Monthly Archives: September 2018

Giving Dronfield the run around. Recce of Round Dronfield Walk

Digested read: can now tick the Round Dronfield Walk route off my to-do list.  Hillier than expected, more strenuous than expected, good in parts, with a lot of stiles, some of which were less than stylishly negotiated. 14.5 miles with a surprising 1873 ft of elevation.


Unabridged version:

Blimey, that was complicated.

I do feel like my life is mainly taken up with running round in pointless circles as it is, so you might think doing a circular walk/run route would be a breeze as I’ve had so much practice. Turns out, it isn’t entirely, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the effort.

Ok, so for the wilfully ignorant out there, there is a Dronfield Round Walk, strictly speaking, it’s re-launch of the Dronfield Rotary 2000 Walk – and now known as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk, but I’m going to call it the Round Dronfield Walk and thereby sow confusion henceforth and potentially in perpetuity.  What we can all agree on though, is that this is a circular countryside walk round (spoiler alert) Dronfield.  A walk promoted and cared for by The Dronfield Hall Barn group. It passes through the hamlet of Summerley and the villages of Coal Aston, Mickley and Holmesfield.  It’s about 14½ miles, and includes 11+ stiles.  Apparently.  Anyways, Smiley Selfie Queen has been on about doing this route for a while, and why not?  Could be interesting.  A chance to find new routes and flex newly found navigational skills.  The problem is, it’s harder than you might think to find the walk route.

You can buy a useful (well, let’s find out) book all about the route for £3, the proceeds for this go to supporting the maintenance and upkeep of the path. You can buy the book at the Dronfield Hall Barn apparently, I don’t know, I just parasitised the one Smiley Selfie Queen brought along.  Mind you, our fates were intertwined, she may have sourced the book, but it was I who would step up to take the navigational lead (I know, desperate times) so it was in here interests to ensure I was properly equipped to do so!

Fair play, the presentation is lovely, and there are photos and descriptors, but… and I consider this a major omission, no actual maps, and no indication of how long each section is.  Also, something of a sense of a treasure map that is fixed at a singular point in time.  Helpful the day it was written, but I can a walker/runner really rely on a direction that suggests you look out for a stile in a holly bush…   It means you are potentially a hostage to fortune if landmarks shift and change as inevitably they do. Stiles may come and go, boundaries shift.  The airstrip will probably stay put, but who knows?  I wasn’t feeling overly confident in the book as sole source of finding our way.

I did find an OS map link for the Dronfield 2000 Rotary walk, and it looks OK, but couldn’t work out how to print it off and also it describes the walk as 11 miles, so that might be a jolly nice walk, to do, but possibly isn’t The Walk we were reckoning on.

os route

In the end, we went for belt and braces.  Smiley Selfie Queen would bring the book, I ordered a bespoke OS  map with Dronfield at its core (yes, you can, I had no idea either ’til a couple of weeks ago, genius gizmo, if an expensive one).  I used a Strava route acquired through Smiley Selfie Queen’s contacts or stalking behaviour, depending on your point of view.  Once we’d identified this mark who’d done the route pretty accurately, I basically tried to transcribe that path onto my OS map.  It might not be massively close to the intended route, who knows, but it did mean even if we deviated from the ‘correct’ path we’d never actually be lost.  It was really hard, and involved prescription glasses, a magnifying class and lots of swearing.


Also, I realised belatedly that whilst it was ‘logical’ to put Dronfield at the centre of my customised map, this was also the worst possible design for a user-friendly map as it meant I was constantly having to fold and refold and unfold the blooming map.  It was helpful en route certainly, but a pain to use.  Why people voluntarily do orienteering challenges I can’t imagine.  Maps are such a blooming faff!  Much better to be hopelessly slow at running events and so you can just follow the lead of those in front.  I accept this strategy is flawed, as it depends on keeping the other runners in sight, which I can’t always do to be fair, due to lacking the necessary turn of speed to keep visual contact.  However,  for the most part this strategy has served me well. You basically need to follow my advice and other runners’ leads at your own risk.  If you are on the fells in the snow and the last little dot of a runner disappears over the horizon then clearly you may as well just lay down and die, because it’s game over then, if you don’t know where you are.  Just to be clear. Works OK at most parkruns though, so that’s the main thing.

Where was I?  Oh yes, planning a route recce of the Dronfield Round Walk or whatever you choose to call it.

We agreed on provisions and timings.  It is only 14.5 miles, but with faffing and getting lost etc and it being unknown terrain and elevation we could be out for hours.  Interestingly, I found a reference to a guided walk of the route online, and they describe it as ‘strenuous’ and recommended allowing 6 1/2 hours, which seems generous.  Recceing routes is always time-consuming though, so we figured we could be out for a while. We’d meet early, so as not to have to rush.

It’s humbling really.  Only last Sunday, some ultra runners took on the Sheffield Way Relay 47 + miles and also there was a Ladybower 50 (50+ miles). They didn’t only embark on this, they even accomplished these challenges without  having to lie down in a foetal position bleeding from their ears afterwards!.  I know, I would have thought such a fate inevitable.  Yet, I  myself can testify that one of them at least was to be seen cheerily tucking into a pot noodle* barely an hour after the event, when by rights she should have been at the very least lying on the floor in a star shape with a foil blanket carelessly tossed across her.  These people are clearly super-human however, whereas I am not.   Lightweight I may be (not in every sense alas) but even for this 14.5 mile sojourn I would head out prepared.  I would take a fleece and maybe even sandwiches, and a magnifying glass to go with my map, which even with a 4cm to the km scale is still too tiny to make out with my over 50 eyesight.  I’d always thought people were exaggerating when they did that thing in the supermarket of holding jars at arms length squinting, trying to make out ingredients or whatever.  Now I am that person.  It’s hard being me, it really is.

One thing we could agree on was starting point.  Car park behind Coal Aston village hall on the Eckington Road.  Postcode S18 3AX.   This is a recommended place from which to set off.  There is a map of the route there too apparently, and hopefully therefore reasonable signage to get us underway…  The walk was relaunched as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk in March 2018 to some aplomb, so we were hopeful.  Hope over experience hasn’t always served me well, but this time maybe.  It matters not anyway, life should be full of surprises, that is how micro-adventures are made!

So the day dawned, the forecast was fair, but it has been nippy of late and I was taking no chances, so I basically covered up as if for an arctic storm.  Lots of layers.  I drove out to our rendezvous squinting into the sun. Curses, why didn’t I think to bring my sun glasses, I should have anticipated snow blindness if not bright autumn rays.  Oh well, next time.  We planned to meet 8.15 for 8.30 departure.  We did achieve this, but the traffic getting to Coal Aston at that time in the morning was horrendous.  I’d imagined it would be a sleepy little place, but not so, it was heaving, congested even, though easy enough to find the village hall and loads of parking round the back.

So the first thing we did, was get back in a car, and nip back up/down the road to the rather grand route map of where we were heading. It’s important to document these things for posterity.  What a vacuum in the world of JPEGs would there be had we not paused to take this shot?

I know!  Might be that the known universe would have imploded, but fortunately we’ll never know, as we the recceing dream team took the shot so you won’t have to!  Also, it reminded us what the signs were we needed to look out for en route, so that’s good to know:


Only, they didn’t all look quite like that to be honest, but near enough.

So once my recce partner had finished laughing at my kit, we headed off, trying to use the book. I’m still not wholly convinced by the book. It’s beautifully done, and lovingly put together but the instructions assume some local knowledge.  So the first direction to ‘walk downhill to the allotment site’ makes sense because of the downhill bit, but no sense in that you don’t know where the allotments are until you reach them, and even then you don’t because they weren’t visible from the path we followed, so it was all a bit confusing. Similarly ‘follow way marks through Owler Car Wood’ only make sense if you know where this wood is.  The upshot was I did a lot of squinting at the map to try to marry up the directions, and we did get round OK, but it wasn’t an entirely smooth navigational process.  With the map and the book though, we might have been a bit off piste at times, but we were always ‘lost’ in the right direction, which is a good start.

Anyways, we ended up on a broad open, flat path and set off at a fair old lick.  It is still extraordinary to me how quickly you can be in open countryside once you walk away from the main roads.  This path was really obvious (we were going clockwise by the way) and although sadly some footpath signs had tumbled into the undergrowth, the runes were good.  The marking of the route wasn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the number of lovingly restored stiles, hard landscaping by putting in new steps and extra benches that are clearly part of the relaunch of the route earlier in the year.  Impressive, but also fragile, it was heartening how good the route was in some places, but astonishing how in others already routes were overgrown and signs broken by either accident or design.  The Dronfield Heritage Trust request that users make donations to help with the upkeep of the route. If the mood should take you, you can do that here


So off we trotted.  Incidentally, one important consideration when finding a recce buddy, is not only compatibility in walk/ run/ yomping pace and distance expectations, but also shared communication objectives.  For some this might be companionable silence, and I can like that too, but on this occasion we were to be out for a while.  We both agreed that therefore in planning this recce it had been mutually important to find someone  with whom we’d be able to pass the time with idle chit chat important putting the world to rights conversation and sharing tips on running craft.  We didn’t want a walk where the last 6 hours would be just extended awkward silences as conversation faded away to nothing until we could only hear the noise of each other breathing and only the occasional passing of tumbleweed to break the tension in the air.  I can report that we have yomped out together before, and this situation has never yet arisen.  Rather more likely, is frantic Facebook messaging later of the ‘oh, I forgot to tell you’ variety. Point of information, if you are heading out on this route, choose your companion wisely, it’s potentially a long one first time out if you are stopping and starting to find the way.

Through the fields, over a stile – there were squillions of those today. If you have an i-spy sticker book of styles you are in for a rare treat on this route.  Not gonna lie, the novelty of spotting different styles of stile did fade during the day, but not at this point.  Off to the right, through a hedge and into the woods.

There was a great deal of up and over stiles, and also a lot of in and out of the woods.  Plenty of little footbridges – some of which we were directed to ignore, which seems a little harsh…


There were lots of arrows, so that was grand, but the lack of clarity about the distance between various landmarks was perplexing.  I felt I had to refer to the map a lot, although interestingly, the book did become more usable in the later sections, whether that’s because I’d got more comfortable with how it was set out, or because it was more accurately described I’m honestly not sure.  The important thing though, is that just half an hour in, and I was way too hot. Way too hot, and also, a bit squinty.  I needed my glasses for map reading purposes but they seemed to just concentrate the suns rays in my eyes like a laser.  Not ideal.  I tried not to moan too much.  It makes me look like a rambling librarian though don’t you think?

I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  I do know, that having to wear glasses for such purposes is a new thing for me.  I used to manage fine without them apart from for working at the computer and watching TV, and I do have a really tiny telly.   I am definitely ageing now.  No wonder I’m slowing down…  The photos are a really good example of task allocation and team work by the way.  Smiley Selfie Queen is in charge of selfie shots, and I was in charge of route finding… albeit often from the rear. In my defence, you can’t walk and map read simultaneously, so I did have to keep stopping to clarify here you were and also Smiley Selfie Queen has 10 youthfulness years on me plus the unfair advantage of actually training and running regularly, so I was always going to be scampering along behind.  It worked.  Don’t knock it.

The first section seemed to take an age, we were constantly trying to get our bearings, and trying to second guess the instructions in the map.  When it says continue through so many fields, what constitutes a field boundary.  I mean, does it have to be an actual hedge line say, or might it be some memory in the earth with a raised ridge of soil.

Although we kept moving, we also were also in these early stages prone to keep stopping to look at features of interest.  The views were pretty good, and quite fun to try to work out where we were.  Plus I kept having vague flashbacks as I had been in these parts before in a different life exploring with a friend and her equine companions.  This explains why I got very excited when I recognised the pig farm next to the wind turbine at one point, and my yomping companion was similarly captivated by the water tower which you can espy pretty clearly for large sections of the route.  Each to their own eh?  And no, I can’t now remember which sections gave which views, you’ll just have to go check it out for yourself and make sure you annotate your route guide for future reference.

Some instructions were very section specific, but quite helpful  That field really did have an awkwardly sloping start, and would indeed be treacherous if wet under foot.  Weather was perfect for us though.

One cause for excitement was the mysterious constructions within the woods, remnants of an industrial past.  We found what looked like a sunken doorway – a portal to a subterranean alternative world perhaps?  Nope, disappointingly, it was just a bridge when viewed from the other side, then again, what better cloak  for a parallel universe than to pass it off as but a little ancient woodland bridge, now devoid of its troll?  Just saying.  Be careful out there people, anomalies and passageways in the space / time continuum are everywhere.  You have been warned.  Selfie Queen was fearless cavorting above, but I didn’t see her volunteering to run through that particular vortex on this outing.  It was noted.  You can sense these things sometimes, even without consciously knowing them…

On reflection, this was quite an eventful section, so maybe that’s why it took us blooming ages to get round.  Emerging from the woods, we had further challenges to overcome. Specifically, cows.  Mean looking bovines, blocking the stile ahead…

cs super scary cows

OK, really not mean looking ones at all.  But it is a consideration, small cows grow into big ones, and there is much contradictory advice on what to do.  Some advocate the go large, make yourself as huge and loud as possible to shoo them off, and let your dog loose.   Not sure what you do if you don’t have a dog to loosen – sacrifice your running buddy presumably, so best go out with a few, preferably some slower than yourself (that’s hard for me to achieve) and including some you are willing to return home without.  Also challenging, as most of the runners I know are lovely, and granted, in an ideal world you’d most probably want to keep them all.  Then again, you can’t keep everything or you’ll end up on the UK equivalent of ‘Hoarders’ assuming the film crews can fight their way through the junk mail and stacks of other miscellaneous detritus you’ve piled up in the hall and find a way in…   The point is, cattle do need to be treated with respect.  Other advice is to calmly placate them according to a more recent Trail Runners article.  This Plymouth herald article what to do when cows attack seems sensible too, but then again, who knows what their cattle calming credentials really are?  I do try to avoid them, cows that is, not (knowingly) Plymouth Herald journalists, and with cows and young calves would take a massive detour if necessary.  I actually think the best strategy is be calm, but then if they do charge, that’s when you ‘go large’ and get the hell outta there as best you can.

These few were fairly cute though. Young and unsure.  We had a brief stand off, oh and photo op (obvs)

cs the cows

Then just slowly walked towards them along the wall line, me acting as a human shield for Selfie Queen (I might die, but at least she would be able to document my final moments) and as we got close they snorted a bit and trotted away from the stile so we could safely pass.  Great team work there, and all involved lived to tell the tale.

Onward.  Through the cow field, ending up on the Troway road, and back to Eckington Road (which really is scarily busy – the speed those cars come past!)  and then more stiles, and hedges and open fields and comedy gates, standing alone and proud, despite the absence of any notable boundary fencing that required their presence as a way through.  We espied weird tape that might have been from a crime scene, or a hang over from some sporting event. You never can quite tell.  And a hidden treasures van.  Bit of feedback for them, your treasure isn’t going to remain hidden for long if you keep advertising its presence.  I wouldn’t rely on it as a landmark if you are retracing our steps though, it might move.  Mind you, I was grateful for the seemingly  unmoving blue van parked up in Bradwell when I did the Dig Deep 30 mile ultra the other month.  Useful landmark for which way to go on the day when 18 miles in my brain was fried.

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We ventured onward, puzzling over the references to the airstrip.  You are told to walk parallel to this at one point, but as we couldn’t see it or fathom what it was doing there.  In fact, when you do reach it, its presence was proclaimed due to the flamboyant disporting of a wind sock.  Turns out, if we’d read the book, we’d know this to be Apperknowle Airfield, which is still used, and was originally used by the English Steel Corporation (later British Steel) for business flights.   Who knew?

This was quite a fun bit, the weather was gorgeous, even though I was far too hot, and trying to fight the urge to complain too much about being overdressed.  You have pretty good views, though we didn’t know to look out for the Chesterfield Crooked spire which was it seems a missed opportunity.   Personally, I also particularly enjoyed the presence of another gate without a border, and also the heavy plant kit provided for marshals in these parts.  Normally at junior parkrun I’ll make do with a high viz, but the addition of machinery like this could well be a game changer in future.

Somehow, really don’t know how, we missed the path beyond the airstrip and ended up joining the minor road at the ‘wrong’ bit, not that it mattered too much, due to my map reading deciphering skills which are now legend.  Not legend enough to stop us going wrong, but legend enough for me to find out where we were instead.  Go me.  The path we should have taken emerges next to a handily located bench which would have been great for sitting in and taking in views and sustenance.  We didn’t really stop as such, but there were quite a few handily located benches and even a few pubs along the way, even if they were mostly shut on a Wednesday morning.

Finally, onto second part of the walk. That’s two out of seven.  Oops, don’t worry, my photographing and attention to detail started to tail off, and I’ll speed up in my account too.

So onward.  Next challenge was fence clambering skills.  The true pros save time by fence vaulting apparently.  We didn’t try this.  Point of information, a true one, is that I learned that one of the relay runners for the Sheffield Way Relay actually went to recce every gate on the 10 mile section to suss how they could most quickly be negotiated and by what means.  Talk about marginal gains!  This is what marks out the elite I suppose. In my world I like to faff about assessing which end opens and give a gate a bit of a shake to see if it will take my weight before attempted to clamber over the hinge end if necessary.  Given our lack of experience in this respect, I think our gate clambering was pretty good.

So then we had horses to contend with.  They came over to say hello.  This was past Summerley Hall which is an astonishing building, built in the 1600’s apparently.  That’s according to the guide-book, I have no way of telling.  There was a footpath sign pointing into a field just beyond this to the left, but no obvious path, and it did feel like we were trespassing although there must be a path.  I wondered if the farm had sent us round away from the official route, it wasn’t difficult to find our way, but I was a bit uncomfortable about whether we should be passing that way.  Our new equine friend was pleased to see us though, though finding us polo-free, didn’t bother to follow us back down to the bottom of the field from whence he’d come.

more stiles – so many stiles:

Amazing gate at the bottom (we didn’t try to clamber over this one).  PMT stables eh?  Not sure of that as a marketing ploy, maybe that’s why the gate is now rusted over.

and then you go under an unexpected railway. Well, it was unexpected for me, I suppose I’ve spoiled the surprise for you now.

You emerge a bit later and cross the road and then, just when you think there can’t possibly be a footpath anywhere around here, you might, if you are a) lucky, b) eagle-eyed and c) in possession of a map and a certain amount of logic, you can deduce you do go through a little side gate into the yard of what looks very much like private property.  It is legit though, the signs say so, so hold your nerve!

This was a bit strange, you go through the yard, in our case, towards the light, which was pretty much blinding at this point.  There were some large silos, which back-lit by the morning sun looked to me like some weird shipwreck, ripped up in a tsunami and dumped unexpectedly inland.  I had to have a sandwich break at this point, not because I was overwhelmed with the beauteous sights, but because I was peckish, and also thirsty, because I’d been sweating buckets from my inappropriately numerous layers of clothing.

My photos might be out of sequence, but I think it was here there was a newly built section of fencing, presumably to give privacy to the houses that are adjacent to the path.  However, this meant the path for Dronfield Round Walk users such as our good selves was narrow and nettly, it is very prone to getting overgrown, and just needs more people to keep walking the path to stop it becoming impassable.  This was the first nettle injury of the morning.  Long leggings most definitely required. At least we didn’t get attacked by hornets and go into anaphylactic shock or anything. That would be a bad day out running indeed.

It seemed a long hike up hill at this point.  The sun was strong and hot and the slope endless.  If you were to do this as a run, once you had familiarised yourself with the route it would be a good training one, quite tough.  I still can’t make my mind up about the route, parts of it were really genuinely lovely, but it lacked the truly spectacular panoramas of say Stanage or Burbage, but that’s probably an unfair comparison.  What it did have though was woods, stiles, interesting fungi and the potential to get lost.

In what I know now to be Monk wood, we could hear the main road, but initially missed the path that would take us to the bridge crossing for the A61.  I realised we were going wrong and we backtracked and found a way through, but not sure what happened there, lapse in concentration (we do know how to talk) or maybe the path we needed to pick up to the left wasn’t all that clear.

Going over the bridge is entertaining, but the best bit, is there is a helter-skelter like descent at the end, the spiral bridge no less, my photos of it aren’t great, but there was a nice one in the guide-book.  Would be fun to run down that full pelt, though we decided to save that excitement for another day!

It is a hard right into the woods at the bottom, and more woodness and stile ness, including the instruction ‘turn half right towards the holly bushes to find a hidden stile’, so many holly bushes – some laden with red berries already, and so many stiles.  You know, stiles can really lose their novelty value after a bit. The route is described somewhere as having 11+ stiles, but it was more like a gazillion +, no idea why 11 is deemed to be the appropriate scale of stiley-ness for a walk.  Below that is presumably ‘fine’, more than that in number tips a walk over into the more challenging territory of 11+ .  This leads to much shuddering and shaking of heads.   It makes it even more impressive that a work team has been out and revamped, replaced or built from scratch all of these in recent months if their appearance is anything to go by.  They may have been obstacles, but they were well maintained ones.  Stiles also meant directional arrows, which are always a boon when out exploring!  🙂 Might have been here somewhere my yomping friend got lacerated by brambles.  There were many about.  She lived to tell the tale, but the scars will endure also.  Vicious stuff brambles, it’s lucky blackberries are nice and make up for it.

Nice views though, and the most enormously high gateway I’ve ever seen, either that or we somehow shrank en route, or maybe they have particularly enormous livestock roaming in these parts.  If that is the case, I’m quite glad we didn’t encounter them, I mean that is some gateway is it not?  Cattle that big I’d not be offering myself up as a human shield, rather offering up my yomping buddy as a human sacrifice. Harsh but true, none of us really know what we would do when it really came down to it, best hope is that we never have to find out.  Don’t let on though, I have few enough people willing to venture out on the trails with me as it is…

I want to pause for a moment to mention about the bench and gate and stile dedications along the route.  You can sponsor any one of these additions to the route for a fee, and it was quite nice reading the placards.  Not only people, but some enterprising or possibly publicity seeking pooches had also got themselves immortalised along the way.  Nice touch.  Hurrah for Bess and Peg and also to Dot and Des Dunkley with their fabulously alliterated names, what a great thing to do.

After section four, comes the imaginatively named fifth part of the walk.

The ‘board walk’ was surrounded on all sides with huge bull rushes which was spectacular and fun, not so much a ‘wet area’ as a full-blown lake in season I’d say.  When you emerge into what I now know to be Cartledge there are some seriously nice houses.  So nice you can’t quite believe they are private dwellings, but I think they must be.  One had a full on box hedge maze in its front garden.  Really lovely, though I wonder if it would actually be a little strange to live somewhere like here.

I’m reading the blurb after the walk, but wish I’d paused a bit more en route now.

I am told that from Holmesfield Church for example – which we just scampered on by – ‘there are extensive views eastwards from here and the nearest high ground is far away across the great plains of Europe, in the Ural Mountains of Russia!’  That is actually quite remarkable and indeed a point of interest.  Does that mean if I’d taken my binoculars with me and really squinted I might have seen Russian Cossack dancing going on somewhere on them there mountains?  I’m pretty sure it must do.  Next time eh.  We couldn’t have had a better day for clear skies and long views though, so can’t promise you’ll see that yourself if you do go to check it out.  Maybe it will be enough to know it’s happening on your sight lines.  Impressive eh?

ural mountains

Holmesfield Park Wood was quite sweet, with lots of signs and a picnic spot and clearly a lot of love and care has gone into making this a good interactive space.  My pictures don’t really do it justice.  It was all pretty quiet as we went through.  We saw hardly anyone all morning now I come to think of it, masses of horses, a few cows, two dog-walkers and that was about it.

Can you guess what comes next dear reader?  Yes!  That’s right!  The sixth part of the walk!  You are on fire now.

From here, the route was much simpler to follow, and it was possible to pretty much rely on the book.  Well once we made it to the golf course it was.  En route to that point though we had to cross a scary road towards Birchitt Farm where one of the signs has been knocked off – farm machinery rather than vandalism I think, but you needed your wits about you to find the turning.   Some friendly ponies, narrow tracks.  A dead magpie.  You don’t often see them dead, I wonder what had happened to it, I hope not poison, it was just odd to see it lying there on a track and not predated.

This section also eventually opened up into much more runnable sections with some great views.  Although there were some exceptions to that.  When we got to the golf course – which seemed a bit incongruous with its manicured greens alongside farm land, there was a narrow tree-lined track which Selfie Queen Smiley remarked would prevent you from ever being found if a stray golf ball came whizzing through the undergrowth and struck you with such force you dropped dead on impact.  This didn’t happen to us today, but consider yourself to have heard the health and safety briefing and been alerted to our very own risk assessment.  We could hear some golfers thwacking away.  Really don’t understand the point of golf, but each to their own eh.

We’d been out for hours now, and it started to get a bit stressful as my Smiley Selfie Queen Buddy was needing to get back, and we’d been out longer than expected.  However,  we still needed to check the route and to be honest I wasn’t really up for a late turn of speed.  We pressed on to the final seventh part of the walk.  We agreed to press on together.

we passed under the requisite two bridges to reach the main road


this part of the route was something of a shock.  It was really busy with cars going a bit too fast for comfort.  I couldn’t work out where they were heading, as there isn’t really anywhere up the track other than a dead-end.  Oh well, a mystery for another time.

Very nearly back to the start now.  Across a busy road, and pretty much a straight line across some fields various through hedges and ducking down allies until you emerge back on Eckington road where we started.  At this point we said our farewells.  Smiley Selfie Queen sprinted off to get her car and head home, I nipped into the garage for some orange juice and took the official route back, which goes behind the little garden area with the sign we’d photographed at the start and dodges through a mini housing estate for no apparent reason beyond avoiding the busy main road I suppose.  It would be fair to say it was something of an anticlimactic finish.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, my Strava route – of course my watch gave up on me again.  Of course it did.  Not that you missed much in the last little bit, just the dodge through a housing estate for no obvious purpose I was telling you about.  Oh well.

strava route

So that was that.  Walk done.

It’s definitely interesting to have done it because it shows you how everywhere links up and there are some unexpectedly lovely bits along the way.  It would be a good run route if you were training for trail marathons as it has good distance and surprisingly a lot of hills.  You could have paused at any number of pubs or cafes along the way had you wanted to – clearly we were hard-core and self-sufficient so didn’t – though you might want to think about time of day you are out as they won’t necessarily be open.  I’d like to see this path stay clear, and the best way to achieve that is for people to go out and use it – oh, and buy the book guide too, as whatever it’s limitations, it is a way to fund the upkeep of the footpaths.  Some of the work they’ve put in to rebuild steps and put up really strong stiles is very impressive, and will cost money to maintain.  The signage and new stiles, fencing and even laboriously laid steps and little bridges in some areas are an absolute labour of love by the team that put this together.  Virtual high-fives to all of them.  I might be curious enough to go back some time and do it in the other direction, just because, and I expect next time round would be a lot quicker because obviously there would be a lot less faffing.  Probably not ever going to lure me away from the hills and the heather, however, I would cautiously recommend, but keep your wits about you navigationally.  I think honestly, it’s a route that once you’ve done and ‘ticked off’ you might not rush to go back and do again, but if it’s on your doorstep, as it is mine then yep, you should do it.  Keep those footpaths clear and who knows, it may even put you in good stead for future legs of the Sheffield Way Relay, leg 4 in particular… just saying….

In other news, we also saw a rather lovely ladybird, but unfortunately it’s a harlequin one, and they aren’t good news.  I’ve actually reported its presence to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey people, does that make me weirdly geeky, a responsible citizen or a latent entomologist?  I have no idea.  Oh well.  Other shots worthy of inclusion are below:

My conclusion then is ‘good in parts’ with a recommendation for it as a winter option as I think it would be beautiful in the frost and the paths would stay passable, but what do I know.

There you go then, not my most inspired blog post ever, but hopefully you’ll get the gist if you fancy stepping out in Dronfield, and why wouldn’t you.  You can nip in to the myriad of nurseries/ garden centres on the way home should the mood take you if your legs hold up that long.

Oh, and can we have a minute’s applause to the good people who decided to revamp and renew the route, your labours are much appreciated.  I thank you!  Thank you too lovely Dronfield for opening your paths for us to discover your delights.

Happy recceing and running until next time.



*Oh, and by the way, as I like to be helpful, if you are an ultra runner with an interest in pot noodles, or even if you are not an ultra runner but are still interested in pot noodles, add a visit to the instant noodle museum to your bucket list, you’re welcome.

cup noodle museum

That will give the Sulabh International Toilet museum a run for its money.  In fact, they may be yin to each others yan.  Go check it out people, you know you want to!

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Barnsley parkrun 400? and a car boot sale too you say? Bring it on!

Digested read: went to Barnsley parkrun for some parkrun tourism.  SoYo9 done.

Oh, you want to know more about Barnsley parkun?  Well, it just so happens that you are in luck.  In order to prevent you from experiencing frustration, and to save your temper, trouble and money (maybe not money actually – though free parkruns for life by way of apology if you think my account erroneous) I can tell you all about it from my recent sojourn out.  Read on for the unabridged version, the findings from my morning’s scouting party if you will.  See how handy proximity to a car boot sale is for visual aids?  Amazing eh.  Genius even, I’m sure you’ll agree.

save yourself trouble


Unabridged version:

Re-invigorated by taking a jaunt to experience the delights of Doncaster parkrun last week, I was sufficiently motivated to shift my backside to Barnsley, pass through the metaphorical back of the wardrobe, and dive into the Narnia that is Locke Park, Barnsley.  I won’t lie there is some strategic drive that made Barnsley parkrun my destination of choice for this weekend.  Specifically, once I’ve ticked off Barnsley, I’ll have achieved the full set of the SoYo9 (South Yorkshire 9) parkruns, which means I get my name on a list alongside other parkrunners, on the strideandtested website – (make sure you choose the right collection from the search box on the left hand side if you are having a nosey) – what greater recognition could there be than that? (Rhetorical question, no answers on a postcard please).

SoYo9 club
A list of all the heroes that have run all 9 South Yorkshire parkruns.
The SoYo9 club currently has 176 members (as of 12/09/2018)

To be fair, I wasn’t regarding attendance at this event as requiring any great urgency, until a little stalking of the Barnsley parkrun facebook page revealed that this particular Saturday would be their 400th event.   There was excited chat in the build up, promise of celebratory cake, a sea of parkrun tops and maybe even some running for the especially keen.  Well, if they are having a party anyway, would be rude not to rock up and help it go with a swing surely?  No mention of fancy dress or giraffes though, which might just be a typo on their part I suppose… does seem a surprising omission otherwise.  I mean can you properly celebrate without?  I may have to find out for myself…

400 event

I did have a moment’s hesitation, when I found that there was to be a car boot sale in the park on the same day – I was worried about parking at an unknown venue.  What if I missed the start endlessly driving round and round Barnsley in search of a parking space?  When I mentioned it to a triathlete buddy of mine, who was debating about making the same foray out, her response was far more appropriate.  ‘A car boot sale you say?  Game on!’  She is right of course.  This should not be seen as an obstacle to attendance, but rather an added incentive to get my arse over there.  I’m also well overdue for a rummage, and this could be my opportunity to buy a broken food mixer or restock the shelves I’ve worked so hard to empty through rigorous de-cluttering associated with a recent house move by making impulse buys of heaps of second hand books.   Heavens!  I might even pick up an almost complete musty set of Encyclopedia Britannia.  What a boon to my bookshelves that would be!  Hence, Barnsley parkrun?  Bring it on!

In advance I learn that this is another three-lap course. Oh.  Not overly keen to be fair.  However, it will help make me mentally strong to do another three-lapper.  There are good instructions on the website, but I prefer a postcode these days.  Still, I was pretty sure the Friends of Locke park advice would get me there safely:  ‘Locke Park Car Park is off Keresforth Hall Road, S70 6NF -follow signs.’  I’ll probably head off the night before anyway, as I really, really hate being late, so that should allow enough time to find it.

The course looks like this apparently:

Barnsley parkrun course

Inexplicably, there is no explicit mention of elevation.  It must be flat then.  Clearly those people I met at Doncaster parkrun last week were spreading misinformation when they tried to warn me it was hillier than most.  I mean, they thought they had a hill at Doncaster (bless) when by Sheffield terms it was actually just a speed bump really.  Don’t tell any Doncaster folk I said  this, wouldn’t want to offend when they were so friendly and welcoming, it’s not their fault they don’t encounter the hills we Sheffielders have become accustomed to.  If it was that lumpy I’m sure a thoughtful Barnsley parkrunner would alert newcomers to this consideration with at the very least a flashing warning gif of somesort, alongside the other information about it all being on tarmac paths.

Unless they subscribe to the view….

upward flat

shudder. … No surely not. I was fretting for nothing!  I do have a tendency to catastrophise, it is not a good quality.  If anything, it will probably feel like it’s downhill all the way.  A pb course.  Yep, that’s more likely.  Positive thinking, and breathe.  I felt better already.

I also read in advance a really lovely post about the pleasures of parkrun.  Might have got something in my eye reading that.  It’s worth reflecting on what parkrun means to many of us, and how it is often not the individual run achievements or pbs that stand out (which is just as well as my last pb was years ago, literally) but shared laughs and adventures along the way that stick in the memory.  Aw.

Anyway, the runes were looking good.  Seems like a friendly lot, there are toilets at the start, and a cafe at the end.  What’s not to like.  … Game on indeed.

So I got up at stupid o-clock.  Couldn’t sleep anyway.  Porridge breakfast, tomtom on? Check.  Barcode wrist band on?  Check.  Volunteer milestone top on?  Check.  Good to go.  Don’t worry I wore other running stuff too.  I’m not that minimalist when running, or indeed when out in public more generally.   You can open your eyes in safety!

The drive from Sheffield to Barnsley was actually really quick, especially as I left crazily early and the roads were deserted.  About 35 minutes, tops.  There are even proper brown tourist signs to direct you to the park.  Easy peasy, easiest one to find and park up of all the tourist runs I’ve done – which granted isn’t massively many, but is up to 18 or so.  I think the record is a few hundred, some parkrunner who has opted to do a new parkrun every single time out.  Must check that out actually, that’s quite amazing…

Where was I?  Oh yes, very easy to find, and a pretty spacious car park too.  In normal circumstances it ought logically be extremely easy to park but this was the most popular parkrun ever, and it was heaving, even though it was barely 8.00 a.m. (I told you I hate being late).

Naysayers might possibly think this busy-ness attributable to the carboot sale, but hey, surely Barnsley parkrun’s 400th ought to trump that!

I managed to get one of the very last parking places in the car park ‘proper’ but in fact, the Friends of Locke park were doing fine work directing cars to the overflow car park on grass for the car boot sale.  It was all running very smoothly.  Although there was quite a queue to get in, even at this early hour.

As I had lots of time on my side anyway, I took advantage of the opportunity to nip back to the co-op I’d passed earlier to get my Saturday Guardian.  Saturdays are incomplete without it, but I thought by dint of my parkrun tourism I might have to forfeit it.  Reader not so!  Huge relief all round.

Back to the park and the next challenge was to find the start for parkrun.  Because I was ridiculously early, there weren’t any other obvious parkrunners around.  There were loads of people, but many were carbooters, laying a false trail by heading over for the scrum for choice bric a brac.  I soon got wise to that.

For the record, Locke park is surprisingly lovely. It’s a mature park, seemingly well maintained.  I’d never been before so was constantly amazed by the various follies I stumbled across round every turn – from huge random towers to Grecian columns.  Very fine indeed.  Around at least one side of the park was a spectacular stone wall, this was an expensive proposition when first established.  Very impressive boundary.  Formal rose beds are hidden away in little secret dips and troughs, there was a football pitch, adventure playground – even a bowls court. And yes dear reader, the promised loos open for business too!  Phew.  Feast your eyes on this smorgasboard of visual and sensory delights and you’ll get the idea.

At one point on my journey across the park I came across an early bird parkrunner and his entourage, although I didn’t appreciate it at the time.  I learned later he had started at 7.30 a.m. and would continue until all three laps were done, returning to be cheered through the finish after a mammoth 2 hours 42 minutes on course.  That’s real dedication.  Inspirational is an over-used word, but you know what, it blooming was.


I rather regret now that they didn’t properly photo bomb my tower shot, would have been a suitably grand backdrop for the occasion.  Oh well, no worries.  I learned from one of their number that from time to time the tower is open to the public.   Good to know. Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite remember when.  Was it third Sunday in the month, only in months with an r in them every other leap year.  Something like that. You can probably find out on the Friends of Locke park website to be fair, but I like the element of surprise when you roll up at these events.  Shame to spoil that by doing research in advance eh?

The park isn’t huge, but it seemed big because I didn’t know where I was going, and because, yes dear reader, I cannot tell a lie, you couldn’t see over the lumpy bits without climbing up them first.  It was giving an impression of being unexpectedly hilly indeed.  Slopes that looked gentle, went on and on in a continuous upward spiral.  Harder than you might think.  It’s always a bad sign when you are puffing before you’ve even made the start line.

Just as I was wondering if I’d ever locate the start, I espied a marshal who pointed me in the direction of the cafe and adventure playground.  Hurray.  It was a great play area, all train themed.  How charming!  I found out later this was not by chance, but because the land was donated by the widow of a guy who made his money through railway engineering.  That explains the mini railway station and finger tracing of a steam train…

but not the half excavated dinosaur remains.  They must therefore be for real.  Who knew?  How exciting!  The Whitby Jurassic coastline has nothing on Barnsley it would seem!  Cool.


Always good to have found the start.  Next thing was to find the loos.  So the good news, for parkrun tourists, is that there is a loo.  The bad news, is that the facilities are not that ample.  There was basically one unisex loo and one ‘mothers and babies’ one.  And I thought Sheffield Hallam parkrun had uniquely poor precautionary pee provision.  But at least we have ladies, gents and a disabled.  An abundance of pee places by comparison.  When I arrived there was a solitary guy waiting.  He was coy about using the mother and babies, so directed me there.  Whether that was because he thought I was either a mother, or a baby or in possession of the latter I’m not sure.  I decided though to shamelessly exploit his chivalry.  Never pass up a pee opportunity, that’s my motto.

The loo itself did look a bit like a crime scene.  I mean it was clean enough, but it had that utilitarian look that you associate with horror film set in asylums, white tiles, chipped piping and a rather alarming section of burnt floor.  Best not think about it too deeply.  All functional though, and toilet paper too so top marks for that. Yes, I’ve taken a photo of the interior of the loo.  I got quite blasé about taking such shots whilst living and working in Cambodia, it’s informative for those that come after, and I’m over being self-conscious about such postings these days.  I draw the line at taking a selfie in situ though, that’s more of a niche area I don’t go into.  By the time I emerged, there was a queue. Nicely timed on my part then. Hurrah!

There was still ages before the start, so I did some pootling about, admiring both the vegetation – some nice fancy planting there

and some running club top spotting as the great and the good, the gregarious and the gauche, the gallopers and the gallumphers all began to assemble.  In my explorations I found many a marvel – not least the local innovation of a PB bell.  I haven’t had a pb for many years.  I suppose as this is my first time on this course, technically today might count as one, but that also feels disingenuous, exciting though the prospect of proactively initiating my own parkrun ding-dong undoubtedly was.

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I was wondering at what point I might espy someone I knew.  Actually I didn’t really.  I did see a fellow Graves junior parkrun volunteer, so we chatted briefly. He’d apparently coerced encouraged a number of his work colleagues to sign up for the Sheffield 10k next weekend, so they were having a Barnsley parkrun pre event run round, which was good.  I lingered til the rest of his buddies arrived, and as we lingered the volunteers constructed a finish funnel around us, which amused me.  Then I left them to catch up and talk tactics and continued with my ambling about slightly self-consciously.  There were some Valley Hill Runners in evidence.  I really must pluck up the courage to go and say hello to them sometime.  I feel that this is the running club I’d have joined if I hadn’t discovered Smiley Paces first.  Plus, one of their number did the Dig Deep Ultra a few weeks back, and I wanted to swap tales, but I don’t know which one it was.  Gawd it’s hard being me.  I mean, I know they are always super friendly but I still feel it’s a bit forward to bundle in when they are all communing with one another.  I should get into the habit of carrying cake with me, that’s the way to their hearts I understand, well, chip butties more specifically, but they don’t travel all that well.  The chip butties I mean, not the Valley Hill buddies, just to be clear.  Barnsley Harriers too of course, always a pleasure, everyone knows how lovely they are 🙂

As people gathered, the lone parkrunner came through finishing his first lap to much cheering from those assembled, and continued on his way.


Then there was a megaphone announcement. Much excitement, must be pre-run briefing!  Not so, it was to announce a 10 minute delay to the start as there was a mahoosive queue of cars still waiting to come in


Now that’s completely fair enough, but obviously it played havoc with my precautionary pee plans.  I decided I’d have to fit in another one now.  I threw caution to the wind, and by passing the asylum loo, sneakily snuck into the cafe to use their posh loo, which was very nice thank you for asking.  As I emerged, a queue had magically appeared there too (maybe I have some sort of leadership qualities in this area, makes you wonder).  Walking past them was a bit like having a guard of honour lining my way.  When I commented on this, the little group of women spontaneously broke into applause, one even shouting ‘well done!’ and it was surprisingly cheering.  Who doesn’t like to be greeted with adoring clapping crowds as they go about their business?  Thank you my people.  Much appreciated.

I ditched my fleece, and stuffed it into my back pack, and my backpack into a Tesco bag for life I’d brought along for this purpose.  The unofficial bag drop was to stuff worldly goods under one of a couple of handily positioned picnic tables. They were groaning with more cakes than I’ve ever seen in my life.  Wow!  All dietary needs catered for too you’ll be pleased to hear.

After another 10 minutes or so, one of the RDs took up the megaphone and a vantage position on one of the benches too.  He explained about it being the 400 th Barnsley parkrun, which is indeed amazing, but then said he was going to start on a more serious note.  He announced that a fellow runner, known well locally and a Penistone Footpath Runner  had died in completely unexpected and, by implication, unsettling circumstances earlier in the week.  In his memory it was suggested that those assembled offer one minute’s applause.  I’ve not participated in such a gesture before.  It was quite moving.  Obviously, I don’t know the runner or what happened, but it felt like a very genuine symbol of solidarity with those who did.  Applause is better than silence I think, silence can be a) awkward,  and b) too often broken.  However, I would add that one minute is actually quite a long time to have to clap for, the wise amongst us paced themselves for this task.  It was maybe a brave decision to make such a tribute as part of a day of celebration, but it seemed to me at least wholly appropriate, and very genuine.  Also, very sad.  I was looking around at the sea of Penistone Footpath t-shirts in amongst all the parkrun apricot and milestone tees and wondering how they must be feeling.   I hope it helped to have the loss acknowledged.

Then there was the official run briefing.  It was astonishing to look around and see how big the field was.  I stole this photo from someone else who posted on the Barnsley parkrun facebook page because it’s better than my shot, gives more of a sense of how many are there, also I’m in the throng, which is novel.

HH group photo

I was expecting this to be quite a small parkrun, I think normally it is.  Today the Barnsley parkrun turn out was a record breaking 343 people.  Therefore, by dint of my presence  I must officially be a record breaking parkrunner just for being there, just as I am a record breaking marathoner for having the misfortune to run London on the hottest ever marathon day.  The latter is not a record I would have chosen willingly, but sure, I’ll capitalise on it now it’s happened.  Not good though people, really not good.  To be part of the Barnsley parkrun record breaking gang, that was undiluted fabulousness though.  Hurrah!

First the run briefing, then the migration to the start, which was just a little distance away from the finish funnel.  I bimbled along behind everyone else, happy to just plant myself in the back somewhere.

I took the opportunity to take a shot of the timer start team as I made my way along:


I tried to do this by stealth, but they were too eagle eyed for me to achieve this, so I went for the posed photo instead.  That was what they looked like from the front, this is the view from behind.  What a lot of runners eh?

BP start photo

Then I looked up, and realised to my absolute horror, that the run was going in the opposite direction to that I’d anticipated, and I was in danger of being right at the front of the pack, where it could be pretty much guaranteed I’d be trampled by speedier runners as the parkrun got under way.  Phew, realised just in time, I pushed my way hurriedly through to the back where I belonged, in amongst the buggy runners and barkrunners.  (That pun has never been made before people, remember you heard it here first).

Time for quick selfie though, obvs:


Only looking moderately manic on this occasion.

I didn’t hear the cry for off, but off we all went, me trundling along behind.  I may have missed the start, but a handily placed Barnsley parkrun photographer did not.  Check out these of the parkrunners underway.  Aw, aren’t we lovely, all enjoying parkrun in our own way.

I really wasn’t feeling the lurve for running this morning.  I was tired from insomnia, and still a bit achey from a woodrun drills session on Thursday.  It’s shaming really, I ought to be able to do that and a parkrun in a week without my batteries going flat.  I really do need to get back to basics and work on my form, even think about maybe some interval training to pick my speed up. However, today was not the day.  Today was for bimbling, photograph taking and enjoying a spot of parkrun tourism.  It’s supposed to be fun remember people, otherwise, what are we all doing out there on a Saturday morning.

It was pretty busy out there, being at the back it was a slow start. I overheard another runner exclaim delightedly to his running buddy ‘I am doing just great at this pace, I can do this!’  Not sure how long he got to do that for, before being compelled to shift himself as the field opened out and people started to overtake and settle into whatever their preferred pace was.

I was all eyes (well both eyes, I’ve only got the two) agog, taking in the scenery.  It really is a scenic run, despite the three lap thing, there’s loads of interest. I got a bit distracted trying to get some shots.  Now, I’m not a photographer, and I was running as well, so they aren’t maybe the best quality you’ll see, but hopefully they’ll capture the mood, and the sense of occasion.  I think the phrase you are reaching for is ‘good in parts‘.

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First time round, I tried to get a photo of each of the marshals too.  Mixed success, but thanks to all of you high viz heroes.  Some phenomenal motivational clapping, cheering and helpful directional pointing going on out there on course today.  Give yourselves a high five to go with your high viz. You’ve earned it!

The second lap, I was more struck by some of the landmarks on route.  The appeal of some might not be immediately apparent to the untrained eye, but I was strangely fascinated by the municipal toilet buildings.  I couldn’t work out if it was because they made me feel weirdly nostalgic for a time when that style of building was state of the art sixties (I think) utilitarian chic, or because it made me inwardly shudder because of it’s rather faded and rough looking exterior.   I still think it’s as interesting as the stylised columns in its own way.


Then there were the little details along the way.  The ‘no pain no gain’ t-shirt from the Penistone group I think, and I like the juxtaposition of the defibrillator next to the ice-cream sales sign.  Or is that just me again?  Oh well.  Don’t forget the parkrun code. You are obligated to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, my way might be idiosyncratic, but it’s essentially harmless, and I needed to make my own entertainment en route to distract me from them there hills.

Because dear reader, there was a great deal of hill.  It was deceptive, the gradient looked pretty forgiving and gradual, but it just went on and on.  The downhill bits were short and sharp by comparison.  I think Graves and Castle both have sharper more intense hills, but this run definitely has more constant heaving of yourself heavenwards.  This is not my forte.  To be fair, I’m not quite sure what my running forte is, that’s unfinished business, but it’s definitely not going uphill.

Inevitably, I got lapped early on.  The plus side of this is that you get to see the faster runners.  Oh my, they were working hard.  It may be a run not a race, but some of them were most certainly going for it.  Those that had the breath to spare shouted encouragement on the way past.  I sometimes wonder how fast I could run if i really pushed myself to that extent.  Maybe next time I’m on a flat section somewhere unobserved, I might give it a go, today was not the time or place though, also I might not give it a go, I quite like just having a slow and steady cruising setting I feel I could maintain for ever if need be.  Then again, it would be a new and interesting challenge to see if I’m capable of upping the ante.  We’ll see.

Here are some faster runners, rushing past in a blur:

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or maybe I was running so fast the camera moved as I was clicking the shutter.  It will be one scenario or the other, I forget which.

By the time I finished the second lap, I had to continue to run past a rapidly filling finish tunnel.  Although it was definitely an inclusive and friendly parkrun, overall I felt they were speedier parkrunners on average than other parkruns I’ve visited.  I was in the last few trickling in, normally there is a bit more a buffer between me and the final finisher.  Not that it matters, everyone crossing the line was celebrated equally.

For the record though, here is the finish funnel in all its glory, as I ran by:

The final lap I did pretty much solo, apart from the cheering volunteers.  It was OK though.  I ought to have tried harder going up the hills, oh well, there’s always next time…  Passing each marshal for the last time, I held back from saying to all but one ‘no offence, but I’m quite glad I’m seeing you for the last time this morning‘ which fortunately did engender a response of laughter rather than a look of horror at my rudeness.  Phew.  Eventually, there was the down hill finish, the incentive to sprint past the railings to the finish funnel beyond. There was quite a crowd, queuing at the coffee shop and making the most of the bountiful supplies of cake, and many cheered and clapped me in.  I felt quite the celebrity, that was two lots of being cheered within the hour if you count my toilet exit walk which clearly I do.  I always seem to be able to muster a final sprint, I think it’s born of fear they’ll move the finish further away if I don’t get there sharpish!

BP unexpected sprint finish

Thank you nice finish token dispenser.  Then through the funnel to the barcode scanner.

Then, well ohmygawd, it’s taken super-human strength of will not to blurt this out at the start, but at the moment my finish token was scanned, I bore witness to possibly the greatest innovation I have ever seen at a parkrun.  No really, and dear reader, I’ve seen the double funnel finish at Bushy parkrun, so I speak with some authority on this topic.  It was a barscanner cosy!  Lovingly knitted, each scanner had it’s own bespoke garment.  Genius.   Complete genius.


I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for this item, marginally coveted it even.  Anyway, this turned out to be a good thing, as I got chatting with the barcode scanner and a recent barcode scannee, and that was entertaining, which is the main point of parkrun.  I was going to say after the running bit, but we all know that’s a lie.  Nice to meet you my new parkrun friends, you were awesome (then again, all parkrunners are, so not unique in that respect, but isn’t it grand to be acknowledged as awesome all the same).  Told you I’d see you again in cyberspace!  (Enthusiastic virtual wave coming your way RIGHT NOW!)


So they were my new best friends ever, but I abandoned them in favour of this star offering.  Anyone would have done the same, check out this cool dude, similarly decked out in his fifty milestone top.  Ben apparently.  There are a few celebrity parkrun dogs out there as you know. Graves has Lily the wonder dog with her very own portrait in the Graves park Rose Garden cafe and a 100 bandanna, I’m sure there are other barkrunners in abundance all over, but this mutt was special.  Oh, and he had a companion human along with him too, but it’s pretty clear who the star attraction was I think we can agree.  And he has his own barkcode too (sort of) long story.

So there we are, another parkrun done and – good news  people, my SoYo9 in the bag. Look, you can see it was 🙂


Just the quest for coffee remaining.  There was a bit queue at the cafe, but it did look like it did decent coffee, and I wanted to stay at the finish to cheer the final finisher home.  Quite a few people were doing likewise, well, all that cake wasn’t going to eat itself now was it.

The cafe queue was not fast moving, but the coffee was good.  It was also an opportunity to talk to other parkrunners.  My first conversation was around how taxing it was to choose coffee in these days of multiple choice offerings and extras.  I went for the flat white.  Whilst waiting for that, I got into conversation with some llama people.  I mean, they weren’t actually related to llamas as far as I know, but just people who appreciated them.  People who appreciated them sufficiently to have some re-useable coffee cups adorned with their likenesses.  Also, if I am to believe it, matching underwear too, though not in use today because sometimes going commando under running gear is preferable.   All I know is I was very impressed.  Home bargains too apparently, I’d had them down as more erm, frankly exclusive bit of merchandise, but this is a result.  Would it be too stalkery to source my own I wonder? Anyway, apart from swapping anecdotes about alpaca noises, we also swapped tales of parkrun tourism and fantasy destinations.  we both have our eyes on the one involving a ferry, unfortunately I can’t remember quite where it is – Shetland Islands maybe?  One day though dear reader, one day…


Cheers alerted us to the returning final finisher hero so we joined the crowd to welcome him in.

Then we checked out what cake was left.  I had a slice of lemon cake, I felt a tad guilty for not having brought anything to share but then again there was mountains of the stuff, and I didn’t let the guilt get in the way of actually eating it.  Very hospitable crowd at Barnsley.

More chit-chat with one of the regular RDs, I expressed enthusiasm for the minions barcode countdown, but agreed not to let the compliment go any further, it would be our secret.  She was also able to fill me in on some background about the park and its history, which I learned is handily outlined on some of the signs near at hand, and explains the recurring train motifs.  Nice. Good to have local tourist guides when you are doing parkrun tourism jaunts.  I thank you!


and then that was it, all over for another week.  I’d say a hit though.  I’d recommend this parkrun.  Very friendly, interesting park, good facilities, fine coffee and surely the innovative barscanner cosies alone are worth the trip?  Oh and the elevation – well, according to my Strava 328 ft, but it felt like more to be honest.  Then again, it always does.

Back through the park, few more scenic sights, and the delights of the secret alphabet steps within a little hidden grotto somewhere.  Isn’t that lovely.  But what were those weird cardboard circles on the grass about?  There were thousands of them.  Really, all in one big patch, like finding a mound of roman coins or something, only these were worthless, soggy and cardboard circa 2018 as opposed to a valuable, solid gold cache  circa 2500 BC.  Am I being naive here, is it a thing?  An installation art homage to the millstones of the peak district perhaps?

and a final browse through the offerings at the car boot sale.  I was amazed how much that had thinned out by now though, clearly with car boot sales, it’s the early bird that gets the proverbial worm – or chintzy home furnishings / choice knick knackery in this case.

One thing that made me smile was an overheard conversation as I wandered through.  One of the stall holders was on the phone talking about the car boot sale.  She was explaining how a bit after they’d set up there was suddenly this sea of people storming towards them off the horizon, and she had a moment of thinking ‘my we have an unexpected rush on‘ before clocking we were ‘some sort of runners‘.  Fair enough.  I love that though, the thought of several hundred people (343 to be precise) racing to get to the bric-a-brac ahead of everyone else, and the rising panic of the car boot stall holders watching it draw closer like pyroclastic flow.  Love parkruns, always a micro adventure in waiting, wherever you rock up.


Bye bye Barnsley, thanks for the hospitality.  Hope to see some or indeed all of you again sometime in the future. I’m sure I will, it is the parkrun way.



Oh, and back to post parkrun ding-dongs, here are some photos of people who did get to ring the PB bell, photos courtesy of the Barnsley parkrun facebook site, thank you people, and well done all!

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

Happy parkrunning til next time.  Feel the parkrun love and joy!



Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

A glimpse into the wonderful world of parkrun volunteering

Digested read: it was my fiftieth time of volunteering at parkrun last Sunday.  The lovely RD at Graves junior parkrun did a special post about volunteering based on me!  Wow.  I was really touched.  Thanks guys!   I feel a tad guilty given how many out there have achieved this milestone way ahead of me, but I’m enjoying the moment all the same!   Blushing a bit though, just a bit.

There isn’t a way to repost from the parkrun blog, so here is a cut and paste job instead.  Uncharacteristically sentimental post from me therefore follows…

Posted on September 13, 2018 by gravesjuniorsoffice
Last Sunday one of our regular volunteers, Lucy, volunteered with us for the 50th time!

A cause for celebration – how did it all start?
I was actually really nervous the first time I joined the volunteer team at Graves. What if I point someone the wrong way? What if I drop all the finish tokens? What if nobody talks to me? In fact it was the best thing I ever did, because of course everyone was very welcoming. I have made lots of new friends, shared lots of laughter and learned to appreciate the micro-climate of Graves park in all seasons from brilliant sunshine, to blustering winds and white out snow! My weekends feel incomplete if I have to miss junior parkrun – I can’t really remember what I used to do on a Sunday morning before. It’s a complete mystery.

volunteering in the snow

volunteering in the snow

Sounds like you enjoy volunteering at Graves juniors?
I was super excited when I realised that today barcode scanning at Graves junior parkrun was my fiftieth time of volunteering. I never imagined when I first started volunteering that they’d tot up quite so quickly. It’s so true, time really does fly when you are having fun, and volunteering at Graves is always brilliant entertainment on a Sunday morning! So much so that it’s become the highlight of my week!

What do you enjoy most?
There are so many things l love about junior parkrun – it is such a feel-good initiative!
I love the fact there are so many different ways to take part in the event: speedy runners charging by like rockets, young runners encouraging one another, some carrying a favourite toy, some enjoying family run in big groups, some stopping to pick up feathers or stones as they finish the course in their own way. Every junior parkrunner from the first to get their token to the final finisher is celebrated, and rightly so.

Lucy is also often the first to arrive! Tell us why?
I love arriving before the runners and setting up the course when the park is all quiet and you can enjoy the views and see the animals in the animal park waking up too. Then you can feel the excitement building as everybody gathers, and runners meet each other.

Would you recommend volunteering to others?
Yes! From my point of view there are basically two facts you need to know when it comes to volunteering at your local parkrun (though parkrun voluntourism is a good thing too, of course). These are as follows:

Fact one. Volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, lots of fun.
Fact two. Volunteering at fun-size junior parkrun is even more fun. Fun in inverse proportion to the average height of those participating.

Any words of wisdom for those who have never volunteered, yet?
So if you are thinking of volunteering please do give it a go. You will be warmly welcomed and will get to enter a whole parallel universe of parkrun playfulness. And as many of you have already discovered, parkrun in all its many manifestations can be strangely addictive! You have been warned!


It’s not always that glamorous though, just so you know.  Very grounding to see myself in the school themed shots, hilarious too though and that’s the main thing!

Graves junior school theme

Hi-viz heroes rock!


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

For more on my take on volunteering at parkrun, see this earlier post:   On the subject of superheroes, a call to capes

and for my claim to parkrun fame check this link out!



Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Da na da na da na da na Don-nee! Destination Doncaster parkrun.

Digested read:  Went to Doncaster parkrun for some parkrun tourism

Unabridged version:

Ask not ‘Why Doncaster parkrun?’ ask ‘Why not Doncaster parkrun?!

Also, did you know the lyrics for the Batman theme tune are actually copyrighted?  Here they are in full in case you’ve forgotten them:

Batman, Batman, Batman, Batman!

Batman, Batman, Batman!

Batman, Batman, Batman, Batman!

Batman, Batman, Batman!

Batman, Batman, Batman!

Batman, Batman, Batman!

Batman, Batman, Batman!

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

Copyright: Lyrics © Original Writer and Publisher


I still think it’s da na da na da na da na myself, but that’s OK, it get’s me out of an awkward breach of copyright scenario, so I’m happy.  I’m hoping you were concentrating and noticed the headline for this blog, or you will be really struggling to make sense of the relevance of that information right now.  Oh well, it’s good to have a few mysteries to grapple with now and again, keeps life interesting.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, recently, a yomping friend from months ago got in touch a bit out of the blue and suggested a spot of parkrun tourism Doncaster bound.  Oh, you don’t know who I mean?  The ‘Where’s Wally?’  Yomping Friend (WWYF),  hang on, I’ll find a picture.  There you go, easy to spot.

We’ve not seen each other all year, and I’m not altogether sure we saw much of each other back in January when we trotted round Longshaw when it was so misty we could barely see our hands in front of our faces.  Somewhat churlishly I concede, my immediate response to her approach ‘fancy joining me at Doncaster parkrun‘ was ‘er why?’  Apparently, it is to put a tick in a box.  There are various parkrun tourism challenges evolving all the time.  For her latest parkrun tourism challenge, Doncaster parkrun was apparently, the missing link.

I love a bit of parkrun tourism, but have slacked off doing the rounds somewhat this year because of focusing on other running challenges.   I had intended to get my total to 20 by the end of this year, and I still could.  …  I have already personally experienced the frissance of pleasure to be gained by doing all six of the designated Sheffield area parkruns and getting your name on the hall of fame definitive list for so doing. I just need to get back at it.

parkrun tourist

For clarity, and because it’s not obvious, because one at least is not in Sheffield, the six Sheffield runs are listed below. The first links are to the official parkrun pages, the second are my subjective accounts of having visited them, so that should save you any unnecessary clicking exertion if you aren’t interested in either.

Rother Valley isn’t strictly Sheffield, so it’s confusing.  But fun.

Anyways, it seems there are loads of parkrun tourism challenges out there. The parkrun tourists aim might take on the ‘alphabet challenge’ all the letters in the alphabet, or the compass challenge (parkruns including north, south, east and west in their names) the staying alive challenge which requires three bees and three gees.  I know, genius.  I met someone at Graves doing that the other week, nice little touch their using Graves junior to stay alive.  See what they did?  Clever.  Apparently there is a chrome extension app that will highlight running challenges for you. Unfortunately I am technologically remedial, so I have no idea what that means.    People recommend it though.  Twenty different locations, and you can join the unofficial tourist group and get your giraffe buff and join the giraffe cow-cowl club.  This bit of apparel looks quite sinister in this shot, which is a shame, as most serious parkrun tourists are seriously lovely and cuddly and not mean looking, like this image suggests, at all!

cow cowl

You can be a regionnaire by dragging yourself around all the parkruns within a particular district.  Doncaster parkrun, is one of the nine required to join the  SoYo9 group. I had a little peek using the search tool, and discover, I’m actually only two short of this achievement myself.  My regular reader knows I’m quite shallow, so this is a pretty cool discovery.  I too have the SoYo9 within reach.  With Doncaster done, only Barnsley to tackle and I’m in.  Yay!  The SoYo9 is basically the Sheffield six, plus Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham.  Ooh, I’m liking this.  Barnsley is in my sights now.

Sooo, having agreed to go to Donny, first thing is to check out the course blah de blah which tells us that the Doncaster parkrun course:

begins with a 500m run along the footpath around the lake before passing to the left of the finish. From this point it is 3 laps of the park, going onto grass and following the perimeter of the park

fairly minimalist description then.  Though there is a picture:

doncaster parkrun course

and elsewhere, I learn the parkrun is in an actual park – Sandall Park, Doncaster, with a postcode of DN2 5DW according to the Doncaster gov website or DN2 5DY, according to the parkrun website so that’s confusing.  (Hint, go with the latter).  Still, on the plus side, it is a park in possession of not only a parkrun, but two cafes and toilets too.  Result.  Precautionary pee parkrun planning is a priority for parkrun tourism jaunts.  Anticipatory excitement officially building – despite the need for a paranoically early start. Doncaster is further away from Sheffield than you might think.  I know, I found this out when I was at the inaugural Round Donny Run earlier in the year, but that’s another story…

So the day dawned.  I, like Lady Macbeth, seem to have entirely lost the ability to sleep, so was awake from before 5.00 anyway.  No matter, I had a very productive couple of hours doing domestic goddess like duties such as changing toilet rolls and putting out the rubbish.  I know, Aggie and Kim have nothing on me.  My where’s wally yomping friend was also my ride and appeared as if by magic on my doorstep bang on 7.30 a.m.  Yes, paranoically early, but we both hate being late.

The drive was pretty straightforward, particularly as I was the passenger and didn’t have to do anything beyond sitting passively observing the rain beating more and more heavily on the windscreen as we neared our destination.  Definitely autumnal now.  The satnav seemed pretty efficient, and took us alongside our destination park, where we turned right into a path and found ourselves… well, I’m not sure exactly where.  Behind a service building of some sort.  It was very strange. Cue much rummaging around for maps and directions, and eventually, by dint of the smoke and mirror magic which comes from being in possession of a smart phone (her, not me) worked out we were just parallel to the actual car park.  Some nifty reversing and exiting the side road and we were parked up outside the cafe. Well, I think it was the cafe:


It wasn’t looking massively appealing outside, no matter, we were full of good cheer inside, all tucked up in the roasty toasty car interior:

LC Doncaster tourists

When we pulled up, there was only one other car in the car park, so loads of space, and there was actually another, slightly bigger car park the other side of the cafe.  We just stayed in the dry for a bit, catching up on life and then ventured out for the loos.  There was one ‘staff only’ loo in the cafe, which we were able to use. The cafe was lively, friendly and colourful.  Think greasy spoon menu rather than squished avocado on toast.

Then we had to debate whether or not it was to be a coats on or coats off run.  I went with coat on, because it was actually raining at this point.  Turned out to be a bad call, but we all know how wonderful hindsight is I think.

We headed in what we hoped was the direction of the start, past a whole toilet block. Hurrah!  Parkrun tourists never fear, plenty of provision here for powdering of noses.


The park was full of surprises. Despite the approach being pretty unpromising, you drive through endless miles of utilitarian retail parks to get there, it was a lovely little oasis.  A lake in the middle, and some mature trees and a well maintained play area.  Even a handy boat, didn’t look like it had been used for any recent rescues, but maybe that’s because the lake was temporarily cordoned off due to blue-green algae.  There were some geese.  I’m not that keen on geese, and kept a respectful distance, these seemed fine though.  Loads of signage and no litter. Very impressive.

It wasn’t immediately obvious where the start was, so I asked some trainer wearing lurkers, which is what most parkrunners look like whilst waiting to join the throng.  They were friendly and one said ‘oh, have you come to watch?’ that wasn’t great for my ego, but then again, maybe he was unable to clock my athletic frame covered up as it was with my coat!  He explained the course and waved me in the right direction.

Everyone assembles by a big tree, where there is a handy parkrun banner.  This not only locates the start, but provides selfie and wider general photographing opportunities.  We made the most of it, churlish not to.

Another friendly local offered to take our picture for us, then my Where’s Wally Yomping friend went off to do a warm up, whilst I stood around a bit more and chatted to the hi-viz hero.   It’s such a mystery why my parkrun times never improve?   She was asking where we were from and what brought us to Doncaster parkrun.  I felt my voice trailing off a bit as I explained about wanting to get our name on a random list in cyberspace somewhere.  It did sound a somewhat weak justification to the uninitiated.  Reader, I should have had more faith.  She soooooooooo got it.  ‘Oh my god‘ she said ‘that’s brilliant, I had no idea!‘  Love parkrunners.  She filled me in on a forthcoming Doncaster parkrun plan to take a 6.03 a.m. train ride to London to do a tourism run at Finsbury parkrun.   Genius, why wouldn’t you?  It’s £40 all in, including the cost of parkrun 😉 some have been perplexed at the appeal of this in the absence of a medal, but I say bring it on.  I’d take an anecdote opportunity over a medal any day, and often you can have both.  Point is, of course a fellow parkrunners, particularly a hi-viz wearing hero one, would understand all about the appeal of being a parkrun tourist.

My WWYF returned from her warm up, and we joined the small, but perfectly formed huddle around the RD who was also giving the first timers briefing.


There were a few other tourists from Dunstable or Dundee, or Huddersfield or some parkrun with a ‘u’ in it and one completely new to parkrun person. How exciting!  I hope for him it was but just the beginning of the adventure.  It’s a pleasing mystery how addictive parkrun can become from the most tentative of beginnings. Well, that was my experience anyway, and I’m not of the view that was unique.

Usual briefing, a course description – it’s one little lap round the lake and then three big laps basically, so you need to count to three.  There is apparently a hill you have to run up three times, only it’s not really a hill by Sheffield standards, more an undulation, but in the Donny context a hill it shall be.  I was discussing the ‘what constitutes a hill?’ with another cheery volunteer – possibly time-keeper, can’t remember.  He conceded those of us that are familiar with Graves parkrun wouldn’t really rank Doncaster parkrun as hilly, but warned that Barnsley parkrun has unexpectedly mean bumpiness too.  Good to know, I’m thinking of heading there for their 400th event celebrations and up until this point had been pretty complacent about the terrain.  Forewarned is forearmed!  That’s another story… maybe.

barnsley parkrun

Back at Donny parkrun, there was more milling and mingling as runners assembled in the rain – which was definitely easing, but I wasn’t yet ready to abandon my waterproof, I’m risk averse on the getting wet front, and as Cheetah buddy wasn’t around to wrestle my top off me on this occasion, there was no-one to save me from myself and my reluctance to disrobe pre run.

Then there was the mass run briefing, this included a warning about hidden holes and a request to pass on the right of the VI runner,  so you overtook her guide not her, to avoid spooking her on the way past.  Good point actually, I’d not thought of that.   We then had a little walk to the start, which was a little away from the finish funnel.  There was a mass trek over, it was all very companionable.   There was a high road and a low road to reach our destination, I took the high road.  Just about the time this was happening my WWYF had another friend rock up.  Her local parkrun was Wakefield, but she too was on the tourist trail.  Yay!  Love parkrun.  It’s amazing how long distant friendships flourish through the dual wonders of social media and parkrun. Which reminds me, shout out to Tralee parkrun, not too many sleeps left before I join you all for some international parkrun tourism.  Soooooooooooooooooooooooo excited! Point of information, Tralee parkrun have taken parkrun tourism to a whole new level.  International flight and coach trip to take a pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun anyone?

I digress.  I know, never happened before… where was I?  Oh yes, friends meeting up as parkrun tourists.  A vision of parkrun loveliness no doubt replicated at parkruns the world over.

We were all assembled, I was faffing, and slightly taken by surprise when the little start stampede indicated the shout had gone up for ‘awf!’ I was in bimbling-along-at-the-back mode though, happy to pootle about taking in the views and photos along the way.  I tell myself it’s because I’m still easing myself back into things post my first ever ultra of just a couple of weeks ago (have I mentioned that enough recently) but really it’s because I’m a minimalist when it comes to exerting myself running.  Reluctantly, I must concede that having a goal motivates me to try more, without one, my default setting is inert.  I need to re-frame my running goals and try a bit harder, but that can wait for another day.  Today was just about enjoying the moment.  Sorry the pictures are all blurred, but I haven’t quite got the hang of sliding to a full halt before pressing the button on the camera.  Ah well, it is what it is.  Still memories eh, and let’s be honest, many of the best memories get a bit blurred around the edges over time.  I’m just accelerating the process, which is ironic really, as it was the only noticeable acceleration I did en route all day.  Oh apart from… no, wait, that’s a spoiler.


Of everyone went, in the rain, and a quick circuit of the lake, and back round to the start where the posse of volunteers were to be seen huddled together for bodily warmth and solidarity.  Aren’t they lovely, like meerkats, snuggled up close, but checking out their surroundings alert, and ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

I loped along pretty much at the back.  It’s a nice course, because it’s three laps, you get to see other runners ahead at various points, which could be demoralising for some, but was photogenic.  You might think with it being three laps it might be a bit ‘samey’ but the route was surprisingly varied.  There was some on tarmac, some on the grassy edges of a football pitch, a more lumpy bit through, what seemed to be a mini orchard of some sort.  There was no opportunity to get lost as there were lots of wet but still smiling marshals, and an abundance of tape marking the course too.

Here are some marshals outwardly damp, but spirits within not dampened at all – the umbrella must have been a boon though, great forward planning there hi-viz hero:

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and here are some parkrunners doing their thing:

and here is the orchardy bit.  What do you reckon, fruit trees?

The park is pleasing, but weirdly, whatever direction you look out of it from you espy some sort of megastore.  Lidl, or KFC or MacDonalds all loom over the green space.   Best keep your eyes inwards.

Despite being a nesh southerner, even I started to get a bit warm after the first lap, and increasingly steamy thereafter.  If I’d had my wits about me I’d have ripped off my jacket and flung it on the bench by the finish tunnel (which you pass three times anyway) as I came by.  I was however on this occasion, witless, so this didn’t happen.  For future reference, I reckon this would have been a very fine unofficial bag-drop if you wanted to leave stuff in sight of the volunteers whilst you were off running.  Maybe I’m getting a bit lackadaisical about leaving my gear unattended at parkrun, but I’m fairly relaxed about dumping a bag at a parkrun start/finish these days.  At your own risk obviously, but I think bad experiences are rare.

I think it was second time round, an ice cream van appeared.  These northerners are tough!  Ice cream in the rain anyone?  Form a queue.

One disadvantage of a three-lap course, apart from the requirement to count and potential sameyness of it all, is that I got lapped even more quickly than usual on my home two-lap course at Hallam parkrun.  This can be demoralising sometimes, but here there was plenty of room for overtaking and also plenty of friendly shouts of encouragement from passing runners. Thank you lovely parkrun people.   A lot of evidence of adherence to the parkrun code, and respecting everybody’s right to participate in their own way.


This is a small but perfectly formed parkrun.  It was easy to strike up conversations with people, and everyone seemed friendly and approachable, I reckon if it was your regular home parkrun you’d soon get to know everyone whether you wanted to or not!  Thanks lovely Doncaster parkrunners, you were awesome!


Eventually, I was on my final lap and the finish funnel was in my sights!  There was a crack team of volunteers to cheer you in, and my WWYF was also in situ having come in a good 10 minutes before me.  Emboldened by their encouragement, I did the unthinkable dear reader, I accelerated for my sprint finish!  Yay, go me!

LC Doncaster sprint finish

Through the funnel, and I found I was only just behind the true parkrun first-timer (first time ever at parkrun I mean).  He was discussing the length of the course with one of the scanners.  Turns out he somehow ran 7.5 km instead of 5km.  I’m thinking he must have done an extra lap, but on the plus side, he’ll totally smash his pb next time out!  Hope he comes back.

The volunteer finish team of timers and funnel managers and scanners were sheltering under the trees.  It was like they had established a little colony of marshals.  Maybe they do live there all the time, I didn’t ask, and just venture out on a Saturday morning – maybe a Sunday too if there’s a junior parkrun, and foray further out to forage from the little orchard nearby only after dusk, when the park has emptied. Who knows.  They did look very much at home in there though.

I lingered to watch a couple of other runners come storming through, most managed to muster the energy for a final burst in response to the supportive cheers of the finish funnelers and timers.


Then there was more milling and chilling as parkrunners swapped running tales and caught up with friends old and new.

Our Wakefield buddy was having to take it easy due to a persistent running injury, but on the plus side, that meant we could both cheer her in when she appeared out of the mist a few minutes later.  Check out her sprint finish!  Also her leggings.  I might have legging envy, though they’d most likely look a bit ridiculous on me.

Reunited, there was just time for me to photograph the climbing frogs, which might not be frogs actually, but ought to be.  They look more like mutant lobsters close up, which I think is a missed opportunity for climbing hold designs personally:


We said some farewells, and then it was mission on for post parkrun coffee.

Now, I can’t lie, this parkrun has many merits, but the coffee connoisseurs amongst you should look away now.  We adjourned to the cafe, and bumped into other friendly parkrunners – including the guy I’d met at the start, who was now in disguise having removed his coat, but asked me how we’d got on, so that was good.  I’d promised to get coffee for my WWYF in lieu of petrol money.  Reader, it was ugly.  I think if you were after a massive breakfast fry up the cafe would not disappoint, but for coffee, well, I’m just saying it knocked Rother Valley coffee into second place  for the recognition of ‘worst post-parkrun coffee offering yet encountered’, securing for itself the hard-fought for top spot.  Yep, truly it did.


On the plus side, it made immaterial my erroneous inclusion of chocolate sprinkles on my companion’s cappuccino, that was the least of her worries quite frankly.

We actually abandoned ship, and went in search of other options.  Not knowing the area, there wasn’t an abundance of obvious alternatives. Somewhat in desperation we crossed the road to KFC, which felt weird, as a vegetarian, I can’t think when I’ve ever set foot in one of those.  In the event, we achieved the, not unremarkable, feat of accidentally getting caught up in the drive in service road as we were unable to find the entrance.  Honestly, it’s no wonder I worry about navigation on the hills. Then we found the place didn’t open until 10.30 anyway, and then a helpful member of staff came out to tell us they might not be opening at all, due to a leak or something.  Oh.

Given my navigational skills, and the fact I was but a passenger on this occasion, I outsourced the decision-making for where to go instead to my more insightful companions.  They made a good team – see how well they are plotting together here:


The upshot was, we ended up heading towards a Costa, which ended up being hidden within a massive NEXT outlet in another sprawling retail park.  It wasn’t the most spectacular of surroundings, but at least I was able to uphold my end of the bargain with respect to coffee procurement.  Phew.

So we concluded our exploits by swapping running tales and bonding over our mutual coffee snobbery.

It was the first time for all three of us at Doncaster parkrun today. The conclusion was unexpectedly nice park, friendly people, let down by coffee.  Yes, yes, we are shallow. Sorry.

Thank you though, for your hospitality and the warmth of your welcome.  It was grand to spend a morning with you fine Doncaster people and get to see your hill.  Hope to see you out and about on the tourist trail again somewhere sometime (but probably 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday) someplace in future.  Those parkrun tourist ticks are just itching to be made…

Love parkrun.

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

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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