Running around Clatworthy


This is the second time I’ve run around Clatworthy Reservoir. It’s almost exactly 5 miles from the car park, clockwise round the lake, to the end of the dam. It’s so inviting: a grassy track, the width of the Ranger’s truck, tracing the water’s edge and tributaries, rising and falling with the hills, and not another person in sight.

Last time there were fishermen standing in the shallows or out in rowing boats; this time I saw no one. Last time the water level was low; this time it was even lower. The reservoir is shaped like a horned lizard, with corners of water at the top making a face and horns, two spurs for legs down the east side, and a sweeping tail at the bottom. After a dry summer the level is so meagre that the horns, face and tail are all dry but for the streams cutting through the mud. The streams are bubbly though after recent rain so the water may be returning.

It also means that the paths are getting muddy, which will put a stop to running. I slipped a little today on the up slopes, and had to leap a couple of boggy patches. But compared to my previous run I’m now half-fit, and pushed myself harder, clocking 43 minutes compared to a laborious 50. Sub 40 minutes on this surface will be a good aim.

I memorised the mile markers before starting off, which helped. I don’t do running technology, because I don’t need it, don’t want look like a prick, and hate having things stuck to me while running. All you need is a proper pair of shoes. It’s a freedom that seems to me to be the spirit of running – free for everyone, to do anywhere.

Miles one and two passed steadily. The third mile looked the easiest, up the back of the lizard to its horns, which you can see ahead. It took ages. The fourth mile looked long, and includes a climb through the trees, but a second wind carried me through. The last mile is the long steep path up the hill of the old fort, which nearly finished me, and the severe descent was no reward either, trying to recover my breath while braking hard with aching calves and trying not to slip on the slaggy mud.

For the joy of seeing all the wildlife though, I’d do it again tomorrow. Two roe deer thundered away across the field next to me, while rabbits and pheasants scattered at almost every turn. The odd grey squirrel ran ahead down the path and all manner of bird calls rung out overhead. At the start, a big old buzzard wheeled over the diminished lake, while a patrol of seagulls marshalled a lone cormorant off the water.

Back in the car Radio 4 was discussing a global survey about rest, finding that being on their own and spending time in a natural environment are the two most restful activities for people (after reading). 16% of people said exercise is restful. A few boxes ticked there then. I’ll tell that to my aching muscles tomorrow.