Posts Tagged ‘Halifax’


Ogden Water is a local nature reserve surrounding a reservoir local to Queensbury where I live. It is a lovely place to go for a run or walk and is very popular with people who visit it all year round. There is a path around the reservoir where you can take a leisurely stroll with children and dogs, or you can go for a nice run safe in the knowledge that there are no cars trying to kill you! Alternatively you can head up into the woods and run the trails that take you through them. This gives you the opportunity to try running off road in a reasonably safe environment without going too far too soon and getting yourself into trouble.

However as I have recently found out Ogden Water is also the venue for a New Year’s day fell race, the Giants Tooth, where competitors race up to the Giants Tooth from the carpark up the trails through the woods and on the surrounding path back to the carpark. The race is around 3 miles and is run at a fast pace.

On Monday 7th I decided to do a recce of the route. I printed off a map I found on the internet of the approximate route and familiarised myself with it. The trial up to the Giants Tooth is easy to navigate and whilst steeper than I realised should not present too much of a challenge for anyone who has been running. On trails it is not too dangerous either although care must be taken when ascending the first climb as there are some wooden sleepers that act as steps but in wet and muddy conditions can be dangerous is a foot is misplaced on them.

Once at the Giants Tooth most of the climbing has been done and you are treated to some stunning views over Thornton Moor, Queensbury and Halifax. If you are racing though you will not have time to savour the views as you will be too busy trying to get your best time! However this was the point where the familiar became unfamiliar and not for the first time I took a wrong turn and whilst not lost I struggled.

I tried to remember the route from the map and decided that out of the three paths in front of me I would take the one that took me furthest away from the woods assuming that this would be the route as the other paths may make the total distance too short for the race. So off I went running through water and mud as is the norm at this time of the year, following a vague trail through the marsh reeds.

Soon I came across a stile, not uncommon and climbed over it and looked for the next trail path. I soon spotted this and began a descent down a step and at times tricky path but one that was by no means unrunnable until I got near the bottom and the path disappeared. This was worrying as I needed to cross a stream at the bottom and begin an ascent back to the woods. I looked around for a stile but could see nothing. Not wanting to damage what looked like a newly erected barbed wire fence I looked for the safest descent to the stream and carefully began to negotiate a steep embankment where I had to create my own path as there was not one visible.

This was where the familiar became unfamiliar for me. I thought I knew Ogden Water and I thought I had walked and run most of the trails around it. However this was a new part of it for me and all of a sudden I felt very isolated from the outside world, hidden in the vee of a valley away from all other life. I was stood at the bottom of a small valley surrounded by nothing but marsh reeds, water and mud. I knew there would be others walking Ogden Water and the moors but there was nothing to indicate any sign of life.

This made me realise how dangerous running off road can be sometimes. You may think you know an area intimately and then decide to take a new path out of curiosity and find yourself in a place that is at once unfamiliar, dangerous and exciting. What is dangerous for me is that I never take my mobile phone with me on a run so if anything was to happen I would be stuck on the moors on my own with no way of telling anyone. If I had broken my ankle on Monday I may very well still be on the moors lying at the bottom of a valley.

Today was not to be that day and I continued my run which was now reduced to a crawl, up a steep embankment looking for anything that might resemble a path. I scrambled up the rest of the embankment and eventually found something resembling a path which led to a stile and back to the safety of the woods.

The rest of the run was on familiar trail paths and my pace picked up immediately, at some points surprisingly so according to Strava! And at the end I had done around 3 miles and felt a sense of accomplishment having discovered another part of Ogden Water. I completed the run in around 42 minutes which isn’t a great time for 3 miles but considering the descent and ascent of the valley I felt reasonably happy with it. If I go a different route I should be able to knock at least 5 minutes off that time.,

I’m sure that Ogden Water has no more surprises for me but you never know! Next time I do a recce of the Giants Tooth I will take a slightly different route that doesn’t go as far off the usual track and also have someone with me who knows the route. That should help me improve my time!

 


Recently I was asked to write and perform some poetry for an event in my home village to remember the closure of Queensbury Railway Station 60 years ago. These are the poems I wrote. I wanted to capture the life of the railway rather than go into historical details. I hope I did this.

A hill stands in the way

Tons of earth lain here for years

Nothing has moved it

Not wind, rain or snow

Until now

Until now with the overwhelming desire of men

To get through to the other side

Underneath the village of Queensbury

To the town of Halifax

And navvies come from all around

To move earth and dig the tunnel

And with pickaxes and spades

They move lumps of mud and clay

And slowly a tunnel begins to form

Deeper underneath Queensbury they go

Determined to reach Halifax

And lay the tracks of the railway

A rumble deep underground as the

Slaughter line comes crashing down

And a wife and child are fatherless

Penniless, homeless

The price for some was high

But the men must carry on

In order to achieve their goal

And then

A chink of blinding light

Penetrates the blackness

And there is Halifax

1 1/2 miles through earth and stone

The men have built the Queensbury tunnel

 —————————————– 

The tunnel is finished, complete

Tons of earth above will not fall in

The people of Queensbury can

Sleep peacefully

As the lines that will carry trains go down

Mile after mile of cold, hard steel

Sleeping on beams of wood

Forever trapped in the damp darkness

Waiting for the steam train

To wake them up as it takes

The workers and holiday makers

To their destinations

——————————- 

And through the train comes

Thundering through the tunnel

As the village of Queensbury

Silently shudders overhead

Residents deep in sleep

Unaware of the mechanical violence

Happening far below

 ——————————-

And the train clanks and clunks to a halt

At the Queensbury triangle

Hundreds of people get off

And rush up Station Rd

It is long and steep

But they have no choice

The train was late

But they cannot be

Wages will be docked if they are

And someone will go hungry

 ———————————–

The day has been long and hard

Stood at the end of a loom

In a room filled with smoke

Noise, blood, sweat and tears

A child lost an arm today

No-one will see him again

And now the journey home begins

Tired limbs hurry down Station Rd

The train waits for them

Covered in soot and grime

Ready to take the workers

Into the darkness of the tunnel

One last time

 ————————-

And so it goes on

Day after week after month after year

Passengers go to and fro

Carrying cargo and coal

From work to home

For business and pleasure

Every hour of every day

The trains never stop

Not even for snow

———————–

But then stop it does

Passengers in 55

Cargo in 56

The lines go in 63

The air is quiet and still

Without the noise of the

Trains to disturb it

Nature reclaims the tunnel

For its own

 ——————

Now 60 years has past

Since the last passenger

Train ran on the Queensbury line

But plans are afoot to

Reopen the tunnel

And once again

Allow people to

Travel underneath Queensbury

This time by

By foot and by bike

For business and pleasure

As their ancestors

Did all those years ago


Well reality hit home tonight. I decided to do a steady run down to my writing workshop from my home in Queensbury to Dean Clough Mills, Halifax where the workshop takes place. The route is mainly downhill, nothing too difficult and I managed to get 4.25 miles in by running round the car park.

However the run did seem harder than it should have been. To be honest I think the effects of having too much fun over the Bank Holiday weekend finally caught up with me and even for this run there wasn’t much left in the tank.

But training has to start at some point, putting it off means a day lost when you could have been out there testing yourself, seeing what point you’re at with your running and what you need to do to get to your goal.

Well I need to do quite a lot of hard work to get to my goal starting with being more realistic with my training goals. My next target will be building up to 6 miles on the canal tow path. Nothing too strenuous, just nice and steady and concentrate on doing the mileage first.

Nutrition is very important too and I’m sure a week off the beer will do me the world of good and get me back to my fighting weight and flying up the hills again. 5lbs is a lot to put on over one weekend!

Next training session is on Thursday at my local club Queensbury Running Club. I’m looking forward to it as the running guides always pick some interesting routes and because I live on top of a hill, hill training can’t be avoided. It will be interesting to see how I go compared to tonight.


It’s only recently that the running bug has hot me and I mean really hit me. I joined my local running club last year, July 2014, aged 46, when an old friend of mine who I used to work with set up a beginners group there to generate membership for the club. I went along and for a while I was the only male there which had the added bonus of me being the fastest male in the group every week despite being so much slower than the lasses!

I carried on going and I began to look forward to it and even started to find old friends and make new ones so there was the beginnings of a social side too. I was never the fastest and I was never going to be. As the title says I’m a fat lad from Yorkshire, at this point I weighed around 18 ½ stone I think so I would just plod on in the slowest group but still enjoying myself.

Time moves on and four of us who had got friendly with each other decided to enter our local park run at Bradford. Now 5k isn’t far when all things are considered but it was far enough for me! I plodded round in around 45 minutes on my first park run but I did it and that was the main thing. After two more park runs my time had improved to just over 40 minutes and breaking the 40 minute barrier seemed to be a dream that would never happen.

And then autumn came and I stopped running. My final year at university had begun, the nights were drawing in and the wind and rain came back. Going outside and running didn’t seem so appealing and combined with the fact that my friends from the club had stopped going too there seemed no reason to go out, get soaking wet and run.

Autumn turned into winter and with the snow and ice the group runs were cancelled because of the risks involved with inexperienced runners in poor conditions. I still tried to get out but only for some walks locally nothing too strenuous!

And then this year 2015 something happened, my mind-set changed, a switch was flicked in my mind and a light came on. I can’t say for sure what it was, maybe the realisation that I was finally leaving the protecting cocoon of university and I would be released back into the wild combined with the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do either made me wake up from the slumber I was in and realise I had to do something.

And one thing I realised I had to do was to get fit. My weight had dropped to 18st and I could walk slowly round the village where I live but I struggled and would soon feel out of breath, stopping for a rest and sometimes wishing I hadn’t come out.

But the friends I had made from the running club kept in contact and we began to talk of a return to the club. All of us had put weight on and needed to shift some fat and with spring fast approaching it meant it would be light at night again when we had all got home and so we could go out and see where we were running!

And so we went back to our running club, together of course because so many new people had joined since we last went we all felt a touch nervous about going on our own. But we needn’t have worried. We were soon all talking to each other and laughing and ready for our first run.

The lad who leads the group as a whole also leads the beginners group. I say beginners because this is the group into which new runners to the club can go if they want to, just to ease themselves into running and see how they do.

Where I live is on top of a hill in West Yorkshire but it is possible to run round it without encountering too many hills if you know what you’re doing! We did this for a few weeks and were soon back into the swing of things. I felt comfortable in this group and did not want to move out of it, mainly I think from a fear of embarrassing myself in the next group up.

And then we heard of a new 5k park run that was being started in Halifax. Now although we are in Bradford we are literally on the outskirts of that city and Halifax is closer to us so we decided to give it a try.

The event is held at Shroggs Park in Halifax and the course is a lot more challenging than the one at Bradford being a loop with two climbs of decent length for a park. I missed the first one, but I made it for the second one and lumbered round in around 45+ minutes. This was due to me familiarising myself with the course and being quite unfit and overweight!

But around this time I also started to eat healthier and go out more on my own. Nothing too hard but just running down one of the longer roads in my village was a major achievement for me and something I was quite proud of at the time. I had to miss the next park run at Shroggs Park but turned up for the next one with a plan in mind.

After giving it some thought I had decided that the best idea for me was to run the downhill parts and walk the uphill parts. I did this and got a new PB for the 5k of 37.25! I felt good and I was happy with this result. My plan had worked and I had no aches and pains from running what I thought was an intelligent race.

But then I thought I can do better. Yes I felt good at the end but I also knew I had plenty left in the tank, I knew I hadn’t given it 100% and I knew if I could conquer the hills my time would come down dramatically. So at the running club I decided to move up a group and start to push myself.

The next group up is run by a young lass and she comes with a reputation for training you hard, but getting the most out of you. I joined her group and she told us that we were doing some hill work. Now although I felt a bit apprehensive I also knew that this was exactly what I needed to improve my times.

And the hard work did pay off. At the next park run I just went for it from the start. It was hard work and didn’t feel very fast although the app on my phone told me otherwise. As I started my last lap I know I had given it my all as my legs were beginning to feel like lead weights and I sensed I was slowing down.

Past the start/finish line for the third and last time and the uphill slope felt like a mountain. However what kept me going was not only my determination to finish but two ladies who kept overtaking me and then running in front of me instead of moving to the side. This really infuriated me because I felt they were being very disrespectful towards me.

On the last uphill section I went flying past them using up my last reserves of energy, but it was enough to pull out a gap which they could not pull back. I did worry though that they would catch me on the finishing straight as I reached the top of the hill. My legs had gone, my whole body had gone, I literally had nothing left, yet somehow I managed to haul 17st+ over the finishing line for a time of 35.50 according to my phone.

I knew I had a new PB and whilst it was in the 35 minute zone I was aiming for I was a little bit disappointed it wasn’t faster as I had put so much effort into the race and literally had nothing left to give at the end.

The results are usually released around 12.30pm – 1.00pm after the race but this time they were released late, very late. I think it was around 3.00pm when they finally dropped into my inbox and to my amazement my official time was 34.55! I could not believe this. How could my phone be nearly a minute out? I looked again and yes the time was still 34.55.

So after all that my efforts had been worth it and I was rewarded with a new PB in a time that, three months previously I would not have dreamed of. I felt so good about it I could have cried. To many people who do not understand running it will have no meaning. The winner was also from the club I run with and he won it in around 17 ½ minutes.

But to me it was more than just a time. It was a vindication of my new diet and the extra training I was putting into running that somehow I was on the right path and that I could do something on my own with help from some amazing people at the club.


This is a link to an article I have had published in my local paper the Halifax Courier about how taking up writing has changed my life for the better. Hope you enjoy it:

http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/calderdale/writing-gave-andrew-anew-lease-of-life-1-7200603


On Tuesday 17th February I went to the Calderdale Industrial Museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Nothing extraordinary about a trip to a museum you might think, but the Calderdale Industrial Museum is different to other museums. The museum only started opening again last year after closing its doors to the public around 2000/01. Even now it only opens three or four times a year due to funding constraints and being staffed entirely by volunteers.

But this also makes it enchanting, mystical even. And this is because the museum at the moment is stuck in a time warp. Everything is as it was fourteen years ago, the signs, the machines even down to a jacket hung up on a wall. But what hits you most is the smell. The thought of fourteen years of grease, oil, soap and metal might sound disgusting to some people but to me it is so evocative, it fires up the senses and the smells turn into images and the imagination is set alight.

Why? Picture the men who made these amazing machines from a solid block of iron or steel weighing several tons or just a few pounds. These blocks of iron would be fashioned into lathes 50 feet long, drills 10 feet tall, multi-coloured weaving looms, machines that can turn reduce steel from 4 inches to 1 millimetre and something so intricate and delicate it is a true wonder of the industrial age. And all it does is make a staple!

And what of the men, women and children who worked these machines? Men,  women and children who would rise before the dawn chorus so that they wouldn’t be late for work and have to go through the special gate just for latecomers. Who would work for 12 hours or more in conditions that would leave their senses dulled by the noise, the lack of light, the dirt and grime they breathed into their lungs and having to keep up with this new machinery that moved as faster than a bird diving for prey hour after hour after hour all day, every day.

And what happened if one of them should fall asleep at their machine or miscalculate the speed of the iron arm going back and forth at 10,000 rpm or more? At worse they might lose a finger, a toe an arm or a leg. At worse they would be killed as they tried to earn a pittance to survive. If they were injured and became too ill or disabled to work they would be cast into the street to beg and steal to live.

It is their lives and deaths I smell as I wander round the museum, the blood, sweat and tears they split everyday onto the wooden floors, the relief at another day over without injury and some money to feed the hungry mouths at home or the cries of pain as a finger was lost in a split second and their life was changed forever. And these smells transform themselves beyond the machines sat there silent but gleaming in all their splendour for the descendants of the workers to admire in awe and wonder. The smells transform into a fully working factory with all the sensory experiences you would have lived through then.

The Calderdale Industrial Museum evokes all this and much more because of what it is in an age of metal boxes. A true step back in time to an era that we should not forget nor sugar coat in a romantic sheen. But experience and understand it for what it is, what it was and what it stands for today.

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