Digested read: went to Brierley Forest parkrun for a bit of parkrun tourism. It snowed! It was very nice though thank you for asking. Would recommend. Wear big warm pants in winter though.
The unabridged version:
I know I’m only a nesh southerner, but really, snow? In October? Lucky for this (almost) Halloween I was shrouded (see what I’ve done there?) in the warm embrace of a new parkrun or I’d never have made it home alive. Well, ok, that might be a teeny bit of an exaggeration, but honestly only a teeny-weeny bit – I’d most definitely never have made it out of the house to go for a run otherwise, which amounts to the same thing on a Saturday. Because, after all, what is a Saturday for, if it is not for parkrun? parkrun, and making new friends – pretty much synonymous to be fair.
There are lots of ways to make new friends if you engage in a bit of proactivity it’s true. Well, maybe not quite forever friends straight off, but social interaction on the path to that outcome certainly. One way is to randomly accost people trying to have a quiet coffee on a bench and use your charms so you can join them, direct approaches work best (go mum!). #itsgoodtotalk indeed!
Another approach is just to rock up at any parkrun and start with a slightly awkward smile as a precursor to parkrun small talk and then you’re in. Or your money back! What do these displays of brilliance have in common? Why dear reader, parkrun of course! It’s a FACT (albeit one I’ve not actually been able to provide a statistical evidence base for, but just has to be true based on my subjective personal experience – or ‘ethnographic research’ if you prefer) that people who are involved in parkrun are more likely to be pathologically friendly and receptive to approaches from other people involved in parkrun than the population as a whole. Actually, I am of the view that most people are friendly if you approach them, even non parkrunners, but that doesn’t work quite so well as the premise for this post, so hey ho, bit of creative licence here – ‘bear with, bear with’. Most people are nice, or try to be. But parkrun people are extra so.
Also, I can’t work out how to do the Venn diagram, but I’m sure you can grasp the general idea. Case in point, today whilst my mum was hobnobbing with the deer and celebrities and parkfunners in all their many and glorious manifestations in Bushy Park, I was shivering in the warm and welcoming company of Brierley Forest parkrunners.
I’m getting ahead of myself though.
My regular reader will know, if they’ve been paying attention, I’ve been really struggling with my running lately. Can’t be bothered to explain why, but in an attempt to counter this, and rediscover my love of running (it’s complicated), I thought I’d ring some parkrun changes. Take the pressure off by heading off to a new place for some parkrun tourism and just romp round anonymously, taking pictures and taking in the view. What’s not to like.
I settled on Brierley parkrun because it’s definitely a doable distance from Sheffield, in fact it only took about 40 minutes to get there, but of course I didn’t believe that so left at stupid o-clock this morning. It was still dark when I ventured out the house:
It was freezing stepping out the door. The roads were clear, and the sky too. At one point a load of birds – gulls maybe – flew across the moon in a great swarm, back-lit they looked like a load of bats heading out or heading home, who knows? Very spectacular. It’s worth getting out early sometimes, the world looks difference in the silence pre dawn.
The drive was easy, and I arrived at Brierley Forest just after 8.00. There were loads of parking places, so many I got confused about where to pull up (doesn’t take much to be fair).
I then had a bit of a panic. I’d been asking some fellow parkrunners (hello Monday Mobsters) from my home parkrun at Sheffield Hallam for some tourist ideas and they mentioned this run and one other. One doesn’t have toilets for a pre parkrun precautionary pee, the other does. They couldn’t remember which was which and nor could I. This is the problem with getting advice from well-meaning fellow parkrunners, their opinions are all well and good, but sometimes the omission of detail is near ruinous. York parkrun I recall definitely lacks loos. Good to know. Only the most slender of parkrunners would manage a surreptitious pee behind one of the racecourse railings, it’s a no-go area for me then. Back to Brierley Forest though – curses, this could yet turn out to be my WORST NIGHTMARE EVER! On the plus side, I was early and there were seemingly plenty of al fresco options for the desperate/ disinhibited, so all was not lost.
Time for an explore. It’s grand going to new places. I didn’t know anything at all about this one before I arrived, other than the post code to get there which by the way is if using SATNAV, NG17 2PL. It helped maybe that the autumn colours were at their finest, but this is a wood that has been lovingly sculpted. There were well-marked trails, including – drum roll – parkrun signs! Not seen them before. I mean permanent ones, hang on…
there you go. This parkrun isn’t going anywhere.
Then there was a lovingly put together adventure playground with obstacles to climb over, swing on or run across. Some cool woodland sculptures,
Then there was a rather moving wooden memorial in commemoration of the five miners who died in the 1957 Sutton Colliery (Brierley Pit) disaster and in tribute to all those who worked at the colliery 1872 to 1989.
Aside from being a parkrun venue, the Brierley Forest site has a pretty interesting history. This site has been dug, and hewn and reshaped over the years.
The trees were good, though disappointingly, I couldn’t find any acorns, I’m on a quest to find a really good one, still in its little egg cup cover. None to be found here.
I did find something else though. Hit the veritable jackpot with these:
There was a mobile catering van outside the very shut looking visitors centre. I got chatting with the woman running it, to find out about post run veggie options (more of this later) and asked her about loos. She directed me to the adjacent visitors’ centre. It wasn’t locked. What’s more, it was spotlessly clean and roasty toasty warm with toilet paper and running water and everything. Phew, crisis averted. I always feel better for my precautionary pee.
This was definitely fast becoming my new favourite parkrun – all needs catered for:
Here is the visitors’ centre, and the adjacent mobile catering outlet in case you are wondering what they looked like. I don’t think they were doing curries at that time in the morning, but then again, I didn’t enquire. They were doing hot drinks and hot baps from about 8.00 a.m. It seems they were not there exclusively for parkrunners, but dog-walkers, people fishing and other day trippers too.
I did a bit of exploring, and found the hi-vis heroes out in force, setting up the course. This parkrun doesn’t have volunteers, it has voluncheers instead, apparently. Aren’t they lovely and particularly photogenic to boot?
This wasn’t the only genius innovation though. They also mark up their course markers like this:
Clever eh? No wondering every single week if you are carrying the right number of signs out with you for the course set up. It seemed a well oiled machine in action, with hi-vis voluncheers marching purposefully about.
It was still early, so I temporarily retreated back to the relative warmth of my car until a few more people had assembled. I do like it when people make an effort at parkrun, and a quartet duly arrived who I assumed, had done just that. So much so that I asked to take their photos:
I congratulated them for making an effort with their fancy dress – only to be completely mortified to discover they weren’t in fancy dress at all, but had come straight from work! Oh no, I quickly stammered out something unconvincing about meaning ‘making an effort by coming in uniform’ but not sure I quite pulled it off. Shame, not a crowd to get the wrong side of I’m guessing.
More milling and chilling. I love watching people gather at parkrun, the coming together of people for a common purpose, familiar and yet unfamiliar. Familiar, because the same characters are at every parkrun, and unfamiliar because, well, not been here before, so all new!
The chilling was very literal. I could have sworn I got a dusting of ice from the sky at one point. There was cheery herding of first timers to the first timers briefing, we assembled, and then yes, actual snow fell. Quite a lot of it. Not just a little bit of ‘is it or isn’t it’ wintry showers, but full on, proper snow. That was most unexpected.
It was quite exciting in a way, but mostly very, very cold. Still, made for an adventure I suppose. And I probably didn’t feel it quite as much as the poor guy who was a tourist runner from Vermont, who was wearing shorts, a brave choice I felt. Wonder if he’s done the Barkley Marathons too?
Glad to see some tourists – more than that treasured cow cowl sporters had also made an effort for the season. I wished I’d been able to find my halloween deely-boppers from a couple of years ago, but have a feeling they ended up with a friend in Bangladesh (long story). I wonder how you train a spider to hang on like that? Also, I wonder if it helps keep your head warm. I’d consider an arthropod as a companion animal if that was the case, I was rather regretting not having my woolly hat out with me this morning.
First timers briefed. Included in our number were a couple of completely new to parkrun people. That’s always exciting. They might be on the cusp of something new. How their lives might change from hereon in. Or not. The snow wasn’t maybe the most enticing of welcomes…
Into the melee for the run directors briefing. The RD had a somewhat evangelical presence in his delivery. I have to say though, this was the noisiest run briefing I’ve ever been too. I seemed to be surrounded by people seemingly chatting extra loudly so they could hear themselves over the to them irritatingly noisy RD. I was quite shocked actually, how rude. If they really didn’t want to listen they could have at least stood further away. I even asked a few to ‘maybe keep it down’ – which is extreme behaviour from me as normally the most I’ll do faced with such anti-social behaviour is direct an ineffectual Paddington Bear Stare. The provocation here was extreme though. The shouters paused just long enough to look at me like I was mad before carrying on shouting at one another. This is clearly their parkrun ‘normal’. Pity the poor run director faced with that. Obviously, I then felt uncomfortable for having even tried, not the done thing here. I really hope today wasn’t typical though. Being quiet for 4 minutes for the briefing isn’t a lot to ask when the
volunteers voluncheers have given up so much time for a parkrun to happen surely. Junior parkunners are way more attentive than this crowd, and many of them are only four at Graves junior anyway! #itsgoodtotalkbutnotduringtherdbriefingatparkrun
That was it, before we knew it we were awf…
Oh hang on, you probably want to know the official course blah de blah, here it is from the Brierley Forest parkrun site:
An undulating 2 lap course set in the grounds of Brierley Forest Park. The course is clearly marked with directional arrows.
The start is located close to the Brierley Forest Visitors Centre. From the start runners head North East for approximately 1KM. From there arrows will direct through a small S bend onto an access road where a marshal will be present. From here runners will continue forward onto the Brierley Branch for approximately 250 metres before heading back onto Brierley Park heading South West following the path to the pond. At approximately 1800metres follow an arrow taking you around the left of the pond, through the trees back onto a straight path towards the finish.
Before the finish, turn right following the path of trees towards the visitors centre and past for approximately 170m back onto the second loop of the course and head straight on to the finish.
My version is though, two loops, basically flat, through woods and on tarmac/ compacted gravel trails. It was very scenic. I was inadvertently caught up in the middle of the throng as we set off, but it was all very good-natured. This parkrun has an excellent vibe. The route is lovely. Through trees, past a lake, a few turns means you don’t always see other runners ahead but sometimes there are glimpses of them over the horizon.
There weren’t many marshals on the course as such, but there were loads of arrows, no chance of getting lost. Also, another fine innovation, their marshal points are named in honour of presumably, some of Brierley Forest parkrun’s finest. Check these signs out.
Especially heart-warming is the correct use of the apostrophe. Such a relief. This is what my mum needs for Elisabeth’s Corner. Only a matter of time, surely.
Other hi-vis heroes a-plenty, and especially impressive as it was cold enough that I’m sure a few of them must have had bits freeze and fall off, law of averages, a few would be sacrificed for the many… The more wily amongst them had bought steaming hot flasks and other provisions. Impressive forward planning methinks!
I did my usual leisurely trundle along at the back, only it was so cold I could feel my lungs freezing every time I inhaled. I had to stop periodically to photograph the sights and delights along the route, even doing a detour to take in the dragon egg. Well, rude not too, and it isn’t something you see everyday now is it?
You can see my little dragon’s egg detour on my strava if you like:
You’re welcome. 🙂
It’s a two lap course, so you have to look longingly at the finish funnel and sprint on by. All very well laid out though, no danger of going astray.
I enjoyed my yomp at the back. I wasn’t quite last, but nearly. The tail walker was way behind me though, I think that someone had come and just done one lap, which is fair enough, but meant the tail walker then had to put a wiggle on to catch up with the next runner. Always a risk in that role!
I’m slow, and so it was quiet round me, I was always in sight of other runners, but very much had my own space. It was a nice change to do a run that was a lot quieter than my home run, which obviously I feel loyal too, but no-one can deny that Sheffield Hallam parkrun is now consistently on the ‘snug’ side in terms of crowds.
I was relieved when I finally came back round to the finish. I even put on – what is by my standards at least – a bit of a sprint finish. Didn’t start it too early for fear of collapsing ahead of the timers and having to crawl in like that poor Japanese relay runner with her broken leg! Not a good look. I’m not that dedicated, I’m just scared they’ll either move the finish funnel further away, or start dismantling it before I get there if I don’t get a wiggle on in the final few metres.
That was it, all done! Loads of volunteers on the funnel, time keeping, funnel managing and generally providing solidarity with the final few finishers. Loving your work Brierley Forest Voluncheers. I thank you.
I waited for the tailwalker to come through, complete with an entourage clad in hi-vis and clutching course signs and tape stripped from the route as she passed.
and soon that was that, parkrun binned for another week…
Just time for obligatory post parkrun selfies
Goodbye Brierley Forest parkrun people, hope to be back sometime summertime.
Time to go in search of post parkrun breakfast options. Now, the official delegation was heading through the car parks to the golf club which has catering options apparently. However, I felt should honour my promise to the mobile caterer who’d promised a veggie option in a bap earlier on.
I passed by the officious sign about not leaving your horse unattended – lucky I didn’t have Roger with me this week, though actually, he’d have been fine, he’s very well-behaved… Mostly retired now though. Presume Geronimo would have been ok.
Returning to the mobile catering van was a good move. It was very social, as I met a couple of other parkrun tourists who were playing a sort of mild version of Top Trump parkrun tourism having visits to Malmo parkrun and one of the Florida ones respectively. The Florida one was not recommended – 100% humidity and ridiculously hot. An adventure, and an impressive addition to the tourism tally for sure, but to be that sticky at 7.30 a.m. doesn’t sound grand. ‘I’ve done Bridlington – does that count?‘ chipped in Cob-woman*. This would have won, undoubtedly, except it wasn’t true. Shame. I hope Bridlington does have a parkrun- hang on, will google…
Yes! It does, dear reader I give you Sewerby parkrun. It’s on my hit list!
The veggie cob option was basically gluten, and it came in a tin like this – not the most appetising in appearance to be fair:
But you know what, with onions and mushrooms it was really unexpectedly good. Also a bargain, coming it at £3.50 for that and a large coffee too. I say cob*, but by instinct I would call it a bap though strictly speaking I think a Sheffielder would say it was a breadcake. Confusing. I think we can agree based on the signage, that this is best taken as cobs courtesy therefore of cob-woman, which if it isn’t yet a wildly recognised super hero should be henceforth.
The parkrunner was parent of the fancy dress children previously identified. ‘Where are they, have you left them in the wood?’ I enquired, having noted their absence. ‘They are a devil-witch and a zombie, they can look after themselves, they’ll be fine!’ she quipped back. They could indeed, having found sanctuary in the warmth of the semi-operational visitors’ centre.
I sat and ate my seitan cob/bap/breadcake and found out a bit more about life at Brierley Forest from my two companions. The pond bailiff who was having his daily sausage cob fix, and the woman in charge of the catering -today’s superhero Cobwoman. It seems she is taking over the centre when it reopens in a few weeks time. Sounds really good. She will be opening in evenings as well, the park are also putting up some lights, and rebuilding an access road to the cafe and park. a lot of care and investment has gone into the place. It seemed brim full of optimism. Definitely one to come back to.
Thanks for the welcome new best friends for the day:
Seitan bap eaten, coffee drunk, farewells said, that was that. I was quite sad to be going.
The verdict? Yeah, would definitely recommend this parkrun, super friendly – thanks to all that made it so. Very scenic, good facilities, not so keen on the snow but then again, that makes it all the more memorable does it not. Even a choice of loos. There was a sort of container with an outdoorsy loo as well, but I got the upgrade for being cheeky. Good to know. Lovely autumn colours too, catch them while you can, nights are drawing in from tomorrow…
So more parkrun love tomorrow at Graves junior, so excited. Will there be snow?
Don’t worry about snow though people, especially if you life in Shropshire. Gritty McGritface is on it! Just shows, it’s an ill wintry shower that brings nobody any good!
Addendum. There was no snow at Graves Junior parkrun. It was beautiful out there. As usual I set out the course on arrival, but unusually, the skill and judgement I used in putting up the tape by the lake and strategic placement of a hi-viz tabard on the pillar hazard at the turn were captured on film. Hurrah! Well, on digital upload whatsamajig which amounts to the same thing. Also, a fine duck. Gotta love a duck, as I’m sure you know. Enjoy!
Also, best overheard comment of the morning (the juniors run through an animal park which includes llamas FYI) ‘how big would the wings need to be on a llama, for it to be able to fly?‘ Great question. Testimony to the meditative potential that is realised through participation in parkrun.
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and for spooky halloween themed events click here – scroll down for older entries.
Happy parkrunning til next time. Feel the parkrun love and joy!