I took that photo by the way, it was supposed to capture the moment that everyone jumped in the air, I have no idea if I was early or late, but the important thing is that the person who instigated this picture was satisfied it caught the RD crouching in a slightly bizarre fashion, which pleased them. Good enough for me. The snap is something of a spoiler for where my decision making processes took me, but hey ho, didn’t Brecht himself signpost how his dramas were to unfold, removing the fourth wall and all that, and it just served to intensify the understanding of the world as it is, all good. I’m basically creating my own new art form here. Admittedly a niche movement only I understand, but you have to start somewhere.
Where was I? Oh yes, parkrun day eve but where to go?
So many parkruns so little time. Did you know, that at the time of writing there are 775 parkrun events just in the UK, and if you are able to go outside our borders there are EVEN MORE to choose from. 1840 or thereabouts. That’s an incredible amount of options. Speaking as someone who is quite prone to having a panic attack, due to being overwhelmed with choice, even if just having to choose a parking space in an empty carpark, it can sometimes seem almost paralysing. All parkruns are uniquely lovely in their own way, but even in a lifetime of parkrundays you aren’t ever going to get around them all, so you have to choose wisely. There are no wrong choices as such, but then again, there are some parkrun locations you really don’t want to miss out on. Bushy parkrun is clearly one such, and it seems there are others!
My parkrun choices are compromised somewhat at the moment as I can’t run anymore and can be a bit wobbly so I need to choose parkruns that are walker friendly and have reasonably predictable terrain to avoid faceplanting en route, or worse still, toppling into another parkrunner and creating a domino effect through the whole field. I mean, of course parkrun is inclusive, and on the whole event teams and participants unconditionally lovely, but everyone has a tipping point. Or strictly speaking multiple tipping points in the case of a toppling running creating a Mexican wave of faceplants across the whole parkrun route. Just imagine the incident related paper work! Yep, I reckon creating on course carnage could be one such scenario that would wave goodbye to goodwill…. I am based in Sheffield so wanted one not too far away, one I’ve not done before and one that has reasonable terrain. Hmm, still loads to pick from. I was dithering, until a little thought buried in the back of my mind pushed through to the service. Hang on a moment, isn’t Wollaton Hall where batman lives?
OMG it is! This isn’t so much Wollaton Hall parkrun as Wayne Manor parkrun, just as everyone knows that Somerdale Pavilion parkrun is really Curly Wurly parkrun and it’s nonsense to try to claim otherwise. Not such a tough call, of course I want to go there, imagine, might even get to meet batman… or robin, either would be fine. Childhood hero, toss up between him (Adam West) and John Noakes to be honest. Well, not many female role models back then. The former stands out in my mind for one particular episode of batman where he and Robin have their hands tied behind their back and are swinging from some skyscraper or other hanging on to a literal thread by their teeth. They are saved, can’t remember how, but Batman turns to Robin and says ‘and remember Robin, you owe your life to dental hygiene!‘ Wise words indeed. And I am obsessive about cleaning my teeth to this day, maybe that’s why? And John Noakes? Well, he did such cool things, being physically adventurous, climbing Nelson’s Column and things like that – and I remember him dropping his trousers to show off a bobsleighing related injury. Quite shocking at the time. And having a massage somewhere and saying to the woman pummelling the chest area around his nipple ‘I hope that doesn’t make it come off!’ Most risqué a the time I assure you. Sigh, oh giddy days, when we still had the testcard of an afternoon, and ‘photocopiers’ produced wet, purple-inked shiny reproductions only accessible in the most prestigious of workplaces. The smell as evocative as that of cooking cabbage in the school lunch hall; a slightly turned third of pint bottle of full fat milk, warmed by the sun at morning break or class A solvent containing marker pens. I feel properly old now.
Where was I? Stop distracting me with reminiscences of children’s TV shows of the early seventies. Oh I remember, going to da na na na na na na na parkruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!
Wayne Manor parkrun here I come.
Checking out the official parkrun website for Wollaton Hall parkrun it all looked very promising. Parking, toilets, one lap course, all the lovely things.
The course blah de blah states:
‘One lap through the park, round the lake and back. The surface is a mixture of tarmac, grass and trail. The start and finish are close to the main car park and entrance‘
which all sounds splendid. I charged up my satnav, and set my alarm and before I knew it, it was parkrun day!
It had been really hot and dry, so I didn’t really think about waterproofs, but had my fleece in the car anyway. The drive was pretty straight forward, and quicker than I imagined. Also, some exciting sightings en route. Did you know there is a Bilbo College? Me neither! But I passed signs to it on the way, a spin off from the Lord of the Rings presumably, I’m not sure what courses they offer, cooking for second breakfasts perhaps? Nor is it immediately obvious is the college is named as such as an homage to Mr Baggis, because Bilbo is a benefactor, or because you learn about the history and culture of hobbits and orks and/or how to become more Bilbo. A research project for next time.
I got pretty close to my final destination, and then disaster. The most ridiculously confusing road work junction I’d ever seen, I wanted to turn right to Wollaton Hall which was so sharp it was practically a U-turn, but the junction was all blocked off and I could not fathom how to negotiate the one way system to navigate it. I ended up driving past and then trying again, like an abortive landing, all very adrenalin fuelled. Then, when I arrived at the MASSIVE gates for the hall, they were locked shut. Those gates are really quite something, you ain’t getting past them, I actually thought I’d got the wrong place and drove around again which gave me another go at the ridiculous road work junction again. Turns out, I was just too early.
The parkrun takes place in the grounds of the hall, which is now Nottingham Museum. By special dispensation, the grounds are opened early for parkrun to take place, but I reckon that must be about 8.30, I was a bit before. I got locked out so you don’t have to, just arrive at the right time, or indeed, if you must come early, wait it out with dignity, rather than screeching away in panic, much more decorous I assure you. They certainly know how to do large scary gates here though. Never seen anything so huge. Think Jurassic park style fencing, only solid. Impressive. Actually, on reflection, I think there may have been some sort of dinosaur exhibition on now I come to think of it, perhaps that’s why they are so particular with their boundary walls just at present. Yes they did, a real T-Rex is there til the end of August 2022, no wonder there is no skimping on health and safety. Just imagine that! Hard to know which to be more excited about, seeing an actual dinosaur or meeting Batman or taking part in a parkrun. All. The. Things!
By the time I came back round again, the gates were open and in I went. Wowsers, it’s a properly huge, landscaped deer park. There was a massive carpark, which confused me greatly, as there are scary signs about how you MUST pay, but to do so requires a smart phone, which I don’t have and downloading an app which I couldn’t do. The other option is to pay in the café or hall, but neither were open. I asked a passing woman, bedecked in a fine hat and festive lei and colourful dress – she turned out to be the Run Director no less. She assured me that paying after the parkrun would be fine, and welcomed me. Explaining that it was Nottingham Pride this weekend, so to show support, parkrunners were being encouraged to come as colourful as possible, which is rather fine. I do like it when people dress for an occasion.
I noticed a rangers van had written on the side ‘Proud to serve you!’ whether they are proud all the year round or had repainted in honour of Nottingham Pride wasn’t entirely clear, very much on brand though, well done.
I parked up, and gazed out at the lovely view.
It was raining, quite a lot. Oh well, it would be a novelty. It was nippier than I expected too. I decided I’d wear the fleece, that way, I could soak up as much water as possible, and transport it back to parched Sheffield with me afterwards. A fine plan, worked well, apart from the steaming up the car interior on the journey home bit.
I always feel a bit self conscious at this point at a parkrun. I couldn’t really offer to help because you don’t know what to do if it’s not your home parkrun, and I’m not nippy enough to be much help. Instead I took in the view. It was fun watching people assemble. There was soon a jolly crowd of volunteers going about their business, the pop up sign was put up in the prime position for photo opps, the flag waved a greeting. Some appeared carrying flags and directional arrows, someone was in green high vis, not sure why, Defibrillator man perhaps? A bit like Batman, but with less in the way of shining a laser into the sky as his batsignal and more able to revive you in an emergency?
After a bit, I ventured out, after all, the precautionary pee isn’t going to facilitate itself now is it! As I did so, some other parkrun tourists who’d parked up next to me asked if I knew where the loos were, I didn’t really, but felt confident enough to wave in the general direction of the play area and cafe. That’s where I was heading anyway.
And loos there were, not the nicest ever, but fit for purpose. The sinks looked alarmingly like urinals, but they were spotlessly clean and open, which is always a parkrun win. No soap though. The building had some cool murals on, which is always a boon, and on the way over, I passed by a sign for a walled garden which looked lovely. I hadn’t got time to linger at this venue alas, as I needed to get back to Sheffield, but honestly, it is a parkrun where you could – and quite probably should – make a day of it. I was particularly sad to have missed out on seeing the house made of restored cucumbers. Next time perhaps.
By the time I’d erm ‘powdered my nose’ – or should that be kapow-dered? Others had started to assemble. I was struck by what a friendly parkrun this is. Volunteers were greeting each other warmly. You could spot the tourists as we queued in turn to take pictures of one another in front of the parkrun pop up sign, quite a queue at some points, but all very good natured.
I chatted to a few including a parkrunner in apricot from Mulbarton parkrun, one I’d not hear of, it seems that alas it is no more. She’d done some bespoke embroidery on her top so it now says RIP above it. I wanted to take a picture, but then realised I was basically asking to do a close up of her boob, and that felt wrong on so many levels, so just went for standard pose and you can imagine the embroidery for yourself. It’s so sad when parkruns close. It’s nice that the personalised apricot tees allow them to live on a little longer at least.
Oh, and that’s when I got lucky and was talent scouted to take a photo of the volunteers gathered together and jumping in unison! Unfortunately, my point and press skills are not all they might be, hence photo above that just makes the RD look a bit constipated and everyone else a bit, well, a bit peculiar quite honestly. I did my best. This is why I won’t do timekeeping, how people have that level of precision with their hand eye co-ordination I can’t imagine. Still, the quality control officer didn’t seem entirely displeased, amused even. It’s not the quality of the photo that counts, it’s its comedic value, and I guess I delivered on that at least – a partial success!
I think they must aim for this picture of the volunteer team every week, and it’s such a good idea, I’ve been to so many parkruns 260+ and another 100+ as a volunteer and not seen this happen before other than at ‘special occasions’. Too often volunteers get overlooked by photographers who are going for action shots, and it’s just so nice to have the moment and memory captured like this. Or it would have been, if they hadn’t picked a dud to push the button. Oh well, thought that counts. I am going to try to suggest this at some of the parkruns I regularly volunteer at though, it’s a nice tradition.
Next enrichment activity was the first timers’ welcome. There seemed to be quite a gathering, and it was a jolly welcome to all, there were even some first time everers which caused a stir. Imagine having that as your first ever parkrun, wowsers (or should that be kapowsers?) Quite an event. Thirteen in fact – lucky for some. That seems quite a high proportion of newbies, I wonder what brought them, I know they’ll have had a grand time though, how could they not.
Oh, and there was also a box of parkrun magazines available, in case you’d missed out on them. I did get a copy, but haven’t actually seen them freely available to pick up like that before, so that was good too. They’d be a brilliant souvenir of a first parkrun too. Really, they should have got all the other runners to sign them, like you do with programmes at a first night opening or whatever, but that could have taken quite a while.
After the excitement of the briefing, off to the start area. It was a nice gathering under an avenue of trees. There was a white board up asking for volunteers for the following week in particular roles, people were catching up with friends, and mustering near the start line. Timers synching their watchers, all the hub of a pre parkrun assembly. It had felt a bit mad to drive such a long way ‘just’ for a three mile walk round a park without even a friend to go with. However, once I was there, I felt vindicated. If Batman and T-rex weren’t sufficient in themselves, here I was in a fabulous park of which I’d previously been entirely ignorant, and as for friends, well all my fellow parkrunners could be claimed for that. Of course it was worth the trip!
The Run Director did a great briefing, I can’t remember all the details, but I do remember it was thorough, a clap of solidarity for LBGTQ+ parkrunners and reminder of Pride this weekend, yays for volunteers, tourists, milestones, all the things. I got a sense of a strong community, and it was like being part of a warm collective hug, can’t diss that, always a win. Then it was all at the ready and off we went!
I tried to take some snaps of sprinting parkrunners before slipping in at the back. Not gonna lie, they are a bit on the shite end of the spectrum. Not the parkrunners, my pictures of them, it’s not the best camera, however, at least it captures the occasion, if you want better images, you’ll have to go take them yourself. Frankly, that wouldn’t be too much of a hardship as it’s a venue you HAVE to add to your ever growing parkrun ‘to do’ list anyways.
I was determined to push myself a bit more this week, but turns out, the gains are marginal. I power walked in a sort of twilight zone slightly ahead of the pair of tailwalkers and slightly behind the next parkrunners. This worked for a bit. It is a truly gorgeous park. Lovely friendly marshals, one who was playing ‘eye of the tiger’ or more accurately had a sound system playing it for her, as we cornered past her and turned up an incline the goes past the house. Possibly a bit early and ambitious for such motivational music, but it gave a bit of oomph and atmosphere, some charismatic kapow if you will
I couldn’t capture it, but as you go off, you can see the faster runners looping away and up away from you, it’s a great sight. as you climb the hill, you ‘suddenly’ see the full extent of the house, it’s extraordinary. According to Wikipedia so it must be true
Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan country house of the 1580s standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollaton Park, Nottingham, England. The house is now Nottingham Natural History Museum, with Nottingham Industrial Museum in the outbuildings. The surrounding parkland has a herd of deer, and is regularly used for large-scale outdoor events such as rock concerts, sporting events and festivals
Just pause to think about that for a moment. It’s properly astounding. 1580s? It is in immaculate condition and very, very impressive, well the bit you can see from the outside is. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. It is a privilege to be able to run past it even. That sounds weird, but it’s true, parkrun gets you to some pretty fab places once you get the touristing bug. Although walking is incredibly frustrating at times, it is a good way to soak up your surroundings at a parkrun.
By now, I was getting curious and wanting to stop and take photos. Also, I tried a little jog for the first time in nearly a year, and it wasn’t good. The pain that shot through my legs made them feel like they were on fire, and I was distinctly wobbly, so that wasn’t going to happen again this parkrun. The consequence was, I ended up dropping back and joining the two tail walkers who were just lovely. Very chatty, inclusive and companionable. Also, very much part of the Wollaton Hall /Wayne Manor parkrun history, being long time volunteers, RD and pioneers in getting it started up in the first place, so lots of useful history, and high tolerance levels from them that I kept wanting to stop to take photos.
Well, it wasn’t just the venue that was photogenic, it was the lovely marshals too. Their finesse at directional pointing and motivational clapping was positively sensational.
Quite early on, as we were heading out, the faster parkrunners started back along the same path, having already done their circuit of the lake. The path was wide enough this wasn’t really a problem as long as you stayed to the left.
One thing that struck me though, was the number of wheelie bins. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many in my life. I couldn’t work out if this meant those attending Wollaton Hall grounds are the messiest or tidiest of visitors. Do they need lots of bins because they create huge quantities of litter and waste, or is it that they are really tidy and have to bin even the slightest particle of plastic they spot on their watch? Or was it a wheelie bin graveyard, where wheelie bins go to die? The truth was disappointingly mundane. Proof yet again, it is better to widely speculate and imagine possible scenarios rather than find out the truth. If you do want the truth, it’s that the bins were left over from some sort of music festival the week before. They’d been emptied, but not removed. Told you my version was more pleasing. This is the kind of local knowledge that the tailwalkers could share though. That and the best view points.
We headed off round the lake where a marshal had been duped into throwing a ball for a border collie, that had brought it back and dropped it by her and was now staring at it with such intensity I fully expected it to burst into flames at any moment. The ball that is, not the dog, or the marshal, that would have been awkward. Mind you, because they’d taken that photo at the start they’d have known who was missing which would have made identification of any fragments later discovered on the spot by forensics very much easier. Just shows, ,attention to detail is never wasted.
The dog, and me insisting on photographing the situation did mean the parkrunner ahead went a bit wrong and had to be called back to the path. My bad for creating a distraction, no worries, we were off around the lake. As it is basically a one loop course, by now pretty much everyone had disappeared out of view, so we wandered round the lake, marvelling at the views. You get great vistas of the lake and house. There were herons, and at one point a tree full of them roosting. I couldn’t get a picture though as they were too far away, but it was great to see. We also discovered a carving of the birds that has been there for yonks presumably, but which one of the tail walkers hadn’t noticed before. I think though this venue would be different every time with the changing seasons. There are deer too, and other park users walking their dogs and enjoying the spectacular surroundings. And as previously mentioned, if you are trying to complete your ‘I-SPY book of wheelie bins’ you’d have been in your element!
So we walked and talked and it was most calming and therapeutic. It really was healing for me and parkrun at its best. We discussed issues around shortage of volunteers. It seems the same everywhere, parkrun volunteers have ebbed post pandemic, so have actual parkrunners, but whereas a smaller number of participants doesn’t mean a parkrun can’t happen, too few volunteers really does mean it might not go ahead. It saddens me. Volunteering is fun, and it should be just that, voluntary, but I still feel some people don’t quite grasp that it needs volunteers to happen, there is no one making money off the back of parkrun (we’ll draw a veil over recent poor judgement by an individual) and volunteers don’t put on the event for the community, they are the community! If possible, regular parkrunners do need to step up now and again to keep it sustainable. I don’t get why so many just don’t. Some can’t for legitimate reasons, but I think others just never get round to it, or it doesn’t occur to them, they are the people it would be good to bring on board. Oh well.
Round the lake we went, and the parkrun seemed to pass really quickly. As high vis heroes stood down as we passed, we seemed to gather a fair old crowd, so I got them to pose for me too. Hurrah for these fabulous fun makers
and then we were heading back, homeward bound, up the hill, down the hill and into the finish funnel. Such a huge team and they’d all waited for me. I was just under an hour which is a PB post illness for me, but still a fair bit behind the penultimate parkrun finishers (not including my lovely tailwalking twosome of course). Check out all those welcoming smiles. It was lovely!
As I came in, someone pointed out the carefully positioned parkrun logoed birdboxes. How awesome are these! Turns out, one of the regular volunteers, also volunteers for Wollaton Hall, he had the idea of putting up the bird boxes to mark particular points on the course, the start and a couple of the marshal points, so instead of having to spot ‘the ninth tree’ out of a veritable forest of them, you can look out for the bird box, isn’t that genius. Here he is is, looking at his work and being looked at in turn by the volunteer who pointed him out to me. Teamwork once again you see, what parkrun is famed for. Oh, and mass participation in free exercise world wide too I suppose…
I did wonder if bat boxes might have been more appropriate, but then again, if bats are basically birds of the night (which they are, in a flying nocturnal mammal as opposed to day flying bird sort of way), then it follows birds are basically bats of the day, so close enough. Apparently, they aren’t in the best location for actual birds to nest in, but you never know, something might find shelter in them one day.
All timed in, and scanned just time to say thanks and goodbye. The volunteers were busy dismantling the funnel and sorting results.
Many adjourned to the little café afterwards, I was in quite a bit of pain though so decided to just head off home. I gather there were a couple of eating options though, and aforementioned play area and exhibitions various too, so in a way I regret not lingering, though it was the right thing to do at the time.
Final verdict. This was such a positive parkrun experience. It is a lovely venue and that helps of course, but it was the warmth of the team that made it special, I felt really welcomed and not a problem for being slow, and the walk and talk was companionable and enlightening, it was a good morning.
Oh and the bonus, as I was exiting the park, the deer put in an appearance, huge antlers bobbing as they grazed near the exit gates. Maybe not in the numbers you see at Bushy park it’s true, but impressive all the same.
and you know what? Nope? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. I might not have met Batman or indeed Robin, but I did meet loads of parkrun people and they were properly lovely. Batman and Robin are all well and good, but not all heroes wear capes. Thank you lovely
Wollaton Hall parkrun Wayne Manor parkrun team for making me so welcome at your gorgeous park. Genuinely, one of my favourite parkruns and most positive parkrun experiences. You are heroes indeed.
Oh, and there is an official run report from the day Wollaton Hall parkrun number 56 running with pride you can read here too. Helps prolong the post parkrun experience, all good.
#loveparkrun It reminds you of all that is good in the world.
So home I went with my nicely saturated fleece, sodden with healing Nottinghamshire rain to take back to Sheffield with me along with my parkrun memories…. a good parkrunday.