Cliffe Castle parkrun, Keighley

Cliffe Castle parkrun route

This 3 and a half lap run round the lovely gardens of Cliffe Castle was described as 90% downhill – which sounds great, till you realise what that means for the other 10%. It’s worth mentioning early on, then, that there is a pretty steep uphill in which, other than a very short rise at the left turn (top right of the map) and an uphill finish, you make up all the ground you have gained.

It isn’t unfair, mind – it starts shallow, gets steep for a while, then levels off (with a couple of trip hazards), goes down for a while before a 180 degree turn to the last, leg-sapping but less steep rise back towards the castle.

Cliffe Castle, an old hall with crenellations.
Cliffe Castle in the sun.

Cliffe Castle is an 1880s building with a free museum inside and free parking outside – not for loads of cars, but the roads nearby are fine, too. It’s open 11-4 on Saturdays and Sundays, 10-4 other days except Monday. That was just a little late for me, even after a chat at the end and a further wander round the grounds to enjoy the sunshine.

A wide path leads downhill through grassy banks which are tree lined.
The start line, with PA system to address the crowd.
Wide tarmacced path with other paths leading off to left and right.
The left turn after the initial swooping downhill. On laps 1-3, take the middle path, heading slightly up. For the finish, it’s the path to the left. Ignore the path going straight on!

The downhill running starts right at the beginning, with a gallop along a wide tarmacced path, swooping round to the left before a slight uphill at a sharpish left turn, well-marshalled, and onto a gravelly path. The surfaces are good pretty much throughout, with just those trip hazards waiting for tired legs on the uphill section.

The course narrows at the uphill section, though there are still places to pass on most of it if you need to. I was busy concentrating on breathing, and on moving my legs just fast enough to still consider it a run, though it was pretty marginal. It’s hard work (though friends ran Church Mead parkrun in Amersham on the same day, and that has 3x the elevation gain).

The fact that the whole place is on a hill does make for great views over the valley, though I confess to looking at them much more after the event than during.

After the climb there’s a short tunnel under the house before a right turn to run round grassy areas at the top of the course, heading downhill again and with a couple of sharp but fast turns.

Top end of the park, with a large greenhouse at the side of the house and a well-mowed grassy field to run round.
Section of the course after the tunnel – you run down towards the camera here, appearing from the right side of the wall.
A lawn decorated by very low-pruned bushes is shaded by trees, with paths all around.
A view over the course – running from right to left, then turning right and heading along the path furthest away.

After three laps, you finally pass the start again, head down the hill and make a slightly sharper left to head towards the fountain and pond in the middle of the park – the fountains start at 9:30 – before a climb up to the finish. That isn’t steep, but felt it to my tired legs. There is a lovely grassed area right at the finish, perfect to collapse on to for a break. I accepted the opportunity gratefully, chatting to the people who finished nearest me.

So long as you know the hills are there, it isn’t perhaps quite as bad as I might have made out, and you can certainly make up time on the downhills, but this is a good challenge. It’s also a lovely park to see, there’s the museum to visit and the Leeds-Liverpool canal is not far away if you want to take a longer walk.

Results from Cliffe Castle parkrun event 120, 30/4/22.

Clare Castle parkrun, Suffolk

Clare Castle parkrun route – 3 laps.
Grass on either side of a wide beige gravelled path, with small brick buildings to one side.
The start/finish area.

I headed to Clare Castle because of the name – there are only a limited number of parkruns including the word “Castle” and because I thought it was a little closer than it was. I had allowed enough time, but was still a little surprised to have got all the way to Suffolk – I don’t know what I’d expected, but it wasn’t a “Welcome to our county” sign.

It is possible to park in town for free, but I used the car park right next to the start and finish, which is £1/hour, max. £5. There is one toilet right next to the start, and some more further round the park.

Wooden railings overlooking a stream (which used to be part of the moat).  Behind is a mound a few metres high, on top of which runs the "Lady's walk", and then another, higher mound which holds the remains of the castle keep.
A view of the castle, off to the left of the run route.

There isn’t much left of the castle, but what is there is immediately obvious and overlooks the start and finish and the car park. The route doesn’t head up that hill, and is pretty flat, in fact. It may not be the easiest, with a 180 turn at the end of the out and back section (covered 3 times), some grass and a few turns, but it isn’t as tough as you might expect from a castle grounds, which tend to have hills available.

Cones down the middle of the path at the out and back section, which starts here, on a bridge with girders holding up the railings at the side.
The out-and-back section.

A local triathlon club had “taken over” the event, covering the volunteer positions, and every marhsal provided great energy and encouragement as we headed round. With 3 laps, we got to see all of them a lot, though none as often as the ones above, who cheered everyone they could on at both the start and end of the out-and back-section.

A view over the park from up high, having walked up to the castle keep. The moat is off to one side, and a clump of trees to the right, with a path disappearing down the centre, forming the Lady's Walk.
View from the castle keep.

Afterwards I had time left in the car park to wander into town and pick up some food while having a little wander around the streets, and that even after walking up the path to the castle keep and taking a few photos of the views. It’s all very pretty, at least on a warmish Spring day where being up high doesn’t bring risk of exposure.

As for the event, parking is easy and cheap, the facilities are nearby and straightforward to access, and the course is flat enough to allow you to complete it at your own pace without too much worry – and with multiple laps, if you want to just do part of it and then disappear, that would work just fine, too.

Results from Clare Castle parkrun event 162, 23/4/22.

Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun, Bedfordshire

Map of the parkrun route, a 2.5 lap route round the edge of the campsite and lake.
Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun route, 2.5 laps going anticlockwise from the top right and finishing at the bottom.

The site this event runs round is well-maintained thanks to the owners and some grants, and hosts camping, fishing and anything else I might have missed. It’s an oasis of nature and water, just off a busy road and next to a railway line (which briefly interrupted the pre-run briefing, though they carried on bravely throughout).

A wide mud-packed path with thin trees on either side.
Wide path.

The route has plenty of potential to be muddy and relatively difficult despite its flatness, but it is also run on wide, clear paths and with gentle turns, often with a view over a lake, so it’s pretty and straightforward. It does also cross a couple of access roads into the site, but those are well-marshalled. Occasionally you might have to pause to let someone in, but no biggie (and it didn’t happen to me).

A wooden railing, painted black, marks a bridge over a stream, was the path continues over and then round a left corner ahead.
Over the bridge at the top of the course.

There’s a large car park, serving Arlesey station, just over the road from the site, with a few more minutes needed to walk to the start line. I chose to park the other side of the course, next to a local park, and walked down and along the main road to get there, which was a little further. On the way back I took a slight short-cut, walking past Champneys and cutting across the field. It was good to see other people, clearly locals, walking that way too – and lovely to have an event that close to your house.

The finishing line, with a bush marking one side and wooden railings the other.
The finish line, next to Arlesey Road. Note the path is wide here, but the actual well-used line is narrow, making the rest of the space bumpy underfoot.

This was one of the first non-muddy days of the year, thanks to some dry weather, which almost certainly made the course easier than it had been. That still brought its own challenges, with recent churned up mud, now dried, making for some ruts to avoid, but the footing was secure all round, and it is as flat as a flat thing. Though, as ever, I quickly compared it to the Dutch parkruns I ran, the first few of which varied from 1 to 3m of elevation and, yes, this one had more, at 8m.

Arrows and cones mark the finishing line as people chat and wander off after the event.
View of the finish line – run past it twice, then head left.
A cone on a bench, to make sure no one runs into it, by the side of the path. The biggest lake is to the left.
Cone marks the bench. The biggest lake is to the left – this path is at the end of each lap.

There are a few other paths to explore if you have time and on a sunny day it’s a lovely place to be. I was near enough not to need any other facilities, but apparently they are available at the main entrance – see the course page for full info.

A wide grassy area is used for the start line.
The start, after the event has happened.

Results from Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun event 27, 16/4/22.

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