A spectator’s guide to some winter fell races

I accompany my fell running/orienteering husband to his events when I think that he’s off to an interesting venue and there will be something for me to do. The something to do usually means a solo restorative walk after the demands of the working week while listening to my iPOD. I thought I would start to record what the events are like from a non-participants point of view and provide a guidance rating, all purely subjective of course. Often after the early morning start and the journey I need a trip to the loo and a cup of tea to feel human again then I go for a walk or do whatever I’m going to do so my rating includes the toilet facilities,tea availability and walks.  Here’s how it works


FFF Meets the public health doc’s high standards

FF Portaloos. Adequate. Don’t linger (not that you would want to)

F Behind a tree

0 Cross your legs. There are no trees (can be an issue on the North York Moors, broom just doesn’t offer the same cover)

Note: Toilet tents: avoid.

Orienteering events: if using tree cover be very, very quick. Do not underestimate the ability of orienteers to crash into your private space without warning.

Tea rating

TTT tea and home made cakes at the race start/ finish

TT tea shop nearby

T a van

0 Bring your own

Other things to do apart from fell race/orienteer

This is usually walking so given a W rating

WWW pleasant walk that can be done in about the same time your runner finishes their race. An added bonus would be a view of the race where you can give your runner a little encouragement.

WW Limited walking, on road, too long or too short compared with run time

W Walking involves bogs, slippery mud paths over which 10s if not 100s of fell runners have just passed, large 4 legged animals especially llamas but “bull in field” signs have the same effect, getting lost finding the start of the walk, getting lost on the walk, stiles over electric fences, keep out signs, private signs, rain, snow, gnashers storming past you on steep and not so steep hills.

Other things to do can also include countryside shows, sheepdog trials, shopping, visiting gardens or historic houses

0 stuck in the car park: bring the paper/a book/iPad/iPod

Kit check for the spectator

Minimum requirement: I have a small OMM rucksack containing hat, scarf, gloves and walking socks packed and ready to go so no scrabbling about for essentials on those early morning starts. I take a SIGG water bottle and in the summer sun cream and midge repellent (I’m currently using Avon Skin So Soft). Then add a local map and walking book, mobile phone and money. Collect your boots and a waterproof jacket on the way out of the door and you’re ready for a day’s adventure.

Some recent races

Hexhamshire Hobble FFF TTT WWW

This takes place in early December. The start is at the school in Allendale. It can be cold and even snowy so you need a few layers of clothing.

There are toilets at the school and I did not have to queue for the ladies,unusually the gents was busier. There are also toilets in the village.

I went for a short 2 mile walk based on a downloadable Walk around Allendale called “Brides Hill”. This brings you past the old sawmill which is now converted into businesses including the Allendale bakery cafe. This is an excellent stopping off point and I had tea and a cheese scone, plus used the loo there. The return bit of the walk is a very pleasant stroll along the river East Allen. I was back before my runner finished. There were tea and cakes at the race finish at the school, free to runners, £1 for a hot drink and a home made cake to others.

There are other longer walks around Allendale if you prefer more of a challenge.

This is a good race for spectators with good facilities, refreshments and a choice of walks.

Nine Standards Rigg, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria FF 0 WWW

New Year’s Day race

You would be right in thinking that there is not much open in Kirkby Stephen on NYD. However, the race HQ is at a local social club so toilets are available there. I believe the public toilets near the race start were also open.

I would suggest bringing a packed lunch to this and a flask with a hot drink. Although hot drinks and soup are available at the finish, with over 150 runners there is quite a demand and race HQ gets very busy once the race is over.

There is a choice of walks around KS. The one I did is based on a leaflet I had picked up on a previous visit called “Footpaths around KS” and is called the Viaducts Walk. I walked to the village of Hartley ( along the first bit of the race route) and then turned away from the race route to walk over the disused railway viaducts. There are quite a few information boards and maps as you walk which adds interest. I returned to KS by road rather than the suggested field route as with so much rain recently and based on previous experience I thought the fields would be waterlogged. The walk was about 3 miles and I got back to KS just before my runner finished.

A good day out for spectators but take your own lunch.

 Clay bank East, North York Moors  F 0 0

6 January 2013

Priorities first. There are no facilities at all at the car park on Clay Bank. I waited until the race started and then used the woodland just to the south of the car park. At this time of year there wasn’t much tree cover. Although I was quite discreet it certainly wasn’t secluded in any way.

There is no food available so take your own plus a hot drink. You’ll probably want to titrate how much you drink against the lack of toilets.

I’ve been twice to a Clay Bank race and although I’m sure there are walks from here I haven’t found one yet to fit into the timescale of a relatively short race. However, there are superb views from the car park if you just want to sit and read the paper for a bit.

This spot has limited possibilities and if coming as a spectator it is probably best to do it as part of a bigger plan for a day out on the NYM. Alternatively we visited RDPB Saltholme after the race and saw a short eared owl hunting.

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