I’m more used to running the lane to Lud Gate and the gate on to the open moor in September than April but out of nowhere there have been a few days of scorching sunshine more common in September than April and there you have the reason. The lane beneath the leafless trees is a strange experience but the open moorland where the bright yellow furze flowers provide the only colour in a landscape of dull winter grey-green and last year’s scorched dun grass could almost be a foreign land.
Over Puper’s Hill and down to Huntingdon Mine, then over the hill past the Mound of Sinners and down to Broad falls, before the final climb to Red Lake the dried grass crunches underfoot as I run and the leaves clatter together in the slight breeze. However though the grass may be tinder dry (and there have been some large moorland fires already this spring) the soil is filled to capacity with water. Everywhere water trickles through the moss and at each footstep it wells up around my feet and sends jets of peaty much up my legs. The sun is relentless even at after 5 n the afternoon and I am a hot glowing heap when I reach the lake.
The wind laps the black surface of the water and standing in the shallows in little more than knee deep water my feet have vanished into the peat stain.
The water is bitterly chill and for the first couple of swimming strokes I have to bite my lower lip to hold my breath in. I finally let it go with a loud gasp and swim across the lake puffing and blowing. I’m not sure it helps but it feels like it should.
In the lee of the high bank there is a discrete corner of mirror calm water and I bob in its glassy smoothness where the undulating waves I send out echo back with a slap from beneath the overhanging reeds and grass on the bank. Otherwise apart from the sough of wind in grass there is not a sound not even the nearby chirp or distant cry of a bird. Unusually, back at the Walla Brook clapper bridge, I did see someone walking but they were heading away from my route and I imagine in every likelihood there is no-one for 3 miles (the nearest house) in any direction.
I’m cold and dress quickly. The heat has gone from the sunshine and the wind has picked up, the sky is no longer uniform blue but is hazed with thin cloud that surely heralds a change in the weather for tomorrow. Even so I run first to the top of the spoil heap from the clay pit. The moorland rolls away in every direction and is in essence the same in every direction, whilst the spoil heap sits in a slight depression in the landscape, the horizon climbing in every direction up to the sky. For a moment as I scan the empty moor I imagine that I am caught in a freeze frame photo where a drop of water has landed in a pool and I’m stood on top of the upsplash in a spreading saucer of water. It is too chilly for further musing and I begin the splash and squelch back the way I came.
It takes me about 45 to 50 minutes to reach Red Lake yet only 35 to get back to the car and I arrive neither out of breath nor more than slightly warm in sharp contrast to the outward run.
I must do it again soon, when the lake has warmed a little maybe, but I know that it will most likely that won’t be until September again.