Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun

The one with the not-home home run. Havant is my home parkrun, distance wise it is the closest parkrun to my house. It is where my love for parkrun first blossomed and will always be my home run whether I run there regularly or not. Out of my 97 runs, spread over 49 different places, 33 have been at Havant. Lately, when not touring far and wide, I’ve been been running at Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun, it is currently my overall parkrun PB course.

Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun has a lot to offer, easy access and an abundance of free parking available. There are toilet facilities and a Starbucks for a post run coffee and cake, if you’re in need of more sustenance then there is also a Subway. It’s a fast flattish loop out around the lake and back. The route is predominantly on tarmac path but the section that takes you out round the lake is hardpack trail. There are a few puddles to watch out for in winter months but it’s not a big deal. There is a small wooden bridge to cross that can get a bit icy but on the whole it’s a very good course all year round and very unlikely to have a cancellation due to adverse weather conditions.

There’s a couple of great videos on YouTube showcasing Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun.

They both help you get a feel for the place and the atmosphere. Its certainly become a firm favourite in my repeat runs list. It is a home away from home.

They do like a bit of fun at Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun, next weekend, 16th Dec 2027, is their “Festive Themed Fancy Dress Celebration of the start of the Christmas Season!” Everyone is invited to “get in the festive spirit by decking those hamstrings with tinsel, jingling some bells and walk/jog/running until you’re Christmas crackered!” It’ll be a right bit of Fun!

Sadly I won’t be attending that one as I’ve got to be somewhere else next weekend but I’m sure it will be fantastic fun.

Next weeks parkrun adventure will consist of repeat visit to a different Hampshire parkrun, all being well with the weather of course. It’s a parkrun I’ve only visited once before so I’m quite looking forward to a return visit. See you next week!

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Netley Abbey parkrun

The one with the loop de loop. Back in April 2016 I visited Netley Abbey parkrun for the first time. I was very new to parkrun tourism, in fact it was only the third time I’d strayed from home. I remember picking my trip there based on a blog that I’d found about it, Netley Abbey parkrun review. It all seems such a long time ago, who knew then what it would lead to.

Netley Abbey parkrun is held at the Royal Victoria Country park. The park itself is 200 acres of mature woodland and grassy parkland as well as a small shingle beach. The Royal Victoria Hospital was sited there but all that now remains is the rather striking chapel with its 150 metre tower. This is the heritage centre for the old hospital. The park also contains a rather useful tea rooms with toilets on hand and a miniature railway. There is a lot of work going on at the park at the time of writing so the course is quite different from the last visit. Parking is really straight forward, you can park in the park itself for a small fee, and if you leave a spare barcode on your dash you get a discount. There is also parking on the local roads available, postcode for the sat nav SO31 5GA.

The start and finish is currently close to the left side of the chapel when looking at it from the visitors centre. You start on the tarmac there and have a good straight to get going on there before you head off into the woods at the back of the park. Once in the woods you do a little loop before doing a bigger loop in a sort of figure 8. You repeat this three times before dropping back down a gentle slope and heading back to the finish. It’s a surprisingly quick course, relatively flat and was totally enable in road shoes, however I reckon if it’s a bit wet, due to the mixed terrain an intermediate trail shoe would be perfect.

It’s a really well supported parkrun with a good attendance and friendly atmosphere. It was a pacing event as well today, I’m not sure how regularly they do this but I get the impression it’s a reasonably regular thing. I ran it a full two minutes quicker than back in 2016 and surprised myself with a sub 23 finish and place in the top 50. However I don’t think the quicker club runners were out in force due to a local race in the Hampshire Road Race League the next day, hence the highish position. Fast or slow it’s a great parkrun that caters for everyone. There were buggy runners there as well as runners of all ages, shapes and sizes. It’s got a good family feel to it.

There’s also a great photographer there who takes great pictures of the entire field and uploads them later. This is the first run picture I’ve had taken of me that I’ve liked in quite some time.

Post run it’s off to the cafe for coffee, cake, Cornetto, conversation and contemplation, all of the important things covered. I have to say I was quite impressed with the winter ice cream selection, I managed to snag a mint chic chip cone, not had one of those since my last trip to Queen Elizabeth parkrun. There’s a good sized seating area inside and a massive area outside, I’m guessing because of the chillier conditions the outside option wasn’t a fan favourite!

I really enjoyed this repeat visit to Netley Abbey parkrun, so much so that I fancy another repeat visit soon and a pop at beating my shiny new course PB there. I’ve not repeated many courses through my parkrun travels but given how much I enjoyed this today I may well have to rethink that, at least revisit all the Hampshire runs again.

Thanks to everyone at Netley Abbey for being so friendly and welcoming.

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parkrun milestones – official and unofficial

Those of you that parkrun should be aware of the official parkrun milestones. If you have ever attended a parkrun you should see people wearing shirts with numbers printed on the back, juniors get a white 10 shirt, then there is a purple 25 shirt for volunteers, a red 50 shirt, a black 100 shirt, a green 250 shirt and the magical unicorn blue 500 shirt. These are awarded for free based on the number of parkruns you have completed or volunteered at, reach the numbers mentioned and earn a corresponding shirt. I’m currently on 95 runs so my 100 Club milestone is just around the corner.

These official milestones are the targets of most parkrunners, however, there is another breed of parkrunner, those that like to visit as many different parkruns as possible, the parkrun tourists. There are unofficial goals for parkrun tourists, starting with entry on to the most events table on the main parkrun site. 20 different locations gains you a position on the table and enables you to join the “UK parkrun tourists” group on Facebook. This entitles you to purchase and sport the lesser spotted Cow cowl – “a distinctive black, white and yellow not-buff designed by Kathy Brown which members of the most events table are welcome to buy to allow themselves to be spotted by other tourists at home or away.  Completely unofficial.  Features no parkrun branding whatsoever at all.”

The unofficial tourist goals are as follows (taken from the amazing parkrun tourist jargon buster)

  • Quarter Cowell – your 25th different parkrun (cake!)
  • Half Cowell (alt. Cow) – your 50th different parkrun (cake!)
  • Three-Quarter Cowell – your 75th different parkrun (cake!)
  • Cowell – your 100th different parkrun (your Cowell Club Run) and the point at which you show as having run 100 events on the global most events table. (celebrate with cake)
  • Fielding Club – an unofficial parkrun club for tourists who have run at 250 different UK events. (A sufficient, but not necessary, condition for membership of the Freyne Club)
  • Freyne Club – an unofficial parkrun club for tourists who have run at 250 different global events. (A necessary, but not sufficient, condition for membership of the Fielding Club)
  • A Bailey – trying to run your first 100 runs at 100 different events. Named for Gregory Bailey, the first parkrunner to get hooked on tourism early enough to do it.

I’m currently sat at 49 different events so my next unofficial goal is the Half Cowell, my cow run – my 50th different parkrun, obviously to be celebrated with cake!

There is a plan afoot so cunning that you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox. Will it work out, I do hope so, until such a time my parkrun touring is on hold, I won’t be busting out a parkrun anywhere new for a little while, I’ll just revisit a few local runs in the meantime.

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Bath Skyline parkrun

The one with the 99 steps, well, it’s more like 37. I’ve been ridiculously parkrun light of late, it feels like an eternity since the last time I ran one. In fact my last two parkruns have been Inverness at the end of September and Blickling mid October. In my defence I have been busy moving house and completing my 12 marathons in 12 months challenge, but that’s a story for another time.

Having read the course description for Bath Skyline a while back it was on my list of places to visit and this weekend I had the opportunity for a trip to Bath so why not kill two birds with one stone. Bath is such a beautiful place with so much history and some amazing architecture. I found a lovely place to stay via Airbnb not far from the city centre and not a million ways from ‘Free Fields’. We weren’t the first parkrun tourists to stay at that particular property and won’t be the last, we will no doubt be returning in the future.

Bath Skyline parkrun is held on National Trust property just outside of the city. It’s held at ‘Free Fields’ and there is free parking at the BMI clinic a stones throw away (BA2 7BR), I believe there are also toilets available there which is good to know. I believe that there is overflow parking at a nearby school if you don’t manage to secure a space at the clinic. Please don’t park on the road, whilst you are legally entitled to please avoid doing so as it upsets the natives.

The course is a gently undulating 5k figure of eight with a variety of surfaces to contend with, at the time of writing this Jegmar rate it as the 319th flattest parkrun out of 458 in the UK with 152ft of elevation. It’s a really enjoyable course with steps to contend with, it would be a ‘Tragedy’ if you missed the amazing views over Bath as you ‘Stomp’ around the course. ‘Words Are Not Enough’ to describe it ‘Here And Now’, though I might be overdoing it now with the Steps song references, they are ‘Better Best Forgotten’!!

It’s a well attended mid size parkrun with 284 participants this week, including 33 first timers to the course, the first timers brief covers everything they need to know. There are regularly around 300 runners so the start can be a little congested, however they do have signs up with suggested times to help get people in the right place and it thins out fairly quickly. I found the sub 25 sign and positioned myself accordingly. The RD stood on the bank nearby and addressed the collective, giving clear and concise instructions about the course and parkrun.

The course has got some great names, Klondyke Copse, Little Klondyke Copse, Fairy Wood and so on. There’s marshals at every key turn making sure no one goes astray and keeping people motivated, don’t forget to say thanks as you pass. There are steps as mentioned, so it’s not suitable for buggy runners but it’s great for running with a dog. I wore trail shoes but would have got away with road as it wasn’t too bad underfoot, but it’s not been too wet so far, I can imagine that it gets quite muddy in wetter weather.

There’s a great downhill finish so you can push a bit harder for that last half a mile. There was a great atmosphere around the finish with a lot of runners hanging around and supporting and cheering others in. It’s always nice to see. The events team are also very nice and welcoming, friendly and chatty, it’s a lovely place to visit.

The only thing we missed was a post run coffee but we had to rush off to go check out of our Airbnb room. It states on the official site that there is a pavilion at the BMI clinic that can be used to host refreshments but it’s a bring your own affair, I’m not sure if people do that still or not and forgot to ask.

I had a great run and finished sub 25, just like my positioning marker. Bath Skyline was my 49th different parkrun, my next tourist trip will be for my Half Cowell, my cow run. It seems like only yesterday I was trying to complete 20 events to join the UK Parkrun Tourists Facebook group. Time flies when you’re having fun travelling round the country, visiting new places. If you’ve not given parkrun tourism a try then I highly recommend it, so many lovely places to see and nice people to meet.

Thank you Bath Skyline parkrun, we will be back.

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Blickling parkrun

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

Erddig, Wrexham

Fell Foot, Cumbria

Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

Gibside, Tyne & Wear

Killerton, Devon

Lanhydrock, Cornwall

Lyme Park, Cheshire

Montacute, Somerset

Nostell Priory, Yorkshire

Osterley Park, Middlesex

Parke Dartmoor, Devon

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd

Penrose, Cornwall

Plymbridge, Devon

Sheringham Park, Norfolk

The Leas, Tyne & Wear

Tredegar, South Wales

Trelissick, Cornwall

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.

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