I set off with running buddies, Ian Trussler and Dave Jones at around 10:00 on 7th May. Dave had been planning to do a circumnavigation of the ‘green belt’ around Bath, visiting 10 trig points and covering 25+ miles, for a while. Those of you who know Bath will know it’s pretty hilly (it’s supposedly built on 7 hills, something claimed for many cites to emulate the 7 hills of Rome).
The route is a mixture of rural trails, quiet roads and some suburbs. It seems to have developed into an unofficial ‘challenge’ route, but I can’t find anything online about it, so it’s still pretty low key.
The weather when we set off was pretty awful; gloomy with light rain, although quite mild. We were expecting plenty of mud underfoot after our super wet April. Once we’d got out of the car and changed into our running shoes (Vivobarefoot Neo Trail for me), as usual in bad weather, I was raring to go just to get warm!
It rained steadily, although not too hard for the first 2 hours or so of our run. Because the Neo Trails are water resistant, my feet felt quite dry for a surprising amount of time: it wasn’t until we ploughed through a field full of long, wet grass that my shoes got properly soaked.
The mud wasn’t as bad as I expected: there were only a few really sloppy places around gates where livestock congregated.
The weather steadily cleared after the first couple of hours. Although it stayed fairly cloudy and we got the odd spot of rain, we also had some sun and I was shocked to be able to see the Westbury White Horse, approximately 16 miles away from the viewpoint on Prospect Stile, near Bath Racecourse. I think we could just make out the White Horse on Roundway Hill, near Devizes later on too, which is even further away.
I wasn’t really bothered about actually seeing or touching all of the trigs, which is just as well, as some have no right of way next to them or are in dense undergrowth! We spent some time faffing about finding the ones we could get to, which was good fun.
We did however get properly lost in the valley to the west of the A46, Bath to Stroud road. I can’t find a name on the OS maps for what is actually a compact complex of valleys leading into the Avon, bounded to the north by the A420 Chippenham to Bristol road. I’ve often admired the beautiful combes to my west as I’ve driven up the A46, so it was a wonderful place to be lost in.
We ended up going too far north, as far a Tadwick. Once we realised we were lost, we knew we needed to get across to the east side of the main valley, then head south. I’d just finished saying how the valley bottom would be really difficult to cross – fences, dense undergrowth, the small river – when I looked over again and realised that I’d missed a path and footbridge, which were nearly obscured by a large, lone tree in the field below us! We were back on track, ambling along a tiny road in no time.
I’d ran most of the steep climbs, but allowed myself the luxury of walking most of the severe gradients up Little solsbury Hill (as sung about by Peter Gabriel), our penultimate trig, which had fresh breeze blowing over it that chilled me a little.
Our final trig on Banner Down proved troublesome to find, I think because the woodland boundary on it has changed since the map survey. We made a corny gesture of touching it in unison. A downhill through some paddocks and a short road section got us back to the car.
We ran almost 28 miles, and it was the best training run I’ve done for a while 🙂