The one with the cancelled plans. Another Saturday another parkrun tourism adventure. My sisters and I had been planning a family reunion and trip down memory lane, we were going to meet up at Dunorlan Park in Royal Tunbridge Wells, run parkrun there and spend the day reminiscing around childhood haunts. Months ago a date had been agreed upon and placed in the calendar and not much more was thought of it until the week before. It was discovered in the days leading up to parkrun day that a late change of venue was required. This was due to Race For Life being held, how did we miss this, a parkrun tourism schoolboy error, always always always check these things. After a very short while consulting the invaluable Tourist Tool a couple of suitable alternatives were put up for discussion, the two closest destinations were Tonbridge or Bedgebury Pinetum.
As this was a family trip down memory lane we wanted to chose a place that meant something to all of us. Whilst I had spent a lot of time in Tonbridge in my youth it wasn’t a place where we had spent time as a family whereas Bedgebury had been a place frequented on family outings. Bedgebury Pinetum it was to be and what a lovely place to hold a parkrun. The grounds are huge and contains one of the world’s finest conifer collections, a centre for International Conifer Conservation and is a beautiful place for walks and picnics. Bedgebury Forest is ideal for cycling, walking, running, riding, adventure play, Go Ape and not forgetting Gruffalo hunting!! So there is plenty to do if you want to make a day of it. There are excellent facilities there too, toilets and showers available at the cafe. The cafe also offer a 10% discount on displaying your barcode, which is very nice. Parking is £3.00 as long as you are leaving by 10:30, if you plan on staying longer it is a sharp jump up to £12.00 for the full day so don’t get caught out.
The start is a short walk from the visitors centre and wasn’t hard to find once we had been pointed in the right direction by a local (thank you!). We found lots of people milling around there and some very friendly volunteers who were happy to have a chat and a joke whilst getting everything prepared for the runners. With Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun being cancelled there were quite a few first timers to Bedgebury Pinetum today so a busy first timers brief. There were tourists from as far afield as South Africa present, though I think my 100 mile drive may have qualified me for the furthest travelled on the day!
The course is mainly hard pack trail so road shoes are the order of the day. It is not a flat course, it has 67 metres of climb and descent. The first kilometre or so is predominantly uphill, followed by an equal descent to the half way point. This is followed by a second climb and descent, before a final climb to the 150m gentle downhill finishing straight where you can attempt to push hard if the legs will allow. I will say again, it is not flat, but the hills are not brutal and downhill sections are really very runnable so you can build up some speed and clock up a good time for the elevation. It’s a lovely course, a nice big one lapper around the forest, it’s well marked out with permanent signage and don’t forget to thank the marshals as you pass them. Always thank the marshals, they’re there so you can run, if you can’t manage to speak then flash them a smile or a thumbs up, do try not to grunt at them!
There were 102 runners there this week that saw the welcome site of the finish funnel. It’s always lovely to see people clapping and cheering runners across the line and providing support and encouragement and Bedgebury is no exception. There were 36 first timers to Bedgebury, with 8 of them being completely new to parkrun, and potentially 10 people who left their barcodes at home. #dfyb Don’t Forget Your Barcode, it’s the golden rule, no barcode – no time! The times ranged between 19:10 and 47:49 today so some great running all round. There were two aethsetically pleasing times of the day today with Lisa ROSE running 28:28 (a new PB too!) and Dawn Scott with 47:47. There were also 20 shiney new PB’s earned today, whilst it was a warm day conditions in the forest were ideal.
It was then back to the lovely cafe for a post run coffee, remembering to take advantage of the 10% discount with our barcodes. As it was a nice sunny morning we sat on the benches outside and consumed our purchases whilst looking out over the gorgeous lake with inquisitive ducks snuggling around by our feet looking to snap up any wayward morsels of food that may inadvertently get dropped.
Bedgebury Pinetum parkrun was a wonderful experience, it’s my 41st different parkrun and I loved it. Such a lovely place for a run and such a warm and welcoming team. I highly recommend a visit, don’t let the talk of hills put you off, emrace them. Love them. Run them! I might have to make this one a yearly pilgrimage!
Ah yes, post parkrun delights, I obviously opted for the Strawberry Cornetto option #parkruncornetto whilst my sisters opted for slightly more unusual post run refuelling options!!