Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


Woolly Winter Tales

What I can I tell you, we have snow. Is there any part of the UK that doesn’t have snow? I wonder.

The sheep in the next field seem quite unperturbed

snow covered sheep -1

They are fed daily, which seems to make them happy.

contented sheep -1 

It took a wee while to find a sheep that would look me in the eye, as most had their backs to the wind (and wind chill).

Wind from the east-1

I can vaguely remember a farmer telling me this is how sheep end up stuck in snow drifts, they keep working their way along, keeping the wind behind them, scratting for grass until they run out of field and the snow piles in behind them.

heading out of the wind-1

He also told me in the winter of 1963 that whilst many of his flock perished in snow drifts, some were able to survive by eating their own fleece.

But there are people better qualified to comment of sheep and snow, have a look at herdy’s blog, up in Cumbria.

cold nose sheep-1

We’ve just watched a cracking little programme on BBC2 about the winter of ‘63 (flighty, it is worth watching on iplayer (Winterwatch)


Saying Goodbye To Daz

We met in the Autumn sunshine to say our farewells to Daz H,  Darren Holloway.

Hundreds of family and friends packed into the service, I’d stitched 43 club coloured ribbons for his club mates to wear, it wasn’t enough we were some short.

It was a service  that flowed with fond memories of his life and loves, and captured him so well. Many, many tears were shed. This is my favourite photo of Daz, I think it is an  iconic image of  him: Daz  in full flight.

Daz-2011 (1)

Photo by Andy Holden.

Here are the words that were read at the service, written by a fell running friend Mr 1470, they too capture the essence of Daz.

"Some news just hits you like a bolt from the blue, so unexpected, so bizarre in its nature that it fails to register in your cerebral cortex. It seems like a dream, and you fully expect to wake next morning to find the earth back on its true axis.
After that initial hit, the news creeps insidiously into every pore of your being, overwhelming you with a sadness that just floors you, unable to articulate your feelings and leaving you alone with your thoughts and memories.
On this grey, cold Highland morning, as the mist parts and the hillside across the loch becomes visible, I can’t help but see him descending, as graceful as a gazelle on his favourite rocky, bouldery terrain, lost in a world of concentration, his face contorted with effort, his eyes locked in an almost thousand yard stare, his knee and elbow bloodied from some earlier fall.
He’s gaining now on his rivals (and friends!) and nothing will distract him from his desire to reel them in. I shout encouragement….”go on Darren!”….but there’s not a flicker, he’s immersed in his gladiatorial battle.
As the ground flattens out, he strains every sinew to hold position as the finish line approaches. He crosses the line, totally spent, not an ounce of energy left, having given 100% (as he did to everything in life).
And then, just as suddenly, his demeanour changes and he’s all smiles and handshakes and offering words of congratulations to those around him. But it’s not for him to slink off towards the cafe or the pub with the rest of the front runners. Cup of water in hand, he walks back up the last part of the course, cheering, greeting and offering encouragement to those of us who can only dream of the level of performance which he delivers time and time again.
The word “legend” is much overused these days. He deserves that title, for his mastery of the fells, for his ability to make everyone feel special with well chosen words, for his deep understanding and appreciation of the ethos, history and legacy of the sports he loved, for the total enthusiasm with which he led his life. I only hope he knew just how much people thought of him.
The world is a sadder place for the passing of such people. My world is a sadder place this morning. He showed me true friendship, kindness, support and inspiration. To say I admired and respected him would be a massive understatement. My thoughts are especially with those whom he loved and who loved him. It must be so hard to take in….."

And this was the music


Head and Heart

The shock and sadness at Daz’s death remains, of course it does. The dark skies this brings to us all are chased with the light of remembering brighter days with Daz.

This is Wasdale, the sort of landscape where Daz was in his element,


the original post is here.

We now know that Daz died from a rare heart condition, Left Ventricular Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy, the same condition that struck  footballer Fabrice Muamba earlier this year. It is  a rare condition, there is more information here, on a website for a foundation set up in memory of  John Taylor, a fell runner and international athlete who also died of cardiomyopathy in 2002. There is something very difficult about understanding this condition, we can read and  understand the science, yes, but not the emotions it raises, it just flies in the face of all we are told about exercise  ‘keeping a healthy heart’. I think fell runners in particular will have difficulty with that. 

I notice on the John Taylor  foundation page, that one of the external links is to CRY, Cardiac Risk in the Young. Some years ago I heard Paddy Jelen, talking about the death of her daughter, she did so very movingly and passionately in her quest to raise awareness of her daughters rare and often misdiagnosed heart condition, Long QT3. At first I hesitated to post the links here, thinking we’d really all read enough ‘sad stuff’ on the Internet in the last few days, but thought better of it. If Paddy can talk about it, I’d be a wuss not to post it.

Go read, please.

(Spud the dog will be back to his regular Sunday postings, some Sunday soon.)


Before the Race Was Run

We are rocked by disbelief, shocked and desperately sad to hear that Mr Uphilldowndales running partner and  our dear friend Daz H, also know as Darren Holloway, collapsed and died during the  Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay event in Cumbria yesterday. Daz was 42.

Daz 2

Daz was a gifted runner, he could power up a mountain as though jet propelled, and most importantly for a fell runner, he could drop off the other side like a stone, taking the boldest, quickest route down. But that is just part of Daz, he was a competitive cyclist to boot, and some readers will know him as the blogger ‘Laidbackrunner’ but most of all he was a husband, dad and son, it is for his family and their loss that we feel the most.

Daz was a kind, compassionate person, his encouragement of other runners and his sportsmanship are legendary. 

Daz and Mr UHDD ran the Bob Graham Round together in 2008, they spent so much time together training, planning, racing, here they are at the finish, at the Moot Hall (some may also remember Daz’s  rather special tattoo, to mark the occasion?)

Daz H 2

I’ll leave you with the comment Daz made on my post about the Bob Graham, as always with Daz, it was about others, not himself.

Our lives have changed forever for sure. The photos are great, recording a special time in myself and Mr Uhdd’s lives.
The memory of me touching the moot hall and then being told not long after by your youngest son that

‘MY DAD WONT BE LONG’ , had me in tears. I couldn’t hold them back and the lump in my throat as Mr Uhdd ran to the finish was unforgettable.

Daz, dear Daz,  for us, you are unforgettable too, nor can we hold back the tears. And if there could be any doubt about what running meant to you, this post says it all.

I’m sure in years to come I’ll be able to think of how you died doing what you loved so much, in the Autumn sunshine  on the glorious Cumbrian fells; but for the moment I can’t get past the fact that you’ve gone, gone before your race was run, that and the heart ache of those who loved you.

21:59 Edit… I should have included our heartfelt thanks to the emergency services and mountain rescue, and especially those of you who  immediately stepped forward to help Daz, fellow runners, people out on the hill for the day, you stepped forward just as Daz would have done for someone else in need. You are special… you did your best, no one could ask for more. Remember that. Take comfort in that.



Whatever the Weather

It has been a very odd mix this week, lashing rain, sultry heat, high winds that have dumped a fine layer of sand over the car (and even the lily pads in the pond) goodness know from whence it came.

Yesterday evening I was pottering around the hills south of Buxton, it was warm and rather pleasant. I don’t know who this little bird is (answers on a postcard please) but they were rather sweet and willing to pose briefly.

bird on fence -1 

Tom has been in the Lake District completing the expedition  section of the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. I’m much relived  that he is safely off the hill, given the storms and flash flood there have been (he tells me the thunder and lightening they experienced was ‘awesome’ I’m sure we will get the finer detail on his return this afternoon).

I’ve a stack of posts in mind, some of them about quarrying, some about the limestone and gritstone landscape around here.

Limestone -1

For starters, the lay of the land. Quarrying is big,  it’s a big employer, it has a big impact on the landscape, lumps of rock on an industrial scale..

Quarry Derbyshire-1

Half a hill, near Harpur Hill

Quarry Derbyshire 3-1

(and if you are looking for the so called ‘Blue Lagoon’ don’t) go to Iceland please.


Sad Day at Honister

I was saddened to hear today of the death of Mark Weir, owner of Honister Slate Mine in Borrowdale, Mark aged 44 and father of three, never arrived home yesterday evening, after setting off from the mine, piloting his own helicopter. He was by all accounts, a charismatic, dynamic and ambitious man, who was passionate about Cumbria.

Honister Slate Mine


Mr Uhdd and I met Mark after the Mountain Marathon of 2008, here is what I wrote at the time

One thing Mr Uhdd wanted to do whilst we were staying in the Lakes last week was to return to the Honister Slate Mine, to pay for the drinks and say thank you*. As Inspector Gadget pointed out in the comments on my post, Mark Weir the owner of the Slate Mine sounded really angry on the BBC radio reports that the event had gone ahead on Saturday and it’s fair to say  that since then, he has come in for a lot of flack from some areas of fell running world for his outspokenness in radio and TV interviews (but not for the generous hospitality and aid given by him and his team). Mark was on the desk when we called, we spent quite some time talking with him about the whys and wherefores of the event and its subsequent fallout, he also showed us photographs taken on the day that helped me see just what the conditions were like.

I’m not in a position to say if the event should or shouldn’t have gone ahead, but listening to Mark with his extensive knowledge of the winds that  are unique to that pass (he’s a helicopter  pilot) and a lifetimes experience of living in the area I came away with a much better understanding of why he felt as strongly as he did. 

Sympathy to his family friends and the staff of the Honister Mine

By the water


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