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Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge: Bowland Fell Runners: Fell Running in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire

Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge

A stunning day with Joss - by Nick Hewitt
 
The Bob Graham Round is a one-off in more senses than one. It's a 
one-off in the uniqueness of its audacity and difficulty, teasing and 
testing the ambitious long-distance fell runner until it’s finally 
achieved. It's a one-off in its standing in the community as a rite of 
passage. And it's a one-off in that very few people feel the 
necessity, having successfully completed it, to do it again. From 
time to time I recall vivid images of my own successful round in 
1986 and briefly entertain thoughts of repeating it – then quickly 
remember the futility of trying to recapture something that 
happened 27 years ago. 
 
But the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge is different. A one-off, yes, 
created by a living legend and standing as a unique testament to a 
unique man, taking a diagonal route across the Lake District and 
finishing at his very front door. But its also cunningly designed to 
lure the unsuspecting in – inviting, tempting, requiring repetition 
with increasing time allowances with each five year age increment 
beyond 50. It is a treadmill onto which the unsuspecting and gullible
might find it difficult to leave.
 
And so it was that on September 23rd 2013, on the dawn of my 60th
birthday I was standing in the darkness on Pooley Bridge, for the 
third time in 10 years contemplating the 48 miles to come. My 
companion on the first leg was my friend and work colleague Andy 
Jarvis, fit and strong and raring to go, but not used to running on the
fells, or in the dark, or with a rucsac, or as a pacer or navigator. We 
were both nervous! 
 
At 4.00 am we set off in thick fog across the fields, through the 
caravan park, up to the fell wall, gradually emerging into bright 
moonlight as we climbed slowly upwards. We made good time over 
Authur’s Pike, easily keeping to the path and finding the 
intermediate tops all the way to High Street. By now the sky to the 
east was red with the sun rising behind the Pennines. By 
Thornthwaite Beacon it was daylight and suddenly there was 
sunshine. The drop down to Stoney Cove and up to the Pike went 
quickly and on the traverse to Kirkstone we were rewarded with 
views of the mist swirling up and over the Pass from the south. 
 
 
Although I hadn’t wanted to overcook things on the first 16 miles, I 
was also hoping to get a few minutes in hand if possible. Although 
Joss generously allows 18 hours for those of us only five years from 
our old age pension, I was hoping to finish in nearer 15 hours, the 
time allowance for a 55 year old. At Kirkstone I was thirty minutes 
up on my tentative schedule, only to find that Crispin hadn’t arrived,
so after a brief few moments to retrieve my gear from Andy I set off 
up Red Screes alone. The long drag up to Hart Crag – one of the
longer individual sections on the route – was enlived by splendid 
views of the mist below me to the north and the expectation that 
Cris would catch me at any moment. In fact I was approaching 
Fairfield when I heard him call me and we crested the summit 
together. Seat Sandal came easily at which point Cris turned back to
Kirkstone and I went down the excellent trod past the pyramid stone
to Dunmail Raise, arriving six hours after leaving Pooley Bridge.
 
At Dunmail I was met by the well-oiled pacing machine of Chris, 
Leigh and Ian. Leigh saw me safely over the now-busy road and Ian 
pressed soup and coffee on me while Chris sorted through my gear, 
throwing out more or less everything I’d been carrying. Steel Fell 
was, as usual, a 25 minute flog but it went quickly enough, with 
Leigh and Chris chatting away. However, things went decidedly 
downhill soon after, as my stomach started protesting violently and I
began sweating profusely. Suddenly I found myself on my knees 
communing with the great gods of High Raise. After a fairly retched 
15 minutes or so we were on the move again and by the time we 
reached Bowfell I was beginning to feel better. 
 
 
The whole section from Dunmail had been in thick mist, with Chris 
and Leigh scouting ahead to find the best lines. Between them they 
did a brilliant job of navigating and my GPS track afterwards 
confirmed that we were absolutely spot on the best line the whole 
way through this section. Esk Pike and Great End passed by 
smoothly, with fantastic views of the very top of Great Gable poking 
out of the mist. By now it was really warm in the autumn sun and 
descending into the mist was a cooling relief. As always, the route 
off Great End provoked some discussion, but in fact the cairned trod 
was easy to find and follow and we reached Sty Head at 2.30 pm, 
well up on time.
 
Jenn, John Taylor and Ian were waiting in the mist for me, having 
walked up from Wasdale Head. Although my stomach had settled 
down I couldn’t do the buffet they had lined up on the rescue box 
justice, and after a few minutes we were on our way again. The 
summit of Great Gable was just out of the mist, and we had 
spectacular views across to Scafell and the Pike, the summits 
shining in the sun, floating above the cloud that filled the valleys. 
 
Going up Kirk Fell I began to feel my legs – this was by far my 
longest outing in the hills since my mountaineering accident, 
helicopter ride and stay in a Swiss hospital 18 months ago - but by 
the top of Pillar I knew that we would reach Greendale in good time, 
and I hoped, in good order. From Scoat Fell we had a brilliant view 
looking down on the very top few feet of Seatallon poking above the
mist, with only the last hill, Middlefell, obscured.
 
 
The Pots of Ashness is one of my favourite names in the Lake 
District – probably because it always brings to mind Wasdale 
Horseshoe, the definitive and best Lakeland race. But trudging 
through the bog in the mist wasn’t much fun, despite Chris’s expert 
navigation and Jenn and John’s encouragement. By now my legs 
were really heavy, and the plod up Seatallon wasn’t great either, but
of course the end was in sight – at least it would have been if we’d 
been out of the mist. As we started up Middlefell we heard whistling 
ahead and before long two dogs appeared out of the gloom to lead 
us up to where Joss, Ian and Leigh were waiting. Joss pressed some 
drink on me and the remaining climb up Middlefell went fast as we 
chatted about the route and the weather.
 
Suddenly there was Greendale below us, and Joss led a storming 
pace down through the bracken, sticks flailing in every direction. 
After probably the fastest ten minutes of the day we were there, at 
Greendale, 48 miles, 17,000 feet and 14 hours 42 minutes from 
Pooley Bridge. A cool-down in the beck, followed by birthday cake 
and bubbly shared with Joss and Jenn and a fantastic group of 
friends was a great ending to a great day. What a way to spend a 
birthday! And thanks to Joss I can look forward to another similar 
one in five years time.
 
ps thanks a million Jenn and Andy, Cris, Chris, Leigh, John, Ian and 
Joss