It’s the first week since the lockdown began that I realised that I wasn’t OK. Thus far it hadn’t been too bad; funnily enough a number of other long-term anxiety sufferers had commented that our little cohort seemed to be coping better than the rest of the world. There was plenty of discussion as to the reasons why this might be with a consensus being that if you live your life preparing for the worst, when things go awry but it’s not as bad as the Armageddon we’d imagined then actually life isn’t too bad after all.
But something had changed and I wasn’t really sure what it was. Looking back I think it was more down to boredom of routine than anything else, although the realisation of barely speaking to another person directly in over a month probably had something to do with it.
I realised things weren’t quite right when I was getting out for a run but filled entirely with apathy about the whole thing. I did understand that getting out for said run would be a positive move even if I sank straight back into that well of apathy again.
Today’s trip out was a steady recovery run after the speed session yesterday. No intention to throw myself around anything or anywhere. I thought I’d aim at 5k but it ultimately ended up at 5 miles with a bit of gratuitous street-looping at the end to round up the numbers a bit.
What was fun was that I was still discovering new trails. Mostly due to suddenly finding walkers picking their way in front of me (or coming in the opposite direction) which meant I was actively looking for social distancing options. Either way, good fun was had, even if it was very limited.
With a definite change in the weather from the weeks of warm sunshine I decided to get up and out whilst it wasn’t being too grim outside. And the planned run really was as unplanned as it could be. There wasn’t any clear decision making going on.
I ended up on the Middlewood Way which is usually something I avoid. But it was quiet so no great issue until I was approaching Middlewood itself where it was suddenly neck deep in dog walkers. Slightly odd as it really is in the middle of nowhere (the name is totally apt). So faced with human and canine company I aborted and headed into the Brickworks (now a nature reserve) where I followed a footpath sign and ended up in the brook. Which had been cordoned off meaning I had to retrace my steps. The footpath doesn’t appear on the maps I’ve got so I don’t know what’s going on there. But it was interesting given I’d headed out in road shoes, so I spend most of my time trying not to faceplant or end up in the brook.
My return was via the road plus a couple of trails I’ve been aware of but not used in years. On the plus side I didn’t meet anyone else on the run!
Wednesday was when it really hit me that I wasn’t quite right. The urgency to do anything just wasn’t there. I eventually dragged myself out of the door mid morning to try to run some sense back into me. But I seemed to be bumping into people all over the place and seemed to be following another runner for too long. In the end I crossed the road and headed along the service track to the bypass. It is a footway, but unlike the smooth tarmac of the main pavement and cycle lane it is soft gravel.
I found a trail off it which rejoined the Poynton road I’d left; in fairness I’d stumbled onto a trail I’d been trying to find at the weekend so that was something. I then did a circuit of Poynton Park before heading out onto Towers Road…. Directly behind the runner I’d been following at the start of the run! Unbelievable! So I overtook and got myself home.
As I said, thinks just didn’t seem right today. Normally I feel energised following a run but instead I just felt flat. No enthusiasm at all. Unlike me I tagged such a comment on my run which was ultimately quite a good move as a couple of friends did make contact to make sure I was OK. Or at least not too not-OK. And whilst it didn’t make a huge change to how I was feeling, it did highlight that I needed to stop myself sliding downhill any more.
So I made a tray of chocolate brownies, and ate more than I probably should!
Having run on four successive days Thursday was a cycle day. The plan, as usual, was to keep it relatively short as it was supposed to be a recovery day. I set out the door with an intention to do a flat loop. And promptly ditched that plan and found the biggest local hill I could think of to cycle up.
When I did my tour of Stockport I didn’t get to Mellor, but today I made that journey. It’s a longer hill than it is steep, but for a non-cyclist like me it’s certainly a lung-buster. And the crest of the climb is far further along the road than I remembered. I did catch a couple of cyclists on the climb, only to be overtaken again on the descent into New Mills as I’m really not as comfortable with high speed on 2 wheels as I am running down the same descent. It also didn’t help that I couldn’t remember where I dropped into New Mills and had to stop to check the map before I found my way home via the A6. A non-exciting route, but I wanted to get home promptly today, although for what reason I’m not really sure. It’s not as if I was going to be doing much when I got there! But it was nice to keep things shorter today.
I was still feeling a bit out of sorts, but a nice chat with a friend in the afternoon definitely helped steady things a bit. Definitely the impact of the lockdown causing things to go wayward.
Back home the ‘Tortoises’ running group were all abuzz with finding ancient standing stones and burial grounds (barrows) in the area around Marple Bridge and Mellor. Stories of Celtic chieftains sacrificing their daughters on landmarked stones to appease their gods ahead of battles with the Romans (spoiler alert, they still lost) and I must say I was getting ancient-artifact envy!
So I looked around a little closer to home and found a few stones of interest. Suddenly there was a plan for tomorrow’s outing.
Knowing I needed to get to the other side of Lyme Park before I could start standing-stone hunting I was keen to find the most direct route I could. Which isn’t very direct when you’re trying to avoid the 1400 acres of Lyme Park which is currently closed to everyone due to the lockdown. However with a combination of trails, tarmac, canals and some climbing, 6 miles later and I was stood atop of Sponds Hill. Which, it turns out, wasn’t the place I was aiming at.
It was only when I looked across and saw a walker who’d I’d passed on the last bit of the climb that I realised that the trig point marking the Northern Barrow on Sponds was actually across the way about 100m back.
By the time I’d got there, the walker had long since left, although I noticed she had headed in the direction I was intending to go. So having reached the trig, and realised I couldn’t spot the Southern Barrow I headed off down the hill. The walker had stopped for a sit and look and we chatted at distance which was nice. It was a walk she did weekly but she didn’t know of the stones I was seeking and was keen to find out a bit more before I left.
The descent to Higher Lane was very straightforward for the most part after which I joined a very minor, but tarmacked, road as I headed towards Cornfield Farm where ‘The Murder Stone’ could be found. I was glad to have read up on it’s location as it was a little further than I was anticipating and set back from the track so not as immediately obvious as it might be. But then I found it. And of course photographed it!
From here it was back to the road which ultimately turned into a farm from which a footpath continued. My next stone was the Hawkshurst Head Stone. Unlike the Murder Stone, the location in the text I’d researched wasn’t entirely clear. I spent plenty of time peering at possible candidates around the top of Hawkshurst Head until I spotted it on the other side of a drystone wall.
My next target was ‘The Dipping Stone’ which, according the legend was filled with vinegar so that travellers could soak their coins in to kill off any bacteria on them as it the time of the Plague – what a weird coincidence to be hunting for this artefact whilst the country is in lockdown for coronavirus! Looking at the mapping grid reference it was also not very far from Hawkshurst Head and it was just a matter of getting back to the path and then following the map reference until I was close enough to spot it in the corner of the field. Job Done.
I’d originally also been planning on finding a stone circle that was listed. That was until I read a little bit further to discover that it was known only in name (Ringstones!) and that there was no known site for it. So quite possibly a site that had been destroyed at some point in the past. So I looked at my map and realised that I was practically on the Bullock Smithy route, so headed back towards Higher Lane where I could pick up the Gritstone Trail to bring me to the other side of Lyme. Except I didn’t do this and took a different path, but the result was the same. The rest of the trip was the usual local trails which were full for walkers. I wonder, when this is all over, will all these people with a new-found interest in walking keep it up?
As this was the 1st of May, it also marked the start of the annual #MilesForMind charity fundraiser coordinated by RUNR. I’ve persuaded a few of my Lyme group to get involved as I hope it’ll help to give some of them a reason to get out and do some running or walking, whilst raising money for a charity who’s services are likely to be called upon more than ever due to the impact of the lockdown and the pandemic itself.
Having done a mammoth 17 mile run on Friday, today’s run was going to be gentle and short. With no access to physios or sports masseurs at this time, it’s all about self care and body management. So doing too much and breaking something is a huge risk in a time when there’s not a lot else to do. But the last thing I want to do be be out injured when this is practically the only thing I can do at the moment.
The run stopped almost as soon as it started when I saw one of the Lyme group who lives local to me and we caught up on each other’s life under lockdown (from a distance!). What was noticeable was how busy it was. Each decision I took to avoid people seemed to put others in my way. Trails where I’ve never ever seen anyone on had multiple occasions trying to avoid people. Coming down Towers Road I was literally dodging around one group of people to avoid the next group. Getting off-road again and I was passing family after family walking about.
I got home and shut the door. When you’re actively trying to self-isolate, days like today are really tough to process.
Having posted my photos of the various stones I’d run out to yesterday, one of my Lyme group found a notice board which mentioned the Dipping Stones, but also the ‘Murder Stone’. However, it wasn’t the pointy standing stone I’d visited, but a headstone on the roadside marking the sight of an 19th century murder! There was a discussion about running out to see it with the group in due course, but the problem was that it was away from the trails and on a fast road with no pavement. The idea of managing a group of runners in such circumstances was definitely a no-go! But I did wonder about going and having a look on a bike ride as it wasn’t far away.
I mentioned it to the ‘Tortoises’ and whilst the same view about it being difficult to reach safely on a run, a second headstone was mentioned, this time much nearer Macclesfield.
The seeds of my Sunday outing had been sown.
My plans to get out promptly on the bike were hampered by an hour’s worth of rain that hadn’t been forecast. Whilst I don’t mind running in the rain, I’m less keen on the bike as I’m liable to skid and fall off. Because I’m really not a cyclist!
Once that had passed I headed out towards Disley and then back up and over the tops. Thankfully with access to Google Maps I’d located where the ‘Murder Stone’ was and I quickly found it. I probably confused the people chainsawing logs on the other side of the road as I decamped and got the photo of the stone for my trip.
And then I was off again. Still heading towards Whaley Bridge but turning off onto a country lane before dropping all the way into the valley.
This lane was fine; a cheeky steep incline got the lungs going, but my bottle went when it came to the steep descent. On cobbles. So I walked the bike down on this bit until I felt relatively secure on the surface again. This period of walking may well have been the final straw for my far-from-new cycling cleats on my shoes as when I finally popped out on the main road in Kettleshulme, my left shoe kept pinging out of the pedal at an increasingly annoying interval.
The next section is a 2 mile steady climb out of Kettleshulme up to Pyms Chair. I took it steady and caught up a couple of other cycles, whilst battling with the detachable foot. I would have enjoyed it much more without that ongoing saga, but there really wasn’t a lot I could do about it. Other than swearing a lot.
At the top I was chatting to one of the cyclists and mentioned I was looking for the headstone. “Oh, Deadman’s Hill you mean?” was the reply. Clearly well known to everyone else except me! Anyway he headed off towards Buxton whilst I checked the map and began the descent towards Rainow.
I hadn’t processed that I’d pass ‘Jenkin’s Chapel’ but I did. And I photographed it. Then began another climb until I reached a road junction which seemed to be littered with cyclists taking a break (although not all together!). Despite looking on Google Maps for the stone I wasn’t sure exactly how far up the hill it was, so rather than mess about I walked the bike up to it.
And then it was off for the final sizeable climb of the ride before dropping down through Bollington and Pott Shrigley where my battles with the cleat only intensified. It was becoming pretty obvious as a passing cyclist commented that I looked to be having problems…….! Anyway, my 21 mile journey took just over 2 hours and I was home.
I feel at the end of the week I’m in a better place than I was a few days ago. But I also realise this is all very marginal and I need to keep an eye on it. I guess one of the things that’s niggled me recently is the number of people who seem to have returned to going out and doing their running in groups. Whilst I appreciate it’s tough with the lockdown at the moment, we’re supposed to be social distancing for a reason. Things will loosen up soon enough, just as long as the virus transmission slows down. In the meantime it’s a pretty selfish thing to be doing.