Bala, site of many a family holiday for those based in the North of England. I was not one such, being a Southerner, but I’ve been told of it many times, and was curious to see the place. The town is just another town, but the lake – it’s all about the lake. Stunning on a good day, though I had to assume that, as this was a pretty grey day.
A quick word of warning, too. If you tell some of those Northerners that you have visited “Barla”, they will look at you quizzically, and wonder where that is. Say “Bala”, with a short a, and they’ll know immediately. Go on, try it out.
The run itself is a simple one, on a good surface. The surrounding grass was boggy after days of rain and drizzle, but the course was perfectly fine in the skimpiest of road trainers. Hard packed, with a scattering of pebbles – it’d be alright with a buggy, if congested, but I wouldn’t try it barefoot.
The course is a simple out-and-back, that you do twice (so 1.25km each way). The path isn’t the widest, so either settle in, or make sure you’re near the front if you want to shoot off. Passing is easiest on the outward stretch, before anyone turns and comes back towards you, though with relatively small numbers, it’s far from impossible through the rest of the event. Just be nice.
Parking is available right by the event, £2 for four hours. I was happy to pay and then explore the town afterwards; a tiny contribution to the place. I spotted some free parking near the lake, and the place isn’t that large, so there are probably residential options, too. Some headed further into the industrial estate, perhaps because they could park there.
Afterwards, they head to a cafe just over the road and down a side path/road (about where “Get Wet” adventure company is marked on the map), but I took myself off round town, stumbling across the lake and immediately seeing why people drag (er, bring) their kids here. I also stumbled back onto the course. I hadn’t realised that the first turnaround point, 1.25km in, is very close to the lake. You will probably be less clueless, but from the lake I walked the whole length of the course again, in reverse, and only spotted I was on it when back at the car park.
Pont y Bala is also one of the four runs that count towards the “Full Ponty” achievement on the Running Challenges add-on, which will pull in a small stream of extra tourists. But numbers are manageable and the out-and-back nature means you can grin, gurn or give thumbs up to as much of the rest of the field as you want.
Results from event 32, Pont y Bala parkrun, 19/11/2019.