Posts Tagged ‘Alcomden Stones’

Last Friday I did one of my more extreme runs, a run up to Alcomden Stones on the moor above Top Withens near Haworth. This was a planned run as I had checked the weather forecast and knew that heavy snow was forecast. With Alcomden Stones being high up and exposed I guessed that this would be my last chance to see them covered in snow for a while as spring and warmer temperatures come closer. I wasn’t sure how much snow there would be but looking out of my back window there was a decent covering so I assumed there would be a bit up on the tops.
On the drive up to Penistone Country Park I could see the snowline on the moors and knew I had made the right decision in going for a run. For me there is something special about running in snow that other weather conditions don’t have. I think it’s the fact that we don’t get snow very often and the way it changes the landscape and what you thought you knew makes it so special to run in. Clag (fog) is my next favourite as again everything changes and takes on a new perspective when you can’t see very far in front of you.
I parked up and knew that this was going to be a very different snow run to the day before when it was bright sunshine and stunning views for miles. The wind was blowing hard and visibility was limited even at Penistone. The top of the moor was obscured in a snowstorm but this didn’t put me off as this area is one I know really well and I was confident of my ability to navigate in bad conditions and be able to keep going if the weather worsened.
Soon I was running along the trail and through ice cold water. It’s a shock for a couple of seconds and then you get used to it. You have no choice but to if you want to run off road in winter. On the trail that leads to the Bronte waterfalls the snow was falling heavier and I still couldn’t see Top Withens as I can on a clear day. I was running well but being careful as the path was wet and ice could be concealed anywhere. The thought of falling and injuring myself wasn’t a very appealing one. I knew that if I did it could be a long time before I was rescued, and the cold conditions would make things worse. I had packed my emergency sleeping bag just in case.
I stopped at the Bronte waterfalls and bridge to take some photos. The waterfall was in full flow which doesn’t happen very often, and the bridge was glistening wet even in the gloomy conditions of the snowstorm. Over the bridge and up the hill to the path at the top of the moor that takes you to Top Withens. At the end of the path I could finally see Top Withens coming into view. It was hidden in the snowstorm but was beginning to appear from the gloom. I ran along the path as fast as I dared but I was happy with my progress. At the end the final climb loomed into view and I walked up to Top Withens.
Top Withens looked very dramatic in the conditions standing out like a dark monolith against the swirling white backdrop. It took on a sense of foreboding that it doesn’t normally have in better conditions and I knew that this view alone was worth coming for as it’s not a view very many people get to see. I took some photos of the house before I set off climbing again to my destination, Alcomden Stone high up on the moor.
The trail to Alcomden Stones was just visible and I began my climb to the top of the moor in deep snow. At the top the moor levels, out and I was able to pick up pace and even run in parts. I was running on memory and hoping that I was going in the right direction. A dark, grey object stood proud of the ground against the snow and I had reached the trig point on the moor. Relived, I could now see the stones a short distance away and I began to run towards them.
The snow on the top was deep. Grip wasn’t a problem but moving fast was because it was deep. I made good progress despite the deep snow and soon I was at the stones and able to take in how different they looked with a layer of snow on them but still looking bleak and black against the white and grey surrounding them. I took some photos of the stones and had a look at the path that takes you down to Ponden Kirk. I know there is a path there, I have run it in the past, but today I could see a start and an end but nothing inbetween apart from snow covered heather. I decided it would be too dangerous to try and run across this today as one wrong step and I could be knee deep in freezing cold water and a sprained ankle or worse.
I turned around and started my run back to Penistone Country Park. The weather had noticeably worsened by now. The wind had picked up and tore my jacket hood off my head. I carried on with droplets of ice hitting my face and head. My footprints had already been covered by snow and I was again running on memory and instinct. I made it to the trig point without any problems but then I started on the right path back to Top Withens and then convinced myself I was going the wrong way and went back to the trig point only to realise I had been going the right way in the first place.
I carried on this path and soon I could see the tops of the two trees next to Top Withens and I knew I was safe and off the top of the moor. At the house I could see the weather was changing for the better and snow was already disappearing in the short time I had last been here. The rest of the run back to Penistone was nice but uneventful. I kept a steady pace watching out for any ice and soon I could see Penistone and knew my warm car was there waiting for me.
It had been a short, exhilarating experience. I had never run in a snowstorm as bad as this or in one where I was so exposed to potential danger. I carried an emergency sleeping bag and had the What Three Words app on my phone, but the element of danger is still there and had I fallen and injured myself anything could have happened. It was worth it for me though to see the moors in their most savage and brutal beauty.

Yesterday, Sunday 31st May I went for my first long training run, the first of many. To be honest I don’t know many places where I can go on a long run off-road despite living in a semi-rural part of the country. This is as much to do with my knack of just getting out there and running or walking but not taking any notice of where I’m going as anything else!

However I do know Haworth, the world famous home of the Bronte’s and the moors are said to have provided the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights. I have walked these moors many times myself and so they are an ideal place for me to start my off-road training as I know the paths and trails and can vary my route every time.

So off to Penistone Hill Country Park in my car I went and soon I was sat there in the car park looking towards Top Withens on a wet and windy Sunday morning. The scene could have come straight from Wuthering Heights and I would not have been surprised to have seen Cathy or Heathcliff come walking by, hand in hand, two lovers forever trapped on the moors…

This is the view that greeted me as I parked up

Haworth Moor 310515 Wet and Windy

But I didn’t have time to sit there daydreaming; I had a training run to do! So off I set on a familiar path to the Bronte waterfalls, Top Withens, then the Trig point on top of the moors and finally Alcomden Stones. This is around 3 ½ miles but always seems a lot further. The route starts off on trail before turning to rock and mud and then finally open moorland above Top Withens and on the way to the Trig point and Alcomden Stones.

Today though extra care was needed as the route was slippy and muddy because of the rain but I still made good progress up to the Stones getting there in around 45 minutes. Alcomden Stones are an outcrop of ancient stones allegedly where prehistoric men worshipped. I think it is a spectacular place simply because it is one of the few places where you can go and experience freedom from all the stresses of modern day life. There is nothing around for miles and you can feel free here.

But when you get here you also have a problem. You can go back to Top Withens on the trail that is easy to navigate or you can try and get down to Ponden Kirk. The problem here is that the trail runs out and you are left on open marshland and bog with no clear path. I of course took this option and followed the stream as closely as I could. If you follow a stream you will eventually come out at a point where you will be able to make a more informed choice of route.

I knew though where this stream came out but this did not make the run any easier. My feet got soaking wet standing in water and covered in thick mud as I made my way as quickly as possible across the marshland. But I enjoyed this, far more than I enjoy running on roads. This for me is true, pure running, in the wilds with the elements against you and you need all your wits about you to avoid coming a cropper and taking a wet and muddy fall!

But I managed to avoid falling and after a lot of jumping around over embankments and avoiding muddy bog I made it to the end of the route and Ponden Kirk. Most normal people at this point take the path over the top of the Kirk down towards the reservoir. Me however being a bit mad go down the side of the Kirk, a steep and narrow path just so I can go back up it. Yesterday it was very slippy so I had to be careful or I might fall and if you fall here that could be it…

Back up to the top path and having avoided falling I ploughed on down towards Ponden Reservoir and on to the path that would take me back up to the waterfalls and the path back towards my car. Apart from getting a bit lost the rest of the run was uneventful but satisfying as I was building up my distance training now.

That was apart from on the path from the waterfalls back to Penistone Hill. The path is narrow in parts and strewn with rocks, but I had a group of older hikers in front of me that were slowing my pace. To get round them I took some risks and jumped over and off rocks with a pace and agility that surprised me! The best moment came when one of them said ‘there’s a fell runner, bloody idiot!’ I took this as a compliment! Nobody had ever called me a fell runner before!

And 9.3 miles later I was back at my car. Feet soaking, dripping wet, muscles already aching, tired but having an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement deep inside me from having achieved so much more in my first proper training session than I thought I could. I already have a route in mind for next week. But that’s another story.