Tag Archives: Cronkley Fell Race

An out and back fell race that doesn’t feel like it’s out and back. Surprisingly tricky navigation at times on the remote parts of the course. 2017 saw a new start and race HQ from Bowlees Visitor Centre. Organised by Durham Fell Runners.

Location: Google Maps
Route: From 2012

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Teesdale, Sunday, June 26, 2016

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. BM / 16.9km 535m

Penny Browell

cronkley penny cronkley tom Now I’m not the best at navigating but I was pretty sure I’d be ok with this race for a couple of reasons – it’s an out and back race (in pretty much a straight line) and I’d done it last year. So how could I go wrong? This is exactly the question I was asking myself as I stood in the midst of some bracken on the way back which definitely hadn’t been there on the way out. I looked ahead and behind and there were no runners to be seen anywhere. So I got out my map, stopped and looked at it in the vague hope it would magically burst into life and tell me which way to go.

Sadly it didn’t. And it didn’t appear to show any of the fences I’d passed so I decided to go for my usual technique when lost – keep running and hope it’s in vaguely the right direction. After a few minutes of gradually getting more worried I eventually spotted some people running a couple of hundred metres away from me so I headed over to where they were. The marshals looked bemused as I arrived at a checkpoint from completely the wrong direction. I was relieved to see them but the competitor in me had to ask “How many places have I lost?”. “Five” they said “but you’re still first lady”. That was some compensation but I knew my chances of a PB were slipping away.

cronkley winnersAfter a slightly disappointing patch in my running due to minor injuries and tiredness I wanted this to be the race where I proved to myself I could still run well. The first half had gone reasonably well – I felt strongish on the climb and the descent seemed less difficult than last year (recent runs in the Lakes have obviously affected my perceptions of what a steep hill is). But then came the river. The river crossing in this race is really not pleasant. You have to get all the way across the Tees in water up to your thigh (on me anyway) and the rocks are unbelievably slippy. It took me forever to get over to the crocodile and back so by the time I was out of the river I’d almost been caught by the guy behind me and I knew I was losing time.

cronkley susan cronkley stephThe joy of out and back races is that you get to see all of your competitors. Having seen the front runners speed past me prior to the river, it was lovely to see both Susan and Steph on the way back and to be encouraged by the marshals that I was still in the top 10. Looking at my watch I figured I was on for a PB.

Sadly it was soon after this that everything went wrong. Having lost 5 places and several minutes it was hard to stay motivated; I managed to get past 3 of the 5 but was still a long way off where I wanted to be. The long track to the end seemed to go on forever and when I finally crossed the line I was greeted by looks of “what happened to you???”.

Results aren’t out yet but according to my watch I was about 12 seconds slower than last year. I have to say I was somewhat gutted but the disappointment soon passed with a drink in the pub and a couple of goodies for being first lady (this is a very small race so being first wasn’t a massive achievement!). Tom and Susan also picked up prizes for winning their categories and Steph was given a spot prize for her unusual way of crossing the river… So all in all a fun day out. It’s a great race but for me it has a bit too much road and track at the start and end. And obviously they need to make the route a bit less complicated!

(Visited 16 times, 1 visits today)

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Sunday, June 28, 2015

Grand Prix Race - click flag for current league tables. King/Queen of the Mountain Race - click flag for more information. BM / 16.9km / 535m

Paul Evans

A humid, damp and overcast Sunday dawned for the latest iteration of this wonderful little race in the hamlet of Holwick, deep in Upper Teesdale. Twenty four other runners, a handful of marshalls and six Striders (four there for love of the race, one because she thought she’d love it and one because he’s got a fight on his hands for the club GP and needed the points) made up the numbers outside the Strathmore Arms for the basic count-off and race briefing, then a very fast three count sent us off, up the road and away.

Paul E. Penny.It comforted me somewhat to find out afterwards that my thoughts on the first couple of miles had been shared by others, though at the time I wasn’t to know that Penny and Graeme had also disliked them; hard track in the mist and a pace pushes a little harder than maybe I’d have chosen to because of the smallness of the field – I’m not someone who enjoys a quick start, but the sight of a slim thread of vets slowing pulling away over the sheep-strewn moorland dragged me forwards faster than intended despite a strong headwind. Lungs burned and thighs ached as we left the track and crossed a flat, boggy area then commenced the ascent up to the first of the cairns that mark what is, for me, where the fun begins in this race, passing a marshall in high visibility jacket, dropping sharply down a grassy bank and through a beck then heading west again towards the climb onto Cronkley Fell plateau itself, by my reckoning in sixth as the third of a trio, a chap from DPFR trailing thirty metres behind. The climb hit hard, runnable mostly so not providing the opportunity to drop to a walk without fear that someone would pull away, and it was here that the chap from DPFR caught and overtook us. As it dragged on, turning north through a rocky gully with a beck several metres drop to our left, I managed to push up to fifth with a steady shuffle, then fourth as we crested onto the wind-dried expanse of the plateau, the Tees far below to our north and the fenced expanses of Warcop training area to the south. By now the mist had cleared, allowing the occasional chance to actually appreciate it all.
Paul F.I held fourth and had brief visions of catching Andy Blackett of DFR in third until we hit the long drop to the Tees, my best efforts down resulting in a couple of slips and the DPFR and Coniston runners coming past. Through the field at the bottom on the hill we raced, into the Tees to get our numbers clipped and pay homage to Samuel, the DFR crocodile (this year having a swim) and then, after a horribly slow exit caused by the stones, polished by centuries of lowing water, resulting in anGraeme. inadvertent dunking to the waist, back out and up the hill, back into sixth.

This, unfortunately, is where I stayed despite nearly catching both the DPFR and Coniston vests ahead of me on the climb whilst Penny and Graeme hurtled past me seconds apart; once on the largely downhill final four miles despite throwing everything I had into regaining lost places the pair of them gradually inched ahead by virtue of great balance and superior speed, though I managed to lose by some distance my own pursuers also. The descents were as exhilarating as ever, the stretch on the track much more enjoyable in reverse, either because it meant that the end was near or because running it downhill, with the sun out, is just nicer, and the last few hundred metres on the road back to the Strathmore Arms seemed over as soon as it began, with a ‘proper’ fell race finish of half a dozen people quietly applauding and a couple of Labradors strangely excited by the pungent runner smell. Graeme and Penny (third lady) weren’t far after, he finally getting ahead of her, Paul Foster next and then Phil and Jan 29th and 30th of 30 runners, he limping and she scooping the FV60 prize.

Paul and Jan. Penny and Graeme.Worrying, vital statistic time: thirty runners, one fifth of them Striders, paid £5 each to race 10.5 of the most scenic miles our county has to offer, with a seriously good pub at the end, making this race barely viable for DFR to organise. If this is the last running of the race then so be it, as it has seen some great running over the years and has been a highlight of the calendar for those who enjoy the hilly stuff in our club. If it is on again, I must urge that anyone who enjoys a nice trail race consider giving this a try as it will not be regretted.

Results

position name club cat time
1 Harry Coates Wallsend Harriers M 1:12:14
25 Karen Robertson NFR F40 1:36:23
6 Paul Evans M 1:29:43
14 Graeme Walton M40 1:38:51
18 Penny Browell F40 1:43:12
24 Paul Foster M60 2:03:37
29 Phil Owen M40 2:14:14
30 Jan Young F60 2:17:44

30 finishers.

(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Teesdale,, Sunday, June 29, 2014

BM / 10.5M / 1752'

Paul Evans

After a few years’ hiatus the Cronkley Fell race was resurrected in 2010 by DFR, in their sixth year of existence. It was won by Will Horsley, with Tom Reeves, Nina Mason and Jan Young finishing strongly and Phil Owen towards the rear of the field after some horribly-long event not too long beforehand. This, the fifth running of the race, and the 10th anniversary of DFR, showed how little, like the galcial upper Teesdale landscape, changes in many respects, yet there were a few subtle differences from that sunny day four years ago; the entry fee and the setting may have been the same, along with several of the runners in a smaller overall field, yet there were now kit checks and counting of all runners at the start line, by the Strathmore Arms, an unfortunate consequence of a sad death on the fells last year. Nevertheless, at the starting gun (shout of ‘go’) 55 runners made there way up the 400m of road that serves to separate the field before reaching the stone track.

Tarmaccy start to a good fell race ...

As four years ago, Will led from the front, with a pack of runners from Howgill harriers, Elswick, CVFR and Pudsey & Bramley chasing, Tom and I trying to hang onto their coat-tails as the track climbed onto the fell. The mile or so of track was as unforgiving on the feet as ever, though the temperature was cool enough and the breeze minimal, making the outward leg easier than the headwind of the previous year permitted. Track gave way to grassy trod, a flat stretch leading to a run over some cairns (where the race claimed its only victim, mAndy Blackett hobbling back to the start) and down a slope studded with rocks to Skyer Beck, barely ankle deep this year. The ground remained firm for the drag up the drovers’ trod to Thistle Green, the highest point of the race, and thankfully it seemed that the legs of the pack I was chasing were beginning to tire, allowing me to catch some of those left behind by Will on the climb; a few paces walked aside, I had set out to run as much of this as possible and it paid off well, raising me to fifth, briefly, as we began the descent (where I knew I’d lose places).

Dropping off the top down to the Tees, where the mid-river halfway point and Samuel the crocodile awaited, felt fast, though most of those I’d just passed came flying past me towards the end of the descent, whilst Will came by in the other direction, by now a clear minute ahead of a Howgill runner in second place. The Tees was as refreshing yet slippy as ever, the climb back up also providing no surprises, with places regained, leaving me in 4th as we hit the top and the out-and-back nature of the course allowing me to see how closely I was being chased by Tom and Scott. Three years ago I ran from here, a full four miles, without really racing anyone – this year it was clearly not going to be the case, as a runners from P&B Paul after a sprint finish. and Howgill Harriers were on my shoulder, both overtaking as we retraced our route downhill towards Holwick. Surprisingly, I managed to stay the course and get back into 4th place as we left the springy turf for the stone of the track, Alex Jones of P&B dropping away slightly and Heidi Dent, who by now was well on course to smash the ladies’ record, refusing to fall back more than 5-10 metres on the climbs and on my shoulder as we dropped down the steeper track to Holwick. All was set for a sprint finish, which for the few spectators we provided. I would like to say that I was a complete gentleman and let her have 4th; in truth, I was blown away by a turn of speed I simply do not possess and crossed the line four seconds after her, Tom, Scott and the rest of the eight Striders following shortly to join us for chips and beer in the pretty pub garden whilst the prizes were handed out, along with the bottles of DFR Anniversary Ale for all finishers.

Once again, an excellent race with ideal combination of hard running, fantastic scenery and good company afterwards. Recognition must go to DFR, whose efforts were rewarded with a 50% rise in the number of entries this year, as well as to the Striders attempting this course for the first time, all of whom acquitted themselves well in a good field.

(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Teesdale, Sunday, June 30, 2013

BM / 10.5M / 1752'

Dougie Nisbet

“Are you injured?” and “resting for a big event coming up?” were the typical questions that people asked me when I said I wasn’t racing today. It might, on reflection, have been easier just to lie than to say, truthfully, that I just couldn’t be bothered. I ran last year and enjoyed it but this year I wasn’t in the mood. Well not for the race anyway. I love the area and decided this year to have a gentle run out with the camera and see if I could settle down with a brew in a nice spot.

Logistically, helping, whether it be marshaling or just going out and taking some photos, is more complicated than racing. Racing involves turning up at least one minute before the race starts and being on the line on, or just after, the race starts. As I thought this through, I realised that if I wanted to get some decent photos, I had to be in my position before the fast guys went past, and, well, how do you work that one out? I started about 30 minutes before race start and when the little hand got to eleven found it the most unexpectedly weird feeling to know that somewhere behind me that some extremely fast runners would be closing down on me.

Paul keeps an eye on the terrain ...

I’d chosen the ‘dip’ around Thistle Green a few miles from the turn to set up camp. It was exposed and I was glad I’d stuffed my rucksack with extra layers. On went the leggings and the waterproof. All in black. Still cold. I sighted the camera up the hill and found the wind kept buffeting my hold so decided to lie down in the heather and rest my elbows on a rock to get some stability. I also had to make sure that I wasn’t in the flight-path of the runners. The runners soon appeared over the top of the ridge like a scene from Zulu and for the next 20 minutes or so I was busy capturing the excitement. Paul was in the first ten in a tight cluster all negotiating the fast but technical grass and rock descent. Judging by the reaction of some of the runners I don’t think they knew I was there until they practically stood on me! I probably looked like some psychotic sniper as I lay in the cosy heather picking people off as they charged down the fell.

Then it all went quiet. The eye of the storm. It was just a matter of waiting until the leader got to the turn and headed back home. I collected my gear, and jogged further along the route before settling down at a promising looking beck for the action to begin again.

The beck crossing was interesting. Stepping stones or straight through? The stepping stones were dry, but uneven. Straight across was quick but involved getting wet feet. I could feel a spreadsheet coming on. Really, really surprised at the distribution of steppy stoners versus wet-feeters. You’d think it would be the fast guys that would favour straight through, and the slower runners would take the steps. But, in my considered analysis, there was no observable relationship between runner speed and route choice, although by my calculations you were anything between 5-15 seconds quicker running straight through the water rather than taking the stepping stones. If we let our x-axis be speed … you know, there’s a PHD in there I’m sure.

Anyway I got some nice action shots of the beck although no one fell over, which I thought was rather unsporting. One lady did fall when I wasn’t looking and when I ran over to ask if she was ok she gave me ever such a look that I was glad I hadn’t got a photo. I asked if she was ok and she said yes, which is just as well because one day someone is going to say ‘no’ and I’m going to be completely stumped. I’ve always just assumed it’s a rhetorical question. Paul was still around the same position but looking far stronger and more comfortable on the return leg compared to the outward run. Eventually the sweepers arrived with a runner who had taken a nasty fall on the way to the turn and had landed on a rock. A pointy one. Worst kind, the pointy ones. He wasn’t ok and was clearly in some discomfort as we all walked together back to the start, although it wasn’t clear whether he was more worried about his injury or what his wife was going to say when she realised she was driving home.

When I got home and looked through my photos I realised that I could have saved myself a journey. I mean, who would ever know that didn’t just photoshop this photo of Paul to get this one?!

(Visited 6 times, 1 visits today)

Cronkley Fell, Holwick, Teesdale, Sunday, June 24, 2012

BM / 10.5m / 1752'

Dougie Nisbet and Paul Evans

First, Dougie Nisbet…

We arrived at the race HQ a full hour before kick-off and parked in a sycamore tree at the side of the lane. Escorted by a friendly entourage of midges I walked up to registration and reported for duty. I wasn’t sure how DFR were doing for helpers and had turned up nice and early in case I was essential to requirements. Apparently I wasn’t so there was nothing for it but to race. Everything was ticking over nicely with lots of marshalls on hand so I gave Paul the nod and he shoved a tenner over the table and we were entered. That just left 59 minutes to hang around and drink coffee and get bitten by the midges. Will showed up for a bit on his way to the relay and the clock quickly counted down to 11AM.

I surveyed the small field with trepidation. I often joke that in fell races I “count my position from the back” assuming that one day I shall stop having to do this calculation. I think I may have to wait awhile yet as a fearsome looking pack lined up for the briefing. It was a shame that the field only comprised 34 runners as it was looking like being a good day. There was to be a course alteration. A bit further up the track to go over the bridge rather than fording a gushing brook. This was disappointing but apparently the beck was in full spate and the organiser had decided that it would be too risky to take the usual line. He clearly thought there’s no use getting into heavy becking, it only leads to trouble, and seat wetting.

The race got underway and I tucked in at the back and was still at the back when Casper, Kayden and Will cheered me on at the top of the first brae. I’d been wanting to do this race for years ever since I did the recce a few years ago just before the race was revived. It struck me that despite being an out and back, the view and terrain looked so different depending on which way you were pointing it might just as well be a circular route. What I hadn’t expected was the added interest of seeing the fast guys coming back the other way as I approached the turn, and trying to work out how far I had still to go. You get to climb, clamber, squelch and spring through some great and varied Teesdale countryside on this course with a crocodile and a jelly baby waiting for you when you get to the halfway point.

On the way back, around the 8 mile mark, and not for from the back, I realised something that I’d hitherto only suspected. I really wasn’t very fit. Usually it’s cardio that holds me back in a fell race but today my muscles hurt. On the fast few miles descending to the finish I had time to reflect on how rapidly hard-earned fitness can fizzle away. I was still contemplating this when I crossed the line but soon the scent of the barbeque hit my nostrels and I heard the unmistakable call of Pluvialis apricaria from within the Stathmore Arms. Paul had a good race finishing fifth. I was happy to finish sixth, but counting from the other end.

Despite being a lonely spot this race isn’t particularly scary. The cut-off time for the half-way point is generous and most Striders could toddle round this 11 miles of dramatic and varied Teesdale fells comfortably. More folks should give this one a try.

…and Paul Evans

Ten minutes before the race and not so much as a twitch of competitiveness; no warm-up, no stretching, not even the usual feeling of slight nausea and tingling feet that tends to be the precursor to eben the shortest of races for me. Basically, Dougie, sat half-in/half-out of his car to make the most of the sun that was bathing Upper Teesdale, coffee mug on fold-up table and equally disinclined to make his way to the start-line, was showing me another way to prepare and I was enjoying it far more than my normal method of pacing and making repeated trips to the toilet. however, all good things come to an end and having paid the £5 entry-fee it would have been silly not to have run the scenic out-and-back course, particularly as we were being treated to a new variant, courtesy of the recent heavy rain that had apparently rendered one beck to dangerous to cross (meaning we had to spend a bit more time on the track heading out of Holwick before hitting the mud) and the Tees too high to take the traditional halfway dunk in; this added about half a mile to the course all-in.

There being only 34 runners, everything was kept extremely low-key, to the point that I barely heard the countdown to the start and set off about a third of the way down the pack, the plan being to take things fairly easy for the first two miles on the hard stuff and hope that the front-runners burned themselves out; I lasted half a mile, about the point where we passed Will H, Kayden and Kasper before realising that with such a small field this wasn’t really viable and it was probably best to just stick to a semi-comfortable pace for the first half and see how things went from there. The first couple of miles dragged and it was a relief, once a short clarty stretch linking the track to the path that forms the normal race route was negotiated, to be running on grass again, even if getting any kind of rhythm was made awkward by the frequent beck crossings; the first significant climb, subsequent descent through calf-deep water and long drag up onto the fell itself came as a relief as the ground got drier and the footing easier.

A pleasant undulating stretch over the rocky outcrops and alpine plants of the fell came and went, giving way to a sharp, wet descent to the flood-plain of the Tees. Covered in knee-deep grass and crossed by streams, with scant signs of a path, it was a case of follow-my-leader to the halfway flag, then back the way we’d come, passing outbound runners all the way to the top of the hill. Dougie looked surprisingly cheery as he waved a camera at me; i didn’t feel quite as good as he looked, having spent the climb reeling in the chasing pack. Now came the most enjoyable two miles of the race – mostly downhill, fast and, for me productive – I hit the bridge onto the track a narrow third, though this proved unsustainable, two of the runners I’d overtaken just proving too fast with hard ground under their feet. For some reason this section seemed to pass a lot faster than on the outward leg and the finish at the Strathmore Arms, at the bottom of the hill, came around quickly. There was barely time to stretch before more runners followed, including the female winner, Tamsin Clark of RZH in her first ever fell race, and a still-smiling Dougie.

Good beer and cheap burgers and a prize list that encompassed the entire field capped off a superb morning’s running – this race deserves a bigger field, even if waiting for the prizes did cost us the chance to get back in time for the relay – the one downside of the day.

(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Teesdale, Sunday, June 26, 2011

BM / 16.9km / 535m

Jan Young

Hot day, wind against on outward run, so easier on return. The out and back course starts at the Strathmore Arms, Holwick, crossing Cronkey Fell before dropping down to the Tees, where the checkpoint is thoughtfully placed in the knee deep, slippy rocks river. The uphill start sorted me out and that’s where I stayed, near the back. Rewards were jelly babies at the Tees turnaround and knowing Nina had caught the leading lady. She was 30 metres adrift at 6 miles, but 3.5 minutes up at the finish. After tackling bogs, stream crossings and testing climbs, we exchanged race numbers for chip butties; beats t shirts! Paul E. placed 4th, just missed out on a prize; Gibbo and Phil O enjoyed the post race wash in the stream.

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Carl Bell Howgill Harriers M 1:16:54
4 Paul Evans M 1:29:05
15 Nina Mason F 1 1:44:33
24 David Gibson MV40 1:50:57
40 Phil Owen MV40 2:06:05
45 Jan Young FV50 2:12:33

49 finishers.

(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Cronkley Fell Race, Holwick, Teesdale, Sunday, June 27, 2010

BM / 16.9km / 535m

Jan Young

I’ve run this race in past times when Quakers used to organise it and am chuffed DFR have resurrected the event as it must be one of the most runnable and scenic local races on the hills. OK, it has climbs, but you can either plug away or walk them, depending on your ability. The climbs are not as severe as many fell races, which makes the route more of a challenging trail race and all the underfoot surface is runnable, including bog and stream crossings. The out and back course means you can floor it downhill on the return, as Will did, pulling away and increasing his winning margin.

Recovering in the shade after a bit of a hot one.

I jog/walked 3/4 of the route and had a fab day out in the sunshine, shouting encouragement at the runners. No pressure. Tom looked fresh after keeping his wife, Joan, company the previous day at the Durham Dales Challenge Run over 16miles, Phil’s legs were still moving after all his recent miles and Nina was so close to Shaun’s time!

Let’s have more Striders out there next year!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Will Horsley NFR M 1:18:46
17 Thomas Reeves MV40 1:33:54
20 Pippa Archer DFR F 1:34:36
36 Shaun Roberts MV50 1:46:24
37 Nina Mason F 1:46:54
61 Phil Owen MV40 2:01:43

72 finishers.

(Visited 7 times, 1 visits today)