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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Inverness parkrun

The one at the alternative location. The latest parkrun tourism adventure saw us visiting a parkrun at the opposite end of the British Isles, Inverness. It is roughly 610 miles from my home parkrun, Havant, and is the most northerly parkrun I’ve visited so far. It is also one of two parkruns in the UK that begins with an I, the other being Ipswich. This leaves me with just four letters to collect to complete all the available letters in the alphabet. So what was the purpose of such a long trip? Well, the main purpose of the journey was to run the Loch Ness marathon, but I’d be lying if the chance of bagging an I didn’t seal the deal when choosing a marathon for September.

Inverness parkrun is usually held at Bught park but due to the marathon race village being set up there the location had shifted slightly down the road to nearby Whin Park. Scottish parkruns start slightly later than the rest of the UK kicking off at 9:30 rather than the usual 9:00, however this morning the start was even later as they were thoughtfully ensuring that anyone arriving at the usual location had time to get to the alternative start. There were a lot of tourists visiting and the first timers brief reflected that, there were Apricot shirts from all over and a few cow cowls dotted around here and there.

The alternative route is a 5 lap route around a pond and down along the riverbank, past some hippos and a pink elephant, around the miniature railway and back around the play park. It had a real mixture of terrain with muddy puddles to splash through, grass, tarmac and a bit of trail, so very varied and a lovely little leg stretcher the day before the marathon.

There was a very jovial atmosphere and the RD and volunteer team were very welcoming and patient with lots of lost looking tourists. It looked like they also had a very full roster too with volunteers everywhere, something that’s fairly common the day before a large local event. There were in fact 258 runners this time around, a course record!

5 laps sounds a bit onerous, but the reality of it was that it went by in no time at all. I saw something new on every lap and particularly enjoyed a section where the trees were overhanging into the rushing water of the river, what a lovely sound that made.

I think most people were taking it pretty steady, soaking it up and having a bit of a laugh. Once the five laps had been completed there was some lovely cake by the scanners for global consumption.

It was a bright and sunny start to the day, slightly chilly but it’s the end of September in Scotland so not a great surprise!

Once the parkrun was done we skipped the usual post race coffee and chat as had to hear back to Bught park to collect race numbers for the following days Loch Ness marathon. It was great to tick off an I and visit Inverness parkrun. I had a lot of fun at this one, definitely want to tick off a few more Scottish parkruns as the scenery is superb in the highlands and the atmosphere jovial.

Thanks to all the volunteers and core team for dealing with us lost tourists, it was a fun morning.

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Maidenhead parkrun

The one with the PB bell. Roughly two years ago I started my parkrun journey. In that time I have run 91 times spread over 46 different parkruns and volunteered in some capacity 55 times. You could say that parkrun has become a big part of my life. This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Maidenhead parkrun with a couple of friends, two of us from Havant, one from Reading.

Maidenhead parkrun is a lovely two lap course around the nature reserve set in Braywick Park. The start and finish area are on the playing fields by a little wooden shelter but you soon head out into the rather picturesque nature reserve. There is a large amount of free parking both near the start and also at the handily located Toby Carvery. The events team have also worked out a handy little discount at the Toby, if you show your barcode whilst buying breakfast you get free tea/coffee. Result! Ideal for that apres parkrun socialising.

There is a first timers brief held a stones throw from the little wooden shelter so no need to worry about not knowing the course or how parkrun works, it is all explained and made clear. Today there were 38 first timers in attendance with an even split of 19 brand new parkrunners and 19 visitors from all over the country.

Today’s run director, StJohn, addressed the 274 runners shortly after the first timers brief and ran through the announcements and milestones. Gordon Sherratt earned his aubergine shirt today (that’s purple to clarify to any menfolk reading this) for volunteering 25 times, well done Gordon, wear your shirt with pride. For those that don’t know, if you volunteer on 25 occasions you earn a free volunteers milestone shirt. Volunteering is easy and I can’t recommend it enough, it opens up a whole different side to parkrun. Get involved, anyone can do it, even visiting tourists! Check out the volunteer roster to see where help is needed and drop the team an email offering your services, it’s as simple as that. There were some other milestones reached today too, with Annie Pearce and Laura Halton joining the junior 10 club and Gillian Scolari, Matthew Cullum and Matthew Shaw all joining the 50 club. Congratulations to everyone of them.

With the run brief compete it’s time to get down to business and run. The start is a massive sprawled line up which filters down onto the path and into the reserve, there’s a slight pinch point but nothing major. The course itself is a varied little course through a stunning backdrop, it’s predominantly flat but has a couple of lumpy bits. The surface underfoot is a mix of surfaces but you’d get away with road shoes most of the year round. It’s a well marshalled course and there is a lot of support out there too, it’s a very friendly vibe throughout with some fantastically supportive volunteers.

The two laps of the reserve seemed to disappear really quickly and before you know it you are back out onto the playing fields for a last hard push to the finish funnel. Today’s lead runner polished off the course in a speedy 18:16, well done Sarah Chapman, a new PB too. Maidenhead has a PB bell which was taken advantage of and rung many times, in fact there were 55 PB’s attained today, brilliant.

The Maidenhead volunteer team were fantastic, such a warm and welcome parkrun to visit, we were made to feel right at home from start to finish. It was well worth setting the time aside and making the trip and leaving a bit extra to go socialise in the “Toby Carbery” afterwards to replenish and refuel.

We really enjoyed our visit to Maidenhead parkrun, thank you to everyone involved.

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parkrun tourism – planning your next adventure!

Planning a spot parkrun tourism starts off as a relatively straight forward affair. When I started touring I initially used the main parkrun site, in particular my home event page, to work out where I was going to try next. On each parkrun event page the website details the nearest 10 parkruns, which is a very useful starting point.

So that’s your nearest parkruns taken care of, but what happens when you’ve completed all the events detailed and you’re wanting to go further? You can look at another events page to see what’s nearby to it, you can also look on the events page on the main parkrun site to get more of an idea of what is about in your region.

What happens if you’re going away for the weekend to somewhere new? Visiting relatives or having a weekend break somewhere but still want to get your weekly parkrun fix. Using the maps provided on the main parkrun site is pretty good, but there is a much better option in my opinion, the unofficial parkrun tourist tool. You can enter your chosen destination and see what events are available nearby, if you add in your barcode ID you can exclude ones you’ve visited before if you like to try out new things.

Example below shows planning an upcoming trip to Great Yarmouth

So that’s great for covering your local area and coping with holidays. However there comes a point where visiting new parkruns can become a logistics nightmare for an “on the day” trip. You reach a tipping point where it becomes too difficult or time consuming for on the day travel to your destination of choice, for me that’s around the 100 mile mark. So making a weekend of it could become something of interest to many. I’ve recently started looking at some properties on Airbnb and turned up some quirky locations for overnight stays. It’s a great way to explore our glorious country.

If you sign up for Airbnb using the link, I’ve provided below you’ll get £25 off your first trip. Give it a try! Just click the link or paste the address in your browser. When you book a trip of £55 or more, I’ll also get £15 in travel credit, too, brucey bonus.

Make sure you read all the reviews and check the small print before making any bookings. You don’t want any nasty surprises.

Happy travels!

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Relive those parkrun routes

Relive is a rather nifty little bit of software that hooks into the gps track of your run and visualises it for you.

It allows you to relive your last 3 runs when all set up, it also allows you to share your activity it to your social media outlet of choice as well as download the small video files to keep and relive again and again.

In true Blue Peter fashion here’s some I made earlier…

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