Tag Archives: Nigel Heppell

Bolt’s Law Basher Fell Race, Tuesday, June 5, 2018

7.8 miles

Nigel Heppell

This is a weekday evening social run organised by local club Derwentside AC in memory of John Donneky.

The weather was brilliantly clear and warm for the run; views for absolute miles from the tops.

It was a bit of a pull to begin with, straight up the Boltslaw incline, 600ft climb in just over 1 mile, but this meant the pack naturally split into 3 pace groups with one leader each, 8-10 runners per group.

I thought I’d not been up Bolt’s Law before but part way round I recognised a tree, the only tree for miles, that I had seen one winter on a social run from Colin Blackburn’s house. It stuck in my mind because it was fully decorated with Christmas baubles, etc –

Rumour has it that Colin revisited the tree and left some anonymous mince pies for the undressing on 12th Night.

Evidently, we ran 7.8miles and came back to Rookhope Village Hall where there was a good spread of savouries and cakes, tea coffee, etc.

A brief mention of John Donneky and acknowledgement from his widow; evidently he used to enjoy taking road runners up onto the fells for ‘strengthening’ sessions; and an invitation to do it all again next year.

The 8th Philiphaugh Hill Race, Selkirk, Monday, August 7, 2017

11km / 400m

Nigel Heppell

photo courtesy and © Selkirk Fund Runners

A poor result north of the border -or was it?

On holiday in the Scottish Borders? Looking for a Sunday run? Something simple to raise funds for the local play park? Never visited the Three Bretheren before? The 8th Philiphaugh Hill Run looked just right at 7 miles and 400m ascent.

A mixed bag of 62 runners competed over a nice traily route over two hilltops with stunning views; no kit required -‘its a summer run’.

I manage a very mediocre 1hr 07mins putting me 5th in the V60 category.

The official results table shows my time as 140% of the winners’ time which sounds pretty poor to me;

photo courtesy and © Selkirk Fund Runners

The winner is no spring chicken either, he’s a V50; but I then notice he is Colin Donnelly of Cambuslang Harriers – one time youngest winner of the Ben Nevis Race (1979) and Scotland’s representative at the World Hill Running Championships for 14 years in a row, winning silver in 1989; winner of the British Fell Running Championship 1987-89; and numerous top performances in Scottish Cross Country racing; he retains the record for traversing the Welsh 3000’s and has course records for the Buckden Pike and Shelf Moor races …

Maybe my time isn’t so bad after all?

Hoad Hill Half Marathon, South Lakes, Sunday, August 7, 2016

Nigel Heppell

Elevation cross section of route. Mike B and me got up v.early on Sunday 7th July and travelled cross-country to the South Lakes to take part in the second running of the Hoad Hill Half Marathon.

We chose this race partly because we had never heard of it before, it was held in a part of the Lakes seldom visited by tourist hordes; the alternative ‘Cross Bay Challenge’ looked too flat (with a chance of drowning); and a relative living nearby could be visited; also the course profile; 6miles lumpy up and down, 6miles totally flat, followed by a killer climb and descent in the last mile seemed like a challenge too good to refuse; and my last official half-marathon race was the GNR in 1995!

Photograph showing view with Information Panel in foreground.

Starting and finishing in Ford Park, Ulverston, a full marathon set off 30mins before the Half was led through town by guides to negotiate the central streets, a few back lanes, and some civil engineering works before being let loose on the Cumbrian Way; a nice gentle start as the track was Photograph showing track descent with sea in background. too narrow to do anything but follow the runner in front, and then there was the kissing gate! one runner at a time certainly stretched the field out (next year oil the hinges please). After that came a series of lanes and fields interspersed with tracks across and around fields, gradually reaching out onto bracken and rock covered hillsides with glimpses over the estuary before the headland revealed the full glory and extensive views of Morecambe Bay at low tide.

No sign of the ‘Cross-Bayers’ today as it was so windy the sands had shifted and their start was relocated to Silverdale just out of sight behind the Cartmel penninsula. The strength of the wind also defeated the organisers of the Hoad Hill races who had to abandon plans for entertainment and refreshment marquees in the park.

Nice views over Bardsea village before we dropped down a steep rock-strewn lane to the coast, through the garden of someone’s Stately Home and turning north along the coastal path; sometimes on hard track; sometimes on soft sand; other-times large rounded pebbles; several miles of playing Photograph showing lighthouse. cat and mouse with other runner’s strengths and weaknesses; some like uphill; some like downhill; I was comprehensively thrashed by a lady from Dunstable (just visiting, she said) who clearly liked the flat terrain along the coast and then disappeared into the distance once we got to the canal just after the sponsor (GlaxoSmithKline)’s factory. The Canal; completely flat, completely straight; how can a distance just over 1 mile seem like it takes forever?

A few twists and turns on country lanes, crossing the main A590 road under Police guidance, and enter the park to climb the switchback path towards the Sir John Barrow monument on Hoad Hill. Pass by one casualty of exhaustion/dehydration/overexertion laid out beside the path but efficiently attended by concerned runners and marshalls, all in radio contact with Race Organisers/Emergency Services and reading details off the back of her race number (did we all fill that in before starting the race?). Onwards and upwards becomes a test of resolve to see who would break into a walk last of all; I give in early to temptation, but can walk as fast as most around me can run so no big deal Photograph of Mike Bennet. there apart from young ‘Ben’ who has a fan-club waiting at the top of the hill and is compelled to overtake. Pass by another handful of runners laid out around the base of the monument with cramp, some in tears, some having their legs pulled (literally) by sympathetic marshalls; I catch up and get past Ben on the downhill stretch but the sprint (ha!) finish into the long funnel back into the park brings on cramp for me and Ben has it in the bag.

Not the cheapest run I’ve ever entered, but well organised, well marked, loads of bananas, and a nice introduction to places I would never otherwise have seen (campervan owners can contact me about an interesting wildcamping location spotted on this run).

Oh! and the T-shirt?; you’ll see me and Mike coming from a long, long, way away!

Photograph showing view over Morecambe Bay.


Pos Name Club Cat Catpos Time
1 Joe Kenny M 01:30:00
4 Christina Wiejak Barrow and Furness Striders AC F 01:40:51
48 Michael Bennett M 02:02:37
65 Nigel Heppell M 02:10:02

155 finishers

British Fell Relay Championships, Pendle Hill, Lancashire, Saturday, October 17, 2015

Nigel Heppell and Tom Reeves


Nigel …

Pendle Witch Country. A big event well organised and smoothly run by this years’ hosts Clayton-le-Moors Harriers. Weather mild and cloudy with a bit of a breeze and good visibility at all elevations, ground conditions probably drier than usual.


LEG 1: Solo leg

7K approx with 450m of ascent over mixed terrain: farm tracks, pasture and open moor. Winning time: 30 minutes approx.

Mike Hughes

LEG 2: Pairs leg

15K approx with 630m of ascent over pasture and open moor. Winning time: 75 minutes approx.

Tom Reeves & Paul Evans map



LEG 3: Pairs navigation leg

Winning time: 70 minutes approx

Scott Watson & Nigel Heppell

A windswept Paul and Tom charged up the slope into the changeover area and set us away off up the hill. A few paces later I realised Scott was in trouble; something had popped in his calf muscle. Rapid assessment time – abort or press on?

The sensible thing to do was to call it a day; so we carried on. A horrible sensation of being overtaken by all these other teams as we walked and limped across a couple of fields to the corner of some woods where the navigation maps were handed out. Scott found a way to maintain forward motion and gradually increased speed by putting a big demand on his good leg while using the bad one as a prop.

First checkpoint at the bottom of Boar Clough (evidently pronounced ‘cloo’ in this part of Lanc’s) was easily found, followed by a stiff clamber up a track and then over the broken ground of Barley Moor; funny stuff this, lots of heather mixed with tussocks of grass masking surface rocks and a few leg-deep holes plus a scattering of peat hags and bogs some of which would support your weight, and some that wouldn’t. I managed to face-plant in style at one point and my knee came out in sympathy with Scott’s leg but we still managed to overtake a few teams, including NFR’s ladies.

Leg 3 map

Checkpoint B in Ogden Clough was manned by a Clayton Harrier who gave us a shout and said he’d seen us on the Howgills a few weeks earlier – I think Jan had spoken to him en-route to The Calf – more open moorland came and went before a very long and steep descent to checkpoint C. Not surprisingly this was followed by a long and steep ascent back up the hillside but we did claw back a few more places. A trundle around the edge of Pendle Moor led to checkpoint D and off we went to find E, somewhere out of sight just over the top of Spence Moor. Somehow our navigation went badly wrong here and it took a while to realise our mistake. In the rush to get back on course we went through some really broken ground and poor Scott took a tumble that really put his bad leg out of action. As this was the furthest point from the finish the only thing to do was to walk back and that is pretty much what we did. Before we reached the end section the leg 4 runners started coming past! Not the best run ever but at least we got round and completed the navigation.

LEG 4: Solo leg

8K approx with 400m of ascent over pasture land, open moor and farm track. Winning time: 39:20 minutes approx. Mike Bennett – 1:00:20

Having competed in last years event I was looking forward to this relay. Arriving at 9:30 and being down for the 4th leg meant I had a lot of time for the anxiety to set in, (no matter how many races I compete in the butterflies and anxiety are always there on the start line). This was not helped either as the first teams were finishing before I had started. Eventually I set off and was at last able to concentrate on the race itself with the main objective to not get lost then to get round in one piece. Race info stated the course was marked and marshalled. I am pleased to report this was the case. The sun was out at this point and I was able to take in brief glimpses of the stunning scenery as I picked my way around the course. At this point in the race there were very few runners still out so it became very much an individual race with just the occasional runner ahead to try and catch. With 2 long climbs and 1 steep descent then the final more gentle slope back to the finish it included most elements of a short but testing fell race. The few remaining spectators at the finish included Striders male captain and chairman, I could not be seen to be taking it too easy and tried to push right to the line. All in all great relay that lived up to expectations, hats off to Clayton Harriers for a well organised event.


Results: Elvet Striders – 133/147

Tom …

The camera showing Tom's best side.After the mass start of leg one leg two was a case of waiting for your leg one runner to arrive and get moving. Myself and Paul watched our watches and listened to Denise Parks announcing runners as they dibbed in at the top of the field before the descent to the change over.

Mike duly arrived looking strong and we were soon on our way. There was a short climb out of the start to warm up then we were soon in pursuit of our first team in front of us. Checkpoint 2 was at the top of a woods on a hillside and I was very quickly gasping (and this was to be a theme) holding Paul back. This was my first competitive fell race in 18 months and boy did I know! The distance for leg 2 was around 15 K and the hardest section was between checkpoint 3 and 7 with several steep climbs and immediate descents. I was doing pretty well on the descents lacking in brain cells and utilising gravity I could switch off and go. Unfortunately on the ups I was lacking in something else … lung capacity.

Final Approach

I was very pleased to reach checkpoint 7 as the going from this point was very runnable, even the uphill section.

On the final 2k descent I unfortunately disgraced myself by waving to one of the official photographers and was roundly told off by him. I do believe Paul muttered some impolite comments about me but we wont repeat them here!

We made it back to the changeover in a shade over 1hr 35m and had gained probably 12 places or so. This wasn’t bad I reckon.

shifty looking shower!

Simonside Fell Race, Thropton Show, Saturday, September 19, 2015

BM / 6.4M / 1200'

Nigel Heppell

See the small white bar-shape in a distant field near the centre of photo 1? – that’s the marquee at the start and finish.

photo 1

photo 1

To get to this viewpoint you go up here – see photo 2.

photo 2

photo 2

and then you descend this – see photo 3.

photo 3

photo 3

You also run across some fields and through a river before being entertained by wrestling children, barking dogs, giant leeks and all the fun of this traditional show.

Results are interestingly presented, nobody gets a time, just a placing:

1st Man – Nick Swinburn, NFR 1st woman – Karen Robertson, NFR, position 24th

1st Associate strider – Susan Davis, NFR, 76th
1st Strider – Steph Piper, 86th
2nd Associate strider – Geoff Davis, NFR, 87th
2nd Strider and 3rd Associate strider – Nigel & Esme Heppell, 102nd

114 runners.

Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge, Saturday, May 23, 2015

W55, 16 Hour Time Limit

Susan Davis

Intro & Background

The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge (JNLC) is a self organised mountain challenge for veteran fell runners over 50. The time allowed increases with age (I had 16 hours) and runners must be accompanied over the route and raise at least £100 for charity. The course crosses the Lake District from Pooley Bridge, in the north east, to Joss’s home at Greendale, Wasdale in the south west – a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000′ of ascent over 30 Lakeland peaks including High Street, Fairfield, Bow Fell, Great End, Great Gable, Pillar and Seatallan. Only two women in the V55 category had completed the JNLC prior to my attempt.

For those who don’t know, Joss Naylor is probably England’s best known fell runner. He has lived all his life in the Lake District valley of Wasdale where he worked as a sheep farmer / shepherd until his retirement. Joss is well into his 70s now but still does some amazing runs and held many very impressive fell running records and was victorious in many, many very tough fell races. Chris Brasher (Olympic gold medallist and organiser of the London Marathon) described Joss as “the greatest of them all”, having “sinews stronger than any man made substance and a will harder than a diamond…..the toughest runner in Britain“.


Leg 1- ‘Cuckoos, Larks and Deer’ (Pooley Bridge to Kirkstone Pass)

Susan and Support CrewGeoff and I left our friends house in Bothel at 4.30am and collected Juliet Percival (leg 1 pacer) en route to Pooley Bridge. The rest of my team, Paul Hainsworth (navigator) plus pacers Allon Welsh and Mike Hughes had already assembled in the square on our arrival. My clothes, food and drink were distributed and so we made our way on to the bridge, a few photos were taken and Geoff gave us a ten second countdown. We are off at 5.30am on a beautiful morning.

The pace was brisk due to a combination of nerves and excitement as I just could not wait to be on the fells. The morning and the weather were wonderful; bright sun and a cool but gentle breeze with the sound of cuckoos calling. Paul surged ahead as we made our way to the first summit. I was aware that I was probably going a bit too fast and Mike & Allon did a fine job of steadying the pace a little. We ran on with lark song ringing out over the fells, the heavy dew on the grass glistened and sparkled like diamonds and we could see for miles as the tops came and went with relative ease. A lone deer stood to greet me on High Raise and this was followed by Jules exclaiming “check out the view to your left” as we headed towards Kidsty Pike and enjoyed a wonderful panorama.

A further herd of deer scampered off High Street as we approached. It just felt great to be alive and my heart was full of joy. I knew there would be tough times during the day ahead but I was ‘in the moment’ and feeling good. In what seemed like no time at all we were ticking off the last three summits of leg 1 and speeding down to Kirkstone Pass to be greeted by a large group of my support crew with beaming smiles, arriving 27 minutes up on schedule!.

5 minutes to rest and re-fuel.

Leg 2 – ‘Buoyant Banter’ (Kirkstone Pass to Dunmail Raise)

Accompanying me on leg 2 were Kevin Bray (navigator, Morpeth Harriers) with pacers: Mandy Dawson, Nigel Heppell, Mike Bennett and Dave Gibson all being members of Elvet Striders my cross country club.

And so for leg 2, or day 2 as it was for me because, as part of my mental coping strategy, I was treating each leg as a new day! The sun was still bright and I don’t usually react very well to the heat so thankfully, the breeze was still cool. I knew that Kevin would steady the pace on this leg having discussed with him on earlier recces that the challenge only really begins after Dunmail, and going too fast on the early legs can scupper your chances of success.

As I headed up Red Screes Dave passed on good luck wishes from his children Sam and Freya both of whom run with Durham Harriers. Dave had kindly given my brother Stan a lift over to be part of the day which had only been arranged a couple of days before. He was there to greet me part way up Red Screes and a brief stop for a hug and a kiss sent me on my way upwards and onwards.

The pacers kept a more or less constant stream of banter going and topics covered included rescue battery hens, Nigel’s idea of a pamper day for his wife Lesley (an open water swimming course at Rydal Water), plans for hot showers and tea shops later on, the various fell challenges already done and those still on people’s wish lists. Kevin regularly checked I was OK and my band of pacers tended to all my needs efficiently and patiently.

The views were amazing on all sides but the temperature was rising and a change of clothes was needed ‘on the move’ whilst heading to Hart Crag. My Dru yoga teacher was running a yoga retreat at Grasmere that day so, whilst I was on the fells, the yoga group were working on relevant posture and positive affirmations to help me on my challenge!

SunscreenThere are only four summits on this leg and three were ticked off without incident. Suddenly, as I started ascending Seat Sandal, cramp took hold of my right hamstring. I hit the deck clutching my leg and cursing as I am rarely troubled with cramp. Kevin came to the rescue and, as I lay on my back, he stretched my leg and the cramp was soon gone. I adopted a gentler pace for the rest of this ascent with drink in hand and munching some salted nuts.

As I started the run down to Dunmail I was a little tentative as I did not want the cramp to return. On reaching the bottom unscathed, I was again greeted by my amazing and happy support team who were joined by Monica Shone and Mike Langrish as the JNLC ‘meet and greet’ representatives. I arrived 34 minutes ahead of schedule. I had 10 minutes to refuel and provoked a frantic scurry for extra sunscreen. The cramp had been a timely reminder that the sun was intense but deceptive, as it was eased by a cool breeze. Although I didn’t feel particularly hot I knew I would still have been using and losing a lot of fluid. I was pleased to be in the shade at this stop -provided by Mike Hughes holding an umbrella!

Leg 3 – ‘The Leg of Gentlemen’ (Dunmail Raise to Sty Head)

Joining me on leg 3 were John Telfer (navigator) and pacers Scott Gibson, Paul Appleby (Northumberland Fell Runners), Paul Evans (Elvet Striders) and Kevin Bray who had decided to continue to the very end!

I had not enjoyed the times that I had recced this section as it involves a stiff climb up Steel Fell and a long march to the next two summits. No time for negative thoughts though as this was ‘a new day’ and I was still feeling strong. A steady pace was set and my brother again appeared part way up the fell, but there was no time for hugs and kisses this time as I needed to keep the momentum going to the top of Steel Fell.

My team told me I had done fine on the climb and so we pushed on. John went ahead to find the best lines while Paul A, with my food and drink, was always close to hand. Paul Evans, enjoying a break from his day job as a GP, kept an ever watchful and caring eye on me. It was great listening to the guys on this leg getting to know Paul E – again reflecting on past runs and future goals. Paul A had met my Lakeland friend Raymond Wren at Dunmail and was amazed to learn that Raymond and his OMM partner will compete in their 25th successive OMM later this year. Great stuff as Raymond is 69 and his partner, Chris Lattes is 75! Inspirational chat indeed made the time pass quicker than expected to High Raise. I enjoyed talking to Scott who will soon attempt the BGR. Indirectly this led to Scott realising that Geoff (my husband) and I have nick names for many of our friends. He wondered what his would be. Well I have christened you “the gentle giant” Scott!

We went into Springwatch mode when Paul A mentioned he had spotted a meadow pipit’s nest with five eggs close by here the week before whilst running the Old County Tops race. Today we settled for finding a toad and I stopped to say hello. I thought about a kiss, to see if he would turn into a prince, but thought ‘who needs a prince when I already have five knights of the fells with me’.

On we strode to Rossett Pike. On arrival I checked that I still had time on my side and stopped briefly to eat. I had struggled going up Bowfell a couple of times when reccying so wanted to get a bit more food and drink on board. This allowed us all to enjoy the scenery and the slabs on Bowfell were shinning in the brilliant sunlight. I felt very humble as we started the ascent of Bowfell. From the start of the day I had been surrounded by so much love and affection I realised just how lucky I am to have such wonderful family and friends.

Losing the CompeedGood humoured banter saw me up to the summit whilst enjoying some brief shade from the sun which for me was a pleasant change. I was, however, now being troubled by some discomfort from my right heel. So, after checking the time, I decided it was shoes off on the summit to remove the compeed which was no longer doing its job. A dollop of Vaseline was supplied by my personal medic Paul E and I was hand fed assorted nuts by Paul A as I replaced my shoes and we were soon on our way. Polite walkers vacated the summit of Esk Pike on my arrival but I hit a low ebb as I ascended Great End. My legs slowed and a massive wave of nausea washed over me. I knew that this was my body saying it needed more fuel so a brief pause, a drink and a couple of extra strong mints saw me to the top.

Scott is a good rock climber and he just loves rocks beneath his feet, which he just glides over, and here we were on rocky ground. The plan was to follow the ‘master’, embrace the rocks and make them my friends. With the ‘gentle giant’ just a step or two ahead, and the rest of the team close to hand, the plan worked a treat. However, I scored highly on the bad language scale on the difficult descent from Great End which involved a couple of ‘five points of contact’ moves! Nonetheless we all got down in one piece and finished with a gentle trot to Styhead.

I had a slightly smaller support team here but they were no less enthusiastic. With five minutes scheduled to refuel I was advised that I still had time in hand but I hurriedly ate and drank what I could manage and changed my socks. I said farewell to Paul A at this point but John T and Scott decided to carry on for one further top.

Leg 4 – ‘The Final Push’ (Styhead to Greendale Bridge)

For the final leg I was joined by my husband Geoff Davis who had been seeing to my every need at all the road crossings. He would now act as navigator and would be assisted by pacers Peter Reed, Peter Moralee and Steph Scott (all NFR). Kevin Bray and Paul Evans, having enjoyed themselves way too much, decided to continue on for the final push to Greendale.

I adopted a new coping strategy for this leg; just taking one summit at a time and keeping a steady pace. My legs felt heavy now but I was determined to keep on Geoff’s heels and I just about managed this with the top of Gable arriving sooner than I expected. Geoff started the descent a bit too quick for me as, on reflection at this stage, he was probably more nervous than me and knew just how much completing the challenge in less than 16 hours would mean to me. Although I had said that even a few seconds in-side the cut off time would be enough, Geoff knows me better than that, and was aware that, at the top of Gable, there is still a fair bit to do before Greendale Bridge.

The weather was still fabulous with views to die for as we pushed ever onwards. Peter Reed and Peter Moralee were enjoying good weather for once, the latter having done numerous challenges in the lakes over the years and is more used with being soaked to the skin and cold!

The nausea returned while ascending Kirk Fell but Steph assured me that I was going faster than I thought and so I plodded on. It was easier to take in the wonderful Lakeland scenery at the pace I was going and, once again, I settled into just listening to the pacers’ banter. With their encouraging words it felt great to be on the fells on this special day. I asked for a time check at the top of Pillar and, still well ahead of schedule, I decided a short stop would do me some good. I knew I should eat and a satsuma, peeled by Paul, went down a treat. Feeling refreshed by the short stop the next two tops, Scoat Fell and Steeple, went over quite easily.Paul on satsuma peeling duties

It was a grind up Haycock with Geoff forging ahead to drive me on and I got it into my head that I was losing too much time. My spirits took a dive and I muttered to Steph that it was like being on holiday in the Highlands with Geoff being 100 yards in front! I was also conscious of the climb that still awaited me on Seatallan. Peter M offered me an apple crumble and custard gel assuring me that it would taste good. I could not be persuaded however, but did agree to drink coke which I hate. Peter R’s Kendal Mint Cake was quite enjoyable but I could almost feel my teeth being rotted away by the sugar so decided not to have anymore.

Geoff located the scree descent off Haycock and I asked for a bit of space around me on this steep slope. However, with relative ease I was down in no time at all accompanied by laughter, the rush of moving scree and the odd clatter of rocks as others descended behind me. Apparently, Steph and Kevin were creating some new dance moves ready for ‘Strictly’ this autumn – so BBC, they are waiting for your call! We all emptied stones from our shoes, with further merriment, before pushing on.

On starting the ascent of Seatallan I had not gone far when I realised all was not well. I have suffered from heat stroke a number of times in the past and it results in me passing out, so I knew what could be on the cards. I told the others I did not feel well and needed to stop. Apparently, according to Kevin, even my freckles went white at this point! I leant on my walking poles to compose myself. I thought of my Mum and Dad, in whose memory I was dedicating this challenge. I chatted to them both, in my head, as I often do in times of need and was inspired by my Dad’s words – which he used to say to encourage me when I was little: “slow but sure gets there in the end”.

This was all the encouragement I needed to carry on to the finish so, with my pacers close by and a drink in hand I set off again. It was great to reach the top of Seatallan with just one fell to go. Although the climb up Middle Fell is gentle I could only go up very slowly. Near the summit I was greeted by Mike Hughes and his daughter Sally which greatly lifted my spirits. I had a further surprise when my brother Stan appeared who I had expected to be back in Durham and not on the top of Middle Fell! This final summit provided one of the best views of the day with the Wastwater Screes reflected in the giant mirror of lake itself.

Although, with my sore feet, I could only manage a slow trot off Middle Fell I knew I had plenty of time so spirits were high. I could see and hear my supporters at the bottom waiting to greet me and I was met by cheers, applause and happy smiling faces as I managed the final run onto Greendale Bridge. Joss was also there to meet me, having left a sixtieth birthday party in order to offer me his congratulations, so it was a perfect end to a perfect day finishing in 15 hours 32 minutes. Joss sneaks a pass-out from a 60th birthday party to congratulate Susan

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to my support team on the day which, in addition to those already mentioned, included Valerie Atkinson, Linda Bray, Wendy Appleby, Heather Hughes and her brother Andy. The day was a great success as a result of a group of people I am blessed and honoured to have as friends working together as team. Their skills and knowledge of the fells were shared throughout the day in an atmosphere of mutual respect and admiration.

A special thanks to my loving husband Geoff who encouraged me to have the confidence to undertake the challenge.

Nigel Heppell adds …

4th May 2015; A long day training in preparation for Susan’s attempt at the Joss Naylor Challenge.

From Dunmail Raise Susan, Raymond and me set off up Steel Fell and headed over the bogs of Brownrigg Moss before following the line of a gill just north of Ash Crags that Susan correctly identified as heading on the right bearing for the summit of High Raise out of sight over the brow. As usual I began to lag behind on the steep ascent and strayed off to one side of the course taken by Susan and Raymond.

About 300m from the summit I caught sight of a small reflective object lying on the ground. It was a camera.

A quick glance at the screen revealed a lot of moisture inside so I slipped out the battery thinking that might help to prevent any further damage to the electronics and stuck it in my pocket until we got down off the hill. Once in the car I also removed the memory card and left that to dry on the journey home. The camera was obviously too wet to operate so I put that in a box with some flaked rice to draw out the moisture, but the memory card looked OK so I tried that in my own camera to see if it would work and if so, were there any clues about the owner.

400+ images! The latest were of some walkers at the High Raise summit but the earliest were of one of the characters posing at Land’s End – in a distinctively coloured fund-raising charity T-shirt.

It became obvious that this was a record of one man’s journey on foot along LEJoG – and he had become a member to the ‘End to Ender’s’ Club from which I traced the charity to a Hospice in Swindon. Prospect Hospice gained an impressive £24,000 donation through this man’s efforts, and after a couple of telephone calls they got me in contact with one Al Sylvester who couldn’t believe that his camera had been found.

Surprisingly, I’m told that the camera had been on the hillside since mid-October 2014 – I thought it might have been one or two days – but although the LEJoG photos had been downloaded previously, the latest photo’s recorded Al’s actual last day at work before his retirement from the RAF as a coordinater of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams so these were precious memories.

Having ‘googled’ his name to find contact details I now know more about this man than I probably should, but I thought I’d share some of this mountain-climbing, frost bitten polar explorer with you because you never know who you are going to meet on the hills, either in person or vicariously.

check out –

a bit about LEJoG and Exercise Southern Reach

Al did say to me that doing the LEJoG solo was the toughest thing he had ever done, simply because he was on his own.

Take whatever inspiration you need from this tale.

Inov-8 High Cup Nick, Dufton, Saturday, February 28, 2015

BM / 9.3M / 1509'

Nigel Heppell

High Cup Nick is just that; a nick in the western Pennines escarpment not far from Appleby-in-Westmorland; not any old nick but a long, deep, glaciated valley cut through many different layers of rock laid down over eons and characterised by an impressive ledge of dolerite/basalt Great Whin Sill delineating the perimeter. For the last nine years the quiet little village of Dufton has seen fit to cause people, including me and Phil Owen on this occasion, to run from the village green along a short stretch of road then farm track before squelching across undulating fields and tussocky boglands on a gentle ascent followed by a grin-making steep descent into the valley bottom and a wade through a stream(river today), turning to view the long haul up the cleft of the Nick.

Runnable at first, this soon breaks down into a run-walk for all but the hardened fellmongers disappearing ahead (my personal run/walk moment came earlier; much, much earlier than expected, legs and lungs just did not want to know for the first mile or two). Ultimately everyone is walking as the valley narrows and the track steepens into a boulder field; then a strenuous scramble up the rock face alongside the backwards-flowing waterfall; yes, the breeze which had been comfortably caressing our backs up the valley was now blowing seriously hard as the funnel of the nick narrowed down and the temperature dropped accordingly. Just as well the cloud came down to obscure the dramatic drop back into the valley. One or two competitors ahead of me did seem to experience a ‘moment’ on the wet slippery rocks but I saw that as an opportunity to overtake a bunch of queuers.

Once I’d hauled myself out of the shelter of the Nick the bitter wind really hit hard, blowing sideways across the track we were to take, and with jelly-legs from the climb I was joined by others in a comedy parade of silly walks to amuse the marshals. Eventually persuading all four limbs into some kind of vaguely coordinated lope we stumbled off down the track of the Pennine Way (also traversed by competitors in the mid-January Spine race under very much colder conditions) concentrating hard on picking a safe route along the rock-strewn path.

Some interesting trading of places occurred within my cohort on this long steady downhill section and I was fully expecting to be overtaken on the short uphill sections nearer to the finish but it would appear that my stategy of walking early on in the race had paid off as I regained places lost to early downhill overtakers and even overhauled a few others I’d not knowingly seen before, finishing with a dash across the village green and into the community hall for a cup of substantial home-made veg’ soup and a roll.


Rocks – about 480 million years;

Runners – N Heppell 1hr 45min(ouch!)177/211 – P Owen about 1min longer – Race winner in a new course record of 1hr 01 min 03 secs, the approriately-named Ricky Lightfoot of Ellenborough.

Nigel adds …

Special mention for James, who ran with us for the first time last week and also competed in this race. He finished in a very respectable time of 1hr 18min and was placed about 37-40th in the field.

and a 24second video of the start was filmed – just possible to make out Phil O at the rear.

UKA Fell & Hill Relay Champs, Middleton & Barbon Fells, Kirby Lonsdale, Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scott Watson

Sally & Mike B before the offThis year, this prestigious event in the fell-running calendar was held on the little-known (to me at least) Barbon and Middleton fells, a very compact but no less hilly venue between Sedbergh and Kirby Lonsdale. Conditions-wise, wind was to be the main feature of the day but at least in Durham it remained a generally pleasant day; over the Pennines there was no sun to be had and the weather deteriorated persistently as the day wore on, leaving later runners to contend with driving rain and mist.

Mike B finishing Leg 1 for Team 'B'The event was well organised as always, this time by Dallam Running Club and Howgill Harriers, and the first runners representing the 213 registered teams were marshalled together on a wind-blown field at the foot of Middleton Fell for a 10 o’clock start. Elvet Striders were able to field two teams: Team ‘A’ comprised Sally Hughes (Leg 1), Mike Hughes & Paul Evans (Leg 2), Camilla Lauren Maatta & Scott Watson (Leg 3) and Jan Young (Leg 4); Team ‘B’ was Mike Bennett (Leg 1), Kerry Lister & Nigel Heppell (Leg 2), Anita Clementson & Phil Owen (Leg 3) and John Metson (Leg 4). Of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that ‘Mudman & Mudwoman’, Geoff and Sue Davis (running for that ‘other’ club on this occasion) were there first thing with tent erected and waiting to receive guests!

As I mentioned before, this is a prestigious event that always attracts the very best fell runners in the country to compete for their clubs, consequently the course is ‘challenging’ to say the least. Legs 1 & 4 were for single runners and were effectively the same course run the opposite way round. Leg 2 was a longer course for pairs and Leg 3 was a navigational course for pairs.

Sally finishing Leg 1 for Team 'A'There are many (many) words to follow and it is a shame that the consistent efforts of those dependable runners who are relied on to make up the core of any team often fail to get a fair crack of the whip commendations-wise, but the day – quite rightly – belonged to two ladies for whom this was a real baptism of fire. Sally Hughes must have been the youngest competitor at the event and had only ever (to the best of my knowledge) previously done one fell-race – Simonside Show – and compared to this, it doesn’t really count. By her own account she had a tough run, with the vagaries of the fells playing their part but she kept her head and her spirit and finished in proper fell-running style!

Twelve hours earlier, Kerry Lister had been drinking champagne and recounting her York Marathon adventures the previous weekend. When Jon Ayres was forced to pull out, a desperate email plea went out for a replacement and it was Kerry who stepped up – despite never having done a fell race in her life – only to be given the hardest leg of the race! Admittedly she was well paired with Nigel who, I think she has already agreed, calmly guided and encouraged her to achieve a never-to-be-forgotten and quite extraordinary athletic milestone.

For my own part, Camilla and I enjoyed (I hope she agrees) a very satisfying run on Leg 3 which, because we left with the mass start, required almost no navigational input with the exception perhaps of keeping an eye out for any small advantage that might be gained. However, with good visibility and a chain of runners stretching for half a mile, that hope was a faint one. Squally rain showers driven by high winds were possibly the most significant impediment to our progress (disregarding a few steep hills of course!) but if you’re not intending to pitch a tent in it at the end of the day it just adds to the experience! Roll on next year!

…And Mike Hughes (Team A/Leg 2 – with Paul Evans)

Mike Hughes & Paul Evans climb away from the showground at the start of Leg 2Paul and I waited eagerly for the return of the Leg 1 single runners; you could see them coming down from the fell in the field opposite and hurriedly dibbing at the last point before making the last effort to the finish where a firm tag on the hand was needed to set the pairs away for the second leg. Many had come in by now and we had seen some really fast pairs run off up the slope towards the right turn to Eskholme Pike, picking off some of the pairs in a very short time. Then she appeared, safe and running well, our Sally, able to run the first leg as it was the only leg permitted for an under 18. She strode down the fields with her lanky relaxed gate and was soon running towards us. I held my arms out for a proud embrace and we were off, charging up the hill after the others, although none in sight just yet.

We climbed steadily and I was soon quite breathless, don’t know if it was the wind that seemed to take my air or trying to keep pace with Paul, down a steep gully and up the other side. It was mostly runnable but the climb to the first check point brought me to a walk. As we climbed we caught up with Nigel and Kerry. At the same time were greeted by an ex-strider who was out on her own, her name I can’t recall but many of you will – a very pleasant French lady who invited a bus load of striders to her wedding in France many years ago.

After a brief chat we pressed on, Paul offering for me to lead and set pace but I thought we’d be faster if I let him lead and I tried to keep up, that seemed to work. We decided to run to the base of the next hill and then stride to the next check point, Paul saving us time by getting to the check point a good few strides ahead of me and then we were straight off after the nod from the marshals when we were a pair again.

The view of the runners strung out ahead to CP3 and Castle Knott ahead was quite something. We had picked a few more off by now and I seemed to be getting my “second wind”. I knew we were looking for a right “out and back” after that to pick up CP4, from the contours on the map it looked steep but maybe not too far. As we traversed round it came into view. I laughed, that’s mad I thought, it was way down in the valley, really steep, and as soon as you hit the check point you had to come straight back up of course and even further to the wall corner for CP5, mentally tough as well anything else.

We descended rapidly, passing a few more and were soon out the other side of the gully and attacking the hill. I looked up to the top of the hill, I only looked the once, head down and get on with it, this was seriously painful. It was rough heather scrub, the heather compressing as you stepped on it which sapped what little energy my legs had, you couldn’t stand really, the best technique seems to be climb it on all fours, grabbing the heather as you went and as much pulling yourself up with your arms and pushing with your legs which felt like they would burst.

Paul was getting away from me but I managed to gain on others. Eventually the top came and I joined Paul who was able to stop and take in the view back, I didn’t and we were off again, returning to soft grass and probably the easiest run of the day to CP5 on Calf top and the turn left down Middleton Fell. We were going well, we were heading home, the ground was soft, deep, moss and undulating as we descended and traversed.

We ran quickly, I was twisting and turning, at one point my body was facing forward but my legs were still running sideways after stumbling on a rocky outcrop, I was starting to feel exhausted and didn’t have the energy to correct with the forward momentum of the decent but managed to keep upright. We caught up with a couple of NFR runners (Steph Scott and Katherine Davis). We were heading back in the direction of the event field, I guess maybe only 2-3 miles to go, when there were shouts of “wrong way”.

Confusion ensued, there seemed to be runners everywhere all of a sudden, some going on ahead, some running back, some way down in the valley bottom going the other way (turns out some were also the Leg 3 navigators). A quick glance at the map, damn, where were we, we had just arrived at a deep gully with a stream, we realised on the map that that had to be the unnamed watershed down into Luge Gill to the West of CP6.

We descended a little further and back over the gully, it looked runnable for the traverse along a wall to find the gill we needed – Wrestle Gill – but we were soon in deep bracken and slowing down. We could see runners further up the hill so traversed and climbed, followed the stream up the gully and eventually came to the check point, blisters starting to shout by then.

Check point dibbed and we were off, how much time we had lost I don’t know, 10-15 minutes maybe, so we pushed on trying to claw that time back. Could we make it back in time for the cut off, yes, you could see the tents down in the fields about a mile away. Someone said “ten minutes to cut off”, press on, Paul looking back, he had that look in his eyes and I knew this was going to be the last hard push, eyeballs out -it’s all going to be over soon.

We were soon running across the fields and back into the main field, we thought we had made it in time, we looked around but soon heard the jovial commentator announce over his tannoy “it’s no good looking rounds lads, they’ve gone, you’ve missed them”…..still, a brilliant run and great to have Paul encouraging me by making it look so easy!

…And Jan Young (Team A/Leg 4)

Sunday’s race renewed my passion for the fells, testing my resilience, after a summer in the doldrums. No navigation needed for solo leg 4, switch brain off and follow red flags, peering through mist and blinding rain, to find cairn checkpoints and marshalls huddled as low as possible, finding respite from Howgills howling wind. Recommend pie eating or backpack rocks, to add weight, as got blown sideways…… a lot.

Brilliant commentary from announcer: “They call it fell running because you fall down lot.” “They say it’s hell up there; you wait till leg 4.” He was at it all day, entertaining and enthusiastic. Hot food served all day, cake, hot drinks and beer. Shared Striders’ tent and cakes with NFR, all supportive.

Striders of the day: Sally, already very fit, whose confidence in her ability is rocketing – she must have been the youngest competitor? And ‘I’ll try it Kerry’ – from the York Marathon to challenging terrain on the Middleton and Barbon fells. No problem!

…And Nigel Heppell (Team B/Leg 2 – with Kerry Lister)

A last minute drop-out meant a new recruit and a re-jigging of teams, such that I took Kerry out as my partner for Leg 2, which happened to be the longest leg (9 miles apparently). Excellent company, enthusiasm and unflagging good spirits but it was definitely a baptism of fire (or should that be wind and hail? – easily blowing 60mph on the tops – and turbulent too) for Kerry.

Part of our route went half-way down this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-oIkNu9MwA&feature=youtu.be – and then straight back up, all the way into the clouds that were covering Calf Top.

Quoting from the organiser’s website: “There is only the one annual race currently touching upon the Middleton and Barbon fells event area; it involves a lung bursting, calf straining, dash to Calf Top from the washtubs in Barbondale and back and has one of the steepest ascents and descents of the Kendal Winter League series. There are sore backsides in store for runners looking to overtake and losing their footing on the run in to the finish.”

We did complete our leg successfully albeit taking a bit longer than most, well, ok, all; but at least we got all the checkpoints; 10 teams failed to do that. Heard some rumours that Mountain Rescue were about to be summoned! I had the satisfaction of doing some actual navigation because there was no one else in sight to follow – it’s an ill wind …

…And Kerry Lister (Team B/Leg 2 – with Nigel Heppell)

The story starts on Saturday night, approximately 1030pm, checking my emails I saw a plea from Paul Evans for anyone willing to be a last minute stand-in for the fell racing championships. Ah well I though, better than sitting on the back of a motorbike all day…. off went the email, with 3 caveats – don’t be cross at how slow I am, I am very poor at navigation and please can I run with someone else. Hastily packing my little rucksack with the ‘essential kit’ and laying out my flat momma off to bed for an insanely early Sunday morning.

Next thing I know I’m getting into a car with 3 likely lads (Paul Evans, Nigel Heppell and John Metson) and off to Middleston Fell we go. At this point I really don’t know what Ive gotten myself into. Arriving in good time for our team captain to register the 2 teams we have fielded, I being to get a bit worried, lots of racing snake type fell runners, I pop to the portaloo then try to find the Strider tent which Sue and Geoff have erected for the Striders nd NFR teams to share. Me being me, with absolutely no sense of direction (admittedly not ideal for a fell run), it takes me some time to find the tent.

Numbers allocated and pinned on: I’m running Leg 2 with Nigel in team number 73. Mike Bennett was our Leg 1 runner, Flip Owen and Anita Clementson our navigation Leg 3 and John Metson our number 4.

Then it was off to find the Young Farmers’ tent for a very reasonably priced bacon bun and coffee (£3!). Nigel and I had a quick recce of the map(ashamedly all I know about maps is the closer together the lines are, the steeper the hill/gradient, and my goodness those lines around checkpoint 4 were very, very, close together!).

Leg 1, ready to go – Mike Bennett and Sally Hughes were looking resplendent in purple as they lined up with the elite fell runners – then they were off! Estimating a return time of around 40 minutes it was off for our kit check.

I had brought everything I needed except whistle and compass, so after our illustrious team captain provided me with a compass and a new whistle was purchased from Pete Bland (my first ever Pete Bland store purchase – I think that makes me a fell runner now!) I went to show my gear to the checkers. She was suitably impressed with my woolly bee hat (complete with antennae) but strangely made no comment on my ‘pac-a-mac’ cagoule.

After a last, nervous, loo visit, Nigel and I dibbed into the starting pen, to await Mike’s return. When he appeared over the hill, his long, loping, stride seemed to devour the ground beneath him, then, with a quick tag of the hand, we were off. Giggling like a girl (well I am one I suppose) it wasn’t long before my marathon tired legs and unaccustomed lungs started to protest, Nigel coached me with top fell runner tips as we climbed and climbed and climbed.

And as the pairs passed us (lots of them) the head start Mike had provided us with was soon gone and Paul and Mike Hughes were soon upon us, passing us with a cheery wave, smile and ‘well done’. My lungs were bursting by now, my calves were screaming but I was still smiling.

At last checkpoint 1! I’d like to tell you more about the route but to be honest it just seemed like a lot of ups and ‘jocks heeds’ to use Sue Davis’ phrase. Looking forward to the descent to checkpoint 4 we ploughed on, and when it came it looked like a cliff edge – I’d never gone down anything so steep without an abseil rope! I started the very slow creep down Barbondale, giggling maniacally with hysteria and joy, busying my brain with thinking of what I was going to put in this race report.

I managed to make it almost to the checkpoint (in record slow time) before slipping onto my bottom – no damage done. Nigel ‘the dibber’ did the dibbing and then it was the horror of ‘the Ascent’. Now I had seen an alleged quote for Dean Kamazes: ‘run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up’.

This was the time to invoke all of these methods of transport: on my hands and knees I became acquainted with much sheep poo, my back felt like it was breaking, my calves felt like they would pop, then the wind came – only about 60 mph (estimated by Nigel) in big ‘whooshy’ noisy gusts.

I must say I was scared and wondered numerous times why I was doing this but at the same time I felt elated. Wow, what an experience to be here, a running novice competing (well that’s maybe a bit strong) in the National Fell Running Championships in an awesome landscape with weather as I had never experienced it.

Up and up we went, Nigel keeping the conversation going, waiting patiently for me and pointing out the way. Then, all of a sudden, we were at the top – well, only a little way to go before the actual ‘Calf Top’ – a ‘Marilyn’ as my guide informed me. We were now in the clouds and about to start the descent(I was fully expecting to find ten black toenails and big blisters on my feet when I eventually took my shoes off).

On our way from CP 5 to 6 we came across a team of Congleton girls who had been to CP 6 but couldn’t find CP 7. We dubbed them the ‘Congleton Panickers’ as they were genuinely scared and lost. Nigel sorted them out and pointed them in the right direction (what a gent; I had dabbled with the idea of sending them the wrong way to gain a place ‘mwah-ha-ha’!). The lovely ‘holder of the dibber’ at CP 6 saw us coming and met us a little way up the hill and we were soon off to find CP 7 and ‘The Finish’, which seemed like it would never come.

Eventually there it was, after 3 hours 40 minutes (yes, you read that correctly) and approx 9 miles covered with an elevation gain of 772 metres, Nigel dibbed his last dib. We had missed the cut-off point (no sh*t Sherlock) and Leg 3 runners had already set off, but we had made it. Nigel looked like he’d had a gentle walk around the park; I was exhausted, elated and emotional.

Arriving back at the Striders tent, it emerged that the organisers had been five minutes away from calling mountain rescue, as we’d taken so long, and no-one had heard from us, even though we’d dibbed at every CP and had been practically followed by the marshalls from CP 6 all the way back (obviously the mobile signal is not the best in this setting – maybe they need radios next time…..).

Two cups of hot, sweet, tea later, Flip and Anita returned from their leg. Flip kindly donated his meal ticket and a beer to me. Happy, dry, fed and watered and sitting at the back of the tent as the weather closed in, we awaited John Metson’s return. Then the tent came down and we were off home.

Although we were time last on our leg, we managed (due to Nigel’s skill) to get all seven checkpoints dibbed, a feat which ten teams didn’t, which means we weren’t officially last on our leg! And overall there were six teams below us. Outstanding work I’d say.

So the question is: is this novice a fell runner? The answer: I’d sure like to be! I have never been so scared, astounded by my capability, in awe of the support and kindness of my fellow runners or proud of my achievement as I was on Sunday 19th October 2014.

I urge everyone and anyone to try fell running – maybe pick your first one a bit more carefully – but as Scott Watson said on FB: “maybe the race will choose you!”

…And Anita Clementson (Team B/Leg 3 – with Phil Owen)

It was a mass start at 1315 for Leg 3 runners should your Leg 2 team mates not be back and approximately 20 teams were set off. As this was the navigation route, they were pulling no punches at the nationals with no chance to prepare beforehand and maps were given out a short distance after the race start as you were climbing the first hill.

Phil took charge of the map whilst I did my best to keep up and not lose sight of the runners ahead (very quickly disappearing into the distance). We dodged a few very fast fell runners who were making their descent (this is what it’s all about, rubbing shoulders with the best fell runners in the country!).

The terrain was both wonderful and brutal. There was no room for wimps out there on the Middleton Fells. It did feel quite bleak when the winds caught you on the highest points – no-man’s land – feeling the elements and feeling alive!

Long before the final descent, the booming voice of ‘Mr Commentator’ could be heard in the distance (I want some of what he was on). We were disappointed to lose a checkpoint; a simple error and we were too busy looking for the runner ahead (I was no help whatsoever). We ran right near it too looking back on the map.

Thanks to Phil, for being a great teammate (luckily he was happy to take it easy at my pace whilst keeping an eye on an injury) and thanks to Paul for pulling this off – Team Elvet will be back!