Sunday 29 January 2023

#080 Ranger Ultras - Peak District South & North Trail Running Weekend

The Ranger Ultras, Peaks District South & North is our longest established trail run.
2023 will be the 7th edition.

Ranger Ultras * low key * great value * big enjoyment * inspiring trails

Over the years we've been delighted to welcome UK and international participants, including friends from Legends Trail in the Benelux countries. In this time we've grown from Race HQ being based in a small village hall, to exclusive hire of the Peak Centre where we can offer offer space to relax, showers, bed and breakfast, for participants who need this option.

Ranger Ultras has always aspired to bring you freindly, low-key, low-impact, trail running races, with generous timings. Meanwhile, bringing as much support local buinesses as we can. Living and working in the Peak District, we're especially mindful of the impact of events on small communities. 

Therefore, we'll never overload the trails or local infrastructure. We work closely with the National Trails Authority and National Park in our planning process and donate to the upkeep of the trails too. Our high standards of event planning and trail usage meant that Ranger Ultras was the first trail running event provider to be awarded the National Trails supporter and received every year since 2019

Ranger Ultras has kept true to these guiding principles and continues to put participants' experience first before profit.

The 2023 Peak District South & North

In these current economic times of high inflation, rising prices and stagnating wages, for many folks these are difficult times. And so it's more crucial than ever that your leisure funds give you greater value and enjoyment. 

Ranger Ultras has also seen a massive hike in event costs, which has led us to change the Peak District South & North to loop routes for the 2023 edition. Doing this has enabled us to cut some costs, absorb other increases and avoid making significant rises in entry fees. 

PS&N entry link
Choose from Saturday White Peak 50km, Sunday Dark Peak 43km or both...

Stage 2 Sunday - Course Recce Report

As with all our trail running events, we aim to build comprehensive and informative resources so that both your preparation and race day itself is as smooth and seamless as possible. Leaving you focus and enjoy your endeavours on the trails. 

In this report we cover in detail from Mill Hill 11.5km to Hayfield 22.5km of Sunday's 43km route.

At Mill Hill, do not continue along the Pennine Way. Take the slabbed path to the west.
The slabs do become slippery in icy conditions.
A pair of pavement crampons / studs to fit over your trail shoes is a wise addition to your kit.

Past the Lberator aircraft wreck, which crashed in 1944. The two crewmen survived.
Up to Burnt Hill. Keep on the slabs. Don't be lured north west onto the trod leading Harry Hut trig point.

Go directly across the A624 (care!). Keep on the right of the minor road, facing oncoming traffic. There is a verge where you can step off the road itself. Use your headtorch and back light for additional safety.

Join the Pennine Bridleway and follow the trail in a southerly direction.

You can use the public bridleway to cut across the access land at Matley Moor then re-join the Pennine Bridleway. There is a followable trod and also takes your feet off tarmac.

Through the gate near Blackshaw Farm, a fixed finger post will present you with several routes. The prominently Pennine Bridleway crosses open ground. Don't be tempted to handrail the eastern fence line on your left, it will lead you well off-course down to Little Hayfield.

Around Lantern Pike. On a clear day the views here are far reaching and superb.

Cross over a minor road, continue on the Pennine Bridleway. You'll pop out near to the Sett Valley Cafe.
Turn left (south east) uphill on the pavement. Connect to the Sett Valley Trail, still on the Pennine Bridleway, which takes you east for a couple of kilometers into Hayfield. 

Before you cross the A624, Marmalade Cafe is open until 3pm on Sunday and is one of our often frequented local favourites.

Marmalade Coffee Shop

Cross the A624 (care!) using the pedesrian crossing or the underpass.

Featuring Hayfield

Opposite the church is Millie's Cafe, open until 4:30pm on Sunday.

Millies Cafe and B&B

Also in Hayfield, although not directly on our route, is Rosie's Cafe, open to around 3 or 4pm on Sunday during the quieter winter months.

Rosies Cafe also sells delightful local Peak Bean coffee

If you're reccying the course or enjoying an independent trail run, please call into support one of our established local cafe's. In times gone by, Hayfield was also known as the village with the most pubs in England. There are still five (The Royal Inn, The George, The Sportsman, The Pack Horse, The Kinder) within the immediate village itself, with several more in the close surrounding area. On our race route you'll see an excellent Italian restaurant, The Collosseo. There are also grocery shops which sell take away sandwiches and other hill-food.

Featuring Race HQ: The Peak Centre, Edale

For several years I've worked as a guest instructor for the Peak Centre. Guiding walks, bushcraft, adventurous activites and experiential learning for young people and adult groups. The centre is a superb facility for residential groups.

The centre gives us the opportunity to offer a number of race places with bunkroom accomodation and breakfast. Non-residential race places are also available and all participants are equally welcome. The Peak District South & North is a straightforward event to enter and also very cost effective for folks travelling from outside the local area. Add to this, we have a festival atmosphere in the main hall with table top stalls selling all sorts of goodies: Al's La Chocoalatina artisan chocolates, Paul's East Yorkshire Honey, Lorraine's Quilting, Georgina's Artwork, Jo Barrett's Sports Massage Therapy, Pete's Nutty Poo Bar.

Ranger Ultras PB Race Collection

As of this year, the Peak District South & North becomes part of our Pennine Bridleway race collection, with engaging sections of this classic and iconic nation trail included on the course.

Each of our PB races gives you a progression and experiential journey. From the short 18km to our multi-day 270km, you can hone your skills with us all along the way.

Our other races in our Ranger Ultras PB Collection are...

Pennine Bridleway PB270km in 100 hours Trail Challenge
(Our multi-day, expedition style, trail running adventure, journeying the length of the trail from Middleton Top to Kirkby Stephen. Brimming with quality and great value)

Pennine Bridleway PB137km in 50 hours Trail Challenge
(Journey the northern section of this iconc trail)

Pennine Bridleway PB55km 
(Hayfield to Chee Dale and back. A great day on the trail, all on the PB)

Pennine Bridleway PB18km
(Hayfield to Rushup Edge and back. A short, but hilly, trail adventure all on the PB)

High Peak 70/100km Ultra
(Looking for a fast 100km time? This race is for you. Some inclines and small hills to add variety with engaging trails and elements of the PB)

Yorkshire 3 Peak 70/100km Ultra
(A classic hill day, with a short section of the PB included. Ranger Ultras created the original ultra distance version of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks)

Pen Y Ghent 50km
(Hilly and undulating, a short section of PB, just nudging into ultra distance and a great day's trail running)

Saturday 21 January 2023

#079 Your trail to the PB137km & PB270km - Part 5

In this, the last part of our 'Your trail to' series, we share further course details and highlights from the Settle checkpoint to finish at Kirkby Stephen.

For PB137 participants, Settle is your mid-course checkpoint, where you have access to your drop bag.

For PB270 participants, Settle is your third indoor checkpoint location and drop bag access.

At Settle, there will be showers, toilets and floorspace for sleeping. We'll also be cooking up tasty hot meals, dessert and anytime 'breakfast'. So you're rested, refreshed and ready to re-join the trail. There will also be hot drinks, soft drinks and snacks.

Pasta in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, courgette
and extra mature cheddar cheese.

As much as we're super proud of our hospitality and food offerings, it's the trail that is the star of the show, so we'll chat more about the route...

Just after you pass through the village of Stainforth and cross a narrow stone bridge, Stainforth Force waterfall is on your left side. Admittedly, this is not the best vantage point as the 2.5 metre cascade is 50 metres downstream. But worth a visit if you're on a route recce, or looking for a nice location for a mid race mini-break.

At Austwick there is a short deviation from the Pennine Bridleway, cutting through the village and avoiding a longer on-road section. The village itself has been a settlement since the Bronze Age with archeological finds in the area dating back 4000 years.

Following the Twaite Lane and Long Lane tracks, your journey into remote Dales country, threading a line across the limestone moors between Ingleborough and Horton-In-Ribbesdale. Then you join the Pennine Way, for an ascent up to Cam End and on to Kidhow, then breaking away westward to Gayle Moor. 

The route over Cam Fell is a Roman Road, so although easy to follow, this section can feel very exposed in extremes of poor or hot weather. I can attest to this, having journeyed over this route in mid- summer. While sipping from my water bottle in the meagre 10 inches of shade offered by a stone wall, I thought the only reason why the Romans had built a road this high and far from decent resupply, was that no rebellious Celtic tribe could be arsed to hike up and attack it!

North, over Dent Fell and Garsdale Common. At Garsdale railway station is the statue of Ruswarp, a collie dog with a remarkable story...

"Ruswarp belonged to Graham Nuttall, the first Secretary of the Friends of the Settle–Carlisle Line, which was formed to campaign against the proposed closure of the line. The line was finally saved in 1989. In January 1990 Nuttall and Ruswarp went missing in the Welsh mountains. On 7 April 1990 a lone walker found Nuttall's body, by a mountain stream. Nearby was Ruswarp, so weak that the 14-year-old dog had to be carried off the mountain. He had stayed with his master's body for 11 winter weeks. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals awarded Ruswarp their Animal Medallion and collar for 'vigilance' and their Animal Plaque for 'intelligence and courage'. He survived long enough to attend Nuttall's funeral" (source wikipedia)

After the Moorcock Inn, the PBW joins The High Way.

Facilities at Stennerskeugh, the current PBW finish are somewhat limited. So on reaching The Thrang, you carry on northward, where the Pennine Jouney trail handrails the River Eden. You'll pass the ruin of Pendragon Castle, according to legend, built by Uther Pendragon father of King Arthur. 

Focused on the finish

Although, at this point, you'll likely be much more focused upon the final 6km to the finish.

Finishers' bedrooms in hostel

At Kirkby Stephen we have a really treat for you with exclusive use of the hostel. Included in your entry is a bed for the night, celebratory meal and all our usual hospitality. Your drop bag will be ready, so you can freshen up and change into your going home clothes. 

Relaxing space in hostel lounge 

After being presented with your eco-coaster-medal, there's lots of indoor communal space where you can relax into an armchair and relive the adventure with fellow finishers. Also, we've specially commissioned Matt Clayton Cider House Oak trophies for the fastest lady and man in both the PB137 and PB270.

Matt Clayton, Cider House Oak, Winners Trophies
in Pennine Bridleway waymark style

Although we'll have tasty home cooked dinner for you in the hostel, within a minute's walk are local pubs and restaurants for a little extra celebratory libation. You'll be well served for choice in town if you have a particular post-race craving for curry, oriental or traditional pub grub. 

One of our specialties: East African mwali na maharage
(rice & beans with avocado and sautéed banana)

Having completed the Ranger Ultras' Pennine Bridleway trail challenge, no doubt there will be many uplifting, perhaps even transformational, memories for you to savour.

The PB137 & PB270 are held in April, so you can enjoy a balance of longer daylight hours, with weather which slots between the extreme cold of winter and heat of mid-summer. As can be seen from the kit list, we still want you to be sensibly prepared for the changeable British weather.

The Pennine Bridleway is an epic national trail. Having read this blog series and watched our recce videos, we hope you too can see that it offers superb trail running, gorgeous scenery and relatively straightforward navigation, aided by a lot of recently refurbished fixed waymarking.

It's time not to think of the Pennine Bridleway as solely for mountain bikes and horses. Indeed, as regular trail users, we see few of either. It is a quiet route that could have been made for trail running. Trails where you can lift your head, soak in the scenery and find your running 'flow'. 

Both the PB137 and PB270 are meant to be challenging races and we've designed them to be that way. However, they are also accessible to participants new to multi-day trail running as well as more experienced runners. So, even if you aspire to more extreme events, these are quality races in their own right, where you can hone your skills and race craft.

“A multi day race experience that is comparable to some of the big ones out there” 

With generous timings and online resources to help you prepare, our races offer a realistic chance of finishing. Which gives you the best possible value for your entry and time on the trail. 

At Ranger Ultras, we're all about sharing adventures, facilitating success and celebrating achievement, from the winner to the lanterne rouge finisher.

Come and grab yourself a large slice of multi-day trail running action...

Click 'here' to enter the Ranger Ultras PB137

Friday 20 January 2023

#078 Your trail to the PB137km & PB270km - Part 4

Ranger Ultras' PB137km Pennine Bridleway Trail Running Challenge
Ranger Ultras' PB270km Pennine Bridleway Trail Running Challenge

Hebden Hey to Settle 

In this edition of 'Your trail to' we welcome PB137km participants to the Ranger Ultras trail running party.

At Hebden Hey, PB137 participants gather on the Wednesday evening for race registration, kit check, number & tracker issue, evening meal and bunkroom bed for the night. There aren't many convenient options for private accommodation nearby to Hebden Hey, hence the all-inclusive bed, dinner and breakfast. Which ensures everyone is on-site and ready for the PB137 start early on Thursday morning.

(Note: PB270 participants have a much wider variety of accessible, private accommodation, choices and hearty pub / restaurant meals in and around Hayfield for their Tuesday evening registration & overnight).

The fastest PB270 runners may arrive at the Hebden Hey checkpoint before the PB137 start. This is fine, we'll have a hot meal ready, sleeping and shower facilities available for you. From 2022 timings, we anticipate the the majority of PB270 runners will arrive during the Thursday and evening.

Out of Hebden Hey, participants will retrace their inbound route the 2.5km back to the Pennine Bridleway.

The course to Settle is truly superb. A scenic feast for the eyes and trails which keep on giving.

The varied surfaces invite you to make forward positive progress. Rarely on the Pennine Bridleway will you be mired in a boggy suffer-fest. 

The following recce report takes a deep dive into Hebden Hey to Wycoller...

Plus, here's John Figiel's accompanying short film...

At Wycoller, there are public toilets and a picnic area with benches, making this a ideal location to pause for a mini-break. The ruins are the 16th Century Wycoller Hall, believed to be the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Bronte's Jayne Eyre.

Opposite is a 15th Century, twin arched, packhorse bridge. Scenes from The Railway Children (1970 version) were filmed here. Underneath flows Wycoller Beck, which is your companion on the approach to the hamlet. You'll also see the Clam Bridge, a simple rock slab spanning the beck, thought to be more than 1000 years old. Closer to Wycoller Hall is a late 18th Century clapper bridge.

You'll circle around Gisburn, a village mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. If you think the name sounds familiar, Guy of Gisburn, of Robin Hood fame, was said to have been born here.

The Pennine Bridleway continues through the magnificent Yorkshire Dales, passing through small villages and hamlets on route. In the next edition, we journey from Settle to the finish in Kirkby Stephen.

If you like your trails experience uplifting, a feast for the eyes and full of enjoyment then our Ranger Ultras PB race series is for you. We've strived to include so many facilities all along the route: From the start, to providing beds to rest and meal after you've finished, at a price which offers great value. All our events reach out as broadly as we can to the trail running community. 

We look forward to welcoming you to this special multi-day adventure...

Click 'here' to enter the PB137

Click 'here' to enter the PB270

Tuesday 17 January 2023

#077 Your trail to the PB270 - Part 3

Ranger Ultras' Pennine Bridleway PB270km multi-day, trail running, adventure

In this installment of our tour of the PB270 course highlights we journey from Hayfield to Hebden Hey checkpoints.

This section starts with a tree lined avenue along the course of the old New Mills to Hayfield branch line, which was axed by the government in 1970. After a couple of kilometers, you turn off the Sett Valley Trail and begin your ascent to Lantern Pike. If you still have daylight at this point and the Spring weather is kind, the view across to Cracken Edge and Kinder Scout is likely to be beautifully lit by the late afternoon sun.

Soon after, more dramatic scenery is on show at Crown Edge Rocks. Here we use some of the designated walkers alternative Pennine Bridleway route (check the online course notes and for confirmed entries your GPX files). This route avoids walking along busy roads, or roads with not pavement, as much as possible. Also, we recommend the new Harvey map Pennine Bridleway XT40, which covers the whole of the Pennine Bridleway and the walkers alternatives (plus loops and extensions which are not part of our linear course).

You'll see signs for Melandra Fort around Glossop. The earthworks are evidence of Roman settlement in the area up to the mid 2nd Century. A perusal of wider coverage Peak District map will show several Roman roads still used as public rights of way. And of course, the nearby town of Buxton was famed for its health giving spa water and Roman baths as far back as AD80.

Lots more description, navigation tips and pictures of the walkers alternative section are covered in our recce blog report...

Further onward. The reservoirs, woodland and moorland around Stalybridge Country Park share elements of the Thameside Trail. The glinting light on the Longendale Valley reservoirs are a reminder of how water powered the many cotton mills down in the lower valleys during the industrial revolution.
Save your climbing legs for the long ascents and wild moorland trails as you close the distance to Hebden Bridge.

With the Stoodley Pike monument looming large, you'll join a section of the Mary Townley Loop, which is well signed. Just make sure you follow the MTL in an anti-clockwise direction, otherwise you'll be in for a whole day's extra distance...We might actually give you a call on your mobile before your tracker heads 'too-far' in the wrong direction!

Speaking of trackers, we use the excellent Legends Tracking. Ranger Ultras' have long standing happy collaborations with the folks at Legends, helping evolve safety procedures for their iconic Belgium Ardennes LT250/500 and mentoring Legends Safety Team Coordinators.

Our race ethos is to allow participants to enjoy the 'full experience' of their trail adventure. If you do go off course, we'll not necessarily be immediately calling your mobile to correct errors. You'll have every opportunity to independently route-find and to own your race experience. Although, we will intervene with a friendly nudge, if you're significantly off-course, walking along roads not on the designated course, or heading towards other hazards. 

That said, the Pennine Bridleway is especially well waymarked, with lots of recently renewed signage (our donations to the National Trails Authority, over the years, may well have funded a few of them). 
So, if you're observant and checking your GPX or map, you shouldn't be desperately challenged by the route.

For participants familiar with the Pennine Way, this trail and the Pennine Bridleway converge and cross over on the approach to the second PB270 checkpoint at Hebden Hey. Here's another reminder to check your course notes / GPX file, as we use an approach to and exit from Hebden Hey which avoids walking along the Slack Road.

At Hebden Hey there are bunkbeds and showers for you to rest, refresh and reset. Also, a range of hot & cold drinks and snacks. Plus, we'll serve one of our 'trademark' hot home cooked meals, followed by dessert. After your rest, you can tuck into breakfast, at any time of day, before returning your drop bag to the checkpoint team for it to be transported up to the next checkpoint at Settle. 

You're then ready to head out onto the trail for the next part of your adventure.

In the next installment of this series, we'll offer you the highlights and top tips for Hebden Hey to Settle which is the third section of the course for PB270 participants.
But also, it's the first section for Pennine Bridleway PB137 participants, who start at Hebden Hey.

PB137 - Race info & Entry...

PB270 - Race info & Entry

For both the PB137 and PB270, we've strived to combine great-value, facilities, service and low impact sustainability. Culminating in iconic, supported multi-day trail running, expedition style, adventures, that are as independent as you want them to be. 

Our PB races are accessible as excellent introductions to multi-day trail running. The route is a satisfying combination of well defined trails (allowing you to soak in the superb views) with occasional points which require a little thought and concentration. 

The PB137 and PB270 are certainly not 'soft-soap' multi-day ultras.

These traverse big sky country, where your efforts are readily rewarded with runnable moorland trails which deliver bucket loads of wilderness and adventure.

Brought to you from an organisation which is focused on quality, value and aspirational trail experiences. 

'This race is certainly going to be a classic, that’ll soon be on many racers year planner'. - Al Pepper (Ranger Ultras Safety Team)