The day after Boxing Day I travelled with my immediate family to Winfrith Newburgh in Dorset to stay with my mum and her husband Alan. It is always a real pleasure to visit them and to see also, as we almost invariably do, other members of my extended maternal family. This time the visits of the various branches of the family coincided completely on only one day and so it was that early on Sunday the twenty eighth four of us – Alan, Skip, Robert and I – set out for a run. It was very cold with the temperature around zero degrees and a crisp, hard frost on all the flora and most of the man-made surfaces. Safety was our primary concern as we left the relatively good grip of the un-made Blacknoll Lane and turned onto the icy tarmac of Gatemore Road and headed North towards what Ordnance Survey labels Winfrith Heath though locals, including my mum and Alan, generally refer to as Egdon Heath.
The first few tens of metres on Gatemore Road were probably the most icy of the entire run. Having traversed these and acquired some confidence in my level of grip I ran on ahead of the other three and completed a 10k loop that I’ve become familiar with over the last two or three years; via Winfrith/Egdon Heath, Moreton, Redbridge and Tadnoll Mill. I ran separately partly because our paces are too disparate to make running together feasible in most contexts, but primarily because it really was so cold that I needed to maintain my regular easy pace – a little under 5 minutes per kilometre or 8 minutes per mile – to ensure I stayed warm. Even so, wearing two tops, running tights, gloves and a hat, it wasn’t until I reached 5k that I felt comfortable; my fingers in particular became painfully cold within the first kilometre and only stopped being a distraction at half way.
On subsequent days, running on my own, temperatures were forecast to rise slightly each day, but actually seemed to decrease marginally. The second morning I ran the same 10k loop again and the next I chose an extended 16k variant this time changing my second layer from a running t-shirt to a parkrun fleece. Even with the increased insulation and long sleeves – pulled down to cover most of my thinly-gloved hands – it still required 5k of easy running to warm my fingers. At least the increasingly cold temperatures were offset by the roads becoming dryer on each successive day and so ice and the danger of slipping became less of a consideration. Running the loop anti-clockwise I reached 5k each day just as I forked South West leaving Moreton. This section – from Moreton via Redbridge to Tadnoll Mill – is my favourite part of the route whenever I run it …
… It’s probably no coincidence that this section is almost entirely downhill, but add to this that the roads tend to be even quieter than the rest of the route which itself is very quiet by most standards. The one notable climb is short and through natural woodland to Redbridge. On the first day I saw three deer in the road ahead of me as I approached the top of the climb and the eponymous bridge itself; I’ve never seen deer whilst running before. They lifted their heads individually several times to look at me before apparently coming to a consensus and skittering off into the trees. As I rounded the corner to the bridge I came upon a healthy looking country fox about to cross it in the same direction as me. He looked over his shoulder to catch my eye and then quickly doubled back towards me, off the road and down into the railway cutting.
On the third day I saw two of the three deer again in the same place. The smallest seemed to misjudge how close he wanted to allow me to come; his hooves momentarily slipped on the tarmac as he tried to rectify the distance between us and pursue the larger deer that had already disappeared from my sight into the trees. On both these days I saw two or three pheasants during my run.
As is probably apparent from the disparity between the weather described and that in the images; the photographs in this post weren’t taken during my most recent visit. They were actually taken by Alan during a run just after sunrise on 30 November and I thought they were so beautiful when I first saw them that I have wanted to include them in a post ever since. Despite the chronological and weather shifts they still encapsulate my enjoyment running my last 22 miles of 2014.