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University of Missouri

A run through the English countryside

Filed in Blog, United Kingdom by on January 27, 2014

My favorite way to explore a new place is on foot. It’s free and allows you to reach places that are inaccessible if, like me, you don’t have a car. I’m also an avid runner, so this has been one of the main ways I’ve acquainted myself with the area surrounding Lancaster. On my first few jogs up into the hills east of campus, I kept seeing a fell in the distance. If you’re like me, you don’t know exactly what a fell is and need to look it up. Let me save you the trouble. According to Wikipedia:

“A fell (from Old Norse fellfjall, ‘mountain’) is a high and barren landscape feature, such as a mountain range or moor-covered hills.”

The fell looked beautiful and exciting and I desperately wanted to explore it, so I ran there, and I took my camera. Here’s what happened:

  • First, I ran past a cattery. The Internet tells me that a cattery is a “boarding or breeding establishment for cats.” If you’re thinking that means there must be an equivalent term, “doggery,” you are wrong. “Doggery” is a word, but it means “cheap saloon,” or “squalid tavern.” The things you learn.
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  • A few uneventful miles after the cattery, I turned a corner to be met by this breathtaking view. This is why I love being on foot. The fell is the most distant hill you see in the background.
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  • After running through a valley (Bowland Trough) with some cottages and this cemetery…
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  • I reached my destination: the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (A.O.N.B., if you’re into acronyms). A.O.N.B.s are nature reserves that are scattered across England. They are interesting because they are usually privately owned land, but with public access rights; basically, anyone has the right to walk on them as long as they are respectful of the environment. I even met the farmer whose land I was walking on. I felt a bit intimidated at first because I was so used to being told to stay off other people’s land in Missouri, but he was  incredibly friendly, and even gave me directions for the best hike to get me to the top. I hope someday we can adopt a system of communal private land (contradictory, I know) like this in the U.S. With that, I started my climb. First, I saw a bush with yellow flowers, which seemed important to capture at the time.
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  • After a very muddy hike up a hill through some trees, I came to a T in the trail, where I had the fortune of coming across more new friends: two elderly but obviously spry gentlemen, bedecked in hiking gear. They looked at my previously white, but now brown and soaked, tennis shoes and laughed, asking if I had run up the trail. I told them I’d walked, incredulous at the idea that anybody could run up it, for it had been very tricky and slippery footing, to which they casually replied that they used to be fell runners. Apparently it’s  a sport here. Unable to imagine running on that terrain, I was now thoroughly impressed, and had a brief but pleasant conversation with them before they pointed me on my way, instructing me to climb over this stile:
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  • Stiles may be designed for the functional purpose of getting over stone fences, but I am convinced that their inventor also knew he or she was gifting to the world the grown up equivalent of the playground.  Climbing the three rungs of a stile will make you feel not only more adventurous, but more playful, as you use muscles and motor skills you have not recruited since your preschool days. I could have happily climbed back and forth over this one for several more minutes, but my new and experienced friends were still in sight, so I wanted to maintain some degree of maturity. Next, I walked past this guy:
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  • And then I was about as at the top as I was going to get. Fells are known for their highland bogs, so at this point I was essentially wading through an inch or so of water, mud and sheep droppings, but the view and the experience were well worth it!
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  • Then I walked back down…
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  • And ran home! It was an eventful and rewarding outing. Now west toward the coast!

Comments (1)

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  1. Lorna says:

    What an absolutely incredible hike/run.