Supporting a local legend on his Wainwrights Round – C6

As is becoming the norm now I am awoken by the sound of a van pulling up, doors opening and voices breaking the morning air. I get up and out of the van to be greeted by a couple getting ready for the day ahead. We exchange pleasantries and I get everything ready for when Dougie and the others coming in. We’re parked Inbetween some cottages separated by a fence. The ones above us, Rake Cottages, are owned by the National trust and there is a surprisingly large amount of traffic, both human and vehicular passing by. I take in my surroundings at the base of Glenridding Screes, and I feel happy and relaxed. Everything is setup and ready for Dougie in minutes, I’ve got this down to a fine art now, and with everything sorted it’s time to wait for the runners to arrive.

Louise Greenwood turns up ready for her second stint supporting Dougie. This stint is different as she has come straight from home and doesn’t have to rush off anywhere, so Louise is a lot more relaxed. Dougie arrives, has something to eat and is off again on his next leg with Louise and the guy who’s name escapes me. I pack up and find the next stop through the dropped pin that I’ve been sent. It’s not far from here, up the road at the Royal Hotel, Dockray. I’m looking forward to a shorter drive and the chance to get a couple of hours sleep before everyone arrives.

I make the short drive to Dockray, go round a corner and I’ve gone through Dockray! I turn round and head back to the hotel. Dockray is literally one corner! There’s a house opposite the hotel that belongs to Dan Biggs who I will meet later, a farm come scrapyard and that’s it. Thankfully the hotel is large and set in a good few acres. The carpark is large and flat which is becoming a godsend as it means I can setup easily and sleep well. There are some old women putting up bunting in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and I wonder if there will be enough people around to come along. I hope there is as it looks to be the perfect setting for a party.

The van is in a bit of a mess, so I unload it and rearrange everything to make it easier to reach the things that are needed for Dougie with my stuff at the back of the van. With the van sorted I head inside the hotel and treat myself to fish and chips which at £18 isn’t cheap but is very nice and a much-needed meal after living off sandwiches and flapjacks. The fish is beautifully cooked with light, crispy batter, and homemade chips. Fish and chips eaten I head back to the van and get a couple of hours sleep before everyone arrives.

When I awake the hotel has filled up with families enjoying the sun in the grounds. I must look a strange sight coming out of the back of the van looking increasingly like a tramp, but this is how it is when you’re supporting a top runner on the road and living out of the back of a Transit van. As well as the families and support runners Carolyn and Lee Shimwell have turned up, Carolyn as a support runner and Lee as the No1 foot masseur in England. Soon Dougie arrives and Lee gets to work on his feet while the rest of us watch on entranced by Lee’s nimble fingers working on Dougie’s battered feet like a master craftsman creating a pot from clay on a wheel.

Lee finishes off Dougie’s feet and puts all the assorted bandages and plasters back on and Dougie is ready to go. The group set off from Dockray although Carolyn comes back to bark some instructions to Lee before being called back to the group and running off up the road. I pack all the stuff up into the van and head towards Troutbeck my next stop.

The stop at Troutbeck is on a road beside the A66 trunk route. It’s a pleasant, sunny day so I relax for a while before everyone arrives. The majestic Blencathra lies to the west, a huge mound of rock sprouting up from the earth with nothing around it to limit its regal presence. I look on in awe of Blencathra and how it is master of everything around it including me.

I get setup and wait for everyone to arrive. Martin Howard is first to arrive with his dog Oscar, then a guy called Steve in his campervan followed by Lee and Bob Howard. Everything is getting a little bit more frantic now. It’s Wednesday and there’s only a couple of days left of the round, but supplies are running low. Messages are going back and forth for water which Jonny Croston brings and Mountain Fuel which Dan Biggs brings and so we’re all stocked up for another day or so.

Everyone is looking over at Great Mell Fell to watch the runners coming in. Someone says they can see them and as usual I can’t see anyone until the last minute but it’s another leg done, and more Wainwrights ticked off the list. Amongst the runners are the legend Steve Birkenshaw who has run the Wainwrights Round and wrote about his experiences in ‘There’s No Map in Hell’, a great book and well worth reading. I am in awe that Steve is here, he looks so unassuming and down to earth and nothing like you would expect a legend of fell running to look. Carolyn brings me back down to earth by mentioning how scratched her legs are from running through bushes.

I have a chat with Steve, and he says how important road support is to rounds like the Wainwrights, Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley and Ramsey Round. Without road support nothing happens and that can be said of all the other support it takes to put on something like this. Everyone is important and has a part to play.

Lee finishes playing with Dougie’s feet again much to the amusement of everyone around who now are having a laugh at Lee’s expense about his ‘love’ for massaging Dougie’s feet. Lee is doing a great job of keeping Dougie going and this is his and Carolyn’s last stop before they head home, and they will be sorely missed for their support and banter.

Dougie’s feet patched up he sets off with Steve Birkenshaw, Martin, and Oscar. I put the next dropped pin in on my phone and set off towards Blencathra. A short drive down the A66 before I turn right and around the base of Blencathra and Souther Fell, spotting the ‘Beware Runners’ signs but not even twigging that tonight is Blencathra Fell Race and people are still talking about my driving skills… I head towards Mungrisdale on now familiar country roads before going on to Mosedale where I turn left and back onto a typical Lakes fell road, single track and full of potholes. It’s another long road that has to be taken with care and attention. The numerous laybys are filled with campervans, and I am slightly envious that they are here and relaxing while I have a job to do but I know that I am on a once in a lifetime adventure and wouldn’t swap it with them.

I got to the carpark at Mosedale which is basically a patch of grass. It’s literally the end of the road as after this it’s a trail for the Cumbria Way with a sign telling me Skiddaw House is 3 ½ miles away. A bloke in a black BMW sees me and decides to strut his stuff as if to let me know he is the dominant male while I think ‘what a dickhead’ and laugh at his attempts to impress his sons. The guy drives off and I look around and all of a sudden, I’m worried. I’m in the middle of nowhere and I’m hoping I’ve got the right spot as it’s a 5-mile drive just to get a phone signal! I keep looking on the road for someone else and see Bob in his white BMW coming up the road. I’m at the right spot and I breathe a deep sigh of relief!

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