Snow! Snow and ice! I headed West from Newbury on Friday, and was happily smug to find the roads clear after Swindon. But when I checked, most parkruns in Wales had already been cancelled. Three fairly near me were possibly on. And, as it turned out, the nearest of those, in Neath, was ice-free, at least on the tarmacced sections, and was on. Swansea Bay had already declared they’d be running, so that was my backup, but I was happy not to have to make the 20 minute drive.
Gnoll is set in a beautiful country park. In all my rush to check which events were cancelled, I hadn’t looked up the course at all, so the surroundings came as a lovely surprise. Just after 8 in the morning, the sun was out, and the paths were clear.
The route is fiddly to describe, but simple enough to run, made up of a short, medium then long loop, in that order. After meeting near the cafe, everyone strolls round to the other side of the lake – it’s not far, but leave a few minutes – and then run round the lake once, clockwise. That’s the short loop. Then you run round the lake again, but this time, back at the start, turn left to do an out and back, run round a ’roundabout’ (on grass, just short of the series of small walls that marks the layout of demolished Gnoll House). This out and back is slightly up on the way out, with some rocky terrain, and then has a quick downhill on the way back, with tree roots to watch for. Once back at the lake, the medium loop is done. Then you run round half of the lake, and at the far end, just beyond the cafe, do another out and back (with a loop at the top), up a hill, back down at pace (though with some ginger footing thanks to a little ice this day), back round part of the lake, do the out and back to Gnoll House again then finish round the last bit of the lake, by the cafe.
It’s a pretty quick course, except for the one out and back bit up Gnoll hill. I didn’t really feel like I was running at that point, but it’s fine once you get up and it flattens out. On this particular day, water had run down the right side of the path (looking at it on the way up) and was partly frozen, so I took some of the downhill section easy; people were coming up the other way, too, so it was best to avoid sliding through them. The swooping curve back down to the lake is probably the quickest part of the course, though.
Everyone was friendly, as ever, and this tourist was mighty glad to get a parkrun in, and a new event, to boot.