The Gade Valley Skyline

By Rick Ansell

I love geography. When I was about 12 and about to change schools, I was given a choice to study Latin or Geography. I opted for Geography but was told I should choose Latin. That’s the good thing about posh schools; they always know better than you what you want.

Anyway, the Latin came in handy later when I found myself having spells living in Spain, Italy and Brazil. I developed a mixture of all three languages and spoke what I called modern Latin. It was a shame that, although I was pretty fluent, I seemed to be incomprehensible to everyone else.

I love maps and when the world is out of kilter a map and glass of beer soon put it back to rights. I’ve been spending a lot of time recently looking at maps (alright, and drinking beer). Years ago when looking at the local map I noticed that it showed a ridge of high ground separating the Gade and Bulbourne Valleys with four cardinal points: a trig point on the road near Fields End, (it’s marked on the map but I have never found it despite searching high and low, well just high, obviously), a trig point on the edge of a little copse just off Beacon Road towards the Beacon, Ivinghoe Beacon itself and Bridgewater Monument.

A run was born (or should that be bourne?).

It’s probably about 20 miles, though I’ve never measured it, it’s a sort of extended Boundary Trail. I have run it a few times and always suffered on it. The last time I did it was with Simon when he was training for his Bob Graham and Kevin joined us. I remember that as we were coming back across the Common Kevin ran off to get dinner on. Simon and I looked at each other and breathed ‘Thank God’ and sat down for a rest before ambling home.

Last week I did the Boundary Trail and dried out at the Monument. I was hoping to refill my bottle at the tap beside the café but the vandals (from the NT) had taken the handle. I struggled home trying to remember the rest of the lyrics to Subterranean Homesick Blues. To counteract this, I drafted in Max (my son) as a mobile drinks station and set off for the Gade Valley Skyline wondering how much I would suffer.

All went well to Potten End and the first drinks stop. I even paused to look at the bee orchid above Well Farm. On the road section round to Fields End, though I was suddenly assailed by stomach cramps. I was wondering if I was having contractions but on reflection thought probably not. Some retching and the passage of wind and I was back on track, though actually I wasn’t as I had missed a path and needed to backtrack. Eventually I made it to St Margaret’s and the next drink. From here there is a long flat section to Little Gaddesden. I wasn’t feeling any worse so pressed on towards Hurst Farm and the Beacon. I was decidedly weary now and had a little walk up Steps Hill but kept myself going to the Monument and the last drinks station.

The wheels finally completely fell off as I got to Northchurch Common and I had to hobble back down the hill to home, my knees screaming. I’d forgotten to take the painkillers I normally need to keep me running. I know you’re not supposed to but it’s either Nurofen and run or not.

I think that’s enough for long local runs. Next week I’m going cycling. It doesn’t hurt.