This region is well-served for parkruns. Other than Warsaw, they aren’t always clustered in individual cities, but there are several here that can be reached by a short train journey, particularly from Gdansk. Malbork is just a 40 minute, £2.30 train ride away (over £5 if you get the express train), and I opted to stay in town for a few days to make it even easier.
This event was their third birthday (but only event 84, thanks to Covid), and they had put the word out, upping attendance from last week’s 28 to 73. That, balloons, cake and celebrations made for a festive atmosphere, even if I and the two Irish tourists I’d bumped into on the way understood barely a word.
We were made welcome, though, and the run director made sure I knew roughly where I was going. It isn’t tricky, though this is their last run on a temporary route they’ve used while the boardwalk in front of the castle was being renovated, so you won’t need the details. Still; head North for a couple of kilometres, round the U to a turn-around point, all the way back and beyond for a few hundred metres, and back to the finish.
Today was a very warm day, comfortably over 20degrees even on the way there, let alone after the start at 9am. Much of Malbork, including parts of the boardwalk, is open to the sun, so this route was a huge bonus on a day like today. There’s an unshaded bit at the top of the course, and we really felt it at that point.
Swapping notes with the two Irish runners afterwards, both of us blokes had missed the sign that pretty clearly marked the first u-turn, but we had other runners to follow and made the turn without incident. The second u-turn, 550m or so from the finish, was marked by both a sign and a marker on the ground, so wasn’t hard to miss. It seemed a long way when I was going it, but it isn’t really – there is a little gradient here, so perhaps that’s why I was wishing it into view.
The first and last bits of the run are along the riverside (River Nogat), and I presume the percentage of the course that is there will only increase on the new route. Trees shield it from view much of the time, but it’s there, providing a sense of space.
In common with many events here, it runs with relatively few people, and just one marshal, at the car-park which is on the route. It was very quiet there, I never saw a car moving, and some cones reinforced the idea that something was happening.
The finish is on a narrow section of the path, so we were all sure to step off the route quickly as people were still coming through the other way. I didn’t notice any problem even with 70+ people, other than a few finishers racing through the finish and having to be chased down by the lady handing out finish tokens.
Afterwards we hung around and nattered while the sweat started to dry – it really was pretty warm, and stayed that way – before wandering back towards town via the boardwalk. The view of the castle there is pretty dramatic, and it’s a great backdrop for the whole thing. I had also done the tour the day before, so was filled with thoughts of the Middle and High Castles as we walked by. More usefully for a runner, if you keep going along the waterfront, you come to a man-made beach and a spot where you can take a dip in the river, which was sorely tempting today.
As the stench of corruption in the UK spreads far and wide enough that I can smell it from here, where without the first edition of “the paper of record” (ha) you might have no idea of a powerful man’s second attempt, (that we know of) to give work to his mistress and where the long-running crisis in the legal system (long pre-dating covid, to go with those prompted in health, transport and so on by under-funding or assuming the private sector will do more than look after itself) finally looks to be coming to a head, it seemed a good idea to take a reflective look at where a democratic vote for a legendary fuckwit and media management can take humanity.
I ended up at the Museum of the Second World War, North of the old city. Fortunately this is an excellent museum, informative, reflective and thanks perhaps to Gdańsk’s unique perspective on events, sombre even as you get to the ‘triumph’ at the end.
Gdańsk’s own history is complex, ruled over time by Germans, Poles, Prussians and itself. From 1918 to 1939 it was in a disputed corridor and with a huge majority of Germans in the city, it wasn’t given back to Polish control. In the late 1930s, Poles and their language were excluded from public life and ultimately the status of the city, with its Nazi majority in parliament, was used as an excuse to invade Poland. After the war, though Poland was on the winning side, its rewards for such were ambiguous. Gdańsk itself was annexed by Poland but had a Soviet-installed Communist government.
The museum is split up into several zones. The entrance is down stairs from ground level, and then you head down to floor -3 for tickets and exhibits. You start in a long corridor with exhibitions off to each side, though the first two are small rooms, giving an idea that you will be popping in and out. Then you head into another small room, through and everything opens out, and it is clear that this is not a museum presenting things in small bites. It is very atmospheric, and you could almost wander through and just gaze around you for an experience all of its own.
That said, there’s also a whole stack of information. In the picture above, which was the first large hall I came to (entirely possible I missed one, so I won’t say it is the first), there are captions in Polish and English for everything. To the right are several interactive displays, again in Polish and English, allowing you to read more about the history of the war, or browse the pages of a journal displayed to one side and so on.
Some exhibits are large, some just small excerpts of life – like the barbed wire, above – that hang on huge walls, often to chilling effect. I got to the end of that long corridor – roughly where the ‘Terror’ sign offers entry to another gallery – and figured I was near the end. Word to the wise (but not wise enough to check a floorpan) – this is about halfway.
There are lots of exhibits, even a couple of reconstructed streets to allow you to feel a wartime atmosphere, and plenty of information about battles etc., but it is fair to say this museum is not nerding out on hardware or small detail of troop movements. Instead it is aiming more at a representation of how the war looked and felt to the people involved, particularly in Europe. So there is a tank and half a plane, but lots of uniforms, propaganda and information posters, personal effects from civilians, combatants and prisoners of war. As you might expect of a Polish museum, there’s a section devoted to The Katyn Massacre, a terrible story both in that it happened and that people were further terrorised by being lied to and gaslit (strange to think this for Brits was once a distant idea) for years.
On the same theme, of the Polish view of the war, there’s an enigma machine and a case with the story of Marian Rejewski, who was first to crack the code, and some stark casualty figures – check the green bar at the top, below, which shows (as a percentage) how many more Polish civilians were killed.
The museum is big, fascinating and clearly lovingly curated. It was busy when I went, but rarely crowded, and there are plenty of seats and free wifi if you want a break. It is open 10-6 Tuesday-Sunday, and you can book tickets online. Though not for Tuesday because, as I found out entirely by accident, on that day it is free. Otherwise the main price is 25zl (£4.62).
If you have a little time before or after, I also recommend the 20-minute experience that is the Piwnica Romańska, a Romanesque cellar offshoot of the Archaeological museum. It shows the remnants of a 13th century Dominican monastery, costs 8zl and although it’s technically a museum, it’s more of a show. I turned up and no one was behind the desk, while a couple of bemused tourists wondered if they should wait, or could just go in. The man of the couple put a foot on the stairs as if to test this out, and was warned off by a grumble from the old lady sat next to the desk who might have been knitting. Or just guarding. I hung around while they scuttled off, and was greeted fulsomely by the lady who returned, though she thought she had already spoken to me and I had already paid. By now I was ready to follow instructions, so I went downstairs and when she said there would be a film at 12, I figured I should stay in the first room, which has a few exhibits to one side, and a screen. 3 others, including the couple, joined me, and though we looked at the next room, which clearly had the results of the dig in, the ticket lady was corralling us into that room masterfully, just by twitching toward the door. We watched the short film, and were then invited into the first room, and she pressed whatever was necessary to start the narration. It was loud and clear, and then talked us from room to room, but we had further instructions from the ticket lady to keep us in the right place. There’s an ossuary and a central room with funky columns and features, and you should go and take it in if you can. If not, these pictures give an idea – imagine being controlled over when you move, and a deep voice talking you through where to look and when to walk.
On a day that saw runs cancelled in France for excess heat, and England was warm too, Poland had ideal weather for running – overcast, warm, a tiny shower after we’d finished and then some sun to enjoy later.I celebrated with my fastest run since Rotterdam, last year, even getting over-excited and catching the young boy who was pacing 22 minutes. It didn’t last, but I was happy just to be in the ball park.
Południe is a district of Gdańsk – the word just means South, so many cities have a “Południe”. I had an easy stroll through parks and quiet streets for 4km or so from the South of the city to the park, ‘Zbiornik retencyjny Świętokrzyska’. It’s more like 7km from the centre of the city, but there are plenty of buses. You also have the choice of Gdansk parkrun itself, at a similar distance from the city, though it was cancelled this weekend for a triathlon.
The run is a fast and flat one, and a pretty simple course. There are no facilities, so post-run entertainment is provided by the participants, with water and some biscuits with the parkrun name on. They made me pose with one of those, but it was a terrible picture and I’ll not share it. Nice biscuits, though.
The meeting point is the car park at the SE corner of the park, next to some apartment buildings as you can see above. The start is further round the park, on the West side, so everyone wanders over there. That happened organically, but it seemed to slightly surprise the organisers, and I wondered whether if they’d had a moment longer, they might have done the announcements at the initial meeting point. It didn’t matter, they carried the megaphone to the start and did them there – several rounds of applause, some I couldn’t make out, others clearly for milestones (such as someone running their 50th parkrun).
There were a couple of other English people there, taking a break from a stag-do, which is an impressive effort. We all ran one loop of the Southern-most, larger lake, ran round the East side of it again before heading up the path to the other lake, which is smaller, has a small hill to surmount to get up onto the path, and a fountain in the middle to greet you once you’re up the hill. Back down the path, round the other side of the larger lake and back to the meeting point. Job done.
Not many people spoke English, which isn’t uncommon so far for me in Poland (and if they’re learning a language, it’s more likely to be Ukrainian, to talk to their new friends), but I still managed to have a quick chat about my 500 shirt with a runner – he was breathing more easily than me as we ran down the last straight, asking me first in Polish and then English but I managed to answer his questions. And I had a nice chat via a phone’s translation (typing) with a young girl whose mum had asked me to pose with the Gdańsk Południe biscuit. She wanted particularly to know how long I’d been doing parkrun for to get a 500 shirt, and was kind of amazed that my first event was in 2007. I looked at her and suddenly realised that most of her life, and we communicated that with a big of sign language. She enjoyed it, I pretended to. Yikes.
The Vasa Museum wowed me when I visited it over 10 years ago, did so again on this visit and is surely one of the great museums. Many museums in Stockholm are free to visit; this one is not, but the 190kr (£15) is worth it. It’s located on the same island as the Djurgarden, to the East of the very centre of the city. “Is it the funny-shaped building?” someone asked me, and well, yes, probably. Note that much of the supporting material, audio and visual, is available from outside the museum – see the bottom of this post for links.
It has long opening hours, 8:30-18:00, to cater for everyone who calls in during the day. I came reasonably early at around 10 (it was a 4km walk there, too, so that stopped me being super early). That may have been peak time for groups, and it was noticeably quieter around lunch time (midday onwards), but I only really noticed it at a couple of exhibits that were blocked with people being informed, and I went back to those later in any case. As for entering, don’t be put off if you see a lot of people entering – groups have a separate entrance and queue, and individuals can be in within moments. I wandered up to a self-service machine, pressed the screen for adult entry, held my card to the machine, took the printout, had it checked, and I was in.
I sort of wanted to see the ship last, and to hold the pictures of the whole thing till the end, but it makes some sense to just let you see it. My jaw didn’t actually drop, but I certainly stopped (and there is a big, wide space after the entry doors, allowing a lot of people to stop dead if necessary).
The ship was built between 1626 and 1628. It then set sail, made it 1,000 yards or so, sails set and all gunports open, before a gentle breeze rocked it and another one made it capsize, take on water and sink, with 30+ deaths (some captions still suggest 50, so I think the estimate has come down over time). When I last came I remember distinctly describing it as “set sail, fell over, sank and that’s why we still have it”, and being fairly sure it was bad design. The museum was probably never so definitive. Certainly the ship is not wide enough for the two gun decks and remarkably high ship, but it also didn’t have enough ballast (related to the width, as there wasn’t enough space), the original designer died, and the king interfered and insisted on sailing soon. None of those are pointed to as the main cause, but since an inquest at the time found no-one guilty, we’re left to think it was a combination of those factors (or that it was the otherwise-great King Gustavus Adolphus, and no one was going to blame him).
There are several floors, each of which has exhibits and in some cases, especially ground and lower ground, galleries to wander through. The higher floors are mostly for viewing.
To the right of the entrance is the information desk, toilets and lockers, and a cinema with an excellent film about the history of the ship, particularly focusing on the work done to salvage it. Efforts were made periodically, including at the time, but the most successful two were a slightly destructive 17th century set of dives that retrieved a lot of cannon, at the cost of much of the top of the ship, and the 1950s full floatation.
The picture below of the rear of the ship gives a small idea of how high above the water she must have sat. The picture is taken from roughly the water line. There is still a *lot* of ship above.
The ship is so well preserved because it luckily – for us – sank in anaerobic conditions, and much of it sunk into the mud, more so after an early salvage attempt. The usual cause of ship decay, Teredo Navalis or shipworm, does not live in the conditions where the Vasa was. Still, conservation was intense from the beginning and continues, with initial supposition that it had been conserved and was now good replaced by the understanding that ‘we have the Vasa, but not forever’.
To give an idea of some of the conservation work: First the ship had to be sprayed with water continuously to prevent the wood drying out. Once it was in a temporary home, the water was then replaced with a Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) solution, which meant continual spraying over days or longer, leaving a mist over the ship. Iron rivets had been driven into the ship underwater in the 1950s and those were more recently found to be rotting and damaging the wood. Most have now been replaced by a special steel mixture. The air conditioning within the building was found not to be powerful enough during one especially wet summer, and had to be completely replaced by a better system. And the ship is in a cradle, for which it is not designed, so is settling (if I remember correctly) by a mm each year, and not evenly, so they are currently trying out new bolsters.
It’s a lot of work.
Look at all those carvings. Incredible. It’s 98% original, and you can generally see the newer bits, as they’re different colours to the dark PEG impregnated wood, and mostly on the top. And people had to walk out onto that bowsprit to get to a lookout (not pictured) at the end.
There’s plenty of sea-jargon to take in, if you want to, though it is generally explained. That said, there are a few exhibits that are a little like reading Greek. An excerpt, talking about one of the sails (preserved, if holey, and on display, of course).
“The port clew, formed by a seized eye on the bolt rope. The seizing used is a racking seizing…
A part of the port leech rope with the lowest bowline cringle…
Part of the rope with one of the five cringles for the buntlines.”
It’s an extraordinary sight, and I recommend this museum wholeheartedly. I had no doubts about returning, and saved it for my final day in Stockholm. It did not disappoint and I was there several hours. There’s free wifi and a restaurant and then the gardens to wander round afterwards, too.
Haga park is to the North of the centre, an easy walk from where I was staying, near Stockholm Central, a bike ride for some, a jog for others. There’s a car park right by the start, too, for anyone who had driven.
This was to be a cloudy and cool day with drizzle, but you wouldn’t have known it from the period up till just after 9, which was very warm and sunny. It was only as we came out of the trees after the second loop of the park that the sun had properly disappeared, making only intermittent appearances afterwards. The run director tried gamely to convince us that this was typical Stockholm weather, but no one was fooled, especially not an English runner who had made the trip from Helsinki. We all enjoyed it throughly, mind.
I arrived early, standing around in the sun, just a little too warm to be wearing a long-sleeved top. Everything was already setup before 9, despite the start at 9.30, so it was very easy to find, but it isn’t tricky – the bottom end of the park, just North of the parking, on the road-side of the first grassy area.
There are no facilities at the park, or all that nearby – toilets at Odenplan, the course page says, which is a little walk away.
We were warned that the left-side of the loop is mostly uphill, and there are two hills/lumps on the other side, too. You’re heading uphill from the start, too, to get through the Haga gates, but none of the hills go on for too long. I had two quick miles, bookending a significantly slower one, and ran exactly the same time as at Vallaskogen, in Linköping, so must have made the most of the downhills. I was pushed all the way by a Ukrainian who was walking up the hills, which was humbling, and he tucked in behind me down the last hill before racing off to the finish, then joining me and a festival-attending Brit for a drink afterwards. It was only the Brit’s second parkrun, and already he has run events in two countries.
There are just a couple of marshals to check on you as you go round, but plenty of signs at the top right of the course, and no chance to go wrong. Each kilometre is marked, too.
The paths are all wide, if a little gravelly to slow you just a little. There’s a gravelly area just as you come downhill at the top of the loop, which acts as a brake but is soon over. Essentially, with all this space and tree cover, there’s little to stop you getting on with the event – people are easily avoided, the sights are clear and even on a sunny day you are in the shade often.
This event couldn’t go ahead on the National Day, because the park was being used for other celebrations, though it still had an attendance spike on the Saturday before, with 133 finishers. We had 87 this Saturday, which is a nice crowd – a fair few people, but soon spreading out. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning, both here and chatting afterwards in the cafe – possibly the wrong cafe, with hindsight, given that only the Ukrainian joined us, but perhaps we were just there and finished before everyone else. It didn’t matter. We managed to confuse the lady in the cafe by putting in two orders – she seemed to think the second order overruled some of the first, so we got exactly half what we’d ordered. Given I’d offered to pay, that was a big saving – orange juice and small pastry, £6.32. I popped into a supermarket on the way back. Perhaps because UK prices have risen/are rising so much, supermarkets seem more reasonable than I remember (two pastries, £1.60). But everything else (hotels, as I found on my first night, when the key had been swiped from my AirBnB, cafes, restaurants etc) is reassuringly expensive.
That evening, as I wandered the decks of a Polferry from Nynäshamn to Gdańsk, I could immediately see the difference, and my wait for a beer was rewarded – even the ferry price was only just over £3. Just remember to always choose to pay in the local currency. On small amounts, the markup when they offer to let you pay in your own seems less of a ripoff than I remember, and it was still a bargain, but I was happy with £3.01 rather than, I think, £3.35. The 50cl topped off my time in Sweden, and memories of running in Swedish warmth, nicely.
Each country can choose a day on which they can hold an extra parkrun. Sweden chooses its national day, 6th June. Because it was a Monday, and also because it followed some national holidays in the UK, many of the runs in Sweden were busy – Malmö, which I ran in 2019, especially so. In 2019, we nearly set an attendance record with 144. This year, they all-but doubled it, with 287.
Vallaskogen was much quieter. They’d had an influx of tourists on the Saturday before, taking their attendance to 38, and today they were at a still-higher-than-average 27.
Vallaskogen is a nature reserve to the NW of Linköping. I was staying in Skaggetorp, a self-contained suburb further NW, but even that was a straightforward 4km walk to the start. From the centre of town, it would be much shorter.
Everyone meets at the edge of the reserve, still within the confines of the Gamla Linköping, an open-air museum preserving buildings and more from small-town Sweden of 100 years or more ago. The red cabins you can see in the start pictures above are typical. There are picnic tables to gather round afterwards, ground to lie on if you need it and toilets nearby.
There was one other Brit there, who managed to take better pictures while on the run, which I’ve reproduced below. Thanks!
The course is mostly on forest paths, which at this time of year are covered in pine needles, giving a slightly gentler landing. It’s all run on a good surface, and with not too much up and down, making for a quick course. Plenty to divert you as you progress, too, with trees and wildlife everywhere.
There’s a short loop to get you going before you head out into the forest. The course doesn’t take a right-turn it used to, because there are goats there – an unusual reason for a course change. I couldn’t spot the old route while running, though, and just followed the signs. On the main loop, you’re following yellow diamonds and yellow runner signs. I was lucky enough to have an actual yellow runner up ahead, so was in no doubt as to where to go.
The event can run with very few volunteers. The lady handing out finish tokens was also scanning people’s barcodes, which is perfectly possible but I couldn’t really stand by while she was busy, and ended up giving out finish tokens to everyone finishing behind me, which is why you’ll see me standing at the finish in the picture below.
It was a glorious morning – later it clouded over – and so while others had things to head back to, Graham and I headed to a local cafe to chat. Dahlbergs cafe is just round the corner, and popular enough to have a queue to get in when we got there and when we left, some time later. Time spent in the cafe meant we were still in the museum when a concert of Swedish songs (that is the sum total of what I know about it, and that’s a guess) started later, and we stood for a while to let the atmosphere roll over us.
Heading back, I deviated from the main road that took me directly to Skaggetorp and found that just over the road to the North of the nature reserve is a whacking great forest (Rydskogen), which was a pleasure to stroll through, dotted with wide trails and smaller ones taking you off into the trees, along with a frisbee golf course to avoid getting in the way of.
I’d heard a few people saying they’d considered going to Uppsala but that they didn’t think there were trains. I’d considered Uppsala, assuming I’d stay in Stockholm, and there seemed plenty of trains, so bear in mind that one’s a possibility. Unless I’ve missed something, but I wonder whether the number of train companies means it’s possible to check one operator and not find trains – seat61.com recommends sj.se, which I used with no issues – buy the tickets online, in advance for the best price (see the possible differences below!) and just show the pdf on a phone if you have one.
Starting from Oset and Rynningeviken, to the East of the city, the parkrun is an easy walk from town. Walking there alongside the canal was a highlight of my morning, and the meanders don’t add much to the distance – I turned a 2.5km walk into a 4km one by heading South to the canal and walking round the castle before I went East.
You can walk on either side of the water with no worry about getting stuck – there’s a bridge right by the start of the run. It is surprising how quickly your surroundings change from urban to country as you move East out of town, and good for the soul on any morning, though I particularly enjoyed the fact that it was warm and therefore pausing to look around didn’t mean getting cold.
I passed a few toilets by the canal, but didn’t check to see if they were open. I think some used the ones at the Naturens hus, 100m from the start, before the event. Certainly the cafe was open afterwards for drinks and food.
This being Sweden, and in the EU, various things are banned, and no one has any common sense, so we had only the loosest explanation of the course and then everyone set off running in circles before working out that a straight line would be best. Meanwhile, back in the glorious UK, the barriers of annoying civil servants who insist on the truth have been further weakened, and the government is able to pretend in an official press release that the EU banned the pint symbol and that the notion of “common sense” is going to stand up to more than a second’s scrutiny and will serve as the basis for law (as QC Joshua Rosenberg put it when talking about the human rights rhetoric/bill “Promises to end abuse and restore common sense are political rhetoric that deserve no place in a briefing note of this sort”). Bless them, that brain drain has kicked in *awfully* quickly. It’s also possible to now see a clip of Johnson arriving in front of a crowd of royalists to loud boos, only with the boos removed. Pravda are in town to take lessons, apparently.
The contrast is stark in a country that isn’t trying to pretend that there are benefits where there are not. In reality we had a lovely briefing in two languages, and no one felt that running 5km was a tyranny that would be fixed by calling it 3.1miles or 24.86 furlongs. It’s a one lap course, with the first and last bit the same, and plenty of time to look out over the water.
The course heads through trees before soon opening up with water on the right as it heads into the nature reserve. That first section is pretty shaded but after that it’s mostly open to the weather, which made for a warm run on a summery day.
At the finish, sitting by the water I could hear several birds singing, and a cuckoo making merry that punctuated the rest. It’s pretty idyllic.
The Town Park is just to the South East of town, and the parkrun starts even closer, outside the Visitor Centre. I chose free parking down at the SE corner of the park, just over a mile away from the start. There is paid parking much closer to the start, either the Dark Lane car park mentioned on the course page, or for just £1, the Rugby Club, diagonally opposite the Dark Lane car park (some say the postcode for the latter is wrong, and when I checked it pointed to the rugby club, so it would get you there, if not quite where you might expect – check that you’re being taken to Dark Lane, at least).
The start takes you downhill to get to the lake, and you then head round the lake and cut across the middle of the park for the first, short, lap, before repeating the loop and adding some more on at the bottom edge. It’s very straightforward, and it’s organised such that very few, if any, people need to worry about being lapped by the faster runners.
The course is very green, and mostly shaded, with tree-lined paths making up most of the course. It’s a very pleasant place to be. It’s a busy event, with close to 400 finishers this Saturday, but it very quickly didn’t feel crowded, despite the paths not being that wide. There’s enough space for people to stretch out, once through the first section going downhill.
The finish area is not quite as far up as the start, but it does still involve a cruel hill at the end of the run, before a last quick section on the flat coming into the finish itself. There’s loads of space here afterwards to relax in the sun, if there is any, or just to mill around chatting.
Telford parkrun is another great parkrun, with good facilities, a great park to run/walk around and plenty to see and do afterwards if you want to stick around (it may be that if you do, you should check with the rugby club when they close their gates, but that may not be an issue, and could just be an excuse to move to the small free parking areas at the South of the park).
Sort of on the way to where I was dog sitting for the following week was this run in the grounds of a grand house. I went for the views, and because this was an event number I hadn’t already done, and got lucky with the weather, to boot. All the facilities you could want are there – masses of free parking, toilets near the start, great views and a restaurant on site.
The route is well marked and marshalled. There’s a potential pinch point near the start of the lap, where the route goes through a gap in the fence, as shown above. It’s only a problem on the first lap, and there’s still lots of room for us all to fit, but it’s a busy run and it would be possible to clip a gate post in attempting to negotiate the things while everyone is setting off, so those are marked with hi-viz vests.
After the gate, everyone can spread out, some run on the path and others, particularly overtakers, on the grass to either side. A left turn at the end takes you onto rougher ground, with ups and downs and fields to run through. No big hills or particularly tough terrain, but it needs a bit of thought and attention, and running on grass is generally slower than paths.
One lap of these lovely grounds wouldn’t be enough so although I’m sure there were bits I found tough, I was very happy to see the sights again. I particularly liked heading into the fields after the long straight, and then seeing the house come into view as we turn into the second half of the lap, but your highlights may vary.
The volunteers were as friendly as you could want, and the facilities really are excellent. With sun on our back as well, we all felt lucky to be moving on a great Saturday morning.
A misty morning lured people into wearing more clothes than were needed as the sun broke through around 9am, but on the upside the sense of giddiness that engendered meant that people wandered up and talked to me before and after the run, and then on the streets of Clitheroe. Based on today, I may have found England’s friendliest town.
There are a few car parks around the area, but I didn’t have the right change, and the streets to the South of the park offer free parking in any case, so I just parked a few roads away and wandered to the castle grounds. The toilets in the park were open, and just down the small hill from the start.
Pre and post run happens at the bandstand, with the short path that leads there used as the finish funnel, steering everyone off the path.
The course is 5 anti-clockwise laps, heading downhill at the start, taking a left turn to run down the side of the park before wiggling through some sharp turns and a couple of short uphill sections before a slightly longer grind uphill past the castle.
It’s a reasonably tough run, fairly described as undulating, given the twists and turns and repeated (and repeated again) uphill sections, plus a slightly damp course making caution wise on those turns. Unlike the last time I ran a course with so many laps, I managed not to overthink the laps I’d done and found counting straightforward (last time, I worked out I’d pass a particular tree 6 times, this time was the second, but I’d only finished one lap, and went from there in confusing myself a little).
After the run I wandered up the hill to the castle, which has a short walk round part of the old walls, with great views of the town and countryside beyond. I wandered back down and into town, where several residents shared their excitement at how lovely a day it was, and how they’d worn far too many clothes for the conditions. Tesco is nearby for food and a sit in the sun, and in general I was filled with the joy of a warm Spring day. I only hope that if you go, you have a similar experience, because I can’t emphasise enough how genuinely I mean that this felt unusually friendly for an English town.
With a fell race locally in the afternoon, attendance was down on the usual – the week before was relatively busy, with 114, and on this Saturday we had 51 finishers. That meant relatively few people were lapped and there was little pressure on the narrower sections of the course, though I’m sure it’s no problem even with another 50+ people.
A testing run/walk in a friendly town with plenty of foliage to enjoy as you go round; if you’re anywhere near, take it in on a Saturday. A surprisingly warm one, if you can.