Ennerdale Horseshoe Fell Race – Saturday 11th June 2016

The ‘Lakeland Classics’ are a series of long and super long fell races around the Lake District and most adopt the traditional ‘Horseshoe’ shape, in that from the start you climb up to the top of a mountain then run around the tops of various peaks in a horseshoe shape and descend at the end.  Sounds straight forward right?

The scence of the Ennerdale Fell Race
A view of beautiful Ennerdale

Ennerdale Fell Race is the longest of the super long races at 23 miles, so it’s just shy of a marathon and with 7500ft of climbing it wasn’t going to be a gentle run out, nor was it going to be just one big climb at the start.  For anyone not used to running up hills or struggling to comprehend what 7500ft of ascent means then here’s a couple of pointers.

  • Firstly 7500ft ascent obviously means there is also 7500ft descent too which can be just as hard on the legs.
  • Secondly if you’ve ever walked up Snowdon from Pen Y Pass car park that is an 2378ft ascent, meaning it is over 3 of those or 5.5 times up Whernside from Ribblehead (Yorkshire’s highest mountain) at 1338ft ascent.
Ennerdale 4
Pre-race Selfie

An 11 a.m. race start means a 6 a.m. alarm clock to get myself fuelled and ready for a 3 hour drive up to Ennerdale.  Situated at the far Western side of the Lakes it is a bit of a journey to get there!  As the race clashed with the Welsh counter in the British Fell Running Championships many of the big names of fell running, most of them from The Lakes, had gone the opposite direction down the M6 to Pedol Cwm Pennant in Snowdonia.  These two factors, along with it being an absolute beast of a race, mean it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and only 64 lined up, getting bitten by the lakeside midges when 11 a.m. came.

A gentle first mile around the lake on a decent track and nobody had been tempted to shoot off ahead so we all comfortably jogged along.  I considered getting to the front just to say that I had led a Lakeland Classic Fell Race but that would have been a bit far from reality, especially given what was to come.  Come it did, with the first climb up Great Bourne at 2020ft above sea level.  A steep energy-sapping scramble up mainly grassy terrain took us into the clouds and mist, and all of a sudden the prospect of a nice day out evaporated like the sweat on my face.  The mist cleared as we got above it and the first of the day’s 9 check points came into view.  All these races use an electronic dibbing system where you carry a little ‘key’ that you insert into a box at each check point.  This records your time and also ensures all runners are accounted for.  The man, or rather legend, with the dibbing box was none other than Joss Naylor (If you don’t know ‘Iron Joss Naylor’ then do yourself a favour and Google him!).  After feeling a little in awe and saying it was an honour to meet him he told me to have a good run and I continued on my way. [CP1 – 43:53]

Ennerdale Fell Race - My Strava map of the route
My Strava route

During the first climb I had been passed by two Pudsey Pacer lads (Zagi and Leigh) who were not unknown to me but I’d only actually met them that morning before the start.  I could see them up ahead and I wanted to stay within a minute or two of their yellow vests and hopefully catch them back up.  We traversed Starling Dodd and headed up Red Pike (There’s 2 Red Pikes in the Lakes and both feature in this race report… although one shouldn’t have!) and I started to gain some ground on them, feeling good.

[CP2 1:12:23] 2473ft above sea level (ASL). I passed Zagi and ran along with Leigh for a bit having our first navigation problems with the line around High Stile but got back on course and I was now following a couple of Bowland Fellrunners.  Some great running, especially down the steep scree slopes where the hikers we were passing just looked bemused at these middle aged men and ladies hurtling down a mountain past them.

[CP3 – 2:01:05] Black Beck Tarn.  We’d dropped down to 1578ft so I knew there was lots more climbing ahead.  This started with Green Gable at 2627ft ASL where check point 4 was, and I was thankful on this occasion that we weren’t going up Great Gable (we’ll save that for Wasdale and Borrowdale later this year).

[CP4 – 2:32:01].  This is the furthest point you get from the start but this isn’t a road race, there is no option to throw in the towel and jump on a bus back to race HQ.  Quit now and you’ve still got to haul your ass back to the start so time to dig in, eat some more food and push on.

The climb up Kirk Fell (2632ft ASL) is steep and rocky and at the summit is check point 5 [CP5 – 3:00:00] where we turn right and descend rapidly to Black Sail Pass and begin the ascent of Pillar.  At 2818ft ASL Pillar is the highest point in this race and once the summit is reached it is a relatively steady and mainly downhill run for the final 6 miles or so.  So – get to the top of this around the 3:45:00 mark, and an hour or just over to get back for a 5 hour finish.  Simple.

This is where things went wrong.  The climb up Pillar itself was straight forward.  Difficult? Yes.  Never ending? Yes.  Cramp in both thighs with each step upwards? Yes.  Massive relief when we reached the top? Yes.  Up here was the race organiser who gave us some water and told us (myself and Leigh) that we were in the top 30 and doing well.  Hurray. [CP6 – 3:42:44]

Now we both had a ‘Harvey Map’ of the route with it’s valuable notes on.  Notes like – ‘Pillar to Haycock, Checkpoint 7, likewise is obvious (referring to the tourist path up Pillar) but care must be taken whilst traversing Scoat Fell, to the south, not to end up on Red Pike.  A wall is a good handrail’.  Good advice that we failed to take as we took the wrong path and trundled off to Red Pike (this being the second Red Pike as mentioned earlier).  I wasn’t sure we were on the right path but then suddenly up ahead were 3 runners spaced out along the trail and going the direction we were heading.  It’s easy to say “stop and get out the compass” and “don’t assume the others are in your race” but by now your body is in agony and your mind is just on a basic survival mode to get you back to your car and so you follow.  You see a tarn to the right which rings alarm bells as that doesn’t fit with what you’re expecting to see, but still you follow.  Down below looks a bit like Wasdale really, not where you should be going, but still you follow.  So I caught up with the lady ahead and as I had suspected, but didn’t want to believe, she had no race number on her top.  We had a little chat while she told us just how far off course we were and that she had seen some of our fellow racers going the other way.  Thank you – whoever you are!

Demoralised as well as outright knackered we looked at our maps and tried to figure out what to do.  Firstly we needed to get back to the top of what was now obviously Red Pike, in order to get a bearing and make a plan.  The plan we had was to head north-west skirting the edge of the tarn we had seen, and then the path and the wall that we should be following, would be just behind the crag we could see.  There was nothing even resembling a path and the going was boggy, rocky and even the sheep looked puzzled as we trudged across to the crag, stopping at the tarn to fill our now empty water bottles.  At the crag the view I expected, was to look down into Ennerdale valley, see a prominent wall, a bunch of fell runners running along and a herd of unicorns skipping across the hillside.  Alas it was not to be.  A bleak empty valley with no Ennerdale Water 🙁

Ennerdale Correct Route

As mentioned before, there is no “get out” at this point.  No “sit down and wait to be rescued”.  You have to dig deep, search your soul and soldier on.  As if in a dark comedy about two middle aged Yorkshiremen in a spot of bother on a bleak hill, the heavens opened and the clag came down.  Cags donned, we skirted round an annoyingly placed mountain which happened to be the one we should have been on top of!  It’s while desperate, tired and hungry that you really appreciate not being on your own, so I’m glad Leigh was at least suffering with me.  Fell running is all about ups and downs, mainly physically but also metaphorically, and things can change quickly.  The sight of the “wall” that we should have seen over an hour earlier lifts the spirits, especially as there are people running by it, people actually in our race!  We join their line and ask where check point 7 is, which we find out is back up the mountain we’ve skirted around.  We decide we will still dib in and head up to the summit passing, runners coming the other way. [CP7 – 5:25:56].  What should have been a 30 minute check point has taken 1:43:12.

Now on the right path and having not missed any check points we set off towards the finish with a spring in our cramping step – although we were now at the back of the field and any plans of getting a good time were gone – but the experience is priceless.  Iron Crag was check point 8 and it came and went without incident, with lots of grassy downhill running which should be a joy, but was still tough given my legs were trashed by this point!  [CP 8 – 5:53:01].

More downhill, although I was flagging quickly.  I hadn’t eaten anything for a while as I thought I’d have enough in the tank to see me to the finish but I was now running on empty and feeling dizzy.  I’d edged a way in front of Leigh but he was now catching me up again which was fine as any idea of this still being a “race” was long gone and I was hoping he had some warm lake water left!  I got down to the plantation I’d been looking at for a while and started on the last climb up Crag Fell, a nasty little sting in the Ennerdale tail.  I stopped for a moment and ate about 10 jelly babies hoping these mighty little jelly beings would see me the last couple of miles.  Leigh caught, and then stayed with, me as I think he could see I was struggling.  I just needed the sugar to kick in and I’d be okay, but I could just as easily have curled up and drifted into a sleep from which I might never have woken.  “Soldier on”, “keep going”, you told Mrs Britton you’d be setting off home around 4 p.m. and it must be almost half five already!  Get your ass in gear up this hill, down the other side, and it will all be over.  [CP 9 – 6:23:03].  I think they were as happy to see us as we were them, the two blokes on top of Crag Fell who, by now, must have been stood up there over three hours already and there were still at least a few more to come.  “Ten minutes and you’re back” they said.  They lied.  It was all downhill through a forest and eventually to the edge of Ennerdale Water.  These last beautiful yards should be joyous, but they were painful and seemingly endless, like someone was purposely extending my agony by having the finish as far away as possible.  Of course that was not the actual truth.

Through the finish and the last dibber.  No sprint from Leigh.  I think he let me cross first through pity, but it had truly been a team performance today and poor Zagi had been back ages and couldn’t get in Leigh’s car to change. [Finish 6:43:19].

Total distance run 25.8 miles with 7971ft of ascent.  An unplanned extra 3 miles and almost 500ft ascent.

Ennerdale Profile
More Ups and Downs than an International Yo-Yo Convention


In retrospect – Another amazing day in The Lakes.  The people it takes to put on a race like this and stand at the top of many inhospitable mountains for hours on end, purely so we can do the race, is very much appreciated.  There’s no medal, no technical t-shirt, no certificate and no need.  Nobody running this race wanted any of that.  For them it was a battle, for some a battle to win (1st place male Ben Abdelnoor – 4:03:27 and 1st place female Judith Jepson (legend) – 4:58:54 a and 16th overall).  For most of us it was a battle just to complete it.

You can learn a lot about yourself when tired, hungry, exhausted and clinging to the side of some godforsaken mountain with horizontal rain pummelling your face and zero visibility, but then the clag can lift, the sun can shine and the view makes you happy to be right here, right now and doing what you love.

Andrew Britton – 13th June 2016


Harriers v Cyclists

On yer bike!

What a great race put on by Bingley Harriers, in cold and muddy conditions, with brilliant support from spectators all along the route.  I was one of 215 runners with another 66 competitors on bikes finishing 72nd overall.Harriers v Cyclists

Harriers V Cyclists – Photos


Here are the links to the photos taken by Dave and Eileen Woodhead:



Below is an extract from Bingley Harriers web site – thanks to Stephen Firth for a great event.

Harriers V Cyclists – Results

A larger than expected entry meant a delay to the start of this years Harriers V Cyclists but a clear but cold day didn’t put people off and a record field of 280 runners and riders set off on the 5.5 mile circuit. Rain for the past two weeks meant the ground was very wet and water logged but over night freezing temperatures and snow meant the ground was hard in certain summit locations so the discussions in the Start/Finish field were of whether the runners or the cyclists would win overall.

First back in a record time of 34:35 was Tom Adams of Ilkley followed by Joe Baxter of Pudsey & Bramley (37:00) and completing the first three finishers was Will Simmons of Team Zuffle Racing (37:16). It became clear that the Harriers would win overall when the first 9 to finish were all runners with Ian Taylor of C&N Cycles finishing first cyclist in a time of 39:13. Taking second and third places on two wheels were 2 Bingley boys, Andy Peace (Jedi Cycles 40:49) and Ian Holmes (Jedi Cycles 42:31).

First lady home was Annabel Mason of Leeds University in a time of 45:47 followed by Steph Curtis (Pennine FR) in a time of 46:25 and Emma Taylor of Accrington Road Runners in 47:20.

I would like to thank all those people who helped and marshalled on the day as well as the Bradford & Bingley Sports Club for allowing us to use their facilities at short notice and especially after the flooding they experienced the week before. I would also like to thank Wilsden Wines and Bingley Brewery for kindly donating prizes for the event and Milner Fields farm for allowing us to use their land.

Full results can be found here 

Next years race will be a week earlier (12th November) and start a little earlier (12:30) as it will be the official FRA Dinner race which is being hosted by the Bingley Harriers. I hope to see you all there again.


Stephen Firth.


Salmon & Watercress Tart – Wine Thursday 19/11/15

Having bought a whole salmon the other week and freezing it in portions it was decided that I should use some of it for this weeks wine Thursday.

I’m quite accomplished at shortcrust pastry anyway but found a Nigel Slater recipe to follow although I made four, small, individual tarts rather than one large one.


I added a Beetroot, Pear and Feta salad as I thought this would help cut through some of the creaminess and richness of the tart and I added some roasted baby new potatoes just because we had them in the cupboard.


All washed down with a nice bottle of Sancerre.

The 32nd Tour of Pendle

ToP Logo

What a difference a year makes…..

Saturday 15th Nov 2014 was my first proper, FRA sanctioned, blood, sweat and tears, fell race.  My baptism of fire and my starting point for an obsession.

It led me to investigate this world closer and in so led me to read ‘Feet in the Clouds’.  The rest is envitable – move forward 12 months and around 30 races later with a couple of Bob Graham reccies and a climb to the summit of the highest accessible mountain in Majorca and I was ready to test myself with a year on year comparison.

Unfortunately the weather forecast put paid to that and given the horrific conditions predicted, the race officials decided to shorten the route to 14 miles and take out a couple of big climbs.  I fully agree with their decision given the information they had to go on.  It’s easy to be critical and say ‘it’s nowt but a bit a rain’ when you are finishing in the top half and changed into dry clothes with a hot soup in your hand post race but given the length of time the back markers and marshalls would have faced the elements for, it should always be safety first.

Still, a comparative figure I wanted and a comparative figue I got:

2014 – total runners 372, my position 206 – 55.4% through the field.

2015 – total runners 422, my position 58 – 13.7% through the field.

It doesn’t take a mathematitian to realise that is quite a step up and if anything there were a few more big names this year that would always finish ahead of me i.e. messers Hope and Holmes to name a couple.

Last year I new nothing of these names nor the names of most of the clubs involved or how the sport works.  I knew nothing of ‘Judiths Cairn’ on the route to check point 6 – a reminder of exactly why the safety of all involved needs to be paramount.  Last year I was a runner who enjoyed running off road more than on road, this year I am a Fell Runner.  As I turn 40 next year I am under no illusion as to the trend my body should start to follow with regards to my fitness peak but as I started from quite a low base last year I hope I can still improve for a few more years before that decline sets in.  People like Rob Hope and Ian Holmes (Ian 50 next month!) give me hope that, while I will now probably never win a race, I can continue to improve and race myself over the mountains and moors of the UK.

The race itself…..

Starting from Barley village it is uphill all the way to the summit of Pendle Hill, starting with some tarmac road for a mile or so before turning briskly right and slogging up the hill on the first climb of the day.  This is always a tricky part for me as I can easily get carried away and push myself up the hill faster than I should.  I look at each runner, now walking hands pushing thighs, sweating, panting and starting to feel the burn and wonder ‘should I be behind this person?, ahead of them?, have they gone off too quick and I will pass them before the top?, or am I going too slow, getting stuck in the middle of the field, unsure of my place in this stampede through the mud.

By the top and check point one things start to settle into a rhythm, I pass a few people, a few people pass me and the long decent down to check point 2 goes on.   The wind blows, the ground is sodden at best and liquid for large parts.

From check point 2 it’s a steady low level stretch passing by Churn Clough reservir before the next climb, taking us back up into the cloud.  Suddenly the path (and the world) disappears beneath you – Geronimo.  The name given to this downhill section due to the fact all you can do is shout and hope for the best.  I threw myself down the hill with the thought that gravity will do most of the work and the wet ground will cushion the fall should it come, however, it didn’t and I passed a few runners here with my hell for leather tactic.

ToP 2015

With the Tour of Pendle it’s a case of what goes up must come down, then go back up again and then come down again several more times.  And so it was after Geronimo it was time to climb again back up into the cloud but a shorter one this time before a good long runable decent down to check point 5 and the start of the last climb of this shortened route.  I was starting to feel in now in the legs but the thought of the finish line another few miles from now kept me plodding up the long grassy hill.  Passing Judiths Cairn and on over boggy ground to check point 6 where the change to the full route now took over.  I followed the narrow path back downwards alondside Ogden Beck and back past the bottom of Geronimo.  There were runners still going the opposite way fand I was thankful I didn’t still have those miles to do.

Now it was about consolidation, I knew there were a few runners not far behind me but I didn’t care to look back.  There were a few up ahead but failing them stopping or me producing a four minute mile I wasn’t going to catch them.  I hit the road knowing there was one mile between me and stopping the pain in my legs and I went for it.  I think I was nearer catching the next man than being caught as I crossed the line in 2:11:54.

There’s always next year for my full comparison on 2014!

Thanks to all at Clayton-le-Moors Harriers for organising such a top event and especially the marshalls without whom we could not do this.




Work Bake Off Competition

Today was my bake-off day and I had already decided to go big and chocolatey but with some coffee thrown in for good measure.

The recipe was from Good Housekeeping website and available below or via this link – http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/food/recipes/white-chocolate-cappuccino-cake

Cappuccino Cake 2 Cappucchino Cake

Chris at work was my competition and the contest is Sweet vs. Savoury and so he had made a Goats Cheese and Red Onion Muffin – but cake prevailed and I won!

I actually made double the mixture and built two cakes on top of each other partly for dramatic effect but mainly to feed more people at work and have some left over for the weekend.


  • 300 g (11oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra to grease
  • 250 g (9oz) self-raising flour, plus extra to dust
  • 200 g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 50 ml (2fl oz) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125 g (4oz) white chocolate
  • 125 ml (4fl oz) double cream
  • ½-2 tbsp espresso coffee, cooled
  • 75 g (3oz) icing sugar, sifted, plus extra to dust
  • 50 g (2oz) plain chocolate, grated
  • 40 g (1½oz) hazelnuts, roasted and finely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Grease a deep non-stick 8in (20.5cm) cake tin and dust with flour
  2. Beat together caster sugar and 175g (6oz) butter until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add 1tbsp flour if the mix looks like curdling. Fold in remaining flour and the baking powder, followed by milk and vanilla. Spoon into tin and level surface. Bake for 40-50min or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5min, then remove cake and cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. Cut cake in half horizontally. Grate 25g (1oz) white chocolate, then beat together with cream and coffee until mix holds its shape. Use to sandwich halves together
  4. Melt remaining white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool for 10min. Beat together remaining butter and the icing sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in cooled white chocolate, then spread over sides and top of cake.
  5. Mix together plain chocolate and nuts and press around side of cake. Decorate with small roses dusted with icing sugar.

Maple and Balsamic Glazed Lamb Chops with Cous Cous – Wine Thursday

Wine Thursday – Every Thursday myself or my wife take turns to prepare a meal that’s a little bit more special than the other nights and we allow ourselves a glass or two of wine to accompany it……

Maple and Balsamic Glazed Lamb Chops with Cous Cous

As I was also preparing a cake for bake off and got in a quick 5k run with the dog I went for a relatively quick and easy recipe that still had lots of flavours going on.  The wine was one that we received from my work colleagues as a wedding gift, a M&S 2012 Rioja.

I must admit it was pretty yummy!

Recipe here http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/maple_and_balsamic_26200

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