Monthly Archives: December 2022

Shipley Country parkrun – making a splash on the parkrun map!

Another parkrun day, another destination. It’s not been the best of years for me parkrun wise, but I suddenly realised I can get my 3/4 Cowell done this weekend if I moved out of my comfort zone and braved a but of tourism. Although strictly speaking a parkrun tomorrow on New Year’s Day is in 2023, because it’s all this one weekend, it feels like I’ll nail it this year.

Yesterday, in some quite ingenious procrastination activities, I set about doing some parkrun research, trying to fathom which parkruns I haven’t yet done are in realistic driving distance from Sheffield. This is basically a bottomless pit of distraction as each unique parkrun can take you down its own wormhole of parkrunpedia factoids and individual loveliness or character at the very least. I need never tackle an unpleasant activity again now I have landed on the perfect vehicle for endless procrastination. You might find it handy too.

I can report this research was both interesting and faffy in equal measure. Throwing up loads of venues that had inexplicably dropped off my radar, and generating a very long parkrun ‘to do’ list, that didn’t even include the destination parkruns like Bere Island and Somerdale Pavilion. Various parkrunning buddies of mine have taken to filling in whole spreadsheets of forward plans and I begin to see the attraction. Sometimes these shared documents float by my eyelines and up until now I’d only ever considered them as having value as a stalking activity. You get to see where other people are rocking up and can either stalk them or not and often they have done all the lengthy background research so you are guaranteed maybe a fancy dress display team, a particularly scenic venue or at the very least a milestone celebration with associated cake. That reminds me, did you see the lovely animation of the Charlie Mackesy book ‘The boy the mole the fox and the horse’ over Christmas. It’s just so perfect. Check it out on iplayer or at very least get yourself a copy of the book from world of books or whatever.

Anyway, I’m now thinking creating your own parkrun spreadsheet may in fact have merit, as it seems there are relatively near parkruns that are most worthy of visiting that I’ve yet to get too. In amongst the rediscovered parkrun treasures was Shipley Country parkrun. I don’t know quite why I’ve not already been, it’s relatively near and easy to get to from Sheffield, and from a cursory look at the website blah de blah seems to have all the things, parking etc. Hang on, I’ll prove it:

The official website blah de blah declares:

The event takes place at Shipley Country Park, Slack Lane, Heanor, Derbyshire, DE75 7GX and describes the course and facilities thus:

Course Description – The course is run on a mixture of tarmac, trail and gravel paths. The route starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground. From here the route heads down onto Coppice Hill Bridleway. Participants veer right and then at the end of the bridleway, turn right onto Bell Lane. After approximately 200 metres turn right on to a footpath. The footpath passes Meadow Farm and heads back to the back of the Visitors Centre. Participants take a short path back on to the main path, and head down towards Osbornes Pond. At Osbornes Pond, take a right turn and take a short sharp gravel path up the hill. Participants follow this path and veer right, following the path all the way back round past the Visitors Centre and will again follow the path down to Osbornes Pond, take the right hand path up the short sharp gravel hill again. Follow this path back round towards the Visitors Centre, where the finish funnel will be at the events field.

Facilities – The Country Park has good facilities including a visitors centre (including gift shop, exhibition and display area of leaflets), baby changing facilities, toilets, first aid room, wildlife garden, Ramblers Café, Derby Lodge Tearoom, a number of childrens adventure play facilities, dedicated disabled parking, cycle pathways, bridlepathways, nature trail.

Location of start – The event starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground.

Getting there by road – The main entrance to the country park is well signposted from Derby Road (A608) and from the motorway M1, junction 26. The park can also be accessed via Mapperley Village.

There are two car parks available at Shipley Country Park. The main car park has space for 216 vehicles and entrance is accessed via Slack Lane, Heanor, DE75 7GX. This car park is located within the country park and has 16 dedicated disabled parking spaces. You can also park at Mapperley Reservoir car park- accessed through Mapperley Village on Shipley Lane. Please note all car parks operate a pay and display facility; payments can be made by cash or card.

Post Run Coffee – Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in Ramblers Café, Nr Visitors Centre, Shipley Country Park. Show your parkrun barcode for special offers – please come and join us!

and it looks like this:

I did a bit of a results check and saw a full rota – though some people doing multiple tasks, and a friendly facebook page which is always a good sign of a proactive event team. Plus, lovely photo AND they give the what three words for the visitors’ centre which are apparently qualify.grumbles.stylists a trio that pleased me somehow. Grumbles and Stylists in particular sound like they might be reindeers that didn’t quite make the cut. Nice picture too

Why wouldn’t you want to rock up at a parkrun venue that looks as lovely as that? Precisely. No reason at all. Game on.

I didn’t sleep much the night before, like Lady Macbeth (though not for the same reasons I hasten to add) I seem to have completely lost the ability to sleep which is really annoying. On the plus side, wide awake in plenty of time for a leisurely drive over. The weather was pretty dire going across, standing water on the roads was a bit scary, I slowed right down, but others were less cautious so there was a lot of spray and the possibility of aquaplaning at any point. I wondered what the course would be like. In fact, the jolly volunteers had already posted a Facebook teaser:

Well, the course descriptors do always warn courses ‘may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain‘ so fair dos.

It was easy to find the venue from the postcode, and there are brown signs to the park too, which give you confidence since there is one turn off where you seem to be going through a very residential area before you emerge at the country park. I passed both a BP garage and a Tesco nearby but didn’t stop for my usual precautionary pee as I figured it likely there would be facilities on arrival and I like to live dangerously sometimes. Taking risks adds a certain frisson to events sometimes. They say you should do something that scares you every day to keep you feeling alive. I mean, this comes with the rider of exercising a certain amount of discretion, so talking to someone new say would work but jumping into a piranha filled river would be more sub-optimal, but whatever works for you. How can we know our limits unless we test them after all? Quite.

There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” as the great Erin Hanson puts it.

So I arrived pretty early, and headed in to the first car park. In fact, I could have gone on just a little further and there is one even nearer the start right by the visitors’ centre, but I was fine where I was. I pulled up partly because I’d seen what looked like an Easter Island Statue and wanted to go check it out, but investigation showed it as a bouldering stone I think. Squidging over slidey grass to check it out I did have a moment of angst I might have over-faced myself. Although my mobility is improved my balance can be off if my leg starts doing weird numby, tingling, dead leg things and the surface was more suited for body slides than picking round a parkrun. Much mud, and much standing water. Quite a lot of water still falling out the sky – no wonder the wonkies opted to stay in the car, just Red Ted game enough to accompany me on this occassion.

On the other hand, exciting old mining bits and bobs, open spaces, and the building anticipation of a parkrun event as I could see trainer clad folk gravitating towards the visitors’ centre. I followed them, and what great joy, there were loos and they were open! There is also a café – you could see inside that prepping was going on for the later onslaught though it wasn’t open before parkrun I think. There was loads of seating, some nice features like water bowls for dogs (though any self respecting dog would have found itself a puddle today I reckon, though it is the thought that counts) a bear (quite bijous, not to scale methinks, mosaics, all sorts really. There were signs to various activities and trails, including an Elf trail, oh and I passed a mounting block in one of the carparks so horse riders also welcome on certain paths. Lots to do at Shipley Country Park in their 700 acres, play equipment, nature walks all the things, but only one thing for me today, parkrun!

I sploshed my way towards the area where volunteers were congregating. They were in a tight circle like a rugby scrum or a team motivational chat. All busy about their preparations, there was a good atmosphere. One thing they did which I really like is that they all lined up for a high vis heroes photo together before scattering to their various posts. I really like it when volunteer teams do this at a parkrun, I think it helps build the community and it’s just really nice to acknowledge that without the volunteers the event wouldn’t happen. My favourite parkruns are those where the volunteers get a chance to know each other. At Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, where I regularly rock up, they always walk all the volunteers en masse to their marshal pints so you can walk and talk and familiarise yourself with the course and the other volunteers as you head round. It makes it really friendly and social. I think the group photo is another variant on getting a gang together and a brilliant way to connect with each other. They shared the photo of them from the front, meanwhile I was taking the shot from the back – tis for you dear reader to decide which is their best side. I have ever so slightly photobombed their picture in the doing, but not so as you’d really notice, just like a ghost on their photo. Which reminds me, I feel a need to apologise for my pics, my camera is slowly dying on me, but I can’t bring myself to actually part with it, and anyway, rubbish photos have comedic value at least, plus, you get more of a sense of the penetrating wetness of the event at times. Perhaps we can tactfully agree that this adds atmosphere, if not actual clarity, to proceedings 🙂

I had a little wander about and a wonder about the general slipperyness of it all. Setting foot on the grass was properly hazardous, but although there was standing water on the compacted gravel path, that was fine if you didn’t mind the ankle deep sloshiness of accumulated puddles. You shouldn’t really as it is an actual fact, that running in rain over head or through water under foot just makes you a way more hardcore runner, so now you know.

This parkrun had a great atmosphere, people greeted and welcomed each other, it just felt extremely – almost pathologically – friendly and very well organised.

There was a jolly and informative first timers’ welcome. At this four parkrunners identified themselves as first time everers which was jolly exciting, although in fact I think the results suggested there were seven. What a day to pick! It was a lovely venue for sure, but a brave choice given the prevailing weather conditions that can fairly be described as ‘inclement’.

The briefing was thorough. We were told to basically keep going to the right as if you veer leftwards you’ll probably end up lost. There were of course marshals aplenty though to stop you going wrong. We were advised there would be a muddy bit through trees, and there was a normally hilarious as well as helpful quip about remembering to skirt around the lake, but if you ended up with wet feet you’d know you’d gone too far. Didn’t entirely help on this occasion, but the sentiment was apt. The RD stood by and diligently wrote down the names of any tourists’ home parkruns and any milestones and things, that was good. Not gonna lie though, that notepad looked like it would be papier-mâché before he made it to join the timers at the start line. Still, I do value an optimistic outlook. It’s amazing where self belief can take you. Absolute first timers were scooped up for an extra bit of explanation about barcodes and all, and the rest of us shuffled about wondering if the rain would pass. I was glad I was wearing my actual raincoat, which I’d wondered if would be over the top. Another parkrunning tourist was in a plastic poncho thing, which to be honest was a fab idea. Add to cart at the next small hours accidental shopping foray I reckon.

Next was the actual run briefing. The RD risked life and limb clambering up on a bench to address the assembled active wear clad parkrunners. Huge respect for the RD who did that classic of just waiting for everyone to be quiet. And it worked! I find it so stressful when people talk through run briefings, it’s just rude, and if you are new to an event then there’s stuff you need to hear – particularly on a day like today when the weather might impact on participation. He did so with good humour but authority too, there was a little bit of distant chit chat, but for the most part people were respectful. Hurrah. Nicely played. Milestones were shouted out, newbies welcomed, tourists acknowledged. I wanted to locate the tourists from Beeston parkrun as that is one of the friendliest events I’ve ever been to, but to be fair this event was pretty darned friendly too – though no parkrun is ever going to ace the Beeston parkrun Boathouse café, there’s only room for one Tony in the parkrun universe.

After the briefing, a little amble up the hill to the start area, and once everyone had gathered, off we went. Amazingly, just as the parkrun started it seemed to clear up a little, and even reached the point of actual dryness after the first half hour or so. Well, dry over head, under foot was a different matter all together.

Helpfully, although it was exceedingly wet, the actual path surface was hard and fine, apart from a couple of brief sections under trees where leaves had accumulated. Also helpfully, this seemed to be a genuinely walker friendly parkrun. There were two parkwalkers as well as the tail walker to be final finisher. There were a couple of intrepid nordic walkers, some jeffers walk/jogging the route, and others companionable walking and talking or twalking as I like to think of it. I made an effort to walk a bit more purposefully than for a while. I’m quite down about how little I can still do. I just remember last Christmas imagining a year ahead that I’d be running and mobile again, and I’m just not, and it’s crap. I have raged at the world over this quite a lot, although disappointingly it doesn’t seem to help much. I miss being properly part of parkrun, just being able to show up and take part without being an outlier or worrying about holding people up or creating paper work from toppling over somewhere. Praise be for the Walking at parkrun Facebook page and parkwalk initiatives for normalising walking to some extent… honestly, my experiences have been mixed as a walker, it’s always chancing it to go somewhere new. Today however, I needn’t have worried, this particular parkrun was very walker friendly and I had a genuinely good time, the erm ‘ambient moisture’ just making everything all the more memorable. I was very glad of my stick though, and just wish I could fit into my trail shoes again as I think they’d have been what we experienced parkrunners call a ‘boon’ to my performance!

I did a sort of awkward shuffle in between walking. And stopped at intervals to try to photograph the marshals. Each was a vision of loveliness of course, with every new marshal seemingly even more photogenic than the one I’d just passed, impossible though that might seem to be. They were all quite up for being photographed and so it’s a shame my camera can never do justice to their outstanding directional pointing, exceptional clappery and – at one spot in particular – full on karaoke and dance based supporting. Oh, and there was a marshal hiding in the woods too to scoop people up in case they skidded to such an extent they failed to take the intended corner and needed assistance being extricated from the pooled water that awaited the unwary. Attention to detail you see, that’s what makes a good parkrun truly great!

The course is described as ‘undulating’ but it’s pretty flat, there is one hill that you do twice that was a bit of a heave ho, but nothing too scary. Also, the way the course works, even though you do one bit twice, the faster participants are long gone by the time I got there so there wasn’t much of an issue with overtaking that I was aware of. I got passed a couple of times but it was all friendly and not particularly congested as far as I could tell.

You do a first biiiiiiiiiiiiig loop, and then a little one, and as you emerge from that you come by the finish funnel, which was being enthusiastically supervised by proactive and cheery marshals, There was such a good atmosphere as you rocked on by. I paused to get a couple of photos to capture a sense of the action. I mean, you’ll have to use your imagination to some degree because, well, not the best camera at the best of times, and in my possession, it’s not the best of times either. Still, maybe the pics will be a teaser to get you down to join the fun.

and off again for the mini loop, by this time I’d fallen into companionable stride with the two parkwalkers who were excellent company, sharing stories of upsideydown parkruns in Australia and being cajoled into starting parkrun by running club evangelists. I love hearing people’s parkrun stories. We all have our own origin tales. I gather there is a really successful junior parkrun here too, and they even held one on Christmas Day for them, figuring that the next time junior parkrun day coincides with Christmas day will be so many decades hence this might be their only ever opportunity to do a Christmas day parkrun. Good point, well made. I queried why they’d both had multiple parkrun volunteer roles, wondering if maybe they struggle to get volunteers, but apparently not, it’s just that volunteering is super fun. Which of course it is! It’s like opening a packet of Pringles (other savoury snacks are available) once you are on the volunteer rota you might as well bagsy all the spots you can because it’s rewarding. As my walking buddies were saying at the end of the day parkrun is all about community, the people you meet, the connections you make. Inclusivity and the joy of seeing others achieve goals is just The Best Thing EVER! I’d not really thought about it, but as one of them said, they put off going to parkrun for ages because they didn’t know anyone, which is totally the wrong way round, get stuck in, and you’ll soon know lots of people at your local parkrun. The beauty of doing an activity rather than blinking at one another in the awkward silence of other possible contexts is that you have something to do, and you can build up the levels of interactions as you feel comfortable with them. parkrun is just so brilliant.

It was with my new besties we shuffled past a well behaved gee gee, and then once again came across karaoke marshal, I think karaoke should be mandatory at parkruns where possible. It was lovely as well, that the parkwalkers greeted everyone they passed by name. Like I said, seems to be a very genuine community here. Hurrah! Yay for the instant party marshal spot though.

round again, puffing up the hill. I am so unfit. Wobbly leg is only part of the challenge. Then ‘suddenly’ back to the finish/ start. Past the blue cone, clicked in a barcode scanned, hurrah, and still no rain.

Safely scanned, I took a couple more shots of my new besties, and the final finishers who had been walking round but did an impressive sprint finish. At about this time the heaens properly opened in comedic torrential rain. I had no idea that it was possible there was so much water still left in the sky! It was properly hilarious.

Huge respect for the RD who made the most of the opportunity to do some full on puddle jumping. This is why we have puddles at parkrun, to play in! Fabulous. I think there should be a video of this doing the rounds somewhere, but you can make do with this still for now, it sort of encapsulates the whole parkrun today I reckon. Joyful, but ridiculously wet! I imagine the video will go viral in due course, I for one will be monitoring the Shipley Country parkfun Facebook page.

I thought it had started raining, but then water just fell out of the sky like a water tank exploding, it was beyond hilarious, you just had to go with it. Not gonna lie though, I was very pleased of my mac and even with it, was wet through to my knickers from water sploshing upwards, worth it though!

The high vis heroes were busy doing final course close down stuff, so I said my thanks and farewell and squelched away. It had been a good morning. I was invited to join the café conversations, but was too wet to stay and needed to get back, but I slightly regretted this as it was such a friendly group of runners. I chatted briefly to some in the café who were engaged in some good humoured banter around the risks of being allowed out without their carers. I think it was banter. I think it was carers. Might have been minders. One of them seems to have dodged death on innumerable occasions and still got a small scrap metal yard worth of medals to his name. Though with all those medical emergencies and falling over I was quite surprised he was to be trusted with a hot beverage. It was properly lovely though, I got a real sense of a community that comes together for a parkrun party week in week out and frankly probably doesn’t feel the need to trouble themselves with other parkruns because they are living the dream here. Having said that, a local running club does weekly tourism together, with members ndicating where they are bound so others can join in if they wish. Isn’t that lovely? Rhetorical question deear reader, because yes it is!

As we were chatting a great procession of marshals marched forward, carrying the pop up sign aloft, possibly because they needed to leave it somewhere to dry, though we all know that’s just a cover story for the fact that probably nobody has ever been able to fold it up again since the day it first landed at their event. It happens.

It was like they were parting the Red Sea as they processed by, parkrun paraphernalia carried aloft and carefully stored away til next week.

and that was that, suddenly time to splish home, aquaplaning the highways.

This was a great parkrun to finish the year with though, thank you lovely Shipley Country parkrun, you are the best, a memorable morning for sure. Yay you!

Categories: parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas! Roberts Park parkrun, delivering all you could possibly dream of for Christmas :)

This parkrun was properly amazing! It’s been circling round my peripheral vision ever since I learned that the genius behind the Walking at parkrun Facebook page – set up to both normalise walking at parkrun and make it visible – has Roberts Park parkrun as his home parkrun. Hurrah, I was confident of a walker friendly parkrun, and better yet, it was sort of equidistant from where me and my fine EWFM better-late-than-never-to parkrun buddy would find ourselves on Christmas Day. I mean, what could be more perfect! It’s what all parkrunners dream of for Christmas, a Christmas Day parkrun, to have a walker friendly one would be quite a boon and as for having my EWFM there, well, that set off virtual pyrotechnics and confetti cannons in my minds eye as I could imagine nothing could possibly add to the magic of the parkrun event.

Dear reader…

I cannot tell a lie

I was wrong.

This was Christmas Actual Day parkrun dear reader, and yet it had all the things. I’m talking llamas, an actual cannon (though teeny tiny disappointment that it wasn’t spewing confetti on this occasion, probably saving it for their New Year’s Party) an open toilet for a precautionary pee and an OPEN café – not to mention a veritable fascination of fine Santa hats, the jolliest volunteers you can possibly imagine, admirable fancy dress, even sunshine, and that’s without mentioning it is a parkrun with its very own snicket! No really! You don’t find them every day. Somerdale pavilion parkrun may have its Curly Wurly and Bushy parkrun its unicorns (yes it does, don’t mock until you’ve been and seen for yourself, there are rainbows lining the finish funnel as well) but I reckon a snicket might also be a unique offering, and let me tell you for free it does not disappoint! It being Christmas there were also slightly unnerving Santas and hilarious hounds, my favourite of which was called Dave. I do love a dog with a good solid name! Though the dogs who had taken the time to accessorise their look with tinsel were very much appreciated too.

Let’s step back a bit though, and go through the basic blah de blahs.

According to the Roberts Park parkrun website:

The event takes place at Roberts Park, Higher Coach Road, Baildon, West Yorkshire, BD17 7LU. See Course page for more details.

Course Description: The start line is on the main promenade, close to the lodge. The course then begins by heading along the full length of the promenade, before doing a 180′ turn and returning along the promenade in the opposite direction. Two right turns at the end of the promenade will then take you alongside the cricket pitch and café. A right turn just before the cricket pavilion will then take you out onto the nature trail. Follow the nature trail til the far end passing either side of the staircase, where a hairpin turn will take you back in the opposite direction, along the bottom of the houses. Then cross over the short grass section past the goalposts, and turn left up the snicket. Follow the signs through the snicket, and then follow the path around the top of the park. A right turn will then bring you back out onto the promenade. That is your first lap completed. Complete a second lap, but this time a right turn three quarters of the way along the path after the snicket will take you to the finish line.

and it looks like this:

Facilities: There are public toilets in the park located next to the Half Moon Café. These open at 7:30. There are also toilets in the Half Moon Café. These open at 8am.

Location of start: The event starts on the main promenade, close to the lodge.

Getting there by road: The best postcode for the park is BD17 7LU.

The park is in an unusual position in that it is perfectly accessible from two different sides. The main car parks are off Coach Road. There is a small car park directly outside the Coach Road entrance, and a larger one off Higher Coach Road, just before Titus Salt School. Both of these car parks are free to use. On the other side of the park you can park in the Exhibition Road car park and walk down, however, there may be a charge to park at this location

Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at Half Moon Café in Roberts Park – please come and join us!

Well, that all sounded jolly welcoming of course, but what with it being Christmas, who knew what might befall us facilities wise? Would we be crossing our legs and reaching for incontinent pants or sprinting off into any hint of greenery that promised to cover our decency at least to a minimal degree? Spoiler alert, NO! Because this is the parkrun with ALL THE THINGS. Honestly, it’s one of my all time favourites, which is good to know as parkrun is for life not just for Christmas, and I feel really confident if you go along to this event on any parkrun day of the year you’ll have the most excellent of times too!

I’ve been a bit tardy with my blog posting of late, so this will be – by my standards – a somewhat truncated version of all that is lovely about this event, but the good news is there were lots of pictures courtesy of Alien Aerial photography, I don’t think he was an alien or indeed airborne as such but the photos are excellent nevertheless. I’ve lifted loads. I mean just check out these two collages for starters:

I know. Feels like you were there already. And it really was just that magical, with a purple dinosaur and everything. Even a bespoke Merry Christmas selfie frame! This really was the parkrun that kept on giving.

Christmas Day morning began dark though. Allegedly the days are getting lighter but not so you’d really notice. I was up and out paranoically early, as is the parkrun tourists way. Much as I enjoy seeing different events, I’m not over keen on driving in the dark to unknown destinations, but you know what dear reader, practically no traffic at all. It was a really easy drive over from Sheffield, for which I was grateful, as there were some crazy roundabout configurations and super highway roads that I would have found intimidating to have to jostle for position on. As I approached the general environs of the event I began to suffer from slightly panicked bladder. Well, good news, I happened on an open BP garage a couple of miles out and thankfully took the opportunity to powder my nose. Honestly, the gift of a loo for a pre parkrun precautionary pee is the ultimate gift, honestly, it felt like Christmas, and, coincidentally, it actually was!

Bladder needs catered for, and being but a few minutes from the event I could relax into the morning, hurrah! A little further on, and I found the first set of carparking around a little mini roundabout thingy, and near the playground, I opted to go on a bit more though because I wasn’t sure where I was in relation to the start. Good news, as I followed the road ahead, I captured glimpses of unmistakeable parkrun paraphernalia proclaiming a course set up in progress to my left hand side. Then, just opposite one of the entrances to the park a half moon of parking places with just a couple of vehicles parked up already. I saw some trainer clad people wending their way over to the park. Hurrah! Arrived and parked up and only 8.20. I just had time to send a couple of ‘Have a tolerable Christmas’ type texts before getting one myself from my rendezvousing precious and rare parkrun buddy. She had also arrived and was at the other carpark. She joined me minutes later and we could have a proper festive hug and it was brilliant. Maybe parkrun tourist rendezvousing can be our new Christmas tradition. We have done a number of parkruns together now but this is only the second time we’ve just met up with each other at a new to both of us parkrun destination, and it was just maaaaaaaaagical! The first time was at another relative nearby parkrun Bradford, which was splendid also. A great part of the world for parkrun adventuring it seems.

After festive bouncing and greetings, into the park.

Oh wow! My parkrun buddy was in need of facilities. I didn’t want to pee on her snow, but didn’t see how she could possibly get lucky on Christmas Day of all days when everything was bound to be shut. We made our way into Roberts park. It was immediately amazing! A hubbub of festively adorned volunteers were busying themselves with parkrun preparations, there was a bandstandy thing, a cannon, statues, so many photos needing to be taken! My camera has resigned from taking serviceable photos, so it was fortunate that I was able to outsource photo taking to my parkrunning companion. However, she was unable to concentrate until she’d done the necessaries, and so we asked around for a loo, and lo, there was one! And it was open! Oh my! What’s more, it had been opened by the café which was also open! This I did not expect.

There was the traditional queue for the loo, but that’s fine, as you get the chance to chat to other parkrunning regulars and tourists. The loo was fine but had a slightly alarming door with a sort of open grill on it, so even though you could lock it and enthrone yourself safely tucked around the corner, it did feel a little like you might have your proverbial wares on display. The greenery tucked around the openings seeming unlikely to be sufficient to preserve one’s dignity. However, worry not, it may be a discombobulating architectural feature, but it has been thought through rather than left see-through.

‘Ablutions’ attended to, we could focus on getting the photographic record of the occasion, but where to start. With llamas obviously.

You can tell they are llamas because of the banana ears. Alpacas have much daintier, smaller ones. I had no idea why there were llamas in abundance, checking out Wikipedia later I learned many things about Roberts Park, including that:

The park was designed and laid out by William Gay (1814–1893) for Sir Titus Salt (1803–1876)[3][5][6][7] and was opened on 25 July 1871 by Sir Titus,[8] although conceived of as early as 1850.[9] The park was named Saltaire Park but was known informally as The People’s Park, and Salt’s Park.[3][7] The development included a widening and deepening of the River Aire for boating and swimming purposes, and for the construction of a boathouse on the southern bank of the river.[5] In the centre of the park is a semi-circular pavilion designed by architects Lockwood and Mawson, constructed in 1870.[5][7]

In 1891 the park was purchased by Sir James Roberts (1848–1935). In 1903 to commemorate the fifty years Salts Mill had been operating and the centenary of his birth, a bronze statue of Sir Titus Salt was erected by the main promenade. The statue was by Francis Derwent Wood R.A. (1871–1926) of Chelsea for (Sir) James Roberts [2][5]

Not overly helpful then. However, subsequent googling in the twixtmas period tells me they are to recognise the contribution of animals to the textile industry, so actually are supposed to be alpacas, but honestly that’s not what alpacas look like in my opinion. Llamas have straighter backs than the more rounded alpaca and the coats hang a bit differently too. Actually, the bronze back on the standing one is a tad curvy but the ears are just wrong I tell you, wrong and the sitting one has a straight back. They are probably supposed to be alpacas as they are more obvious animal to get fibre from (it’s not called wool) but clearly whoever was very good at making bronzes was less hot on camelid identification. The people of Saltaire are probably lucky not to have had a camel bronze instead, that would have been way more expensive apart from anything else, would have needed a lot more bronze. Hang on, let me equip you with the tools to apply your own critique and then I can continue with the important parkrun business of the day …

Differences between alpacas and llamas

Anyway, we did the obligatory photos with the camelids. Then it was on to the big statue number:

that so looks like a llama too. Allaming how misidentified these camelids can be. Not the one with a blue tail, that’s an erstwhile flatmate or EWFM for convenience. The tail is optional, the stripy socks a given. Obvs. The llama is squished into the base of the statue along with a mohair goat somewhere I think. Good point for a cheer marshal though, must be fab views of the parkrunners from up there.

Next stop the cannon, and then to the bespoke Christmas selfie frame. We weaved our way about, feeling ever more festive as others gathered around. And we spotted Mr Walking at parkrun himself who was busy with organisational things but promised a selfie op later one. All was splendid!

There was such a lovely festive feel to this parkrun. Cheery good will oozed out like mutant ectoplasm from the epicentre of the core team. There were Christmas goodies and fancy dress. A call went up for the first timers’ welcome. This turned out to be a double act as two volunteers were up for doing it and embraced doing it together rather than having one step down. It was a great welcome – interactive – THREE times through the snicket! We learn we are doing the winter course so three laps rather than two. It was all very clear and very jolly and full of seasonal goodwill. We besport ourselves with seasonally appropriate frolicking and fossicking and what to wear faffery before joining the start area for the Run Director’s briefing.

We were both walking today, talking and walking which is basically twalking. My EWFM is able to run, but I (still) can’t, I hold out hope I may again one day, but with each passing month it seems less likely. This is why it was so brilliant to be at a parkrun where parkwalking was explicitly mentioned and we were made most welcome. The RD did a most festive briefing, but not gonna lie, slotted in towards the back as we were I couldn’t really hear it. There was also a very excited dog barking there enthusiastic anticipation from about a mile away. Their mortified human companion was gamely trying to minimise the impact of this at the briefing but to little avail. It didn’t matter, this is also a very dog friendly parkrun and many happy hounds hung around the back eager for off. Including the aforementioned Dave. For our part, we two clapped along where audience participation seemed appropriate and hoped we weren’t clapping anything dubious. I’m sure it was all benign and lovely, milestones, birthdays thanking the volunteers – who were a most picturesque lot.

and then suddenly we were off! A mass of parkrunners companionably setting forth, a purple dinosaur and a festive present among the fancy dress, some especially awesome grinches in evidence, and – and I really liked this touch – various participants wearing milestone tabards so we knew who to cheer especially loudly as they passed.

The route is sort of out and back briefly and then you thread around various paths. The toing and froing aspect means you get lots of chances to see other runners and encourage them. It was really lovely. I cannot stress enough what a strong community feel this parkrun has, every marshal greeted parkrunners and were thanked and greeted in return, and it seemed people really knew each other too. parkrun perfection 🙂

The only slightly alarming thing was how quickly the faster parkrunners were whizzing back towards us, but hey ho, it was a no pressure parkrun as the tailwalkers were far behind and their were other parkwalkers too. Off we went to the first turn around enjoying the sight of parkrunners coming back towards us:

At the turn around pint there was a very cheery Santa marshal and some deeply disturbing (to me) Santa effigies, I’ve never been very good with dolls or ventriloquists dummies, it was lucky I had my brave EWFM to act as a human buffer zone and to embolden me.

Phew. Safely negotiated, it was back to where we started from and beyond.

It is a lovely course. It reminded me somewhat of Huddersfield parkrun super-mario course because there are so many bits where you can see all the other parkrunners snaking off in all directions like decorative festive bunting. Splendid. After a bit of a meander through the more formal gardens, you head off into the nature reserve area. Normally you head out quite a way for the two lap summer course, but because of mud this is cut short at this time of year. You are instead headed up a minor hill past some molehills. These were to me symbolic of how a positive parkrun experience can make mountains into molehills and here mountainous cares were tossed aside as little modest mole mounds from which you could skip away, all cares forgotten. Hurrah!

At the top of this little incline was an actual snicket! It had its very own sign, and a hidden marshal at the end of it, making it basically an en route santa’s grotto, so that was lovely too. You aren’t supposed to overtake in this section, and it is tight, at the very end room for one only to squeeze through. All were pretty considerate going through here, one over enthusiastic junior weaved in and out but it was all fine. Again hurrah.

Best bit though, was taking a moment to look backwards at all the parkrunners en route, about their parkrunning business. Super fun! Be sure to click through the pics!

Once you are through the snicket and have left your troubles behind, you go back into the park and marshals cheer and directionally point you with aplomb. This marshal was extra aplomby, as she had to send people in different directions depending on which of the three laps they were on. It’s actually really hard work holding both your arms out at shoulder height to point in opposite ways for that length of time, and as for pulling off such a feat whilst cheerily supporting is nigh on super human. Yay for ace supporting and directional pointing. You made sure all made it safely round!

And round we went again. Even though we were right at the back of the pack, it felt chilled and friendly and fine. We could espy the tail walkers even further back, and as we passed through the start / finish area enjoy the buzz of people having Christmas Day catch ups. We even espied an actual Robin we’d noticed on arrival. I do think having your name on your running coat should be encouraged, but it was especially magnificent to see a seasonally appropriate one. Bark runners were settling into their pace and all was well in the parkrun universe.

Round again and this time down into the finish. There was still a warm welcome, which was much appreciated. We were timed and scanned, and then we negotiated the steps down to the half moon café. One advantage of being almost the final finishes, was that the queue at the café had dispersed. We were greeted and served by Sally, who informed us she was more than happy to open just for the parkrunners on Christmas Day as she finds the parkrun crowd super friendly and loves being a part of the event. It is a pretty conclusive endorsement of this relatively new event (it only launched post lockdown, and this was event # 61, that someone would proactively want to work Christmas Day to join in. Originally she’d just been asked to open the loos, but when she’d heard the parkrun was on, she was in! I wonder if she’ll be persuaded to complete a parkrun one day? I really hope so. Meantime though, it was just the icing on the cake to have a post parkrun coffee.

The little café is in an extraordinary half moon building with original tiling and lots of atmosphere as well as much cake. It’s a happy coincidence then that it goes by the name of The Half Moon Cafe It is a happy place with a friendly welcome, books being sold in aid of a foodbank, local art work on display and surely a community hub for anyone in need of a place to go. Just practically perfect in every way!

The volunteer team were there doing results processing and token sorting and other duties but still time to join us for chats and selfies. We found connections too. The parkwalker knew my EWFM neck of the woods in London really well, and another Bushy parkrun so we were able to have much interconnected chit chat which was another thing of wonder. the parkrun world may reach across the globe, and yet it allows s all to link up in our local communities and find connections between each other too. It’s rare to rock up at a parkrun event for the first time and not find some common ground with someone, if you can just pluck up the courage to give a self conscious smile and say ‘hello’. First timers’ welcomes are good for this, tells you who the newbie are, and parkwalkers too, often the friendly face of a parkrun.

and then suddenly it was time to take our leave and go our separate ways, but it was much easier to tackle the Christmas ahead after a proper parkrun positivitiy fix, sets you up for anything.

Oh, and what’s more, afterwards there were photos to pore over and memories to relive as we found ourselves and others and actual elves all captured in pics. And we even got to be parkrun famous on the walking at parkrun Facebook page #livingthedream

So thank you parkrun in general and Roberts park parkrun in particular for bringing festive cheer. You are indeed a fabulous parkrun, definitely one on my list for a return trip maybe to see the summer course and do a proper alpaca v llama assessment of the bronzes. parkrunpedia needs to know!

Here’s to merry parkrunning and parkwalking and park twalking into 2023. May it hold parkrun adventures for all of us. Preferably fun ones, but failing that anecdote generating ones as the next best thing.




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parkrun = parkfun.

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