Trail Running, Wildlife and Souvenirs

Wildlife is great (said  in a radio DJ voice). Seeing a wild creature when I’m out running feels like a privilege. Spotting something when there’s no one else around whilst I crash through undergrowth like a herd of elephants, is both fascinating and amusing. Yesterday I ran and saw a deer, heard buzzards above me, and managed to bring a somewhat surprising souvenir home with me…

Who could resist this path?
Who could resist this path?

I set off for a run not really knowing where I was going. I knew I wanted to run somewhere different, and knew I wanted to get out on some footpaths rather than a road but didn’t have the time to drive somewhere first. On a whim I headed up towards the allotments thinking I’d see what the path behind them was like. I’ve tried to go down here before (because there’s a series of geocaches there that I’ve not made it to) but have been beaten back by free ranging bulls, chest high nettles and over-the-knee mud. Not so yesterday! I successfully made my way down this enchanting path, all the way to a rarely seen longbarrow.


Photo of Longbarrow
Lanhill Longbarrow. Next to a main road, but hidden from it
Photo of Bluebell Wood
Bluebell Wood. The deer headed this way

Turning back from here I retraced my steps and found the four geocaches along the way. At the bluebell wood a deer ran out in front of me – not sure who was more surprised, but the deer was definitely quicker. Geocaching involves finding hidden treasure (small tupperware containers, sample containers, pet identity ‘barrels’ and the like) from their GPS co-ordinates and usually a hint if you need it. Most smart phones will happily run the Geocaching app, so the return journey saw me holding my phone in my hands whilst alternating between sprinting along the path, and rummaging under stiles, tree trunks and bushes.

I returned home, ankles throbbing from nettle stings and legs scratched from brambles, but pleased I’d had a good run and had found four geocaches. As I uploaded my Garmin data to the the PC I idly scratched at my armpit and was extremely surprised when a small green caterpillar fell out*. Now that was some wildlife I hadn’t expected to see!

* Pretty sure it wasn’t there when I set out

Juneathon day 5 – An easy run plus Geocaching. What could possibly go wrong ….

I felt really tired this morning, a combination of 4 consecutive days at the allotment, hard intervals yesterday plus a bad nights sleep last night. I didn’t feel like running, but I thought of Juneathon, sighed, and planned an easy run. I guess that’s the trouble with beauty of a challenge like Juneathon – it gets you off your backside when you’d otherwise slack off for the day.

To make my run more interesting I decided to head out and do a new ring of Geocaches that recently appeared close to home. Just an overgrown bridleway to struggle down and then a lovely 2 mile ring of treasure seeking. What could possibly go wrong?

As a precaution against nettles I wore my running capris rather than my shorts*, strapped on my water bottle, applied sun cream, made sure I had old socks on in case it was muddy, printed off a little map to help with navigation, and off I set. I felt like I was orienteering!

Thick, oozy mud
Thick, oozy mud

The overgrown bridleway was okay, a few scratches and stings but not too bad. I found the lovely footpath leading to the first geocache, and quickly found the cache. I signed the log, re-hid the box, and retraced my steps. I checked the directions on my phone, checked my little map, looked around me, but couldn’t see a footpath sign anywhere. I set off along the track which looked most likely, but soon came across one of those huge muddy puddles which completely fill the track with no chance of easing my way around the edge. “Well, it did say it was a bit muddy!” I brightly told myself, and started tip toeing into the mud. Over the (new) shoes, ah well, bit of mud never hurt anyone. Up to the ankles – ewwwww – its very green mud and there are lots of cows round here. Mid shin – there’s lots of flies here as well – best keep my mouth shut. Slip – upto knees – I think I’m about to lose a trainer!!! I made it to the other side, but realised that nothing here looked like it should on the map, or the directions, and no one else had mentioned knee high mud. So I did what any right minded wuss would do, and turned around and waded my way back through.

I hear its very good for the skin
I hear its very good for the skin

Having come so far and got so muddy it was a shame to head back home already, so I decided to try and complete the ring in reverse order. I headed past the cache I’d just done and carried on along this promising track. Then the nettles started. Knee high, thigh high, waist high, by the time they reached chest high I’d had enough. I turned round and  headed out of there.

I made it home by a circular route so I could still get a few miles in (I did), and so hopefully the mud would have dried a little by the time I got home (it did). Looking at my Garmin route and the Geocaching website I can now see which path I should have taken (it wasn’t the muddy one so good job I turned around).

So 3.65 miles, in 58:35 minutes (mile 2 took over 27 minutes – that’s mud wading for you!) Still have to tackle the trainers, and if anyone knows anything to stop the awful itch of nettle sting which is currently crawling up both legs and arms I’d be eternally grateful.

* Running capris offer zero protection against nettle stings – just ask my knees and thighs 

Running and Geocaching. And mud. And hills. And a Cup.

So as a keen geocaching family, its always exciting to see a new geocache* pop up close to home. Even more exciting to see one just off one of my running routes. Slightly less exciting that that particular route is the muddy and hilly one I usually only brave before the annual ‘Marshfield Mudlark’. Add in the fact it has been torrential rain for the last week means that you would have to be seriously deranged to be looking forward to this.

So that’s why I set out yesterday, on the first non-raining day for a week, aiming for the woods and the river. Because its a long walk to get down to the By Brook here it is usually very quiet, and apart from the 2 dog walkers I met, the whole area was silent apart from the river and the birds. Despite the clouds, the deserted farm simply looked sad and abandoned, rather than eerie and spooky.

Deserted farm
It’ll be this way, then

Despite my mud warnings, the path wasn’t too bad. Squelchy in places, but nothing a good ‘wade’ couldn’t get through! I was wearing my shorts as I thought if it was really muddy it was easier to hose my legs off when I got home, rather than struggle through with wet and muddy trousers.

As I got closer to the cache location I had to pull my phone out to follow my progress with GPS. Crashing through the woods, I found the obvious spot and then spent around 10 minutes rummaging in the undergrowth getting muddy hands and knees to match the rest of my legs. Found the tupperware, opened it up, and discovered that I had got the FTF (‘First to Find’) and my reward was a little silver cup. Lack of a pen to write in the log book didn’t hamper this intrepid geocacher (that’s what twigs and mud are for!)

My prize!

With my little silver cup stashed in my waist belt I set off for home, all the way back up from the river (the route goes up 100m in 1 mile. Is that steep? It felt it!)

4 hardcore miles – DONE!
Geocache – DONE!

*If you don’t know what geocaching is, its basically a treasure hunt using GPS. It has been described as using technology costing millions of dollars to find tupperware hidden in woods. Sounds geeky (okay – it is pretty geeky!) but its a great way to get out into the countryside and find paths you never knew existed!