The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Hoveringham Hedgehog

Here’s a  a cute little fellow that my friend Chris and I happened across on one of our country walks in Nottinghamshire just recently. As you can see, this youngster has designs on speed and is just about to cross the central white line of Gonalston Lane between Hoveringham and Gonalston.

12102009768

Just recently whilst sweeping leaves out of the garage, I unfortunately came across a deceased hedgehog which was sad to see. I can report however that our friend here’s immediate plight was a happy and safe one as Chris placed him into a ploughed field next to the road. Let’s hope he doesn’t attempt that particular crossing too often.

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October 17, 2009 Posted by | On The Road | , , | 4 Comments

The Marathon Diaries: Twenty-one up

Sometimes one just gets the bit between the teeth. Yesterday was just such a day. The day was not a particularly auspicious one as I toiled with the psychology report I am taxed to do. Administrative problems with the report were driving my blood pressure skyward and I really needed a complete change of pace and activity for the day. I had promised myself a longer run, all being well, for the day as it had been a few short months since I’d ran more than 11-12 miles in one session. This had nagged at me mentally and in truth was carving chasms in my confidence regarding running a marathon. At one time of day I was mentally strong and assured enough to contemplate any distance placed in front of me – not so these days. For the day I desired 13 miles as a maximum and would have been comparatively happy with that achievement.

12052009059The beginning

So, head in something of a whirl with the frustrations of the day, I set off for my regular starting spot in nearby Woodborough and headed off down the lane pictured above at just after quarter past four. A pleasant afternoon was an encouragement as I hit the River, Trent side, at just after five miles and having passed through the pleasant villages of Lowdham and Caythorpe. Skipping through the cherry tree-lined path on the way to Gunthorpe I realised that I was doing pretty well today – feeling comfortable and about to settle into a long run. After six or seven miles I became fixated with the outlandish idea of running…yes, twenty miles.

Gunthorpe Lock, Notts

Gunthorpe: running by the river

My footsteps were light and economical – always a good portent, and I flicked on through the unkempt riverside pastures of Hoveringham village, sunshine fortifying my way on to the powerful Hazelford Weir along the Trent. There was no going back from here.

16072009565 Hazelford

16072009562Hazelford Weir

The secluded, attractive and sleepy route of Gypsy Lane took me to my third water stop of the day at Bleasby village’s Wagon and Horses. Wandering in through through the pleasingly refurbished old county pub’s rear entrance I drank thankfully, thirstily and lengthily from the bathroom’s cold water tap. Now some twelve miles in to the run, Thurgarton village loomed as the next target, but yet some way off. Still a long way from home and a more familiar route. Mentally and physically I still felt strong for the challenge that I knew from experience was up ahead.

16072009556The Wagon and Horses, Bleasby

Tip-toeing over the quiet level crossings of the Nottingham to Newark-on-Trent railway line, Hoveringham and more water lay ahead. A peer at the GPS on my wrist confirmed the unfeasible length of time this run was beginning to take away from the ‘normal’. Hoveringham careered into my tired view and more welcome and highly necessary water in the shape of the beautiful Reindeer Inn within the village. Sated, I curiously paused a moment to look at the pictures on the quiet pub’s corridor walls of previous party times. So incongruous with the reason for my brief presence there today.

Re-emerging into now-greyed skies, I was now back on a more regular route and heartened and fortified by this. The country lane wound and wound as I kept a strict control on my head – rejecting any negative thoughts of tiring. The hamlet of Gonalston heralded a ‘final lap’ of around four or five miles. Passing the old blacksmith’s shop, past the diminutive cottages, even a mild incline registered on my legs and general posture. Straighten up. Straighten up. Gonalston has a long lane of the same name that leads to the next village of Epperstone. The historic rural area ahead often feels like a long drudge towards the end of a lengthy run but today – perspective of distances altered by a very long run – it felt good to be so near home.

Evening drinkers outside the Cross Keys eying the runner curiously I passed on, ever nearer my destination which I knew held two challenging hills at the end of the run. Why twenty-one miles? Well I arrived, bloody but unbowed, on Woodborough Main Street having registered 20.25 miles – to doodle around the village for a further .75 of a mile seemed to be the best, most perverse thing to do right now. I was extremely weary and slowing accordingly but I wanted to show that, yes, I can go that ‘extra mile’ – quite literally. Twenty-one miles. I was pleased to stop. I really was. Water, back at the car and an attempt to straighten my head.

Messages to my friends and a phone call home in which I realised that my voice had all but disappeared. A pint of water and a celebratory pint of beer in The Nag’s Head garden followed before a worsening chill saw me head back to the car and the short drive home. Sated, accomplished and triumphant. I had proved once again that I can do this thing. I will be taking part in The Nottingham Marathon in September.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Archives: The Marathon Diaries, Ripping Yarns | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Marathon Diaries: The Road Back

So here I find myself, back in the car park of The Nag’s Head at Woodborough in Nottinghamshire. Alone and ready to run. Five days ago I filed my entrance online for the Nottingham Robin Hood Marathon in late September to absolutely no acclaim at all. There’s not much going back now. It’s a pleasant Saturday afternoon in early May and I have much work ahead of me.


First name: STUART

Surname: FREW

Race Type: Marathon – non-AAA affiliated

Date of Register: 30 April 2009

Time of Register: 09:11:06

It’s familiar road, one I’ve know so many times. I’m breezing along steadily with that small Hibernian FC Harp on my chest and a Maple Leaf emblem on my shorts. The first stream appears with a duck paddling furiously underneath the brackish water, swimming against an insistent current.

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May 12, 2009 Posted by | Archives: The Marathon Diaries | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Gate to Southwell

The market town of Southwell north-east of Nottingham is a most appealing place. It has many distinguishing features, not least the huge Minster dating back to Norman times that dominates the locality and the town being a home of romantic poet, Lord Byron for a period. In truth, Southwell deserves an article of it’s own and certainly will have one when the time presents itself. Today however I wanted to talk about the resurrection of an ancient custom known as the ‘Gate to Southwell’.

With origins going back to almost 900 years ago, at the time when the Southwell Minster was first being built, the Archbishop of York wrote to every parish in Nottinghamshire requesting monetary contributions for the ‘Mother Church’ as he called it. From that time at each Whitsuntide the Mayor of Nottingham and a representative from each parish would take their contributions to the Minster in a procession. There would be much attendant revelry on the journey which would begin in Nottingham’s Old Market Square and contain lay folk, the clergy and at the head of the company the Mayor in his traditional robes.

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June 1, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Come Walk the Green Fields of Nottinghamshire

It’s always the wheels that take us there. Wheels that seem incongruous with a stride through the countryside. When the wheels have stopped and our boots are on, the day takes on a different pace and atmosphere. A different meaning. Time slows and becomes somehow more livable, somehow more rational.We carefully cross the quiet winding lane at Lowdham Grange and feel the stones and mud under our boots. The welcome and watery winter sun is bright with little warmth, twinkling down through bows and branches through to the tree-lined lane and down to the old church. We are not alone. Ahead of us lies a large limousine with its young driver leaning against it, quietly, respectfully, passing the time, fingers clasped formally in front of him. His suit tells of a duty he is carrying out. It is a sad day for one family and group of friends as a small, muted service is conducted in the ancient faded yellow stone building.

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February 23, 2008 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , , , | 2 Comments