Results and blog

Fell Races In the West Pennine Moors - Natural England’s Current Position

Posted on FRA by Colin Jones (Horwich) on 12 November 2013

Natural England’s purpose is to protect and improve England’s natural environment and encourage people to enjoy and get involved in their surroundings. In considering how we respond to requests for access, such as those from fell running clubs, we have to try to balance our desire to support such activity with the need to protect and improve habitats found on the fells. Of these, we know that blanket bog and other habitats on deep peat are very easily damaged and are slow to recover. There has been much focus recently on the urgent need to conserve peatland habitats for the variety of services they provide to society, including amongst others functions for climate change, water quality and biodiversity. The majority of peatland areas in England are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Most are also managed under Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreements which provide financial incentives to land managers for enhanced environmental management.

The West Pennine Moors is largely comprised of peatland habitats including blanket bog and, due to its location close to urban areas, is under a lot of damaging access pressure. Natural England has over the last few years negotiated ES agreements on a large proportion of the land, including on the moors around Rivington. This has been done in a partnership project with the land owner United Utilities, who have invested significant money in works such as bare peat restoration and stock fencing to improve moorland condition for water quality purposes. Natural England is in the process of designating the West Pennine Moors as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in recognition of its national importance.

In short, there is now a lot of money and effort being directed to this important area in order to try to arrest its decline and to maintain and enhance its condition for the benefit of present and future generations.

In the case of the recent requests to run races on Winter Hill, we have advised that elements of the route which are planned to cross blanket bog should either be amended to avoid this important sensitive habitat or should be confined to footpaths or other public rights of way on more resilient surfaces. We recognise that this would necessitate a change to the normal culture of fell running, which avoids paths, but we think it could be possible to plan a route in the vicinity which would, at least in part, satisfy runners’ requirements whilst avoiding damage to habitats. We remain willing to work with stakeholders and partners to help work out a solution which would be acceptable to all.

Results - 10 February 2013

Julian Goudge once again led the way for Chorley with a superb race to finish 9th (second M40) in a time of 1:55:24. Malc Christie made the most of his experience to arrive back in an excellent 19th (3rd V50) in 2:01:49. Malc was followed in by Chorley’s prolific fell-runner Darren Fishwick with a strong 27th place (2:03:10). Hassan Khattab was next back with a massive PB for the route (34th, 2:04:12), shaving ¼ hour off his 2010 time despite the poor running conditions.

Yewan Bennison also improved on last year’s time, finishing 58th in 2:10:13. Tash Fellowes was next back in 97th (sixth lady) in 2:23:05, just ahead of Dave Kershaw in 108 (2:26:59). Michael Hendry learned much from his experience to finish 126th (2:32:21), while Paul Jackson had a more difficult race this time around (162, 2:44:11).


Blog – A novice’s take on the best (and worst!) of Winter Hill

Snow began to fall ominously over Rivington Top Barn as runners lined up to pick up their race numbers ahead of the 31th Norman Matthews Winter Hill fell race earlier today.

Things started well, though, as the initial slog towards the Pike seemed relatively quick and easy, and I felt relieved in those early stages about choosing a running jersey in preference to the more cumbersome wind-proof jacket.

The going got tougher across the moors towards Two Lads as heavy snow began to accumulate which made it harder to pick out the path from the bog (which, I’ve found out, is about thigh-depth by the way!) I almost completely missed the second checkpoint in my haste and early disorientation, with thanks to Lostock’s Mark Shuttleworth for quickly putting me straight.

The boggy bit towards Belmont Road wasn’t too bad today as a clear racing trod had, by the time I got there, churned its muddy way through the snow fields as a welcome navigational aid.

Then it was time for the long slog up the ramp to Winter Hill. This would have been quite scenic if it weren’t for the knowledge that the hardest parts of the race were still to come. I was buoyed along by a heady mixture of Jelly Babies and the Haribo that Tash had dished out to me on her way through. The ramp was runnable, and the blizzard had a cooling effect against the considerable effort of the ascent.

Don’t remember much about the next descent to CP5 and the subsequent ascent towards CP6 except the cheery shout-out from Dave Kershaw. The climb was brutal against the blizzard and the walkers descending in the opposite direction seemed equipped to tackle a hike along an alpine glacier. Finally, there was a sense of euphoria as I crested the top of Winter Hill with the strong support of the brilliant marshalls at the trig point. This was the highest point of the race, and I still had a pocket full of Jelly Babies and half a bottle of diluted Ribena. I could do this.

Downhill from Winter Hill and, disappointingly, the brakes were on as the path had become icy. The visibility was still poor so at least there weren’t too many runners subjected to my 'double windmill' running ‘style’. And I learned a brand new downhill technique today – the “sledge” or controlled fall/bum slide seemed to catch on like a Mexican wave from runner to runner around me.

After a welcome shelter in the valley around CP7, it was time for the final proper ascent towards Noon Hill and the ultra-boggy trudge across the saddle to Stream Junction for the second time. The bog had taken any remaining pace out of my legs and, with the bitingly cold easterly wind, it was the first time that I had felt cold and began to regret some kit choices. After landing flat on my back at CP8 - “This will be on Youtube later” joked one marshall - it was finally back towards the Pike and the last proper descent towards CP9.

The downhill from the Pike felt good. I was making ground on the runners in front, and I felt spurred on by the promise of relative civilisation and shelter among the woods below. The end seemed in sight.

But no. At this stage, my legs were like lead and my Ronhill tracksters (bad choice) were flapping about and sodden. The Norman Matthews Winter Hill fell race also had a sting in its tail. The final mile or so through the Japanese garden should have been quick running, but seemed an eternity instead. The last flicker of stamina and endurance had ebbed away at CP9 and I was spent. After spending most of the second half of the race among the same two or three runners, I was now being passed by a dozen or more athletes who had measured the race’s demands much better than I had.

The end came as a relief. Pleased to have completed a gruelling race, but frustrated to have run out of steam on the very last leg. Hopefully I will be back another year to build on this first attempt.

Thanks to Hassan for lending me some kit, and of course, to Tash for the Haribo!

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