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.
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) and was opened on 25 July 1871 by Sir Titus, although conceived of as early as 1850. The park was named Saltaire Park but was known informally as The People’s Park, and Salt’s Park. 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. In the centre of the park is a semi-circular pavilion designed by architects Lockwood and Mawson, constructed in 1870.
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 ‘
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.
All. The. parkrun. Things.
parkrun = parkfun.