When the weather closes in this winter, a wet Saturday will mean only one thing for me …. trail time.
Slipping on my new trail running trainers I headed out across the local footpaths to get muddied up and enjoy all the lumps and bumps this part of Leicestershire has to offer. Skirting around Stanton Lakes I soon found the first land mark of my run as I crossed a lovely little bridge that we know as Sophies Bridge. Nestled half a mile or so in from the main road in the land covered by Sopers Farm is a little steel and concrete bridge over the Soar.
Don’t get carried away, the river is less than 5 meters wide at this point and generally shallow enough for kids to paddle in so it’s no raging torrent like previous adventures in the Peak District. But it is a lovely, peaceful and lush spot to run through. In summer months it’s worth heading down with a picnic and bottle of fizz that you can keep cool in the river. We did that a couple of years ago with the kids for our wedding anniversary and it was a day that we’ll always remember.
But it’s slightly less serene when being run through in November. So following the footpath I emerged to the village of Croft and headed off towards landmark number 2: Croft Hill.
There is a sheltered woodland path along the bottom of the approach to this man made hill so keeping an eye for protruding roots I paced myself up to a style to start the climb. The hill is the result of years of quarrying in Croft and the steep climb is now covered in grass and rabbit droppings! Having walked up the hill pulling a sledge and a child earlier in the year, I knew how hard the gradient could be to scale. But running up was a different experience and by the time I was half-way up my lungs and legs were burning.
Reaching the top was a relief and provided a welcome rest as well as stunning views. The contrast in scenery between the dramatic drop in to the working quarry and the expansive Leicestershire countryside was breathtaking but I couldn’t afford to be distracted when I started my descent. The winding path was slippery underfoot so required more mental strength than physical exertion until passing through the final gate and heading off to some flatter ground.
The unfamiliar paths were sodden after days of rain and pretty quickly my feet were saturated picking my way through the footpaths. That was until the footpath seemingly disappeared and the terrain changed from grass to ploughed field. It gets to be hard work when each foot is carrying a couple of pounds of mud, so the bright yellow sign pointing to another footpath was more than welcome.
Without stopping to think, I headed down the next footpath, following the trails until I emerged out of the farmland and on to a country lane. The road looked familiar, but worryingly I was a long way from where I had planned to be! Jogging down the road I kept looking out for another footpath or bridleway on which to make a shortcut home, yet it wasn’t long before I realised that an hour in to my run I still had 3 or 4 miles to go.
Just as I began considering calling Mrs G to come and collect me I rounded a corner to see a car stranded in a ford we know as Watery Gates. Not being one to miss an opportunity to snap such a scene I whipped out my phone and took a couple of pictures before noticing a family looking at me. It turns out that the daughter drove in to the ford last night while the water was running at 1.5 meters deep!
Checking my Strava feed I saw that I’d covered over 7 miles. So I called in some support before running another mile and being ushered on to an already muddy blanket for the couple of miles of my lift home!