It is a fact universally acknowledged that a parkrunner in possession of a barcode is always in search of a parkrun. Further more, such a person will never regret a parkrun. Sometimes you may think you will, in the small dark hours of a dismal winter day blinking up at the ceiling from under the fragile warmth of a tightly clutched duvet, but actually, nope, even the most inclement of conditions bestow bragging rights, and the most perilous of journeys can provide payback in terms of future anecdotes. It is always worth stepping out for a parkrun adventure. What is comedy but tragedy plus time after all. However, some parkruns you don’t regret even more than others. Sheffield Castle parkrun is one such event. It is an ostensibly modest offering, small by many parkrun standards, with an average number of finishers each week of around 60. It is an erm, let’s go with ‘unpromising’ at first glance Sheffield location, and has definite ‘Sheffield flat’ sections that give the course the illusion of being almost entirely uphill. In fact scrap that, it isn’t an illusion, it actually is entirely uphill. Think Escher painting with the endless upwards staircases and you’ll get the general idea. However, those of us who have experienced the event at its Manor Park location know of its secret delights. Dear reader, you should know that The Manor Fields park has burst forth phoenix like
“From one of the most rundown bits of wasteland in the city to one of the city’s most attractive parks, this place is a gem for wildlife and humans alike. It has to be one of the best designed wildlife parklands in the country and should be a shining example for all” (Andrew Stringer, 2019).
It still suffers from that reputation in the minds of some. It had more than its fair share of fly tipping, burnt out vehicles, dog crap and yes, actual dead bodies over the years, as opposed to apocryphal ones. Yet now, if you just make the effort to trot along you’ll be greeted by possibly the most genuinely community focused of the Sheffield parkruns. The reclaimed land has been lovingly seeded to create amazing wild flower meadows in the summer months. Nature themed sculptures abound, and careful landscaping has created water habitats in abundance. It is the most fantastic space. Sheffield Castle parkrun is too often over looked. It’s proper lovely, always welcoming, always full of interest, and with stalwart volunteers that are such regulars at their spots it is almost as if they have merged with the landscape, if not actually grown out of it. Check out these photos lifted from the Manor Fields Park Facebook page:
See! Reyt nice – though granted these pics seems to have been taken on an altogether sunnier occasion…
Despite all this insider knowledge about the giddy delights of the venue that awaited, I cannot tell a lie, the deluge of rain that fell from the sky like a giant sized ice-bucket challenge first thing in the morning did not imbue me with enthusiasm at setting out.
My EWFM bestie was up in Sheffield for the weekend. Today would make for a hat trick of consecutive parkrun rendezvous which is no mean feat given she is in London and I’m in Sheffield or ‘up north’ as my southern reader might have it. We’d been debating taking the opportunity to do some tourism a little further afield, I’ve done all the Sheffield parkruns many times now, about from Hillsborough for some reason. Too many laps and a bit bargy when I went though it has a great reputation and now a fab cafe too, so I really should go back. Anyway, for various reasons we decided to stay local. I’m always happy to go back to Castle and it’s been a while, and it would be a new to her parkrun. Everyone’s a winner. Watching the rain beating on the windows with such force they were like shards thrust horizontally at the panes by angry demons* we were grateful for our life choices. I would not have fancied a long road trip aquaplaning across the country to an unknown destination many miles away. I was even for once quite relieved to be a parkwalker. I have to fight back tears of frustration quite often at my restricted mobility these days, and parkrun days are all too often the most painful reminder of what I can’t do, that and the Round Sheffield Run which I also missed out on this weekend. Today though, I was quite pleased to be able to legitimately rock up to the event in a full length rain coat, hat and multiple warm layers. It was surely going to be a wet one. Even so, parkrun day, to parkrun we should head, and so we did. Taking a photo of us just before we set off to share with other parkrunners heading off in the dark on their parkrun journeys. I pity them, missing out on Sheffield Castle parkrun, but dare say they enjoyed their own respective parkruns in their own way…
We drove across Sheffield, it isn’t that far, but I went some weird route because I couldn’t quite visualise the best way to get there and so let the satnav take us on a magical mystery tour instead. It did not disappoint. Negotiating the tram tracks on the way (I have never quite got used to sharing the roads with trams, it makes me nervous) we got to Manor Fields Park nice and early, nabbing one of the last few parking spaces in the modest car park.
Oh, I have written about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, but just in case you are late to the party, here is the Sheffield Castle parkrun website blah de blah:
The event takes place at Manor Fields Park ,City Road, Sheffield, S2.
Course Description: The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction. The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road. From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right. Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground. Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge. Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park. Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb. Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line. Complete three laps of the course for the 5km of the Sheffield Castle parkrun.
Location of start: The run starts at the entrance to Manor Fields Park, City Road (next to Premier Supermarket). The start line is visible from main road.
Getting there by public transport
Bus: From Sheffield Interchange City Centre 120 platform A, bus stops at entrance to park, City Road (Spring Lane).
Train: From Sheffield City Centre, Tram stops opposite park entrance on Spring Lane. Walk on to City Road to entrance to park.
Getting there on foot: The Park entrance can be accessed from City Road S2 1GF and is situated 2 miles from the City Centre.
Getting there by road: Sheffield Park Square Roundabout via Duke Street (B6070) then follow on to City Road (A6135) Manor Fields Park. The Car park entrance is just on left after Premier Supermarket. Car Parking Free.
Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in York House – please come and join us!
and the course looks like this:
but don’t let the picture fool you. It only looks flat because it’s a 2D image, the 3D reality is most definitely erm, let’s go with ‘undulating’. Fun for sure, but definitely a hump or two on the way around, a veritable caravan of camels worth, and bactrian camels at that! Mind you, personally I do like a camelid, under-rated and rather magnificent creatures in my world. Much like wart hogs. They are glorious beyond words.
It was definitely still raining on arrival. Even the wonkies didn’t want to get out of the car. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure my precious and rare parkrunning buddy did either, though she was putting a brave face on it at this juncture.
We did a bit of sitting steaming in the car, reflecting on our life and parkrun choices, peering through the rainy car windows to see marshals wrestling with parkrun flags and cones as they set the course areas up, Then I suddenly remembered as I was a volunteer parkwalker, I probably ought to brave the outside and let the Run Director know I was there. Also, there was the inevitable issue of facilitating a precautionary pee. The good news is that Sheffield Castle has a loo right near the start/finish area, the bad news is that it is just the one, so inevitably there is a bit of a queue. Time to move. The wonkies – made of repurposed high vis in case you haven’t been concentrating and havent worked it out, for the most part decided to stay put, but Charley and Red Ted committed to getting out and about. Admittedly, Red Ted is strapped to my walking pole, as a sort of emotional support wonky. I had never really reflected on this particularly until a child at junior parkrun asked me why he was tied up in that way and I felt suddenly exposed in some act of vile coercion and cruelty. I couldn’t come up with an adequate explanation. One of the many unexpected challenges of volunteering at a junior event I suppose.
As we exited the car another car breezed in, we espied frantically waving shadows inside and reciprocated with frantic enthusiastic waves back before quizzing each other ‘Who was that?’. ‘No idea!’. We had only managed to clock the UK parkrun tourists Facebook page buff between us, and were each hoping the other had made a positive id through the grey rain and seemingly darkened windscreen. Oh well, we’d find out.
And so we did!
SURPRISE. And OMG what a FANTASTIC surprise. A contingent from Huddersfield parkrun, although inexplicably not all decked out in Super Mario fancy dress. We’d first met I think back in August at their 500th parkrun event which had been an amazing and welcoming occasion. That is an astonishing course, there are moments en route where if you look around it really does seem like parkrunners are going in all possible different directions and on all possible levels – over bridges and through tunnels below. You really should check it out if you haven’t already done so.
Through the rain, and brandishing AMAZING giraffe leggings and scrunchie for a synchronised tourism occasion still to come was a familiar face, hurrah! It is always brilliant to turn up at a parkrun and unexpectedly see a familiar face, but what was extra brilliant and bizarre about this particular reunion is that we had literally been liaising a couple of days before about rendezvousing at Scunthorpe parkrun next week. That is tricky for me because I’d already committed (health permitting) to join another parkrunning friend for their Cowell run (100 different events). I felt bad though, as we tried to go to Scunthorpe before Christmas but snow and ice made heading out too scary for me. I was feeling guilty and like I was being a bit flaky. This was especially depressing as I really want to go to Scunthorpe. Partly because who doesn’t like a parkrun by the seaside, and partly because, shallow and childish as it is, I do feel the urge to add Scunthorpe and Clitheroe Castle parkrun and indeed Sloughbottom parkrun to my Penistone parkrun result and achieve my personal Infantile Sniggering at Saucy Words challenge, I’m not sure what the virtual badge for that one looks like, perhaps best not to over think it. A chortling smiley face emoji perhaps? That would be family friendly and tasteful. The acceptable face of collapsing in giggles at hidden ‘rude’ words within parkrun names perhaps.
Anyway, the enormous irony of us actually being in Sheffield instead, today was hilarious, brilliant and perfection personified, or parkrunnerfied more accurately. I couldn’t have been more astonished if they’d all burst out of a gigantic super Mario themed cake to the accompaniment of a full size steel band and a troupe of acrobats. It was magnificent! They had the advantage on me having checked out the volunteer roster, but were also tail walking. The intention was we’d be joined by others, but they had car issues en route and ended up doing Hillsborough instead, so near and yet so far. Still, we could be whooping and amazed and excitable with enough demonstrative passion for all of us! A fantastic surprise. #lovetheparkruncommunity We managed a rendezvous and I know longer have to split myself in two across two far away parkruns in order to avoid missing out on or putting out fellow parkrunners, hurrah! It may have been raining on the outside, but it was all sunshine on the inside.
Quick pee, scamper to collect the blue high vis – it is massively the most flattering of the high vis options in my opinion, and then to the pop up banner, that was more blown down and saturated then popped up and perky and some photo options. Selfies and wonkies all needed to be captured on film. That’s me pointing with my surprised face, and that is surprise visitor looking pleased with themselves for being so surprising, and why wouldn’t she be? So much joy! Also, aren’t are hats splendid!
The photo shoot required a certain amount of acrobatics and indeed contortion as unless held upright with some force the pop up sign did a kamikaze-esque collapse. Then wonky Charley did a faceplant as soon as left unattended, so there was much ducking behind signs and posing with signs and all sorts. It got very jolly in fact. I do love making my own entertainment, and was perfectly accessorised for such adventuring what with having both Huddersfield companions and my precious and rare EWFM which in case you haven’t been concentrating is sort of like a BFF but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better, more enduring and more complex. A very good thing indeed, and very much for life not just for Christmas, much like parkrun. Are you following?
Anyway, we ended up directing a number of photoshoots of other parkrunners seeking a pic with the pop up. Initially they stood dripping and bedraggled like muddied survivors from a disaster moving, but with a bit of encouragement played up for the camera beautifully and provided much jolly pre-parkrun entertainment, hurrah! Making your own fun is highly recommended, it is always pleasing just how up for it other parkrunners are if you just set the playfulness in motion. I say up for it, maybe they were just particularly suggestable and have traipsed home full of regret that they didn’t nab their usual rigidly upright, solemn faced behind the pop up photo. Oh well, there is always next week I suppose. I like our photos, though somehow, we failed to get one of me and EWFM in all the confusion and merriment. Never mind, we have our memories and got one the next day at junior parkrun so all was not lost.
With all the pre parkrun faffage, it seemed that really quickly we were called together for the Run Director’s briefing. There were the usual shout outs for tourists – there were a few, but mainly from Yorkshire although obviously my bestie from Londonshire was also present and correct if a little damp around the edges. Thanks to the volunteers. There was a full roster today which was good to see, but possibly largely on account of people resting their legs before the iconic Round Sheffield Run tomorrow. One person had a number up for grabs, and I endeavoured to get it for my lodger, however it didn’t work out as I was walking and the parkrunner concerned had long gone by the time I got back. Maybe just as well as I’m not entirely sure if it would have been possible to do name changes at this late stage. Darned shame though.
All too soon, we were sent on our merry and puddlestrewn way. I didn’t have my camera with me and to be fair it wasn’t really photo weather, people were understandably loathe to risk their phones in such conditions. However, you can take my word for it that it is a really brilliant route. I love that the inclines mean you see the runners streaming away from you, and the twisty turny paths and open landscape mean you get great views of others ahead. The three lap bit means you get lapped as a slower participant, but that’s jolly too, a good opportunity to make new friends and share greetings as you pass one another.
There was another parkwalker which was good to see, they were power walking so a bit ahead of me and the two tail walkers. We had a little party at the back with walking and jeffing parkrunners. Both were regulars. We ended up having the familiar conversation about why is Sheffield Castle parkrun called Sheffield Castle parkrun when there doesn’t appear to be any castle as such. I sort of know this but couldn’t entirely remember the details. It is confusing, because this park, together with what is now Norfolk park was all once part of a deer park, and as I recall there was a fortified looking hunting lodge as part of the estate which was known locally as The Castle, even though it wasn’t an actual castle though it was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner for ages and ages. To add to my confused history, there was a real proper Castle in Sheffield at one point, which is now long gone, but referenced as Castlegate in Sheffield City Centre. Oh, and actually, there was a dig a few years back which found some stuff of interest apparently, but the Castle reference for Manor Fields has a different origin, i.e. the turret house from Sheffield Manor Lodge:
Hang on, let’s just Wikipedia Sheffield Manor Lodge shall we? Might save some time:
Mary, Queen of Scots, was held prisoner by the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury at both Sheffield Manor Lodge and Sheffield Castle (her ghost is said by some to haunt the Turret House building). Wolsey’s Tower was built to accommodate Cardinal Wolsey, who then died after travelling on to Leicester.
Mary came to England in 1568 after her defeat at the battle of Langside seeking the support of the Catholic nobility. Mary’s freedom was restricted after her cousin Elizabeth was advised of the threat that Mary posed to her own crown.
She was handed over to the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury on 4 February 1569. Talbot had armed guards watching her constantly, however she was still able, with the help of the Duke of Norfolk and others of the Catholic nobility, to plot against Elizabeth. Several times Mary had to be moved to places of greater safety and stricter control.
On 28 November 1570 she was taken to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s castle at Tutbury, where, apart from a few breaks at Chatsworth and Buxton, and more regular visits to Sheffield and the Manor House, she remained for 14 years.
So now we all know. I shall make it my business to immediately half commit this to memory in the spirit of passing on partial truths in perpetuity, so next time someone asks me I can sound much more authoritative and confident, that would make a pleasing change.
I did sort of know most of this history, albeit it had got a bit mangled since I last looked it all up. What I did not know until it was pointed out to me today, is that there is a particular point on the course where you can see the silhouette of the turret towers on the distant horizon. This means you actually get three shots at spotting them, more if you include partial views. I think this is pretty cool, and also another boon of walking and talking – twalking – because it creates the time and space to have things shown and explain to you, hurrah! This is in addition to putting the world to rights, comparing parkrun stories and being excited about tomorrow’s Round Sheffield Run winter edition and sing the praises of this amazing event. Definitely best race ever, it is a race not a run, unlike parkrun, but in many ways retains a parkrun ethos being inclusive and social and altogether brilliant. A parkrun on steroids with a medal at the end, where you can eat your bodyweight in jelly babies on the way round. Coffee and pizza at the end and loads of photos of happy smiley people having the best time outside together. Just sayin… might not be free, or weekly, but it is timed and it is awesome. Even volunteering for it is a joy, much like junior parkrun, though takes a bit longer, might want to bring your own chair. You can tell this marshal is a parkrun ambassador, got lucky with his position adjacent to toilets in Bishops House where the volunteers provided hot tea. He had to bring his own chair and snacks though, and it is a long time to be out there cheering and clapping I know. Looks like he’s nailed it though, has sussed sitting about is way easier than running round in the mud, however lovely the route!
Back to Sheffield Castle parkrun though, it was just lovely. The weather may not have been the best – though Warrington parkrun had it worse for sure
and I can’t resist these pics of runners in action elsewhere too – check out The Holmfirth Photographer at the TNT and the puddle of doom at Temple Newsam 10 on Sunday. Fortunately running in the rain just makes you more hardcore.
But walking round with lovely parkrun buddies is The Best. Plus, we got to appreciate the various sculptures in the space, and to thank the somewhat sodden but irrepressibly cheery marshals as we passed them. One had come with an umbrella which was not holding up well to the challenge, but still beaming at the self-imposed hilarity of the situation. Yay for the marshals, they are The Best. And yay for the naming of the radish leaves sculpture, it may not have actually been called this previously, but it is now. You heard it here first dear reader:
So we walked and talked and put the world to rights, and laughed and shared stories and made new friends and rekindled old friendships. My EWFM bestie came to join us after completing her parkrun to walk us in. She was delighted with her number 69 finish place, I don’t know why in particular, but she was definitely chuckling inwardly more than grown ups are generally expected to do, but exactly the amount besties should, so all good.
The rain fell as we headed up the final hill past the cemetery, the last lap was pretty much just a couple of walkers and the tail, but none the worse for that. Unsurprisingly, by the time we came to the finish funnel, most other parkrunners had dispersed, but cheery hardcore finish funnel and scanners and timers were all very much in situ and hugely appreciated by all of us walkers. They were even still smiling. The RD was busy in the house token sorting, so I waved goodbyes to the stalwart volunteers who were busying themselves with final course set down and waved goodbye to my Huddersfield friends – the two of them who had run also circled back to join us again. I thought this was solidarity, but it may have been that they didn’t have the car keys which would allow them to get themselves to a place of dry safety as their driver was my tailwalking buddy. Still, we made a jolly troupe heading to the finish.
And then, suddenly, everyone dispersed. It is magical how people come together for parkrun and then vanish into the mist afterwards as if we were never there. Leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but memories, and maybe photos, and in this case, large amounts of rainwater soaked into clothing, but that was all!
If you like to see accounts triangulated, you can see the full results from today here and see the write up of the event below. Hurrah!
So that was all properly lovely, even if my last outstanding bingo number still eludes me. Oh the frustration.
The best bit though, we can do it all again next Saturday, and for me and my EWFM bestie we could do it again tomorrow, at junior parkrun. We went to Sheffield Olympic Legacy junior parkrun on the Sunday, all tooled up with wonkies and had the best of times. I like to pretend the wonkies are primarily to give joy to junior parkrunners, but they have taken on characters all of their own and their joy radiates outwards far beyond juniors. Even so, it was fun to have them back in their natural habitat and en masse too. One of the frogs and one of the cats got carried round by two sisters taking part. I love it when that happens and the wonkies get a proper work out. The little things eh?
It didn’t even rain! I know, what are the chances? #loveparkrun #especiallylovejunior parkrun
There we go, another parkrun weekend done and dusted. Thank you Sheffield Castle parkrun for being awesome always, small but perfectly formed, thank you lovely EWFM for being my parkrun bestie, and thank you Huddersfield parkrunners for the amazing surprise and thank you everyone who keeps the parkrun community alive and thank you RSR for being the best running event ever (apart from parkrun obvs) hopefully I’ll find a way to join you again at some point in the future. Yay to all in the Sheffield running community who make it so!
Same time next week people? Go awn, you know you want to!
Incidentally, 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. Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments. Bet there are loads.
*well, like I imagine shards thrust horizontally by angry demons would seem to be, not having actually experienced this personally to date