Sunday 19 June 2022

#067 Your trail to the PB270 - Part 1

A couple have months have passed since the inaugural edition of the Ranger Ultras' PB270km Pennine Bridleway Trail Challenge when a pioneering group of trail runners stepped forward to the start line on a sunny April morning. From an organisers perspective, the race delivered everything we had hoped and planned for. Whether finishers or not, the athletes praised how fresh and special this event felt.  Comments which were echoed by volunteers on the Ranger Ultras Safety Team (RUSTies).

I love running in Ranger Ultras events, the team and the routes are great. - Ray Poynter (2nd place)

We're delighted to say that the build up to the 2023 edition is well under way. 

In this blog mini-series, we'll talk about our vision for the PB270, which may not be what you'd expect from a trail running events company. As well as hints, tips and topics to help you arrive at the start line yourself - prepared and ready to enjoy the adventure.

Trophies worth taking home

Why the PB270?
We've already gained a lot of experience of the Pennine Bridleway organising trail running races which use several sections of this national trail. So, a couple of years ago, considering ideas for what our next original race concept would be, a multi-day on the Pennine Bridleway was the next logical step.

A Race Of Many Firsts - Run Ultra - Katie Allen (Editor)

The PB270 concept.
First and foremost, as with all our race routes, the Pennine Bridleway trail has a inspiring mix of picturesque scenery, a real sense of journey, varied terrain and some decent runnable sections which are at times challenging. 

Also in common with our other trail races, the PB270 offers reasonably generous cut-offs so the event is accessible to folks with walk-jog strategies. Yet to cross the finish line still retains the feeling of an achievement which is earned.

As it's a national trail, the route is well marked with fixed finger posts, so navigation is straight forward. We don't add additional waymarking so participants still have to think about the route and engage with the environment. We work closely with National Trails people in planning the event. Ranger Ultras' were the first trail running event company to be awarded the 'Proudly Supporting National Trails' badge. 

All our PB270 checkpoints offer tasty meals which are wholesome and home cooked with fresh ingredients. The checkpoints themselves are a combination of short-stay, longer-stay, bunkroom and floor sleeping. All have a kitchen, showers and toilet facilities. 

Creamy pasta with vegetables & cheese

'The food and drink in the checkpoints was great and well thought through'. - Bobby Cullen (winner)

'Best checkpoint food I've ever had' - Katie Allen (safety team & Run Ultra Editor)

African rice & beans

Then at the finish, PB270 completers are rewarded with lovely, spacious, hostel accommodation, which we exclusively hire. And a themed meal, deserving of your success.

Wholesome & fresh ingredients

But if a participant doesn't make it all the way to Kirkby Stephen, there is no less appreciation of their efforts. 

'a superb coordinated event and a big shout out to the amazing crew of volunteers and all they do for us both on the course and at the checkpoints' - Dave Wright (dnf at CP2)

So while we're not big on overhead gantries and lots of razzmatazz, participants on the PB270 and other Ranger Ultras trail running events can see that their entry fee has been invested in offering great value. A spirit which gave rise to our tag line:

low-key, great-value, big-enjoyment, trail-running

Lets not forget, the Pennine Bridleway is so much more than a horse and bike trail. It offers superb and varied, runnable surfaces. Amazing big-sky scenery, expansive moorland and picturesque riverine valleys. There are lots of real local history gems to spark curiosity and 'wow' moments. The trail truly has something for everyone and enjoyment for all trail runners.

'This is new race is certainly going to be a classic one that’ll soon be on many racers year planner'. - Al Pepper (safety team) 

The PB270 for 2023
The success of the inaugural 2022 PB270 has guided our thoughts on how we'd like the event to develop.

We really like the idea of keeping the event a manageable size and certainly not growing it into a mass participation horror show. A maximum of 40 participants means we can offer many excellent benefits...

  • Unobtrusive numbers which is respectful to local communities
  • Minimal impact upon the National Trail and ecology
  • Participants are not lost in a sea of other runners
  • The team has time to give each runner a level of service which is supportive but not too intrusive or detracting from the adventure.
  • We can confidently continue offering generous cut-offs to suit walk-jog strategies.
  • Quality home cooked food which is nutritious and appetising for hungry runners.
  • Sufficient participants to ensure a sense of competition among the front runners, journeying comradeship in mid-pack and mutual support among the rear markers.
  • The reassurance of a bed, hot meal, refreshments, shower and rest at the finish, in comfortable surroundings.
  • A price point which offers quality and great value. Yet is fair and reasonable to trail runners wallets in these economically challenging times.
  • And not least, our usual warm welcome, thorough planning and organisation for all runners and the race safety team volunteers.
Quality finish comfort

'It was a great experience for me to watch a hugely experienced and professional event team in action and to be a member of such a close-knit team'. - Katie Allen (safety team & Run Ultra Editor)

Bunkroom beds at the finish

Your trail to the PB270
We have a super selection of trail running races which are both excellent preparation for the PB270 as well as great day's in their own right. More details for each are on Ranger Ultras race pages:   

Here they are in upcoming date order

High Peak 100km 
(using 25km Pennine Bridleway section between Middleton Top and Chelmorton)

Pen Y Ghent 50km
(using 7km Pennine Bridleway section)

Yorkshire 3 Peaks Ultra 70/100km
(using 7km Pennine Bridleway section

Peak District South & North 43/50/93km
(Stage 1 using 10km Pennine Bridleway section Parsley Hay to Chelmorton)
Also has accommodation options at the Peak Centre Race HQ)

PB18km & PB55km Pennine Bridleway Trail Races
(using Pennine Bridleway south of Hayfield)

Take me to my PB270 entry...

Saturday 4 June 2022

#066 The changing faces of ancient Britain

Our previous two blog topics showed how echoes of the ancient past can still be experienced by observing and thinking imaginatively. We also introduced some of the latest academic findings on phenomena and change during the stone age. While researching some background to provide a timeline context, two incredible pieces of information came together in my understanding.

From studies of the Star Carr Mesolithic site (blog ref: ), I was aware there has long been a debate about whether the incoming Neolithic people (around 4000BC) displaced or absorbed the indigenous British Mesolithic hunter fisher gatherers. This debate appears to be at least partially settled by DNA research showing that very little of the hunter gatherer genome was carried forward into subsequent populations.

Star Carr, 11000 years ago. Image by Dominic Andrews -

This indicates that the hunter gatherers were marginalised and outcompeted. At least partly by the felling of forests and land clearance to make way for Neolithic farming practices. Thus taking away the hunter gather tribes traditional food sources. In addition, the Neolithic encroachment may have been accompanied by violence and hostile resistance. The two cultures could not practically co-exist on the same land and were fundamentally incompatible. This polarisation likely made any form of tribal integration unacceptable and taboo. And appears to go a long way in explaining the DNA findings.

We found that British Mesolithic hunter gatherer types were closely related to other hunter gatherers living previously in Western Europe, and shared some aspects of their appearance. Like their Mesolithic continental relatives, they had typically dark skin with light blue eye pigmentation. - Dr Yoan Diekmann (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment) news 15 April 2019

Star Carr digital reconstruction
Image: Marcus Abbott, The Jessop Consultancy

However, hunter gather populations can only sustainably occupy country at a lower density than Neolithic farming communities with their more intensive food production methods. So even if there was some mixing, the relative population sizes would produce a significant diminishing of hunter gatherer ancestry over time.  

Recent genome studies of ancient European populations have enabled reconstructions with reasonably accurate estimates of skin, hair and eye colour. The Neolithic population that the Whitehawk Woman belonged to, for instance, generally had lighter skin and darker eyes than Mesolithic occupants, such as Cheddar Man. But were darker than Ditchling Road Man, who arrived with the first wave of light skinned, light eyed Beaker People from continental Europe around 2400BC. (ref:  National Geographic 24/01/2019 - These facial reconstructions reveal 40000 years of English (sic) ancestry. Kristin Romney)

The second connection I made was that the process of migration and population replacement appears to have happened again, 1600 years later. Signifying the end of the Neolithic period and establishment of the Bronze Age.

The Beaker culture originated in Iberia and spread to Central Europe without a significant movement of people. Skeletons from Beaker Burials in Iberia and not generally close to Central European Beaker skeletons. Beaker culture was taken up by a group of people living in Central Europe who's ancestors had previously migrated from the European Steppe. This group continued to migrate west, finally arriving in Britain. (ref: - Beaker People A New Population For Ancient Britain, James McNish) 

Bronze Age woman facial reconstruction by Hew Morrison: 'Ava' Caithness,
circa 2250BC. She had no, or few, genetic connections to local Neolithic people.
Her parents or grandparents lived in the Netherlands before her birth. She was
possibly one of the Beaker People culture. Her straight black hair, brown eyes and a
Mediterranean complexion, compared with the fair pigmentation of Ditchling Road Man,
shows a marked variation of appearance across the Beaker culture tribes.
(Smithsonian Magazine)
DNA results of the skeletal remains from the population before and after the arrival of the Beaker People was astonishing. Only 10% of the Neolithic people's DNA was retained! Essentially, there was a near complete population turnover.

But what happened to the Neolithic communities that came together to build iconic megaliths, like Stonehenge and who's visible influence can be seen in the multitude of stone circles and chambered tombs across the British Isles and Ireland? 

Their organisational skills and ability to draw people together for a common cause had been amply demonstrated in their constructions. They also had grown into a large, cohesive, population so they were not at the same numerical disadvantage that the Hunter Gatherers had been. 

A number of theories abound, linked to worsening agricultural conditions and decrease in cereal production. Including, an increase in communicable diseases caused by people and animals living in close quarters. There is contemporary evidence of a plague like pandemic, occurring at various global locations. With populations weakened and perhaps questioning their beliefs and cosmology, the Neolithic culture rapidly collapsed.

Bell Beaker and other Bronze Age artefacts
Image: Junta de Castilla y Leon, Archivo Museo Numantico, Alejandro Plaza

Meanwhile, there were massive migrations from the Eurasian Steppe, into Eastern and Central Europe. These people brought the Beaker Culture and the ability to make superior tools from metal, like swords and daggers. If not passively filling the power vacuum left by diminished Neolithic societies, the Beaker People may have forcibly usurped them, accelerating the process of migration and acquisition of territory.
Hadza at sunset - Image: The Dorobo Fund

This made me question other periods of seismic cultural change and the impacts which are still being seen today. I was drawn to the great Bantu migration. Which, from its origins in West Africa, spread across almost the whole of the sub-Saharan continent.

In particular, I wanted to look more closely at tribes in East Africa and how they were affected by the great migration or later interacted with the then settled Bantu cultures. Indigenous hunter gatherer groups like the Hadzabe. The Wachagga of Kilimanjaro, whos ancestry traces back to the early Bantu. And the Masai pastoralists who arrived in East Africa much later.

And then, in some cases, to see how traditional ways of life meet with globalisation.

Masai - Image: Jimmy Nelson Foundation

And so in the next blog, together, we'll imaginatively journey to from West to East Africa and into Tanzania. A country which, through people and places, I feel a deep spiritual affinity.

Stu Westfield
Ranger Expeditions - Trek Guide