The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge route leaves Pooley Bridge to traverse 30 summits over a distance of 48 miles and climbs 16,000 feet (77km, 4877m).

The inaugural run from Pooley Bridge to Wasdale was made by Joss Naylor in 1990, at the age of 54; in very bad weather with heavy rain and a strong SW wind Joss completed the run to Greendale Bridge in 11 hours and 30 minutes.

Chris Brasher offered engraved pewter tankards to the first 20 runners to do so with the proviso that they raised at least £100 for a charity of their own choice. In January 1997, with 17 tankards already awarded, Chris extended his sponsorship. In 2001, with 33 tankards awarded, Joss secured on-going sponsorship for the tankards.

The challenge is offered to fell runners over the age of 50 to complete the run in set times according to their age group. The challenge is intended to be a "supported run" for individuals - each contender is to be accompanied on every leg for safety reasons and unaccompanied attempts will not be recognised. There is more information on the Challenge Details page below.

If you are interested, please have a look at the Challenge Details, download a schedule or contact me using the email address on the Challenge Details page.

Thursday 4 July 2024

Joss Naylor Funeral arrangements

 It was Joss' wish that his funeral should be a colourful celebration of his life and attending fell runners should dress in their club colours. Also that those who are able should run over any of the passes into Wasdale Head. More details to follow.

St Olaf's at Wasdale Head is the smallest parish church in England and admission will be by invitation only. There will be a public address system to relay the service to those outside. Nearby parking is extremely limited so if you are not running to St Olaf's please car share, park considerately or use public transport.

The Naylor family invite all fellrunners to join them at Wasdale Head on Friday 19th July and to form a colourful guard of honour as Joss takes his short journey to his final resting place.

Donations, if desired, to the Stroke Ward, West Cumberland Hospital. To donate, please see: All enquiries, please contact us on 01946 810241 or at

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Joss Naylor obituary | Sport | The Guardian

Joss Naylor obituary | Sport | The Guardian

Joss Naylor running in Wasdale, Cumbria, in 2004. He was born in the hamlet of Wasdale Head, where he lived for most of his life.

Towering figure in the world of fell-running admired for his charisma, tenacity and the domination of his sport

Joss Naylor was a colossus in the world of fell-running who in the final third of the 20th century not only dominated his sport but, through sheer charisma, put it on the map.

His greatest feats of endurance, in the 1970s and 80s, were accomplished far from the public gaze in the clouded hills of Cumbria. But the unprecedented extremity of his achievements, and the hardiness that made them possible, captured the imagination of mountain lovers everywhere.

A Lakeland sheep-farmer who lived for most of his life in the hamlet of Wasdale Head, Naylor, who has died aged 88, ran his first fell event in September 1960, in the Lake District Mountain Trail – despite medical advice to avoid strenuous activity following injury in his teens.

Over the next few years, he began to race regularly, honing his technique and focusing his ambitions. He was not the fastest, and, after taking over the tenancy of his father’s farm in 1962, he had little time for systematic training. But he felt comfortable moving at speed over even the roughest terrain – he said that his experience with dry-stone walls helped him “read” the rocks – and his resilience seemed superhuman.

By the late 60s, he had begun a purple patch that would last almost 20 years: he won the Mountain Trial 10 times and the Ennerdale Horseshoe nine times in a row (1968-76), along with repeated victories in such gruelling events as the Wasdale, the Duddon Valley, the Welsh 1,000m Peaks, the Manx Mountain Marathon and the Karrimor Mountain Marathon (now the Original Mountain Marathon).

What he really excelled at, however, were individual ultra-distance challenges. In 1971, he became only the sixth person to complete the Bob Graham Round, a notorious 66-mile circuit of 42 Lake District peaks, to be completed in 24 hours, which had once been considered as unattainable as the four-minute mile. Then he set out to extend that circuit.

In 1972 he completed 63 peaks within the 24-hour time limit, in the midst of an atrocious storm. Chris Brasher, who paced him for part of the route, described this as “a memory equal to any of the greatest Olympic races that I have ever seen”. Three years later, Naylor upped his total to 72 peaks: the equivalent of going up and down Everest, Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Kinder Scout in a single day, all in a blistering heatwave.

No challenge was too extreme. He ran the 268-mile Pennine Way in just over three days (1974), the 190 miles of the Coast-to-Coast path from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay in 41 hours (1976), Hadrian’s Wall in just under 11 hours (1980), and a route linking all 26 of the Lake District’s “lakes, meres and waters” in 19 hours 15 minutes (1983). When he took off his shoes at the end of the Coast-to-Coast, the skin from the bottom of his feet came off, along with all his toenails.

Naylor was born in Wasdale Head, the youngest child of Joe, a shepherd who had moved there in 1927, and his wife, Ella (nee Wilson). It was not a comfortable upbringing: the valley did not even have electricity until 1977. But Joss, who helped out with farm work from the age of seven, grew used to long, hard, outdoor days, and developed a tolerance for physical discomfort which – combined with his love of nature – would fuel his subsequent achievements.

At 15, he left school (in nearby Gosforth) to work on the farm full time. But his teens were marred by the after-effects of two seemingly minor accidents that left him with chronic back pain. By his early 20s, the medical profession had all but given up on him. His right knee had lost all its cartilage; two discs had been taken from his spine; he wore a special corset to prevent further damage. He was pronounced unfit for national service and urged to avoid strenuous activity.

He listened, but not for long. Other young men his age were getting involved in long-distance fell-running, and Naylor, whose home was overlooked by Scafell Pike, Yewbarrow and Great Gable, had a ringside seat. When the Mountain Trail event started in Wasdale in 1960 Naylor could not resist. He threw away his corset, cut off his work trousers at the knee, and ran along with the official competitors in his heavy work boots. He seized up with cramp near the end, but did well enough to know that he had found his calling.

In 1977, after many years of running and record-setting, he was warned that if he did not stop farm-work he risked having to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. So he took an indoor job, mentoring apprentices, at the nearby Windscale (now Sellafield) nuclear plant. Yet he hung on to his 1,000-strong flock of Herdwick sheep, which thereafter he tended “as a hobby”. And his fell-running became, if anything, more extreme.

In June 1986, aged 50, he attempted a continuous traverse of all 214 peaks in Alfred Wainwright’s seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, in the midst of another heatwave. It took him seven days, one hour and 25 minutes – a record that stood until 2014 – and required him to “dig deeper within … than I have ever had to reach”. By the end, the flesh on both ankles was rubbed through to the nerve, and his throat and tongue were so swollen that he could barely speak, let alone eat or drink.

To admirers, such ugly details capture the essence of “Iron Joss”. Naylor’s achievements owed less to genetic good fortune than to his indomitable spirit. He suffered no less than other runners. His greatness came from his refusal to surrender.

In an age when elite sport is increasingly seen as a science or a business, he ran with his heart, not his head. His favoured fuels were rock-cakes and apple pie, washed down with Guinness or salted blackcurrant juice or, occasionally, cod liver oil (swigged straight from the bottle, “like whisky”). And he would not hesitate to interrupt a record attempt to rescue a lamb in distress.

He was appoiinted MBE in 1976, yet remained startlingly modest about his achievements. Lesser fell-runners were amazed and inspired by the interest he took in their endeavours, and he would offer advice or encouragement to anyone who shared his love of the fells. The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge – a 48-mile route for runners over 50 that he set up in 1990 – reflects this generous outlook.

He also used his fame to raise money for charity, which he did enthusiastically for many years – not least by scaling 60 peaks at the age of 60 (in 36 hours) and 70 rather smaller peaks at 70 (in 21 hours).

Naylor was still active on the fells in his 80s, until a stroke in 2021 set off his final decline.

He is survived by his wife, Mary (nee Downie), whom he married in 1963, and three children, Paul, Susan and Gillian.

Joss (Joseph) Naylor, fell runner and farmer, born 10 February 1936; died 28 June 2024

Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Saturday 29 June 2024

Joss Naylor MBE 1936-2024

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Joss Naylor MBE on Friday evening, 28th June, in the company of friends and family. 

 Funeral details to follow.

Friday 8 December 2023

Craig Stansfield (M55 Repeat) - 09 September 2023

I enjoyed doing the Joss Naylor Challenge when I was 50. I always knew I would have another attempt when I was 55. Training had gone well, so I set myself a 13.45 schedule.  

Leg1 supporters Mark Whittaker and Martin Haworth  

Pooley Bridge

    After a photograph on the bridge we set off from Pooley Bridge at 6am. We didn’t bother with head torches as it was going to come light soon. The weather forecast was to be hot and it didn’t disappoint. We were looking forward to a lovely sunrise, but ended up with clag and spectacular cloud inversions instead. We made steady progress talking about anything and everything. Ticking the tops off as we went. We nearly overshot Rampsgill Head in the clag, but bagged it and we were soon at Thornthwaite Beacon. No spectacular views today. We were soon dropping down to Kirkstone via the tourist path due to the bad visibility.  We were 5 minutes down but no issues. 

Leg 2 support Mark Whittaker and Martin Howarth.  
    It was nice to meet our greeter at Kirkstone. Who’s name I can’t remember (Rainer Burchett - Ian). A quick feed stop and we headed up Red Screes. We followed some encouraging signs put out by some event team on the climb. I was climbing well and soon we were at the Fairfield summit. The clag had lifted and we were blessed with the first amazing views of the day. Seat Sandal came and went and we were soon at Dunmail. 5 minutes up. 

Dunmail Raise

Leg 3 support David Fort and Matt Dunn. 

Approaching Great End

    It was lovely to see Lisa and my leg 3 support. Another quick feed of muller rice and a can of coke and we were on our way. Dave and Matt set a good pace up Steel Fell. They were spot on with the nav in the clag. We were soon at High Raise and 12 minutes up. Bowfell is always a tough climb, so I had a gel at the start of the climb. I was still climbing well. We were moving quickly and soon descending Great End and on our way to Styhead. 37 minutes up. 

Leg 4 support Helen Buchan and Charlie Parkinson.  

Middle Fell

    Plenty of food at Styhead. I was feeling good climbing Great Gable. It must have been the jam butties. We made good progress on leg 4 passing a couple of BG supports going the other way. We were soon descending the scree off of Haycock. We were running low on water which was a bit of a problem in the heat. We spotted another challenger in front that had set off 15 minutes before us. The Seatallan climb had been playing on my mind as I wasn’t sure how much I had left in the tank. I tucked in behind Charlie and followed his ankles. We were soon at the summit. The last climb was here. I was climbing well and soon passed the other challenger before the summit. A speedy descent and we were soon in Greendale. In a total time of 12 hours 49 minutes. 

Greendale Bridge

I was so happy to see Lisa, my awesome road support.  

I’d like to thank my support crew, Mark, Martin, David, Matt, Helen, Charlie. I’d like to give a big thank you to Lisa who was my road support for the day and as always encourages and supports me through all my crazy adventures. 

I managed to raise £520 for Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis  

Monday 4 December 2023

Tom Brunt (M50) - 02 September 2023

 Tom Brunt (Dark Peak Fell Runners, V50) – Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge, September 2, 2023

It was a warm and hazy late summer afternoon on the wonderful limestone hill of Arnside Knott. The Arnside bore had just raced up the estuary flooding the sandbanks and mudflats in a matter of minutes. But my focus was on the skyline of the Lakeland fells - working from right to left I picked out High Street, Stony Cove Pike, Red Screes, Fairfield and Seat Sandal. It is one of my favourite views and today it held a special significance today as just 24 hours earlier I had been running across the rocks, scree and squelching bogs of those peaks in a race against the clock. Stiff and aching legs were a constant reminder of that fact.

24 hours earlier…

I set off from Pooley Bridge at 8:03 (the stray 3 minutes due to some last-minute watch faffing) with Bill Stewart for company. The weather forecast is glorious, perhaps a little too glorious. Even at 8am the sun is strong, and it is clearly going to be a hot day. The first peak, Arthur’s Pike passes without incident and exactly on schedule. The pace feels brisk but manageable as we ascend onto the broad ridge heading south towards High Street. Minor (in some cases very minor) peaks come and go. Below Kidsty Pike early morning mist bubbles up from valleys to the east burning off quickly in the sun. Down into Threshthwaite Mouth and the relief of a walking climb. Up until this point it has been 2 hours of continuous running – the MV50 schedule for the first leg is a stern taskmaster. A good descent into Kirkstone sees us arrive at the carpark to be greeted by Paula (my wife and chief road support) and Rainer Burchett (JNLC reception committee). Apologies to Rainer if we were rather brusque! This was meant to be a two minute stop – in reality it stretched to seven.

Refuelled and doused in water we head off up Red Screes. Bill is on support duties for this next leg too. More food, more drinks and noticeably less chat; instead, we focus on the task at hand. The next climb up to Hart Crag drags – even with the patented Borrowdale Fell Runners Hodgson Relays leg 3 line we only manage to equal the split time. The sun is relentless and any hint of a breeze has disappeared. Up and over Fairfield and then my legs object to the sudden change from steep descending to climbing up Seat Sandal. A twinge of cramp shoots up the inside of my leg – this was not part of the plan. On the summit of Seat Sandal I glance round to check on Bill. A mistake… I catch my foot on a stone and crash unceremoniously to the ground. Every muscle group in my right leg seems to go into some sort of spasm. My left knee is bleeding. I feel nauseous. Gingerly I get back up and walk / jog / trot down to Dunmail not feeling on top form. Time to re-group.

Preparing to leave Dunmail Raise (Swatts, Jack and myself)

Bill’s work is done for the day and his final selfless act is to give me his two ice-cold cans of coke. They are accompanied with fresh peaches (delicious), and I try to eat, drink and get organised for the next leg as efficiently as possible. Minutes disappear at an alarming rate. Support from here to the finish comes from Stephen Watts (aka SWatts of Pennine Fell Runners – himself a successful JNLC V50 man) and my own Dark Peak clubmate Jack Foxall. The youngest member of the team, BilI’s daughter Tilly (13), is joining us for Steel Fell – she sets off ahead and is soon marching up the fellside looking as though she could carry on to Wasdale. Normally I relish steep walking climbs like Steel Fell but instead I feel lethargic– we are not catching Tilly up. Things take a turn for the worse heading to High Raise negotiating the bogs and knolls along the undulating ridge. Jumping over a boggy area my legs cramp up again. I have no idea how to stretch out my inner thigh. I seem to vaguely remember a technique called the “Naylor Shake” for dealing with cramp, but unfortunately none of us have the faintest idea how to administer a “Naylor Shake”. Instead, I opt for lots of liquid and electrolyte. This section is a low point. It feels as though we are moving through treacle, the air is hot, the ground is wet and boggy and I have taken my eye off the ball with the navigation so we end up (needlessly) on Calf Crag. The final drag to High Raise, descent to Stake Pass and the gentle ascent to Rossett Pike are little better. Mercifully clouds fill in and we are granted some respite from the sun – not a moment too soon. The food and drink start to kick in climbing up Bowfell. Leaving the boggy terrain behind and getting onto the rocky peaks which constitute the most dramatic section of the route – Bowfell to Steeple – is also a boost for morale. This is familiar territory, we get the direct descent line off Great End spot on and meet SWatts’ wife Mel at Sty Head with additional supplies. More peaches (tinned this time) really hit the spot. Mel and SWatts have devoted their wedding anniversary to this run – impressive commitment to the cause. Similarly, Jack has rearranged his weekend plans at short notice to support and travelled up from Sheffield this morning. I feel a strong sense of obligation not to let the support crew down.

Leaving Sty Head I am about 30 minutes down on my 11:40 schedule so I need to claw back at least 10 minutes, preferably a bit more to avoid an anxious final descent to Greendale Bridge. The best place to start is the long slog up Great Gable. We gain 3 minutes which is a real morale booster. The sun comes back out but doesn’t have the intensity of earlier in the day; the air feels cooler. The cramps seem to have gone – touch wood the salts and drinks have worked, and although my legs are feeling wooden on the descents I am still climbing strongly. SWatts and Jack are having to work hard to keep up on the climbs – I take this to be another encouraging sign. A few more minutes are gained against the schedule on both Kirk Fell and Pillar. Little by little my confidence is rising. I keep pushing hard on the climbs. Scoat Fell comes and goes, Steeple too – a wonderful spot in the evening sunlight. Grassier terrain leads up to Haycock and then the delightful trod across to Seatallan. The mental arithmetic of times and schedules and splits has been proving difficult, but I arrive at the trig point after exactly 11 hours. Even in its current fuzzy state my brain can work out that leaves me 1 hour (well, 59 minutes) to make it to the finish. For the first time I feel pretty much certain that I’m going to make it. Legs complain down the steep drop off Seatallan, and then just Middle Fell, an understated gem of a hill, is all that remains. I can see two figures on the summit. I know SWatts is one and realise that the other is Paula who has spent the day doing all the unsung road support tasks. It’s great to see her on the final hill. We take a minute to admire the view in stunning evening light and all trot down together. 

I reach Greendale Bridge 11 hours and 47 minutes after leaving Pooley Bridge. Hard work; it had been in the balance for much of the way, but that made the eventual success all the sweeter.

Seatallan and Haycock from Middle Fell – Jack and I are just about visible…

Jack and I reaching the top of Middle Fell.

Many thanks to:

Bill Stewart (Borrowdale Fell Runners) – Legs 1 and 2

Stephen Watts (SWatts, Pennine Fell Runners) – Legs 3 and 4

Jack Foxall (Dark Peak Fell Runners) -Legs 3 and 4

Paula Gould (chief road support and Middle Fell)

Mel Watts (additional road support and Sty Head)

Tilly Stewart (Steel Fell)

Louise Stewart (additional road support)

The obligatory team photo on Greendale Bridge – Swatts, myself, Jack and Mel

Friday 1 December 2023

Andrew Merrick (M60) - 11 August 2023

I vaguely recall a running friend describing the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge as a Bob Graham for old gits... so it felt like it was probably something for me, given that the time allowed increases with age.
Below 55, you get 12 hours as a man and 14 hours as a woman (15 and 16 respectively over 55), but a somewhat generous 18 hours (for all genders) over 60.
It was a good excuse to explore areas of the Lakes I didn’t know particularly well, the route starting in Pooley Bridge and heading over two legs to Dunmail, via Kirkstone, before then using a reasonable amount of the Bob Graham route, dropping into Greendale (near Wasdale) some 44 miles and 17,000 ft later.
The forecast for Friday issued by MWIS on Thursday afternoon looked encouraging, so we stuck with the plan of a dawn start in Pooley Bridge, after an overnight stay in a pub car park (what’s not to like) the night before, giving ample opportunity for pre run fuelling.

Jane McCarthy had kindly agreed to support the first two legs, and we set off as planned at 5am, on a rather murky, damp morning. The first leg is relatively gentle in terms of climb so I was keen to ensure we stuck with my intended 16 hour schedule, so that the support crew weren’t hanging around too much.  We had to contend with low cloud and a blustery wind, which brought a number of showers with it, particularly on the higher parts of the route. The temperature was quite pleasant but the wind and rain eventually forced us both to resort to waterproof jackets for the final climb and descent into Kirkstone. Visibility was down to about 50 meters at this point so we were pleased to see Lis, our road crew, and Rainer, a member of the club who had appeared to wish us well, before we headed off up Red Screes armed with more tailwind and a banana. 

We caught the briefest glimpse of the sun as we got close to the summit of Red Screes, and that was probably the only time all day, with the rain jacket also being a pretty permanent feature. There are only four summits on leg 2 (8 miles – 3,200ft) the final two of which are Fairfield and Seat Sandal and therefore familiar to Bobbers.  We had gained a little more time as I parted company with Jane at Dunmail, refuelling with tea and porridge before setting off with the birthday boy (Peter Shelley) following some more of the Bob route up to Steel Fell before diverting (off path) to High Raise and beyond.  It had at least stopped raining by this stage although it was wet under foot (I understood why Peter had his waterproof trousers on, when he went knee deep in bog at one point) and the wind became stronger and more gusty.  I was getting to the slightly tired stage at this point so found the long off path into the wind climb up to High Raise hard work, although the subsequent run down gave a period of recovery before the climb up to Rossett Pike, and the challenge of Bowfell.  

I have often struggled to find the right route up Bowfell and have ended up having to do some impromptu scrambling to get back onto what I would regard as the main path. This time Peter and I did manage to stay on a path, although not quite the intended one and took the summit by surprise from the rear having had some further off piste adventures.... Happily we were still slightly ahead of schedule and briefly had Hayley from Birmingham for company (the second runner we had seen all day), who added a detour to her plan to join us on Esk Pike and Great End.  Very kindly and in a chilly wind, Jann and Alison Weston were waiting for us at the summit of Great End to help us navigate a route down to Sty Head.

The birthday boy left us at that point, after I had been served coffee by Mr Weston, who had kindly brought a flask up the 4 or so miles from Wasdale.  Recharged, we set off on the last leg, similar in distance and climb (5,000ft) to leg 3.  With Jann and Alison navigating, leg 4 was reasonably uneventful if somewhat slower, other than the ongoing battle with the strong blustery wind, Windy Gap in particular living up to its name.  Fortunately the route out and back to Steeple wasn’t in the worst of the wind, and equally fortunately Jann didn’t mention someone had been blown off there on a previous attempt.

From then on, other than focusing on staying upright (both wind and tiredness were against me) it was a question of counting down the climbs until we got to the final peak at Middle Fell where we probably had the best (only?) view of the day, down towards Wastwater. Peter re-joined us there for the descent to Greendale Bridge, arriving just ahead of my intended schedule in just under 15 ½ hours. Unfortunately the man himself wasn’t well enough to join us although we had armed ourselves with Mackeson Stout, just in case. Instead, we celebrated with Graham (Weston), Paul and Lis, with beer and tea before heading home after a long but satisfying day.   I am now looking forward to two dinners this autumn.

Greendale Bridge

A big thank you to my fantastic support crew of Jane, Peter, Jann, Alison and Lis, with a guest star appearance from Graham at Sty Head, and Paul C (in charge of comms at Greendale by finding the right rock to stand on to get signal!), all of whom gave up a significant amount of time to support this blustery adventure. And a final thank you to Ian Charters of the Joss Naylor Club for his patient and timely response to my many queries.