Wonders of Woodbank parkrun – Fabulous Fibonacci numbers working their magic!

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Well, well, welcome to Woodbank. Hosting a Fibonacci numbered parkrun in it’s two-park venue on the day the circus came to town! You have to love a parkrun that has its own sunglass wearing giraffe to welcome you on arrival. This is the parkrun that thought of everything! I should never have left Geronimo in the car, she’d have been right at home!

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I’ve neither read the book nor seen the film ‘When the Circus Came to Town‘ but accordingtotheinternetsoitmustbetrue the book by Yep is ‘Bolstered by themes of compassion, community and tolerance‘ so that seems an apt way to think about a parkrun. Also, actual circuses (not the horrid ones with performing animals and terrifying clowns, but the nice ones with acrobats and environmentally friendly sequinned hats) include much jollity and leaping about. Pretty much EXACTLY what Woodbank parkrun was all about. Never seen so many people jumping for joy on the way around. Hardly anyone had their feet on the ground all morning if the photos are anything to go by! Gotta love a parkrun with an abundance of smiles!

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Oh, and some parkrun magic too, what with it being a magic number event, so yep, a good one. Why has it taken me so long to seek Woodbank parkrun out? The film ‘when the circus came to town’ seems to have little to do with the book, but then again I’ve never seen it. Oh and actually, it may be that the made for tv drama came first? The book sounds better. Aaargh, really confused now. Oh well.

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Oh, properly confused now. Look, how about we agree to let’s not get neurotic about the actuality of the details here, and just enjoy going along with the tenuous linking of the helpful themes can we? Everyone can relax then, and focus on the event itself? Cheers. Knew you’d see sense!

The important thing is that there was a circus hanging out at the Woodbank parkrun venue this week, the team hosted their Fibonacci numbered event 610 with mood enhancing magic alongside the customary compassion, community and tolerance. So that’s good.

Why Woodbank parkrun this week then? Well, I am getting ever more frantic in my quest to find parkruns that won’t find me a burden, and still feeling a bit bruised by the vitriol unleashed on social media when parkwalk was announced. I’m already acutely aware I’m a slow walker, so I try to pick events that for whatever reason are likely to be walker friendly or at least tolerant, week by week. It had come on to my parkrun radar that on this day Woodbank parkrun would be hosting its event number 610. This, dear reader, is one in the Fibonacci sequence, and since some parkrunners are trying to collect a series of these to complete an online challenge, I knew it likely there would be an influx of parkrunners. More people usually means more people likely to be lingering post the event anyway with milestones and running challenge finales various celebrated. Also, a greater likelihood of encountering friendly parkrunners who I already know to some extent, who being aware of my situation are predisposed to be supportive and give some sense of solidarity. Some do this intuitively, and maybe don’t even realise the difference they make, some put themselves out to do so, both approaches are massively appreciated. I do however long for the day I could just rock up at a parkrun like everyone else without having to second guess how I’ll be viewed. No-one likes to think of themselves of being the cause of every heart sinking as they are spotted arriving at a parkrun, or anywhere else for that matter.

It’s always angsty, choosing where to go of late. Sometimes I give myself a talking to and tell myself it’s just my paranoia and nobody minds, and other days those messages online flash up in my mind and I don’t even want to leave the house. This week though, all good. The Fibonacci number would work its magic, and I need not be alone! Which was just as well, since it turns out I massively overdid it the weekend before with a long drive down to London from Sheffield for Charlton parkrun and standing to cheer marathon runners. I paid for it with considerable exhaustion and pain in the aftermath, this is getting so boring, I feel like my body just given up on me some days. Still, I was determined to get out, parkrun is often the only activity I get to do in a week, and if I stop going then I wonder if I’d leave the house at all. Junior parkrun often gives me an injection of optimism that sustains me for a bit, but the 5k has lost some of its potency in that regard. The continuing online ‘debate’ about parkwalk has reduced me to tears. A lot. It’s not even a debate, it’s all negative, where are the voices of people who would welcome walkers? Probably too scared to put their heads above the proverbial parapet. I know I’ve had people just double down on me when I’ve tried to give a different perspective. All this ‘parkwalk will drive away volunteers‘ I AM a volunteer, I volunteer pretty much every week, usually twice, and kept a not a run report going for 30 weeks or so during lockdown in an attempt to keep my local parkrun community together. I did it and do it because I wanted to. Yet, I’m the one being driven away from parkrun – not by the parkwalk initiative, but by people being so vocal in expressing their hatred for walkers. Wow! Such toxicity, and such a flood of people who really don’t want me at their events it seems. Or if they say ‘not you, the other walkers‘ then what does that mean exactly. We have deserving and undeserving walkers? You’ll be telling me some of your best friends are walkers next, don’t delude yourself. Of course those events will particularly struggle for volunteers, they aren’t offering a welcoming and inclusive environment. I am wondering increasingly if my participation in parkrun might be coming to an end. I don’t want to step away, but the onslaught of negativity is definitely taking its toll. Still, this was not the week to walk away. Anyway, we’ve already established walking is painful for me most of the time, so I really don’t want to walk more than I have to. The upshot this was certainly one of my more painful outings, but you know what, it’s a wonderful parkrun. Woodbank restored a bit of faith that there can still be welcoming parkrun communities, and for that I’m very grateful. Gorgeous venue and a super friendly RD who was proactively lovely as opposed to ‘just’ intrinsically and generically lovely which as we all know is a given for RDs and marshals at parkruns across the world! This RD though was extra specially smiley and welcoming. More of that later though.

First off, the Woodbank parkrun official website blah de blah:

The event takes place at Woodbank Memorial Park, Turncroft Lane, Stockport SK1 4JR.

Course Description
The course starts by heading around Woodbank Memorial Park in a clockwise direction. The route then continues with two figure-of-eight loops through Vernon and Woodbank Memorial Parks – with each section in an anti-clockwise direction. The finish is on the left of the path heading back towards Vernon Park.

Most of the course is paved, but it includes one short muddy path connecting the two parks, and a steep cobbled section in Vernon Park. In winter, we sometimes use an alternative course that avoids the hill.

Facilities
There are toilets available in the Vernon Park Café, but this usually opens at about 10am. Other nearby facilities are in the nearby Tesco Extra, which is 1 mile from Woodbank Memorial Park

and it looks like this:

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There are two carparks. I did that really annoying thing of sleeping really, really badly because I’m an insomniac at the best of times, but was also kept awake by pain ‘all night’ and then was so sound asleep when my alarm went off I ended up over sleeping. Mad dash out the door, and I arrived not late exactly, but later than intended. I made my way to the smaller of the two carparks which I now know to be very near the finish, and given the choice the better of the two options if you have limited mobility. There were some super impressive stone gates at the entrance. Wowsers! No mistaking you’ve arrived. The parkrun route actually takes you past these, and the lovely marshal who redirected me earlier too, but that delight was still to come! Sorry my camera takes such rubbish photos, it’s getting to the point I may have to admit defeat and actually retire it, but then again, you get the gist. That’s worth something surely. You can at least see what I mean about those gates. Quite something aren’t they. Enough to intimidate peasants enough to keep away in days of yore.

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It was already full, but a cheery marshal redirected me back along the road to carpark two. I was worried there might not be spaces left, but actually there were loads. The test was the incredibly narrow looking entrance. Constructed deliberately to slow cars down and prevent larger vehicles using it, it works, I felt like even my dinky little car had to breathe in to squeeze through. The car park is a bit offset from the main park, and as I exited hopefully from the far end it wasn’t immediately obvious where to head. No panic though, inevitably you see other parkrunners and so I just trailed in behind them. I’m getting rather too used to just tagging along at the back.

Instantly though you get the sense of this being a splendid park. In fact it’s more than one, but I hadn’t quite got the hang of that at this stage. Some cones and marshals were already in place, and there was a big top as the circus had indeed just come to town. Mature trees were already turning autumn gold, some spectators were seated on benches in anticipation of romping parkrunners, and a great migration of people wearing multi coloured tees were seemingly being pulled together to a central assembly point as if by an invisible force.

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I’d like to think I scampered to the start as I was definitely pushing it for time, others were putting on more than a half hearted jog to get there, I was offering up more of a well intentioned shuffle. Still, this even number 610 had gathered quite a crowd, so others were also somewhat tardy arrivals at the Fibonacci ball.

You know what a Fibonacci number is right? I’m sure we’ve been through this before. Sigh. Well, in case not, the thing you need to know is that some keen parkrunners collect them. I inadvertently found I’d collected one myself at Millhouses parkrun #55 earlier in the year, they’d not really been on my radar much before if I’m honest.

Fortunately, the lovely RD knew all about them. As I approached the start, I heard him asking if anyone had joined them because of the event number. A veritable Mexican Wave of jazz hands went up in spirited acknowledgement that this was indeed the lure!

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In case anyone didn’t know, he gave a great account of what they are, which I didn’t write down or memorise at the time (my bad) but have subsequently googled so you don’t have to:

Fibonacci numbers appear unexpectedly often in mathematics, so much so that there is an entire journal dedicated to their study, the Fibonacci Quarterly. Applications of Fibonacci numbers include computer algorithms such as the Fibonacci search technique and the Fibonacci heap data structure, and graphs called Fibonacci cubes used for interconnecting parallel and distributed systems. They also appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit sprouts of a pineapple, the flowering of an artichoke, an uncurling fern, and the arrangement of a pine cone’s bracts.

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Also, if you are interested in embarking on various parkrun number challenges and there are a squintillion of them, which is almost as many challenges as there are parkruns and people that do them. That isn’t even a lie once you include things like name badge challenges (spell your name with the first letters of parkruns attended) although I begrudgingly concede I’m not quite sure where my number offering sits in our Hindu-Arabic numerical sequence. Still, if a squintillion isn’t yet a number it should be. Remember dear reader, you heard it hear first.

Anyway, you are distracting me with your picky questions. The point is, if you’d like to know a parkrun number, there is a brilliant online toy to help you do this, and predict where a particular number might show up one day too. This genius Google Spreadsheet global parkrun event number predictor development was put together by parkrun passionista Keith Bennet, an absolute hero. Go spoil yourself, dive in, discover not only Fibonacci numbers, but the Nelson Index, prime numbers and everything in between. You will disappear into a time vortex as you get absorbed in checking out infinite possibilities as you undertake your voyage of numerical exploration and discovery of course, but it is so worth it. It will definitely keep you busy for a while. You have been warned. Remember though, sometimes parkrun home is best, fun as parkrun tourism can undoubtedly be. Thanks to the dedicated few who create these parkrun related fun spin offs. The running challenges team and Elliott Line Stats being but two more who bring added value to the parkrun party week in week out.

It’s because of Elliott that we know the parkrun Attendance and Milestone Stats for 8 and 9 October 2022. Specifically worldwide there were 1,775 parkruns plus 388 junior parkruns, and the worldwide parkrun population was 249,735 parkrunners and 36,365 volunteers. But there is so much more stuff you didn’t know you needed to know until you go have a gander. For example, in Malaysia there were 4 parkrunners per million this weekend, whereas in the UK this week there were 1977 parkrunners per million people in the general population. Spookily, 1977 was the year Concorde first flew, and it’s flight path took it over Bushy Park (probably, I’m not absolutely sure, it certainly set of sonic booms over Bushy Park with regularity) and Bushy Park was where parkrun was to first start back in 2004. Oh, and FYI running was apparently invented in by Thomas Running in 1748 when he tried to walk twice at the same time. Google tells me everyone knows this but it isn’t true. I’m astonished, because I had never heard this but now as sure as the earth is flat sounds plausible enough to me. Good to know.

On the subject of believing unlikely things, I’ve decide to temporarily become a believer in Angel numbers! I gather 610 is one, (as in one of those numbers, not as in number one, that would be ridiculous and mathematically extremely unlikely) and as a consequence lots of lovely things align, who wouldn’t want to believe in that!

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I am in need of positive changes so I’ll take that, and I’m pathetic in my desire to seek validation from the approval of others, so knowing my angels ‘fully approve of my life choices and decisions’ is clearly splendid. Although I do have a slight concern I may be hanging out with the wrong crowd of approving angels just now as it’s not been working out for me all that well at times, still, the occasional waiver and wobble is understandable is it not, I’ll still take that. One things for sure, a crowd of angels did sterling work as volunteers at Woodbank parkrun today, and many in fine voice too!

Right, where was I? Oh yes, back to lovely Woodbank parkrun

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And event 610 was lovely almost instantly, because apart from being a sunny day and a lovely park, I espied a familiar face in the crowd, hurrah, last seen at Huddersfield parkrun #500, a micro reunion! And look! There’s a 250 voluntouring hero, all ready to scan and on an outing from Burnage parkrun. Yay to lovely people and shared hugs and smiles! Definitely lifted my spirits to see some friendly faces and get a warm welcome. Thank you! Love you guys 🙂

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So I was a little late to the party, having missed the first timers’ welcome, sorry about that, but slotted in at the back to join the throng as it set off on it’s migration route through the park.

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The weather was gorgeous, and the park looked lovely. You can’t really see in the photos, but you got a great view of faster parkrunners heading off over the other side of the park. Again, this was a good course because the looping about lapping nature of it, meant you did get to see other parkrunners speeding by. Many throwing words of support and encouragement my way which was friendly. Unusually, there was another parkwalker who was a bit slower than me so with the tail. That meant for the first time in weeks I felt unhurried. Although I was on my own it was quite nice. I could swap cheery exchanges with marshals, take in the view, snap a few pictures. It was good. There was a photographer on the course, who took way better photos than me. I’ll do a mix and match, but I’m guessing you may well be able to spot when I was behind the lens and when it was someone else. It’s the thought that counts dear reader. Loving all the aeroplane arms, these are parkrunners who are pros at living their best parkrun lives.

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Notable things on the course. Erm, well seeing those amazing gates was quite something. My research for parkrunpedia tells me that:

Woodbank Park has lots of wide open spaces and is ideal for a leisurely stroll. (or indeed parkrun) It’s also situated close to Vernon Park. The park connects with the River Goyt and the Goyt Way. Footpaths can lead you through Poise Brook or towards Otterspool and Bredbury. The Midshires Way and the Fred Perry Way also pass through. A nature trail, that had been lost for years, has been restored by the Friends of Woodbank Park group. This trail links many of the heritage features of the park that many people do not know exists

and

Vernon Park opened in 1858 and is Stockport’s oldest public park lying just east of the town centre. It’s an exceptional Victorian/Edwardian asset to both the local community and the North West region. Once known as ‘Pinch Belly Park’ or the ‘People’s Park’, it was built by Stockport Corporation on land donated by George John Warren (Lord Vernon). It was an instant success with mill workers helping to construct park features. The park received a £1.6 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to give it a new lease of life and to restore it to its former splendour. The park is well used by schools for historical and environmental studies. (and parkrun) It provides unique areas for traditional pastimes such as crown green bowls and has beautifully restored areas of formal and informal parkland. The site also boasts a mature woodland along the river which is sensitively managed whilst maintaining public access.

A place I could easily have spent more time if I had the stamina.

Excitingly, there is another – to me unexpected bit – where you go up a cobbled hill. It’s a bit unexpected, and at the intersection of the two parks. I wonder how many other parkruns go through multiple parks? There are a few I think, it must make things a bit trickier with permissions and admin, but it all went smoothly here. I don’t know absolutely for certain, but this is probably the steepest cobbled street in the UK and the one used for the Hovis ads.

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Hovis Hill was free of people delivering bread today, and instead populated entirely by parkrunners, some posing some panting some pacing some in the intersection of a venn diagram and doing all these things simultaneously.

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I was quite relieved to have to make no pretence at running. It was nice to take it all in, and to see the path named after Fred Perry signposted through. Fred Perry Way is a 14 mile walking route which spans the borough from Woodford in the south to Reddish in the north. The route combines rural footpaths, quiet lanes and river valleys with urban landscapes and parklands. Sounds very nice actually. Disappointingly however, Fred Perry has nothing to do with PERRY HALL parkrun, but rather ‘Fred Perry is one of Stockport’s most famous sons and was born in Portwood in 1909. He won the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He was the last English men’s tennis player to win the title. Fred Perry was also a member of Britain’s winning Davis Cup team from 1933 to 1936. He was made a freeman of Stockport in 1934‘ So now you know.

I enjoyed the first lap, and took the opportunity to talk to some of the marshals going round. One admired my sticks and we shared some stories of our experiences as parkwalkers through circumstance. It was a relief really, to talk to someone who gets it. Who recommended a virtual 5k through a group where you don’t have to do the 5k all in one go if that’s too hard. Also, we shared the guilty secret, that it would be really lovely to be able to participate without angst at any parkrun rather than have to default to volunteering in order to be welcome as a walker. I feel very conflicted. parkrun is really important to me, or has been at any rate. I don’t want my honesty about my parkwalk experiences to deter anyone from coming. What we need is more walkers, not fewer. I really believe a critical mass of walkers would make for a better event for everyone. Better atmosphere, a bigger pool of participants and therefore volunteers that might help things pick up again. Post covid numbers are down and often getting volunteers nears mission critical! Talking to someone else who gets that is ok. I’ve felt quite stung recently when I’ve mentioned some parkruns aren’t accessible to me because of the terrain and told ‘oh well just come and volunteer’ but I volunteer all the time, I want to be able to join in and complete a parkrun without judgement too. Volunteering is great, and I’m happy to do it, but want to enjoy parkrun as a parkwalker as well. I think parkwalkers are a long way off having ‘the same experience’ as other participants, though I hope that once all the critical voices are flushed out, the apparent resolve of parkrun to make walking at parkrun truly acceptable will come good. I can but hope. I’m still in bracing myself before a parkrun mode at present, but I hope this time too will pass. Meantime, Woodbank was very fine.

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One thing that was exceedingly impressive about these particular high vis heroes, was the high number of them who were accessorised in some way. So we had tamborines with jingly bells, a sound system and a cow bell giving good service as well as the cheery shout outs and clapping on the way round. Good job.

Oh, and here I am at the finish – though still with another lap to go. I liked seeing the buzz of the faster parkrunners finishing. It can be a bit like the deck of the Mary Celeste by the time I make it round to the finish at some parkruns these days. Only with less sea water (unless it’s a seaside parkrun) and less rigging (unless they have a particularly ambitious finish funnel – see Bushy parkrun). Here are some random photos by way of illustration, and also to provide a photodump of shots I want to include but don’t know quite wear to shove them (no, don’t tell me, I can work it out for myself).

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Just after I passed the finish for the first time, the tail walking team caught up with me. |I did have a bit of a wobble at this point, as a departing parkrunner shouted out to the tail walkers with a definite tone of incredulity ‘so you’ve got another WHOLE lap still to go, a WHOLE lap?’ That was a rough moment. I wondered if I should offer to finish at that point, but stayed quiet. It’s just another example of people being thoughtless, I am slow, and acutely aware of not being regarded by some as a ‘proper’ parkrunner, whatever that is. I doubt she gave a moment’s thought to how I might feel hearing that. The person the tail walkers had been accompanying had dropped out after one lap. I noticed she like me had been walking with a stick. I hope she wasn’t feeling hurried and that she gets to complete a full 5k before too much longer assuming that is her goal. I have found rehab to be really hard and more than a tad dispiriting so I feel for those maybe at a different stage on that path, I felt for me too. Was it ok to be taking so long? The tail walkers reassured me there was no hurry and they were just establishing who was the final participant, but psychologically, I did start to feel the pressure a lot more at this point. I tried to speed up a bit, with mixed success. A bit further on, good news, a faster parkrunner who had finished (literally) flying round, came to keep me company for a bit. He’s done this previously at other parkruns and is a patient, non- pressurising parkrun buddy, for which I am grateful. I was a bit miserable at this point as feeling the pain, so it was good to be distracted. Also, he facilitated some selfies with marshals, always a win AND, he had picked up a celebratory cup cake. This is THE BEST idea I’ve seen EVER for someone wanting to share their 100th different parkrun celebrations. What he did, was make 100 different cakes, and give each one its own label corresponding to each of the different parkruns he’s completed. This is clearly genius, and ought to become a thing at every parkrun across the world. You can always stick the flags in grapes if you want a healthier option, or even just give out the flags, because flags are fun are they not?

What’s more, in a very pleasing moment of either fate or chance depending on your point of view, this Burbage parkrunner just by pure happenstance picked the cake that was labelled for Burbage! I know, how very brilliant is that. In an act of selfless charity, he donated it to one of the marshals who was happy to have the sustenance to keep him fuelled until the tailwalker came back around. They had been right behind me, but delayed by course dismantling en route. It was good to have some non judgemental walk and talk company for the final kilometre.

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‘Suddenly’ it was back to the finish where a jolly funnel full of volunteers and many a parkrunner were still very much present. And there was my Burbage voluntourist buddy ready to do her magic with the scanning volunteer app. It got quite emotional thanking all the volunteers at the end!

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And that was that, timed in, barcode scanned and Woodbank parkrun done.

There was a certain amount of parkfaffery, but low key. Mandatory photo posing, oh, and I acquired a parkrun magazine which is VERY EXCITING there was a box available for people to help themselves, and someone picked one up for me. Thank you Team Burrelli! People were dispersing to different cafes and I wasn’t feeling great so opted to just head off. Walking back to the car I was able to appreciate the autumn colours a bit more and exiting towards the larger carpark there was one of the moto coffee vans where I got an excellent coffee from a friendly pair serving. Never found the loos though.

The sun shone, turning autumn leaves gold. Not a bad closing image from Woodbank parkrun.

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Thank you Woodbank team for welcoming the Fibonacci number chasers, and thank you RD for being welcoming – I noticed he made a point of personally thanking the voluntourists before departing, which was a nice touch, thank you tail walkers for not piling the pressure on and thank you parkrun buddies for meeting and greeting me and keeping me company on the way round. This is a properly gorgeous parkun venue, with loads of extra things to explore if you allow yourself a bit more time. I have no idea why it’s taken me such a while to seek it out. Well met dear parkrun, well met indeed. 🙂

’til next time then? Happy parkrunning and parkwalking and voluntouring in the meantime.

Best foot forward eh – or least worse one anyway in my case!

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.  Your choice

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Wonders of Woodbank parkrun – Fabulous Fibonacci numbers working their magic!

  1. Peter

    Somehow I managed to read your London marathon post last week, but missed both this and the Charlton one.
    I’m sorry that you’ve seen such negativity and you have encouraged me to stay away from farcebook.
    I will say that you have motivated me to do be more positive in my encouragement for parkwalk – I’m volunteering in that role next week and will do my best to make sure that everyone who attends enjoys it (and the cafe afterwards if applicable)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry I missed this comment! I wonder if by now you have had a go at parkwalking, if so I hope it went well. I’ve really appreciated your supportive comments and bet you’d be a fab walk & talk companion so hope it was positive, and you got quality cafe time too. Thanks for stopping by again, I wonder if our parkrun/parkwalk paths may cross in real life at some point. Hoping so 🙂

    Like

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