Monday, 7th September, At the Stones

12:34pm. I’ve been to the stones today. I had to go, go and see them, make sure they’re still there, feel them, touch them, listen to them. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to go for a run to the stones. I parked in my new spot just below Bully Tree Farm and looked out from the warmth of my car at the rain coming down all around me, blurring my view. Why would anyone get up early to go for a run over the moors in wind and rain? Because I love running over the moors in wind and rain, feeling exposed to the elements, looking around me at the changing of land as wind and rain transforms the scenery around me from glorious panorama of colour to a bleak and desolate place where life struggles to exist. How the land can change so quickly never ceases to amaze me.

I change my top for something warmer, listen to one more song on the radio and step out into the wind and rain. I head off in the direction of the path to Top Withens but turn right after the last house and head down towards Far Slack and the trail over Birch Brink that goes to Ponden Kirk. I miss the path that cuts across the moor going underneath the Master Stones and go straight down. It seems to be an easier and faster route and soon I’m running along the edge of Stanbury Moor high above Ponden Clough.

I feel good running today. My ankle is bothering me and while my right knee and calf ache it isn’t much and doesn’t hamper my progress. I get to the crossroads and continue on the trail pass the gun butts and there high above on the horizon are Alcomden Stones looking down on me, watching me, waiting for me. I run up the clough towards them falling at one point on the wet plastic boards that have been put in place so the grouse shooters don’t there their expensive wellies dirty. I get straight up and carry on. There’s no damage and no-one saw me fall so no embarrassment either. I get to the crest of the hill and stop to look at the stones. They look dark and menacing against the sky.

I stop and take some photos sending one to Claire. Claire is the only other person I know who understands the stones like I do and loves them as much as I do. It’s been a week since we last ran together and already it feels like a lifetime ago. I know we’ll see each other soon and we can be a pair of nutcases again. I take out my camera and take some close ups of the stone that seems to be more significant than the rest, the one that Claire painted and gave the painting to me. It looks like a face, it looks alive! I check and check again and it does. It looks alive as if it knows who I am now and is revealing more of itself to me each time I see it. Can the stone really be watching me, waiting for me. Did it know I was coming today to see it? Claire replies to my email and says the stones look ‘ominous’. I agree, they do today, dark, ominous, brooding, as if they’re waiting for me to see what I do today.

I carry on up the trail missing my usual trail and somehow ending up on another one. It makes no difference. I am at the stones. I take my pack off and go to the stone. I see markings on it, a heart, faces, arms, hands. I have never seen it like this before. It’s as if it’s shedding its outer layer and saying ‘come and see what is beneath’. I can. This is the second time in a week this has happened to me, I’ve seen things on this stone I haven’t before. I approach it, standing in front of it, place two hands in it’s naked surface and say a prayer of thanks. As I do the rain stops and the winds die down. Is the rock listening to me, wanting to hear my every word so it can decide if I’m worthy of its help?

I thank the stone for helping me on my journey in life, especially through the difficult times we live in at the moment. I swear I can feel the stones heart beating in gratitude. It can’t because it’s a stone high up on Stanbury Moor, but I can feel something as if it’s saying everything will be fine, everything will work out in the end and I am safe, protected by the power of the stone.

I finish my prayer and get my phone and camera and take some more photos. I send some more to Claire and see replies saying she wishes she was there instead of at work. I say I wish she was there too so she could tell me if she could see what I can see, if she could tell me if I was seeing things, hearing things, feeling things that aren’t there, that it’s all in my imagination and I need to come back to reality or if she agreed with me and she could see, hear and feel the things I do and we could keep it as our little secret so as no-one else would tell us we were both mad and have us committed to an institution never to be seen again…

The wind picks up and the rains starts again. My hands go cold. My time at the stones is over for today. It is time for me to go and leave them in peace on the moor, watching, waiting, listening, thinking, taking everything in and giving to those who believe in them.

I head off on the trail up to the trig point, across the top of Stanbury Moor and down to Top Withens. I don’t stop at the house today as my hands are still cold and I know I have to keep moving to get them warm and keep my core body temperature up. Today is not a day for getting hypothermia. I may never see another person today on the moors and if I got hypothermia no-one may ever see me again. I thought about last night when I said to Claire ‘be careful’ and ‘don’t overdo it’ because of her ankle injury. I thought about what I had said and why I had said it. I said it because I care but it wasn’t right of me to say that. Firstly Claire is desperate to do the Yorkshireman with her sister and secondly it was very hypocritical of me to say that because I would do exactly what Claire is doing and I know I would because I’ve done it and I was doing it now. I should go back to the car because I’m cold but I don’t I carry on. I apologised to Claire even though I couldn’t remember what I had said, and said I would be there for her whatever happened and I hoped she did it. It must have been the right thing because she said ‘thank you’. It’s not often I say the right thing at the right time but I did last night and I’m glad I did.

After Top Withens I head down to Sheepfold and take the trail to Harbour Lodge. This is another trial I like because it is off the beaten track and quiet especially compared to the usual trail that people take to Top Withens. I take it steady on here mainly because the heather has grown and obscures my view of the trail while scratching my legs. I intended to run down to the lodge and down to the Bronte Waterfalls but instead head up to Oxenhope Stoop Hill with the idea of running back to the lodge on the conduit. This is a tough climb especially at the bottom as the terrain varies and is slippy and muddy today after the rain. I walk at first but then run as I get closer to the top. Coming down the other side it is deep bog until I reach the conduit and turn left to the lodge. I run down here being careful as I don’t want to fall and injure myself but I make good progress and soon I’m descending down to the waterfall. This is a short but steep descent and I make good time on it and I’m going up the other side before I know it.

At the top of the climb I look at my watch and I’ve only done 6 miles and have plenty of time to play with. I decide to head down to Ponden Reservoir to try out some different trails I have seen before. After the first descent I check OS maps for the paths and know where to go to get to them. I take photos of my muddy legs and send them to Claire to show her how much fun I’m having running through the bogs and mud. At the bottom of the second descent there should be a trail that cuts across the field but the farmer has blocked it off so I had down to the road and run on there until I see a sign saying public footpath and head up it.

At first the trial seems easy to follow but then I get to a field and I can’t see a stile to climb over. I check OS maps and go left. Looking on Strava at home I should have gone right but it’s a learning curve and I didn’t like the look of the cows, they were massive! I follow what I assume to be a path, the reeds are flattened down and sure enough I’m wading through cold, deep water again. I see a stile at the top of the field but can’t see a way to get to it. Eventually I find a gap in the wall I can climb over and I’m finally going up the hill to the stile.

I head up to Back Lane but then instead of heading for my car I go back on the road towards Far Slack and up another trail I have wanted to do for a while. Again this trail seemed easy to follow at first but as I got to the top I lost the path and couldn’t see a way out. I have a look at OS maps and then see a gap in the wall and go through it. It’s the right stile and I can see my car at the bottom of the hill. I change and drive home happy with my run and another experience at the stones. It got a bit messy at the end but was still fun and I’ve got a good, short loop for the stones too.

At home I shower and change and get something to eat. My legs feel ok. No aches or pain so I begin to wonder whether I should run with CVFR tomorrow night and do the handicap on Thursday as planned or rest for two days. I decide to see how I feel tomorrow and decide then.

7:17pm. I’ve been up to see my old neighbour to setup her new broadband only to discover it won’t be activated till Wednesday so have a chat and come home. My left ankle begins to ache a bit but I’ve a couple of plans for running this week so I’m not going to worry about it.

9:23pm. I feel like I should have done more today but I played games on my laptop instead. I so want a good nights sleep but I know it won’t happen. Too many thoughts whirling round my head. Still been a good day. I’m happy.

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