It’s the end of 2016 and time to reflect on the second full year of High Fell Events. Wow! It’s been pretty full on with organising 6 events instead of the 3 of 2015. Moving into new areas also presented the additional challenge of ascertaining the identities of land owners, residents and stakeholders but it’s all part of the process.
Underpinning all the big days were the most important element: the particpants. It always amazes me how so many people are prepared to put themselves through so much pain and still smile at the end of it. Even the patented special ending of the Clennell Trail Run couldn’t break peoples resolve! All the runs and bike events are aimed at mixed abilities so a newbie is just as welcome as the experienced old sage.
The Big Days
Let’s have a look back at what happened. First up was the Thrunton Thriller trail run in March. The forest had only recently opened itself up to a small number of events and we were lucky enough to grab a spot. Devising a route took an awful lot of time as it was a combination of forest tracks, twisty singletrack and wide open trails on the hill tops. Let’s also not forget the bog of doom and the special ending to catch people out. You’re welcome. Jon Butters smashed it round in a ridiculous time but equally impressive were the three ladies who came in at the end full of smiles.
Some months went past and then the signature mountain bike ride that is the Clennell Colossus reared it’s head. Numbers stayed the same as 2015 with over 300 riders coming to take the Cheviots on. Hats off to those that did as they took on probably the hardest course that can possibly be devised, all in thick fog. At least plenty had the great idea of utilising the free camping and took the opportunity for plenty of rehydrating in the bar the night before.
The next new event came in July and it came in the form of the Ingram Trail Run. This presented a unique challenge as the event ambitiously set out to have a 50 mile ultra, a marathon and a half marathon. The planning and the logistics were just massive and those days leading up to the event were an exhaustion driven haze! The run was a revelation with the half marathon having all the views of the Cheviot central massif but with only a fraction of the climbing needed to actually go there. The marathon on the other hand was a right bugger with tough terrain underfoot and the ultra runners were phenomenal as everyone completed the gruelling 50 mile course. The last ultra runner came in just after 10pm following a 5am start. Madness!
A few weeks later the Clennell Trail Run came about. Perfect weather led to plenty of free camping which has a habit of being accompanied by beer and big food. Again three distances were on offer but all routes were different to last year, the ultra was new. The half marathon was a lesson in pain with a perpetual motion of climb or descend and I’m not talking about gentle hills here either. Marathon runners were cast off far to the border ridge to kiss the edge of Scotland before coming back. The ultra runners had an extra jaunt to the edge of Roman Chew Green to complete their 38 mile strain.
September ticked around and so onwards to the Breamish Behemoth. A 42 mile mountain bike challenge that has a successful completion rate of under 50%. That should tell you something. To be fair it’s one of the very vest routes available and if you get the right weather then some of the finest vistas Northumberland has to offer are yours for the taking. It’s also excellent riding, comes with free camping and is a very laid back affair.
Cragside was held in November with 450 people signing up months in advance. This event was cancelled in 2015 and almost put an end to High Fell Events before it even got started. Many thanks to all those people who didn’t ask for a refund and instead defered their entry. On a picture perfect day a massively enthusiastic group of runners charged round the inner trails of Cragside and tackled roots, rocks and 10p mix-ups before finishing with a coffee and a cake in the cafe.
No event can take place without the help of people who selflessly give up their time so that others can enjoy theirs. I’ll take this opportunity to thank them personally:
- Joanne Richardson. My sister has been at every event since inception. A rock to handle the most remote setting with a friendly smile and encouragement.
- Paul Kemp. Again an ever present who has now become a fellow organiser. Often found puffing on a cigarette whilst driving a big 4×4 out on the hills.
- Eileen and George Wilson. Ever wondered who the friendly faces are at the end of manning a checkpoint? These two tend to be there and many thanks to them.
- Yvonne and Brian Kemp aka Mam and Dad. Chief flapjack maker/food provider and Dad transports the injured back to base when needed.
- Mark Stephenson. Injury has stopped him from competing but he’s given up his time to come and help anyway. Spot on.
- Keith Fawcett and Jason Woodhouse. These two just love to carry big rucksacks at the back of the group and pick up signs.
- Allison and the kids. Registration is nearly always handled by my wife and events started by the kids. Top effort.
- Jim Imber. Loves to be out in the wilds cheering people on.
- David Wilson. Intrepid explorer and outdoor enthusiast, always on hand in some far off spot to keep you safe.
Over the course of the year there have been many more who have helped but we’d be here a long time if I went over them all. A condensed list would be: Paul Appleby, Phil Green, Ellen Creighton, Kerri turner, Lucy Imber, Johan, Mick Barker, Clare Douglas, Jay Pea, Paul Eggleston Brown, Andrew Pogson, Graham Pogson, Andy Robertson, Linda Eastwood, Carl Stewart and many, many more.
Of course events can’t take place without the land owners, farmers, residents, gamekeepers, shepherds, governement organisations, conservation organisations, medical staff etc. There are simply too many to mention covering the Coquet valley, Breamish valley, Kielder, Cragside and Thrunton. You’re always professional and polite and willing to have people charge about over the hills for their own enjoyment.
A key aim of High Fell Events is to promote local businesses. This leads to a number of good relationships being built up over time. No review of 2016 would be complete without mentioning the end of an era with Ian and Eunice leaving Barrowburn farm – a line that stretched back to the 19th century on that very farm. I’ve known Ian for nearly 30 years and I wish this jovial Northumbrian and his wife all the best and can’t thank them enough for all the help, advice and support they have given. Let’s see what happens with Barrowburn moving forwards. The same good vibes are sent out to Clennell Hall, The Valley Cottage Cafe in Ingram, Cragside, Tomlinsons cafe and on and on.
Now I feel like this is starting to become some kind of BAFTA acceptance speech and focus will switch to the future. I wish everyone the best of fortunes in 2017 and hope you achieve your goals no matter what they are. Remember the main competition is with yourself and don’t let anyone put you off doing what you enjoy. The events list stays the same in 2017 with 2 extras coming on board in the form of the Kielder Chiller 24 hour mountain bike race and a winter run named Hedgehope Winter Wipeout! Neither event has been run in the region before but there seem to be plenty of people prepared to take up the challenge.
I look forward to another amazing year of activities in the beautiful hills of Northumberland. If you haven’t been here before then you really should. Way more remote than the Lake District and with a charm all of its own. Many hours, days and weeks will be spent finding new routes, twisty trails and those spots with great views. Get out there and get stuck in. Now what are you waiting for?