Digested read: went to Lyme park parkrun, it was delightful, thank you for asking.
Yes, you do get dizzy with delight at the beauty of it all, but you might also feel a bit dizzy with less than delight if you set off too fast up that hill at the start. More of this later. Let’s start at the very beginning, as that’s well-known as being a very good place to start.
Lyme Park parkrun has been on my parkrun ‘to do’ list for ages and ages. I did toy with the idea of doing it for my 200th run, but didn’t in the end, for reasons I can’t be bothered to elaborate on. I felt like it ought to be saved for a special occasion, given the rave reports that echo outwards from its epicentre of parkrun gloriousness. It’s beauty is legendary, the steepness of its start a marvel even to those of us who hail from Sheffield and think we know all about hilly parkruns, and the post run coffee options classy – it’s hosted at the National Trust property Lyme Park after all. Also, a one-lapper, my favourite type of run, and they are few and far between. What’s not to like? The only down side is that it’s also quite a long way for me, and not really a route to drive in winter, well not for the lily-livered likes of me at least, so you have to pick the right day to go. You can do this by ripping the innards out of a chicken and consulting The Oracle – not the premier Berkshire shopping destination, but the one at Delphi, which I understand has a more reliable track record in predicting the future depending on what you make of the ancient classics. If like me, you don’t live in Greece and are vegetarian anyway, as an alternative you can just check the weather forecast on the BBC website. Whatever, for me the weather forecast runes looked good. Even so, heading off to Lyme Park parkrun this morning was a bit of a last-minute call. My running is so lamentable at the moment I feel more comfortable heading off to new parkruns where I can run (I use the term loosely) without any pressure by being anonymous. I did consider going to Penistone parkrun, which had its inaugural today, but then felt they may prefer a low profile start – they don’t seem to have a Facebook page as yet, so I took that to mean they might be trying to stay under the radar – also, no loos at Penistone, maybe I should work on my pelvic floor for a bit before making the pilgrimage to that one, so all in all, I’ll save that for another time. Last night, I just decided, ‘why not Lyme Park parkrun?’ and why not indeed? (rhetorical question, there is no reason why not at all that could keep me from it!) I charged up my sat nav and laid out my cow cowl in eager anticipation. I would make it so.
I had a terrible night’s sleep. I have completely lost the ability to slumber it seems. If I could choose a super power it would be to be able to sleep at will. Oh well, on the plus side, at least I was wide awake from about 4.00 a.m. so no worries about running late in the morning, only about actually potentially being expected to run, though parkrun is for all of course, walk, run, jog or – as in my case – walk/run/gaze about taking photos – all welcome.
Up, porridge, tea, arm out of the upstairs window revealed it was blooming cold, and blinking out there was actual frost on the grass and even ice on the car’s rear windscreen! Well, I didn’t order that. There was also the most glorious pink sunrise and a sky full of promise for a bright sunshiney day. Hurrah!
The drive out to Lyme Park was beyond stunning. I’ve been away from the Peaks for a while lately, and it’s ages since I’ve headed out through Hathersage, Hope and beyond to Winnats Pass. Before I even got that far I thought my head would explode with the fabulousness of the views. It was just stunning, completely perfect in morning sunshine. I couldn’t capture it on film, but that didn’t stop me pulling over and having a bash
you had to be there really. The light was perfect. It was hard not to be distracted by the scenery, it made me long to get back out and explore these fantastic open spaces we are so lucky to have on our doorstep from Sheffield. Not today though, today I was passing on through. When I got to Winnats Pass I thought my heart would burst. I remember the first time I discovered this place, after relocating to Sheffield and I could hardly process what an extraordinary landscape was unfolding in front of me, it’s beyond comprehension really, when you see it without any advance warning, but even now I know what’s coming it remains amazing. When I was driving back home later on this morning along the same route, there was a car coming up the other way and whilst the driver was resolutely focused on the road ahead, the passengers were lent out of the car windows at waist height, brandishing their mobile phones like tourists on safari, compelled to remain in their vehicle but desperate to capture on film the astonishing and unbelievable vision of the landscape in front of them. Africa may have its lions, but the Peak District has geography to make your eyes pop just as much. Go see for yourself.
It was a bit heart thumping going up it in my little automatic car though. I always worry it won’t quite make it up the hill, to be fair, this wasn’t the only time today I worried my carcass would never reach the summit of a steep incline. Worth it though, on all occasions. And I did make it too.
I drove past the heading off point for Mam Tor – not been there since the Mend Our Mountains sojourn, must get out and do that romp again in daylight this time. Not my picture, but if you want a taster, this is what it looked like in the setting sun – not too shabby eh? Not my photo, obvs. Embarrassingly, I’m not sure who took it, think it was an ‘official’ one. Thanks lovely photographer for sharing, whoever you were.
It was a bit over an hour to get to Lyme Park, and it was very straightforward, apart from me being a scaredy-cat on the steep hills. I wouldn’t attempt driving there in icy conditions. There is a sharp, but well-signed turning off the A6, and you go through some incredibly grand gates that will either make you feel you were – or should have been – born for this, or that you are trespassing. I felt like I was trespassing.
and that pic isn’t even the proper gate, but the extra mini one after you’ve turned off. The drive to the actual house goes on for miles and miles, literally, not just metaphorically. Top tip, if you are being dropped off for this parkrun, don’t wave away your ride cheerily at the gatehouse saying ‘it’s fine, I’ll walk from here‘ unless you are either a speedy and experienced ultra runner, or don’t mind delaying your Lyme Park parkrun until the following Saturday, you’d never make it to the start line in time.
I chugged down the driveway, and then there’s a little hut, where, once the park is officially open, you’d presumably have to stop and pay for parking. I’m not sure from when to be fair, but I was there about 8.30 ish and just cruised on by. Looked like if you were paying, it was cash only and right money preferred.
Onwards, the park is jaw-droppingly lovely. I did pick the most gorgeous weather imaginable to attend though, the light backlit the trees and landscape spectacularly. I kept having to pause and wave my camera hopefully through the car windows to try and get some shots. Poor substitute for being there I know, but will give you a flavour of it perhaps?
There were hidden treasures lurking, mysterious towers on the horizon, tempting paths, weaving up through trees and over hills. Yep, so far the reports of the loveliness of Lyme would seem not to have been exaggerated.
Finally, there is the house on the left, a kiosk, a scattering of hi-vis, and a pleasingly empty car park – though of course that meant I had to do the ‘where is the best place to park dance’ which is quite complicated and references my indecisiveness a bit too authentically. It’s factoring in how to get out later on when it’s full, as well as which is the best space to secure when empty. A complex equation I find. You will either relate to this or not. If you do, then your heart will bleed for me, too much choice, too challenging to decide, if you do not, then you will have to learn to live on with that sense of genuine bewilderment and incomprehension. I guess it’s like those puzzles which say can you see the elephant or whatever in this image and you either can or can’t and if you can’t it’s just beyond belief anyone sees otherwise. This isn’t an elephant though:
Actually, strictly speaking, it isn’t a duck or a rabbit either. You do know your art history I take it? This is not a pipe either….
Glad we’ve cleared that up. Anyway, need to crack on, you’ll be wanting to know about the parkrun and I’m nowhere near describing that yet. Once parked, I went over to where the Run Director and team were gathered, adjacent to a closed refreshment kiosk and some parkrun arrows yet to be put into place to check out what was what.
I established the star and finish were in different places, and that you could – depending on the RD – potentially leave a coat to be taken to the finish, though I decided to leave mine in the car in the end. Most importantly of all, I was directed to the loos. Just as I had thought my heart would burst from the beauty of the landscape en route to the event, now I’d arrived I thought my bladder would burst from the litres of tea I’d quaffed pre-departure. Fortunately, the National Trust have lots of loos. Hurrah!
They also had helpful signage about alternative names for dandelions, who knew? And a lake. And a tea rooms, and a National Trust gift shop, yet to open.
Phew, much relief. Slight panic when I thought I’d picked a cubicle without loo paper, but worry not, it actually had not one, but two toilet roll dispensers, presumably to cater for exactly this eventuality – I do love National Trust hosted running events! I saw there was a Trust 10k sign up by the lake, so presume there is a Lyme Park Trust10, that would be epic!
Precautionary pee satisfactorily executed, I was able to have a bit of an amble about and check out my surroundings. Great selection of warning signs here – is it reassuring or alarming to know the tail walker has radio contact with HQ in case of emergency? Just not sure… and don’t get me started on the BE CAREFUL OUT THERE! It is bad for the nerves! I nearly had to go back for a second precautionary pee because of all the anticipatory excitement! Didn’t though. Need to practise running with my legs crossed in case I make it to Penistone.
There were enthusiastic – or possibly lost – runners doing warm up loops, and marshals were heading out to their designated clapping and directional pointing spots, the event team were milling and coordinating and going about the busy and important tasks that keep the parkrun show on the proverbial road. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear one of them at least was in possession of a clipboard, that’s how busy and important they looked! Friendly and welcoming too though, you’ll be glad but unsurprised to hear, it is the parkrun way 🙂 .
As 9.00 a.m. drew near, people started to migrate towards the starting gate, which was at the bottom of a rather upward flat section. Gulp. The gathering commenced.
Now would probably be a good time to describe the course to you, as it’s a well known fact I can’t talk and run at the same time, so it’ll be hard for me to properly tell you about it once I get going. The Lyme Park parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:
Course Description – Breathtaking. Literally!
Lyme Park parkrun begins towards the back of the main car park – the open gate marking the start line. The first uphill section (almost exactly 800m) is tough, narrow and loose under foot, however your perseverance will immediately be rewarded as you pass through a second open gate into the woods, which is rich in colour, but more importantly, flat! As you pass under the trees and along this next section, you will reach a second open gate where you should turn 90 degrees to your left. This narrow trail runs parallel with the park wall and is gently undulated and highlighted with small crossing streams. Glance to your right and you may be treated to your first deer sighting. At the end of this section, turn left again, through a third open gate and run straight ahead, passing the archery field on your right and through the final open gate. Please take extra care at this short part of the run, as you pass the staff car park on your left. Bear round to the right and follow the road until you spot the first large stone, turning left as you reach it, and head towards Lyme Park’s Cage. This huge open space with spectacular panoramic views of Manchester and beyond, will almost certainly give you perspective, and take your mind away from any aches or pains. Pass to the right of the Cage and head downwards over a rocky path, taking care to lift your feet on this loose (and unforgiving) terrain. As the path blends into the grass, it becomes very slippery and ends with a sharp turn to the left. Marshals will be ready to catch you at the bottom! Dig deep for this last section, a gradual incline awaits up to the finish line, a few hundred feet in front of the house, and in perfect situ to head off for a well-earned breakfast at the Timber Yard Coffee Shop
and it looks like this:
and Strava tells me that there is 496 feet of elevation, which doesn’t sound too bad to be fair, but in the doing of this parkrun, I did think I might bleed from my eyes at some point, so be warned.
Assembled, next thing was the run briefing. Milestones various were acknowledged, this seemed a friendly parkrun with regular runners cheering each others various achievements. There was just the one celebrity runner, the Incredible Hulk, something must have made him mad as he was in his green, bulked up form, but fair does to him, whatever else he might have to contend with, the Hulk doesn’t skip leg days when working out. Good work.
It was a brief briefing, and a refreshingly quiet and attentive parkrun crowd – though maybe they were saving their breath for that upward flat section starting out… and then it was awf, and awf we went, some with more enthusiasm than others!
You can’t really tell from the pictures, but the start is a bit of a shock. It’s a steep climb upwards for about 800 metres. You would get super fit if this was your regular parkrun. Spoiler alert, I failed to run all the way up the hill. I like to think this was because I was wanting to pause for photos en route, but I am well-known for harbouring self-serving delusions. Don’t mock me, it is this delusional thinking that allows me to return to parkrun week after week. A fair few people did opt to power walk as well, perhaps this is a known and legitimate run craft strategy and not a cop-out at all? Yes. I like to think it is, therefore henceforth, that is what it shall be. Strategy in action. Go us, but slowly, to save ourselves for the more forgiving inclines and genuinely flat bits!
There weren’t a massive amount of marshals on the course, it doesn’t really need that many, you can’t get lost, but the cheery support was welcome. I’d swear some of those marshals had the super-power of teleportation though, as they seemed to Pop up more than once along the way. Canny lot the Lyme Park parkrun crew…. Here are some, in all their glorious loveliness:
So you go up a gravely roady bit, and through a foresty bit, and emerge onto a moorland bit and it undulates up and down and the views are a.maz.ing. FACT. I was, as ever, in the fun factory that is the rear of the pack. There were a fair few juniors embracing the event, which was quite motivating, as if they can do it on their little legs, I can do it on my little legs too. Granted, they aren’t carrying the same tonnage, but equally, they have less idea of what they have signed up to. Maybe ignorance is indeed bliss sometimes, it’s so hard to be sure…
This is definitely one of the toughest parkruns I’ve done to date, but also one of the most beautiful. It would probably be quite brutal in snow and ice, but it was blooming lovely today, despite it being pretty nippy out. After a bit, you are directed off to cake!
Oh hang on, no, not cake, cage. Rookie error. I have no idea why the folly, or castle or cage or whatever it is. A hunting lodge according to google…. it does look a bit like the Tower or London, and to be honest, it wouldn’t have surprised me at all to learn we’d run that far as it was hard going up that hill, as well as being pretty breezy up top! Still, you are rewarded with the most amazing views, and it’s amazing what you can put up with given an incentive like that to keep on going.
Past the cage, and there was a lovely down hill where you could be an aeroplane if you wished on the way down. More marshals were in position by trees and with a succession of rather cute canine companions. There was also a high vis clad horse rider, I’m thinking that was just a coincidence, rather than a crowd control measure unique to Lyme whereby they have a mounted marshal/police presence just to be on the safe side.
The downhill bit continues, and then you have to curve round towards the left towards the final finish stretch (don’t get too excited, it goes up again before going down). Here, I induced panic in the marshal at his station, as I veered to the right to get a shot of him in situ leading him to think there was a navigational emergency unfolding before his very eyes. He shouted and waved at me with not a little desperation. It’s good to know marshals take their directional pointing responsibilities so seriously, thank you my hi-vis friends for your vigilance as well as diligence on course today! Also, in my humble opinion, best bobble hat of the morning too, although that award brings with it only kudos, no other acknowledgement as such, you’ll have to make do with the warm glow of recognition I’m afraid.
Once I’d cornered successfully, it was past the plastic cone mine (or possibly resting place, I’m not sure).
On the summit behind, you could just make out the tail walkers and marshals standing down from their posts:
ahead, parkrunners ran on, the finish funnel within their reach…
and just when your morale was beginning to sap, a further sign of encouragement, literal as well as metaphorical – I do love it when parkruns have their own personalised signs, it’s cheering!
and even better, it was actually true! You are nearly there, just a few metres round the corner, the finish funnel came into view, and you run into the warm embrace of a flurry of timers and funnel managers and finish token giver outers and barcode scanners. Hurrah!
and so it ends.
I lingered to watch the tail come in – didn’t have to linger very long to be fair…
and you know what was especially heartwarming, to see the hi vis heroes jumping for joy. And why not, volunteering at parkrun is fab fun. Didn’t quite get him airborne, but this picture potentially has more comedic value, so every cloud eh? Just realised, do those plastic cones match the bobble hat stripes? Methinks they might.
and that was that.
Lyme Park parkrun done.
I ambled back to the car, trying to get some atmospheric pics en route, along with the obligatory slightly awkward selfie. Where is Smiley Selfie Queen when I need her?
We definitely had the best part of the day for the run, as it was getting decidedly nippy by this point. As it was a long drive back, I stopped off at the cafe for a veggie egg and sausage sandwich and a latte. Service was friendly but slow, presumably because they had to go and get a hen to lay an egg for me before they could cook it. However, that was fine, as queuing is an impromptu opportunity for parkrun socialising. I met a fell devil runner who is also doing Round Sheffield Run in a few weeks time – note to self, I should train for that probably, and also was able to see the RD again, and marvel about the wonders of the Lyme Park venue, which I could confirm in person, most definitely had lived up to its most excellent reputation. It is definitely ‘undulating’ though, and I run in Sheffield. Just saying.
Mind you, it’s not as tough as the Marathon des Sables, and a dog just finished that, so perhaps we can all do more than we realise if we are but motivated enough, and we runners are mightily easily led by the prospect of a fine bit of bling… This is most certainly a dog that’s finally had its day!
It really is exceedingly fine. You should try it sometime. Best try to manage your expectations about the stately home actually levitating on the lake though, I mean it is very spectacular indeed, but there are limits.
So once again, thank you parkrunners and parkfunners all in general and Lyme Park parkrunners in particular. It was reet nice oot. I’d love to come back some time soon.
For all my parkrun related posts click here. Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’. Hmm.
Happy running in general and parkrunning in particular until next time. I wonder what parkrun delights next Saturday will bring.