A warm dry Saturday evening in July with a westerly breeze blowing over the summits brought an opportunity to try something new, running and wild camping. Over the last couple of months I’ve managed to find my running legs again following a hiatus caused by a frustrating spell of shin splints and then failing miserably to get into any kind of regular routine. Summer evenings have been spent slowly building the miles back up, avoiding any tarmac and sticking to local trails and running a few short fell races in the peaks. The idea of running with a light basic pack with a view to sleep out and then carry on the following day holds great appeal at this point in time. An unexpected house move, putting in some long hours at work and of course being a parent have relegated any longer mountainous and more remote backpacks to distant pages of the calendar. The prospect of running short simple routes locally to bivi out under the stars feels a bit more achievable and immediate, tonight was a good night to experiment.
The run began from the small village of Wilboarclough taking a narrow trail up and over the sharp tooth summit of Shutlingsloe. I ran with a simple light pack full to the top with the absolute basics; a three season sleeping bag, an airbed and a bivi bag. A few other essentials made their way into the luggage but the agenda of keeping things lightweight and small as possible made for a fairly frugal pack, two flapjacks and a bag of jelly babies zipped into a side pocket served as a luxurious meal for one.
From the top of Shutlingsloe the dark shapes of Snowdonia were just about visible in the distance, the sun began to make its journey to meet the horizon and broke through in shafts illuminating the hills above Macclesfield.
Stopping for a few minutes wearing just shorts and a t-shirt quickly brought a chill on, the orange sky gave a false impression of a warmer night. Descending Shutlingsloe I kept the cold at bay by picking up the pace along the flagstones to Macclesfield Forest.
The only tarmac section of the route consisted of a tough climb out of an area marked on the map as “The Bottom of the Oven”, a steep snaking road that heads up and over to the well known Cat and Fiddle pub. A few cars passed by but the roads were more or less quiet and safe to run along, running on tarmac was made more bearable by the continuing light show in the west.
An undulating path brought me to the top Shining Tor as the last of the evening light was fading, time to stop to rest and stretch by the trig point. I spoke to a few friendly walkers who were out briefly to catch the sunset from the top, a cruel wind had picked up and stolen any warmth from the evening and it wasn’t long before the summit was empty again. Running with a pack on felt quite natural, the straps were pulled tight enough to prevent any movement and the weight was more than bearable. The sun had more or less gone for the night by the time I started up again and a peaceful hour of running in twilight followed. I decided to find a place to sleep out in a valley with an unusual name of ‘Thursbitch’. It was far from any buildings, paths and signs of people and there was a fast flowing stream to sleep next to, I wrapped up warm to watch the stars come out and drifted off wondering how the valley had got its strange name.
Dawn brought blinding bright sunlight, though it wasn’t to last, heavy rain was due to come in over the next few hours. The gloomy forecast prompted an early start on aching legs, I’d forgotten to bring any coffee or tea resulting in a breakfast of jelly babies and a delicious steaming cup of boiling water.
The route back home was kept simple, past the Cat and Fiddle pub before striking out on the high bridleways over the moors to a series of steep rocky paths back down to Wildboarclough. The rain began to fall almost on cue as I came to the lay-by where the car had been left. Aside from investing in a lighter and more compact sleeping mat there’s not much I’d want to change in terms of kit, the appeal of such a trip is the absolute simplicity, run as far as possible, lay down and sleep, wake up and carry on running. This route ended up being just shy of eighteen miles albeit with an extensive nap in the middle and obviously I stopped to take a few photos and take in the odd view but for any future ventures I’ll be trying to up the mileage again and see how far I can get just for the fun of it. It’s always interesting to see what you can pack into twenty four hours.