Was it North by Northwest?

The CVFR gang with compasses to the ready

Twelve Calder Valley Fell Runners headed north (or was it north by northwest?) to Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales for a fantastic weekend of navigation training. CVFR vests are often likened to ‘Where’s Wally?’ shirts or pyjamas, so teammates at ‘Nav Camp’ were hoping that their pyjama party wouldn’t result in a search party.

Thirty runners, supported by a dozen instructors – including top navigators Mandy and Greg from Todmorden Harriers – were bunked at cosy independent Kettlewell Hostel, whose flapjack alone made course attendance well worthwhile! The course is organised and sponsored by the sport’s friendly parent body The Fell Runners’ Association and held twice-yearly, with a Lake District edition taking place in September.

Runners were taught the rudiments of compass bearings and identifying features from maps at scales from 1:5,000 to 1:50,000. Soon, techniques such as ‘contouring’, ‘aiming-off’ and looking out for ‘handrails’ and ‘catching features’ were added to the repertoire. Runners are split into small groups throughout the weekend, each led by an instructor, so those already familiar with the basics from their Duke of Edinburgh days were able to delve deeper, flush out personal bêtes-noires and unearth some lesser-known tricks of the trade. Everyone came back better navigators than they started out.

A mix of theory sessions over a brew in the hostel, walking on the open fell to learn how to navigate off sinkholes and sheepfolds and tips for tracking down re-entrants, the weekend also throws in a few chances for fun competition – this is fell running after all!

Runners were unleashed on to a short orienteering course, wielding compasses, and learning that a suspiciously grey waterbody on a map may well be a quarry! Back for a debrief and a hearty feed, things were ratcheted up a little for a night navigation session. With pairs set off at intervals, and challenged to find controls in different orders, they could rely only on Map, Compass, Observation & Communication (and hope their headtorch didn’t fade before they did).

Keen to train runners in all elements of the sport, the organisers don’t neglect a bit of endurance training, offering two ‘very optional’ pre-breakfast runs, setting out from the hostel mere hours after some bleary-eyed runners had found their way back from the local boozer.

On Sunday was a 10k solo navigation challenge. Again, start times were staggered. Runners prepared their own routes in advance, then it was up to them whether they stuck to their planned routes or ad-libbed it based on conditions under foot and things that may or may not have been short cuts! This was a brilliant chance to practice and consolidate new skills, and it was fantastic to see runners who had come with a sworn enmity of map and compass zipping their way around and hunting down the 10 well-concealed controls.

This mass up-skilling will no doubt lead to things hotting up in the Calder Valley Fell Runners’ Club Championships, with the Ladies Veteran Trophy – which went unawarded in 2016 due to lack of participants – looking to make a come-back with the force of one of Ben Mounsey’s scalded-cat starts. Medium and long category fell races often require runners to navigate their way around courses. The inaugural Hebden Bridge Mountain Marathon will be a great place to test out skills in a competitive environment.

If you enjoy running in our stunning woods and fells, why not try coming joining a local club, where you’ll find camaraderie and support, as well as cake and ale? Calder Valley Fell Runners will be hosting introductory sessions from Mytholmroyd once the clocks have gone forward. Next stop the Fell Runners’ Association and ‘Nav Camp’!

– Calder Valley News Reporter: Tamsin Cooke –

Swift flies through the rain at Heptonstall

Sunday saw the running of the annual Heptonstall Fell Race. Always thought of as a tough race, organisers were expecting reduced numbers after two days of rain. Sunday was no let-up either with rain and strong winds forecast all day. However a record turnout of 260 runners toed the line for the 15 mile race with nearly a kilometre of climbing. With prizes from local businesses including Slightly Foxed Brewery, Hebden Bridge Picture House, The Bookcase and local authors Andrew Bibby and Chris Goddard and massive support from the villagers, St Thomas Church, local Scouts and Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, as always, it was a great community event.

Andy Swift, First back for Calder Valley and 2nd overall.

The forecast didn’t disappoint with wind and rain continuing through the race. This meant the paths were very muddy and it was a testament to the runners’ skills that there were only 10 retirements. However, slides and pirouettes were plentiful. Mytholmroyd Scouts, marshalling the hill top checkpoints of Standing Stone Hill, Greave Height and Turn Hill, faced the toughest conditions.

Jo Buckley at the finish

Calder’s Jo Buckley was first woman home in 2:29:36 well clear of second placed Karen Pickles (Pudsey and Bramley), Lindsey Oldfield was third in 2:40:00. There was a close finish for the men with just over a minute separating the first three runners. Andy Swift and Karl Gray, both of Calder Valley Fell Runners, chased Jack Wood (Ilkley) through Crimsworth Dean but Wood held them off to the finish recording a time of 1:57:41. Swift was second and Gray third. Gav Mullholland came slightly adrift from the first three but came in fourth to give Calder an easy team victory.

Karl Gray on the final steps still braving the vest!

As the first long race in the Calder Valley Club Championship there was a good turnout of 31 runners from the club. Some close results saw Mark O’Connor just pipping ultra-supremoes Kevin Hoult and Ian Symington. Iain Illstone gained top handicap points finishing just seconds ahead of John Allan and Iain Powell. Gloria Ayuso’s result sees her second in the Women’s Championship behind Oldfield.

Position CVFR Name Cat Time
2 Andy Swift M 01:58:22
3 Karl Gray M 01:58:56
4 Gavin Mulholland M 02:02:04
7 James Logue M 02:08:22
18 Mark O’Connor M 02:15:12
19 Kevin Hoult M 02:15:41
20 Ian Symington M 02:16:24
26 Andy Thorpe M 02:19:23
37 Douglas Zinis M 02:23:40
39 Giles Simon M 02:24:05
46 Iain Stewart Illstone M 02:26:07
47 John Allan M 02:26:12
48 Iain Powell M 02:26:42
52 Ben Frechette M 02:27:52
57 (1) Jo Buckley F 02:29:06
66 Paul Haigh M 02:32:45
79 Matt Keyse M 02:36:46
93 (3) Lindsey Oldfield F 02:40:00
112 Richard Sunderland M 02:45:10
141 Toby Sydes M 02:53:47
160 James Cooke M 03:02:45
172 Jack Denton M 03:05:43
213 Dave Culpan M 03:23:50
214 Andrew Meek M 03:23:53
221 (40) Gloria Ayuso F 03:26:23
229 Rod Sutcliffe M 03:30:29
238 Manhar Patel M 03:35:45
242 (50) Carolyn Shimwell F 03:41:34
244 (52) Kate Pope F 03:43:15

CVFR Damien Briscoe on the final climb.

Photos courtesy of Mick Fry

– Calder Valley News Reporter: Tim Brooks –

Howarth Hobble GB vest for Roberts

Haworth Hobble

Jo Buckley – Fly’s around the Howarth Hobble

With 32 miles of off road running around the hills of Calderdale, the Howarth Hobble is always a tough race. But it was made all the more competitive this year because it was being used as a trial to decide who would run for Great Britain in the international trail running championships in Italy this summer.

With over 400 people taking part the race was full and, for the front runners at least, the stakes were high. As a local club with some of the UK’s leading fell and ultra runners, there was a strong turnout of runners Calder Valley.

Ultra Beast Ian Symington – Howarth Hobble

The long race, which includes a mile of ascent, begins in Haworth, takes runners across the moors of Crimsworth Dean and along the Calderdale Way, down into Todmorden before going back up to Stoodley Pike, descending into Hebden, up again to Heptonstall and back along the moors to Haworth.

Because it was a trial for a GB vest, speedy runners were out in force, among them Calder Valley’s Math Roberts, one of the club’s elite runners. He had an excellent run and despite getting lost on the descent into Todmorden was third, finishing in just under 3 hours 56 minutes – only a minute behind the race winner Thomas Payn. Second for Calder Valley was Kevin Hoult in 12th place, and third for the club was Ian Symington just behind in 14th place. Together they took the team prize. To give an indication of the speed of the race this year, all of the first 8 runners beat the previous course record.

Jo Buckley also had an excellent run, finishing as 3rd in the female V40 category and 6th lady overall, completing in 4 hours 53 minutes. Jim Mosley ran the Hobble for charity and, having run the course in 5 hours 35 minutes, raised over £1,000 for Overgate Hospice.

Man on a Mission, Jim Mosley – Howarth Hobble

Math Roberts said:

“Beforehand I was a little worried about cramp but more about the issue that’s blighted me in so many races – getting lost! Little did I know that the route was totally unmarked.”

“The first eight miles felt good,” he continued, “but I saw a gap developing up ahead, so I put my foot down and caught the leading group. Inevitably, though, I got lost descending into Todmorden – having been two minutes ahead of the next group, we were now two minutes behind.”

“From Hebden Bridge the real grind kicked in and I slowly moved through the pack, with Gareth Hughes of Mercia the only guy I could not get rid of! Then, as the last descent approached, Kyle Greig had somehow caught us up. So a madcap sprint ensued through streets of Haworth. I led us down a dead end lane, Gareth took advantage by spotting the correct route and he got me by a split second with Kyle a split behind me. Not the desired finish after 32 miles of running! So, very happy with 3hrs 55mins. It was definitely the hardest I’ve pushed myself in any race, particularly that last section from Stoodley summit to finish. Fingers crossed to see whether the two Welsh ‘Exiles’ get a place in the GB squad!”

Matthew Roberts – Earning that GB vest at the Howarth Hobble

Photos courtesy of Woodentops.org.uk

– Calder Valley News Reporter: Giles Simon –