Germanic theme.

If the German beer-fest format proves popular there is even talk of making the Heptonstall Festival Fell Race an international event in 2014. Organisers would like to invite German runners from the twin town of Warstein, famed for its beer production, along with hordes of continental athletes heading to Hebden Bridge for the Tour de France which will cross the Heptonstall route the day after 2014 race. To avoid clashing with the first day of the tour the race may be held on the Saturday evening, kicking off what should be a memorable pre tour party in the village the square.

Heptonstall Festival Race Organiser Steve Grimley said, “It would have been a great shame to have cancelled the 2013 race. The local community have put in so much effort into making the Festival Fell Race an important fund raiser for Heptonstall Festival. We have been working closely with the local Highways Department, and we are confident that the issues caused by the ongoing closure of Lee Wood Road will be overcome”, Highways officials will be setting up diversions for race-goers, ensuring race traffic avoids the narrow, cobbled, village streets, which are currently clogged with drivers by-passing the road closure at Lee Wood Road. Race goers will be encouraged to travel to Heptonstall via Mytholm Steeps and Blackshawhead. Parking will be provided in the usual fields at the top of the village if weather permits; should the parking field be out of use, runners will be directed to parking spaces on the roads around Draper Corner and Slack.

The diversions will allow the 6 mile fell race route to remain unchanged, particularly the classic cobbled start, where runners will line up before being treated to the best of the local landscape as the race follows its unusual double-descent format, featuring a 500 foot descent to the Blue Pig, followed by a 1000 foot ascent to High Brown Knoll, where runners turn tail and head back to the Heptonstall the way they came, enjoying the exhilarating 1000 foot descent back to the Blue Pig, before the torturous 500 feet of ascent to the finish line.

The race is sure to attract top runners from across the region whilst inspiring locals new to fell running, to experience the exhilaration of racing over the magnificent hills of the upper Calder Valley. Beginners will find the route easy to follow, fully flagged, and well marshaled. Seasoned fell runners will enjoy the 1500 feet of climbs and descents over a wide variety of terrain as well as the tough competition provided by the expected gathering of elite competitors.

Rumour has it that Heptonstall based winner of last year’s ladies race, Calder Valley’s Holly Page, will be back from France this week hoping to defend her 2012 title, and in doing so, potentially break the lady’s course record of 55.42 set by Holmfirth Harriers’ Katie Walshaw in 2011. A host of Calder Valley’s fastest men will be aiming to take advantage of the firm ground and fine weather to beat the men’s best ever time of 52.09 achieved by Bingley’s Chris Smale at last year’s race.

Runners can register from 9.00 at the White Lion Pub (£4, minimum age 16), race starts at 11.00; followed by prize giving and German themed refreshments at 12.30 in Weaver’s Square. Full details at