Much as us Brits love a good moan about the weather, we ain't doing too bad really. I can tell.
One way I can tell is by the fact that since I moved into my new house I've been commuting for work either by bicycle or on foot every single day that I can, which is most days. Only twice in that time have I been rained on. Including weekends, 38 days I've trained / commuted, 64 exercise sessions in all, and twice I've got a bit damp, 'cause it didn't rain hard when the rain did come. 5% chance of getting wet if you judge it by days, 3% chance by times I've ventured outside. I've thought about this, and even when I've been in the shed on the rollers, outside it hasn't been raining. I live in one of the wettest corners of the UK, supposedly, and I've a less than 10% chance of getting wet. Where on earth do people, British people, get off moaning about the weather? What on earth makes them think it never does anything but rain 🤔?
The other way I can tell, is I'm actually starting to get out onto my beloved hills 😊. I'm not quite at the level I want to be, not yet anyway, but there is definitely progress. Out on the hills I can see it for sure. Where there is usually standing water and mud at this time of year, some of those boggy bits are mind bogglingly dry. "Always raining" you say - might wanna try stepping outside mate - the real world is far better than your picture of it 😃.
Anyway, there's a couple of paragraphs written on a subject that wasn't even a thought when I sat down to write this blog. Suppose I should get on with telling you what I came on here to say:
The ground is weird where there's been wild fires!
For 40 days last summer, you know, that lovely dry hot summer that all of us enjoyed, Llantysilio mountain in North Wales, across the road there from the Ponderosa Cafe that sits atop the Horseshoe Pass, was ablaze.
When the fire was at its peak 60 firefighters were busy on the mountain trying to fight the flames as best they could. It was a catastrophic event. Residents were evacuated from their houses, either choked out by the smoke or for some, directly under threat of burning. Businesses reliant on tourism for their trade were unable to open their doors on what should have been their best summer for years. The environmental impact, I think the pictures will tell it all. It will take years for that mountain side to recover, if it ever really manages to recover at all.
To be honest this devastating event had entirely slipped me by, and the shock of it is only really hitting me now.
Back in July last year, I was living over in Knutsford with the lovely Clair. I suppose in one sense the pair of us were doing our own brand of fire-fighting over there. Things haven't worked out between us, and I'm still carrying sadness about that. She would say it was my choice to leave and in all truth she'd be right. I guess in the end I was overwhelmed by the flames of my fire burning around me just the same as she is overwhelmed by her fire burning around her. Retreat, survive, it's what I had to do.
Dont believe me about the firefighters? Have a look at the next pic, and I'll bet you wouldn't want to swap jobs with 'em?
Anyways, from the ashes of another failed relationship, new life is springing forward, as it will eventually from the blackened earth of Moel-y-Gamelin, the highest peak of the Llantysilio ridge, and the one where what I saw of the fire damage was the most pronounced.
I'm back in Wales now. I'm living on my own, I've bills to deal with that leave me nothing free from my wage, I'm struggling in all kinds of ways, but it is my struggle, and I'm loving it 😃. There is a rich vein of goodness flowing right through my life, and how could I not be happy when I've got that good stuff going on?
My house feels like a pleasant place to be. Things will calm down when I'm not having to spend on new stuff, being here is allowing me to rebuild my relationship with my boy, and he's enjoying coming over here too. I can run to work, or cycle, and because of the shorter commute I've gained 2hrs a day back that I didn't have before. Work feels good again, not frustrating as it had become in the final quarter of last year, I think my fitness is starting to move, that run / bike commute can only help with that, and the days are getting longer and we're starting to see some sun 😊.
That's what happened on Saturday, we saw the sun, and we saw the Sun Inn at Rhewl. I say we because I had Molly over, and though she'd decided not to participate, she still came with me to experience a North Wales fell race anyway. This is the Llantysilio Fell Race, and despite the fires of last year, it went ahead as planned. For as long as we have hills like these, I reckon we'll have folks who want to run 'em.
That there was a pretty decent turn out in the Vet 60 category here tells me I'm not wrong. First face I saw as we were driving up to the village was that of Rob Samuel (that’s right, Snowdonia marathon winner 3 years on the trot Rob Samuel), so I knew I wouldn't be winning 😂. He bagged himself a course record by a not too shabby 3 minutes.
No course records or personal bests for me, wasn't expecting anything like that. Despite the increased levels of exercise, I'm slowly gaining weight, about a kilo every 5 weeks as it is, and I'm not exactly sure how I can stop it. "Eat less" is the obvious answer, but I'm not sure that's right. Perhaps my legs are gaining muscle again after the struggles of the last couple of years?
Bumped into a few people from my running club, and it was great to see them all again. I think for Molly it was pleasant too, because it really showed off everything I have told her is really lovely about a fell race, start and finish at a pub, have a natter with like minded folk, nobody taking it, or themselves, too seriously, just like minded people out in the sunshine, doing stuff they enjoy 😊.
I can feel on the uphills that I've got that extra bit of weight. I can feel on the downhills that I've lost a little bit of fluidity in my movement, and I'm apprehensive, holding back a bit, not ready to take a risk yet on re-injuring any of the dodgy bits that have been troubling me the last couple of years. It is a tough run this one, but it's one I really do love.
The descent from the top of Moel-y-Gamelin was out across the burned moorland from the fires of last year. This was an education. I've never felt anything quite like it under my feet! Previuosly here, it would have been a scamper along a narrow path through the heather, and one that's a real joy to run, with a lovely view just for a short while over the slate mines on the Horseshoe Pass before you swing around back towards Rhewl. Now, it is black. In the sunshine it reflects a little, giving the appearance of soft mud, but when your feet hit it, it's as hard as tarmac, but lumpy and bumpy like running over beach pebbles, which is actually easier, as they give a little under your feet. Every stride here sent shockwaves up through the body that we were all talking about when we got back to the pub. Like I said:
The ground is weird where there's been wild fires!
As with any short fell race though, they finish before they really feel like they've begun. I thoroughly enjoyed this run, it was sociable, the weather was kind, the views were great, and the mood was uplifting I think for everyone.
I finished feeling good. I'll come back here again 😊.
Once I'd parked the Spitfire (ok, maybe my aeroplane wings aren't quite that good) we had a quick eat, drink and chat, and capitalising on the sunshine I took Molly off to Llangollen to show her the incredible Eglwyseg Rock, and we had a short walk up Dinas Bran Castle, where some uncomfortable history was learned, after a quick trip to another castle ruin nearby, Caergwrle, to investigate whether the wacky theory I'd come up with in Llangollen might be true. It kind of was.
I had the wrong brother, but it turns out the last Prince of Wales (Llewelyn) wasn't the great hero the Welsh like to think of him as being, more a bit of a greedy ******* really.
Wales had a law of "equal share", which Llewelyn had ignored and claimed the entire kingdom for himself. His brother, Dafydd did the worst thing a Welshman can do, he went to England for help, from Edward 1st (yes that rotten sod Longshanks) to reclaim the lands round here from Llewelyn.
It was English forces that burned down Castell Dinas Bran in 1277, but no doubt due to the close proximity to the Vale of Clwyd, Dafydd's temporary allegiance with Longshanks will have been a massive influence in the burning down of Dinas Bran.
Dafydd would later betray Edward, and become the first person to be disembowelled then hung, drawn and quartered for his treachery.
None of that makes comfortable reading for a Welshman, which I guess is why at Dinas Bran, they tell you the castle was burned down, but give you no more information than that.
Caergwrle was built, for Dafydd, in the same year Dinas Bran was torched. Its demise was almost as sad as Dafydd's, never reaching completion, then losing a wall and a tower, which literally collapsed into the hill itself after some overenthusiastic mining underneath.
They'd have all been better off just running around on these hillsides playing Spitfires if you ask me 🤔😃!
It was a good day 😊.
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