Barriers of old

As I have run down the UK, there are walls everywhere this brought back memories of running along the Great wall of China where I was totally absorbed in the magnitude of this feat of mankind, how and why was this wall build. Slowly as the facts unfolded, so too was the total awe of this feat and shear accomplishment, the biggest construction site in the history of mankind. I look across the landscape that I am now running, there is hardly and area that does not have some kind of wall, hedge or barrier that is man made.

Between all of this there are private estates which belonged to the nobility with even higher walls and finally the castles with is massive bastions of protection to ward off the forces that would challenge the sovereignty of the land, a landscape of carefully crafted obstacles looking like simple manicured pastures and encampments for the livestock. Running the countryside, don’t dare to try and take a short cut across an innocent valley and rolling pasture as you will be confronted by wall after wall, thorn hedges, Mooreland, marshes and finally the massive castle walls.

A running day is not complete with some kind of shortcut; this is always a little personal victory in the daily battle. It had been one of the bigger days, heading well over the 60km mark and we were looking at a quick way out of Exeter and back onto the A30. Andy had found a shortcut, but for 500 meters there was “no mans land” and then the road continued.

This was the cut we were looking for, down it we went following our Nokia OVI map. Left right and left again we twisted through the back roads and finally hit the blank spot on our map. There it stood the blank on the map, a private estate and Castle, surrounded by a massive wall with a 3m high gate to the one side. It was either find a way over or go back 5km. We only know one way, over the top. There was a gardener to the right of us, slyly watching what we were up to, but keeping himself very busy. We thought if we do this quickly, we will be over and gone before he realises what we are up to.

I led the way, picking up to a quick jog I approached the wall; the gate was the only option, a massive old wooden gate that towered above me. I quickly began to climbed up the struts of wood, finding footings on the bolts. The gate was ancient and rotten, bits were flaking off as I climbed up. I reached the top, leaned over on my stomach to begin the decent and the gate started to crumble beneath me. Bits cracked away under my weight and down it came like a pack of cards, I seemed to cut a gap in the gate as if I was a hot knife cutting through butter. Things were going pear shaped in a big way. The gardener was now shouting at us, Andy was jumping around like a rabbit in the headlights not knowing if he were to bolt in the opposite direction of follow me. I had finally slid to a halt halfway down the gate, trapped as if I was in stocks, head the one side and legs the other. The next thing I knew, Andy had flipped my legs over, catapulting me through the gash in the gate he jumped the gap, dragging me to my feet all in one motion shouting run, run, before they phone the cops. I scrambled to my feet, disengaging myself from pieces of timber and creeper, giggling to myself at the stupidity of the situation. I remember shouting to Andy, I am a grandfather now, I should not be doing this running from the law.

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