Telford parkrun, Shropshire

Map of Telford parkrun, in the Town Park.
Telford parkrun route – one small lap, cutting across the middle, then one large lap, going all the way down to the bottom of the map, past Fletcher’s Pool.

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).

Wide paths outside the visitor centre and playgrounds with a few tall trees.
The visitor centre. Post parkrun, so no evidence of it, but the start is on the path to the right.

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.

Runners in motion down a path bordered by verdant bushes.
Runners get going.

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.

People stand around, with a couple lying down, at the finish area which is on a large grassy spot with paths round the edge for the actual running.
The finish line and grassy area for a nice lie down.

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).

Results from Telford parkrun, event 388, 21/5/22, with 377 finishers.

Belton House parkrun, Lincs, England

A map of Belton House parkrun route
Belton House parkrun route – a smidge over two laps round the grounds.
A grand mansion house
Belton House
The start line.

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.

Hi-viz vests mark the posts on an open gate, with a wide path heading through them.
A well-marked gate near the start of the loop.

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.

A large and bushy tree stands over the finish line, as people head back to their cars
Big tree at the finish

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.

Results from Belton House parkrun event 233, 14/5/22; 311 finishers.

Clitheroe Castle parkrun, Lancashire

Map of Clitheroe Castle parkrun, 5 anti-clockwise laps in the park outside the castle.
Clitheroe Castle parkrun. 5 anti-clockwise laps.

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.

A castle keep up on a grassy hill that is model-perfect in its perfect state of being kept.
The remains of the castle overlook the park. The path behind, with benches, is the longer uphill section (then heading downhill behind the parkrun flag).

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.

Tiered concrete steps provide seating in front of the bandstand, on which sits the Clitheroe Castle parkrun sign.
The bandstand, with a view off to the side.

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.

A war memorial in front of the castle keep, with a line of purple flowers all along the railings in front.
Walking down from the castle into 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.

Looking down from the height of the castle, seeing a path winding below, the whole of the bandstand and its concrete steps, and houses behind the well-defined tree-lined border of the park.
A view from the Castle (you don’t get this high on the run).

Results from Clitheroe Castle event 135, 7/5/22.

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.

Lingwood parkrun, Norfolk, England

The parkrun route, out and round paths at the back of the playing fields.
Lingwood parkrun route.

Lingwood parkrun is a masterpiece of wiggling around, particularly on the paths at the back (right on the picture above) of the playing field and nascent park behind the Lingwood Village Hall. It’s three and a bit laps, which was no hardship – it took me that long to get it clear in my head how exactly we were moving on that back section in such a way as to be close to people ahead and behind, yet never in their way.

Flags and cones mark the finish, with the playing field stretching away under the sun
The finish line. Despite what the sign says, the start is on the other side of the field.

Frankly it isn’t easily described, so I’ll leave the picture there, but suffice to say that if you come, you’ll not get lost. It is very clear when you do it, whether for the 1st time with no idea what’s coming up, or the 3rd, when you know what’s coming but may have forgotten one path. My mind certainly simplified it at some point – no, you fool, it’s simple, just out the back of the fields, round one path, round another on the outside of that and back again. That misses a bit.

A gravel path cuts through the field
The final corner of the lap, going from gravel to grass
Lingwood Village Hall, a low and long building
The Village Hall

All the facilities you could want are in the village hall, which is lavishly appointed compared to other such halls. Plenty of parking, too, while attendance is under 100. The finish is right next to the hall (on the right as you look at it), with the start a short walk to the other side of the field away, so the whole thing feels compact and accessible.

A gravelly path on the field with cones and an arrow to mark the route
That last corner again

There was a definite community feel to this event, too. It felt as though many people knew each other and had strolled to their local event which is always a good sign.

Gravelly paths out the back of the course.
Paths out the back

The course is a mixture of gravelly paths – I wouldn’t run them barefoot or in minimal shoes – and grass, so despite being pretty flat, it isn’t necessarily especially fast. Because of the twists and turns it’s always interesting, though, with your view constantly shifting, and it makes sense to check where your feet are going. It kept my mind busy, for sure.

The start line, by a shelter next to the playing fields.
The start, far side of the playing fields. The turn into the wiggly bit is in the middle of the picture

I enjoyed both the challenge and the atmosphere at this lovely event, as well as it not being as big in number as some. Attendance hovers around 100, which is a nice number, and they have once had over 200, which must have made for a great sight, heading off round the fields. Lingwood station is a short walk away (0.3 miles), there’s a Spar in the village if you need more than the Hall provides, and Norwich is 9 miles to the West, Great Yarmouth 12 to the East for extra sight-seeing.

Results from Lingwood parkrun, event 91 2/4/22, 57 finishers.

Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire

On the last day of the unseasonal, if welcome, warm weather in March, I was headed South and took the chance to stop at Bolsover Castle, which is very close to the M1. It’s an English Heritage site, free to members, £12.60/11.30/7.60. There’s a free car park in front, which is also very convenient for the Wetherspoons pub. The latter may explain why on a quiet day the car park was full, but at any rate there is an overflow car park by the side of the castle, just continue along the road past the castle entrance and take a sharp right.

Panoramic view with battlements at the front and rolling green fields disappearing down the hill.
View from the castle over the model village.

The castle as we see it, dominating the skyline as you approach, was built by the Cavendish family in the 17th century on the site of an older medieval fortress. It had plenty of bedrooms, but was meant more for entertaining than as a place to live, with the administration of the estate (essentially all the eye can see, and the Cavendish family owned several of the other ‘great houses’ in the area) carried out from elsewhere. Most famously, William Cavendish spent £14,000 (his entire yearly income) to entertain the King and Queen when they visited in 1630.

There is plenty to see. The views over the valley are spectacular in themselves, the old long buildings are fascinating, the gardens kept simple but smelling lovely and the Little Castle with partial reconstructions of the ornate insides. There’s also an exhibition and second-hand bookshop in the first buildings you find, which contain the parade ground. William Cavendish is known as the English father of dressage, believing strongly that there was no need to brutalise a horse to make it behave, and proving so. Apparently his manuals of horsemanship are still relevant, which is quite something.

The Little Castle was holds rooms for entertaining and Cavendish’s bedroom, with upper floors closed for renovation. More entertaining happened in the long building to the side of the Little Castle, but the cost of maintaining such a large site meant a later owner took the roof off it and let it fester. As a result it looks older though it actually isn’t. The paintings above the wood panels, seen above, are described as closer to fine art than just decoration. There are plenty of staircases and small rooms off to one side (originally privies, but now clean and tidy!) to check out, but the art is the highlight, and so the video below is recommended to give you an insight.

A QR code inside the entrance to the Little Castle links to a YouTube video, Bolsover Castle: A Journey in Art (6:44).

You’re never far from a great view of the countryside. The model village down the hill (not a small one, a real one laid out in a ‘model’ of good living) is clear because of the square layout – it was known as New Bolsover, which is now the name of the road on which it sits.

Looking through a 'v' shaped archway  to a wall, stairs and then countryside behind
View through an archway.
Looking at a tall tree in the castle grounds, with a wall and the Little Castle behind. Mole hills dot the grass close to the camera.
Little Castle stands on the right, the abandoned long building to the left.
View of the Little Castle from the courtyard.
Venus statue in the courtyard, a rare working fountain from the 17th century.

I wandered round Bolsover, a nice enough town, with a pretty church and footpaths heading off down the hill if you want to explore. If you fancy a pint I’d recommend The Blue Bell, on High Street, based purely on the views – it has a beer garden perched right on the edge of the hill, so you can sit and enjoy the view. With a long drive ahead, I managed to resist temptation, though it was strong, and instead found an all-day breakfast for a fiver at a cafe in town which also did excellent cakes.

Felixstowe parkrun

Felixstowe parkrun route – start by the leisure centre, head SW then back past the start to the NE, though we headed NE first.

On a warmish sunny day, in between a couple of storms, Felixstowe was a lovely place to be. Around a third of the UK’s parkruns were cancelled for stormy conditions or the after effects of same, so as soon as Felixstowe said their course was fine, I headed down to the seaside.

Picture of the Felixstowe promenade, with a caution runners sign on the railings and an ice cream stall on the other side.
Near the start – the leisure centre is on the right.

The webpage suggests gathering on the grass in front of the Leisure Centre, but I chose to stand on the beach, and many others were clustered on the promenade, catching up and counting our good luck in finding a run that was definitely going ahead, and without too much wind compared to the night before, though it was still there.

Cones mark the finish line on the promenade, under blue skies, with a yellow sandy beach to the side.
The finish line.

The route is very straightforward. I missed the first part of the briefing, blown away on the wind, but he may have announced that we were doing it in reverse, as the official site says the opposite, but we lined up facing the pier and headed NE past it and on to a turnaround, then back past the start and to a turnaround over a km from the finish. It’s not a course you can go wrong on, unless you try and run on the beach and get carried away, but the regular groynes would make that a hurdle course rather than a lovely run on the sand.

A building with a small tower on the pier, with sandy beaches in front.
Felixstowe pier.

We had the wind behind us for the first section, which gave genuine assistance, but meant that we then had it in our faces for twice as far as we went back on our tracks, past the start/finish and on to the second 180 degree turn. I managed to catch a group ahead of me, with the intention of drafting for a bit, but ended up going past and allowing them a brief respite from the wind. Reaching the last section is always good, but on this windy day there was the extra incentive of knowing the wind would be behind us again.

Caution runners sign on the prom, looking North.
Fish & Chips store.

Aside from the wind, the only other things to cope with were a slightly narrower section near the start, with beach huts taking up some of the promenade, but given that no one was yet coming back on the other side, there was plenty of room. Stones had blown over the course at the second turnaround, which slowed us down, but otherwise this is a flat and fast course, depending on conditions, on a good surface.

View North along the promenade, with beach huts on the left and sandy beaches on the right.
Looking North.

It looks pretty good in the sun, too. There are plenty of attractions for afterwards, and parking is easy. There’s a paid car park right by the start, or the roads behind the front are free to park in. They are immediately up a hill, but it’s a short but hilly walk to the start.

Results from Felixstowe parkrun, event 131, 19/2/22 – 165 finishers.

Babbs Mill parkrun, nr Birmingham

I didn’t have a watch for this run, so no course map, but you’ll find one on the event’s course page. Essentially it’s a flat loop around a lake, with wide paths and a lovely friendly feel.

A wide path next to the lake. Hi viz vests are wrapped round some low bars to make sure we don't run into them
Hi-Viz marks the bars

For reasons I still don’t understand, I missed the car park right by the start, and instead parked at Babbs Mill Lake East, leaving me with a little walk to the start. It wasn’t a problem at all, except that the car park was so deserted that I wondered if the event was off until I spotted the hi-viz vests marking some low bars, as in the photo above.

A grassy area next to the start on the path. A parkrun flag and start banner are on the grass.
The start line

I wandered to the start line all on my own – everyone else was warming up round the lake, or just wandering from the larger car park very near the start. Still, I got a friendly welcome from the run director on the day, who was very happy to have any visitors.

Fiddling at the finish
Cones and tape mark the finish on the path, leading finishers off onto the grass
The participant’s view of the finish

The start was pretty well seeded – there was plenty of space early on for people to sort themselves out, but it might be congested with more people, so it’s a good habit for the event team to be in. All the briefings and welcomes were friendly and effective – I always feel welcome at parkrun, but here I felt accepted into a community, which was pretty special.

A bridge over the lake, gone over twice
The bridge
A narrow path heads through scrubby bushes, some showing dark red colour
A narrow path

As for the course, it’s pretty flat and scenic round the lake, with a hill to head up as the course moves away from the lake on the Southern side. An intentional bit of extra exercise! A very supportive marshal encouraged us all through the turn, and I needed it on the second lap, but was glad of the exertion.

Cones and a marshal at the turn to the hilly section
The hill off to the left
A view over the lake, rushes and grass growing at the edge
The lake
Birds gather by the edge of the lake, with bare winter trees dotted around parts of the edge
Birds on the lake

The lake is picturesque, the volunteers seemed happy to be there and happy that we were all there, and the course is nicely varied. A lovely event.

Results from Babbs Mill parkrun event 61, 12/2/22; 93 finishers.

Start a Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑