Marshals are lovely though aren’t they? Wherever you end up on a parkrunday.
Why Belvoir Castle parkrun for this weekend? Well, why not? Lots of reasons, it’s relatively new, it’s within commutable distance from Sheffield, I needed to find out for myself how to pronounce it properly and see if there are any in fact any Beavers there or indeed an actual castle. Sheffield Castle parkrun is lovely, but not a sniff of a castle to be seen anywhere. There is a whole history lesson to explain why, but still no actual castle to gaze at, or visible moats to negotiate on your way to the start. Well, let’s check out Belvoir Castle parkrun and see whether this particular castle is for real.
First though, the Belvoir Castle parkrun website blah de blah
Summer Course – Footpath/trail terrain.
This will start and finish at the overflow car park opposite the Castle main (long stay) car park. This out and back, undulating stoney course follows the footpath and track up to the Reeded Cottage where it joins the Jubilee Way. At the cottage you will turn right and follow the Jubilee Way until you reach a distinctive twisted trunked tree on your left. You will turn here (look out for the stunning view of the Vale of Belvoir) and head back where you came from with a unique view of the Castle to enjoy.
Winter Course – Grounds Course.
This stunning one lap course is held entirely within the historic Belvoir Castle grounds and follows a fully tarmacked route all the way round. The start is just down from the main Castle and next to the Rose Garden. The course goes through the Japanese and Kennel woodlands and then over a bridge between the stunning upper and lower Belvoir lakes. You will then have a steady climb to the cattle grid and bridge above the Woolsthorpe Main Road. At this point you will turn and come back down over the bridge to a junction where you will turn right. You will then follow the path past some cottages and stables and then turn left to commence a climb back towards the Castle where you will reach the finish, which is 1 level down and 100m from the start and also 100m from the main car park.
Please check our Facebook page for which course we will be using, sometimes when the weather is bad during summer months we will need to use the Winter Course.
Trail shoes are recommended.
Fair enough, shame they aren’t describing the summer course as ‘stunning’ throughout, but there is a reference to at least one ‘stunning view’ and it’s not going to be actually horrid is it? parkruns never are. And an out and back, that’s promising, not done one of those for a while. Also, quite intriguing they have two courses, it’s a win really, as it means it’s worth coming back at a different time of year to compare and contrast, that’ll do.
Plus, lots of references to handy facilities, like loos – always a boon when touristing, café and even carparking, yep, perfect for a bit of parkrun adventuring.
oh, and the Belvoir castle website blah de blah too, in the interests of thoroughness
A HISTORIC GEM IN THE HEART OF ENGLAND
OK, fairly concise, but to the point, and surely worth a gander.
I always check the attendance numbers these days before rocking up at a new parkrun. Mindful of my slow times, I seek the reassurance of either a regular who takes their time, or a large enough field that inevitably there will be a continuum of times. Belvoir parkrun’s results event history was massively confusing though. Their numbers have really fluctuated from record attendance of 313 at the second event to numbers as low as 40 for no very obvious reason, oh well, undeterred, it was my parkrun of choice. Always good to have finally made a decision.
Up early, sat nav set off I went. Why do I follow my satnav? It’s crazy I tell you, crazy! In it’s defence it got me there in the end, but took me north first, and then the road I wanted was closed so I went a gazillion miles in the wrong direction following some random diversion that went via Brigadoon and Atlantas with the satnav constantly doing that passive aggressive thing of repeating endlessly ‘u-turn when possible’ in an unhelpful and distinctly judgemental way. They really do take passive aggressive vocalisations to a new level of art form. I think I may have slipped into a toxic dependent relationship with my satnav, I do depend on it, imagine I’d be literally as well as figuratively lost without it, and yet it’s constantly undermining my confidence and leading me to doubt myself.
I was starting to feel that this tourism wasn’t going to happen, and regretting my lack of a smart phone and lack of a back up plan. However, the plus side of dizzying cocktail of insomnia, over-excitement at the prospect of a new parkrun and fear of oversleeping had ensured I’d allowed loads of spare time to get to my final destination so all was good.
Once I was heading the right way, things started to look up. The scorched earth and dry landscape is definitely a worry. It’s true, some trees have a worrying autumnal hue, are they dying, or just shutting down to live to grow another year? I hope it’s the latter. As I got nearer to Grantham, the landscape became quite novel for me, less novel if that’s where you actually live I suppose. It looked quintessentially English, with signs warning you to give way to ducks crossing at the village pond, and signs warning you of cows ahead, which seemed unlikely as it looked very much like a residential area but lo, there was a diary farm or maybe a beef farm, right in the middle of it. It was all very picturesque, and I did feel like I was on holiday.
Then there was the jaw dropping moment when as I neared the Castle there it was! Just on the horizon, looking gorgeous. Cue, sub optimal photo trying to capture the moment. It was like the first sighting of the sea when you are heading to the seaside. REALLY EXCITING!
I concede maybe you had to be there. It did look very much like a proper castle though, and had a wavy flag too, so that’s good enough for me, even if subsequent research (Wikipediasoitmustbetrue) was a bit more sceptical. Not an actual castle it seems, but a pretend one, well I’m not an actual runner but a pretend one, and parkrun works for me, so fair enough.
Belvoir Castle (/ˈbiːvər/ (listen) BEE-vər) is a mock castle built upon the site of an historic castle and stately home in Leicestershire, England, situated 6 mi (10 km) west of the town of Grantham and 10 mi (16 km) north-east of Melton Mowbray. The Castle was first built immediately after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and has since been rebuilt at least three times, the surviving structure, a grade I listed mock castle, dating from the early 19th century. It is the seat of David Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland (the tiny county of Rutland lies 16 mi (26 km) south of Belvoir Castle), whose direct male ancestor inherited it in 1508. The traditional burial place of the Manners family was in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford, situated 3 mi (5 km) to the north of the Castle, but since 1825 they have been buried in the ducal mausoleum built next to the Castle in that year, to which their ancient monuments were moved. It remains the private property of the Duke of Rutland but is open to the general public.
Now don’t judge me, but although the postcode NG32 1PE did take me to Belvoir Castle, I got massively distracted by The Engine Yard retail yard with it’s very impressive horse, and so completely failed to spot the car park and actual castle entrance, instead ending up at a gate that was only for wedding and event guests. Er?
Back to the gee gee
and oh look, there is the car park, and the café and the gates, and an RD being busy and important. Next thing was to be confused by the parking. You get it free for parkrun up until 10.00 but then it’s erm £1.50 an hour I think, which you can get knocked off the cost of any purchase of food or drink from the café. I wasn’t sure when to pay as I was worried if I paid on arrival for an hour, it would expire before I needed it from 10.00. In the end I paid afterwards, and can report that you input your reg number, and your ticket is just for an hour, any hour, it doesn’t have a time on it, so you can pay either pre or post your parkrun. Apparently there are number plate capture cameras somewhere recording arrival and departure times. They weren’t obvious, but I think the parking charge was fair. I do wish though, car parks would put lines out so you can work out the most efficient way to park. My spatial awareness is sub optimal. I just pulled up alongside the RD and marshals vehicles. In fact the carpark had loads of space for everyone, I don’t know if it can get busy but it wasn’t particularly today.
Next stop the loo. I can report these were open, and to a high standard, and what’s more, if they hadn’t been, the RD has a key to facilitate access! I know! Living the dream in parkrun tourist terms!
Hilariously, I note I remembered to photograph the loos but completely failed to photo the actual castle entrance. Oh well. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself.
Precautionary pee concluded, time to peer at the car parking payment machines and reach consensus that it would be ok to pay post run, and then a saunter across the road to where the marshals and RD were gathering. It’s described as the overflow carpark, and it is just immediately opposite the main car park. It sounds way more complicated in the instructions than it actually is, you can’t get lost, you can see the start gathering area from the loos, and the start is the same as the finish so all good. Although officially there was nowhere to leave things as the start and finish is in the same area there are volunteers there all the time (at your own risk) but the post parkrun café is actually within the carpark so leaving stuff in your vehicle if you’ve driven is also the obvious option.
I went for the awkward gathering. A few BRILLIANT things, one is that it’s a very friendly, compact but perfectly formed team. And the event has it’s very own windsock for no reason I can fathom. Still, maybe handy to know if you are planning to arrive by glider, or need to know what strength hair spray or setting gel to use prior to your run to minimise unruly hair related incidents on course in the event of a parkrun photographer being present? Not sure.
The out and back course meaning there isn’t a need for thousands of marshals to directionally point you round a complex route I suppose. The thing that caught my eye though, was the genius innovation of a white board for tourists to write down their names and where they are from. I suppose partly to give a shout out at the run briefing, but a positive consequence of this stroke of genius, is that as people gathered to write on it, you got to meet other tourists, and first timers too potentially. Great idea. They even had a marker pen on a piece of string like they do with pens on counters in banks to stop you stealing them. Obviously parkrunners don’t steal marker pens but they can go astray in the general parkrun melee of gathering and running around, so a sensible precaution. Genius I tell you, absolute genius.
Almost as good as the South Shields volunteer the following Saturday who wore a badge saying ‘ask me about volunteering’ also genius. So many geniae (is that a word?) in the parkrun world, can’t move for the genies everywhere about you! No wonder parkrun is always so mysterious and maaaaaaagical!
parkrunners gathered, the Run Director soon had a semi circle of attentive parkrunners hanging on her every word as she called us to order and explained the course:
But you know what? Probably not, unless you were there. Just as the RD was about to embark on her briefing, her walkie talkie buzzed into life. Did I mention they had walkie talkies? Well, they do, and that makes it all seem super exciting and pro event organisation, pretty much identical to being stood next to one of the sound crew at the front of the main stage at Glastonbury say. Bestows waaaaaaaaaay more authority than even a clipboard in my book. Anyways, above the static, the marshal at the top surveillance point warned of an oncoming hazard. A hazard dear reader, in the form of an entire hunt, a-galloping down the bridleway/ parkrun route towards the Castle! Well, maybe not actually a-galloping, but certainly a purposeful trot, and they were quite a sight. That was a first for me, seeing a parkrun start delayed due to an actual hunt en route. In the circumstances it made the advice to look out for and give way to horse riders on the path somewhat redundant, it would be a bold parkrunner indeed to stand their ground in the face of this lot! No wonder we all had a good gander!
I’m somewhat conflicted about the sight of the hunt. I don’t approve of hunting, and although it is technically illegal, I’m always unsure if such gatherings really are following scent trails or using it as a cover for illicit activity. Then again it is an impressive sight. Maybe they were just trying to hunt down their perfect parkrun, and then as they approached us heard the RD mention about the one dog per parkrunner and on a short lead directive and realised they’d be turned away. If that’s the case it’s a bit sad, maybe next week then.
Wherever their intended destination, they turned off the parkrun route, and headed beyond us and past the castle into the distance, leaving us behind at our gathering point for the start of the parkrun. Back on track. We learn that there is a defibrillator kept at the start (or the finish, depending on how you like to think about these things) though the course goes basically straight up hill for the first 2.5 km. In the event of a parkrunner having an arrest at the furthest point, the RD would have to sprint up with the kit and you’d have to hope the exertion didn’t give her her very own cardiac arrest in the process. I’m sure it would be fine though, some pretty speedy parkrunners around. In all seriousness, the walkie talkies also would speed up response times. Alas, there at two events in recent weeks medical emergencies have arisen, I think at one the defib was deployed, their presence can indeed save lives. Sobering thought.
Enough of sobering thoughts, back to the fun stuff!
After all the excitement of the hunt, we were back to the run briefing, and that was it Go! I slotted in at the back, and was able to get a couple of pictures of the rest of the parkrun pack disappearing into the distance leaving a literal trail of dust in their wake. This isn’t a course you could get lost on, but in the unlikely event you were to get disorientated, just follow the dust storm up hill and you’ll be reyt.
And so off we went. Despite the dry conditions and the uphilliness of it all, I found this to be a really lovely mindful course. I’m at the stage in my post illness rehab where I need to find my limits. Although there is an incline, and I can see in wet weather the surface might be iffy, the dry had made the tracks hard, and the incline is steady. I had my stick with me, but wasn’t reliant on it. I loved that you could see the ribbon of colourful runners ahead and turning off to the left at the top of the first track. The route went through recently harvested fields so you had acres of stubble on either side basically. There was a breeze, and at one point, as you passed a little line of trees, you could hear the magical rustle of the leaves. It was gorgeous. Unusually, I was slightly ahead of the tail walkers, though massively behind everyone else, so it was a mainly solitary progress, but none the worse for that. The farmed landscape is very different to ‘my’ peak district trails, but full of interest all the same. If I’d remembered to glance back I’d have seen castle views, but not to worry, I got to enjoy them all on the way back.
Sorry about the photo quality, it’s the thought that counts dear reader, and you’ll get the gist.
After the first long haul, you are greeted by a cheery marshal to point you up the next hill and ensure you make the necessary left hand turn, to ensure you head off (ironically enough) in the right direction. Never has the phrase ‘onwards and upwards’ been more apt!
By this point in proceedings faster parkrunners were coming back down the other way. This meant that regular parkrunners could greet each other. I’m getting to like out and back courses precisely because of that companionable element. The brave can give each other high fives, but with the speed velocities some parkrunners were reaching as their natural athleticism combined with the steep downhill gradient and who knows, maybe their boingy carbon shoes as well, there might be the real prospect of a well meaning high five entirely taking the unprepared recipient out of action for quite some time. Exciting though. Plus, as they sped by and I glanced after them I got a great view of the castle on its hilltop. If you had a decent camera this would be a wonderful spot to pap passing parkrunners, flying feet, castle on the horizon, golden fields, giddy smiles, all the things! I don’t have a decent camera, but I do have a vivid imagination, if you do too, then go spoil yourself with this smorgasbord of visual gloriousness!
As faster parkrunners sped on by, me and another walker who was pushing a buggy continued on. The path narrowed as you moved out of the fields. The buggy runner was met by her partner who was coming back down, and he took over the buggy to take down so she could sprint on and avoid negotiating the narrower section of the course.
So we went up, and what had already been up, must come down. Through the long grass, through a gateway, past the next marshal who had put out some cones with extra care to guide us to the final right angle turn
into the shadows of some trees. It was quite narrow here, but by now the faster runners had long since passed by. I may have had to leap into the hedgerow at one point to let others by, but it wasn’t a big deal and it was all negotiated amicably
The literal high point of the course was a u-turn around the top marshal on the course. Top marshal in terms of elevation, and also top man for having clambered up to this point to see us safely round and back. The mini cones provided a colourful climax to the route.
Fortunately, what goes up, must come down, so around the top cone, thanked the top man and back round and down. The surface was good when I went, despite the warning (which I missed until I came to write it up) that trail shoes were recommended. After I’d exited the undergrowth, there is a lovely weeeeee downhill bit, that if it was on a junior parkrun course I’d encourage junior parkrunners to do full on aeroplane wings outstretched and fly down. Was half tempted to do this myself. I was inspired however to put a bit of a joggle on. The joggle turned into something of a jiggle, since I haven’t been running for well over a year due to, oh sickness stuff, I hadn’t bothered to wear a sports bra. This would have been less of a problem had I not been using a stick. I have on previous occasions – notably as tail walker at a junior parkrun when the junior I was accompanying at the back dropped out after the first lap and I had to do a full on sprint to catch up with the actual final finisher – employed the inglorious but effective technique of one boob cupped in each hand and hang on as you build up speed. This was nigh on impossible here, but even so, I was cheered by this most modest turn of speed. I didn’t fall over, and it wasn’t agony. Maybe there is hope for my parkrun career yet. I’m never going to be speedy, well, I never was, but I’d love to jog or even just jeff round a course again one day. It would feel like a taste of freedom restored. Those of you who are blessed with physical health and pain free, try to make the most of it, it’s true you don’t always know what you have ’til it’s gone. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how fast you go, just enjoy what your body is capable of, they are pretty amazing things.
With too much jiggle interrupting my downward joggle, and stick and boob juggling defeating me, I slowed back to a walk and just enjoyed the view. Despite the dusty ground, there were wildflowers peaking out, I felt inspired to maybe try for a drought resistant chamomile lawn for next year, I enjoyed the views of Belvoir/ Beaver Castle, even though I couldn’t make out any actual beavers from this distance. I could hear the tailwalkers and marshals chatting as they came in behind me, and I thanked the marshals I’d passed on the way out as I headed back.
I didn’t expect to like this managed landscape as much as I did, but I actually loved how the paths opened up in front of you and it felt like you could run to infinity and beyond. I loved the castle on the horizon. I loved the little dots of parkrunners in the far distance (not small but far away) and the as I came towards the finish a couple of cheery parkrunners came to see me in, which was lovely. Aren’t parkrunners splendid? Rhetorical question, yes they are! This one is looking exceedingly happy too. It’s those post parkrun endorphins kicking in, that and the child like joy of zooming down hill for 2.5 km on the way home, even if there is a little bit of a kicker hill just in the final couple of hundred metres. By then you can see the finish funnel, and it sort of draws you in. Lovely jubbly.
Finally, there it was, the finish! They’d been waiting a while for me anyway, so I figured they wouldn’t mind a 2 second delay whilst I took a photo – alas as a consequence my finish time was 2 seconds slower than my one outstanding parkrun bingo challenge. Oh well, it’ll happen when it happens, and they were a welcoming and photogenic lot! Would have been rude not to have captured the moment.
And that was it, job done. The tail walkers were not far behind me, and they came in, and then the high vis heroes busied themselves with uploading and downloading of times and results, sorting of tokens and sharing of stories.
One particular boon of this parkrun is the onsite café, where the team had their volunteer table set up. It looked like the Wi-Fi from the café was strong enough they were able to process results there and then, which was jolly impressive. It had been a relatively small parkrun, and that was nice. I was about to say it was incident free, but that’s forgetting the presence of a whole pack of hounds and herd of horses on the course at the outset, that nearly took everything in a different direction. I didn’t mention to the RD that I’d wished I’d worn a sports bra so I doubt an incident report would have been needed for that.
I was just over the hour by the time I was back to the car park, so paid for my hour from the machine, and then went to get a cut price coffee to offset the cost. One of those curious transactions where by spending an addition £1.30 to get my £2.80 (or whatever it was) cup of coffee felt like a bargain. I didn’t have any cake but can report that although the selection was limited the chunks of cakery being handed out were basically breeze block size, you’d have to be careful they didn’t alter your centre of gravity if consuming there and then, and you’d need to balance the load if you were taking them away in your car for later as they might mess with your suspension. There was only one person serving who was struggling a bit as she had to make the food and do money and coffee – normally there are two, but nobody minds a wait after a parkrun, it’s part of the post parkrun experience surely.
I didn’t linger long, as it took a bit out of me, but I was pleased to have come, this is a lovely parkrun and one I’d happily come back to do again particularly as I’d love to do the winter course. I hope as I get a bit more confident with my stick I might even pop back with appropriate corsetry and see if I do can have the giddy joy of an exuberant run down hill, what could possibly go wrong?
So thank you Beavers of the Castle for allowing the parkrun to take place on your land, and thank you lovely RD and event team for making the magic happen. ‘Twas fine and dandy. Be proud of what you do week in week out. I would be. Nice digs you’ve got there judging by the photo on your Facebook page, I’d like to allow myself a bit more time next visit, and make a day of it. Though that must be a properly steep climb to the top, even by my Sheffield flat standards. Hurrah, love a parkrun challenge! I might not have seen any beavers, but I did see lots of beagles, so half way there. A fine bit of parkrun tourism, would recommend.
Oh and if you like to triangulate, there is an official run report from this event number 30 on the Belvoir Castle parkrun page here and have a look at their Belvoir Castle parkrun facebook page for some decent photos from their events to date to get a better feel for the loveliness of it all.
By the way, you can read all my parkrun related posts here. Or not. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though and forward for more recent ones. Your choice. 🙂