Seven Fives

By Rick Ansell

I have a book listing the names of mountains in England and Wales (the ones in Scotland need a book of their own) and at one point the author imagines a scenario of the sea level rising by 2,000 feet and the country being reduced to a number of islands, the largest of which would be the Northern Pennines from Cross Fell south which would be about 18 miles long, apparently.

I imagined a similar scenario applied to the moors north of Crowden, up to Black Hill in the Peak District and used a 500m rise in sea level as 2,000 feet would drown everything.  This gave six islands, the biggest of which would have two or three little sections standing proud of the others perhaps with a palm tree on top.  A run was born.

I took Max with me and we made a day raid on the Peak.  I wanted to see if I could still run over rough ground.  Leaving the humid fug of the south I was apprehensive.  Running has been an effort.  Going out on my bike I haven’t yet met a cyclist who didn’t have a big grin on their face, as I have done but while running it’s been more of a grinace if I can invent a word. 

Getting out of the car you could smell the heather on the breeze, overpowering the smell of the Woodhead road.  I felt a gentle tide of energy rise within and as we set off I found myself jogging comfortably up the hill.  I think Max was even more surprised.  The time was when I used to feel like I could just float over the hills and those old feelings came flooding back.  Back was my cycling grin and a cheery ‘Hi’ as we passed people replacing my more usual dour grunt these days. 

I looked ahead and thought: ‘I’ll have to walk that bit’ only to find myself running the steepening ground when I got there.  My knees seemed suddenly well oiled and moved easily without the usual clicks and grates and groans.  We paused on top of Black Hill and after an easy run down the Pennine Way headed for the proper rough moorland around the Chew Reservoir. 

Usually I curse and swear at the tussocks and bog but today I embraced them, once or twice literally.  After months of the hard paths of Ashridge to be on truly unrunnable ground was glorious. 

The day was perfect for running: clear and breezy; warm and cool.  There was a slight haze which hid Manchester and added scale to the moors all purple and green in their summer shirt of heather and grass.  Usually it is winter when I run here and the moors are a drab brown.  We found our little nunatacks, one even had a baby Christmas tree growing on its top, and stumbled back to the path at Lad’s Leap, legs still full of running.  As we tripped back down to the car I felt a genuine sadness that we were finishing.  I could, I thought, comfortably go and do it all again.

There was only one real regret: we didn’t see a mountain hare.  Normally when I run here, however badly I go, if I’ve seen a hare it’s been a good day.  This was a good day even without a hare.

Vital statistic: we ran for 3.18 and probably covered about 22km. And this article is called Seven Fives because there were six hills over 500 metres but one had two tops, hence seven x 500m.