Heptonstall Festival Fell Race – The Story


8 Heptonstall Hurriers lined up in a field of 113 for the second running of Heptonstall Festival Fell Race. The race was organised by local runners to support the village festival and other local causes. Over 30 residents helped marshal and organise the event; their kind and enthusiastic involvement generated widespread praise for the race, with many runners commenting on the excellent organisation, and warm spirited atmosphere of the village.

Heptonstall’s Holly Page provided a popular local success at the challenging Category fell A race, which went ahead in spite of late fears that race would have to be cancelled due to poor weather.

Recently returned Durham University, Calder Valley Fell Runner and Heptonstall Hurrier Holly was the first female home in a 100-plus field last Saturday. The recently graduated language student has won a series of races in recent weeks, and was 15th overall delighting of the crowd, with her impressive time of 59 minutes 29 seconds. As first Heptonstall resident Holly also won a meal for two kindly donated by the HANUMAN THAI RESTAURANT in Todmorden. A new course record was registered in the men’s race, won by Bingley Harriers’ Christopher Smale, in 52 minutes and nine seconds.

The fact that the race went ahead at all was testament to the hard work of the race organisers and the co-operation and generosity of local landowners Anthony Holt, Hazel Noble, Tony Ingram, and David Lumb .Heavy rain throughout June had meant that the fields used for the final stages of the race and the all important finishing tunnel had not been mown. Further torrential rain on Friday added to the problems.

Organiser Steve Grimley enlisted an antique agricultural grass cutter from local resident Mark Wigg to create a 1km track through the waist high grass on Friday evening, having agreed with landowners that the runners would keep to the track to protect the rest of the field.

Steve was full of praise for all those who helped, “The runners put out an appeal to the village when we realised the race was at threat: Mark Wigg, a local cabinet maker has a workshop full of antique tools and machinery and volunteered his services, together a vintage 1948 Allen Motor Scythe. Mark and a team of runners then spent the evening and early morning before the race working in the fields in a last minute bid to save the race. We are really grateful to Mark and the landowners for their fantastic support in allowing the event to go ahead”. Plans to safely park around 100 cars on nearby roads outside the village were also put in place with the usual field for parking out of use, Kevin Core and Hamish Heald organised a team of volunteers to direct traffic and control parking.

As novel feature to the event a Traction Engine was paid for by the fell race with all funds going the Cystic Fibrosis charity. “Ciffy”will be returning each year to start the race; the six-mile contest was started by a sharp blast from Ciffy’s whistle as representatives of keen local rivals Todmorden Harriers and Calder Valley Fell Runners were joined by runners from across the region and further afield to steam up Town Gate and Smithwell Lane on the the first leg of the route. The race helped Ciffy raise £200 for Cystic Fibrosis, as well a sizable surplus to help fund future races, festivals and community events.

The race itself was hotly contested in sweltering conditions, as the top runners set a sizzling pace up Smithwell Lane’s cobbles before heading across the fields behind the school, crossing Draper Lane, then descending 500 feet on a footpath to the Blue Pig. This steep and muddy trail can be a white knuckle descent at the best of times but the recent rain made it particularly challenging. After a brief respite at Midge Hole, runners were taken on the 1000 feet ascent past the Pecket Well War Memorial and on to High Brown Knoll.

Competitors were treated to an amazingly hot day, although the moorland remained resolutely waterlogged. After rough and boggy loop around the moor, runners turned tail and headed back to Heptonstall, retracing their steps past the Memorial and ultimately up the final energy sapping climb from the Blue Pig to Lee Bank.

The race took a dramatic turn in the last few hundred yards; Alex Whittem of CVFR had a clear lead for 5 and half miles, but then took a wrong turn on the re ascent from the Blue Pig, on the final half mile, too eventually finish 7th; Chris Smale of Bingley Harriers took advantage of this error to seize prize and was also the first over 40s runner while Peter Hughes (over 50s, 60:23), Jeff Hignett (over 60s, 61:44) and Bryan Pycroft (over 70s, 100:02) took the other male veterans prizes.The women’s veterans prizes went to Jackie Scarfe (over 40s, 71:12) and Aileen Baldwin (over 50s and over 60s, 71:47).

Calder Valley took the men’s team prize through Andy Thorpe (second), Alex Whittem (seventh) and Romain Pierrel (11th overall) and made it a double through Page, Jackie Scarfe (third) and Louise Marix-Evans (seventh).

The prize winners all received bottles of Copper Dragon beer and Smale and Page also received cut glass trophies at the prize giving outside the White Lion pub.

Organisers were delighted with the record turnout and the fantastic feedback from visiting runners which was almost entirely due to the amazing contribution made by so many volunteers.The ever increasing popularity of the race was boosted by the eye catching posters designed by Heptonstall based freelance graphic designer Graeme Brown, and web site (www.heptonstallfestivalrace.org.uk) built by local IT guy Peter Fitzpatrick.

Many others played significant roles; land owner permissions were negotiated by Tim Brooks, including the race finish field owned by Heptonstall Hurriers Mark Wharton; Mark was unable to run the race as he and Penny were in Turkey as 15 year old son Max was representing Great Britain at the European Mountain Running Championships. Fortunately Mark Holman was on hand to manage the finish area (and various horses, bees, ducks, and hens!).

The White Lion played a key role in the event, organising sponsorship from Copper Dragon Brewery whilst acting as race HQ for the day, where Heptonstall Hurriers Chris Sygle, Louise Marix Evans, Kate Wood, Nick L’Anson, Paul Cotton ran the complexities of registration and timing of the race; out on the hills Chris Cavey and Charlie Boyce organised a host of other volunteers to marshall the route including Dawn France, Jenny Holt, Edward Kloet, David Dunn, Trevor Smith, Sue Stirling, Bod and Mandy Doyle, Simon Bourne, Simon Chantler, Ross Coon, Andy and Mel Liles, Jayne and Harry Greenwood, Alex and Will Gilbert, Caz Merrick, Anthony, and Calder Valley Fell Runner Toby Cotterill, Garry Traviss, and James Mosely; The organiser’s parents John and Pat Grimley even made special trip from Cheshire to manage the road crossing at Pecket Well Mill. Soon to be resident Joe Daniels worked with Kate Mansell to help contact running clubs and prepare press releases to promote the race.

Race Organiser Steve Grimley paid tribute to all those involved “Without the generous support of so many friends, family members, neighbours, and businesses there is no way an event like this could be staged; it was fantastic to see everyone working together and getting to know one another in a way which impressed so many visitors to the village – I do hope everyone enjoyed themselves and will help us stage more great events in the future”.

LOCAL RESULTS – full results www.heptonstallfestivalrace.org.uk

Calder Valley positions: 2, Andy Thorpe 52:43; 7, Alex Whittem 54:51; 11, Romain Pierrel 57:32; 14, Roy Dobson 59:13; 15, Holly Page (also 1st Hurrier) 59:29; 16, James Williams 59:57; 21, Graham Hill 60:59; 28, Phil Scarf 64:07; 31, Ben Frechette 64:20; 40, Richard Sunderland 67:15; 41, Steve Grimley (also Hurrier) 67:45; 42, Tim Brooks (also Hurrier) 68:12; 49, Charlie Boyce (also Hurrier) 69:32; 51, Martin Whitehead 69:48; 57, Jackie Scarf 71:12; 60, Dave Culpan 71:52; 62, Paul Taylor 72:24; 63, Graham Lloyd 72:47; 67, Andy Thorpe 74:49; 71, Blair Garrett 74:58; 72, Louise Marix Evans(also Hurrier) 75:02; 75, Gillian Wisbey 76:22; 105, Toby Sydes 88:03.

Todmorden Harriers: 5, Andrew Wrench 54:03; 23, Dave Collins 61:20; 32, Joe Daniels (also Hurrier) 64:33; 34, Clive Greatorex 64:59; 56, Garry Ouested 71:09; 65, Kath Brierley 72:59; 85, Paul Cruthers (also Hurrier)78:37; 109, Reg Czudek 98:18.

Photos of the race can be seen by following links below…..


http://www.woodentops.org.uk/index.php?topic=home&subtopic=photos&gallery=1207heptdw&title=Heptonstall, 2012&photographer=Dave Woodhead

http://www.woodentops.org.uk/index.php?topic=home&subtopic=photos&gallery=1207heptew&title=Heptonstall, 2012&photographer=Eileen Woodhead


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