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Photo courtesy of Richard Sirett

Ridley Round


When I got our new Essex Trail Events gazebo out the shed it started to spit with rain, but luckily for us that was it for the day and we were treated to ideal conditions for running, walking and drinking.

All was calm when Howard and I met at the Compasses at nine. We put up the gazebo without anyone losing a finger and I returned home to pick up Helen and Theresa. When we came back 30 minutes later there were people everywhere.

An amazing number of people had turned up. Had they been attracted by our gazebo that proudly proclaimed “sextrailevents” or were they here for the round? I quickly moved the “already entered” sign to save confusion. There were two queues, one very short (those that had pre-registered) and one very long (those that hadn’t), a lesson to be learnt there perhaps. Despite the queues everyone seemed in good spirits and that’s before the drinking.


After being of minimal help I decided to “run” the race myself. A nice generally downhill start brought me to the Green Man where they had a pint called Runner (had to be done). From here through lovely Langleys to the Walnut Tree, the pub that time forgot. I love the place but it is not everybody’s cup of tea, although you are guaranteed a perfect pint every time as long as you’ve brought cash. (I think they have electricity).

Then it was along the bridleways to the Leather Bottle at Pleshey where I enjoyed a nice drop of Bo66y’s (World Cup reference). It was getting rather warm as I trudged up the slope out of the village, but I kept on shuffling with the knowledge there would be another pint in a few miles.

The Butcher’s Arms has had a chequered history over the years but they seem to have got it right now. Just wish they hadn’t painted all the old timber beams and walls white. Friendly service, a nice pint and a beer garden with a view was being enjoyed by quite a few Ridley Rounders, especially the gin guzzling Essex Boot Camp ladies.

All that remained was to follow the Chelmer valley back to the old brewery, then up the hill back to the welcoming Compasses with Joss and his team. Howard was still smiling as he downed his umpteenth pint. (The results will be up one day).

Well what have we learnt? We need to sort out registration and parking. Those new to trail running have found out what a friendly bunch we are. Please spread the news. You can raise a decent amount for charity (over £1000) without charging a fortune.


But the main lesson for me was that just by blocking out two letters on our gazebo we could start a whole new hobby. Watch this space!

The Runway Trail or should that be the Lunway Trail


It is an easy mistake to make when you are running in a trail race turning right instead of left, but when the instructions tell you to go right when they actually mean left it can create chaos.

I came across a reasonably large group of people standing in a rape field scratching their heads. “Here’s Kevin, he’ll know where to go”. I followed the instructions and reached the track as expected, but ‘turn sharp right on track’ brought me to a standstill. There was a sharp right, but not on a track, so I went right along the track and on reaching a bridge that was not mentioned, decided to return to the point of confusion. There was only one option, there was a sharp left turn on track so we followed this and 30 metres later the instructions all fell into place and off we all went back on course.

Nobody died and to be fair nobody was too bothered (that is the way with trail runners) and when someone eventually did reach the finish and reported the error the organisers despatched someone to marshal the track.

Again to be fair the instructions to that point had been a bit vague in places but were fine to get you round the course. Maybe this is why everyone was loath to give left a go after right was so obviously wrong. 

I’ve been writing narrative route descriptions for 30 years and it is a skill, but Howard had to correct a line in my Chignal trail instructions when he checked them last week (we always check our courses the week before an event).

Trail instructions vary from person to person and might confuse some people some of the time, but it is very rare that they contain an actual mistake. If this was your first trail race and this affected you, you have been very unlucky.

Anyway it was a cracking course from a nice pub. Hopefully see some of you there again on June 27 for the Twiddly Dee Twiddly Dum. We will be triple checking our instructions.

That Hot and Tingly Feeling


The Chignal Fete trail attracted a small but perfectly formed field of runners on a sometimes warm, sometimes downright hot day. It was great to see that other than enjoying the race most competitors also entered into the spirit of the fete and could be found enjoying themselves at the coconut shy and tombola, although the most popular spot was the tearoom in the village hall.

Chris Beazeley easily won the men’s event ahead of Tim Brockington, but they were split by the lady winner Nikki Brockbank who has missed recent trails through illness. Sarah Colbert was again second lady. All these runners are Springfield Striders, but there were representatives from Mid Essex Casuals, Tiptree, Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners, Thrift Green Trotters and Little Baddow Ridge Runners.

We had attempted to clear the course as much as possible, but hardly anyone survived unstung by the nettles which make these paths less trodden. We may have seemed quite laid back, well we were as there we no long queues or hassles. But if you had seen us at 11 o’clock trying to put up the gazebo you would have seen a different picture.

A thoroughly enjoyable day for us and we hope for you, especially those that won cakes in the raffle.

race Reports

Whirligig No.1


We have run from the Western Arms on numerous occasions and the paths are well known to many of us, however it never gets boring running around the Essex countryside in glorious sunny weather.

Well known the paths may  be, but it didn’t stop a few navigational errors taking place. The first mistake of the evening was Dave setting up his laptop in the bright sunlight meaning he couldn’t see the screen. After retreating to the bar he got underway registering the traditional queue that now snaked around the pub.

Some heavy rain in recent days meant that there was the odd patch of mud, but in general the underfoot conditions were firm and dry. There were two courses with the six miler being the most popular attracting 63 runners. 18 tackled the 3.4 miler.

Allen Smalls (Colchester) was a convincing winner beating runner up Heydon Mizon (Witham) by almost 7 minutes. As per the Galleywood Gallop it was Lynn Higgs (Mid Essex) edging out Sarah Colbert (Springfield) in the ladies event.

In the short race it was a rare victory for Anthony Knight who accompanied Anne Marie to a Tiptree double.

The Western Arms was very welcoming and we will be returning over the summer for Whirligig 2 & 3.

Galloping Success


Well that was busy. Thanks very much for the support.

130 people tackled a very fast course on a pleasant, though somewhat chilly, evening and all returned to enjoy the delights of the Horse and Groom. 

When I planned and ran the course about a month ago the ground was saturated and in parts a full on swamp. What a difference on the night with rock hard and rutted ground. When I named the race the Galleywood Gallop it referred to the old racecourse, but it seems it was very aptly named considering the speed that some of you hurtled into the finish. Please let us know if you think your time is wrong as we had a lot of breathless runners arriving in batches.

We attracted runners from as far south as Castle Point and Southend and as far north as Sudbury as well as from the regular trail supporters of Springfield, Tiptree, Mid Essex and Little Baddow, but we were most pleased with the large number of new faces both from clubs and unattached. Hopefully we have attracted some new runners to this vibrant and inexpensive branch of the sport.

Our two winners have been supporting and winning trail races for many years. Despite his efforts in the Halstead Marathon at the weekend Allen Smalls (Colchester Harriers) sprinted round the course in an amazing time of 34.24. He finished over 90 seconds ahead of Dan Reynolds and James Bosher (both Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners).

The ladies race was closer with Lyn Higgs (Mid Essex Casuals) claiming the bottle of Malbec in 43.59 ahead of Sarah Colbert (Springfield Striders) in 44.35.

Next up is Dave Game’s Western Whirligig (MEC) and that is followed by Chignal Fete (ETE) see local events calendar for more details. 

Tiptree Twister


Despite some popular local road races taking place Tiptree still attracted 93 runners and walkers to their Peter Bouldstridge Memorial Trails on Sunday.

On arrival at the Heybridge Industrial Estate you could be forgiven for thinking that this would not be a very scenic course. However, after a surprisingly grassy (and nettly) footpath to the sea wall and a short trip through a new housing estate, we were on the canal towpath. A couple of turns later we were in open countryside, then back to the river and the joining of the Blackwater and the Chelmer.

This was followed by a quick loop around to Beeleigh Abbey, back along the river to Fullbridge, over the river back towards Langford then tracks to the north before the return to the finish. Despite heavy rain on the Saturday it was still mainly firm underfoot. All in all a very interesting course. Peter would have loved it.

Simon Ferguson (MEC) was the clear winner of the 9.6 mile run with Melissa Dowell (CHAC) and Lynn Higgs (MEC) the first ladies. The 5.5 miler was won by Tim Brockington (SS) with Sue Clarke (MEC) the first lady. Mia Lawes and Ann-Marie Bearne took the honours for the host club in the 3 mile event.

All the entry fees will be donated to Farleigh Hospice and Cancer Research UK.

Hot to Trot


This weekend highlighted that trail running can be a very different experience. On Sunday at Gosfield School, after a technical start through Broaks Wood the 12 mile race evolved into a fast, flattish run with long stretches on tracks and lanes. Monday’s 9 mile race from Cattawade was a much more technical affair with hills a plenty and lots of woodland paths.

However, both races had to contend with extreme heat, which was eased by well placed drink stations. Both ran through lovely countryside. Both started and finished at excellent venues. Both were well organised by Essex and Suffolk trail running enthusiasts. Both attracted fields of about 75 runners which was impressive considering the welter of other attractions at the weekend.

Thanks very much to Phil and Lucy Davies at Gosfield and Clare Phillips and John Hood at Cattawade for all the time and effort put into these two events.

I have just promoted my road shoes to summer trail duties and in the first mile at Gosfield I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right decision. Broaks had been a mudbath a few weeks ago at the Halstead cross country and although a lot drier had had a midweek soaking which taught me that my footwear had no grip whatsoever. After leaving the wood and crossing the busy road the paths were even more slippery until I reached the concrete track.

FSD is the abbreviation that strikes the most dread into me on a trail race. For some distance, how I hate those words, although I did once write a route description in which one paragraph ended with F, the next one consisted solely of S, and the third began with D. I could see a runner probably five minutes ahead of me. I obviously never saw him again. Things twisted about for a bit until the golf course (where fellow trail runner Richard Taylor had his wedding reception last year) and then it was off along the quiet lanes in a big loop back to the golf course where somewhat confusingly the short course runners ran with us for a while.

So despite their inadequacies over the first mile, my “new” trail shoes really came into their own with very little mud to negotiate.

On to Cattawade where I foolishly decided to do the 9 miler. I struggle to run two days on the trot these days and 12 miles is a long run for me so I knew I was pushing it. I knew it even more on the climb of Sandy Lane where my knee was already playing up. Thankfully the course was twiddly enough for me to concentrate on the route rather than my knee. That is until Andy Mason came storming along and overtook me. There is nothing more soul destroying than a man with a cheery smile walking past you as you are “running”. I shuffled to the finish, congratulated Clare on finding some decent hills and enjoyed a couple of pints of excellent beer.

Another great trail running weekend.

Presentation Trail, Heybridge


83 runners took on three very wet and muddy courses around the Heybridge Basin area from the very accommodating Old Ship inn. Perhaps surprisingly there were more women than men competing and the longest course attracted the most runners.

The overnight rain stopped for the start of most people’s runs, but started up again well before most had finished.

Dave Game always like to have a theme each year for his events and this year is 10 miles or 10K.

In the 10 miler Phil Davies (MEC) continued his form of last weekend with a three minute win over Chris Hargraves (LBRR) with Julian Catmull (SS) recovering from a shocking “Eggstravaganza” weekend to claim third spot. Local resident Tracy Apps (UA) came 5th and was first lady by a comfortable distance from Melissa Dowell (CHAC) and Tracy Harrington (Tip).

In the 10K Gary Wright (SS) was a clear winner. Second place and first lady was Sue Aves (SS) who just pipped Keith Jackson (MEC), Andy Carter and Wendy Carter (both Hal). Maxine Stevens (SS) and Becky Crook (UA) shared third spot in the ladies race.

Richard Sirett (SS) and Mia & Anne Marie (both Tip) took the honours in the 3.7 mile short event.

There was the usual discussion afterwards and several people admitted to having gone wrong, but everyone agreed that it had been another great morning in the Essex countryside, even though we are now all running out of clean gear to run in. Let’s hope the rains ease up for the next scheduled race at Gosfield on May 6th, where the mini eggs will no doubt make another appearance.

Easter Eggstravaganza


Another Easter has come and gone with four great days of racing. Four central Essex clubs put on a race each over, what this year was, some wet and muddy countryside. 

Dave Game of Mid Essex Casuals masterminded Day One from Fordstreet and Andy Ritchings plotted the course for Day Two at Little Baddow. Easter Sunday was Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners turn at Felsted hosted by Howard Jardine and the final day was from Great Waltham organised by Kevin Wright of Springfield Striders.

At the Old Queens Head on Friday a healthy 158 of us turned up. Dave devised three courses of 12, 6.2 and 4 miles. Charlie Harpur of the host club ran his only race of the weekend and won the long race by an impressive 5 minutes. Nikki Brockbank (Springfield) won the ladies race by a stunning 15 minutes!

In the 6.2 miler Tom Porter and John Greeney, both of Halstead, held hands to win for the men and Shannon Mason of Springfield won the ladies race. The winners of the short race were Richard Sirett and for the ladies another joined group of Halstead runners Val Kerrison, Lorraine Garnham and Wendy Carter took first spot.

On to Little Baddow where I drove through flood water to get there. On arrival I was told there was a mile along the riverbank in the 11 miler so decided to do the 5 instead. Andy acted immediately, went down to the river, and created a diversion, which meant a bit too much road, but at least no one drowned. Well done Andy.

Jimmy Smith (Halstead), James Bosher (Grange Farm) and Mark Newton (Springfield) took the honours although they did finish from the wrong direction. Nikki Brockbank was again unchallenged.

In the 5 miler James Crisp of Witham headed the field with Sarah Colbert (Springfield) the top lady. Despite the early start 123 participated in the mud.

Sunday was surprise, surprise a dry day, but Howard sent us through a thigh deep ford to make up for it. The same three from Day 2 again ran together to win on a fast course. Guess who convincingly won the ladies event. Richard Sirett and Charlotte May (Halstead) won the 4.5 miler. A very good turnout of 130 for Easter Day.

Heavy overnight rain stopped for the actual race on Monday, but the course was a true mudbath. 181 entries set off from the Rose & Crown and all returned. James Bosher running on his own took the prize and clinched the overall. Nikki finished 4th overall in the race to confirm her overall victory with a fine weekend’s running.

In all, 318 different competitors took part from 27 clubs with great turnouts not only from the host teams but also from Tiptree and Halstead. All the clubs have made a profit even after contributing to the £500 prize fund.

See you at Heybridge Basin on Sunday.