Dirty Double weekend at Helvellyn & Ullswater
Shattered and smiling. Sweating buckets as I
struggled to effortlessly ran over the top of the climb between Silver Crag and Birk Fell. My son well and truly disappeared into the distance.
And I was loving it!!! This is the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend of Helvellyn and Ullswater Lakeland Trail runs. First time I’d done it for 5 years (2012 results here). Gruelling, scenic, joyous. And this was the 2x 10k version rather than the 2x 14k I’d completed previously.
Another major difference this time was the fact that the kids were able to participate in the 10k (Louis) and 5k (Izzy).
We’d decided to make a proper family weekend of it – any excuse to stay in the Lakes. And Ullswater is my favourite area. We were lucky too. I hadn’t been prepared and booked well in advance so was desperately searching 7 days before the start and was incredibly fortunate to find a cancellation at Beckside Farm cabins – a more idyllic and remote location we couldn’t have picked. You can book via Go Lakes too. Their incredibly friendly team we able to accommodate our late arrival and Gill, the lovely owner, was able to transport us from the farm entrance to our cabins using the farm all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Boy was it needed as the incessant rain of previous days had created a real mudfest and we wouldn’t have had a clue how to find the cabins. I say cabins because one was the sleep and shower cabin – the other the living cabin containing kitchen, dining, couch and wood burning stove. Our tv was the cabin french doors which offered the vista of Ullswater and starry skies in the incredible dark. Beckside Farm is located right next to the Ullswater Way so not as difficult to reach as you might think. But that’s our secret right?! Their cafe was voted a top pick in Country Walking Magazine too. For us, highlights included seeing their native Herdwick Sheep, Swaledale Sheep, wild red deer. Just look at these majestic animals below. The video below shows the ‘senior’ stag chasing off a new younger ‘imposter’ during rutting season.
Helvellyn trail is a superb run. Often technical terrain with many rocks on all sorts of angles to test your agility and balance. Running through them in wet conditions is superb fun and you should never let this put you off – many first-time trail runners did the 5k and 10k and loved it. This year I entered the 10k as our son Louis, was able to enter with being 16. He left me for dead! Izzy was able to do the new 5k and said it was her favourite trail run to date! So two glowing testimonials for the Lakeland Trails team right there with no prompting 🙂
In terms of running form – for me I knew I wasn’t going to smash either the Saturday or Sunday. I’d been suffering with fatigue for a few weeks so just decided to enjoy the runs and get round the glorious routes. And enjoy I did, taking the odd pic and chatting to fellow trail runners as we headed out towards the Helvellyn range. Laughing our heads off at each other when inevitably slipping on a steep grassy descent to slide for a fair few metres through rain and sheep sh*t! If you look carefully you can see it on my arm and vest in the photo of our backs below 🙂
Lakeland Trails events are known for their friendly atmosphere and here we were able to enjoy more of this. From spectators with cowbells, to locals and ramblers clapping and encouraging us all on, to the finish with all involved clapping, encouraging and the Batala Drum Band booming us across the finish line. Great fun.
Louis finished 12th and me 31st – though I was initially shown as 11th because we wore the wrong chips! 🙂
Izzy managed 2nd junior for 6th overall in the 5k!!
Day 2: A Smiling ‘sufferfest’!
The wind had picked up early morning so we anticipated the planned route – with the Ullswater Steamers taking all runners across to Howtown – may not be on. Sure enough the organisers had to use the ‘wet route’ back up plan due to the Steamers captain confirming it was too risky to set sail. While it was disappointing not to be taken on the Steamers, we all know that plans are subject to the weather. We also knew the Lakeland Trails team had excellent alternative routes mapped out. And they did not disappoint! The 10k taking us through Patterdale, turning left at Side Farm to run North on the Ullswater Way, several climbs on an undulating first half. Then the very steep climb up between Silver Crag and Birk Fell – as I was approaching that climb, I was able to look up ahead and see Louis moving past a few runners much further up. This was no surprise to either of us – we’d passed Anne Marie and Izzy who’d walked from Beckside Farm along the Ullswater Way to see us. They noted how fresh Louis looked vs. how tired I did!! The pictures below tell that story clearly 🙂
Ullswater is much more gnarly terrain than Helvellyn, particularly parts of the original route when running through forested patches. The views on this route as we neared Silver Point were amazing – Ullswater and Pooley Bridge north of us. A visual highlight for me: That view down as you’re about to tear up the descent off Silver Crag and Birk Fell. Memory highlight: Well that has to be the couple who chose to get married at Ullswater Trail Run and celebrated by running the 10k together! Amazing 🙂
What a weekend! Shattered, sweaty, muddy – great stuff!
And here’s some bonus pics of the Ullswater Way (between Watermillock and Glenridding)
Overall thoughts? It’s fair to say the kids are getting into trail running. We’re not the only family transitioning to one adult with the kids doing the very short fun trail, to now running the longer events. What a legacy Lakeland Trails help create! It really is a credit to Graham Patten and his superb team. This part of the Lakes is pretty special 🙂
Thank you to all volunteers! Also Patterdale Mountain Rescue, sponsors inov-8, all the landowners and tenant farmers, Eden District Council, King George V Playing Field Committee, Dalemain Estates, Event Safety Group, Cumbria Police, Ullswater Steamers. You all help to make an amazing weekend 🙂
Yours in sport