CCRI pre-Christmas (virtual) activity group

In the weeks leading up to Christmas in 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, CCRI staff and students kept in touch and in good health by sharing descriptions of runs, walks and cycles they enjoyed. At the time, Hannah Chiswell gathered in our guesses of distance travelled and created a virtual Land’s End to John o’ Groats route, and beyond.

Having cracked that iconic challenge, this year CCRI colleagues again shared their festive frolics and three have offered some seasonal exercise encouragements, spanning fantasies of Dartmoor National Park and of Rome, which fade back into Cheltenham and Somerset once the authors get over themselves.

We start with Aimee Morse and a hardy herd on Painswick Beacon…

Thursday 22nd December was not a promising day for golfers on Painswick Beacon; however, the local Dexters remained un-moo-ved by the fog, and instead waited patiently for their next bale of hay. On clearer days, this route offers lovely views over the Severn Valley and the Cotswolds. A warm mince pie on our return home made up for the lack of a view today!

Dexter cattle on Painswick Beacon

Ebeneezer (Dan) Keech continues with a morning run around his home town of Frome, Somerset…

I’m generally a grump about the winter and often wonder why I chose to live in one the wettest counties. On 20th December, I set out around 7.45am for a run around Frome, glad it wasn’t drizzling. The town’s Christmas illuminations seemed so cozy in the growing light that I warmly greeted the familiar cluster of smokers in the car park rather than sanctimoniously coughing as I passed. Their usual response of ‘sod off’ had transformed to a waved shout of ‘Happy Christmas’ and we all felt that we’d staved off Marley’s Ghost for another year.

I never tire (I’m so sorry) of the lame joke that there’s only an F separating Frome and Rome – at least both are hilly places. With this contrivance in mind, I slithered up the hill at Whatcombe Fields, which had recently been enjoyed by sledgers. There were remnant tramlines in the grass and their ghosts – including those of my own children: where does the time go? – whizzed past me with laughing shrieks of ‘watch out!’. At the top, alone again, while I waited for my lungs to catch me up, I looked over the valley to Innox and Orchardleigh hills. With a squint and a bit more fantasy, the housing estate and sewage works became the Forum and the maize stubble and bare spinneys were suddenly Lombardy poplars. I imagined the sun on my face. One the way back, at the top of the Millennium Green, I was rewarded by the real thing, rising over Cley Hill, six miles to the east, in Wilshire. By the time I got to the Rodden Meadow oak tree, the sun was a huge bright ball of light and it was practically June, in my sentimental mind.

Millennium Garden in Frome

Finally, the prize for endurance goes to John Powell and his dog, in weather-beaten mid-December as he attempted to kick-start a pre-Christmas fitness programme…

The snow had gone, melting ice was dribbling down the drains, and the guy next door was going for a forty-mile cycle with web-cammed helmet looking fit in streamlined Lycra.  It got me all excited, about getting healthy for the coming festive season.

I dreamt of Dartmoor, of running free across wide-open grasses, effortlessly leaping boggy morasses.  But the cloud dropped low, gale force winds began to blow, and questions crowded in, should I carry a compass? Heavy duty rainwear? A survival kit?  What about a mobile phone in case of cardiac rhythm arrestment? Although round here the locals always say, ‘up there, the signal is not to be trusted’.

Instead, I chose a lowland way starting at the urban edge where, just yards ahead, a fantastic bushy tail flowed close behind a fox as he loped across the road. He stopped to look me in the eye, taking time to note the damp scruffy clothes and broken-down trainers, supporting a body badly postured by sedentary labour, but topped nevertheless with a brightly coloured bobble hat – its crowning glory. Nodding in recognition, he marked his territory with precision and went on his way.

We, the dog and I, started our rain-lashed run which soon slowed to a slog and at the first sodden field, recently manured by a large herd of cows, sunk to his belly in the churned-over mire, he turned with a face of great sadness to say, ‘there are better ways to spend the day’. I agreed, and we dragged ourselves back to hose-off the muck from fur and feet in the driveway.

The route it appears, was an error of judgement but it was our pride that hurt most, having got barely halfway.  Lying on the couch in front of the fire to dry out we consoled ourselves, him with a large turkey chew, me with a packet of chocolate digestives dunked in hot tea, and agreed resolutely not to try that again, until spring fully arrives and drives out the rain.