Monday, October 29, 2012

Crib Goch

I walked up Snowdon for the first time in August 2011. A month later I walked the "Snowdon Horseshoe" taking in the beautiful ridge of Crib Goch. I only took a compact camera with me as I was concentrating on the walk not the photographs, but the pictures were still good enough for a compilation video.

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Watkin Path

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Norfolk in October

My family and I spent a long weekend in the bird-filled county of Norfolk at the beginning of October. Unfortunately for a birdwatcher like myself the weather conditions were not conducive to the arrival of many migrants or rare birds. It was sunny and calm nearly every day, unlike the end of the month which was dominated by easterly winds and fog; these conditions produced large falls of thrushes and other passerines on the east and south coasts, but also unfortunately resulted in the demise of many birds that landed in the sea exhausted.
But back to my weekend in Norfolk. Pink-footed Geese were arriving in reasonable numbers and the one continental migrant that I saw regularly was the Jay. The only rarity of note during my stay was a Pectoral Sandpiper at Kelling Water Meadows, it has been a good autumn for this nearctic wader and this was my second sighting of this species this year.
We stayed on the outskirts of Cley in view of the famous windmill, and were treated to good views of Barn Owl most evenings. The nearby reedbed at Cley Norfolk Naturalists Trust Reserve also held good numbers of Bearded Tits.

There seem to be an inordinate number of pheasants around at the
 moment. As this photo shows they are beautiful birds, but they
have a significant detrimental effect on our native invertebrates.

This Blue Tit, the Long-tailed Tit and the Pheasant were all
photographed in the cottage garden at Cley.

A stunning male Bearded Tit at Cley.

This Barn Owl was observed catching a Shrew, which was duly
 stolen by a Kestrel; fascinating behaviour.

Barn Owl before being mugged.
Lapwing at Cley

Dunnock in its usual brambly habitat.
Juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper at Kelling, record shot.

This Chaffinch and juvenile Goldfinch were photographed at
Burton Mere in Cheshire at the end of September while waiting
and failing to see a juvenile Sabine's Gull.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Liverpool Marathon

I haven't had much time to post recently as I have been to Norfolk (photos coming soon) and I've taken part in a couple of local races.
On the 30th of September I ran the "A" race along Cheshire's picturesque Sandstone Trail. This route starts in Duckington and finishes in Delamere, a distance of 17.1 miles with 655m of climbing. It was the first time that I had raced the whole route but I had left my Garmin on the kitchen table so I didn't judge the early pace very well and went off too fast. I paid for this later in the race when I slowed considerably but I still managed to run up all the hills. I was the 33rd finisher and the second in the M50 category. It was all a training run for my next race, the Liverpool Marathon.
I haven't run an Autumn marathon before and with the start for the Liverpool Marathon being only a couple of miles down the road I decided to enter this local event. I normally train for 16 weeks for my Spring marathons, but I entered this race quite late so attempted to cram my training into just 8 weeks.
The morning of the 14th dawned clear and cold; a weak autumn sun brought little warmth to the thousands of runners gathered under the trees in Birkenhead Park. From here it was possible to see the Anglican Cathedral on the other side of the River Mersey, not far from the dreaded hill of Upper Parliament Street 18 miles along the course. The race started promptly at 9.30 and 3,500 marathon and 1000 10k runners started on their individual journeys.
The course took the runners across Four Bridges then along to New Brighton, where the 10k finished. The marathon runners continued along Egremont Promenade and enjoyed stunning views of the historic Liverpool skyline. From here the race re-crossed Four Bridges and went into the Birkenhead Tunnel via Hamilton Square. The tunnel was eerily quite after the cheering and singing in the Square; only the sound of breathing and the patter of running shoes broke the silence as we crossed the half-way point. That was until we approached the tunnel junction that leads to the waterfront; a distant drumming was heard that increased in volume as the runners approached the exit. As we burst into the daylight we were greeted with the inspirational beats of the Batala drum band combined with rapturous applause from hundreds of supporters; this is what marathon running is all about!
The sun was shining brightly now so I was glad of my sunglasses. A mile out and back brought us back past the drum band then under the shadow of the iconic Liver Buildings. A few more miles and I was plodding up Upper Parliament Street. My family had gathered at the top of the hill and passed me a welcome energy drink. The course then wove through Princes Park and Sefton Park. It was here that I slowed and almost came to a halt. Marathon running at these times is totally psychological, mind over matter; your legs don't get you through the tough miles your brain does. I took stock as I plodded under the yellowing leaves on the trees, glad of  the sparse support here, making use of the relative quiet to have a think. Only 5 miles to go including a nice downhill, so I ignored the desire to stop and walk and dug in and pushed on.
Those last few miles went surprisingly quickly and I managed to pass a few other runners, some of whom had been reduced to a walk. I passed the 25mile mark as I increased my speed down Upper Parliament Street, glancing at the masses walking up the hill some 7 miles behind. Running along the Strand I could see the Liver Buildings in the distance so I knew the finish was not far. I rounded the corner at Mann Island and blew kisses and waved at the crowds as I crossed the line in 3 hours 18 minutes. I was 167th overall and 12th in my age group.
I celebrated with a few beers and a burger in Albert Dock. It was a well-organised race and a fabulous experience, I'll probably be back next year.

The Finish of the Liverpool Marathon - photo by Adam Scovell

Looking rather shattered just after Beeston
Castle on the Sandstone Trail

Near Maiden Castle, I'm still smiling (far left).
Sandstone Trail photos courtesy of
Andrew Williams (Inspiring Images).

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                                                                  London Marathon 2012