The one with the “off with their heads”. This weekend we are a whopping 210 miles from home and visiting one of Norfolk’s finest, Blickling parkrun. This comes under the East of England region according to the official parkrun events page, it’s a pretty big region that covers a lot of ground. Aldenham, Tring and Ellenbrook Fields fall within this region so this excursion makes this my fourth parkrun visited in that particular region.
Blickling parkrun is located in a National Trust location so you know that it’s going to be a beautiful backdrop. It’s just north of Aylsham and has been managed by the National Trust since the 40’s and is reportedly the most haunted property in their portfolio. Blickling Hall was built during the reign of King James I by the Holbert family on top of the ruins of the Boleyn family residence, so has plenty of history. Legend has it that Anne Boleyn’s ghost appears in the grounds of the Hall dressed all in white, seated in a ghostly carriage that is drawn by headless horses, spurred on by a headless coachman. Anne too is headless, holding her severed head securely in her lap. On arrival the coach and driver vanish leaving the headless Anne to glide alone into Blickling Hall where she roams the corridors and rooms until daybreak. Her brother, Lord Rochford, also appears on the same night, he too is headless although he doesn’t enjoy the comfort of a carriage, for he is dragged across the surrounding countryside by four headless horses. They’ve all lost their heads!
There are 23 parkruns currently held in National Trust properties around the UK, this will be my second visit to one, the other being Osterley which was visited early on in the #parkruncornetto challenge.
Here’s the full NT list
•Bath Skyline, Somerset
•Belton House, Lincolnshire
•Blickling Estate, Norfolk
•Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
•Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
•Fell Foot, Cumbria
•Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire
•Gibside, Tyne & Wear
•Lyme Park, Cheshire
•Nostell Priory, Yorkshire
•Osterley Park, Middlesex
•Parke Dartmoor, Devon
•Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd
•Sheringham Park, Norfolk
•The Leas, Tyne & Wear
•Tredegar, South Wales
•Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire
I feel another potential personal challenge coming on!
Back to today, this mornings run is the 200th run being held at Blickling so it’s a bit of a celebration. It’s been going since November 2013 and regularly draws in roughly 180-200 people each week, the course record being 277 people back in April this year. This week there were 261 people enjoying the first running of the alternative one lap course and what a lovely course it is. There is ample parking at Blickling but it comes at a cost, you can only buy an all day ticket in the National Trust carpark and that will set you back the princely sum of £5 (parking is free to NT members). There are also toilet facilities available at the Muddy Boots cafe block in the main carpark.
The run brief was held this morning a stones throw from the main car park next to the old school house and from there it was a short walk through to the start. The start and finish are in different locations and as it was a glorious morning I was happy to leave my hoody on the gate next to the school house. The run brief is delivered by megaphone but it’s worth getting near the front if you want to hear it all clearly. Once the brief was completed we were walked round to the start.
The one lap course is an undulating course through the woodland around the side of the estate, it’s mainly hard pack trail and I ran it in road shoes without issue, I’d say that if gets wet it could get a bit muddy but even then a light trail shoe would be more than ample to cope, you’d probably get away with road shoes most the year round.
It’s a beautiful course in autumn with amazing colours through the trees and stunning views across the estate when the trees open up. Talking to one of the marshals there can be sheep out on the course too but I didn’t spot any today. There was a really cheeky little hill a couple of miles around the course which is a veritable mountain by Norfolk standards being as it’s basically flat everywhere! This does however mean a long descent down to the finish for a nice fast final burst!
As with most parkruns the support and encouragement is superb with volunteers and runners really getting into it. There was a fantastic buzz around the finish funnel with lots of people hanging around waiting to cheer other runners in. One thing that stood out was that there were a lot of junior runners around, a great family feel and so good to see the younger runners getting full enjoyment out of parkrun.
The Blickling estate is such a lovely place for a run and once finished the apres-parkrun takes place at the aptly named Muddy Boots cafe by the main carpark. Here you can get a decent coffee and marvel at the range of cakes and ice cream they have available or even go for something a bit more substantial. I’d definitely lay aside more time to allow for this and then a wander around the estate and visit the house, you’ve paid for your parking so you might as well make the most of it.
Who doesn’t enjoy a nice post parkrun ice cream?
It was a weekend of little coincidences, I’d certainly not expected to drive 200+ miles to chat with a volunteer who knows someone in my running group! She saw my Portsmouth Joggers hoody and said “oh, do you know Nick… I ran a half with him earlier this year”, yes, yes I do, such a small world!!! There were random number coincidences too, I was running my 47th different UK venue, I came in in 47th position, it was their 200th event and my tourist companion, Pauline, came 200th. Love a bit of number symmetry.
Thank you Blickling parkrun for being so welcoming, definitely well worth a visit if you’re up in Norfolk. What a lovely morning.