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Northern Fells Running Club take on Abraham's Tea Room Round

Image for article Northern Fells Running Club take on Abraham's Tea Room Round

Abrahams Tea Room Round Race Relay
Sunday 3rd June 2018
Northern Fells Running Club


In April 2018 Liz Berry, Natalie Hawkrigg and Clare Regan all from the Northern Fells Running Club were the first ladies together to complete the 30-mile Abraham’s Tea Room Round, which is a fell running challenge to run over of all the summits that can be seen from the Abraham’s Tea Room café window in George Fisher in Keswick.

'Nothing beats a good fell running relay event, so the club took on the challenge.'


In the previous year of 2017 Andrew Martindale also from the Northern Fells Running Club had been the first ever runner to complete the round. Runners have to start and finish at George Fisher. Following on from these achievements by the club, Rachel Kearns from George Fisher asked if we would consider doing a relay event to promote the round in conjunction with George Fisher and Patagonia. Nothing beats a good fell running relay event so the club took on the challenge.

Leg 1: Keswick - Catbells - Littletown. Liz Berry and Natalie Hawkrigg (63 mins)

Natalie: Neither of us are strangers to an early start on a Sunday morning. However, we were both woken by the sound of heavy rain on the roof at 5:00 am and understandably thought it was going to be a wet start. We were proven quite wrong as by the time we reached Keswick the skies were clearing and the morning fog was lifting atmospherically off the fells.

Natalie and Liz set off on the Abraham's Tea Room Round from George Fisher in Keswick

Natalie and Liz set out on the Abraham's Tea Room Round from George Fisher in Keswick. Photo: Richard Smith

We arrived at George Fisher early and two figures, Rachel and Richard, arrived on bikes clutching golden teapots which were to be used for the relay handover! I'd been supporting a Bob Graham runner the day before in atrocious conditions so my legs felt wooden and my chosen pair of Jimmy Choos (aka ;-) Inovs) were somewhat crispy after a night drying out on the Aga. Shortly thereafter the countdown began and we were off! All thought’s of wooden legs and crispy shoes forgotten. We ran through the empty streets of Keswick towards Portinscale through the woods and up to the start of Catbells. It was lovely to see Yvonne Booth From Keswick en route who gave us an encouraging cheer.

This part of the leg involves a steep climb of 1,480 feet, and we grunted our way up with hands on our knees to maintain our pace. Normally this is a very busy path with lots of tourists, but at 7.30 in the morning we had it all to ourselves. Derwent Water looked wonderful on the way up, Catbells so still and peaceful. Then it was an enjoyable fast descent off Catbells, on grass at first, down to Hause Gate, quickly changing to stony uneven loose old mine working paths (but still fast running) down to Littletown to hand over to Clare and David Regan, 13 minutes ahead of schedule...

Natalie leads the way up Catbells on the first leg of Abraham's Tearoom Round

Natalie leads the way up Catbells on the first leg of Abraham's Tearoom Round. Photo: Richard Smith.

Leg 2: Little Town - Robinson - Buttermere (Gastesgarth Farm). Clare and David Regan (79 mins)

Clare: We were happily chatting to Rachel and enjoying the pleasant morning air when Robin suddenly said “here they come” and Natalie and Liz were accelerating towards us down the hill at Little Town. We had a rapid hand on of the ‘golden teacup’ shouted “goodbyes” and "well dones" and ran off past Newlands Church and up the road to High Snab farm. This road section is exactly the sort of steep early climb which we could easily have been tempted to walk(!) in another scenario, but we were spurred on by Liz and Natalie’s speedy arrival so made a good effort and ran it well!

It was already so warm we were just in vests and shorts all the way for the ascent with lovely still and clear morning air. Once up and along High Snab Bank we were soon on top of Robinson. Visibility was great and there was a bit of pausing here and there to take some photos of the peaceful early morning and shots of us on the summit, then it was on to the steep descent down to the road at Hassness. The lower part of this is quite dramatic, with lovely views over Buttermere ahead and views off to the side into the ravines of Goat Gills. We saw Natalie and Robin cheering at the road junction which was a nice boost, and then it was a straightforward little road section to Gatesgarth to hand over to Steven and Richard for their next leg.

Clare and David Regan arrive for the handover of the 'golden teacup'.

Clare and David Regan arrive for the handover of the 'golden teacup'. Photo: Steve Razetti

Leg 3: Buttermere (Gatesgarth) – High Stile – Red Pike – Buttermere. Steven O’Keefe and Richard Clarke (94 mins)

Richard: Sadly, it was too early for the ice cream trailer opposite the hand-over point to be open, otherwise...! We set off in good spirits and it wasn’t immediately as steep as we thought it might be, heading off under Low Crag. A bit of a slog after that, but veering off to the right to avoid Burtness Comb, it was easy to follow a line up the ridge to High Stile. Fantastic views between there and Red Pike (maybe a bit too much gazing and not enough sprinting?)

Thanks must go to Steve for leading the way and keeping going (on my own I’d have stopped more often) and to Jenny for the lift down to the handover. The conversation covered a wide range of topics: geology, politics, football, radioactive waste, football, Scottish trips - anyone listening might have thought they had Radio 4 on!

Then came the descent down the scree at the top of Red Pike then picking up a rock-stepped path down to the woods. The scree was descended ok, but not nice or quick running on the stony footpath - too small for confident strides, but we were glad it was dry, especially with the greasy stone path of the wood section down to the Lake; in the wet, this bit would probably be quite treacherous.

Saying all that, we were passed by a woman (apparently known to Natalie and Rose), who zoomed down SO gracefully, as if carving wide turns on a snowboard. We shared our admiration of her skills for a good few minutes after that as we tripped down and joked that maybe we’d catch her on the flat bit by the lake, as she might be rubbish on the flat, but quickly dismissed that idea as wishful thinking (it was). Natalie and Rose must sign her up for the club. We sprinted back to the Fish Hotel for the handover to Alistair and Rose where we met Jenny and also Rachel and Richard from George Fisher who had the 'golden teacup'.

Richard and Steve completing their leg of Abraham's Tea Room Round

Richard and Steve complete their leg of Abraham's Tea Room Round. Photo: Richard Smith

Leg 4: Buttermere (Fish Inn) - Hopegill Head - Hobcarton Crag, Grizedale Pike - Eel Crag – Sail - Causey Pike - Rowling End - Stoneygyll Beck. Rose Singleton and Alistair Robert McCaig (164 mins)

Rose: This leg of the route takes the runner on a grand tour of the highest ground in the North-Western fells, exploring the peaks and ridges behind Grasmoor. After a tough pull up Whiteless Pike, we were already sweltering in the heat and were relieved to make it up to the plateau that led us over to Coledale Hause. From here it’s a quick trot over Sand Hill to Hopegill Head, Hobcarton Crag and Grisedale Pike. We were briefly amused by some French tourists trying to take photos of themselves mid-jump on the summit before following the Coledale Horseshoe race route back to Coledale Hause for the scramble up Eel Crag. 

 

'We were both very hot and tired by this point and were silently cursing whoever had decided that this little lump deserved to be included!'

 

By the time we reached the summit of Crag Hill we’d been going for about 2hrs and stopped briefly to contact the team to update them on our progress. There was a lovely breeze as we descended Crag Hill and followed the ridge over Sail, Scar Crags and along to Causey Pike. At Causey, the end is in sight, but after the steep scramble down, we had to pass the descent to the gill and keep going to Rowling End. We were both very hot and tired by this point and were silently cursing whoever had decided that this little lump deserved to be included!

Finally, after Rowling End we had some choices to make about our descent. It was a huge lift to spot the leg 5 team down in the valley (special thanks to the person wearing the fluorescent yellow t-shirt!) and it gave us something to aim for. We decided to head back to the path at Sleat Hause which we followed down to an obvious shoulder. From there we headed direct to the end, picking up a few scratches in the heather and briefly dunking ourselves in the gill before heading up for the ceremonial handover of the golden teacup.

In total the leg was about 16.5km with just over 1400m of ascent, taking 2hrs 45mins and it was an absolute privilege to be part of such a great team achievement.

Rose and Alistair arrive at the handover to pass over the 'golden teacup'

Rose and Alistair arrive at the handover to pass the golden teacup for its final leg. Photos: Richard Smith

Leg 5: The glory leg! Stoneygyll beck – Barrow – Keswick. Jenny Russell and Claire Guest (59 mins)

Jenny: So having done a bit of road support it was finally our turn for a run. We were joined by Tim Slack who had driven all the way from Sheffield to join us. For Tim was one of the originators of this Abrahams Tea Round Relay challenge and had come to join us the first ‘Tea Round’ Relay.

The first challenge was to decide where to do the hand over with the leg 4 runners. We opted for the line directly below the col between Causey and Rowling End as it looked like the best running would be directly down the fall line. The other option is to head further uphill to where the small path heads up Barrow – which would be preferable if doing the whole round as this gives away less height, but the trade-off is a slower traversing decent on rough ground.

'The descent of Barrow is a fell runners dream'


A brief congratulations to Rose and Al for leg 4 and then Claire is bounding up the track and on a mission. After a short while, she headed directly uphill (there is a path if you head further up the main track) and onto Barrow. The descent of Barrow is a fell runners dream – a fairly consistent grassy slope with only a few rocky bits. The only section that we didn’t know was the final 500m off from Barrow to the road. We knew that we had to go right, so I confidently lead everyone on the wrong right taking the first track rather than the second - giving us an extra bit of road running - damn!

The glory lap! Claire and Jenny head through the streets of Keswick and back to George Fisher

The glory lap! Claire and Jenny head through the streets of Keswick and back to George Fisher

As fell runners we don’t particularly like roads and this road teases you with a couple of footpaths, we knew of a footpath cutting quickly across to Portinscale, followed by a long hot flat track to Keswick. Then it was a quick weave through the Keswick crowds up the main high street and to the doors of George Fisher to the cheers of our club mates and supporters making it sound like we were the heroes. But it's the club that are the heroes, supporting and encouraging each other for a grand day out in a beautiful part of the Lakes. Many thanks to George Fisher, especially Rachel and Richard for all their encouragement and support.


Summary of the Leg Timings and splits:

Leg 1: Keswick - Catbells - Littletown. Liz Berry and Natalie Hawkrigg (63 mins)

Leg 2: Littletown - Robinson – Buttermere. Clare Regan, David Regan (79 mins)

Leg 3: Buttermere (Gastegarth) - High Stile - Red Pike - Buttermere. Steven O'Keeffe, Richard Clarke (94 mins)

Leg 4: Buttermere (Fish Inn) - Hopegill Head - Hobcarton Crag, Grizedale Pike - Eel Crag – Sail - Causey Pike - Rowling End - Stoneygyll Beck. Rose Singleton and Alistair Robert McCaig (164 mins)

Leg 5: Stoneygyll beck – Barrow – Keswick. Jenny Russell, Claire Guest (59 mins)

Total Time 7 hours and 39 Minutes

The Northern Fells Running Club complete Abraham's Tea Room Round

Northern Fells Running Club post-Abraham's Tea Room Round. Photo: Richard Smith

15 June 2018 by George Fisher

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