Event planner Graham Gristwood shares some thoughts and information about Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2018.
It has been a pleasure to explore the area of the Forest of Bowland around Slaidburn, and I hope you all enjoy the event as much as I have planning it!
The terrain is hugely varied - both in technical difficulty and runnability. The numerous valleys and farm boundaries provide a lot of route choice, and the terrain and enclosures provide a great technical challenge. The hills may be lower than in other parts of the country, but the challenge won't be any easier I can guarantee!
Here are some notes which I highly recommend that you read, both to increase your enjoyment of the event, but also to make you aware of some very important information.
Farmland, Livestock and Residents
The majority of the terrain is farmed by tenant farmers, and there are a number of fences separating these farms (as well as some other enclosures inside the farms). There will be some livestock in the terrain (primarily sheep), and you may also see some grouse and pheasants which are hunted in the area.
There are a small number of residents in the area, mostly around the farms in the valleys. You will also pass a number of houses close to the start and finish. Please respect the residents, and refrain from disturbing them during the night with torches or loud noises as much as possible. They will mostly be aware of the event.
Out of Bounds areas and Uncrossable Boundaries
It is a condition of use of the area that participants must not enter areas marked on the map as Out of Bounds, and must not cross boundaries (walls and fences) which are marked on the map as uncrossable (see the map samples and legend below for symbols and examples). Crossing points are marked on the map, and these are the only points at which these boundaries may be crossed.
Participants breaking this rule will jeopardise future use of not only the Forest of Bowland, but also other areas of the country that may be owned by the same land-owners. There will be severe penalties for anybody found to be doing so.
Out of Bounds areas with distinct boundaries (such as a fence or wall) are surrounded by the uncrossable boundary symbol. If there is no boundary marked on the map, then there may not be a visible boundary on the ground.
Crossing points come in a variety of formats - some are normal gates, some are swing gates, some are simply hurdles which will need to be climbed over (see pictures below). There are a couple of stiles, and there will be one crossing point constructed especially for the event.
Please ensure all crossing points are closed behind you - even if somebody else has left them open. We don't want livestock to get into the wrong farm!
Report any damage to the Event Team as soon as possible.
Some of the less obvious crossing points will be marked with reflective tape, which will hopefully help you find them during the night.
Dangerous Cliffs and Quarries
There are a number of large cliffs on the map, and so great care should be taken in proximity to those. There is one quarry which is a particular hazard (see map sample and picture below). This has a very large drop with a very deceptive convex approach, and has been marked on the map with the purple Out of Bounds symbol. Note there is no boundary around the quarry.
Boggy and Marshy Areas
Note that the areas marked using the marsh symbol (see map sample, legend and pictures below) can be extremely boggy, and potentially even dangerous. This is especially true when there are small ponds marked inside the marsh area. I recommend teams avoid this marshy ground wherever possible, and take great care when crossing it.
You may also encounter grips, which are draining channels dug into the peat hags. These vary a lot, but can be fairly narrow, but long and deep - and hard to spot!
There are not many of them, and during the event preparation there were no problems encountered - but be aware.
In one area of the map are some leats (narrow, 4 foot deep, steep-sided concrete water channels) that follow the level contour of the ground. These are jumpable, but may not be obvious in the dark, or under snow! (See map sample showing the blue symbolised leat just above the 225 contour, and the picture below).
There are a number of valley plantations which are surrounded by fences. In general these are Out of Bounds, but there are a few distinct crossing places (see map sample below). Generally these should be very easy to find on the ground, but please take great care to cross the boundaries in the correct place, and not stray into the Out of Bounds areas.
Flora and Fauna
The Forest of Bowland is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and we have been lucky to receive a lot of support from the AONB and Natural England in preparation for this event. Please take the time to read the 2018 Ecological Briefing Notes, and have a look at the following pages to find out a little bit more about the area:
Shooting Butts and Other Equipment
There are a large number of shooting butts in the area which have not been marked on the map. Often they are in lines of up to 10 butts, and they can either be made out of wood or stone. There are often quad bike tracks leading to them, which in general are not mapped either. You may encounter other shooting, hunting or trapping equipment in the terrain, but nothing should be dangerous to participants.
Centre of Britain
Using one means of calculation, the exact centre of Great Britain can be found in the event area, and some courses will pass very close to it.
Unfortunately there is nothing marking the exact spot, and it is all rather vague and tussocky in that area.
More information here:
- Ordnance Survey's "Where is the centre of Great Britain?" blog
- "Centre points of Great Britain" on Wikipedia
We recommend you make every effort to keep your feet dry as much as possible, especially in the first part of the event. Wet feet will really reduce your enjoyment of the event. To this end it is worth considering wearing waterproof socks, and think about taking route choices where you won't have to wade through rivers and streams.
Manned Support Points
There will be 2 of these, both are at strategically located checkpoints: All linear courses will visit both (very approximately 1/3 and 2/3 of the course distance), and the Score classes are planned such that it is highly desirable to visit at least one, and possibly both of these. They can be identified easily on the map (See Course Information below). If you have problems during the night, then you can get help at these points if you are closer to them than to the Finish.
Public Right of Way Information
See you in Slaidburn!