Andy & Rachel Slattery - May 2021
We saw the Round when Tom first established it in 2020 but my Covid response job meant that we only recently had chance to do it. We were looking for some long runs prior to the Lakeland 100 and would normally be doing the Fellsman and Old Counties Tops at this time of year so having this almost on our doorstep was great.
We started recce'ing the route a couple of weeks before having a go and really enjoyed visiting new places that we’d driven past hundreds of times. We thought we knew the area pretty well but the route takes you on some fantastic paths through woodlands and over limestone pavements that we’d never been on before. We did three recces from Kents Bank to High Newton, High Newton to Levens, and a big 34 mile loop from Levens to Arnside with a jog back to the car on a warm day. We deliberately timed our round to coincide with the bluebell season and it didn’t disappoint.
Taking the first train from Arnside is a great way to start and we left a car at Levens with drinks but otherwise just carried everything we needed for a long wet day out. Unlike the recce we started at low tide so kept our feet dry before swift run over Humphrey Head and over Hampsfell with its orchid-lined descent, then up to High Newton reservoir. The woods down towards Witherslack were a sea of blue and the smell was fantastic. Climbing up onto Whitbarrow Scar we started to feel the early pace but it was still dry despite the gathering clouds. A wrong turn in the forest was corrected quickly and the run down to Row is beautiful. Ancient bluebell-fringed tracks led towards Underbarrow and on towards Cunswick Scar where you feel like you turn and start heading towards the end, still over 30 miles away.
The rain set in along Cunswick and Scout Scars and we started to feel a bit weary, arriving at the drink stop at Levens feeling a bit grim but after a quick pit-stop we set off up the green lane towards Heversham Head before the long jog along the canal where the miles ticked by relatively quickly in the dry. Distance running is a strange beast and the ability to recognise and get through the ‘bad patch’ is key. Running in pairs, it is much better if your ‘bad patches’ coincide. At Farleton Knott we resisted the temptation to short-cut up the front screes and stuck to Tom’s preferred route as the rain started again along the top, making the limestone pavement a bit slippery. The recce of Hutton Roof Crags was put to good use as we negotiated the jungle without mishap, only to lose the track briefly on the descent to Burton in Kendal. Looking out at the rest of the route in the gloom, Arnside still looked a long way off.
Crossing the M6 and round the back of Burton Services we stumbled along the newly ploughed fields before wading through knee deep wet grass towards Cringlebarrow. It is a relief to get back into the pretty woodlands and a recce definitely pays off for finding the little Cringlebarrow cairn on a tree-covered limestone ridge. From there, lovely parkland leads South towards Warton Crag and another turning point as you head West towards Arnside. The rain finally let up and the sun gave the sky a little colour. Only a handful of miles left and the long descent down to the road lifted our spirits before a short filed crossing and little pull up to the hidden cairn on Heald Brow. We had originally started with a target of 14hrs in mind but had been on a 12hr timescale for much of the day. Having lost a bit of time during our bad patch we now looked at a target and decided to aim for sub-13 so started to push harder through Silverdale and up to King William’s Hill, leaving us less than 30 mins to get up and over Arnside Knott. Passing the ‘h’ tree in a blur we pushed painful legs down to the beach and along to the Pier, checking the watch every 30 seconds.
We made it back at sunset in 12hrs 56mins and 29secs, which we were pretty happy with, even though it was 30mins after the chip shop closed. This was a brilliant day out, despite the iffy weather. Thank you to Tom and all of those involved in setting up the Round, it deserves many more completions.