Digested Read: a bit of enforced parkrun tourism today, took me and three running buddies to Rotherham parkrun. A hidden treasure, friendly, picturesque, loos pre-run and coffee after – all that a parkrun tourist could wish for and more. Thanks kindly people of Rotherham parkrun for the warm welcome, and sharing your lovely Clifton park!
Sheffield Hallam parkrunners were temporarily shunted from Endcliffe park this Saturday due to the tramlines music festival. So, evicted from our usual parkrun, a number of us refugees debated where to go for a spot of parkrun tourism. In the end, we went for our shared nenyd – nearest event not yet done, which was only as far away as Rotherham as it happens. (Why is it the unpronounceable ‘nenyd’ instead of ‘nendy’ I cannot fathom. Oh well, good to have an air of mystery about some things I suppose.) Between the four of us we have done many different parkruns, some quite a bit further afield, but somehow Rotherham has slipped through the net. Honestly, I think we’d collectively overlooked it, and it turns out, that wasn’t really fair.
So, Rotherham parkrun. Erm, well, not to be too rude, before I went along to their parkrun I hadn’t really thought that much about Rotherham. Even though it’s just alongside Sheffield I’ve not done much more than skirt the edges of it on my way to somewhere else. I was trying to think of what I associate with Rotherham, and I could only think of the Sand House, which actually a quick Google search revealed is a Doncaster thing. Oops.
The Rotherham parkrun course description didn’t particularly inspire either – according to the official website blah-de-blah:
Runners start on the main path next to the bandstand runners complete three clockwise laps of the park before continuing to bear right up the hill towards to the finish.
three laps of tarmac around a not altogether huge park apparently. Oh well, it would have novelty value I thought, keeping my expectations pretty modest…
Well, I run corrected! This was a cracking little parkrun in a hidden treasure of a park and well worth the jaunt over. It has all that a parkrun tourist could wish for: parking; precautionary pee facilities; warm welcome; picturesque setting and post-run coffee options. Add to this dizzying cocktail the option for an educational post-run museum visit and some pretty impressive park landscaping ((including a bandstand for goodness sake) and you will see it offers up a veritable smorgasbord of parkrun delights. We felt like royalty! You could too – crowns available for trying on at the Clifton Museum post parkrun en route to the cafe. I don’t know why this hasn’t caught on as a parkrun ‘thing’ elsewhere to be honest.
The day didn’t start with promise. Torrential rain beating down on my velux windows. Fortunately, we’d already collectively committed to running the night before. It’s amazing what a promise to a friend will do to help motivate me to run. I chugged over to hers for about 8.10 and we drove over to Rotherham. It was an easy drive, took almost exactly 30 minutes. En route, cheetah buddy (for it was she) who used to work in Rotherham, was able to share little known facts about the delights of the town. Did you know it has a medieval chapel built on a bridge that dates back to 1483? Me neither. Are you a stranger to the fact there is only one tower block in Rotherham, and it is privately owned and overlooks the very park that hosts parkrun? Me too. I need to learn more about this historic town it seems… This is one of the things I really lovely about doing a bit of parkrun tourism, it takes you to places you might otherwise not visit, and it’s often educational as well as enlightening and entertaining. Eee grand if you will.
We arrived at the Clifton Museum car park about 8.45 ish, and there was loads of parking. It was £2 for two hours though, which was steeper than I’d expected, but I think if you arrived a bit earlier and searched around there might be free parking elsewhere. The Museum building itself is really impressive, it was at one time Clifton House, and Clifton Park now, is what was once the 70 acres of ground within which it sat. Naturally we had time for a pre-run selfie and a bit of an explore.
Almost intuitively, we weaved our way towards the loos. We made our way through what is a lovely mature park, dating back to Victorian times, it is really well landscaped. It has formal gardens, a memorial, water features, and a decent sized hill, which, as you can’t see over it, gives a sense of the place being huge. You imagine that beyond this hill are more rolling away, you could be at Chatsworth! It was also absolutely immaculate, not one scrap of litter or pile of dog poo anywhere.
We met the very friendly run director and a volunteer en route to the facilities – they pointed us in the right direction. Dear reader, I can report some very fine loos are available here. Not only are there many, they are housed within the most extraordinarily shaped toilet block I’ve ever encountered. I lie not, when I say they were an unexpected delight! Apart from having those annoyingly ‘helpful’ all in one hand wash and dry things that take ages to run a whole cycle and create queues. However, given that I have just had to hold on as best I can at many a parkrun it seems churlish to dwell on that. The loos were fab! They were next to what looked like a fairly extensive play area with a permanent ‘fair ground’, mini adventure playground and what must have been a water area though currently drained, or fountains turned off at any rate. This park has fantastic facilities for local people. Definitely impressed. You could easily spend a day here if you had children of the right age.
We made our way to the start. It was sort of down from the bandstand. This is a pretty small parkrun by Sheffield standards (70 run/walk/joggers today), so the muster isn’t huge. Volunteers are sparse, but there were enough, and strategically positioned signs also marked the way. The run director had a dry-sac which operated as the official bag drop, where you could leave coats and bags. Car-keys were placed in his pockets for safety on request. This bag is taken from the start to a bench on the finish line during the run, so that was pretty excellent customer service. There was the usual run briefing – a lot of first timers, I didn’t recognise any other Hallam refugees other than our regular running buddy who arrived with her partner a bit breathless ‘just in time’ as the briefing was going on.
The run started seemingly abruptly. We were off. It’s a while since I’ve done a three lap course. My legs were tired as I did a 14.5 miler yesterday, so I was happy to just trot round. It is all tarmac, so a good fast surface for them as like to go good and fast. Because the park is undulating there is much to look at, as different parts of the park come into view at every turn and new horizon. I quite liked that the three-lap format gave you three chances to eye things of interest. There was a companionable group of older people, all with small, stiff and aging dogs, who were undertaking what seemed to me to be their daily constitutional. A communal circuit round the park, followed by coffee at the cafe later. (We saw them after the parkrun, continuing their social as we tucked into our own coffee and toasted tea-cakes). There was a woman carrying a baby who may have been waiting whilst her partner ran, she smiled and gave encouragement each time I passed her.
Because the field is small, it spread out fairly early on, I think the undulating (hilly) nature of it also splits it up, so it never got congested en route. Loads of room. I did have a few problems with a loose dog though. The dog was very cute, but it was all over the place, often a good distance behind its owner 20 metres at least at times, so it would wander off, have a pee, sniff another dog’s arse, that kind of thing, and then do a rocket like catch up to its owner who seemed completely oblivious to just how disruptive it was. It was criss-crossing in front of me, and although in actual fact it didn’t get under my feet, I felt like I had to keep stop/ starting in case it did. You are supposed to have dogs under control and on a short lead at parkrun, but maybe because this parkrun is small that rule clearly wasn’t being enforced. I tried not to let it spoil my run, but it would put me off making this my regular haunt to be honest, loose dogs are unpredictable, and that scares me. At one point the owner was completely out of sight of the dog, far ahead of us and around a corner and I felt that was really unfair and not in the spirit of parkrun at all. I did the passive aggressive thing of not actually saying anything, but nursed bad thoughts instead… In the end, I decided my moodiness was spoiling the run more than the blooming hound, which was having a lovely time. As I couldn’t change the situation, I just slowed to the point it got ahead of me. It was no longer my problem and so I was able to run my own run which was the best approach. I wasn’t fast enough to overtake, and I’m not bothered about fast times. I started to get lapped by faster runners and did wonder if the little dog would bring them down like nine-pins, but they must be used to hound-leaping here as I wasn’t aware of any fallers. Impressive.
I clapped the faster runners as they lapped me – and there were some speedy souls out and about – and most gave a wave of acknowledgement or word of encouragement as they sped on by. It is a super friendly parkrun. At the end of the third lap, there is a short detour uphill to the right and a well signed and coned finish. It was a cheery sight!
Inevitably, my Smiley buddies were back before me, but on the plus side that meant they both cheered me in, and one had done the parkrun equivalent of surrendering my cloakroom ticket and retrieved my coat. It was a social finish line. The perambulating elders came by and one of their dogs took the opportunity to pee copiously on the finish sign which caused consternation and laughter. My Smiley friend cheetah buddy sprang to the rescue, sacrificing her bottle of water to give the newly christened pee-point a decent rinsing flush, it was all good-humoured! I was going to say good clean fun, but good cleaning fun may be more accurate. There also a pleasing surprise in store. A face from the past. Turns out this is the local run of a former colleague – also an unexpected runner – we recently refound each other on Strava (a sentence I never expected to utter!) It’s amazing who you come across at parkrun. Cheetah Buddy and I bumped into each other at Hallam parkrun after a three decade separation. Strange but true. Grand to see you my friend, looking forward to bumping into you a bit more often, out on them there trails!
We chatted for a bit, then went in search of coffee. The Museum cafe opens at 9.45, which was fine for us, as I helpfully slow everyone else down by finishing ages after them, although we did have to walk back to the car anyway. Speedies may wish to find other drinking holes. As we went back we cheered the last few in. The tail walker was on duty at the back, collecting signs and bringing cheer to the rear.
We marched off in the opposite direction for coffee, walking with purpose, I think you’ll agree!
You could get to the coffee shop by walking round the outside of the building, but we were encouraged to make our way through via the museum. This was unexpected and fun. There seemed to be a pretty decent history of Rotherham, the obligatory alarming looking stuffed animals – poor things, and child friendly exhibits such as the crowns we felt compelled to try on as illustrated earlier.
We exited via the museum shop – handy if you needed to get a plastic sword or puppet animal, and then to the cafe. It was good value, not the best coffee in the world to be honest, but lovely setting, very friendly and quick and generous butter portions (not marge) with our toasted tea cakes. They also had jacket potatoes, cake, paninis, as well as ice-creams and similar snack food. We sat outside as the sun had come out. There were some other parkrun tourists from Brighton as well as the Clifton park walkers we’d seen en route earlier, and the run director had a chat with us too. It was all very cheery and companionable. This would be an easy parkrun to make friends at if you wanted to I think. Based on my experience today, I’d say the locals are a pathologically friendly lot. This is a good thing and made for a great start to the weekend.
So thank you Rotherham parkrun. It was a really good experience coming to Clifton park and getting such a welcome. I’d love to come back for your ‘in reverse’ birthday celebrations one year. The last one happened to fall on April Fool’s Day, which is particularly pleasing. Run the opposite way round makes it feel like a much more down hill route because although there is one steep up hill bit, you get it out the way, and that’s three times you can romp round shouting ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ with your arms outstretched and feeling like you have super-human speed. That could be fun, one for the diary I think!
Until then, happy running 🙂
By the way, if you want to find your nenyd, or indeed the nearest parkrun to any given location, this parkrun tourist tool is pretty awesome. You just stick your location into the search bar and the internet does magic internety search things and voila! So for me, next stop Barnsley I reckon…
How about you? Enjoy!
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