Oh, I do like to be beside the seal side! Go have a look at Donna Nook and seal for yourself!

Digested read: went to the seal side and saw loads of seals.  Excellent!  Donna Nook certainly gets my seal of approval.  Can you seal what I’ve done there?  I know, genius!

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Unabridged version:

Do you ever let yourself get stuck into a bit of a rut?  No?  Just me then.  Well, good for you. Speaking personally, sometimes I realise I’ve got into the habit of doing the same things, the same way and forgotten somehow to embrace new experiences and new adventures.  When I have worked overseas, I’ve always made a conscious effort to try new things and take opportunities when they present themselves because that chance may never come my way again.  However, if I’m honest, latterly I’ve taken for granted some remarkable and exciting things that are practically on my doorstep. Because I could in theory go any time, I go no time, and years pass by and I’ve still not been to Heeley City Farm yet for example, or Kelham Island Museum and I’ve been living in Sheffield for umpteen years now.  That’s pretty poor.  Note to self, must be more proactive from hereon in.  Well, revitalised and reinvigorated by my recent sojourn to Berlin parkrun (which I haven’t blogged about yet but will, so try to contain yourself til then) I have a new resolve to say ‘yes’ to as many new experiences as I can.  That way new adventures lie, and oh my, talking of lying, here was certainly some massive lying around going on.  And it was brilliant. Let me explain.

Oh, and technically, this might not be a running blog post as such, more a potential run recce post, the conclusion of which is, you can’t really run there, so what are you going to do about that then?  Shoot me?  Hah!  I reckon you won’t go through with that, you’ll just roll your eyes and skip this post, and such is your prerogative. Mind you, shame if you did, you’ll miss the cute baby seals photos that come later on, but your choice, do as you will.  Plus, maybe you too should try something new now and again, like reading a non-running blog post, just because you can.  Or not, it’s up to you, obvs.  Glad we have cleared that up.

It all began with my recce buddy messaging me to say, ‘thinking about going out to Donna Nook to see the seals wondered if you wanted to come along’.  Naturally, my immediate reaction to this was incomprehension.  Where on earth can you get to see seals in reasonable travelling distance from Sheffield?  Also, isn’t Lorna Doone in Exmoor or somewhere anyway?

Google was helpful, I learned that Donna Nook is apparently well-known for its population of grey seals visiting in the winter months, as well as it’s array of bird life.  Not that well know I’d venture, I’ve never heard of it, but hey ho.  Sounded promising.  A quick search for directions would alert me to how far away it was, let me see – 27 hours if walking.  Hmm, well, my recce buddy hadn’t specified a mode of transport, but I was going to put my neck on the line and say that didn’t think an ultra walk there and back would be compatible with her work rota, so hopefully we’d be cheating and taking advantage of an internal combustion engine to facilitate our arrival.  OK, count me in!  I shall indeed take up this random opportunity that has presented itself.  It will be an adventure.  Fun will be had.  I’ll see the sea!

A brief exchange of planning emails, ‘don’t forget your binoculars‘.  I always get really excited seeing wildlife, particularly in its natural habitat, but freely acknowledge sometimes I have endured lengthy vigils with little return by way of any practical evidence of creatures in their habitat.  Squinting into distant trees wondering if that shadowy form is indeed a rare, roosting bird or just a plastic bag caught up in a tree.  I’ve been there.  Binoculars are a boon on such occasions, mustn’t forget them.

My recce guide and buddy was also transport manager (again), so I abdicated from all or any responsibility for getting there, beyond being ready (ish) at the appointed hour.  So it was at 10.35 a.m. I was scooped up from outside my house, and off we went towards Grimsby.  It took a couple of hours, and honestly, it isn’t the most interesting of drives, but fortunately, we know how to make our own entertainment and managed to talk for the entire drive, walk and drive home, and still have topics we forgot to cover.  It’s quite a skill.  Anyway, time went quickly.

We got a bit confused in the latter stages.  The landscape is flat and featureless, I might complain about the hills of Sheffield in terms of having to haul myself up them but personally I find the low-lying exposed coastal plains of North Lincolnshire, to be  borderline depressing.  I don’t know how people do their running training in such landscapes, I suppose you learn to appreciate other qualities, like the moody changing skies, or the magical network of dykes.   I also was struck by how little ground cover there was everywhere, not only does this mean the wind whipping across the land must be relentless at certain times of year, but there is no bit of modesty covering vegetation behind which a caught-short runner may hope to hide to relieve themselves.  The only option would be to launch yourself into one of the dykes, but they are deep trenches from which you more than likely would never be able to extract yourself unaided.  We didn’t see many people around at all.  My recce buddy said it was because they were all most probably at work what with it being a week day and all, but I reckon anyone who ventured out in the dark, or carelessly would end up toppling into and then trapped for all eternity in those deep, flat walled dykes, scratching at the sides, unable to escape.  Thousands of them, that’s probably what makes the land round there so fertile now I come to think about it.  And they wouldn’t mention it on their tourist guides now would they, so of course there’s no evidence one way or the other, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Anyway, after getting a bit lost, we resorted to using satnav and eventually found some signs to Lorna Doone, Donna Summer, Donna Nook and it was indeed incredibly easy to find.  Excitingly, after a bit you start to see signs which say ‘to the seals!’, encouraging you to follow a particular one way route in, which is exactly what we did.

The blah de blah, for those of you too weak or lacking inclination to click on the Donna Nook, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust link for further information is:

Donna Nook National Nature Reserve
Donna Nook covers more than 10km (6.25 miles) of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven in the north and Saltfleet in the south where it borders the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe National Nature Reserve. Every November and December, grey seals come to the Donna Nook coastline to give birth to their pups near the sand dunes; a wildlife spectacle which attracts visitors from across the UK.

Visitors should be aware that the Ministry of Defence still maintains part of the area as a bombing target range and under no circumstances should anyone enter the bombing area when red flags are flying. However, most of the dune area is accessible at all times.

But there’s loads more information on the website so you should check it out really.

Anyway, we followed the corridor of yellow cones, and ended up in a small free car park, it was pretty full, but we managed to find a space.  There is a larger, paying car park ‘with portaloos’ which we over-shot, but is also an option.  We wrapped up warm and made our way to an information booth to check out our options.

Neither of us had any idea at all about what to expect. All part of the excitement of discovery.  However, I will admit my stomach flipped a bit when I saw there was a 6 mile stretch of seaside making up the reserve.  I was up for a walk, but hadn’t quite factored in a 6 mile out and 6 mile back.  It was quite nippy out, and it had taken a good two hours to get there.  Oh well, let’s check it out.

We turned the corner to start the walk along to the seal viewing area and within a micro-second saw this:

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Job done!  Seal spotted.  We could legitimately have turned around and gone home at that point as it was mission accomplished!

Honestly, it was hilarious, there were seals everywhere, no binoculars required.  The reserve is now long-established, and the seals who arrive from late October through to December to breed are apparently completely habituated to the humans traipsing along a fairly unsubstantial fence line that keeps people and the grey seals apart.  It is a photographer’s dream.  They are just there.  Littering the coast line like so many dumped body bags inanimate in the mud flats.

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They are absolutely gorgeous, but not the most animate of animals.  They really don’t look like they should survive out of water.  They basically loll about, the new-born pups feeding and laying down fat as their mothers sacrifice their blubber stores. The males (recognisable for being larger and uglier according to the signs) hang around ready to mate with the females as soon as they are receptive again after calving.  So you stare at these gorgeous torpedo shaped animals just lying there.  It’s weird though, because some of the young pups have made their way right up to the fence line.

There are in touching distance, although obviously you absolutely must not do that.  Mothers will abandon their young if they pick up strange smells, and you might get bitten, which would serve you right quite frankly if you did succumb to the temptation of poking a finger through.  On that subject, I spent a month working at an animal sanctuary in Zimbabwe where there was a hyena called Crunch, who twice bit off the fingers of visitors who contrary to stated advice, had poked them through the chicken wire of the not very well constructed enclosure.  I have zero sympathy for them as both were adults, and well, the hyena was called Crunch for goodness sake, what did they think might happen?  Health and safety hadn’t made it to Chipangali.  A volunteer got killed by a lion the year before, but that was different, and very sad.  The lion was shot, it wasn’t its fault. The hyena lives on as far as I know, probably keeping its eyes peeled for finger food when the opportunity presents itself.

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Anyway, same here, don’t encroach on the local wildlife’s territory – there’s a sign to warn you too:

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People are idiots tough.  At one point along the line someone had lobbed in some turnips and a cabbage which was rather random.  Who a) thinks that’s part of the diet of a seal, especially one that isn’t eating anything at all for several weeks on account of it being the calving season and b) who brings a couple of turnips and a cabbage with them along on an outing to the seaside on the off-chance they might come in handy for something?

Well, we had a partial answer, it was not necessarily people thinking that all that weight loss was part of a genuine aspiration to be ‘slimmer of the year’ and that adoption of the cabbage soup diet might help (explanation of this comes later), but it might be attributable to the fact that a local farmer has set up a turnip and cabbage stall in the larger car park with the portaloo facilities.  This shows entrepreneurial endeavour and optimism.  To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to combine turnip shopping and seal viewing, but then again, I didn’t know it was an option, now you do, you can learn from me and bring along your re-useable turnip bag and cash for any such transaction. No, don’t try to thank me, you are welcome, I’m just happy to help.

Seriously though, just leave them be.  And keep your turnips and cabbages to yourself.

Still, you walk along the fence line, periodically pausing to gaze:

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and really, the only problem is identifying which of these slumbering seals is the most gorgeous.  You think you have seen the most wide-eyed beauteous pup imaginable, and then a few feet on is another even more appealing or beautifully patterned grey seal.  Each one has unique patterning it seems, oh, and the noises they make.  Oh my gawd, they sound human, they really do.  Slightly whiney human ‘muuuuuuuuuuuuuuum, muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum’ pleading it’s true, but astonishing.

To illustrate my point, here is more cuteness overload:

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Basically, you’ll either get it or you wont.  To the untrained eye they may look like inanimate, lumpen masses.  But to those who have but eyes to see they are captivating.  A celebration of supine gloriousness.  However, there is more to it than that.  If you stand and watch for a while, you start to appreciate there are subtle interactions going on all around.  Whilst the older pups might be left alone for a couple of hours to, well just, lard up basically – the younger ones need only emit the tiniest of squeaks and its grey seal mum snaps her head up alert and responsive to check all is well.

You can tell the newborns, partly by their proximity to bloody afterbirth, always a clue, and partly because of their yellow fur, stained from amniotic fluid, and partly because they have empty creases of skin where they have yet to fill out.  Like the aftermath of extreme weight loss, only for grey seals, you need these flaps of empty skin so they can be filled, the fat is needed, to help them on their way.  Seeing such loveliness gives a whole new perspective on fat.  Here it is glorious.  The plumper the better, a silken layer indeed.  Probably more than one to be fair….  No wonder the Victorians associated plumpness with health, attractiveness, and a happy outlook.

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It was a pretty educational walk.  There were information signs along the way.  Quite helpful ones aimed at adults (presumably) with detail about the behaviour and life-cycle of the seals.

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I was less comfortable with the child-friendly signs.  I mean, I get what they were trying to do, but really, did they need to draw pictures of the seals wearing clothes?  It was a shame as generally the guardianship of the colony was excellent, enthusiastic volunteers were on hand to answer questions as well as keep the colony safe, but I hate that sort of anthropomorphism.  There was one sign proclaiming a mother seal as ‘slimmer of the year’ a reference to how much weight they lose during these weeks of birthing and suckling when they don’t eat anything.  I was so annoyed I didn’t take a picture, and now I’m annoyed with myself because I didn’t because they I’d be able to illustrate to you what was annoying me.  How annoying.  Here are some others though. No, the pups don’t wear nappies:

Then again, I did quite like some of the quiz questions along the way, so I suppose that makes me either a hypocrite, or a complex being of hidden contradictions, I’m going with the latter.

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I know!  Funny.  Genuinely made me laugh!  Then again, I am easily amused, as well as easily annoyed.

I learned loads though.  For example, did you know there are occasionally jet black seal pups?  No?  Me neither, but we saw some, and I asked a volunteer about them and they are a thing, fairly rare, but a few each year.  They were also particularly gorgeous, albeit like black cats, quite hard to photograph well.

We saw all the stages of life, some quite graphically. The new-born who had somehow hauled itself away from the bloody pool in which it emerged:

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The latched on enthusiastic suckling of the pups:

Power napping:

Seeing off over enthusiastic suitors, with a lot of seal specific swearing by the sound of things:

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When the time is right some fairly graphic coupling, these grey seals are pretty well endowed it seems.  Like I said, it was very educational.

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Inevitably, the circle of life is in evidence.  Further away from the fence line a flurry of activity of birds betrayed a dead pup being picked over by scavengers.  Some losses are inevitable, it’s sad of course, but it happens.

A.Maz.Ing though, and who knew it was all but a couple of hours away from the middle of Sheffield.

We wandered back and forth for a couple of hours, and truthfully, were it not so cold, might yet have lingered longer.  The stretch with a viewing platform is very short though, 500 metres maybe?  Then a red flag flying indicated that much of the sands is out-of-bounds as it’s a live military base with shooting going on, and planes carrying out exercises overhead.  We didn’t see any today, though the volunteer warden told us that surprisingly, the seals are unconcerned by such activities, I suppose over the decades they’ve been coming here they have become habituated to that too, unlikely as it seems.

Not much running, or even walking went on.

However, a visual gag (well, I did warn you I was easily amused) awaited us at the far end of the viewing area.  There are model baby seals near information points, that encourage you to make a donation to support the work of the wildlife trust.  I wanted to photograph one, as you do, and right behind it was a real seal pup, doing exactly the same thing!  How cool is that?

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I don’t know why I was quite so surprised, the pup was only following instructions…

So that was that.  Time to go.  Hard-ish to tear ourselves away, but then again, we were peckish by now.

We made a donation and went on our way.  Suitably impressed by all we’d seen.

FYI there was a catering van there doing coffees and sausage baps type things, but we thought we would find somewhere better.  We didn’t really.  It’s a strange drive, miles and miles of pretty desolate amenity-free roads.  Oh well. It was still very much worth the trip, but top tip, take a packed lunch and a thermos flask.  Also a decent camera or a friend with one in lieu of that would be even better.

Journey home took about three days, might have been quicker walking.  Absolutely no idea why, it can’t have been rush hour continuously from 3.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.  We did stop for petrol and a late lunch, but even so.

Still, the conclusion is, this was ace, unexpected and an extraordinary wildlife spectacle for them as like seals, which I do, a great deal.  If you don’t like seals, then maybe give this a miss.  So thank you imaginative recce buddy and now tour guide.  That was EPIC!

Maybe you can seal yourself there sometime.  Check for the right time of year, and don’t tell too many people, it’s a precious sanctuary to treasure.

Now I’m off to find a run route…. preferably one with some decent hills.  But while I’m running(ish) I’ll be remembering this.

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Sigh,  we do indeed live in a world of wonders.  Let’s embrace it.

🙂

 

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Ich bin ein Berliner?** Becoming an international athlete courtesy of TpOT and Hasenheide parkrun Berlin :) OMG!

Digested Read:  First foray into international tourism took me to Hasenheide parkrun in Germany.  Might be easier just to think of it as Berlin parkrun.  It was just like a ‘normal’ parkrun but in Germany, and surrounded by the Tralee parkrun family draped in the Irish tricolour!  How brilliant is that!  Who knew?

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Unabridged account:

The undigested read is kind of complicated.  Sooooooooooooooooo very much I want to say, to be honest, you might find it a bit much to listen to it, but I won’t notice if you want to go off and do something and pop back later when I’ve run out of steam, could be a while though.  You’ve got time to make and drink a cup of tea, walk the dog and defrost the fridge.  If you don’t already have a dog, you’ve probably even got time to research which dog you’d like to adopt, argue with your family and friends about which might be the best fit, visit it, book in a home visit, wait for it to have its vaccinations and finally go and collect it and let it settle in over night before taking it out for the walk,  but it’s up to you.  If it’s cold outside you might be just in the mood for sitting on the sofa, watching TV whilst idly reading a random blog post in between scratching yourself and eating crisps, each to their own.

If I was in a position to re-home a dog, I think I’d currently go with Scamp, I can really relate to having awkwardly shaped hobbit feet and aspiring to achieve sole occupancy of a most capacious looking sofa, I think we’d get on fine.  Might need to organise a two-sofa household, but that’s doable…

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So this was the weekend when I took my parkrun career to new heights by going international.  Berlin parkrun to be specific.  Hurrah!  There’s more to it than that though, isn’t there always?  It all began way, way back in the mists of time, about this time last year to be fair.  About the time my mum became launched as a parkrun icon.  Hopefully you know about that already, or we really are in for a long one.  Basically, my mum got featured in one of the parkrun uk news posts because at 89 she is a regular fixture on the Bushy parkrun route as she walks across from the care home where she lives to clap and cheer parkrunners every Saturday morning.  One of the regular parkrunners had dropped off a Christmas card for her, and mum was super chuffed to receive it.  She has been made an honorary marshal in recognition of her support, and even has her own hi-viz – I know of only one other marshal to have been honoured in this way.  Quite rightly, her spot on the route has become known as ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ and is about the half way mark if you are visiting to complete your parkrun pilgrimage and inclined to pause for a selfie.  Anyways, on the back of her becoming a media sensation, Tralee parkrunners, who I now know are inclined to go off en masse for parkrunning related adventures, had already planned a Tralee trip to Bushy parkrun for early in the new year.  Unfortunately, when they went, my mum was poorly, but undeterred, they nipped over to the care home on the off-chance they’d get to see her anyway, and they did!  They showered her with good wishes and gifts. They’d wanted a photo to capture the occasion and set about trying to find someone before my mum interjected with the now legendary words ‘why not just take a quick selfie?’.  And they did – hang on, let me see if I can find it…

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There you go.  Isn’t that just lovely?  From hereon-in a legend was born and new friendships forged. The Tralee team contacted me and kindly sent me the image as well as the anecdote – I don’t honestly know which is more priceless, the photo, or the selfie request.  My mum has indeed come a long way from the first time someone tried to high-five her and she shook their hand instead, she’s a total pro now.  Can do high tens and everything:

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Fast forward, and a few Facebook messages and emails later I found I not only had a framed photo of some ‘random’ people I’d never met on the mantelpiece in my living room, but also an invitation to join the TpOTs (that’s Tralee parkrunners On Tour) at a future time, specifically Berlin parkrun, which we all now know and love as Hasenheide parkrun, later in the year.  I thought about this a lot.  I mean, it’s silly really, getting on a plane and flying hundreds of miles to run 5k with a bunch of people you’ve never met… and then I thought, but why wouldn’t I?  How much fun would be had?  And anyway, for all those who think Germany might be a very long way to go ‘just’ to run/walk/jog 5k (unless you live in Germany already I suppose) two points:  Firstly, you are clearly not a parkrunner so will never understand though I hope one day you’ll come join the party and secondly) what is even more peculiar is people who go all the way on holiday to e.g. Germany (other destinations are available) for no reason at all, and therefore miss out on doing a parkrun.  Upshot was, I was in.  Accommodation booked, flight booked, we shall make it so.

I didn’t think about it all that much until a few days before departure.  I was a bit apprehensive, first time as an international athlete, and no idea what to expect, plus there was the burden of packing all that was needed.  Never, ever has it been more important to attend to this:

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I remembered mine, which is a minor miracle as I had to keep unpacking it to make sure I really hadn’t forgotten to pack it, thereby increasing the likelihood of leaving it behind as it was now removed from my case.  In the end I wore it – I have one of those original wrist bands, which are fabulous by the way.  Pricey, but has always scanned.

It’s ages since I’ve left the UK, and I’ve never travelled to Germany before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I’m always a bit apprehensive arriving in new countries alone, especially towards the end of the day.  I’m by no means an experienced traveller, but generally I try to arrive at new destinations in daylight and at the start of a day as it gives time to sort out any hiccups.   However, I can report that for all practical matters, obviously, the best way to undertake any international parkrun tourism is to get yourself fostered by Tralee parkrun, and just gatecrash their plans.  Worked for me.  They have their systems totally nailed and look out for one another too.

I did have to book my flight independently as I was travelling from Manchester rather than Kerry, but EasyJet were passable, and I got flights that broadly arrived and departed at the same time as their coach load – or more accurately plane load – of travellers was due.  Unfortunately, their flights subsequently changed which meant the expected meet up was no longer a given.  Originally I’d been landing 15 minutes before them, so figured I’d seek them out and follow them to the hotel, now they’d be arriving first.  Curses.  My flight was fine  My pilot was even awake enough not to overshoot the airport by dint of being asleep for example, which is apparently not a given on all aviation travels – check out this article ‘Asleep pilot missed destination in Australia if you don’t believe me and aren’t worried about being made too scared to ever fly anywhere ever again (though that would be better for the environment to be fair.’  I’d only got carry on luggage so it was super speedy emerging from the terminal, and then, as I stepped out into arrivals I saw the best thing ever.  It looked like this:

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A customised sign being brandished by a gang of broadly smiling, pathologically friendly and welcoming Tralee parkrunners.  They had made their way to find me and waited to greet me – particularly impressive as we’d arrived at different terminals.  It was the best thing ever!  In my half century of years I’ve only ever once before been met on arrival at an airport and it was wonderful.  I might have got something in my eye, not for the last time this trip either.   They not only had a sign, but the mobile phone displaying my name was playing Lucy themed music!  You can’t get very much more fabulous than that.  I felt quite the celebrity.  Plus, it was brilliant not to have to fathom the transport network and route to the hotel on my own.  Rather I could just parasitise the labours of this dream team, and all would be well.  Although we hadn’t really met before, well not all of them, a satellite mission to Graves junior parkrun and Bakewell earlier in the year had introduced me to some, we just went straight in for the parkrun family hugs.  Well, it would be weird to do otherwise after having shared my front room with at least two of them for nearly a year now.

I exchanged my pre-purchased 72 hour Visit Berlin Welcome pass for a physical ticket and guide book.  A wheeze well worth doing by the way, though make sure if you arrive at Schonefeld Airport you get the Berlin ABC Ticket. A,B and C are the different zones, and our airport was in Zone C.  An absolute bargain though, for duration of our trip, the 72 hour ticket costs €30.90, plus you get a map on arrival and a load of discounts on tourist attractions.  They’d worked out the route to our hotel, I just followed.  Good to know though, there is always time for a photo op, here I am surrounded by my welcoming committee and new best friends forever.  I look somewhat ruffled from my travels, they are glorious and gorgeous, radiating warmth and enthusiasm for the adventure ahead.

The journey to our hotel was very straightforward.  From the airport train station, there was an overground train to Hermanstraße, which took about 26 minutes. Then we changed and got the ‘true’ underground train for 2 stops to Boddinstraße. The hotel was about a 5 minute walk from there.  However, I only know this because I sheep like trotted along behind the person who had the right app on their phone to direct us. Which was fine until his battery went flat, and then fine again when the day was saved by the speedy production of a back up charger.  Tralee parkrunners are prepared for anything. I’d go so far as to say I’d feel safe with them anywhere and would happily follow them to the ends of the earth if they’d let me, though we may have to take it in stages starting with Berlin and with Denmark and Sweden to aspire to in 2020.

Although the main group of 100+ Tralee parkrunners had gone on ahead, we actually caught up with them in the hotel foyer where some were still good-naturedly queuing for their rooms.  They did everything good-naturedly though, so that can be taken as their default demeanour.  So it was I joined the Tralee parkrun crew to the Mercure Hotel near Tempelhof Airport (site of the Berlin air lift).  The hotel had revolving doors.  What more do you need to know?

Oh, and you had haribos in your room which was a nod to running clothes deliveries from wiggle so quite cool, even though I’m vegetarian so they aren’t really my thing, and they had a penchant for serving things in jam jars – humus and soup in the instance above.  What is that about and when will it stop?  I blame hipsters, even though I still don’t know quite what they are.

So, the logistical stuff.  It was great location being a short walk from the parkrun start, and a few hundred yards away from the nearest underground at Boddinstraße Berlin,had revolving doors (always a boon), and a breakfast that had my eyes popping out on stalks with its many and varied possibilities.  Without a parkrun to entice me outside, I could happily have spent all day there just grazing until I burst unceremoniously.  Fantastically quiet in the room too, so I’d recommend that option. It’s not a budget option but not unreasonable either if you book far enough in advance.

I actually arrived on the Thursday night, so Friday was free for exploring Berlin. That should really be another whole story. What I will say is that I did an Insider walking tour for ten euros that was in English,  completely brilliant and a good 5 hours duration.  Berlin is an amazing and fascinating city, albeit it obviously has a bleak and disturbing history.  Made me wish I’d allowed more time, and that I knew my history a bit better.  The underground was really easy to negotiate, but it was bitterly cold.  I can’t resist including a few pics, but I will resist the temptation to tell you all about it in detail.  I know, you can barely contain your disappointment, but you are doing a grand job of disguising it all the same…  I will get to the parkrun stuff eventually.  Think of this delayed gratification as just part of building up the suspense.  It’s going to be so worth it when you get to the climax I promise!*

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There’s just so much I don’t know about Berlin.  Not least why the armadillo has made the little boy cry or why balloons are kept in captivity there.  Still, plenty to discover for another time.  The double cobblestones mark the line of the Berlin wall by the way, that photo wasn’t an accident.  It was a sensory, emotional, cultural, historical and cognitive overload.  My head was spinning by the end, but well worth it, given limited time I’d 100% recommend it to anyone as a first stop to get your bearings and a sense of the city.

Then, finally it was parkrun eve, and in the morning it would be Berlin parkrun day.  Oh.  My.  Gawd!  So exciting.

I woke early.  The view outside my bedroom window was not promising, and it did look even colder than the day before, it being still dark and with an ‘end of the world’ type fog enclosing our glass towered sanctuary.

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Breakfast was from 6.30 and I went and had coffee – an absolute revelation, proper coffee here, not the undrinkable offerings you get at most UK hotels – and a small bowl of porridge.  So hard to resist the temptation to face-plant into the smorgasbord of delights on offer, but I consoled myself with the knowledge I’d have tomorrow too.

We weren’t far from the park, but I had no idea where we were going so made my way down to reception to go with the mass exodus around 8.15.  Oh my, it was so exciting, emerging from the lifts into the foyer of the hotel and to see sights like this:

You just know you are about to embark on a fun morning when you are greeted with the view of a mystery figure in a shamrock morph suit first thing, surrounded by a sea of apricot parkrun shirts.  I was a little shy, because what with the Irish flags and mutual greetings all around it was indeed Tralee parkfunners on tour, this dear reader was quite literally an entire parkrun, decamped to a new destination.  Everyone knew everyone.., apart from me.  I shouldn’t have worried however, not only was everyone intrinsically friendly and open, I had forgotten I was of course a celebrity by association.  My  new best friends introduced me to their fellow parkrunners, explaining ‘you know Elisabeth at Bushy parkrun?  This is her daughter’.  Smiles widened, arms opened to embrace me, faces lit up.  It was amazing.  Is it bad that I’m ever so slightly regretting not having done the whole grumpy cat thing with my  mum and sorting out some souvenir merchandise in advance to have brought with me.  I mean, not to sell, after all, if Mr S-H himself has held back from exploiting parkrun for personal financial gain I’m not about to sell my own mother on the back of it, but I mean to give as gifts in order to ingratiate myself to others, a fine key ring perhaps, or a signed photo would have gone a long way to thank all these lovely people for their warm welcome and including me in this amazing adventure.  It was extraordinary.  How famous is she?  #loveparkrun #loveElisabethscorner

Once we’d formed a loose assembly, on some invisible signal, the migration began and the exodus commenced as we were disgorged through the revolving doors onto the streets of Berlin:

I don’t know if spiderman was particularly attracted by a fellow donner of a morph suit of if he was also just out for parkrun too.  Takes some balls to wear a morph suit I think, but that was OK, our shamrock man had an accompanying juggler to carry some, as you do, so that was all right then.

Hilariously, although it was but a short walk to the park, within seconds half the group was heading off the wrong way up the street and had to be called back into the herd. Actually, after I got to know the area a bit better I think you probably could have done either route, but it was still laugh out loud funny at the time.  The phrase herding cats springs to mind.  Alternatively, think ball bearings scattering across an ice rink and you’ll get the idea.  Still, ball bearings with cohesive instincts, as we did somehow regather, maybe mercury would be a better analogy, breaking apart and them coming together as one mass again once in touching distance from one another.

Anyhows, eventually regathered, we soon came to the park entrance and its associated photo opportunities.  Have you any idea how exciting this moment was?  It was a.maz.ing!  Look, that’s me, by a sign in German in the actual park where the Hasenheide parkrun takes place!

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We wended our way into the park to the assembly point.  What was really extra exciting (and it’s hard to imagine that excitement could continue to build I was on such a high) was as we approached the start we could see what were clearly parkrun signs, but IN GERMAN!

And another thing. These TpOT troupers, Tralee parkrunners On Tour, is that they are absolute pros at this kind of thing.  Not only have they cracked the logistics, they’ve cracked the photo op, coming prepared with a fine flag as well as broad smiles and parkrun tops.  I was permitted the very great honour of posing behind one of the flags, as part of my transition into potentially becoming an honorary TpOT perhaps…  Something in my other eye now, it’s just wonderful to feel part of a gang now and again, a benign one like this anyway, I’m not aspiring to join the masons or anything like that.

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That’s some turn out!  Be impressed, be very impressed.

The park itself was surprisingly large and lots of trees and a welcome green space.  My regular reader will know that usually I put high value on there being somewhere around for a pre parkrun precautionary pee.  On this occasion there was nowhere obvious (though I suppose al fresco options are always a possibility).  Astonishingly I was OK, this could be in part that it was so very cold there was a major incentive to keep everything covered up as much as possible. Nobody would want to brave baring their buttocks in sub arctic conditions.  So I was fine, thank you for asking.

There was milling and chilling – literally and metaphorically, also flag draping and spontaneous juggling.  Remember the parkrun rules everyone, respect each person’s right to participate in their own way.

We found the Run Director and his entourage of volunteers.

The gathering point is an under cover sheltered area with a large mural and some benches which provided a useful dumping ground for bags and even some seating as well as protection in the event of rain.  On a serious note, the park appears nice, but is also something of a gathering spot for drug users and others on the fringes of society, so we were advised that you really mustn’t leave any valuables lying around as there are sadly ‘undesirables’ who might opportunistically take things.  On a cheerier note, there was a photo frame Hasenheide parkrun sign so plenty of opportunities for posing for pictures in all possible combinations of characters.  Excellent.  Some were more experienced at this than others, you could tell the old hands by their more creative displays and configurations with the frame.  I was slightly disappointed that someone corrected another tourist who was holding the sign upside down at one point.  Oh well.

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After much milling and chilling, and mutual photographing…

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eventually the RD called us together for the run welcome. This was excellent, and in both German and English. There were some nice touches, the tourist crowd being so huge, he actually asked if there were any locals running, rather than tourists, and when it came to the briefing it was offered in two groups, one in English and one in German. The German group was but a scattering which was a shame in a way as it needs a local population to be sustainable, but remarkable too.

With their folded arms it makes it look like the parkrunners were a hard to please crowd, but in fact they were just cold. There was a lot of laughing, clapping of volunteers and acknowledgement of running milestones with certificates brought in from Ireland in honour of the occasion.

We were warned about bikes, or more specifically bike riders, who I gather can be well, erm let’s say ‘very focused’ on staying on their paths.  I heard this on my guided walk too, bikes here have super powers and no brakes.  We have been warned.  We were also told to beware of innocent looking lines of leaves, which might be gathered in storm drains, essentially turning them in to tiger traps, or at the very least parkrunner ankle turning traps, which is basically the same thing.  I didn’t notice these anywhere on the course, and then it dawned on me that of course I wouldn’t that’s because the leaves disguise the hazard doh!  It’s amazing I survived the run at all!

For those of you who like the course blah de blah the Hasenheide parkrun website describes the route as follows:

route description

Start and finish are at Café Hasenschänke, near the fairytale playground and the natural theater. The route consists of 2 laps. First, it is 250 m in a westerly direction. At the fork, turn left towards the path that leads around the park.Here, turn right onto the main path, which once passes through the park. After about 1 km you pass a mini-zoo (where, according to Andy, camels can be seen in the summer). In the 2nd round, at kilometer 3, it goes to the right and 200 m up the hill before it goes back to the circular route. At km 4.7, turn right onto the home stretch.

And it looks like this:

hasenheide parkrun

Honestly, I tend to rely on just following other people at parkrun, and hope there will be enough other runners that there will always be at least a couple still in view ahead of me.  This course has marshals too. Even so, I can report dear reader that it’s two laps, but they are non-identical, there’s a loop up a steep hill that you only do the once, unless you weren’t concentrating during the brief, in which case you end up doing it twice.  Oh dear.   Or maybe it was just that route wise, there some runners who were having such a good time, they wanted to put in an extra loop, it’s happened before I gather – Hallam parkrunner you know who you are.  This is by way of contrast to the Shenzhen Half Marathon in China where runners weren’t enjoying it quite so much  it seems and so 250 of them took a short cut.  Wouldn’t happen at parkrun.  Well, maybe the once, with the ill-judged Runners World report, but that’s history now.

For your edification and/or merriment, here is the critical junction which seemed to catch some runners out.

Run briefing over, it was just a matter of migrating the short distance to the start:

and then we were awf!

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I was a bit giddy with it all.  Torn between my desire to get moving pdq in order to warm up, and wanting to consciously store every moment.  I did inevitably have to pause to take pictures along the way, but you know what I’m glad I did, it anchors the memories in your mind.   There was lots to see, we went past an animal farm at one point with spotted guinea fowl just like we have in the enclosure by the lake at Graves Park in Sheffield!  Home from home.  The paths were wide, so it was good for accommodating different speeds of runners without congestion.  There were the usual characters, canicross runners, two guys attending Lee’s stag weekend who jogged along chatting throughout.  I know they were there for Lee, because their T-shirts said so, not because I have psychic powers.  I was a little more mystified by the person running with a bicycle tyre, though another runner seemed to be able to identify the brand and said it was a particularly high-end one.  Can’t say I’m able to verify this one way or another, but I suppose if it was that precious you wouldn’t want to let it out of your sight would you?  There was a juggler, because what is a parkrun without one person doing that and/or a morris dancer or three-legged challenge, and a fancy dress runner and a couple of flags and lots of cow cowls.  Hurrah!  All the fun of the parkrun fair!

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I found the route easy to follow, but can see why people ran the cobbled, comedy mound hill twice, just for the fun of it.  I found a post from someone else who’d run this route earlier in the year and they describe the route thus:

What a fabulous course, with a sort of comedy short hill in the middle which must be in highest point in about a 400 mile radius: you really have to go out of your way to find so much as an incline in Berlin.

A pleasing description I think we can agree.  And much more concise than I am capable of.  Oh well.  You’re still here aren’t you?  Guilty of collusion then, not my fault at all, I told you at the outset what would happen, so you have only yourself to blame for wasting these hours of your life you will never get back.

Of course, the run wouldn’t happen without the volunteers, who were all claps and smiles and words of encouragement.  Also, excellent directional pointing skills, which was important, what with the difference between the two laps.

It all seemed to go a bit more quickly than my usual parkrun, I don’t know why.   Soon, the finish funnel came into view, and flanked by parkrunners already home you could run in to the warm embrace of a parkrun welcome.  There was much cheering, and mutual delight at job done!  There were some fun across the finish line photos too

And then just like at ‘normal’ parkrun, there was the cheering in of the tail walker, and the migration of marshals back to the start/finish as they stood down from their posts.

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All done and dusted.  Waiting for the final finishers, I got chatting to some other tourists who’d rocked up.  One was from Barnsley, which was somewhat surreal, especially as we’d been at the same Barnsley parkrun a few weeks ago when they were celebrating their 400th run.  Small world indeed.  I completely forgot to ask him if he bought anything from the carboot sale.  Oh well.

It was a mass move to the parkrun cafe.  The potential for this cafe was undoubtedly amazing, but they couldn’t really cope with the sudden and unexpected influx of numbers, and truth to tell one of the serving staff looked positively annoyed we’d all turned up.  Despite this, pretty fine cafe options were available, and there was a jovial and companionable mood as we all squashed in together, sharing parkrun stories whilst waiting for our coffees to arrive.

Coffees drunk, conscious the cafe had reserved our tables for others from 11.00 a.m. we departed in groups.  Returning to the hotel was another micro adventure altogether as we all mistakenly assumed someone else in our group knew the way back.  Honestly, I don’t know how it is I manage to survive living independently given my lack of initiative on occasions.  It was entertaining rather that scary, and we did make it back safely in the end you’ll be hugely relieved to hear!

All’s well that ends well eh?  Plus, got to see a fabulous giraffe mural en route, what’s not to like.

So in conclusion, yes Hasenheide parkrun was great.  I didn’t fall into a trap of leaves, I didn’t get run over by a bike or run the cobbled hill twice by mistake. I did have a lovely time, get clapped by marshals and cheered by a departing cani-cross runner and make some new friends on the way round. Hurrah.  It was all a fine parkrun should be.

It seems to be largely an expat affair at the moment, but I think it’s relatively new.  The team were great ambassadors for both parkrun in general and Berlin in particular, coping brilliantly with the large tourist influx – albeit TpOT had pre-warned them they were on their way!  Very welcoming, lovely route, though possibly a park I wouldn’t want to run in on my own.  Obviously, going with Tralee parkrunners added a whole new dimension to the occasion.  I really enjoyed myself – can you tell?  How very empathetic.  Though I  suppose it must be acknowledged that when I said delightedly to one of the other parkrunners ‘it’s just like ‘normal’ parkrun, but in Germany!  How amazing is that!’ he remarked, ‘for me it is just like my usual parkrun, because all the same people are here!’  Which is both pleasing and bizarre I suppose, if you think about it.  Either way, blooming brilliant. Thank you kind parkrunners of Hasenheide, you were awesome!

Thank you mein hosts all!  Of one thing we can be sure, that was awesome running!

tpot awesome indeed

You may be a tad less confident in identifying this picture as a portrait of the runner wearing it, but trust your instincts, you were right all along!  I know, the likeness is uncanny!

tpot uncanny likeness

If you’d like to read the official run report from Hasenheide parkrun you can do so here: Ein großes Dankeschön und toll gemacht an unser Team. Es kommen nicht jede Woche über 100 Iren zu Besuch.  Unser Laufbericht für den 24.11. A thank you to our local runners and volunteers“ ist nun online.

But frankly there is an abundance of reportage about the event, very appropriate and proportionate given the importance of the occasion.  You can read about the Tralee parkrunners left behind in their local run report here  with rhyme and reason too.  Then, because Tralee parkrunners know how to do their mass tourism with considerable aplomb and style, there is the official TpOT (Tralee parkrunners On Tour) Berlin parkrun report as well.  Another fantastic memento of a truly amazing weekend.  Plus, I get a mention in my own right, and can exclusively declare here and now I am officially recognised as eh hem an ‘HTpoTs” – honorary Tralee parkrunner on Tour.  Possibly Undoubtedly the greatest running honour of my entire life!  Tralee parkrunners, I salute you and I thank you.  You are individually and collectively epic, I just hope I get to see you on your home ground some time – assuming I can catch you on a weekend when you aren’t gallivanting off trying to nab another parkrun venue newly discovered to be on the flight path from Kerry Airport!

team photo

Oh, and you get your results email in German, which is very cool, and then if you check out the rest of your profile from that link, that’s all in German too.  Oh my gawd.  May the novelty of this revelation never end!

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And don’t get me started on the wow factor of the running challenges chrome extension – it’s like entering a whole new parkrun wonderland, and perhaps for fuller exploration another time.  Loving the Christmas tree and all-seasons additions that have only just appeared.  Simple pleasures eh?  Be like the clangers people, take time out to smell the roses – appreciate the little things – along the way!

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So, I’m sold on international parkrun tourism.  My ambition for 2020 is the New Year’s Day Double encompassing Denmark and Sweden.  What could possibly go wrong trying to cross a Nordic bridge?  To be fair, if anyone does die en route, as long as you retrieve their barcode and get it scanned I think that would be fine.

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So International parkrun tourism for 2019 then, – who’s in?

#DFYP (Don’t Forget Your Passport) as well as #DYFB (Don’t Forget Your Barcode)

tpot no idea

Get me, now Honorary member of the TpOT.  I’m quite surprised there isn’t a special badge for that on the parkrun chrome extension.  One day maybe.

‘Til next time

Happy parkrunning y’all and auf Wiedersehen

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entrie

*or possibly not.  But tell you what, if you aren’t impressed, you can do your next parkrun for free, any Saturday of your choosing and anywhere in the world.  Can’t say fairer than that now can I?

**I don’t mind if I am a doughnut, as long as it’s a jam-filled one, not a circular one with a hole in it, which everyone knows is an abomination.  For the record though, Wikipedia says that the story is an urban myth. Shame really…  ‘There is a widespread misconception (outside German-speaking countries) that the phrase is incorrect German and in fact means “I’m a doughnut”. It has even been embellished into an urban legend

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Party on… Graves junior parkrun Totally Terrific and Two Today!

Digested Read:  Graves junior parkrun, two today!  Hurrah.

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Unabridged version:

You might think I’d get bored with parkrun in general and junior parkrun in particular eventually.  Surely there is a point at which it all becomes boring and repetitious you might erroneously speculate?  But you could only possibly think that if you’ve never yourself surrendered to the Sunday morning gloriousness which is Graves junior parkrun.  It never disappoints, and sometimes it truly excels itself. For example on this day, which was our second birthday.  Hurrah!  How awesome is that?  Our first birthday celebrations were pretty epic, but today was epic squared.  Even the normally tarmac paths were transformed into rainbow routes especially for the occasion, that cake creation above, it’s not a fantasy creation it’s hyper-realism.  Who needs a yellow brick road when you can have actual rainbows to run round on Graves junior parkrun’s birthday?  Come and see for yourself next year if you missed it this time around.  Logically it will be epic cubed by then.  It won’t just be lollipop trees all around you, but cavorting unicorns and woodland fairies marshalling the route as well.  Miss it, you’ll miss out.

So dear reader, I’m sure you must know all about parkrun and junior parkrun by now.  But it occurred to me I may not yet have been so proactive as to share the official blah de blah about the Graves junior parkrun course.  So here it is (well, I know how arduous it can be to click on a link after the rigours of a stressful day, or indeed any time, so just happy to help):

The course is 2000m (2K) long. It’s run in Graves Park, Sheffield, and run mostly on tarmac paths, with some grass. A two lap anticlockwise course starts in the field, by the car park (beside the animal farm, off Hemsworth Road).

From the Start run down to the Rose Garden cafe, then turn left and downhill towards the lakes. Run between the two lakes and turn left following the path towards the Animal Farm. Take the path going up through the farm, and back towards the Start.

Whilst all animal enclosures are fenced off, normal public health warnings and information about farm dangers applies and some basic rules need to be adhered to:
(1) Children to be discouraged from touching animals and eating or drinking near the animals. (2) Do not enter any of the animal enclosures. (3) Follow any instructions given by farm staff. (4) Open wounds to be covered. (5) Pregnant women to avoid contact with sheep and lambs.

Today it happened in a park that was a lovely as this:

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and the course looks like this on the google map aerial view thingymajig:

graves junior parkrun course

Well, I say it looks like that, to be honest, sometimes it’s hard to tell.  Graves park is infamous for having its very own micro-climate, so sometimes you can arrive and find it in total white out, or, as today, enveloped in an ever thickening mist.  I like to think it just adds to the unique atmosphere of the place, and introduces a welcome element of surprise and frisson of excitement to every Sunday morning.  If you are risk averse however, you might like to ensure all your loved ones are wearing fully charged trackable devices before you unleash them in the park.  To be fair, based on today’s conditions, we may need to start counting the runners out and then counting them all back in again….

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Naturally, hardly slept a wink the night before.  What would the morning bring?  I mean, there were some obvious clues, parkrun, cake, fancy dress – that’s a pretty dizzy cocktail of delights to wake up to for anyone.

It also brought a thick mist.  Arriving at Graves park it had an other-worldly feel.  Various volunteers emerged through the fog, all most atmospheric.

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To the untrained eye, that shot may make it look a little forlorn, but that untrained eye knows nothing.  Whilst I was doing my usual course set up – in the company of Geronimo who wasn’t as much practical help as I’d hoped to be fair… others were making the magic happen by setting up the cake stall options.  From the fog, eventually appeared this!

cake

Pretty cool eh?

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Quelle surprise!

So there was a good turn out of volunteer for the occasion, many sporting fancy dress in various incarnations. Some sacrificed personal comfort and the warmth of layers to honour their costume choices – the wally outfit was fabulous, but not one to keep you warm to your cockles methinks, the unicorn onesie sported by the tailwalker for today may have been a cosier option.  Kudos to all though.  It’s nice when people make an effort.

Some outfits were a little more eyebrow raising than others. The Wolverine outfit being perilously close to cosplay I felt and distinctly scary, but this was as nothing to the living, breathing mischief-making incarnation of Mr Blobby!

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It would be fair to say he caused quite a stir!  Also, quite a debate as to his recognizability and scariness quotient for our young parkrunners.  Mr Blobby  first materialised in 1992.  I know, I actually thought it was in the eighties, but even so, for the average junior parkrunner that timeline would sound sufficiently long ago that it probably coincided with the age of the dinosaurs.  And no, I’m not exaggerating for comic effect here.  My friend’s daughter once asked her mum, in my presence, what dinosaurs she remembered from when she was growing up.  I know….  Point is, decontextualised, or indeed in context, Mr Blobby is pretty unsettling presence isn’t he?  They wouldn’t have a clue who he was, and without that clue, well ‘disturbing’ is indeed the word  I thought there might be some tears, or at least wide-berths being given, but apparently not.  Not sure what to make of this.  Does it mean I could come as the child snatcher next year and not raise so much as an eyebrow, let alone a shudder?

child snatcher

Hmm. maybe not.  I think I best not risk it.  Tempting as the notion is…

Anyway, soon enough there was a grand gathering of chattering cheeriness.  To be fair, although a great many juniors had also donned fabulous costumes, I think the grown-ups were having even more fun.

Geronimo was warmly welcomed of course – though a few did ask after Sophie, my unicorn companion for last year.  Truth is, she went off to join some university students on a skiing trip and enjoyed herself so much she’s stayed on out there in the snow, and very happy she is too.  Geronimo was a hit with the llamas especially, judging by the curious stares they latched onto us as we were walking through the animal farm whilst setting out the course.  Actually, bit of self-awareness called for here, I don’t think she was a hit, I think she was a cause of outrage.  Llamas do disdain better than any other mammal I can think of, and I can think of quite a few.  Camels are pretty good at it too, but then again, they are from the same camelid family, so that’s no great surprise , no really, they are.  I think the ability to express disdain might well be one of their distinguishing characteristics.  Oh well.

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After the usual greetings and milling about, we all gathered enthusiastically for the Run Director’s welcome and briefing.  As it was a special event, there was a reminder of Graves junior’s milestones and history, all brilliantly captured in the official run report for the Graves junior parkrun birthday bash:

As the Event Director said, it was time to say THANK YOU to everyone at Graves juniors: volunteers who help, runners who enjoy the event, and parents who get up early, sort breakfasts and transport, make sure barcodes aren’t forgotten, and support their kids healthy lifestyles, week after week! The organisers were a small group of volunteers and from the very beginning, as any other parkrun event, we relied on a wider support from Sheffield runners, volunteers, and families. Sergei also shared some of the statistics on our 2nd birthday: we’ve had 1568 runners so far, and the little feet have pounded over 10, 000 km in Graves Park! We are so proud of everyone who is part of Graves juniors, in any capacity, so let the music play, and we’ll all have some cake!

Milestone wrist bands were given out, I think they are a great idea, instant gratification on achieving half-marathon, full marathon or ultra distances.

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It was fortunate there were a fair few super heroes around this morning,

superheroes

as it seems  super villain Reverse Flash had infiltrated the hi-vis heroes today.  He didn’t fool me.  On no.  Jessica Fletcher would have been proud of my observation skills, nowt gets past me on a good day – apart from other runners, who constantly overtake me on every run I’ve ever done ever, obviously, but this was a bit different.  He was indeed super fast, leading a feisty and furious warm up for the over= excited runners and other parkfun participants.

Then there was the gathering at the misty start line

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and then they were off!  A bit of a false start this week, due to the muffling effect of the wolverine mask, however, that matters not, it is after all a run not a race, and just see how they run!  I particularly like the butterfly in flight and the Usain Bolt posed photo.

Bravely high-fiving Mr Blobby as they passed:

I was about to say, you can just stick a hi-vis on anyone at a junior parkrun and it makes them appear safe. But I see in this photo that Mr Blobby is not even sporting his.  I wonder if perhaps he was just randomly walking in the park and we just abducted him assuming him to be in fancy dress and therefore one of our own, we never really checked his credentials now I come to think about it… and nobody seemed to really know who he was.  Oh well, all’s well that ends well, as the saying goes.

I never tire of watching junior parkrunners taking on the course.  The speedier ones sprinting at the front, and others pootling round taking it all in and enjoying the many and varied sights and delights of the parkrun experience.  Today though was particularly memorable.  The first two runners were brothers I think, and they ran round stride for stride and then when they got to the finish… oh gawd, I think I’ve got something in my eye just thinking about this – when they got to the finish funnel, they paused, and held hands so they could cross the line together!  Oh my gawd.  Isn’t that amazing?  So proud of these runners.  Totally harnesses what parkrun should be.

We on the finish funnel, welcomed them in and shooed them down to have their barcodes scanned

Granted, I’m not looking at my most animated in that shot right there, but it was a lull after most of the runners had gone through. It’s hard work cheering everyone through, you need to take the power breaks when you can.

Barcodes scanned, the parkrunners joined the next even more impressive queue for custody of cake

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No question, that cake was quite a hit, and the queues long.  Thinking ahead to next year maybe we need some volunteer buskers to entertain them with juggling and magic tricks like they do for the lines in Disneyland (I think), that, or have satellite marshals patrol the line handing out the chocolate vegan cupcakes on a tray for those who were fading with the wait.  All very good-natured though, as you’d expect.  That’s because all parkrunners are lovely (fact) and junior parkrunners are lovelier still!  🙂

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Inevitably, the final finisher came through, all smiles of triumph and that was that.  Course dismantled and runners disappearing into mist to carry on with the rest of the day, carrying the extra ballast of celebratory cake in their stomachs as a happy memory.

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But you know what.  That wasn’t the end of the morning’s fun.  Oooooooooooooooh no, something completely brilliant was still to happen.

Firstly, there was the hilarity factor in when some of us gathered marshals collectively realised that Mr Blobby was marshalling at the most complicated of marshalling points apropos post run course dismantling.  He would need to take down the tape that keeps runners away from the lake, haul up the plastic stake, and carry a bag of tape and hi-vis vests back up the hill through the mist.  One option might have been to go and offer assistance.  However, we were operating on democratic principles which means we go with what the majority agree on even if that disadvantages a minority, or indeed everyone.  In this case, we decided it would be completely hilarious to watch him try to complete this task and then make his way up the hill.   And you know what, I can’t regret it one little bit, it was indeed truly hilarious.  Now that’s a boon you don’t get at many parkruns I’d venture, seeing Mr Blobby undertaking a practical challenge to comedic effect.  Laugh?  I thought my knickers would never dry!

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And that wasn’t even the end of it.

Once Mr Blobby had rejoined us, he was quickly mobbed by a group of junior parkrunners, who delighted in watching him messily eat cake and generally ‘josh around’.  There was much lively play.  After a bit, he took himself off behind the cafe to disrobe, a couple of youngsters went after him, but not all.  This last bit of information is critical.  Remember it.

So after a bit, a new adult male appears as if from nowhere.  ‘Oh no‘, I exclaimed to him ‘if only you had been here just a few minutes earlier you’d have seen Mr Blobby!  It’s been so very exciting, he was quite a spectacle!’  He replied in kind, ‘I’d love to have met him, what a shame‘ etc etc.  Now dear reader, you might be ahead of me here, but the point is, the genius things is, the junior parkrunners assembled at this point were on the cusp of belief.  They strongly suspected there must be a person inside the Mr Blobby outfit but weren’t 100% confident on this point.  They were also unsure what was at stake if they declared one way or the other and backed the wrong side.  A couple of the bolder juniors protested ‘no, that’s him, that’s him!  He was Mr Blobby‘.  I held my ground though, it couldn’t possibly be him, because Mr Blobby was extremely rotund, whereas this gentleman was positively svelte.  I could see puzzlement and mental processing etched on their faces.  ‘But I saw him take the costume off‘ insisted one.  I was having none of it.  What could they possibly mean.  Mr Blobby had clearly gone home for breakfast, most people had, that was just as it should be.  Eventually, one of the feistier young runners had a stroke of genius ‘I’ll prove it to you‘ she exclaimed, and reaching up to this (now slightly alarmed) new arrival, triumphantly unzipped his coat, expecting to reveal a pink costume adorned with yellow spots.  Dear reader, her expression, and that of her fellow parkrunners was just brilliant.  He was just wearing a normal shirt, therefore, he can’t possibly have been dressed up as Mr Blobby, and if he wasn’t dressed up as Mr Blobby well then, you guessed it, that can only mean Mr Blobby was most definitely for real!

It was brilliant.  Best conclusion to the run ever!

I love that some of these youngsters must presumably still believe in Father Christmas and who knows, the tooth fairy too.  In fact, while we are on the topic, a friend of mine told me that she believed in the tooth fairy for far, far longer than her peers due to a mishap in her youth.  One time, she lost a tooth, put it out for the tooth fairy and the tooth fairy never came.  Tearfully, she showed her lost tooth to her mum, saying the tooth fairy couldn’t be real because she never came.  Her mum was having none of it. This was an absolute outrage, what was going on with the tooth fairy supposedly servicing their road.  She would sort it there and then.  In her presence, her mum rang the tooth fairy’s manager and complained, and was promised that the tooth fairy would definitely come tonight instead, they were very sorry and they’d leave an extra something by way of apology. And that’s what happened!  Therefore, the tooth fairy was most definitely real, just not infallible.  Proof indeed!

So that was that, we took ourselves off to the cafe for results processing and token sorting and tale sharing and then shored up with feel good endorphins went our separate ways.

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All ended, but don’t be deflated dear reader, you can come along to Graves junior parkrun any Sunday you like.  And if you are so unlucky as not to live anywhere near Sheffield, there are other junior parkruns available that make fun of their own too.  And it’s only another 51 weekends to go before we celebrate our birthday all over again.  make a note in your diary now, just to be on the safe side.  Meantime, thanks for virtually joining in the fun by reading to the end of this post, and thank you everyone at Graves junior parkrun for making Sunday the highlight of my week.  And no, that’s not because I don’t get out much, it’s because junior parkrun is the best thing EVER.

You’re welcome.  🙂

Also, don’t you think our very own George surpassed himself today on the photography front?  I do. Thank you.

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries

For my posts including a reference or more to Graves junior parkfun click here.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the official run report for the Graves junior parkrun birthday bash is here.

welcome to graves

 

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Battling The Beast and Cavorting with The Cobra – gallumphing round Gedling parkrun for my cow cowl debut outing.

Digested read: went to Gedling parkrun, sun shone, route undulating – no really, it actually was proper hilly –  locals friendly.  Would recommend.  Different parkrun no 21.  First outing for my long coveted cow cowl.  Hurrah!

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Unabridged account:

It came!  My cow cowl.  The buff that has become the recognised signal to self-identify those who  have completed 20 different parkruns.  I’ve been on a quest to achieve this for a little while, and am ridiculously very excited to now be in possession of it.  It was a bit scratchy on arrival, but I chucked it in with a load of washing and it came out all soft and with that seductive fresh laundry smell just crying out to be worn.  I was going to have a bit of a break from parkrun tourism, but it turned out the lure of having an excuse to don my cow cowl for the first time was too great.  Plus, if I’m wanting to do a few more parkrun excursions further afield I need to do so before winter properly sets in.  The upshot was I set my alarm for an early start, and today it was Gedling parkrun in my sights.  I can’t quite remember why.  It’s one of the nearer to me parkruns not done yet, and because I’ve been heading out that way recently from Sheffield to get to both Mansfield parkrun and Brierley Forest parkrun it is a pretty and easy drive.  Gedling also promised only one lap, which would be novel, been a while since I got to do once of those.  Yep, that sounds like the makings of a plan,  I’ll do that then. I thought.

Cow Cowl - parkrun headwear

I was less enthusiastic this morning.  Like Lady Macbeth I seem to have entirely lost the ability to sleep, though don’t worry, it isn’t due to the quantities of core on my hands that I’m unable to wash off, in case you were wondering but too polite to ask. Nope, just ongoing insomnia.  I felt like I hadn’t slept at all anyway, but was properly awake but exhausted from 4.00 a.m. feeling blooming awful.  I debated the options as stair rods of rain pelted down on the velux windows.  Was I ill or just exhausted? I mean everything ached, and you aren’t supposed to run with ‘below the neck’ symptoms are you?  Maybe I could just lie in a bit longer, stay local, less taxing…  But then again, lying in wasn’t all that relaxing with the demon of insomnia sitting on my chest.  Obviously, this is exactly what I look like when reclining on my bed, and exactly what I wear in bed too, if only I’d remembered about the parkrun in pyjamas event it’s what I’d have worn for that run a couple of weeks back, what could possibly have gone wrong?

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In the end, I figured I was awake anyway, and as my kit was all laid out, including my freshly laundered co cowl I might as well stick to plan a.  It’s not like I run very fast and so my participation in parkrun was unlikely to be entirely ruinous to my health, I might even feel better afterwards.

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If I felt rubbish, then it was a zero sum game, give I already felt rubbish, I’d be no worse off. The same logic was applied by a friend of mine who ate a grilled rat purchased from a road side vendor whilst in Cambodia.  She’d been really, really ill with dysentery that let her so dehydrated she could hardly stand.  Her thought was that as she was currently at death’s door it was highly unlikely that the consumption of grilled rat would make her any sicker than she was already, plus it would pass through her system at lightning speed. On the other hand, were she to eat same skewered rodent whilst well, and then become really ill she’d have been  most put out.  I sort of respect her logic, though grilled animals, rats or otherwise, are not for me. The principle works though.

grilled rat cambodia

So up and out, and the rain stopped by the time I was in the car.  The drive out was fine, beautiful even with the autumn colours of trees lining the route back-lit by bright, low winter sunshine.  The down side of all the lovely low sunshine is that I was dazzled by it for the whole drive, having to resort to wearing my shades whilst driving even though it was 7.30 in the morning.  Fortunately I’m confident I’d have looked super-cool wearing them at that hour and not at all ridiculous in any way whatsoever, so that’s a win.  I’d have looked even cooler (hard to imagine) if I’d only managed to get myself a pair of these!

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I’m actually overdue to have my eyes tested, so here’s hoping that specsavers offer these as an option.  Then, what with getting some of those and now being in possession of a cow cowl basically all my worldly dreams will have come true!  I don’t mean to come across as inappropriately materialistic, but well, you know, we all covet something….  Or is it just me?

Just me then… Ooops.

Ah well, can’t put that cat bag in the bag now.  Truth will out.  As indeed I did.  Off I went.  And in almost exactly an hour, arrived at the entrance to Gedling Country Park, which the signs tell me, is on the sight of what was formerly Gedling Colliery.

The satnav for the on site car park is NG4 4PE, and works, always a boon.  I was a bit worried about parking – well I always am – but when I got there, about 8.40, there was still plenty of space.  The only confusing thing is that they don’t mark out the parking bays with lines, so it probably isn’t the most efficient way to park up, but no worries, I got in fine.  I went in search of loos.  Jackpot dear reader. There is a visitors centre with a cafe (not yet open) and loos a-plenty, all heated up and clean and welcoming.  No queue.  No other users even.  Two weeks on the trot I’ve been spoilt by the high standards of toilets available for my delight and convenience.  Very convenient it was too.

Not that I had the trots, I’m fine, I’ve not been dining on grilled rat, not that that would necessarily be detrimental on the guts, especially as presumably grilled is the healthier (though not necessarily tastier) option, than the deep-fried variety which was also ubiquitous in parts of Cambodia, but even if you did, you’d be alright.

By the way, if you want to know what rat tastes like, have a guess?

No, not like chicken, that would too easy.  Apparently, it tastes exactly like you’d imagine a dead rat to taste.  Not recommended therefore. Most undesirable, especially for the rat that gets eaten.

Back to the loos, marvellous – apart from, the cubicle I used had the noisiest door hinge in the known universe.  FACT.  It screamed like a bull elephant seal fighting for territorial rights, and that’s loud!  I know, I saw a programme with footage of just that only yesterday, it’s a noise that makes your bones and internal organs vibrate. This was exactly the same. No really, the sound recordists for the documentary in question could have saved themselves a lot of expense and trouble by just setting up their recording equipment outside cubicle three along from the left.  They might have picked up other interesting and informative sounds too now I come to think of it, though not during my visit particularly, I’m very poised and demure in my toilet habits.  Can’t speak for other facility users.

Elephant seal fight 1

I had time for a little explore and amble about.  I can report that once again this was an unexpectedly nice location.  Not wishing to be rude, but without the lure of parkrun tourism I’d have had no reason to even know Gedling Country Park existed, and yet here I was, being impressed by it in the earlyish hours of a Saturday morning.  It helped that the sun shone, and the park which covers a hill (reclaimed slag heap) was covered with beautiful trees, golden in their autumn colours and practically glowing in the sunshine.  There were helpful information boards such as this:

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There were more boards with a map of the park, polite requests for £1 contribution (voluntary) towards parking.  I hesitated, being a beneficiary of the car park, but then I thought if I got my coffee in the cafe afterwards that would still be making a contribution of some sort.  If I’d had change on me at that point I would have popped something in, but I didn’t.

The exploring was fun, I got a sense of the expanse of the place. There is a new build housing estate – so new it’s still under construction in places – bang smack next to the country park.  There was a really imaginative play area – check out this coal rig themed climbing frame cum slide:

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I ambled towards the familiar cluster of high vis wearing people, thinking I might have espied the start.  Don’t those marshals look busy and important!

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It wasn’t the start, it was actually the finish.  I was a bit confused, having not read beyond the ‘where to park’ bit of the course descriptor. I’m still not in possession of a smart phone, generally, I get on fine, but on occasions like this it would be handy for last-minute checks.  I saw a nice woman who pointed me in the right direction to find the first timers’ briefing and helpfully reassured me that there is a blue IKEA bag at the start where you can dump things to be taken to the finish.  It teleports there by magic as far as I can tell.  I think you have to qualify this with ‘dump things to be taken to the finish within reason‘.  Thus, I put my fleece in it, and it did indeed re-materialise at the finish, but if I’d climbed in myself I’m less confident I’d have been allowed to scan my barcode, whether I’d brought it with me or no.  Try it by all means though, I’m only giving an opinion here.

The Run Director was roaming in search of stories for the run report and saw some milestone runners assembling and spotted someone in a cow cowl.  Not me!  I however, alerted to its presence, decided to do some boldly going.  After all, earlier this week the  UK parkrun tourist group administrator informed me in a friendly welcoming message that ‘the sole purpose of the cowl is to allow group members to spot each other out and about, so wear it wherever and however you want, whenever you’re feeling sociable.’  Excellent!  This was an open invitation to go and say hello.  So I did.

Turned out the other wearer was at his home run!  Oh.  I thought your were supposed to wear it when actually touristing.  Not so.  It was rightly pointed out to me that you could where it wherever and however you pleased.  Round the wrist in hot weather, on the head when cool.  This was especially good news as I’d quite like to sleep in it for a bit, what with it being so comfy and welcome and all.  Seems there’s no rule to prevent me from doing so.  Even if there was, I doubt there is any enforcement regime as such, these things operate on trust.  Result.

This seemed to me a friendly parkrun.  I had quite a few chats whilst waiting.  Partly from the cow cowl affect, it is a licence to talk to people, especially others who are have also donned them.  But it wasn’t only that, people just seemed to have an open disposition, and also were chatting to each other whilst waiting, like they were catching up on local news, running and otherwise.  A nice vibe.

After a bit there was a first timers briefing.  It was really good, often these briefings are competent but formulaic. This one was extremely friendly and welcoming and also genuinely informative – albeit slightly alarming. We were warned that in this instance ‘undulating course’ was for real.  We would come to know The Beast, a humongous hill climb that loomed on upwards, and later another twisty hill that finishes with a steep upward thrust like a Cobra launching to strike, hence The Cobra.  Gulp.   It was going to be like doing a death ride at Alton Towers – only cheaper, obviously.  An opportunity to ask questions – I asked about if there was any overtaking etiquette as I’m slow and didn’t want to get in the way of other runners.  ‘gawd no, don’t worry about that, chat and go with the tail walkers if you want!‘  I appreciated that sentiment, and I suppose with a one lap course the faster runners should be able to get round unimpeded if they line up in the appropriate point at the start.

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Then the ‘first time ever at parkrun’ people were given an additional briefing about what to expect, and I joined the mingling melee of others waiting to go parkfun.

Oh hang on, you probably want to know the actual route, not just the names of the hills.  Well, the course blah de blah on the Gedling parkrun website says:

An undulating single lap figure of eight course set in the grounds of Gedling Country Park. The course is clearly marked with directional arrows.
The start is located close to the Spring Lane car park. From the start runners head East for 300 metres before turning right at a junction of paths, adjacent to the finish area, and heading in a Southerly direction downhill across the park. After approx. another 300 metres runners then turn left at the next junction of paths to begin the climb up Wicketwood Hill and then run in an anti-clockwise direction around the solar farm. Once runners return to the downhill path next to the finish area, they turn left to follow it again downhill across the park for approx. 300 metres. This time at the junction runners turn right and then take the third turning on the left to follow the ‘main bright’ route clockwise up and round back past the start point and head straight on to the finish.

And the map looks like this:

Gedling course

My strava also reports an elevation of 252 feet.  Felt like more though, those hills meant business.

So then RD briefing, which wasn’t that easy to hear – still some chatting at the back, though not as bad as at Brierley Forest.  We were told that you could join the team for post parkrun coffee in the Willowbrook, 13 Main Road, Gedling, Nottingham, NG4 3HQ afterwards.  Only they didn’t give the postcode then, obvs.  Seemed a genuine invite.  More marks for friendly inclusiveness awarded on my entirely arbitrary and subjective basis for this.  What with the warm welcome and bright sunshine I was feeling almost tickety-boo by the time the call went up for off.

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Those are the actual IKEA bags that do the teleporting from start to finish by the way, just to reassure you this parkrun has a plan.  They used to do a similar thing at Concord til the numbers got unmanageable I think, but then again, I only ever go there for their Christmas parkrun so might not be quite up to date on that one.

Off we went.  It was a friendly trot out.  They seemed a social gaggle at Gedling.  Many of the runners alongside me were chatting companionably to one another as they headed out.  I dare say the faster runners were sprinting ahead too hard to talk, but there was a good atmosphere within the run.  Obviously I had to do my pausing to take some snaps along the way thing, which was quite onerous at this venue because there was quite a lot to see, fabulous views and some nice wood sculptures along the route too.  Kudos to whoever maintains Gedling Country Park, it was in fine order.

Here are some wildlife wood sculptures – though personally I think the hedgehog is downright creepy.  The other renditions are very fine though:

Bit of feedback though, not sure if it is for the local parkrun team or the country park, but maybe get some wood sculptures to warn parkfunners of the forthcoming Beast and Cobra with appropriately worded information panels to help them on their way. That would be fantastic!  Plus, who knows, maybe a bit of accidentally on purpose spreading of misunderstanding and the beast of Gedling could go viral and become a thing, much like the Beast of Bodmin moor or whatever.  Or not, obviously, both options are OK with me.  Something like this perhaps, what’s not to like?

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On a still, sunny, autumnal day, this course was really lovely.  Spectacular views through silver birch woodland down to a village spire poking through mist below.  It goes up and down, and winds about, so plenty to distract you from the uphill bits.  Having said that, I couldn’t run all the way up the hills. I was a bit disappointed in myself as you’d think I’d be OK with hills given you can’t move in Sheffield you are never more than six foot away from a one in one gradient.  Not indeed more than six foot away from a man called Dave.  Also FACT.  On this parkrun alone there were two Davids running, but that doesn’t include the unknowns, who were probably nearly all Daves or Davids.  Bound to have been.  Don’t know if I captured any of them on film, but I did get some nice shots. I mean, they aren’t the most technically amazing pictures obviously, as I’m not a proper photographer, but you’ll get the mood music of the course from these I’m hoping.

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Of course no parkrun would happen without the volunteers.  Again, top marks for cheery marshals en route.  They weren’t many, but punched above their weight in offering personalised support and encouragement.  Also, naturally, helpful directional pointing, multi-tasking at times with cheering and interspersed clapping.  Top team happening at Gelding.

The tail walkers were a cheery, chatty trio, who kept at a respectable distance at the back.  I wasn’t quite final finisher, but nearly.  Everyone is different of course, but personally, I don’t like being chivvied along by tail markers, or anyone else for that matter, I find it super stressful, so I appreciated their chilled slightly behind approach.  They looked a top team too.  Also hurrah!

I realised en route that I’d not taken the obligatory selfie.  I blame Smiley Selfie Queen, she normally takes charge of such photo journalism on these excursions.  Our trip to investigate Ladybower’s bottom being a case in point… oh well, I did my best.  Not great, but at least the cow cowl is recorded here for posterity.  It will never have another debut outing, so that was worth documenting surely.

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I made it my mission to stay ahead of the tail walkers and in sight of the runners ahead, but this still gave me a fair bit of lee-way for scenic shot spotting.  At various points on the course you can see faster runners streaming ahead up the hills.  But I also paused to look at the planted up lagoons, impressive teasels – they are great for goldfinches, I’m trying to grow some in my garden but they are biennials, so I won’t know if my plan has worked until next year.   Some lovely sculptural pieces too.  An ‘unmissable’ solar farm – I think as in ‘you can’t miss it‘ as opposed to a ‘your life will be incomplete if you don’t see it‘ feature in the park.

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Also cattle, but peacefully grazing the other side of a fence, so no worries about being trampled. Well, not this week anyway, a couple of weeks back I gather it may have been a different matter all together when, according to their Gedling event 178 run report

a tractor turns up on the course half way through a parkrun which some of you may have seen happen this week! The farmer had come to bring some more water for his cows and thought that Saturday morning would be a quiet time to do it! He certainly hadn’t imagined 161 parkrunners to get in his way. Very luckily there was a gap between parkrunners for him to get to the cows which meant that the course was cleared with about 30 seconds before the first finisher had to go along that part of the course. Phew!

Open gate between me and cows is not my favourite thing. parkrun is though, so perhaps another zero sum game effect now I come to think about it.  Also, tractors are always fun aren’t they?  I briefly worked on an alpaca farm, and driving the tractor was one of my favourite things.  Better yet, it was a red one, things don’t get better than that!

As I came round to the end of the course, you run alongside the car-park. That wasn’t great as I was acutely aware of all the long finished parkrunners coming back to their cars, drinking coffee and changing or doing stretches in the car park.  Having said that, 99% of those who passed me in the opposite direction as I came in shouted encouragement, or clapped or just smiled warmly and empathetically in my direction.  Like I said, a very friendly parkrun. Including the very nice woman who had helped me out on arrival, pointing me the right way to the start and explaining about the magically transporting IKEA bag.  That was nice, sort of top and tailed my Gedling parkrun immersive experience!  Thank you kind fellow parkrunner!

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From the car-park area, it’s down hill, so you can go for your ‘chariots of fire’ sprint finish, and the added momentum provided by gravity will super charge your whizz into the finish funnel.  Or it would, if there weren’t other parkrunners who’d just finished strolling towards me, five a-breast up the path directly in front of the timekeepers. I’m not going to lie that was disappointing, but untypical of the Gedling parkrun experience up to that point.  Maybe they were just ‘in the zone’ having finished their run, but I had to swerve onto the grass to avoid this group with just a few feet still to go, they seemed completely oblivious to the fact I was still running and they were completely blocking the path to such an extent I couldn’t even see the finish past them.  The entire path – really?  Not to worry, the cheers of the finish funnel marshals, time keepers and bar scanners swept me up again.  You can’t be disappointed for long at a parkrun.  For the record, you also pass this team twice on the run due to the figure of eight formation, and they clapped and cheered every time, with genuine energy and enthusiasm. I appreciate your labours hi-vis team, I really do.  I thank you all!  🙂

I lingered to wait for the tail walkers to come on through, only they didn’t.  They didn’t have barcodes and for whatever reason opted not too.  A slightly anticlimactic finish, but a relaxed and pleasant one all the same. I think the timers clicked them in en masse any how, not sure to be honest.  All good though, and good-humoured too, like I said, this was a friendly one.  You could feel the parkrun love.  I’d definitely come back some time, I have unfinished business with those hills apart from anything else.  However, I’m thinking this could be quite an exposed course in winter so maybe one for the summer months as the days shorten and the wintry weather comes upon us…  brrrrrr.

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I said my thanks – particularly to the nice woman who’d done the first timers’ briefing who was at the finish as well.  Then I wandered in the general direction of the cafe, past the adventure playground, which was very tempting indeed.  Only my desire for caffeine prevented me from having a go on the zip line and other interactive pleasures that awaited those game enough to take the plunge.  Very impressive.  No really, genuinely so.  Also immaculately maintained.  I didn’t see one bit of litter, or one pile of dog poo all morning, and I think that may well be a parkrun first in my experience.

Final stop was a pit stop (see what I’ve done there) at the visitors’ centre cafe.  Not massively beautiful from the outside, but inside light and airy and not massively busy considering there’d just been a parkrun – maybe everyone did decamp to the aforementioned pub.

Inevitably there was a bit of a queue in the cafe, but not to worry, an opportunity to share parkrun stories with others.  A really nice woman (this wave is for you) was filling me in on other local runs if I want to extend my parkrun tourism.  She recommended Colwick parkrun as relatively near and flat – though precautionary pee alert – the loos are miles from the start and only for the completely desperate.  This is the kind of insider info you can’t put a value on.  She is doing a 12 run challenge next  year, so I was trying to persuade her to come and do the Longshaw 10k – one of the Trust 10k series nationwide in January as she was lacking an event for that month.  Bit rich coming from me, as although I love Longshaw, I don’t think I’ve made it once this year because of getting sucked into volunteering at Graves Junior parkrun – then again, junior parkrun is the most fun it’s possible to have on a Sunday morning so hardly surprising.  Having said that, I might try to do the pre-Christmas Longshaw one.  We’ll see….  Mind you I can hardly drag my weary carcass round a 5k at the minute, need to start doing some actual proper running training again before then.

So coffees bought, said farewell to my new best friend and her supportive partner and that was that.  Coffee was acceptable but unremarkable, I didn’t get any food, though there were good options in the croissant and cake department and toast and things as well I think.  There were cheap and cheerful breakfast at the pub though – I think next time I’d factor that in and head there.  Sounds like a bargain.  Veggie breakfast at Willowbrook for £4.50 – got to be checked out for research purposes next time…

I did feel better after my run for the record.  It’s true what they say, you never regret a run do you, however hurrumphy you might be to start out with, it’s always worth it in the end.

So thank you fine parkrunners and parkfunners of Gedling, a very welcoming and impressive set up you have there.  Also, the swiftest delivery of a parkrun event report I’ve ever experienced with Gedling Event 179 run report online within hours of the parkrunning.  Respect!  I’m mighty glad I found it for my cow cowl debut.  It was a memorable one.

Talking of remembrance, they also had this at the entrance to the park.  I’m not entirely comfortable with much of the gesture politics around acts of remembrance – Seeing world leaders whose foreign policies have propagated conflict and war world wide, or proactively profit from arms sales gather, sporting poppies and purporting to support peace sticks in the throat.  But I liked this statement.  A figure alongside the dates the pit was in operation for (1899-1991).  I couldn’t help wondering how many people who worked these seams and then died in one of the wars?  Were they even seams, or was it all open cast mining?  I have no idea.

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This link may help – Heritage – Friends of Gedling Country Park.  What happened here in the eighties?  I don’t know, it obviously limped on into 1991, but this site has surely seen turbulent times.  As is often the way, I resolved to do some googling when I got home. It might not be the most robust and rigorous of research tools, but it is a cautious start.  As with parkrunning, the important thing is to just start, after that, things can often take on a momentum all of their own.

Happy parkfunning til next time!  🙂

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

What lies beneath. Scrutinising Ladybower’s bottom in search of Atlantis Sheffield

Digested read: lured by Smiley Selfie Queen, went in search of the underwater village ruins at Ladybower reservoir.  Found them.  It was epic!  Go see for yourself before the waters rise again.

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Unabridged read:

Honestly, I’m really torn.  I mean I do get the general point about literal jumps into the unknown being potentially perilous, but then again, it’s the metaphorical leaps into the unknown that make life interesting.  If we only ever keep hanging on to what we know already we’ll never learn anything new, and if we only do what we’ve always done then nothing will ever evolve.  So I note the signage at the Ladybower Reservoir, and totally endorse not risking paralysis by dive bombing into possibly shallow waters, whilst simultaneously believing a bit of exploration and adventure is fine and dandy, recommended even – but maybe just do your risk assessments properly at the outset.

And on the subject of signs, did you see this BBC news story on an Edinburgh initiative to improve road signage?  It’s quite marvellous!  Bringing joy to a joyless world…

 

 

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to talk about signage, lovely as that would be, it is to tell you about my adventures with Smiley Selfie Queen, exploring the exposed bottom of Ladybower Reservoir.  Generally speaking, one shouldn’t explore exposed bottoms with such public abandon, but in this case it’s OK because it’s a rare treat and not of a living thing.  No dear reader, rather it is a consequence of the extreme heat of the summer of 2018, which has led to the dropping of the water levels of Ladybower and the associated reservoirs so low, that you  can see once again the remnants of the villages that were flooded when the dams were constructed and the reservoirs filled.  I’ve been meaning to go for ages in a vague ‘really must go and do that sometime‘ sort of way, ‘before it’s too late‘ much as I did with intending to visit the millennium dome.  I never did get to see that, and it is most definitely too late now, but with the viewing of Sheffield’s Atlantis it was a different matter altogether.  I was prompted to take the proverbial plunge into the waters of Ladybower by Smiley Selfie Queen who proposed an excursion. ‘Fab idea, why not?’  So that is what we agreed to do.  I knew the water level was really low, but I’d actually thought part of it was because some had been pumped to facilitate some sort of maintenance work, but it seems I must have made that up, because there was no evidence of it, and no reference to it when I googled, so there you go.

The day dawned, and rain fell.  No worries, we can still have an adventure in the rain.  She scooped me up, and we drove over to the lay by just a few hundred metres (if that) ahead of the Fairholmes visitor centre so we could park for free.  (More about the visitors’ centre here). On a rainy Wednesday morning there was no-one much about, so we had the place to ourselves.  I was astonished at how beautiful the autumn colours were. The rain cleared and gave way to sunshine, and get a load of this, magnificent!

 

It was crazily beautiful, the pictures nowhere near do it justice.  I had a faff about what to wear, I took my hat in the end as you can see, though for a lot of the time it was in my coat pocket rather than on my head.  You might think therefore dear reader that I’d come to regret having taken it with me, but dear reader, you would be wrong!  This fetching hat, which I’ve had for a great many years, and which rather pretentiously I bought from a vendor on a floating island on Lake Titicaca in Peru, who had knitted it himself today had its moment of glory.  It has done me many quiet years of service, nearly 20 years I think, and I am grateful for that, but today it also came into its own as an indispensable aid to our progress – more of that later.  Yes, it does have a llama on it, but no need to be allarmared by that!

Meantime more views, look:

 

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Sigh, it really was glorious, you should have been there, the photos don’t do it justice.

We followed the signs to the dam, there is a well-marked path that take you up, so we had a little explore.  No time to walk the entire circumference of the water today, so we just had a squint at the dam and accompanying points of interest which included, a monument to a dog that stayed by its dead master for 15 weeks.  Fifteen weeks!  Seriously, that’s extraordinary, but also somewhat unlikely, how did it survive, what happened there?  There were also some tributes for remembrance day which is coming up, info panels about the testing of the bouncing bombs, and interesting man-made constructions peeking out from the water.  I don’t know enough about civil engineering in general or dam construction in particular to know what we were looking at exactly, but it was all quite intriguing and made me wish I’d concentrated more in school.  We probably covered this kind of thing in human geography at some point.  That’s the trouble with education, wasted on the young…

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Tempting as it was to march round the top reservoir, which is apparently Derwent, with Howden beyond, our focus was to get to the bottom(ish) of Ladybower, where the sunken village of Ashopton is currently in view, well, what’s left of it.

We paused to look at the Dam from below, and then followed some inviting looking steps that took us up and above the water.  All good exploring territory, though I’ve realised a limitation of me relying on Smiley Selfie Queen to take all the photos is that it gives the impression I am forever scurrying along behind her.  This may be an accurate representation of how it was of course, but I don’t really like it being immortalised in jpegs. Oh well.  The truth will out.

After much scurrying around and posing in various locations, my Smiley Buddy started having flash backs of having been there before.   This very place was, it turned out, an early date with her partner when she presumes they were trying to impress one another by agreeing to do something outdoorsy and cultural together which ironically wasn’t really either of their things a decade or so ago though it most definitely is now.  How the wheels of time and fortune turn full circle eh?  I found that entertaining, but then again, I am on record as being easily amused.

We back tracked, then and searching for a way down to the water line, once we’d crossed over, followed a little detour which turned out to be the sweetest little nature trail with signs identifying trees and wooden sculptures including ginormous moles and teeny tiny locomotives – perfect posing opportunity for me and my training buddy!

 

See what I did there – with us on the train…. genius!

We had to clamber our way up and out of this nature reserve, alongside a fence, and emerged on a wide tarmac path.  We were just ahead of some dog walkers with boisterous dogs that kept charging up alongside and between us.  They weren’t aggressive but they were very annoying.  We’d passed a sign earlier saying dogs should be on leads, but I’m not sure if that rule applied on this part or not.  In fairness to these owners I don’t think it was clear either way.  Even so,  I do wish dog owners would understand however much they may love their ‘adorable hounds’, others don’t necessarily appreciate these slobbering, bounding canines invading their personal space.  It got tense.  I am getting less and less tolerant of dogs these days.  Dogs in general that is. Particularly out of control, off lead ones, I don’t care if you say they are friendly, keep them away from me unless invited thank you very much.   Individual dogs I know are lovely of course, and Tilly is the loveliest of them all.  Actually, I like Skip too, although he just ignores me, it’s a bit one-sided there.  Harry and Barry are all right as well.  Basically, well behaved dogs where we’ve been introduced, or those who are adoring are fine, but random slobbering ones are not.  I think that’s pretty clear…

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We got jumped as we were admiring a somewhat incongruously placed but beauteous telephone box.  We inadvertently went full circle and as swamp creatures emerging from the mud came back to here later on.

 

We tried to walk briskly ahead to keep out-of-the-way of the bloody dogs.  Trouble is, we were obviously all heading for the same boggy bottom.  Now, I know you have to be careful out there because it’s incredibly tempting to venture out too far and then you get stuck in the mud and have to be rescued.  Only last week Edale Mountain Rescue had to haul someone out that’s awful and everything of course, though it did give me a little flash of an idea and a spark of embittered hope…

Incident 101 – Saturday 3rd November 2018 12.10hrs

The duty team leader received a call from Derbyshire police regarding a gentleman who had, given the low water level, walked out across Ladybower reservoir to take a closer look at the currently exposed ruins. The mud is however extremely thick in places and he got himself completely stuck. Due to concern for his temperature and general welfare his partner ran round to the rangers station at Fairholmes to summon assistance.
The team was able to access the casualty with a variety of specialist equipment designed to spread an individual’s weight over a muddy surface and after approximately 30 minutes of digging was able to free the gentleman and walk him back to solid ground. Team members then returned to base to start a long session of equipment cleaning!

 

I just was thinking, nay secretly hoping that these wayward canines might go out to explore a bit too far and soon find themselves sinking in the mud sufficiently that their owners would rush to rescue them*, only for the hounds to break free and the owners to be entombed and slowly sucked under by the clogging mud.  Obviously I’d rush to get assistance, but who knows whether I’d make it back in time, and despite what you may have been led to believe from watching Lassie films or even the monument to the loyal sheep dog from earlier, not all canines are of practical assistance in a crisis.   It’s often what happens though isn’t it? Dogs in peril escape from the watery peril of the sea or outrun stampeding cattle, or extricate themselves from  bogs or whatever and their hapless concerned owners perish whilst misguidedly trying to save them.  I know I sound mean, but you weren’t there.  And anyway, I don’t believe you have never experienced Schadenfreude, even if you choose not to admit it even to yourself.  Also, my fantasy mud-sucking scenario didn’t occur, so no harm done on this occasion, unfortunately.

*No dogs were injured in the conjuring of this fantasy rage scenario, so don’t judge!

Apart from nursing gnawing resentment about being hounded by the bloody dogs, we were partially distracted by the increasingly amazing views.

 

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After a bit, we found a way to scramble down to the water’s edge, and it was instantly amazing and distracting, and oh, so very tempting to walk out much further than you ought.  The exposed reservoir base looked like an alien planet or something.  Just the mud alone looked like a lifeless lunar landscape, perfect film location for next Dr who say and a striking contrast to the Park Hill Flats.  Then it was set off by the frame of autumnal gold on the banks.  It was extraordinary.

 

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We’d been tipped off about what we might be able to see, so that gave us a bit of tenacity in exploring.  At first, we couldn’t really make out much at all.  There was an exposed bridge, and some generic bricks that might have been from the old church but it was hard to be sure. However, emboldened by the sight of other people further out, we ventured further.  I am pretty risk averse, so was cautious about stepping out, but if you were sensible and careful, you could pick a route over to a great heap of stones which contained within them an actual fire-place! It is weird-looking at it, and imagining others sitting by a lit fire, you can still see the soot stains in the hearth and within the shattered breast of a collapsed red-brick chimney.  Then there was the grand pillar and the outline of rooms that you could sort of move through.  Very eerie, and compelling too.

Turns out that in this context, I was a bit more of a trail blazer than Selfie Queen.  I had the advantage of better footwear partly.  I was wearing walking boots, she was in trail shoes.  The muddy clay just gripped and infilled the tread of her running shoes so she might as well have been trying to get around on greased skis by the end of it.  Still, between us we were intrepid, within the bounds of reason.

 

We saw a fair bit, but decided against venturing out beyond the collapsed hall to another bit of projecting stone work a bit further out.  We were mindful of the mountain rescue exploits of others and didn’t really want to add to those stats.  It was  a good call actually, because when we started back across the mud flats it was harder to retrace our steps than it had been to find a path heading out.  Oh well, we lived to try another day.

As we exited, a very jolly pair of men with cameras were swapping places with us. They have visited the reservoir bottom over the years and were full of information about what was there and how it had changed.  The arched structure I couldn’t identify was actually an old pumping station from when the series of dams was being built for example. They also were able to tell us that where we were standing was originally the main village/ manor hall, but had also been a chapel and a school too at various points, most educational.  We took photos of each other, which amuses me, here they are.  Being informative and convivial!

 

They were joking about taking away some of the abandoned masonry, I say good luck to them, if they think they can carry away a door mantle on their shoulders without being squelched down into the mud then why not!  We left then sliding about, holding their cameras aloft to keep them safe.

We opted to find a route back from the waterside.  We did achieve this, but there was a flaw in our plan in that of course normally the water level is never this low (it is actually at only 35% capacity at present according to signs in the visitors centre), therefore, there aren’t obvious entry points or footpaths leading back to where we were.  Oops.

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In theory, we could have retraced our steps, but that seemed like an awfully long way round and surely there’d be a short cut.  Plus we were running out of time due to other commitments for the day.  We skirted the edge, alongside us was quite a determined looking and unbreachable fence.  I was pretty confident there’d be a get out at some point, and sure enough, eventually, just as I was losing faith a bit, we saw an old gateway and road, passed through and… hit a dead-end.  Oh.

We walked on a bit, still the wrong side of the fence, though above the waterline and tantalizingly, could see the ‘proper path’ up the hillside above us, with two fences in between. After some consultation, we decided there was nothing for it but to clamber out.  Well I decided that.  Selfie Queen was a bit more dubious about the realism of this plan.  However, I’ve clambered a great many gates and fences in my time, and even done Endurer Events (tough mudder light) for goodness sake, it takes more than a strand of wire to defeat me!  The upshot was I would lead by example, but she wasn’t having the barbed wire hamper her progress. Well, this dear reader is where my hat had its day!  I got my fine Peruvian beret and used it to wrap round the barbs of the wire so we wouldn’t get them caught up on our leggings.  Finding the strongest post to steady us, it was a simple matter of quick leap over and voila, ’twas done!

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That was progress, but then I was a bit paranoid (which I didn’t share) that we were probably now trespassing and I didn’t want to find out the hard way we’d encroached on a field of cows, and probably a pack of dogs too.  Fortunately, we were both distracted by heavy rain which was short-lived but stinging and the presence of a fenceless gateway, which is one of our very favourite things to find on walks.  We did what we had to do:

 

Also, to be honest, I was fairly confident I knew the field was empty as we’d passed it earlier, but even so, I was relieved when we eventually found a path, which became a track, which led to a gate which led us out to the phone box aforementioned above!  Hurrah!  Job done.

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Then just a little matter of a scurry back to the car, via the loos at the visitors’ centre and a quick peak in their shop.  They sell a book of walks I might be tempted to get next time, only £2, bargain.

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And that was that.  Another adventure with Smiley Selfie Queen done and dusted, and a very fine and unexpected one too.

Of course, there was plenty we didn’t get round to see – low water has also revealed dwellings from Birchinlee Village under Derwent too, and the plug holes of course, need to go back for them one day soon.  Could be a long day out given how long it took us just to amble 5 miles or so this morning.  This is where we went by the way, Strava never lies.

 

Although the water levels were low today, Sheffield has not always been so depleted of the wet stuff.   I’ve googled so you don’t have to, about previous times in history when Sheffield flooded.  I had a vague sense there was a catastrophic flood when a dam burst a hundred years or so ago, and Wikipedia confirms this.  The Great Sheffield Flood:

 was a flood that devastated parts of Sheffield, England, on 11 March 1864, when the Dale Dyke Dam broke as its reservoir was being filled for the first time. At least 240 people died[1] and more than 600 houses were damaged or destroyed by the flood. The immediate cause was a crack in the embankment, but the source of the crack was never determined. The dam’s failure led to reforms in engineering practice, setting standards on specifics that needed to be met when constructing such large-scale structures. The dam was rebuilt in 1875.

The account is worth reading actually, it seems the rush of water wiped out whole sections of Malin bridge and Hillsborough.  Completely devastating.  I even found a little YouTube account of the flood, but I think we can safely assume it wasn’t made contemporaneously! Then there were more floods in 2007, from shere deluge of rain causing the River Don to burst its banks.  No wonder there is a whole list of Sheffield Floods to refer to.  For the first time in ages, I’m quite relieved I live at the top of a hill.  Something I rarely feel pleasure about as head down I climb up it carrying shopping on the way home.  The Star did a Retro feature about the 2007 floods, it was before I moved here. Quite astonishing to see the photos though.  Anyone would think it was part of our emergent Sheffield Atlantis discovery at the base of Ladybower reservoir rather than a snap shot on the way to complete submergence…

 

So there you go, well worth the trip out.  It always is.  I feel really blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world, I don’t care what the posters say, sometimes it is worth taking a dive into the unknown – metaphorically at least.

Look, we saw this:

cs other world

What’s not to like?

You’re welcome.

More about the sunken ruins here: BBC Ladybower Reservoir’s low water levels reveal abandoned village

and here: “Come see the ruins but stick to the shore” – warning as exposed ruins of Ladybower reservoir’s lost villages entice sightseers into danger

 

Categories: off road | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Gloves off for Mansfield parkrun. Gateway (for me) to the cow cowl. Yay!

Digested read: went to Mansfield parkrun for my twentieth parkrun tourism excursion. The cow cowl is now rightfully mine! Sun shone.  I wasn’t (quite) last.  Missed out on the Gavin and Stacey parkrun though.  Oh well.  Here’s to Mansfield parkrun, small, but perfectly formed.

Unabridged read:

No, I’m not picking a fight, I mean this quite literally.  It was sufficiently warm that I ran gloveless!  Even without a coat, and I briefly considered removing my buff (not to be confused with running in the buff, which would have been another blog post altogether) but didn’t, although with hindsight, it would have been fine.  Considering it actually snowed last week at Brierley Forest parkrun, I consider these clothing choices newsworthy.  Today, at Mansfield parkrun the sun shone, and like a reptile soaking up the thin winter sunshine, I could feel the restorative rays of solar power working their magic through my weary body.

In case your powers of deduction are failing you, and you haven’t deduced it for yourself yet, today I went to Mansfield parkrun, for a bit of parkrun tourism.  I could have gone to the Gavin and Stacy parkrun, but unfortunately I didn’t find out about that until afterwards.

Gavin and Stacey parkrun bbc

Long story short, but Billericay parkrun was cancelled for a fireworks do, so on a bit of whim, some Billericay parkrunners decided to decamp to Barry Island parkrun following in the steps of Gavin and Stacey.  It was seemingly epic, according to Barry Island parkrun’s Facebook page, or more accurately ‘proper lush’ don’t know how you say that in Welsh.  Anyway, they had a record attendance of 435 parkrun participants, lots of media attention and lots of fun judging from the parkrun’s flickr account!  Lots occurring there today!  Looking at the pics I definitely want to run there.  Maybe that should be my next focus.  Coastal parkruns – though starting that quest in November might not be the smartest move.  Anyways, here’s a taster of what we could have won, if we’d but known.

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No worries, there will be other opportunities I’m sure, and Mansfield had its merits – though I could have done without treading in dog poo at some point to be fair. Especially since I didn’t realise I’d done so until the smell of canine faeces permeated my whole car on the journey home.  These things happen, I’m not holding them liable, but I’m pretty sure they’ll give me a free parkrun next time I rock up at Manor Park Sports Complex on a Saturday morning as a good will gesture if I ask.  They gave all the Sherwood Pines parkrun refugees a freebie today after all!  (A reference I think to the fact you have to pay for parking there, but that event too was cancelled today).

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading to Mansfield.  I’m picking off the parkruns that are reasonably close to me in a quest to both do some parkrun tourism, and take the pressure off my running for a bit by going places I won’t know anyone so I can tootle about and rediscover the joy of it all again. This is the theory.  I’ve left my running mojo somewhere out in the peaks, and not been able to find it. I will at some point, but find it easier jogging round anonymously in the interim.

I didn’t know much about Mansfield parkrun.  On the way there, I vaguely recalled isn’t there a book called Mansfield Park?  Dear reader there is!  Though if you are a reader then you probably already know that.  It’s a Jane Austen. I wondered whether that meant there’d be people running round in early nineteenth century costume.  I think that would be hilarious, then again, I’m easily amused.  There weren’t though.  Maybe that’s because the locals know that Mansfield Park isn’t based on Mansfield as such anyway.  Her loss, obviously.  Sad but true. Well, I say true, I mean true according to this random article that I googled when I got home, which amounts to the same thing, and is more due diligence than say the current US President bothers with before making his pronouncements.  Mind you, that’s not really a good thing is it, although it does seem to be the new normal.  Look, best if you don’t get me started on that one to be honest, I have quite strong views on the topic… It might be that, or it might be that regency costumes aren’t very practical for running wear, which is why parkrunners should all rush out and buy the new contra kit instead.

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Emboldened by arriving crazily early to Brierley Forest parkrun last week, I set off from Sheffield a good half hour later to get to Mansfield.  The two parkruns are just 5.5 miles apart.  It took about 45 minutes to get there, another easy run, apart from being dazzled by sunlight on the way going. I had to wear my sunglasses driving. I know!  Who’d have expected that in November!  Fortunately they are massively fetching so that was OK.

I arrived just after 8.30.  The Sat Nav postcode NG19 8JY took me directly to the Manor Park Sports Complex easily enough. It’s signposted well (the sports complex not the parkrun, though actually that is too) so even I struggled to get lost.  You have to hold your nerve for the very last bit though, as it really feels like you are just driving into a cul-de-sac on a rather new housing estate, which was a little bizarre.  But no, I was on the right path.

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On arrival, I was spoilt for choice for parking. There were loads of courts and pitches for various sporting activities and endeavours each with seemingly separate parking areas.  Well, you my regular reader will know it doesn’t take much to confuse me, so I changed parking places a few times before going and parking directly next to the sports centre.  A nice young man told me that was OK, and pointed me in the direction of the parkrun start – which was actually in the opposite direction, but not hard to find, nor very far away.  I used the loos first though. Of course I did!

I can report good facilities here, precautionary pee wise.  A nicely warmed centre with changing rooms, even lockers, albeit that puzzlingly within them was only one loo with the worst flush I’ve encountered in a very long time. It did work eventually, but water dripped through at a speed and velocity usually associated with stalactite formation.   There were loads of showers though.  Maybe Mansfield folk exercise so hard they sweat off all their excess fluids and have no need of toilet facilities.  I can think of no other explanation.  It was fine though, there was no one else about.  The picture is of the side entrance to the sports centre, not the glass fronted main entrance, I don’t know why I didn’t photograph that, crass stupidity on my part I suppose…  An opportunity missed.  You’ll have to go and witness that for yourself and enjoy the interaction with the automatic doors.  I still think self opening doors are a miracle of science, though I have walked into glass doors before expecting them to open when they didn’t so it’s not always a win…

I headed over towards the start, following in the trainers of other runners who were trotting over in that direction.  This isn’t (or wasn’t today anyway) an especially busy parkrun.  In fact, I’d had a pre-parkrun panic looking at the results of previous events yesterday evening, with few runners, I fear not so much being last, as that’s happened before, but being so last, there is just tumbleweed and a dedicated timer waiting for me when I come in at dusk.  I scanned the field for runners more in my league.  I didn’t see any, but pleasingly, I did see a familiar face from Graves junior parkrun, an RD also on tour in a quest to secure his cow cowl, and accompanied by a friend celebrating his birthday and donning a new COИTRA top. That was a good opportunity for me to cop a feel – of the top I mean – honestly how childish and smutty are you exactly?  You should be ashamed of yourself!  I hadn’t previously been in close proximity to one of the tops before and I am tempted to get one.  I tell myself my Ronhill tops are years old now and less lovely than they should be. More than a few stains and holes acquired over that time.  Then again the COИTRA ones are pricey, though it’s raising funds for parkrun as well as being ethically produced … also, well, 20 tourist runs is surely a cause for celebration after all…  I am surely justified in doing something to mark the occasion. It felt nice.  I can feel myself giving in to that temptation even as I type.  I don’t quite understand the sizing though.  I also would like to know why they have the N in reverse on their logo.  Anyone know?  Shopping for running clothes is such a nightmare.  No wonder I end up wearing the same couple of tops the whole time. We’ll see.

We speculated about what new wonders would await us the other side of our twentieth differently located parkruns. Would we feel different?  Would we see parkrun with a new wisdom, indeed see the whole world, nay – the entirety of the known universe through a completely different light once we’d stepped past the timer and been spat out the finish funnel on completion of this run?  I imagined so.  Would there be a special handshake – or is the cow cowl the entire package?  It was exciting to speculate.  I never thought I’d get to this point, and yet here I am – or more accurately, there I was, about to transition to a brave new world!  I wondered how many goodly creatures would be there the other side and obviously, as at any parkrun reflected on how beauteous parkrunkind is to have such people in it!  Who’d have thought it! That I’d get be included in all of that! Also, is it at all odd to be excited about becoming eligible to buy a yellow and white and black running buff with cows on it?  I think not, but then again, perhaps I’ve already passed through to the other side…

They were keen runners, so had already warmed up with a lap of the route, and whilst I was gazing about and wearing my fleece in a ‘best not risk wearing myself out by running around for a warm up when I can just stand around awkwardly sort of way‘, they jogged off to use the facilities, and I strolled over to the start, where a small group of volunteers were discussing tactics, and other parkrunners vaguely loitering.  I found out later there were loads of first timers, which is possibly why I didn’t find this the friendliest of parkruns I’ve been to. I  tried to strike up conversations with a couple of people but it was a bit minimalist, but maybe they weren’t regulars, so a bit reserved.  Or maybe I’m not doing as well at suppressing my more bizarre behavioural tics just now, who knows.  Surely not the fragrancy of my running top? Clean on this morning… and barely an hour old in the wearing!  I’m not having that…

The parkrun venue was some open fields with autumnal trees around the perimeter.  The autumn colours looked lovely in the morning sunshine.  My camera couldn’t really cope with the light though. I’m actually wondering now if it might be broken, picture quality isn’t great, still you get the gist, and I can’t buy a new camera and a new COИTRA top can I?

I debated what to wear.  I was actually hot in the sunshine, so dear reader, not only my fleece, but my gloves came off!  They really did.  There wasn’t any obvious bag droppy area, so I just dumped my backpack alongside the finish funnel where I hoped it wouldn’t be too much in the way,

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My running gloves are excellent by they way, wish I could remember where I bought them.

After a bit, we were jollied along to the start area by the RD, who I now know was on his Running Director debut.  Scary!  Well done though.  For what it’s worth, I feel you acquitted your role with glory, I had no idea it was your RD parkrun premier performance.  Job done. 🙂

RD debut

As we shuffled along to the start, I had a panic about which way we’d be running, in case I found myself at the front of the pack and got trampled but speedier participants.  At this point a local took me under his wing, pointed me in the right direction and briefly explained the route.   Dear parkrunner, I thank you.  He was very friendly and welcoming, maybe other people were just shy?

That reminds me, you probably want to know about the course?  According to the Mansfield parkrun course description blah de blah:

The course is a 3 lap clockwise route consisting of mainly concrete paths and gravel paths. Starting at the green pin runners follow three clockwise loops of the blue line. On the third lap taking the red line to finish at the red pin.

The course is generally flat, quick and ideal for runners of all abilities.

It is really, really flat – 38 ft total elevation, which by Sheffield standards is like running down hill.  Good paths too, just one little slightly trail bit, I did wear my trail shoes, because I always do for unknown runs, but road shoes would have been fine, unless you are a complete wuss about overtaking on grass.  I’m not a massive fan of the three loop thing, but you do weave in and out a little, so it’s not like my nemesis which is the Rother Valley parkrun route, where you can see the whole course from every point and can therefore tell exactly how far you still have to go and how many people have already finished.  In my world this is depressing rather than motivating.  You may inhabit a parallel universe where this data is helpful and conducive to putting on an extra burst of speed .   I forgot to turn off my watch, so my Strava shows the walk back to the sports centre for coffee as well as the route, and my little photo stop detours too.  You can compare and contrast with the official course map if you have nothing better to do.

Or, if you are really keen, you could look at this GoPro video of the Mansfield parkrun route taken on the same morning by Alex Hoggard.  It’s amazing (for me) to see what parkrun is like at the front of the pack.  He overtook me about 11.46 minutes in.  Not sure backside is my best side, though others may beg to differ.

Not a huge turnout, around 100 I think in the end.  But an attentive run briefing, milestones acknowledged, tourists and Sherwood Pines refugees welcomed, volunteers thanked

The run briefing was pretty brief and then it was ‘three, two, one GO!’ and we did.  I was a bit more mid-field than I’d have liked, but sort of moved aside to the left as soon as I could so faster runners could pass.

One thing about this parkrun which was very noticeable and really fun too, was the number of cheery interactions with spectators.  I got the impression these were local people who came to support the parkrun every week as part of their routine for a Saturday constitutional or dog walk.  There were lots of ‘hello‘s,  ‘good morning‘s,  and ‘well done‘s. Plus  a few ‘keep on running‘s too.  It was really nice.  I gained the impression of a community parkrun with other park users very happy to share the space with their local parkrun which is good to see.  These were my favourite cheer leaders though, so much so I asked to take their photo on the final lap.  They just looked like they were having a good time too, and sharing the joy.

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Sad to say my home parkrun has got so big now I think non parkrunners are starting to object to it a bit in Endcliffe Park.  I appreciate it must be intimidating if there are 700 + runners coming through, but I wonder if sometimes those other users forget we are locals too, and it is really only 30 minutes of congestion.  Here, it was really nice.  Also, because you do three laps, you get three lots of encouragement from those minded to give it.

I was towards the back, obvs.  But on the plus side, it was nice to see the runners streaming ahead and cornering around the football pitches.

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There weren’t very many marshals on the course, it didn’t really need them to be fair. Just one at the furthest point, and loads of carefully positioned arrows including kilometre markers, which is handy when you are doing a new route. Though you do need to be able to count to three to remember which lap you are on to make use of them most effectively.

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It’s quite a sweet little route.  It winds around the perimeter of the fields but goes over a couple of bridges and past a little stream where an abandoned chair was perhaps in tribute to a former parkrun cheerer no longer there, who knows?

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I had a few adventures on the way round.  I got lapped early on.   The front runners were all as courteous as they were speedy.  For those whose goals include getting a new PB this course might be quite good as it’s flat, tarmac paths pretty much throughout and uncrowded.

Being lapped is never great, even if it is for me at least, often inevitable.  Still, on the plus side, it meant I could cheer my Graves junior compatriot as he romped round.  Bravo!

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And then I happened to be at the finish funnel (doing my second lap) as the birthday celebrating CONTRA wearing runner came on through – a pleasing bit of happenstance.

Although all the volunteers did sterling work, of course, special mention for the faraway marshal at the faraway point possibly beside his very own Faraway Tree.  He clapped continuously, and came up with encouraging phrases every time I passed.  Though I wasn’t entirely sure if for my final lapping if he said ‘keep going at that pace and you’ll soon be done‘ or ‘keep going at that pace and you’ll soon be done in’, either way, his enthusiastic and interactive support was much appreciated.  The latter phraseology some might consider discouraging, but I think it acknowledges the reality of my situation.  Also, I’m pretty sure he said the former anyway!

The other curious thing, well I thought it was curious, was that on my final lap there was music coming booming seemingly out of some shrubs and bushes about a third of the way round the course.  It was really strange, I couldn’t work out at all its origins or purpose.  It was cheering though, but was it an abandoned boom box or a very shy busker or possibly even musically minded doggers parked up the other side of the hedge, oblivious to the way more satisfying parkrun fun going on our side.  I didn’t do a detour to find out.  Sometimes best not to.  Did you know dogging in Endcliffe park is a thing though?  Well it nearly was anyway, you’ll have to follow the link to find out more…

The finish arrives ‘suddenly’ after a bend, which is quite nice if you are new to the route as it seems to come round quickly for being a bit unexpected –  though it’s further than you might think so you need to pace yourself for a sprint finale.   Timers shouted encouragement and there were loads of people on hand to cheer runners in.  That was nice. parkrun enthusiasm is ubiquitous it seems.  I hung on to see the final few finishers coming in, as did many others.

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The tail walker was quite far behind, dismantling the course as she came through.  Nice team work from all methinks.

Other volunteers came into view, similarly laden with flags and smiles.

and that was that.  parkrun done and dusted for another week!

I mumbled thanks and headed off in search of coffee.  Now, hate to be negative, but this was disappointing.  The page says join people for coffee in sports centre, but when I got to the reception area, there was basically tumble weed and a vending machine. Whether locals with local knowledge go elsewhere, or whether post parkrun coffee is not part of the culture of this parkrun I have no idea.  I got a cheap and cheerful coffee from said machine for £1.20 and ended up drinking it in the car.  It was ‘acceptable’ way better than that say on offer at Doncaster parkrun, but their coffee sets a particularly low bar (their parkrun itself is of course lovely), however alas, not in the same league as those at my home parkrun at Hallam.  Oh well.  A somewhat anti-climactic conclusion to the morning, though my fault for not being brave enough to ask the other runners what the options were I suppose.

This parkrun was a particular milestone as I am now immortalised on the parkrun ‘most events‘ table, by dint of sneaking on to the bottom rung of the ladder with 20 different events now attended.  I was quite chuffed to cross this threshold, bringing with it as it does, the eligibility to wear the cow cowl (giraffe buff) which is amongst parkrunners surely an item of fetishism as much as legend.  The cow cowl thingymajig is completely unofficial by the way, but it has become ‘a thing’ to which some parkrunners aspire, myself amongst them.   According to the parkrun jargon buster blog post:

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

On that note, I espied a new glorious thing unique to this parkrun – well, first one I’ve seen anywhere that is.  A cow cowl bobble hat being sported by one of the timekeepers.  Wow, I looked on from afar in wonder.  Quite something.  Also, FYI the non-cow bobble hat wearing timer was a junior who’d been RD for junior takeover of Mansfield parkrun the weekend before.  Kudos, that’s really impressive.

Although I was chuffed to have nailed (I use the term loosely) my twentieth different run, and so become eligible to pass through the gateway to the new glorious world of parkrun tourist cultdom clubland.  It is slightly deflating to see that at the top of the leader board, which is on the parkrun website, as of today, is a parkrunner who has done 411 different events!  Just wow. Let me think – might need a calculator or this, that means I’d have to run a different event every Saturday for the next 391 weeks just to get level to where he is right now, although I dare say in the interim he will have done likewise and travelled the world and be on 802.  That’s beyond belief. I  know it’s considered to be poor form to be defeatest, but I’m not spending the next 7 years, 6 months and 3 weeks doing that.  It sounds impossible.  From the website I reckon there are 1,685 parkruns worldwide. I  wonder if he’ll eventually have run them all.  Quite possibly.  Oh well, he started with just one too I suppose, so you never know –  my 20 different events is still a stop along the way….

parkrun stats

Ooh, you know what though – I’ve just noticed that the parkrun tortoise is wearing COИTRA spots on its shell!  Is that a new edit, or has it always been spotted like that, and therefore provided the subtle the inspiration for the inaugural COИTRA long-sleeved tee?  It’s a mystery.  Exciting though isn’t it?  Well, I think so, perhaps I should get out more.

Still ordered my buff when I got home though – and applied to join the UK parkrun tourists Facebook group – and not just anyone can do that I’ll have you know – you need to provide your parkrun ID for checking and vetting purposes.  I may be a small fish in a big pond, but at least I get to swim about!  As long as my new shiny giraffe buff doesn’t get too water logged and sodden and drag me under, down to the dark depths of said pond to thrash about before drowning that is.  We shall see…

Bit previous to report back on whether or not there is a secret handshake or other such initiation ritual still to come.  But then again, I wouldn’t be able to share that would I.  There are two rules about parkrun tourist club…  Actually, I made that bit up – or have I?

So there you go.  Report on today’s parkrun tourism concluded.  Thank you Mansfield parkrunners for your labours in making it so, and the cheery support on the way round.  Thank you too for sorting the weather, it was reyt nippy out last week, so I valued the sunshine.  Thank you Mansfield parkrun volunteer team, you were a bijou outfit, small, but perfectly formed – quality over quantity in every way!

Hope to see you out and about again sometime soon, until then – happy parkrunning y’all.

For more on parkrun tourism check out this blog post and these rules for parkrun tourism.  Boils down to, do what you want, remember ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ that means you get to do what you want too, and everyone’s a winner.  Hoorah!

parkrun tourist

 

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries.

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Brill walk for Halloween. Top bird interaction.

Digested read: went for a walk to explore new paths. Found a vineyard, a top bird and some jaw dropping dwellings along the way.

Unabridged version:

It’s a bad sign when it’s so long since you ventured out onto the moors you don’t even know what to wear.  How cold will it be up top? What about wind chill?  I don’t know if I’m on to something here or not, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just possible there may be some sort of link between my seemingly increasing inability to ‘just get out and run’ and the fact that my parkrun performances are getting ever more woeful.  I wouldn’t want to jump ahead of myself and the evidence but suggesting at this stage the effect is causal, but there does seem to be a correlation at least. Coincidence?  Who knows.

Anyway, today was a day for a new, and pleasing adventure.  It was agreed, me and my most loyal recce buddy from Dig Deep explorations earlier in the year would try out a new route.  Just a walk, just to see what was out there.  She was in possession of an idea, and I was happy enough to trot along behind.  It was a Brill walk in fact.  It said so on the cover:

Brill walks book one

‘Oh my gawd!’ exclaimed I.  Seeing the book from which the walk was sourced. ‘What a brilliant name for a walking book.  Because that’s what you say isn’t it? “I know a brill walk, or I’ve got a fab route.” Inspired!’ I was slightly disappointed when I realised it was actually the name of the author, one of them anyway, as it made it more of an appropriate witty pun as opposed to an exclamation of unabashed enthusiasm.    On the other hand, what a Brill name.  Literally and metaphorically.  So I suppose what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, or something like that anyway…

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading out for a rendezvous. I actually failed at the first hurdle because I couldn’t fathom which of the many car parking areas we were supposed to meet at, despite comprehensive directions.    There is no signal around Fiddler’s Elbow, but we opted to meet there and then go to the first parking area along from there.  We picked a grand day for it, the weather was perfection. Crisp but not too cold, quite still and the most amazing views in all directions, which was counter intuitive because it was misty, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so far from there, the photos don’t do it justice as the light had a bleaching effect, and also I’m not very good at taking photos, but maybe if you squint a bit and use your imagination you’ll get the general idea.

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I sat in the car for a bit, marvelling at the view, and wondering whether or not to wear my waterproof over-trousers (they restrict mobility a bit, but do keep you warm) and then when my walking buddy drove up, we exchanged pleasantries through our car windows as she kept her engine running, before she sped off to the proper parking point to start the route with me following on behind.  If you were either a lover of conspiracy theories or had an overactive imagination and had witnessed this, I like to think you’d have thought you were witnessing at the very least spies exchanging secrets, otherwise maybe a drugs deal or some other suspicious and clandestine endeavour, perhaps en route to check out spots for disposal of bodies or evidence or some such.  It wasn’t… but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.

To get to the official starting point for the walk, you veer right at Fiddlers Elbow and then take first right & park there where there is some hard standing on the side of the road at the base of Stanage Edge.  Spoiler alert, this is the route we took, it was more up and down than expected 1,169 ft of elevation, according to Strava, which never lies.  Except when it does, and it puts you splashing through a pond or reservoir or something instead of on an adjacent path, but those instances are for the most part entertaining rather than ruinous, so I’ll take their elevation estimate.  It felt like quite a bit.

Brill halloween walk strava

Parked up, we both faffed over what to wear.  I did go with the waterproof trousers, also sunglasses and a woollen hat.  Also a scarf.  I did get a bit hot though. It seems I have learned nothing from my Dronfield Round Walk excursion of a few weeks back.

First off, up the hill to Stanage Edge. This is very familiar territory.  I’d thought we were going to go towards Stanage Pole, but we actually went up to the trig point and came off down the paved path back to Fiddlers Elbow.  It was beautiful of course, it always is, but no surprises here.

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We descended to the car park where we’d rendezvoused earlier, then after a bit of bovine appraisal – lots of cows out and about on the path – we headed over the style from the main car park and took a right along the main path to Higger Tor.  I learned, from the walk book, or more accurately from my exploring buddy reading out to me from said book, that Higger Tor is so-called because it goes back to Viking origins.  Something like that, I can’t remember all that well. The walk would have been even more educational if I’d concentrated a bit more.  The book was a good guide to be fair.  Although it has no map as such, just a sketch of approximate route – it included little nuggets of local and historical knowledge and ideas of add ons and places to stop.  The written instructions were clear enough that we could work them out mostly without too much confusion. Then again, I didn’t have custody of the book, maybe the route finding was uncomplicated because of my recce buddy’s powers of deduction which exceed mine.  Oh, and I tried to find out more about why bits of the landscape are named as they are, and came across this blog post discussing archaeological features of the are, which seems credible to me.

The cattle were completely uninterested in  us, which was fortunate, as we had to squeeze past them on the track.  I found a Halloween spider, which seemed apt, but which I removed, as it’s still litter isn’t it. That was my only litter pick of the morning, not that impressive, but every little helps eh?

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No sooner had we got to the top of the path, we were directed off back again, down the track that leads back to the road. Though there was an option ‘if you wish to explore Higger tor, carry on, but come back to this point to continue the walk’ sort of blah de blah.  I was a bit perplexed the walk didn’t include going along Higger, but it made sense by the end.  As we descended, we had a really bizarre wildlife encounter with this top bird.

I’ve seen them before – red grouse, but normally they are squawking and bolting for cover, crashing through the heather undergrowth.  On this occasion though the bird was blocking our path.  We descended slowly,  not wanting to disturb or scare it, assuming it would move aside.  It didn’t.  It basically started swearing at us noisily, and then actually came towards us.  It seemed particularly taken by my recce buddy, chasing after her and chuntering away.  Another couple of walkers further up the hill looked on with amusement. It seemed strange behaviour, but it was grand to get up close and personal to what is on closer inspection actually quite a remarkable looking bird. Rich brown and red feathers and a half-moon bright red ‘eye lid’, so scarlet it looked almost fake.   I’m sorry we ruined it’s day – or maybe we didn’t, as it saw us off its land all right, so maybe it considered that was a win. I googled it subsequently and learned this much from the moorland species section of the peak district website:

RED GROUSERed-grouse

Scientific Name: Lagopus lagopus
Distribution: Widespread in the uplands
Conservation Status: UK BAP species, Amber Listed species
Where to see: Any heather moorland in the Peak District
When to see: All year round

Resident in the Peak District all year round, the red grouse is a familiar sight (and sound) of the heather moors and blanket bogs.  They feed on heather, seeds, berries and insects and nest amongst the heather.  The UK population is in decline, hence this species was added to the UK BAP priority list in 2007.

So now we know.  Splendid.

So far, so familiar.  I was even wondering if this walk was going to be worth the effort of  navigation, not that it wasn’t lovely, but it was all known roads.  We crossed back over Ringinglow road, over a style, and then after a bit started a descent. This was unknown territory, and you know what dear reader, it quite rapidly took us to completely new and unexpected areas.  I had no idea there was a sort of ‘hidden’ tree rich valley down there. By which I mean, admittedly not that hidden if you bother to explore, but previously unknown to me which amounts to the same thing.  We ventured down towards a ruined and collapsing building – wondering what its history might be..

Then, we took a clear path towards a hidden dwelling.

I didn’t take any photos of the residence because I thought it might be a bit stalkery and inappropriate – not that that always stops me, but on this occasion it did.  It was absolutely extraordinary.  Huge and beautifully maintained but the real appeal was the breathtaking views back across to Higger Tor and in fact in all directions really.  I don’t know what the reality of living there would be like, I would have thought you’d get cut off pretty regularly in the snow, but if you like a view, hard to beat surely.

You skirt round the side of this amazing converted farmhouse presumably, I think Mitchell Field Farm and through what feels like their back garden, over a wall, and head off through fields and up hill again.  Can’t really remember the details, but it was all pretty darned nice.

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We got great views of various rock formations as we walked along.  My companion was not only tour guide and navigator, but had also done some sort of archaeology course that included a visit to a bronze age site we could see from the path.  If you go explore, you can see evidence of entrance ways apparently.  I’ve only ever gone underneath this, so not explored, and I’ve not even really explored Carl Wark either which is more obviously an old fort with clear man-made additions to the natural rock structures. Whatever the outcrop may be called, it was in fine silhouette today.

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As we walked and talked, we suddenly came upon another incredibly impressive stone house.  As we approached, a guy there called us over saying we could come on to the property to avoid a really wet and boggy patch where the path was temporarily diverted.  That was quite something, even just walking down the driveway as we exited, marvelling at the views the occupiers would have from the huge front windows that looked out across the moor.  Excitingly, as we approached the gate to exit the land, they opened as if by magic, our saviour having operated the electric gizmo automatically to ease our path.  Wow.   I’m hoping this photo is taken from sufficiently far away not to be categorised as creepy behaviour.

Actually, it’s fine.  I’ve just googled it, loads of far more searching pictures there.  It’s apparently a listed building, and Scraperlow Farmhouse and attached outbuildings, so now we know.

We walked on, heading towards Hathersage now.

I was really excited, because we came out onto the main Hathersage Road (from Sheffield) down a little path that I’ve often noticed and idly wondered where it led to.  It’s grand to join up places in this way.  That’s why I need to get off my backside and start going off-piste a bit more.  Especially in these last precious days of Autumn, before winter sets in and no-one with their wits about them ventures out again until Spring.  Obviously people training for spring marathons or similar are included in the witless category for this purpose, they will be out however inclement the weather.  And Dark Peak Runners, clearly.  Nothing stops them.

You go almost into Hathersage, except that you don’t.  The guide-book thoughtfully suggests you can if you wish, and so avail yourself of coffee shops or whatever, but we took the right hand road, past the little school and the Scotsman Pub and then up a little path that leads to the church.  We took a detour here, to go and look at the Church, and more specifically, the grave of Little John.  I was surprised on two counts, firstly, because I had no idea that there was a connection between him and Hathersage, and secondly, because I’d always thought/ presumed him to be a fictitious character.  As I said earlier, this walk was most educational.  To be fair, I’m still not completely sold on the idea that he did really exist, but an interesting bit of local history all the same.

A pretty church, that rewarded the detour and extra hoik up the hill, also roasty toasty warm and with nice stained glass windows.

We walked on.  Exiting the village and coming across… hang on, what is this place?  It looked for all the world like a vineyard!  The most immaculately maintained lines of plants each lovingly trained along wires. There was a flourishing rose in bloom at the end of each line and a poppy too.  It’s hard to imagine this would be a financially viable proposition given it’s location, but a vineyard it most definitely was.

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According to Derbyshire Life, this is Carr Head Farm Vineyard and wine isn’t really commercially sold as yet, though it does exist for those in the know who pre-order.  It doesn’t seem the most promising of locations in which to grow wine, but I’d be up for trying it.  There are  occasional tours too, but not sure how you get to go on one of those.

The Derbyshire Life article also puzzlingly (to me) refers to the Vineyard Challenge running race, which sounds suspiciously like the Fat Boys Stanage Struggle to me, but then again, maybe they organise another run.  Hang on, let me google that for you…

Nope, can’t find another race, must be the same one.

They had a nice line in sheep sculpting too, a sort of steam punk one graced their gardens, made of possibly bicycle parts, I wonder if they made it themselves.  Very fine though, however created or sourced.

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Emerging from the farm was the only place we got a bit discombobulated by the instructions.  Not sure which farm we were supposed to keep behind us, but we worked it out in the end having espied an old footpath sign and triangulating with my actual map, which showed the farm and the car park we’d started from just over the hill.  Hookcar Sitch for future reference.

All too soon, we ended back on the road just down from where we started.

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It had indeed been a brill walk!  I was a bit puffier going up the hills than I’d have liked, but I felt like we’d been beneficiaries of a gift of a day, and plenty of unexpected sights and sounds along the way.  The excessively interactive Red Grouse was for me a particular highlight and hilarious – but then again I’m easily entertained, and I can’t guarantee to those of you that come after us that it will still be there. However, I really think it might be, it was us who were required to shift from its territory not vice versa after all!  Add in historic sites and links to myth and legend AND a vineyard, I’d say this walk was a win.  Speaking of which, the views even stretched to Win Hill at times too, that’s how good the visibility was.

It was less than six miles, but we sauntered round, putting the world to rights.  We didn’t do that all that effectively to be fair, as it was all still bad news as far as I could tell when I got home.  Apart from this story.  This is good news.  Brill news in fact, which is appropriate, given it was a Brill walk which we embarked on from the outset.  Not that our walk was silly at all, au contraire, it was brill.

silly walks

So all done.  We concluded our adventure by heading to The Scotsman pub for a late lunch.  Apart from the rather eccentric layout of parking spaces this was a most excellent hostelry and we had grand lunches. I had the cheese and potato pie as they’d run out of veggie sausages for the yorkshire pud and sausage option, but it all looked pretty good, very friendly.

So all in all, today was a bit like being on holiday. Hurrah.

Reyt nice out.  Go find out for yourself!

🙂

One day I’ll get back out running again, but in the interim, let’s just think of these walks as in fact recces for future runs – which to be fair they may well be.  And all is fine and dandy in the running world.  I thank you.

 

 

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Brrrrrr at Brierley Forest parkrun. Snow, actual snow. The weather was cold but the welcome was warm :)

Digested read: went to Brierley Forest parkrun for a bit of parkrun tourism.  It snowed!  It was very nice though thank you for asking.  Would recommend.  Wear big warm pants in winter though.

halloween parkrun

The unabridged version:

I know I’m only a nesh southerner, but really, snow?  In October?  Lucky for this (almost) Halloween I was shrouded  (see what I’ve done there?) in the warm embrace of a new parkrun or I’d never have made it home alive.  Well, ok, that might be a teeny bit of an exaggeration, but honestly only a teeny-weeny bit –  I’d most definitely never have made it out of the house to go for a run otherwise, which amounts to the same thing on a Saturday.  Because, after all, what is a Saturday for, if it is not for parkrun?  parkrun, and making new friends – pretty much synonymous to be fair.

parkrun day

There are lots of ways to make new friends if you engage in a bit of proactivity it’s true.  Well, maybe not quite forever friends straight off, but social interaction on the path to that outcome certainly.  One way is to randomly accost people trying to have a quiet coffee on a bench and use your charms so you can join them, direct approaches work best (go mum!). #itsgoodtotalk indeed!

Another approach is just to rock up at any parkrun and start with a slightly awkward smile as a precursor to parkrun small talk and then you’re in.  Or your money back!  What do these displays of brilliance have in common?  Why dear reader, parkrun of course! It’s a FACT (albeit one I’ve not actually been able to provide a statistical evidence base for, but just has to be true based on my subjective personal experience – or ‘ethnographic research’  if you prefer) that people who are involved in parkrun are more likely to be pathologically friendly and receptive to approaches from other people involved in parkrun than the population as a whole.  Actually, I am of the view that most people are friendly if you approach them, even non parkrunners, but that doesn’t work quite so well as the premise for this post, so hey ho, bit of creative licence here – ‘bear with, bear with’.  Most people are nice, or try to be.  But parkrun people are extra so.

bear-with-me

Also, I can’t work out how to do the Venn diagram, but I’m sure you can grasp the general idea. Case in point, today whilst my mum was hobnobbing with the deer and celebrities and parkfunners in all their many and glorious manifestations in Bushy Park, I was shivering in the warm and welcoming company of Brierley Forest parkrunners.

I’m getting ahead of myself though.

My regular reader will know, if they’ve been paying attention, I’ve been really struggling with my running lately.  Can’t be bothered to explain why, but in an attempt to counter this, and rediscover my love of running (it’s complicated), I thought I’d ring some parkrun changes.  Take the pressure off by heading off to a new place for some parkrun tourism and just romp round anonymously, taking pictures and taking in the view.  What’s not to like.

I settled on Brierley parkrun because it’s definitely a doable distance from Sheffield, in fact it only took about 40 minutes to get there, but of course I didn’t believe that so left at stupid o-clock this morning.  It was still dark when I ventured out the house:

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It was freezing stepping out the door.  The roads were clear, and the sky too.  At one point a load of birds – gulls maybe – flew across the moon in a great swarm, back-lit they looked like a load of bats heading out or heading home, who knows?  Very spectacular.  It’s worth getting out early sometimes, the world looks difference in the silence pre dawn.

The drive was easy, and I arrived at Brierley Forest just after 8.00.  There were loads of parking places, so many I got confused about where to pull up (doesn’t take much to be fair).

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I then had a bit of a panic.  I’d been asking some fellow parkrunners (hello Monday Mobsters) from my home parkrun at Sheffield Hallam for some tourist ideas and they mentioned this run and one other.  One doesn’t have toilets for a pre parkrun precautionary pee, the other does.  They couldn’t remember which was which and nor could I.  This is the problem with getting advice from well-meaning fellow parkrunners, their opinions are all well and good, but sometimes the omission of detail is near ruinous.  York parkrun I recall definitely lacks loos.  Good to know.  Only the most slender of parkrunners would manage a surreptitious pee behind one of the racecourse railings, it’s a no-go area for me then.  Back to Brierley Forest though – curses, this could yet turn out to be my WORST NIGHTMARE EVER!  On the plus side, I was early and there were seemingly plenty of al fresco options for the desperate/ disinhibited, so all was not lost.

Car parked:

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Time for an explore.  It’s grand going to new places.  I didn’t know anything at all about this one before I arrived, other than the post code to get there which by the way is if using SATNAV, NG17 2PL.  It helped maybe that the autumn colours were at their finest, but this is a wood that has been lovingly sculpted. There were well-marked trails, including – drum roll – parkrun signs!  Not seen them before.  I mean permanent ones, hang on…

there you go.  This parkrun isn’t going anywhere.

Then there was a lovingly put together adventure playground with obstacles to climb over, swing on or run across.  Some cool woodland sculptures,

Then there was a rather moving wooden memorial in commemoration of the five miners who died in the 1957 Sutton Colliery (Brierley Pit) disaster and in tribute to all those who worked at the colliery 1872 to 1989.

Aside from being a parkrun venue, the Brierley Forest site has a pretty interesting history.  This site has been dug, and hewn and reshaped over the years.

The trees were good, though disappointingly, I couldn’t find any acorns, I’m on a quest to find a really good one, still in its little egg cup cover.  None to be found here.

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I did find something else though.  Hit the veritable jackpot with these:

There was a mobile catering van outside the very shut looking visitors centre.  I got chatting with the woman running it, to find out about post run veggie options (more of this later) and asked her about loos.  She directed me to the adjacent visitors’ centre.  It wasn’t locked.  What’s more, it was spotlessly clean and roasty toasty warm with toilet paper and running water and everything. Phew, crisis averted.  I always feel better for my precautionary pee.

This was definitely fast becoming my new favourite parkrun – all needs catered for:

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Here is the visitors’ centre, and the adjacent mobile catering outlet in case you are wondering what they looked like.  I don’t think they were doing curries at that time in the morning, but then again, I didn’t enquire.  They were doing hot drinks and hot baps from about 8.00 a.m.  It seems they were not there exclusively for parkrunners, but dog-walkers, people fishing and other day trippers too.

I did a bit of exploring, and found the hi-vis heroes out in force, setting up the course.  This parkrun doesn’t have volunteers, it has voluncheers instead, apparently.  Aren’t they lovely and particularly photogenic to boot?

voluncheers

This wasn’t the only genius innovation though.  They also mark up their course markers like this:

Clever eh?  No wondering every single week if you are carrying the right number of signs out with you for the course set up.  It seemed a well oiled machine in action, with hi-vis voluncheers marching purposefully about.

It was still early, so I temporarily retreated back to the relative warmth of my car until a few more people had assembled.  I do like it when people make an effort at parkrun, and a quartet duly arrived who I assumed, had done just that.   So much so that I asked to take their photos:

I congratulated them for making an effort with their fancy dress – only to be completely mortified to discover they weren’t in fancy dress at all, but had come straight from work!  Oh no, I quickly stammered out something unconvincing about meaning ‘making an effort by coming in uniform’ but not sure I quite pulled it off.  Shame, not a crowd to get the wrong side of I’m guessing.

More milling and chilling.  I love watching people gather at parkrun, the coming together of people for a common purpose, familiar and yet unfamiliar.  Familiar, because the same characters are at every parkrun, and unfamiliar because, well, not been here before, so all new!