Mighty, Meditative, Marvellous & Magical: Markeaton parkrun

Another Saturday, another parkrun.

Reet nice out.

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Where to go? I wasn’t entirely feeling the parkrun love this week. As my regular reader will know I’m struggling a bit with walking at parkrun, and these days always feel quite a bit of trepidation about whether and where to go in my quest to find a welcoming parkrun. Some times it just seems crazy to drive far, far away just to traipse round a park in pain for 5k in solitude. Then again, I might get lucky, find a new amazing park, see smiling welcoming high vis heroes, have a micro adventure, maybe see someone I know. You never regret a parkrun as the saying goes. What the hell…

I picked Markeaton parkrun for this week. It’s quite near to Sheffield, and honestly, I don’t really know why I’ve not spotted it before, it being a well established parkrun, yep, that’d do. It seemed to have all the tourist things, loos, car parking, a full roster in advance to give confidence it would be happening, yep, that’d do. It was a last minute decision, but you know what, ’twas a grand one too!

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The official |Markeaton parkrun blah de blah states:

Course Description
The course consists of two clock-wise laps on a mix of tarmac and limestone path. The start is located by the stone bridge at the top of the lake. The course follows the lake towards the east side of the park then curves round to the right just before the park boundary and heads back towards the centre of the park. The course then crosses the main path in the park and passes the front of the south car park. At this point the surface changes to a limestone path and heads up a hill towards the wooded section. Just before the exit of the park the course takes a sharp right-hand turn and heads downhill along the south boundary of the park.

After another sharp right-hand turn and a small hill downhill to the left the course follows the west boundary of the park, a left-hand turn leads back onto a gravelled tarmac path with a right-hand on to a straight path. Half way along this straight is a left-hand turn and the path passes behind the old stable building and back past the start where runners begin a second lap. On reaching the straight for a second time runners continue to the finish in front of the stone steps by the Orangery. The course will be well signed and marshalled where available.

Facilities
There is a small fee for car parking. Details can be found on the Derby City Council website.

Toilet facilities are available at the Craft Village and the Mundy Play Centre. Radar Key operated disabled toilets are available at both locations. Opening times vary according to season.

The park has many additional facilities including a children’s play area, boating lake, pitch and putt, light railway and fishing.

Getting there by road
There are two car parks – the main car park (nearest to the start of the run) is accessible from Markeaton Island on the A38 and A52. The SATNAV postcode is DE22 4AA. It has a 2m height restriction.

The other car park, near the Mundy Play Centre, is accessible from Markeaton Lane and the SATNAV postcode is DE22 3BG. There is a small charge for both car parks.

Post Run Coffee
Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in the Orangery Café – please come and join us!

And it looks like this –

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Which I think you can agree, is basically a badly drawn map of Australia, that either completely omits Tasmania, oops, or just pretends they didn’t and it’s actually the roundabout! So feel free to come do this course dressed as a koala or other marsupial of your choice. Personally I’m more wombat than kangaroo, but I’d definitely have improvised a hat with corks on a string hanging from it if I’d only thought of it in advance. Now you’ve had my tip off you can go prepared. The team will appreciate it. It’s a cheaper and greener way to become an international parkrun tourist, and what’s not to like about that?

I think they should rewrite their course description with reference to the various states of Australia, not only because this would amuse me, but also because that would be edutainment at it’s best. Be honest, how many of the states can you name, and, what’s the capital of Australia whilst we are about it?

Really? Are you sure? OK, you might be confident about that, but what year did Scott and Charlene get married? Eh? And how about, how many parkruns are there in Australia? Clue, more than you might think! And last question: is the Bungle Bungles a real place or an imaginary one? Photos on the internet prove nothing by the way, you mustn’t believe everything you see there, ask yourself rather, does that geological formation look plausible? Quite. I rest my case.

Where was I? Oh yes, en route to Markeaton. It wasn’t too long a drive this morning, but as always |I set off paranoically early. Climate change being what it is, it was an extraordinarily mild day. Leaving the house I saw that as well as my lobelia still being in flower (not a euphemism) now my lavender has bloomed again and is set off beautifully by a backdrop of geraniums and fuchsia. My garden looks fantastic, but it’s hard not to be discombobulated by these signs that indicate the end of time. Oh well, I had a parkrun to attend, mustn’t linger dwelling on our world imploding.

Lovely autumn colours lined the roads for a super easy drive from Sheffield. Only at the last point did I somehow get lost. I had input the satnav for Mundy carpark, but although it did take me there pretty much, I lost my nerve as it seemed to be miles and miles away from where the park was and I didn’t think I’d manage to walk that distance back to the start. There were some runners around, but not obviously parkrunners, though I do always wonder why anyone would run around 9.00 on a Saturday morning at a parkrun location if not a parkrunner. I decided to head back and use the satnav for the other car park, which to be fair, was what I’d meant to do in the first place. Uh oh. Fail. The sat nav took me back to the big roundabout where there is an Esso petrol station and a massive McDonalds and an abundance of exit roads. Somehow, I ended up being directed off in another direction entirely, definitely no parkrun on the dual carriageway there. Reasoning the sat nav was off, I found a suitable place to turn around and went for a circuit of said roundabout. This time I saw huge ‘unmissable’ brown signs to Markeaton park, and an even huger ginormous one pointing to the main entrance to the park. I have no idea how I missed this first time round, but the moral is, be alert to your surroundings rather than slave to the satnav. I was glad I’d allowed some extra time to rock up there though.

Once I’d found the entrance, it was pretty straightforward. The car park was pretty spacious and there were helpful signs all over. There was a miniature railway, this seems to be a trend in some of the parkruns I’ve been to of late. Maybe I’m missing a trick in not taking advantage of them. There are loads of facilities, cafe, loos, sports courts. All the things. You do have to pay for parking (unless you have a blue badge) parkin was reasonable but the reference to ‘small fee’ made me think it might just be a pound say, whereas I think it was more like £1.60 for an hour and then going up in increments depending on how long you stay. So fair enough, but more than I was expecting. You can either go quietly insane trying to find the right app, downloading it etc, or just pay with cash (no change given) but the good news is that there was loads of space. There was also a growing number of arriving parkrunners with tourist buffs and slightly confused expressions as they tried to get their bearings, and some regulars, marching purposefully out of the carpark in the direction of the muster for the start.

Markeaton park is truly spectacular! I was amazed at the size and maturity of some of the trees looking stunning in their autumn colours. The sun came out – a bit too much to be honest, it was more than my camera could cope with, but I was astonished to find such a huge and lovely park next to the unpromising roundabout populated by two of my least favourite businesses. I think beyond the park I could see building from the University of Derby, but if you looked the other direction the green space seemed to go on to infinity. There were periodic public art bits and bobs, maps, lots of water all very lovely, thank you for asking.

I followed the people who looked like the knew where they were going. We’ve been through this before, it slightly concerns me how readily I’ll follow people who look confident, this is how you end up joining cults but hey ho, as cults go, parkrun is a pretty benign one. Oh, and there were these clusters of fairy toadstools too. It was a gorgeous green space. As per, the photos don’t really do it justice, you’ll just have to use your imagination. I really liked the figures pointing in opposite directions, though you do have to hope the marshals will be a bit clearer with their directional pointing (spoiler alert, they were). I guess the fun thing to do would be to poke your heads through the slots and get a picture, but my arms weren’t long enough for me to achieve the necessary contortions to make it so. To be fair, they still aren’t now, but maybe you could give it a go, especially if you have journeyed there with a friend. Go on, you know you want to.

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After a bit, the ‘craft village’ came into view. Oh my! It’s a full on historic building – Markeaton Hall, complete with blue plaque for the Mundy Family. ‘Who?’ I hear you cry. Worry not dear reader, let me google that for you. Oh, turns out there is quite a lot, and I don’t want to go full on parkrunpedia on you, the basics are:

Francis Mundy (bapt. 29 Aug 1771 – 6 May 1837) was an English landowner, Member of Parliament for the Derbyshire constituency and, in 1820, Sheriff of Derbyshire.

Poor Francis only got to inherit the one estate, Markeaton Hall, but fortunately, it was and is a jolly nice one, so not exactly roughing it. Oh wait, hang on, that mahoosive building isn’t even the hall, that fell into disrepair, it is just the orangery which is all that is left. Wowsers, how massive must that hall have been. Nightmare to heat. Oh wait, this is properly interesting, I’ll do a cut and paste for you and hope it’s true!

The manor of Markeaton was held by the Tuchet family from the 13th century. Sir John Tuchet (b.1327) married Joan, daughter of James Audley, 2nd Lord Audley and heiress of his brother Nicholas Audley, 3rd Lord Audley of Heleigh Castle, Staffordshire, and in due course their son became the 4th Lord Audley.

Sir John Audley of Markeaton fought for Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The Audleys sold the manor in 1516 to Sir John Mundy, Lord Mayor of London in 1522. The Mundys replaced the old manor house with a new mansion in about 1750.

Sir John Mundy’s descendants included a number of High Sheriffs of Derbyshire including Francis Noel Clarke Mundy who commissioned paintings from Joseph Wright of Derby to decorate his home and record the hunts that took place at Markeaton.

In 1929, the Markeaton Hall and twenty acres (81,000 m²) of its gardens were given to the Corporation by the Reverend Clarke Maxwell who had inherited the estate from the late Mrs Mundy, on condition that the whole area would be used as a public park and that the mansion would be maintained for cultural purposes, for example a museum or and art gallery. Unfortunately the hall was used by the Army during World War II and allowed to fall into disrepair after the war.

The Hall was eventually declared to be unsafe and was demolished in 1964, leaving standing only the Orangery, a Grade II listed building

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Fair play, that’s a lot of history.

Looked impressive too. Now the ‘mere’ orangery is still standing and still breath taking. What a backdrop for a parkrun. There was a whole courtyard behind, which I now know you could take a shortcut through to get to the start if you didn’t want to listen to the run briefing. Please do that instead of just talking through it, it does my head in that people do that. There were loos that were open and reasonable. They had the weirdest inside design though. The sinks being one side of the door way and the hand driers the other, so as there was a queue in the ladies there was a constant circulation of folk moving from one side to the other, or going with the frantic handwaving or the failsafe wiping washed hands on your leggings rather than barging back through the queue. No idea what the gents was like, but I’m going to guess that as usual they don’t have to queue and had no such formation dancing going on whilst having their comfort breaks and performing any necessary ablutions.

In the courtyard was the largest ornamental urn thingy I’ve ever seen, and towering around its edges were ornamental railings. I don’t really know what function this might serve, but it was definitely impressive and now I want one too. Even though I’d have to demolish part of my house to accommodate it in my garden, that would be but a small price to pay for such an astonishing bit of garden sculpture, though Markeaton Park authorities might not be keen to part with it. I got an early sighting of some of the volunteers, I thought they were just chatting, but now I’ve see them in action, I’m pretty confident these two were just working out the bell ringing synchronicity to make sure it was perfect from the off. Spoiler alert, they nailed it.

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After a bit of milling about, there was a call out for first timers to gather for the first timers’ welcome. This was thorough and genuine, though being told ‘just ignore any references to cardiac hill’ was somewhat mischievous. A couple of tourists were sporting 500 tees, don’t see too many of the in the wild, so that was exciting too.

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First timers’ welcome over, time to mill about and do some sign posing before the RD briefing.

One of the excellent features of the venue, is that the raised courtyard area has steps leading down to the finish funnel, which is the area where parkrunners gather for the Run Director’s briefing, so they can stand atop the steps and be clearly seen and heard which is great. The Run Briefing was extremely good. There was a Couch to 5k group that was doing their graduation parkrun. They were warmly welcomed. A volunteer with a milestone volunteer got an extra round of applause. Tourists were welcomed from near and far ‘from Leeds? Never mind’. There was a shout out for someone who was doing 7k every day for 7 days in a sort of relay I think, with someone else taking over next week. I didn’t quite catch what that was about to be honest, but the point is, I felt like this is a mature parkrun community. People know one another, care about one another and share each others achievements. The park walker was particularly identified as someone to walk around with and gave a friendly and vigorous wave, so that was lovely. I felt the welcome for parkwalkers was completely genuine. It was all very impressive. And yes, there was a noisy cohort chatting throughout, but at least they stayed towards the back. I’m definitely getting more intolerant in my old age.

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Run briefing over, there was a mass migration to the start area. I wasn’t expecting this relocation so was possibly disproportionately excited by the micro adventure of following the throng along the outside wall of the orangery and round the corner where there was a sawn laden water feature with it’s own feature bridge, and the backs of a mass of parkunners ready for off.

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It was only when we were all mustered at the start, that I fully appreciated how many people were gathered. It’s a large field, and the venue is such it could take still more. We were urged to keep left if walking so faster runners could overtake, but it never felt congested.

I watched the off, and then joined the pack towards the back. The first two marshals were busy bell ringing and cheering with great enthusiasm. All marshals are lovely obvs, but I do have a special place in my heart for marshals who accessorise appropriately and noisily to help not only get the party started but keep the party spirit alive. Hurrah for jingly marshals!

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I tried to put on a bit of a wiggle, my aim was to stay ahead of the tail walker, and I started off with a degree of confidence, but very quickly the field pulled away and my leg started playing up and I realised, alas, I’m not magically cured. It is so frustrating that my body just won’t do what my head wants it to. On the plus side, the route was absolutely gorgeous. It was a great sight to see the colourful stream of runners curving ahead like a string of prayer flags caught in the wind. All shapes and speeds and sizes. Some with pushchairs, some walking companionably with others. A group clustered with the very jolly parkwalker. There was even a tailwalker with an actual tail. A tail-wagger if you like, though strictly speaking I didn’t see them until the very end.

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I was my usual stop start taking photos as a way to pause and rest every so often. I tried to photograph as many marshals as I could, but it was harder than you might think. They were all really friendly and welcoming. It felt like a particularly positive parkrun community, with lots of shouting encouragement to participants by name. The two lap element giving lots of scope for interactions. It just felt relaxed and friendly. One marshal team near the car park included a young man holding a huge tin of sweets by way of refreshments on the way round. I resisted the temptation on lap one, but paused at lap two to say hello, and enquire what the was the occasion to merit such bounty. Well, get this dear reader. He has them EVERY WEEK, well every week he marshals that is. Isn’t that great? I took an opal fruit joyfully, although actually turns out this is now a starburst. Honestly, you’ll be telling me marathons aren’t a thing any more next! What an astonishingly photogenic lot they all are though, each marshal more decorative than the one before! An abundance of loveliness indeed. There is something about the high vis that makes all who wear it a joy to behold. Inner and outer delightfulness made manifest through the reflective power of the high vis.

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There were lots of things to look at on the way round. The mature trees were magnificent, but there were also random sculptures of wood, wire baskety things that looked like they might be for making beacons except they were too near trees and not especially high up so I couldn’t really fathom them. I was a bit taken aback by one carving that was of a miniature wooden tank. It just seemed in very poor taste as a piece of public ‘art’ or play equipment. I don’t know if there is a story behind it, but in the light of all that is going on in the world now particularly it jarred. On the other hand, there was another carving of a squirrel and periodically little houselets, fairy dwellings? Much to see and wonder at.

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As I walked I slowed, and got further and further back. The parkwalker and her merry band overtook me with cheery waves. They were a jolly sight indeed. I really wish my photos did them justice, they lifted spirits just by being there.

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From then on I was walking on my own, which is fine, but it was a little unsettling that there was no-one in sight. I could see neither the parkwalker ahead nor the tailwalker behind, this is why we need more people to walk at parkrun, to fill that gap at the back. I do long to be at a parkrun event where I don’t end up being quite such an outlier. But unless I relocate to South Africa where I understand there is more of a walking culture at parkrun, I think this is my parkrun reality now. I’d be lying if I tried to pretend it doesn’t profoundly depress me at times, but it is what it is. One day I’ll get to South Africa and in my head that means I’ll stroll through dusty trails espying journeys of giraffes on the horizon and watching jolly warthog families cavorting alongside. Whilst not South Africa, and therefore having fewer rhinos, and not Australia, so having fewer wallabies ths was nevertheless a really nice parkrun. It was friendly, picturesque and really well organised, but ultimately it was a bit lonely out there doing a lap alone, who wants to be stuck with their own thoughts really? Existential angst ever present. Fortunately, I could be distracted by the scenery and I was grateful to the marshals who stayed in place to over encouragement as well as cheered by the sight of runners passing me on their way through to the finish.

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As I finally came round towards the finish for the second time, I saw ‘my’ departing bell jingling marshals, who gave me a bespoke cheer as I was approaching the last few hundred yards, it was much appreciated. The finish funnel was still up and resplendent, and by the look of things every one still in place, so I did get to experience the same finish as all the other participants, which isn’t a given. That was nice.

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Oh wait, there was one teensy distinction, as it was just me, I was allowed not to complete the entire snake of the finish funnel and allowed instead to break through – or at least politely duck under – the parkrun tape. Do not brand me as a funnel ducker dear reader, this was absolutely consensual on all sides. It must be quite some finish though at it’s busier, as it was a long and impressive queue barrier. Think airport terminals or that sequence in Shrek where creatures are queueing to enter the theme park.

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I was scanned and then directed to pop my finish token in one of the little buckets on a faraway table. This was something I’ve not seen before but clearly actual genius! It seemed at first quite high risk to send people off with tokens, but there was not only a huge sign warning you not to pass that point without checking you’d surrendered your token, but also a little group of buckets each labelled for a different section of 100. This means that the token sorters can start their busy task earlier on, and grouping this tokens just makes that whole process a bit easier to manage. Actual genius. Why doesn’t every parkrun do this? I guess some do – now I thin of it Bushy parkrun has different containers for different numbers, but that’s huge. This is a respectable 3-400 parkrunners and the system seemed to work really well.

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I deposited my token, got a flat white from the orangery, and then, since everyone had waited for me, waited to cheer in the final couple of participants. It was a nice chilled and relaxed atmosphere, unhurried. In due course the tail walker and accompanying tail waggers were welcomed home.

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Final finisher safely home, the team busied themselves with course close down, and me and Red Ted weaved our way out of the park. He insisted on a photo op, and who can blame him. It’s a cool thing to do 🙂 I would have tried to recline in the circle too if I thought I’ve had had a sporting chance of squeezing in, but little point really as Red Ted can’t operate the camera either. Maybe next time.

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and that was that.

Time to leave the autumn colours of Markeaton park behind.

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Thank you lovely Markeaton parkrun team, your event is truly an asset to the parkrun family. A lovely venue and a welcoming parkrun indeed. Yay to all of you.

Oh and for triangulation purposes, the official run report for event 378 is here ‘You Ad Me At Hello‘ Loving the run report branding, plus it has a squirrel! Yay, what’s not to like. Oh and that Markeaton Park sign, it’s actually there, in the park, but my photo didn’t really capture it with the same pizzazz. Oh well, I tried, and it makes me happy that they have nailed it, so I get to share the image too. 🙂 Walk, Jog, Run, Read indeed!

If you have the stamina, don’t forget you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. Otherwise, bye for now, see you next time.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Mighty, Meditative, Marvellous & Magical: Markeaton parkrun

  1. Sorry to read that there wasn’t a party at the back for you to revel in this week; but it sounds like the interactions x 2 with super-friendly Marshalls and the pleasant surroundings mitigated that. Curious to know the what and why, of your “two least favourite businesses”, but perhaps that should be left unsaid and unread, at least on social media. Pleased to see that you are trending well in the sub 60 range. You have inspired me to choose park-walking for my next hi-viz opportunity. Hope Red Ted enjoyed his Saintly moment, pictured with Simon Templar 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the encouraging words! I just thing MacDonalds is a blight on the landscape and a litter factory with many unethical practices. How wonderful if you decide to don the powder blue high vis, not only is it extraordinarily fetching, you would be a wonder in the role. Have fun. Also, doh for The Templar moment, have only just twigged! I feel a whole punning landscape has been missed! Lx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Peter

    Sounds like a great event and thanks for the link to the official write-up which was also great.

    I think you have a Douglas Adams’ sense of direction
    https://www.shmoop.com/quotes/i-may-not-have-gone-where-i-intended-to-go.html

    I’ve not done Markeaton parkrun, though I have raced XC around the park, so that’s something I now need to remedy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John Todd

    Nice to have read you thoughts of Markeaton Parkrun, very pleased you enjoyed the experience. The person you referred to 7k for 7 day was myself. Slightly different though. It was my 7th day of running 7.7 miles each day all for MND. The ex rugby player Kevin Sinfield started running events for his old team mate Rob Burrow (see bbc I player “Rob Burrow, living with MND”) The 7 was Robs on player number and as he was to do 3 challenges it became 777. 7 full marathons in 7 days, Then he did 101 miles in 24 hours, this week he is running 41 miles aday for 7 days. At 71 I couldn’t do that but I could run 7.7 miles aday for7 days (again 777) I ran the Markeaton route 3 times prior to the “race” then joined the run. I had to add a few extra yards to make up the full distance. I managed to raise £205 for the charity. Not mind blowing but I’m happy to pass it on.

    Liked by 1 person

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