I’ve mentioned previously the sight of canicross runners at the Brutal events, and Heidi my spaniel has shown a potential to become one on the times we have gone out running together, so when one of my clients was instrumental in setting up a local informal canicross running group, I thought now was the time to go for Heidi and me to jump in the deep end.
The previous Thursday I had been out with Heidi on a run along the canal with my client and her English Setter by means of acclimatising Heidi to see if she could cope running with another dog, and she easily survived, so I arranged to tag along to Hawley Woods and dive in at the deep end…
We all met up first thing on the bank holiday Monday, a mixed group of runners of varying abilities and an equally disparate group of hounds and in the pouring rain we were all soaked in a matter of minutes, so off we all went and climbed and descended the wood and scrub land, before heading up the hill in the direction of the Blackbushe flats, where we were aurally assaulted by the 10am test of the Broadmoor siren, the warning system for those nearby of an escape by one of the patients from the secure hospital of Broadmoor. The sound carried across from nearby Crowthorne; reverberating off the underside of the low clouds, the air was still, becalmed of wind to give an almost eerie sensation that the siren was next to you, coming at you from all directions with the only other sound the rain pouring down.
From here we headed towards Minley and toured around some good single-track in the land behind Minley Manor. This building was until recently the officer’s mess for the training garrison of Gibraltar Barracks nestled on the edge of Hawley Woods. Built in a French style in the Victorian era, the house has been used as a film and TV location - most notably of late in the film ‘Stardust’.
|Taking a breather under some trees in Minley|
Back at the van after the soaking of this run, Heidi was not deterred despite her pitiful looking up at me with wide eyes, flattened ears and the occasional shiver for effect - which were all soon cured with a handful of dog treats, and a few days later with some better weather we ventured out to Caesar’s Camp for another, and this time dry, evening run with some other members. Heading out from the car park towards the ‘Grim' course I had previously run, this route included a good few stops for the hounds to go paddle and cool off in ponds when we passed them.
Managing to squeeze in one final canicross run this week before the forthcoming exertions of the Classic Quarter, the venue was once more Caesar’s Camp, but this time a different side which took us up and around the reservoir, incorporating a good few hills and single-track… A short way in to the run we came to the first reservoir and crashed through the woods and the shrubs to the water side to be confronted by a rather amorous couple in a very passionate clinch, only to have their moment of intimacy ruined by a bunch of runners and their hounds that proceeded to jump in to the water and have a good swim and splash in front of them, well and truly ruining their moment! although from looking at the couple it was probably just as well that we arrived when we did as if we had been 5 minutes later, then it could have been a whole world of awkwardness for everyone!
|Climbing up to the high-point.|
|Heidi being camera-shy as always!|
Over the course of the run, you really gained a great impression of how important this area of land is for people's recreation. Aside from solo joggers, cyclists and dog walkers, we encountered the local triathlon club doing circuits of the reservoir and fartlek work, a couple of large organised groups of MTBers and smaller bands of friends on their evening ride together. When you add us in to the mix and the Army Orienteering club, then you could say that the area was heaving… Although it is that large that any contact with other users was minimal to say the least.
The group with whom I have been out, Hart and Rushmoor Canicrossers, are a friendly bunch meeting informally a few times a week with runs of different lengths at different paces to cater for all abilities of dog and owner from the most fleet of foot to ponderous of plodder - I’ll leave it to you to decide whether I am describing humans or hounds there!
If you are in or near the Hart or Rushmoor area of Hampshire and want to go out on a social run with your dog over some lovely countryside terrain, then get in touch with them, they'll make you and your dog feel most welcome.