Posts Tagged With: walking

Mighty, Meditative, Marvellous & Magical: Markeaton parkrun

Another Saturday, another parkrun.

Reet nice out.

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

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

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The official |Markeaton parkrun blah de blah states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it looks like this –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fair play, that’s a lot of history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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and that was that.

Time to leave the autumn colours of Markeaton park behind.

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

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

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

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

Making it Massive! Moving it at Monsal Trail parkrun

I do concede that to the untrained eye we might not appear to be doing a massive amount of actual moving around in the banner pic, but that’s just a quirk of when the picture was taken. We were moving it for an honest, 5km for starters, because that’s the parkrun route, and it was definitely parkrun ‘Monsal Maaaaaaahoooossive’ as yoof speak would phrase it, apparently, so all good. This I have been told by a reliable but confidential source, and who am to disagree with that pronouncement?

Join me for the Monsal Massive low down as my most recent parkrun fix.

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Monsal Trail parkrun this week – but I’m thinking you might have guessed that already? If so, well done. Have you also guessed that I’ve lifted many photos from other parkrunners again? My camera isn’t really doing the job these days, but I’m coming round to the view that just as I increasingly have my own personal escort at the back of parkrun events, so too, it is handy to have at least one dedicated official photographer around to document these adventures. Life is definitely easier if you have staff attending you I find. I’m really hoping for a personal chef and a personal trainer to rock up some time soon too, but it takes time to find the right people. parkrun day was sorted though, staffing wise, so that was good. Thanks to my tail walking companions and multi-tasking photographers both.

Another week, another parkrun, another week of ouchery.

Is it boring that I keep going on about my ailments? It must be. I’m so over it myself. Yet, I feel this context is helpful in terms of making sense of my current parkrun adventures, I can’t talk about my parkruns without reference to how my health impacts on how they go. It seems that I have entered that demographic that not only spontaneously makes noises when getting up and sitting down, but also has to do a mental physical assessment check each day on waking. It’s very tedious. Pain is lonely. Also annoying. Very annoying indeed.

The big medical adventure last week, was having someone inject steroids into my big toe joint. FYI this hurts just as much as you think it might, the numbing ointments and local anaesthetics doing little to make the procedure any more bearable. Well, I mean, obviously they must help, but OMG I’m not putting my body through that again. Apparently my big toe joint is a bit small, tight and arthritic so the person administering the injection had to have a bit of a jab around to get it in (they don’t just guess by the way, they do have an x-ray up on a screen to refer to as they plunge about with the needles) and maybe because I’m on blood thinners I got quite a bit of bruising and swelling and – of course – a rare but not that rare reaction – which cased my whole toe joint to flare up for 36 hours afterwards. It was beyond excruciating, I may have railed at the world, screamed into a void, sworn never to put my body through anything like that again and honestly, were I not vegetarian I’d have gnawed my own leg off to stop the pain. I was back to not being able to cover the foot with a sheet let alone get shoes and socks on. However, it did then ‘suddenly’ improve, so parkrun became a possibility again – well parkwalk at least. However, it all feels a bit tentative on the tootsies, you can surely grasp why it might. It’s hard to know if there has been any improvement as a result of the shot, or I just feel a bit better purely in contrast to the agony immediately post the jab. Oh well. Just goes to show pain is relative, and you have to try these things sometimes, even if only to rule things out,. The medical treatment equivalent of kissing a lot of frogs before you meet you actual love. Hmm, I’ve probably gone as far as I can with that analogy. I’ve subsequently seen a physio who said that you need to not do anything too much for a couple of weeks at least to allow things to settle as the procedure is basically a trauma to the foot, albeit for long term gain, so perhaps it’s unsurprising this turned out to be a particularly painful parkrun. Oh well, hindsight eh? Has a lot to answer for.

Where to go though? I was originally thinking Rushcliffe parkrun, but long story short (an unusual statement from me I know, and probably not even true) headed to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun instead. In essence, this is because I’d have the experienced, friendly and photogenic tail walking team from last parkrun day at Chevin Forest as my personal escort. A bit like having my own personal staff to carry me around, only they do this only figuratively, not literally, not having access to a parkrun endorsed sedan chair being part of the challenge. I do get that recruiting volunteers is a struggle these days, and even the most modest of sedan chairs needs quite a team to lift it aloft for the whole distance. I would happily forgo the extra folk with the fans at this time of year if that helped at all, but it’s still a bit labour intensive for the average parkrun. Reminder dear reader, if any is needed, that every parkrun appreciates volunteers, step up if and when you can.

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I’ve said a bath chair would do, but they ain’t biting. I don’t know why, buggies are fine at parkruns after all. Did you know that sedan chairs are also called palanquins? No me neither, I thought that was a perilously endangered trafficked animal. Every day a school day!

Whilst we are engaged in edutainment, I learned a brilliant new thing this week! I always thought the way to a builder’s heart was through biscuits, decent coffee and builders/Yorkshire tea, but guess what? Actually, don’t bother even trying, I don’t think you will be able to. The real way to their heart is though processed cheese triangles! I know! Who knew? Well, all of us now, obvs, but I felt it was in everyone’s interest to share the scoop. Such serendipity. Could be a game changer! You’re welcome.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I made the call to head to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun. Having made that call, it then materialised there would be other With Me Now pod listeners too, including Team Burrelli freshly sporting 250 tees following shared milestone celebrations last weekend. Wait there’s more – 50% of the tail walking team would be celebrating their fiftieth different parkrun location making her an absolute cow, which is tremendous news. There’d be an outfit for that for sure. Yep, I’d go there. Hurrah. Also, just a hop from Sheffield, so less ‘stupid o’clock alarm setting’ and more ‘just another 5 mins in bed’ before having to surface and face the day.

There was even talk of additional deferred fancy dress making an appearance this week – we have the outstanding pirate costume in need of an outing after all, as well as potentially an inflatable cow to be donned. In the event, the pirate got marooned en route to the parkrun (now that is a long and painful story) and the cow thought the better of fancy dress that some might thing a bit too jolly for a period of mooing mourning, which is understandable, though a bit of a shame too. Pirates in particular are having a terrible time at the moment, on account of the Queen’s Funeral coinciding with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I’m thinking they won’t be conducting the ceremony observing that tradition, such a loss.

A weird juxtaposition of dates you’ll agree.

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Oh well. This further deferment will simply serve to build anticipatory excitement even further. Eventually the moment shall come when all those pent up fancy dress outfits shall surge forth from their bottle neck in one great tsunami of OTT costume couture choices at some future event, people will gather from near and far; high fives will be swapped; jumping in the air shall be the order of the day; photographers will flash their cameras; barcodes will be brought and scanned – there may even be cake – and it will be glorious. FACT. And it’ll probably be at York parkrun on 15th October 2022 if you’re interested.

Also, just so you know, lack of fancy dress, didn’t mean nobody dressed fancy. Au contraire! Check out the shoes and socks options flaunted on the trail today. Some excellent buffery and yellow heart accessorising too, and that custom Brooks t-shirt is The Best!

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That t-shirt! What’s more, it was an actual freebie! I’m so jealous. There are hoodies as well apparently. Wowsers. Brooks are one of the parkrun sponsors now, and attend various events unannounced, where you can test run their shoes and they also give out the odd freebie to random finishers. I’m not sure what this parkrunner had done to merit this honour, but to be fair, she’s appropriately delighted by it. I would be too. I genuinely like Brooks stuff, I got some freebie sunglasses from them at an event way back and they are absolutely brilliant, wore them for the London marathon back in 2018 and many times since and they are good as new. I’m totally stalking the Brooks Facebook pages now, in hope of the slightest of hints as to where they may descend next. I’m shameless #brooksrunninguk @brooksrunninguk #parkrunhappy choose me!

Hmmm, they are toying with us though. Playing hard to get – it seems we will have to not only stalk their social media pages, but also harness our psychic powers to find them. Oh well. I love my parkrun apricot too 🙂 and I have patience. My time will come.

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Never mind, where was I? Oh yes ouchy feet and parkrun touristing, I’ll get there in the end.

It wasn’t too early a start, and the drive over in early morning sunshine gave gorgeous light across the dying back heather. Expansive views to lift the soul. It was all going splendidly, until I came across an unexpected road closure and had to do a grand detour. I arrived at Hassop Station carpark after 8.30 and it was already really busy. There is a very limited amount of free parking, but I’d forgotten about those spots and was too late for it anyway. There seemed to be a field open over the road where many parkrunners had parked up, but I wasn’t sure if you had to pay for that, and didn’t want to add in the extra distance, so I coughed up the £3.50 for three hours parking. I don’t begrudge parking fees generally, but that does seem steep when you are probably going to use the cafe as well. This wasn’t a cheap morning. I’d hoped to be earlier as I was going to offer to be the tail walker having heard my original buddy no couldn’t make it due to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and rubbish garages relating to newly purchased cars. My logic was, I am sooooo slow everyone ends up waiting for me anyway, so I might as well be that person at the back, and then I wouldn’t have the agony of someone else trying to jostle me onwards at a pace more that I could muster. It’s so awkward when others try to jolly you along. I was counting on the other tail walker repeating her outstanding service last week and being content shouting support to other parkrunners and getting creative with the photos as we went. Yep, that’d work.

Except I was too late for that, tail walker sub was already in place. Which is good in a way, since it shows how parkrunners are happy to step up to cover for one another when things aren’t going to plan. I’d just be limping round at the back as usual then, with my personal escort.

The first thing to remember about Monsal Trail parkrun is that it’s actually Bakewell parkrun. Well, maybe not any more strictly speaking, but it definitely used to be, and now it isn’t, but the pop up banner is very much still saying Bakewell, so that’s confusing if you are touristing and are on an alphabet completing schedule and have lost track of what country, county or rural paradise you are in. Do you follow? People still call it Bakewell although really it’s not, it’s more Hassop, and Monsal Trail is more accurate still. Like Endcliffe is still known as Sheffield Hallam and Knavesmire parkrun is still known as York. Oh wait, hang on…. Whatever, the point is, it will play havoc with future Facebook memories, but for now, you have to improvise with the pop up banner that’s to hand, and that’s what happened. Those posed photos have to be taken, just as if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen, how can you be sure that any given parkrun wasn’t but a dream unless you have the pop up pic to proof it? Ooh, I wish we could have actual pop up photos, the way we used to have pop up books in the olden days. I suppose in the future we will, and they’ll be holograms. For now we have to make do with jpeg files, but fortunately they are lovely. We spent a while trying to get the making it massive moves nailed. It would help if I understood the whole concept a bit more, but I reckon I blagged it pretty well in the circumstances. What massively cool dudes we are. Hurrah.

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Foreground is official photographer, soon to be official cow and experienced escort, centre is me with White Ted on this occasion – and that’s the sub tail walker all smiles and raring to go. We are quite lucky to have her in the UK at present as she’s a world parkrun tourist prone to seeking out new adventures all over the place. Catch her if you can. Oh, and I’m crouching down in a futile attempt to stop my stomach from blocking out the sun, I’m not that short. I mean, I am quite short, but I can see over the pop up sign without standing on tip toe despite what the photo suggests.

The id explanations are just in case you are curious, but there won’t be a test or anything, so you don’t have to concentrate too hard on who’s who, in fact it’s probably better if you don’t. Just keep calm and carry on. We know each other purely through parkrun in general and the With Me Now podcasts and live streams of parkrun lockdown in particular, which is pretty remarkable really. I don’t think I’d know anyone at all if it weren’t for parkrun and the people who live in my laptop. Oh and the quarantine quiz too of course – more of which later, possibly. Depends if I remember. I have an EWFM* too, obviously, but that’s in an entirely separate category of gloriousness all of its own. Obvs.

Yay, for jolly planned meet ups of With Me Now tourists, and a selfie of the party at the back posse pre parkrun . I’m assuming it’s expensive to replace the pop up sign, and actually, I have a vague feeling that there might be a pause on new ones anyway because of the need to change the sponsorship names. I think that might be why we still have the Bakewell parkrun sign. The other – perhaps more obvious explanation – is that what with the hiatus in parkruns and a change in the event team, no-one has been able to pass down the necessary knowledge of how to fold up the sign. Hence, there it sits, in perpetuity, unless and until some gifted travelling passing parkrunner shares their secrets and normal order with respect to the tidying away of things is restored. The main thing is DON’T PANIC! Well, I mean panic about many things, heaven knows there’s enough catastrophes kicking off in the world – just not about that. Save your panic for scenarios like the planet burning and forgetting your barcode. It’s all about perspective.

So in all seriousness, this is one of the parkruns that during lockdown was re-routed and renamed but kept it’s event counter ticking. The start and finish remain in the same place, but the route is now an out and back in the opposite direction. I’m in the position of having previously completed this parkrun when it was still Bakewell parkrun, but it morphed into Monsal Trail parkrun on my stats, which wasn’t a problem but did mean my profile suggested I’d completed a route I actually hadn’t, only now I have, so problem solved. Be happy for me. I am generally in the mood for touristing as I’ve been so unable to do anything for years, but this is a new route on a familiar course so didn’t feel too much like a repeat.

Oh and I feel I should say more about our companion cow. Look! Here she is.

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Last week a Jill in the Box but this week a complete cow or just half a Cowell depending on how you calculate these things. The Cowell is a Running Challenges Chrome Extension thing by the way. Specifically, to join the Cowell club you need to Run at 100+ different parkrun locations anywhere in the world. Named after the first parkrunners to complete it. A quarter cowell is available at 25, half at 50, and three-quarter at 75. Those who have completed their fiftieth different parkrun venue can claim cow status, and this is what happened here. For my tail walking photography compatriot. One day, in years hence, she may get this virtual sticker added to her profile. A fine reward for many years of touristing i think we can all agree.

It seems 2022 is actually her year of fifty things – fiftieth birthday (I know, doesn’t look a day over 21, it’s a miracle); fiftieth occasion of her home parkrun at Chevin Forest and fiftieth different parkrn event. Does that make her 150 then, if she’s done all the things? I’m not sure, but it’s splendid anyway, and worthy of celebration. No wonder she was jumping for joy all over the place. As previously reference, she was supposed to be wearing an inflatable cow, because that’s pretty much compulsory for marking your 50th, but well, you know, period of mourning and all that, the inflatable cow will just have to wait for York.

The jumping about thing was set to continue though, because of course any parkrun has parkrunners jumping for joy, and to be fair there was something of a jump off occurring at intervals. High jinx all round one might say. Since we had a Jack outa the box giving our Jill outa the box a run for her money!

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Did you spot the 250 tee in the blur of bouncing? Hopefully yes you did. Jumpage is understandable but can make it hard to see the finer details of individual outfits, but I reckon that 250 top is pretty distinctive. Green team, dream team. Just so you know, that’s it being worn on it’s first ever outing after being achieved just last parkrun weekend at Burnage parkrun, alongside another person’s 250 volunteering milestone. More specifically their other/better half. Nice bit of carefully planned parkrun milestone synchronicity there. It’s taken a lot of organisation to nail that particular celebration, but oh so worth it! Check out the cake, that’s just outstanding. Apparently it tasted amazing too, not just an Instagramable option but a dietary delight! Oh and they had milestone capes too, which should be compulsory really, at all events, but aren’t quite yet. Capers with capes are so much fun!

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All things were being celebrated here. This had also been planned as a fancy dress option, with the 250th parkrun being completed in a particularly fine Mr Zippy outfit (no reason, do you need a reason?) but again, restraint was exercised in respect of donning the fancy dress. And then in a hat trick of missed fancy dress opportunities, my pirate buddy was thinking maybe pirate today, but then didn’t make it due to a series of unfortunate events, specifically relating to mechanical misadventures en route, meaning she ended up at Brierley Forest parkrun which is very much lovely and all, but not the intended destination.

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And the consequence was that there was no pirate and no Mr Zippy last week and no Cow this week. A lack of fancy dress might be a cause of disappointment but…

DON’T PANIC!

There is a plan. All these missed fancy dress outings will be reconvened on the same date at some parkrun in the future. There will be an explosion of fancy dress at the next midi gathering where missed opportunities will be made good. Not that this lot need much of an excuse to get the fancy dress on, but they can share their joy in donning it en masse and properly mark the milestones and arbitrary achievements that have had but muted recognition where they’ve fallen during these 10 days. Might be all the better for having a backlog of celebrations to mark all at once. A positive scrum of joyfulness. You think they’ve jumped high and dressed to the peak of fabulousness already? Pah! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

First though, back to today!

I arrived parked up, joined the queue for the loo which wasn’t too long and definitely not 5 miles, and no live tracking you just had to take your chances.

I did, and then was rewarded for this by bumping into a world tourist With-Me-Nower in the scrum of exiting it. How exciting! Turns out, they were everywhere today. Outside the loos; in the café; at the start on the parkrun; volunteering – all over the shop.

I made my way to the start area and we started to find one another. It was VERY EXCITING. People I actually knew, people I knew by their high ranking status as parkrun ambassador for example – there seem to be loads of them out and about at the moment we get one or two at Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun most weeks- people I knew through Facebook but not through real life, and by reputation for example as uber tourists. It was great, and unexpected. There is actually a whole sequence of photos of ever growing numbers being gathered together for a group shot as new people we ‘knew’ kept appearing out of the crow, and we still didn’t manage to get everyone in to the one shot, nothing like. Well it is a bit like herding cats I suppose. Here’s a grand stab at the bulk of us though. Impressive isn’t it, remembering these were not all planned meet ups either, it’s just the parkrun community’s network keeps on reaching out and ever more connections are made, so every parkrun can feel like a reunion at times. It’s good like that 🙂 You are truly never alone at a parkrun. Unless you turn up as the only one who hadn’t twigged it had been cancelled, that can be discombobulating, but mostly, never.

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We busied ourselves doing the parkrun friends equivalent of dogs sniffing each others bottoms until we were summoned for the first timers’ welcome. According to the results there were 7 first time everers and an astounding 96 tourists, so that’s nearly 50% of the field of 203 participants. This is a tourist destination it has to be acknowledged, and it isn’t really that near a local population which I think contributes to the difficulty it sometimes has in getting enough volunteers. Fortunately, it’s not a complicated route so not too heavy on the number of marshals required, but it’s still hard for teams to manage at times. We were grateful for the warm and friendly welcome. We were reminded very much of the need to respect other users. It’s a busy path with cyclists, horses, walkers all availing themselves of the lovely route. That’s why it was also important to keep the trail free at the start, and remember to keep to the left of the path out and back to minimise the possibility of collisions, and also to facilitate more effective high fiving as you pass each other in a contraflow at some stage en route. He didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure it was implied…

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The Run Director’s briefing came next. Quite quickly in fact. I still have never quite got over the astonishment of having pre parkrun chatting interrupted by having to actually commence the parkrun. The poor RD had a cold, but gamefully stood atop her steps to brief us and send us on our way. I felt for her though, she definitely sounded a bit rough, and it was a nippy morning, beautiful yes, but nippy. Thank you lovely RD for turning out despite feeling rough, and thank you even more to you and all the high vis heroes for making all the parkrunners so very welcome, right to the end of the pack.

As is usual now, I took some photos at the start, then slotted in at the back of the field with my bouncy parkrunning friends. There might have been a bit of a jump off going on at one point, all in apparent jest, but I see a future rematch pending. I so wish I had a proper camera at times like this, they were awesome. Flying through the air like acrobats on acid. Cirque de Soleil has nothing on a pair of over-excited parkrunners soaring high. Never has leaping for joy been more literal or more inspiration to behold.

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But where were we going? Don’t worry dear reader, I can explain! Shall I wait for you to get a pen to make some notes, or will you just take a screen shot for later? It’s no problem I can pause for a bit…

Welcome back, ready? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The route is basically out and back. If you don’t believe me, here is the Monsal Trail parkrun route blah de blah from the website

Course Description

Out and back course on the Monsal Trail. Start and finish are in the same place by Hassop Station.

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/monsaltrail/course/

and the picture looks like this:

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Erm, that’s all you can say. You run away from the timers for 2/12 km when you are met by a wall of marshals. Well, two and their dog Nigel on this occasion, and a rather sweetly positioned cone to trot round, or skid round, or handbrake turn around as the mood takes you, and then you run right back the way you came. I belief it is fractionally downhill on the out and uphill on the way back, but honestly, not so you notice, this is properly flat. Hilariously though, if you run it in the other direction as the Bakewell parkrun used to, Strava doesn’t understand the concept of tunnels so will think you’ve done some epic and speedy ascents. That is, gone up and down those hills, rather than straight through the middle, this is excellent for boosting your bragging rights if you don’t let the truth get in the way of a good running narrative.

It’s compact gravel, and the only issues are really making sure you are respectful to other participants as you parkrun out and back.

Almost instantly the main bulk of parkrunners streamed out of sight, and we were but a few at the back. My two tail walking companions and 50% of the newly anointed green team who’d opted to walk and talk which was jolly sporting of him. I did feel initially some pressure to get a move on, which was challenging, but we did settle in to a more manageable pace.

On a serious note, I’m finding parkrun pretty tough at the minute. I think because I look fine (bit podgy obviously, but I mean ‘able bodied) and indeed opted for walking poles rather than crutches precisely so I’d blend in a bit more, people over-estimate my capabilities and I seem to constantly have people cajooling me to get a move on and that feels really shaming. I totally get it’s unintended, but it’s crushing every time. I can’t ‘get going’ I need to pause, and sometimes I’m in a lot of pain. Feeling embarrassed because I’m holding everyone up is an extra pressure and at times I feel like bailing or opting out entirely. Even with supportive parkrun compatriots I feel quite vulnerable. My fear is that once I give up on parkrun, I won’t be able to go back at all, and that thought makes me sad. It can be a mixed bag walking at parkrun and I really hope that next month’s parkwalk initiative normalises this a bit more because speaking personally, I think that’s very much needed. I worry about being a burden to individuals and teams, of course I do, the official parkrun line of ‘walkers always welcome’ doesn’t always reflect what happens on the ground. I try to go to different parkruns so I don’t make the same team have to wait for me each week, and I have always made a point of volunteering regularly to ‘give back’ a bit as well, but that doesn’t quieten the voices in my head that are constantly making me feel inadequate and that I don’t have the right to be there. Every parkrun I go to is a battle lately, and I’m conscious it doesn’t take much to push me into despair. I guess partly because every parkrun I hope will be a bit better, that I’ll make some progress and although I have made progress if you look back over a whole year, I’m very far away from where I was before and it feels unfair, which is jolly surprising, because usually life is 100% fair is it not? (Spoiler alert, it’s not) I know I’m lucky compared to many, and I am still there at the moment, however insecure I may feel about it. Hanging on by my fingertips. One foot in front of another. Sometimes blinking back the tears, but not bailed yet.

It was a bit of a wobbly start, but once we were underway on a lovely crisp sunny morning, things were looking up. Just because it’s a straightforward out and back though, doesn’t mean you can’t have parkrun adventuring along the way. Au contraire!

It’s jolly pretty for one thing, the route has lovely trees creating an avenue along it, then there are open vistas where you get great views, and if you have your wits about you you might spot the rare Bakewell born and bred long necked sheep – oh wait, what’s that you say? Really? Shame alpacas adjacent to the path. There was a little wren, busying herself popping in and out of the gaps of a moss covered stone wall. There was a very junior marshal – taking it all in. All very lovely.

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So the scenery was lovely, as well as the the company, but we had other adventures too. Specifically, on this occasion there was a mass group of walkers taking part in a Fund raising 26 km trek for the charity Together for short lives – Helping families caring for a seriously ill child make the most of every moment together. It was pretty chilled by the time we at the back met up with them, but earlier may have been a bit of a challenge. Like those early gladiator sort of films, where thousands of extras were brought in to stage battles, running at one another and mingling as each fought to pass the other. Not that that would happen here though, because we’d all been briefed to give way, and parkrunners are polite obvs. Think more parting of the sea rather than riotous bunfight. Or gentle ordered contraflow, I’m sure it was negotiated with grace. They were an eclectic and jolly group of walkers, it was quite early in their walk I think, so they had a long way to go, but my what a lovely day they picked for it.

One warning though, this is not a route for arachnophobes, which, presumably erroneously, was not explicitly mentioned in the briefing. Fortunately, the spider people running round today were being shepherded by lovely With Me Now crew to keep us all safe. It’s so lovely when parkrunners look out for one another in this way. They even gave us a reassuring wave of acknowledgement as they breezed by, letting us know the whole situation was all under control. Phew. There were 23 personal bests today though, which seems a pretty high percentage of the field of 203 so maybe the spidery presence just made everyone else run just that much faster. Apart from me. I’m very much just walking still. Besides, I like to get my money’s worth at an event.

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One of the super fun things about an out and back course is that if you are a slower parkrun participant you see all the faster parkrunners as they come back, and if you are a faster parkrunner, you see all the slower participants as they are going out! Everyone wins. It made for a highly sociable and people spotting parkrun. Hurrah.

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What made it even more fun, was being part of a very vocal party at the back offering up bespoke motivational cheering at every opportunity. Our tail walking cow has an enormous amount of experience at this and was in fine voice. But better yet, we had some Welsh language cheering from the stand in tail walker, always a boon. Not that we restricted ourselves to cheering only those we knew, anyone was fair game, potentially whether partaking in parkrun or not, we were happy to be sharing the parkrun love! All of us at the back got on board with parkrun appropriate whooping. It’s not called the party at the back for nothing! When it works, walking at parkrun is therapeutic indeed.

and that works at junior parkrun too. This recently shared anecdote made me properly cry, because it’s just SO LOVELY!

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Tony Kenyon
I have told this story a number of times because to me it is what parkrun is all about. One week we had just one child at the junior parkrun where I’m now part of the core team. I was tailwalker. They didn’t want to take part by themselves. So I convinced them to walk with me. They only agreed if every volunteer walked with us. So we all took a leisurely 2km walk.
That same child now regularly runs, seeing a PB after PB, getting faster each week. Those who walk today may run tomorrow. Or they may not. We should embrace them all.

See comments section of https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602/

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I properly cried. Snot and everything. It’s peak parkrun practice in my view. It also very neatly illustrates why for parkwalk to be successful next month, solidarity from plenty of walkers is needed. Consider walking one of your regular parkruns instead of running and experience the event quite differently. That junior parkrun intuitively knew that walking together was the way to go. How right they were.

Back to us. Eventually we made it out to the full extent of the 2.5 km and to the turn around point – that’s Nigel in the middle, supervising. Barkrunner par excellence! Not one parkrunner overshot the route turnaround point, so he did just grand.

We weren’t having a stand off, we were just having a parkrunny chat. Getting our Chat’s Worth at the parkrun nearest to Chatsworth was apt indeed.

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Cone negotiated safely, and we were coming home again. It was very quiet for the return leg, the charity walkers and other parkrunners having long since passed this way. But we could take in the scenes, and have companionable chats and so all was good.

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Finally, almost exactly on the hour, we were back to the start, which handily is also the finish. Where diligent marshals were still waiting and standing by to swing into time keeping and barcode scanning business on our return.

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The RD was in desperate need of a pee by the time we got there, a scenario for which I have enormous personal sympathy, and I felt mortified that she’d had to wait for me. Oh well. She was self deprecating about her plight, but it did catapult me back into the mindset of having spoiled the parkrun experience of others. Paranoia is devilishly hard to shift.

There was a bit more picture posing, trying to perfect the shot of the range of t-shirts on show, and also to get our lovely green team to pose appropriately with coquettish over the shoulder glances for maximum impact. Well we were entertained anyway. I never did get the perfect shot, but fortunately have been able to loot this one from elsewhere. Resource gathering skills come in handy at times.

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All done, back lit, we made our way to the Hassop Station Café.

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There is actually a special parkrun deal from a table area outside, with coffee and a variety of bapts/ breadcakes whatever including the double meat sausage and bacon options, veggie and vegan options – though I don’t know what the vegan option was to be fair.

A fellow with me nower and his family had already secured an outside table, so we queued inside (not five miles) and went for the more extensive menu. You just give your table number and order from the counter. The hot beverage situation confused me hugely, doesn’t take much. I asked about this and was told it would be brought out, but some said they’d been asked to collect if from the counter. In fact I think if you only have a drink you wait for it, but maybe if you are having food as well they bring it out. In the event this didn’t work particularly well for me as my flat white never came, although on reflection an unclaimed mug of tea brought out earlier might have been my order processed erroneously. When questioned they claimed it hadn’t been ordered, which was annoying as I’d paid for it, but hadn’t got a receipt, they were game for going through the whole till roll again to prove their point, and in the end my lovely tailwalking companion by passed the whole thing by just just buying me another one, which was kind of her and eminently sensible but somewhat grated in terms of customer service. Top tip, get a receipt. I know I’d paid, because I asked ‘and do I need to wait for my coffee now’ and they said ‘no, we’ll bring it out with your order’ so that’s not me not having ordered it is it? This aside, the food was amazing and the staff accomodating, in that we were able to customise our orders swappoing halloumi cheese for vegan cheese in toasties. These were pricey but came with a rather fine salad, some of which gathered on my top, but worth it. There was also amazing bakewell slices to be had, and an abundance of choice. Yum.

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Some were feeling the cold, but nevertheless, this brave duo braving the warm Bakewell slice or possibly Bakewell pudding with ice cream topping because, well it had to be done. They were worried about it being too cold to enjoy properly, but hard to justify being in Bakewell and not having someone step up to the challenge. In the end they were in it together, but took the safety precaution of getting a hot chocolate to warm themselves up afterwards, the yin and yan of post parkrun cakery I suppose. They are experienced like that. It’s really inspiring when other parkrunners are willing to make these sacrifices on behalf of others, brings a tear to the eye. I can report dear reader, they totally nailed it!

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We were quite an assembly, and there was loads of seating for post parkrun faffing and no pressure to move on beyond how much parking we’d paid for. More photo posing and parkrun story reminiscing ensued. Not too shabby a head count for what had been a pretty much entirely unplanned and arbitrary meet up! With Me Now pod listeners a-gathering.

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Alas though, all good things come to an end, and eventually people needed to disperse. There were hugs exchanged, but not without some discussion of appropriate hugging etiquette, still unsure what we can and can’t do these days, ,and also, you feel like you know people but don’t entirely so what to do? And then I worry about inadvertently thwacking people with my walking poles which is definitely sub optimal. I dodged that social faux pas on this occasion, but not the food down my front awkwardness unfortunately. It was only afterwards that someone helpfully pointed out the splattered tomato bits collected on my decoupage décolletage. Whilst a breast shelf can sometimes be handy for gathering assorted snacks together for later, it’s generally not a good post parkrun look, though pretty common amongst us more rounded runners. Nevertheless, I was glad of the tip off before any non parkrun interactions. Not sure if it saved me from indignity whilst recording the bonus question for the next quarantine quiz? Oh well, I’ve survived indignities enough of late that it will hardly register. I can only hope there was no spinach caught between my teeth either. Well, there won’t be spinach as there wasn’t any in my order, but there could have been rocket.

Others waved off, we hard core trio gathered by the Monsal Trail sign to record an impromptu bonus question for the awesomeness that is the Quarantine Quiz. I know, exciting! But you are just going to have to wait for the next quarantine quiz to showcase our collective genius to judge for yourselves! This is roughly where we positioned ourselves though, in case that teaser helps soften that blow. I know, delayed gratification is very annoying, but you’ve got this! 🙂 It’ll probably be for Quiz 85, in case you are interested, not sure when that will be, but do join the next one if you can. More the merrier. Oh you don’t know what that is? Erm, it’s an interactive, virtual quiz hosted by a German parkrun team –

RDs from Neckarufer parkrun, it is bilingual, featuring parkrunners asking the question and impressive fancy dress, some created by a 3d printer in the possession of an individual with a crazed imagination. It grew out of lockdown, and continues still, bringing an international parkrun community together. Oh, and the questions are sufficiently random there’s no shame in not knowing the answers, and in fact, being the tail walker (lowest scorer) is a particularly highly prized badge of honour too, and so it should be. Tail Walkers are the best! The literal translation of the German is ‘Final Accompaniement’ which I think is splendid.

Thank you Schlussbegleitung! You are The Best! In any language.

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And that was that. Time to depart. Others were heading off to Chatsworth which has THE MOST AMAZING EXHIBITION on at the moment, based around the burning man festival. I’d love to have gone, but too much walking for one day alas. I’ve enjoyed seeing the photos on line though. It’s worth checking them out. ‘Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man‘ That horse can gallop and fly! I know, impressive.

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As we departed, a parkrunner passed us his face etched with a look of absolute ecstasy. Rubbing his tummy he just uttered the words ‘sausage and bacon sandwich’ as he gazed skyward in bliss and rapture. Apparently it had been beyond exquisite. It had to be acknowledged, that even as two vegetarians and one vegan you could not acknowledge that exuded joy. A fine café indeed. Oh, apart from my coffee that never came – mouth watering vegan options also available.

So to conclude, the fine bits of today were very fine indeed at this parkrun, but there were a couple of wobbles for me personally. I need a walking at parkrun win where I can just ‘be’ without feeling slow shamed or a burden. Yep, it might be on me how I interpret things sometimes, but it’s also a reaction to cumulative interactions that leave people potentially sensitised to throw away remarks that reveal a deeper truth. One comment might not hit home, several at the same event can shade otherwise positive parkrun experiences. Fingers crossed for parkwalk in October. Hopefully as well as bringing more walkers to parkrun, it might raise awareness amongst teams about what creates a welcoming environment and what does not, unintentionally or otherwise. Just as I’ve learned so much from the deaf and hard of hearing takeover in Sheffield. Needs aren’t always obvious, but when known, sometimes they are really easy to accommodate where there is the will to do so. Still love parkrun, still grateful to my parkrun friends and although, yes, sometimes it’s complicated, it’s still worth it for me.

Are you still here? Aw, thanks for sticking with me 🙂 I know it’s a long haul at times but it is appreciated. Shared experiences can be bonding after all. Oh, and another thing, here is the link to the Monsal Trail parkrun event 152 run report in case of interest. And results for the record too.

For now, that’s all folks, time to pack it all away until next parkrun day.

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The End.

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But before I go, can we just have one more random adorable parkrun thing please? It is a lovely one I promise…

Yes we can. Check out this BEST EVER parkrun report. Hand written and fully illustrated. Love it! Thank you Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun for sharing.

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I know. Cuteness overload, sigh #loveparkrun

Also – POST FAIL – how did I not spot the opportunity for Bakewell Tart punnage. The shame will never leave me!

*Erst While Flat Mate. Yes, I know it ought to be erstwhile flatmate, but I have my reasons.

You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

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

parkrun Nivarna at Normanby Hall?

I’m fearful that what I am about to post may be deemed by some to be only just short of sacrilege in parkrun terms, but I can not tell a lie, Normanby Hall parkrun is truly special. (That’s not the controversial bit). I think it may, for me at least, knock Fountains Abbey off it’s plinth of ‘most spectacular of the region’s parkruns’. (That’s the controversial bit). I mean Fountains Abbey parkrun is not known as Fabbey parkrun for nothing, it’s an astonishing venue, but Normanby Hall parkrun is definitely a new favourite for me. It’s got all the things, and no pressure to finish and depart before the grounds open which knocks the shine off Fabbey parkrun if you are parkrunner who needs an hour to get around.

I’m not even entirely sure how Normanby Hall parkrun came to be on my radar in the first place, though now it is I’m mortified it was missing from my parkrun ‘to do’ map up until yesterday. It just fitted the bill for an accessible sounding parkrun within reasonable reach of Sheffield. I honestly didn’t know much about it before. I know, I know, I’m truly embarrassed by this, but hopefully by being properly open about this history, others can learn from my mistakes and not leave it so long to rock up and discover this gem of a parkrun for themselves.

The day didn’t start particularly well. I think it’s taken my body a while to recover from last week, and I was in a lot of pain first thing. I long for a day when I wake up pain free, but am coming to the depressing conclusion that that’ll be the day I wake up dead, which is annoying because if you are dead you don’t feel the benefit. I am not debilitated by pain the way I was a few months ago, I can do stuff, but everything hurts. I was hoping to have a stick free parkrun today, going to a new venue where no-one would know me and so no pressure, but was wondering if that was such a good idea. Hmm. It’s hard to know with this new reality how much my fears of falling are founded and how much they are an understandable, but disproportionate anxiety. Hmmm. I decided to take red ted and my stick with me and review when I got there.

In the car, and on our way. Wait, what was this stuff coming out of the sky? Rain? I’d forgotten about rain, it’s been so long since we’ve had any. Oh well, I’d be getting wet, I’d failed to chuck a waterproof in the car though I did have my fleece with me. It is officially meteorological autumn now apparently, and it did seem darker suddenly and even a bit of a nip in the air as I set off. parkrun tourism gets a lot less viable once the bad weather sets in. ‘Winter is coming‘ isn’t only an ominous phrase in Game of Thrones terms, it fills the most dedicated of parkrun tourists with fear and horror at the prospect of cancelled parkruns and missed starts due to ice and snow and dark and stormy nights!

Not here yet though, and in fact, by the time I got to the parkrun location it had not only stopped raining, but it was properly humid and sticky and not even autumnal let alone wintry.

It was an easy drive, me and my sat nav seem to have worked through our forming, storming and norming stages and are borderline performing. We got there without any passive aggressive demands on her part to do a u-turn but without meeting any diversions either.

The directions to the parkrun on the official Normanby Hall parkrun website blah de blah say:

Getting there by road
From Scunthorpe: Follow the B1430 to the north, signposted Burton upon Stather. When you reach Normanby go straight ahead at the mini roundabout and follow the road round to the right, the park main entrance is on your right.
From the Humber Bridge: Follow the A1077 towards Winterton/Scunthorpe. Just before Winterton, turn right towards Thealby/Burton Stather. In Thealby turn left towards Normanby. The park Gate is on your left after about a mile or follow the signs to Normanby Hall Country Park
From the M181: Follow the A1077 towards Winterton. Turn left at the third roundabout onto the B1430 signposted Burton Stather. When you reach Normanby go straight ahead at the mini roundabout and follow the road round to the right, the park main entrance is on your right.

There is plenty of free parking within the Park. For free parking use the overspill car park (signposted) and display a parkrun barcode in the windscreen of the car. PLEASE DO NOT USE ANY ADJOINING ROADS, INCLUDING NORMANBY VILLAGE FOR PARKING

but to be honest, I just used the postcode for Normanby Hall which is DN15 9HU, and then followed the brown attraction signs as I got near. It was very easy to find. On arrival, there is a huge car park, and a big sign directing you to the overflow carpark where parkrunners can have 2 hours free parking if they display a barcode. Why you’d need to park on adjoining roads or Normanby Village I don’t know, there is an abundance of well organised parking right at the parkrun. Having said that though, I initially followed the signs and went right down to the end of the unsurfaced road and ended up at what looked like a campsite, so had to turn around and come back. By this point there were three car park marshals in situ and it seems you actually just go into the big field to the right of the sign, not down the long road. It’s obvious really, it’s just I was very early and attempted to park before a marshal was in place.

Once I was parked up, it was but a short walk across the carpark to the sunflower surrounded toilet block, via a quick detour to check out the Go Ape wooden sculpture. They don’t have actual apes, which is good, because primates in captivity is an abomination, but they do have one of those air rope; zip wire; scary treetop courses. The sign about the go ape course was super scary, apparently three people have fallen off Go Ape courses because of not abiding properly to the safety protocols of securing their harnesses at all time. Well, that’s telling you. Luckily I was there for the parkrun where there is no requirement for safety harnesses. Whilst a face plant is always a possibility, it won’t be from the height of the Hyperion redwood.

Lots of loos, though behind cages, separating the men’s and women’s which was somewhat weird. It was like each toilet block had it’s own distinct exercise yard, I have no idea why. I can report they were very clean, and came complete with not only toilet paper but hot water and liquid soap too. This parkrun venue has nailed the parkrun precautionary pee protocols, always a positive first impression at a new parkrun when it delivers on this front. You can dear reader, travel to this venue with confidence in the personal ablutions and toileting aspects of your adventure. These details matter, well they do to me anyway. And let’s face it, hot water anywhere is going to become a rarity in months to come. We must celebrate both the presence of water and the miracle of it having been heated up for our indulgence whenever and wherever we can. Anyway, bottom line is, that it was sat nav accuracy? Tick. Car parking? Tick. And toilets? Tick. All good. Satisfied at this provision you can free your mind to focus on the other winning aspects of the parkrun.

I still was ambivalent about whether to try the route unaided. I mean if I could joggle and jiggle a bit last week then maybe this week I should ditch my metaphorical training wheels in the form of my stick and parkrun naked – figuratively speaking obvs. Don’t be childish. It’s what’s going on inside your head that made that sound risqué not mine. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Racked with indecision, I wobbled and wound my way back to my car, a friendly marshal asked if I needed any help, I must have been unconsciously sporting my perpetually bewildered look. Still, it was fortuitous, as I took the opportunity to ask about the surface of the route. It was a reassuring account. Sounded not only highly accessible, but, get this, bouncy tarmac in parts! You know that thick rubberised stuff, that is used on surfaces for playgrounds and things. That is very forgiving, only peatland themselves are bouncier, this was going to be fun. I’d ditch the sticks, throw caution to the wind, and make every parkrun count by just seeing how it unfolded, hurrah!

I made my way through to the courtyard, where as I entered I saw the high vis heroes assembling. This parkrun is so well organised and set out. This is where the post parkrun café is with loads of outside seating. As the volunteers gathered, there was a big white board inviting people to sign up to volunteer on subsequent weeks.

There’s an obvious path out of the courtyard, and an impressive array of information boards, including a map of the route. Oh good, I’d not really looked that up before hand. Though I will now, the official Normanby not Normandy Hall parkrun page course description blah de blah says:

Course Description
The route takes you on mainly surfaced paths with two very short lengths of trail path. Some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain, or ice in winter. Dependent on availability, marshals will be at key sections of the course

I think it is fair to describe that as ‘minimalist’. Perhaps the picture will help. The course apparently looks like this:

Is that photo the right way up? To be honest, the picture doesn’t really help much does it. I mean, I suppose that is the map of the route, not just a bit of wet spaghetti randomly dropped onto the map from a great height

Oh well, maybe the map on site will help. Oh good yes, it has different colour codes and marshal points and all sorts, bound to help!

Erm, nope, not really. This is why parkruns have marshals. I decided not to worry my pretty little head with navigational details. One boon of being a walker is that for the most part I’m in touching distance of, if not actually alongside the tail walkers, and there ought to be people within my line of sight at least for the most part, though that isn’t a given these days of course.

You exit the courtyard, where there is the reassuring and exciting sight of the parkrun flag, erected in readiness along with a ‘caution runners’ sign, so you know you are in the right place. Off to the left a bit, down a path and then oh my! Just look at that house. A huge grand building with a Narnia/ Mary Poppins style line of Victorian lamp posts alongside, which cultural reference in meaningful to you depends on your frame of reference. Based on subsequent experience of the park though, I’d say this is a magical Narnia land more than an American imagining of Victorian London, but each to their own. Even more excitingly, people were a-gathering. More specifically parkrun people. You could tell on account of their apricot tops, milestone shirts, running club tees and generally cheery dispositions and extremeley photogenic appearances. The marshals as always being the most photogenic of all, of course.

I didn’t know anything at all about Normanby not Normandy Hall, so I’ve subsequently googled it. Google thought I was looking up Norman Wisdom at first, so that was confusing, but we got there in the end. Apparently ‘Normanby Hall is a stunning Regency mansion, set in an idyllic 300 acre estate in the heart of North Lincolnshire, offering the perfect backdrop to your day out’, all well and good, but not a lot to go on. It is now a venue for all the things from weddings to the Antiques Roadshow. And they also have a marathon especially for hedgehogs coming up soon. I’m a bit dubious about whether that’s a good thing to be fair, don’t they need all their resources to be building up to get them through winter? Still, anything that raises awareness around hedgehogs has to be a good thing. Oh, and actually it’s only a half, so probably ok…

Oh hang on, I’ve found more stuff…

The House and Family
Built in 1825, Normanby Hall Country Park is a Regency mansion designed by Robert Smirke, and is owned by the Sheffield Family, former Dukes of Buckingham, and the original owners of Buckingham Palace.

During the 19th and 20th centuries the Sheffield family resided at Normanby for five months of the year, spending the winter season here pheasant shooting, and entertaining guests over Christmas and the New Year. In the spring, the family would move to London with some of their servants for the ‘coming out season’ and then return to Normanby for a week in June/July en route to their shooting lodge in Scotland where the family would spend the summer.

In 1964 the Sheffield family leased the house and grounds to what was then Scunthorpe Borough Council on a 99 year lease. Since then, the rooms that are open to the public have been furnished in the late Regency style using inventories of the house from 1829 to 1840 as a guide.

Well, that is positively enlightening! Even allowing for the fact that Robert Smirke sounds like a made up person, but then again so does Lord PANIC who we keep hearing from of late. Yes I know it’s actually Pannick, but that spelling is not nearly as entertaining. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story after all. Anyway, it’s sort of an audio joke isn’t it? Don’t need to ruin it by writing it down.

I had no idea that it was once owned by the Sheffield Family, but then again, I didn’t know the hall existed at all 24 hours ago. Blooming second homers though eh, only living there for part of the year. Still, if they hadn’t indulged themselves with landscape gardening a country park then we wouldn’t have a parkrun here so, I’ll let that go. A 99 year lease doesn’t seem very long though, more than half way through. Anyway, enough of this parkrun related edutainment, back to the parkrun in question. Quick, let’s look at some photos to get back in the mood. Where was I? Oh yes, gathering parkrunners. And lovely things, like a photo frame for picture posing, a ‘secret’ walled garden, so many intriguing places inviting you to go off and explore… Then again, exploring parkrun paraphernalia is super fun too! They had a trolley for putting all their things on, dinky token buckets that would double for building sandcastles if you fancied a sojourn to a sandy beach later; and a finish token board, lovingly crafted to keep tokens from escaping into the wild or shuffling out of sequence. The finish funnel was all set up, and volunteers were meeting and greeting one another.

I was starting to feel properly excited. Then the RD took possession of a mike, and it felt like it was the compere at a festival starting the warm up. A big up welcome, and a call out to first timers to gather for the first timers welcome. Which we duly did. It felt like a reasonably big parkrun but there were only 14 first timers of whom an impressive 6 were first time everers. isn’t that exciting, first ever parkrun and they came here. Wowsers, they chose well. I’m not sure if the first time everers actually made the first timers’ welcome, but according to today’s results they all got times so presumably they worked out what to do or came with friends who facilitated their parkrun debut. There were a fair few I noticed in Couch to 5k graduate 2022 t-shirts, but I honestly couldn’t tell if they were recent or long time graduates of that app.

We had a high vis faun as our very own Mr Tumnus to greet us to the parkrun. Would now be a good time to admit I’ve never actually read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, always found those sort of books really heavy going with the unrelatable children and heavy handed religious imagery, but then again, I’ve also not seen Game of Thrones and still feel confident enough to recycle the ‘winter is coming’ meme, so that’s me, living life on the knife edge, taking risks, putting myself out there. Sorry, if as a result the whole thing is nonsensical, but look at him, standing all welcoming under the lamp, it does have a wonderland feel to it I’m sure you’ll agree 🙂 And I’m Lucy after all, so it properly works, who knows what lies beneath those trousers, might be a faun. He did reference deer in the park after all as part of his welcome, maybe that was a clue, carefully planted for those intuitive enough to spot it?

Amongst the wide eyed, bushy tailed and attentive first timers, was an a contingent from Beverley Westwood parkrun, which, as well as having actual cow marshals, is erm ‘undulating’ one of their number boldly declared he was aiming not only to be first finisher but potentially break the course record. Kudos to him, this is a great surface for a fast time, and flat too. however, I do think it is an ambitious aim to try for first finisher if you’ve not done the route before. Our very own Mr Tumnus welcoming marshal gamely tried to explain the route, but honestly. Something about out and back, and round and round and tractor turns and woodland, and watch out for the der, and I just started to hear white noise and made the grateful decision just to follow the person in front. Having now completed the course I can confirm it is genuinely confusing. Sort of like being blind folded and spun round and then pushed out to find others in a game of blind man’s buff only without the blindfold and with more rainbow chimes in the woods.

Briefing done, the RD did some trawling for milestones. There was at least one person with a 50th celebration, the RD being at pains to point out it was their fiftieth parkrun not their fiftieth birthday, the parkrunner in question being actually 21. Fair enough. They had balloons though, so that’s good. Shout out for tourists..

… and then – and this made me SO HAPPY – we were invited to shimmy down to the start. Yes, dear reader, you heard that right. This was a parkrun where you get to shimmy, and are even encouraged to do so, and what’s more dear reader – yest there is more – some people were to be seen executing outstanding shimmying as they made there way to the start. Told you this parkrun gives others a run for their money, there is not enough shimmying as a default when gathering at parkrun starts.

And so shimmying concluded, parkrun started and awf, a pouring forth of parkrunners excitedly galloping off into the woods. Hurrah!

First loop was indeed into the woods, the path was good, and I could see the bright colourful train of parkrunners streaming ahead. It was an impressive sight. The first loop is relatively short, and as I was heading out and just reaching one of the early marshal points, I was in time to see the faster parkrunners coming back to rejoin our path after doing the first little loop round. I already loved this parkrun, I love that the marshals were super friendly and helpful, I love the venue and I love that you get to see the faster runners and indeed other parkrunners in general as the out and backs within the separate loops (it’s complicated to explain, you have to be there) lends a certain sociability. It was my first and probably only time here, but even so by the time I’d finished the course there were marshals and participants I must have passed and exchanged greetings with half a dozen times, I’m sure regulars must find it easy to get to know one another if they choose to do so – and why wouldn’t you, they all seem lovely!

You head round the loop, going towards some seriously impressive ornamental wrought iron gates. There a seated marshal was in situ to shoo you round the loop, and then you re-emerge at the marshal we’d passed earlier. Spoiler alert – you get to see these marshals again later, more than once, but I didn’t know this at this point. There are also little carvings scattered about, a squirrel that was ENORMOUS and a fox that was not, all very maaaaaaaaaaaagical though, plenty to gawp at and enjoy, those faster runners are missing out as all these lovely forest secrets pass them by in a blur of speed.

back the way we came, and oh look! The finish funnel! You get to run back and forth past this several times too. Again, I like this. Oh, and the surface in the early wooded bit was indeed bouncy tarmac, really inviting. Not had such a buzz since I ran along one of those weird walking travelators – flat ‘escalators’ (which is the opposite of Sheffield Flat, as these assist speedy horizontal rather than vertical progress.) at a deserted airport once. Honestly, I felt super human. Even though I can do barely a joggle and that a jiggly one, I did have a wee scamper on the bouncy bit and can report it feels lovely. Oh that all running routes were as forgiving.

and past the funnel we go and more distracting things to see. Check out this amazing fenced off tree for starters:

I concede my photo doesn’t really do it, but honestly it was ancient, and glorious, with stories to tell I’m sure.

Then another marshal ahead, once again, faster parkrunners were to be seen peeling off in a different direction, but I ploughed on ahead, snapping photos now and again as it was a great sight. Lots of lovely parkrunners doing their thing. I’ve done over 260 parkruns now, and I still find it makes me feel emotional at times when you find yourself at a new parkrun community, where elite runners and just getting rounders can participate in the same event and meet and greet and encourage one another, and in this instance the tail walkers have actual tails too. It’s quite something, I never tire of it.

Plodding onwards, another marshal and more speedy parkrunners. Past some of the Go Ape adventure playground in the sky, and again on a contra flow. The parkrun tourist was in the lead on target for first finisher although whether he’d get the course record was impossible to predict. I got one flying feet pic, so feel vindicated for my point and push efforts en route. Small victory but one to celebrate all the same.

I don’t really know if this was the mid point of the second loop as such, but anyway as I reached the end, the parkrunners ahead of me were looping the loop round a sort of grassy traffic island ahead. I mean it’s not quite the curly wurly of Somerdale Pavilion, but has it’s charm. Whilst the speedy parkrunner were heading back down for the final out past the finish funnel and round back again I got waved down the little side path to the right and into the woods proper. Wooo!

Oh my, the woods. This was my favourite bit! By now I was on my own, I couldn’t see the parkrunners ahead of me, partly because the path was a bit windy at this point, and partly because I’d slowed to a slow walk. Sore poorly legs and feet. I was managing without the stick, but learning how much it does help take some of the weight and that does make walking less painful. The tail walkers were quite far behind, I think they were having a social walk and talk and why not.

The woods were brilliant. It felt like going on a micro adventure of exploration and discovery. You can totally see why children in fairy tales end up leaving the path and getting lost in big woods. I kept being seduced off the path as I espied hidden treasures and curiosities amongst the undergrowth. A little detour wouldn’t hurt surely, I wasn’t going for a time, and as long as the tail walkers weren’t too close behind it wouldn’t delay the finish. I gazed up into cathedral high canapés canopies. Negotiating the parkrun without my sticks meant they didn’t get in the way of checking things out, and the distractions took my mind off my leg which was exploding with pain by this point. But pain is only pain, I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over and lose balance which had been my big fear, so that’s a breakthrough too. I just loved the woodland bit, you could lose yourself in there, having adventures, forest bathing writing your own stories. Perfect. Narnia indeed, but without the clumsy affectations of the book. And with less snow. Though I imagine the route would be gorgeous in deep snow if you could manage to get here for it. Apparently in season you get a confetti of blossom from the cherry trees as you pass on the way to the finish. What a wonderland!

There were huge, specimen trees towering overhead; a secret house; some rainbow chimes; bees in trees; nest boxes; Go Apery so much to see! I think it was here I noticed some parkrun footpath signs, so I guess this is one you could do as a freedom parkrun or (not)parkrun fairly easily. There were little bridges over streams, some rather dried up pools, I hope any amphibians have completed their transition into froglets by now. it was just lovely.

and then I emerged, confused, to where I think I’d been before, but frankly no idea any more. This was a truly perplexing route, I got completely disorientated, not in a bad way, you just put your faith in the marshals and surrender to the experience, but I did feel turned around. I guess if I went back and did it again it would make sense, but I was happy to just enjoy it.

Back out and oh look, a tractor train thing, all ready for the visitors arriving shortly. Like I said, lots to see.

And here was the 21 year old parkrunner on her fiftieth parkrun, all coming back down again as I headed back up to the finish/ start and once again carried on by

Belatedly the course was now beginning to make sense. I put a bit of a wiggle on up past the finish, though I did pause to try to get some shots of parkrunners who’d already finished mingling after their runs. I was acutely aware by the time I made it back again they’d probably all have scattered. In fact, a fair few were there, not just the mass of the volunteer team, but partners and friends of those still en route. Some came back out to join those on the course, and others were doing a cool down lap. I more of a sit down after parkrun type of participant, but each to their own.

I thanked the marshals still in situ, who were starting to feel like old friends. So positive. The RD made a point of encouraging people to thank the marshals as they passed in addition to the usual round of applause gesture at the start. The round of applause is good, but if you are a marshal out on course you don’t feel the benefit do you? Having a load of parkrunners greet you as they pass is way more fun. Today there had been some rejigging of the roster for some reason. Whether that was due to last minute no shows or just not enough volunteers I’m not sure, but either way, the team had rallied round to get the parkrun show on the road – or more accurately country park tracks – and see them home safely. I don’t know how they know everyone is back now I come to think of it, as I wasn’t aware of them counting us all out and counting us all back, but maybe not all the other parkrunners choose to go off piste in the enchanted wood. Even if they did though, I bet they do a sweep, and those tail walkers, probably sniffer dogs now I come to think of it. They looked like a pretty elite canine operation team now I come to think of it. Albeit quietly understated because of being undercover perhaps, but definitely would have found you and saved you from yourself if you found yourself passing through a mist into a parallel world of magic and mystery.

Here is the elite sniffer team for reference:

You have to admit, I may be onto something here.

And here are photos of the other sights as I made my way past the finish and beyond. You do go past the start/finish a great many times on this course, from a variety of angles. It’s like an invisible force keeps pulling you back. So I went past and back up to the turning point, only this time you get to run round the mini roundabout (which is actually angular rather than round, but you still have the smiley marshal with the music sound track – did I mention she had music about her person before? Well she did.) then back down again, past the start/finish again and past the tractor people, who let me take their photo and admire their train, and then turn around and back again. I’m very aware I’m making this sound like some sort of horrendous army running bleep test, but it was all very consensual and lovely and picturesque and supportive and not horrid and mandatory at all. Just in case you were starting to worry.

For the final stretch there was a parkrunner with a 6 week old baby, yep, you heard that right, good to start them young. Actually, in all seriousness, assuming parkrun survives, then I wonder what number of parkruns some of this next generation might yet hit. I didn’t even start parkrunning til I was nearly fifty, she’ll have a half a century of extra time to rack up parkruns. Maybe a 2000 miletone tee wont be all that extraordinary at all. Only about 40 years worth. Very doable. I wonder what colour they’ll go for. Maybe gold sequins – only biodegradable not plastic ones. Of the style that shows new pictures as you run your hand over it. It could be a colourful rainbow as the outer design, but as you stroke your hand across to reverse the sequins, you get an image of Paul and Jo S-H emerging beneath, captured on the occassion of their 500th parkrun. That would be great actually. If only I knew some parkrun ambassadors so I could put a word in. Surely a shoo in. That and an apricot travel mug, no idea why that’s not a thing yet. Is it really only me who is bothered by such an omission?*

We’d sort of being leap frogging one another as I paused to take photos and then jiggled ahead again. I decided that I’d do the previously unimaginable and go for a sprint finish. Everything is relative you have to understand. You might not have noticed any sprinting as such, but power walking feels like flying for me after months of not being able to mobilise at all. Finally, I got to go through the actual finish funnel instead of just endlessly trotting past it. Hurrah. I raised my arms in triumph, and got a lovely welcome from the team who were very much still present. I mean, it is an occupational hazard of volunteering in the finish funnel or time keeping that you have to stay to the bitter end, but the team did so with energy and enthusiasm and even joy. It was grand. I was able to turn around and snap the final finisher, before going to get my finish token and scan and all that business. No queues, another boon of being behind the rest of the pack. Personalised service. I could have the pick of the scanners, which was a tough call, as each was as magnificent as the next! It was like trying to choose a favourite froglet in my wildlife garden, an impossible task. And anyway, why would you want to, each was/is unique and magnificent in their own way.

The tail walkers came in. There was a bit of banter as to whether one of the hounds should get a finish token on account of it being carried some of the way. I expect the person giving out the tokens hadn’t realised this was just the dog being on special manoeuvres. It might have fine olfactory senses, but being a bit more limited on the limb length issue, sometimes has to be raised aloft to aid deployment. It was all laughed off in good humour, you wouldn’t want to blow your cover by making an issue over that. Also, barkrunners don’t get their own barcodes. Just so you know.

A cheery parkrunner who’d also set up the course, was now cone wrangling like a pro and helping with post event close down too. It looked like a lot of the volunteers here took on multiple roles, and it also seemed a friendly and close knit- but not cliquey team. If this was your home parkrun I completely get why you wouldn’t feel the need to bother to try anywhere else.

I thanked the team and made my way to the cafe for some post parkrun coffee. I was quite giddy at the prospect, elated by succeeding at getting round without any mobility aid, I felt a celebration was in order, and also coffee might revive me a bit for the drive home.

The cafe is in a converted stable or carriage block I assume. There were cakes and paninis that sort of thing. It wasn’t great for veggies and I imagine potentially hopeless for vegans. I decided to have a cheese pasty thing, which I’ve not had in many years, but just suddenly fancied. And a coffee. parkrun was/is always about the coffee after all.

DISASTER. No card on me. The nice people at the café were chilled about this and put my pasty on the side whilst I went to retrieve my bank card from the car. To be honest, I might have skipped all that extra walking and not bothered with a coffee if I’d known I’d not got it on me. Still, a boon of this extra mileage, was that I got to overhear the Go Ape people doing their version of the first timers’ welcome. It was hilarious, a lot of emphasis on this being a high risk activity and you might actually DIE in the doing if you didn’t take the safety briefing seriously, and if after you’d had the initial training you weren’t up for doing it on your own then you could bow out, and get a full refund and no questions asked apparently. I preferred the parkrun version to be fair, which was all rather more encouraging and with less mention of imminent death if you failed to abide by parkrun protocols.

Back to the café and they’d kept my order and gave me coffee. The impulse buy pasty was actually really good, dangerously so, crumbling fat filled pastry and hot cheese filling isn’t the healthiest of options, but my it was nice. The coffee though. Oh my hat. Big disappointment. Maybe they forgot to put any actual coffee in it. Insipid. Hot and wet, but entirely devoid of caffeine. I think it was the mismatch of expectations, I’ve had worse post parkrun coffee before, way worse, but this felt like a rather upmarket café, so the machine coffee let the side down. Also, all the drinks came in disposable cups with lids, which I understand makes life easier for the café, but isn’t great. There were recycling containers carefully labelled for the card cups and plastic lids separately but reuse would be so much better. Oh well.

Coffee might have been disappointing, but the farm shop was not. I was able to get a load of fab cards, randomly drawn by someone from Hexham Northumberland, including one of a rather lovely mallard. Regular readers will know how I do luvva duck. So that was good.

And then that was that.

Time to go home.

It was really positive parkrun morning. My only regret, apart from the coffee is not having the time or stamina to make a day of it, this is definitely a venue where you could spend time exploring, and I imagine with the changing seasons every visit would be different. You could even head on to the coast, and we all know how exciting it is to see the sea.

Next time eh.

Oh, are you still here? Thanks for that, I always really appreciate the tail walker coming in right behind. You are a star.

Happy parkrunning ’til next time. Be content dreaming of parkruns pass and parkruns still to come in the meantime. Oh happy thoughts…

Oh, and guess what? Hard to guess, I’ll have to tell you, I wasn’t even the only one documenting the event, it was like there was an international parkrun journalists convention there this weekend. Check out this fab video with extra stats and facts and actual in focus footage from Statsman Runs Normanby Hall parkrun Event 168 – Simply Beautiful – spoiler alert, he liked it too! To be fair, he like me wasn’t really building much in the way of suspenseful outcomes with his choice of title.

But wait, there’s more – Dannii Runs was also vlogging away, she has a fab video too here Normanby Hall parkrun, event 168, 03/09/22. A beautiful NENDY and it seems we were unanimous in finding Normanby Hall parkrun to be really jolly nice. Do like a bit of triangulation to confirm intuitive ethnographic research findings. I think we can all agree this is a parkrun we can recommend with confidence. Put it on your parkrun to do list, you won’t regret it 🙂

You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though and forward for more recent ones.  Your choice

*Nope. This one is for you Ambassador Zaheer 🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Sea, Sand, Sun, parkrun and someone doing an actual thing! Celebrations for a 250 milestone at South Shields parkrun.

I do like to be beside the seaside. I really truly do, and it’s been properly aaaaaaaaaaaages since I got to go there. Like everyone I’m skint, so mini breaks aren’t really compatible with my income, and anyway, with my mobility a bit hit and miss long drives and random parkruns are, erm, let’s go with ‘contra-indicated’. Set against this, I feel I’ve missed out on too much in the last few years. I knew that a parkrun friend would be celebrating her 250th parkrun this bank holiday weekend at South Shields parkrun and that’s an official parkrun milestone, big deal as clearly an actual thing. Should I go or shouldn’t I? On the one hand, long drive, expensive trip with an overnight thrown in, and I can’t even run when I get there – oh and social awkwardness, paranoia and angst on unexpected arrival. On the other hand, you get to see the actual sea, and touring is always fun, even when of type two, and 250 parkruns? Well, that’s a lot of running around, it ought to be celebrated. South Shields parkrun has been on my wish list for literally years. What better time to schedule it in my busy parkrunday diary. This parkrunday dairy is not an actual thing and a chart but probably should be. I’ve seen analogue parkrun charts that would look great on any fridge. I’ve so many parkruns on my wish list I’d have to be immortal to get round the all, but no harm in chipping away at the top contenders a bit more proactively, if not now, then when? But the cost, the drive, aaargh, what to do?

Fate then lent a hand as I got a lucky break with two days of extra work. One was a midnight wrap and the next day a 6.00 a.m. call meaning heading off at 4 in the morning to get there, so no sleep to speak of, but a bit of a cash windfall further down the line. Plus I got to play the part of nosy neighbour which I was basically born to do, and partake of some unusually fine onset catering, so a good way to end the week. I would make it so! South Shields parkrun here I’d come!

Only I nearly didn’t. On the Friday before my body went into rebellion. My face swelled up like a blooming asymmetrical chipmunk, only resulting in me looking significantly less adorable, cuddlesome and cute than I imagine chipmunks to be (I realise I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life) and significantly more like child’s recreation of a random star wars alien using plasticine, marbles and Picasso inspired placement of facial characteristics. Which, in case it isn’t already abundantly clear to you, is not a good look. Not one you want to leave the house with, plus everything hurt. Honestly, random grapefruit sized swelling. Is that too much information? Well, best abort now if you think so, because more follows, I also developed a huge abscess which sprouted up on my back like I’d been cursed or something. I could have wept. I think I did. It’s not fair, my body just can’t do anything more than potter about it seems. A couple of long days and it’s like my body just shuts down in protest. Everything malfunctions, I just can’t do stuff like I did before. I felt proper poorly. Maybe I should accept fate and just cancel. I was very self conscious too, I looked ridiculous, everything ached, this was sub optimal in the extreme, and although being half a hamster may offer comedic value for the viewer (as in comedy horror genre rather than pure comedy), my first hand experience tells me it’s miserable being the purveyor of such comedy gold. I’d rather be bland and in sound body, abscess free given the choice. No choice had been given however, praise be for the NHS.

Emergency appointment and penicillin script later, I was feeling more positive. I saw the nurse prescriber and it turns out she is a parkrunner too! She went to her first parkrun as part of the GP Practice parkrun initiative I think, although not officially part of the scheme, the practice are trying to encourage people to be more active and we the converted know that parkrun is fab for that. So although ironically her attendance was really aimed at encouraging patients to get involved, she now finds it’s she herself who got hooked in. Hurrah!

Anyway, it meant she sort of got where I was coming from with my tearful presentation and admission that I just wanted to go and do a parkrun, and some magic medicine to make me ok. I knew the infection wouldn’t clear on its own, and with it being a bank holiday weekend was worried about going away at all and most certainly without being seen by a medic first. Talking about mutual parkrun passions was a tonic in itself, and having a prescription gave me confidence the infection was in hand. Besides what’s the worst thing that could happen? People pointing and laughing at me is familiar territory, and what’s a bit of sepsis set against the joy of participating at a parkrun. Small price to pay.

Eventually, I hit the road, only about 8 hours later than planned. I figured as long as I didn’t eat anything the swelling would subside. I’d booked a single night’s accommodation at Athol House on Westoe Road The drive was uneventful, good even, and as I neared my destination I could hear seagulls, and then I felt properly excited. Seagulls mean the seaside don’t they. Or a massive rubbish dump to be fair, or both, but in this instance, it was the sea. Hurrah!

I drove straight past the guest house initially, and it was later than I’d planned when I arrived and initially it all looked a bit dead, the road was quiet and shuttered up at the end of the day, although it was just along from a really spectacular municipal building of some sort with a mahoosive statue of Queen Victoria at its front. It didn’t look promising and my sat nav was annoyed with me again. I’m getting to really resent my sat nav, she’s such a back seat driver. I parked up on a side road – loads of parking, and then took my spotted handkerchief of belongings to the front door. Up some steps and rang the bell.

It was answered by such a nice host! A really warm welcome to immaculate premises, newly refurbished. A room with en suite shower, which I never got to use, a fridge, a TV as big as a, erm, something very big, wardrobe maybe, and a double bed. I was given keys and told that if I got into any trouble at all during my stay, day or night, just to give him a call and he’d come and get me – charge for it, but rescue all the same. It was really nice actually, as a single traveller I do think about my safety in a background noise sort of way, so it’s good when that’s pre-empted. Would totally stay there again. Hopefully will do soon, I ‘need’ to do Jesmond Dene and there are lots of other parkruns around there too, not to mention GNR next year potentially. Oooh, so exciting!

There wasn’t anywhere around obvious to get something to eat, but then again, couldn’t really eat anyway, so I just spent an hour trying to find my mobile phone which I managed to lose on arrival but had actually just chucked onto the bed and thrown my coat on top of it. And so to bed, because the earlier you go to bed on parkrun eve, the sooner parkrun morning comes around. Also, I was shattered.

Then it was morning, and parkrun day! Hurrah. My host was busying himself in the kitchen downstairs and I had coffee – could have had a full cooked breakfast but I never eat before parkrun and then there was the hamster transformation risk factor to take into account. I wonder if what I was experiencing is an insight into what it feels like for werewolves as they enter the early stages of their nightly metamorphosis? Must ask the next werewolf I encounter and swap stories, could be interesting… My host was good company, filling me in on the history of South Shields and its marine engineering links and all sorts really. Very companionable. Seemed a waste to just stay the one night. I could even have come back for a late breakfast I think, but opted instead to head to the seaside ASAP.

It was about a mile away, and an easy drive. The post code I had weirdly took me to the overflow carpark not the Sand dancer pub, but it wasn’t hard to find. There was loads of parking when I went, I suppose it was pretty early still, and there were a few parkrunners mingling about, I couldn’t tell if they were tourists or team at this point, but the apricot tees acted as a beacon so I knew I was in the right place, or alternatively, wasn’t the only parkrun tourist in the wrong one. Oh, and little factoid for you, which I found on the interweb so must be true – ‘People from South Shields are sometimes referred to as Sandancers. This is a colloquial term is presumed to originate from the town’s beach and history with the Arabic peoples dating from a 19th Century music hall act of the same name’. I didn’t notice people dancing on the parkrun route particularly, but I was quite far back, maybe all the locals were sand dancing towards the lead of the parkrun pack?

Oh look, the seaside! It was a massive sandy beach as the tide was quite far out. Breaking waves on the horizon. A tractor thing was harrowing the sand to clean it all up. There were cliffs to the right, a ruined priory to the left, ferries and boats out to see. The sun hitting the sea looked glorious. Me and the wonkies (well I could hardly not take them with me could I now) had to venture down to the sea. I love the sea, I’ve missed it. I’d have liked to have gone for a paddle, but wasn’t sure if I would manage that and didn’t want to get into difficulty before I’d even done the run. I rather regret this now, but I’ll just have to go back. It looked like this though.

Not too shabby eh? Looking lovely in the morning light. Sigh. I do love the peak district and feel like Sheffield is home, but ooh, the sea, just love it. Puts everything into perspective. I’d love to spend more time by the sea. That reminds me, need to find out how to get a Vera gig, that really would be living the dream… Oh, unless it’s a documentary, maybe not so high up my wish list to be featured then. Falling from the clifftop onto the beach mid parkrun under mysterious circumstances, would totally distract from the 250th shebang, and not in the parkrun spirit at all. Apart from anything else, just imagine the paper work.

Back to the actual seaside, and being there. For real. At last.

I was SO EXCITED.

So what was in store:

The South Shields parkrun website course description blah de blah says:

Course Description
The run starts on the sea front promenade outside of the Sanddancer pub. From the start follow the promenade towards the Leas. At the gate at the end of the promenade run directly across the grass and join the coastal path next to the large rock. Follow the scenic coastal path up the Tarmac bank and along the cliff tops all the way to the Minchella & Co ice cream hut at the bottom of Marsden bank. Turn right onto the Coast Rd and trace the route of the last mile of the Great North Run along the pavement. The finish is on the Leas opposite the Bamburgh pub.

Wait, hang on a moment, what’s that you say, you get to do the last mile of the Great North Run. O.M.G. Do you have any idea how devastated I have been to have to pull out of the Great North Run for this year. Unbelievably I got lucky in the ballot, and then, well, what with nearly dying and everything, and being in a wheelchair and all, even walking has been sub-optimal to be fair and training not even an actual thing and eventually reality check got through and I pulled out. Strictly speaking, I’ve deferred but you have to pay again to enter next year, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to run again by then or not. Not gonna lie, might have screamed into the void and shed a few tears, but now I find I can do the good bit for free, just by turning up at a parkrun, what’s more accommodation will be a lot more reasonably priced, and frankly who needs the Red Arrows when you can be flanked by marshals? Quite. This was going to be fabulous. Also, the Red Arrows are a bit crap at the moment aren’t they, only seven instead of the usual nine, hardly worth craning your neck to look up into the sky for. Nope, don’t need the GNR, I’ve got the parkrun. #winningatlife

After a bit of a beach potter, and getting my leggings and wonkies and back pack all covered in sand, back to the car. Off in search of the loos – they were adjacent to a sort of public amphitheatre space, I don’t really know quite what I’d expected from South Shields but it certainly has all the facilities, and lots to look at, even a life guard hut of they type that I thought only existed in Baywatch and a certain genre of American horror films like The Sand. This is yet another thing I love about parkrun touristing, it’s very educational, edutainment at its very best. Oh and just to be clear, despite what you might think from watching the Vera documentaries, South Shields beaches do not have killer sand. Fact. Really confident about that Fact claim. It’s proper lovely out there.

Finally, after much pre-parkrun faffing; and exploration; and precautionary peeing; and getting properly excited when the car park machine attendant helped me out and when I said thank you replied ‘nee bother’ in a proper geordie accent proving this is an actual holiday; and sea gazing; and photo taking; and concrete mural gazing I made it to the parkrun start. People were now a-gathering, and I had the awkward paranoia about how to join in. I wasn’t sure if I’d be recognised out of context, and I hadn’t said I’d be coming, but then I espied some familiar faces, and hurrah, they seemed genuinely pleased to see me, as I was to see them, and it was all lovely and worth while, even without having yet embarked on the actual parkrun, it was all going to be fine! Oh, and what’s more, they have a gorgeous canine barkrunner about their person too! Brilliant. Maybe didn’t catch him at his best angle first off, but it’s the thought that counts

Even though I’d arrived a good hour early, I’d been so caught up in my faffing, it was almost start time. I parked at the start, but the finish is actually somewhere else, a good km away I’d say, and there is a good pub there for post parkrun shenanigans, so if you are visiting it probably makes more sense to park at the finish and then walk down to the start, but hey ho. I was walking anyway, so decided I’d wear my fleece and carry money for afterwards, but it would have been a pain if I’d been planning on a speedy one. It’s not that far, but beyond my limits of activity for the day at the moment to nip back at the end of the parkrun. As it happened, we got a bit of rain anyway, so I wasn’t entirely inappropriately attired. First though, first timers briefing. A small but perfectly formed gathering of first timers listened attentively.

and then it was mustering to the start

Then the actual run briefing from the actual run director and the actual 250th celebrant who was doing BSL interpretation. It’s great that this is becoming so much more routine of late. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it. I host people who work at the Crucible Theatre sometimes. At the moment they are rehearsing for a production of Much Ado by Ramps on the Moon, a company which ensures ‘every performance features the use of integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning. Ramps On The Moon is the pioneering initiative committed to putting deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work.’ One tenet they adhere to, is that for theatre to be regarded as truly ‘accessible’ you should just be able to rock up, without any warning, for any show and be able to engage with it. Not just the one tokenistic BSL signed production on the first Tuesday matinee of alternate months or have to book 6 months ahead for the one touch tour they are offering which require you to turn up three days early for the performance you’ve actually booked to see so you can make sense of what is being described to you on stage. This is interesting to me, it makes sense. There isn’t equality of access when so much forward planning is required. Sometimes adjustments do require forward planning, but sometimes relatively simple things can make all the difference. BSL at parkrun briefings as standard is brilliant, and I think for those parkruns fortunate enough to have BSL users amongst their numbers it is increasingly common to do just that. Have it as a default option and not only put it on because they know in advance someone might require it – commendable as that is. Oh I digress, sorry, never happened before though so…

Where was I? Oh yes, run briefing proper. I’d been advised that I knew the RD already from somewhere or other, but nope, didn’t register him at all. And with his commanding authority at the briefing I surely would have done? We were reminded of the course, of the last mile being that of THE ACTUAL GREAT NORTH RUN, to watch out for other users, dinosaurs, sand dancers probably, I forget the details. Milestone shout out for our BSL apricot wearing 250th celebrant and standing ovation for the volunteers. Well, we were standing already to be fair, but standing and clapping is a standing ovation as far as I’m concerned and the main thing is they were properly appreciated. They went through the route again I think, or maybe not, but at some point, someone said basically keep the sea to your left and you’ll be fine, marshals will stop you getting lost. Not wishing to be overly picky, but wishing to avoid future trauma for others, I must point out this is only is sort of true. In fact at some point it does actually swap since you cross a grassy bit and come back the other way with the sea on your right. If you miss this turn (admittedly hard to do on account of the outstanding directional pointing on the part of the marshals) you could in theory end up doing a complete round coastal run, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure the batteries on the timekeepers phone would hold out long enough to guarantee you a finish time. So, consider that you’ve been warned. All parkruns will endeavour to remain til the last parkrunner is safely home in normal circumstances, but if you take a route detour of approx 2700 miles give or take a few then you do risk them stepping down in your absence. Good to know. Keep your wits about you out there.

And then we were off!

I say ‘we were off’ but really I mean everyone else was off, and I took some not very good pictures and then pootled in behind. It’s a lovely parkrun this one, but also somewhat weird. By this I mean the route on the promenade tarmac is, well essentially a rather bleak road run, but if you turn your eyes to the left you get this staggering coastal view. Although I do feel bereft at not being able to run, it is true that when you walk you see so much more. You soon move off the tarmac and up a bit of hill onto the cliff top proper. Guided by the first of the marshals who guide you way

Looking out you see breaking waves and boats and rock pools and also unexpected (to me) bits of coastal history, the gun thingy, notice boards explaining some of the history of the leas and the rock formations and nature. Barriers advise you to keep away from the edge of the cliff, with a running total of those who failed to follow that advice and no doubt perished for it. Harsh, but fair.

There was another walker early on. Turned out he was one of those who originally set up this parkrun. Even measured and designed the course. Unusually perhaps, the South Shields authorities were incredibly keen on hosting parkrun, did all they could to accommodate it, and even suggested the GNR stretch I think, if I recall correctly, so this was perhaps one of the speediest ever course approvals. It’s great when new parkruns are so welcomed. He soon disappeared off ahead, and I was left for a mindful walk. I could hear the tailwalkers companionably chatting together a bit behind me, and now and again got a glimpse of parkrunners on the horizon or on my right as they’d turned around and were zooming down the home straight to the cheering welcome of the finish funnel.

After a good stretch of the coast, you cut across a grassy section as per the course description, towards the GNR section. What the course directions omitted to mention, was that at this critical point would be a gorgeous troupe of marshals to cheer you AND photograph you en route. The quartet included fine mini-marshals, with their own bespoke high vis which is one of my favourite things. Upshot was, that I was in the giddily joyous situation of photographing them, photographing me. It was all very jolly, and very friendly. I was conscious of being a long way behind everyone else, but it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all, it felt fine.

parkrun photos are always grand aren’t they, but this photographer papped some real classics, how smiley and cheery and flying feety were all the parkrunners today! The sea air clearly does wonders for your parkrun times. Yay for parkrun pictures to capture the parkrun memories of seaside days and adventures.

One of the stood down marshals came past on his bike, all smiles, and before I knew it, I was on the homeward stretch of the GNR. By now it was drizzling a bit, and most people had dispersed, so it was cheering when some of my parkrun buddies came back to join me for the final march in. In fact others came back to join the tail walkers too, and there was barkrunner joy as well as parkrunners reuniting, definitely a back of the pack party going on there.

Supported in by my entourage, the finish funnel came into view in no time at all. Most other parkrunners had taken refuge in the Bamburgh pub at the finish line, but there was still a quorum for cheering and timing and scanning and results processing, and we did some more mix and match phots to capture the occasion. It had to be done. This, incidentally, is the actual finish area for the GNR. Don’t let on, but it’s actually a bit underwhelming on account of the fact it’s just a vast open bit of grassland, so you have to use your imagination to fill in the buzz of the crowd, the jangling of finish medals and the sound of celebratory claps on backs echoing around the area. Fortunately, I have a very vivid imagination, so that was not a problem for me. I got a genuine high from doing this bit. It was in a small way compensation for missing out on the Great North Run itself, and technically, as final finisher at this parkrun (before the tail walkers admittedly, but that doesn’t suit my narrative so I’m ignoring them) I am first finisher at the 2022 Great North Run. My logic being that parkrun is cancelled next week (probably) due to prep work for the event, and so the next run to take place finishing there will be the event itself. I’m not one to brag, but just putting it out there. I finished first. I imagine quite a few of you will be seeking out selfies with me in due course, I get it. I may not have sought out this degree of fame, but I accept it.

Then took sanctuary in the pub, which was noisy but spacious, with plenty of room for 250 milestone celebrations and general post parkrun parkfaffing. I had a chat to the RD and finally made the connection! Oooh, I do know you, you are the unicorn man! How I was supposed to recognise him without his inflatable unicorn and in the disguise of an RD high vis I have no idea, but now it all makes sense. Of course he is the unicorn man, he has the watch and accessories to prove it! We both listen to the With Me Now unofficial parkrun podcast and even met at the recent listener meet up at PERRY HALL parkrun, my bad. His inflatable unicorn is tapering ahead of the Great North Run, well, this is what I choose to believe anyway. It was all very jolly. There were even group photos and cake, though I skipped eating on account of my inflatable jaw. Isn’t that joyful though, parkrun friends all together, gathering from near and far, it is a wonderful thing the way parkrun continues to bring people together. Aw.

Oh and did you spot the genius ‘ask me about volunteering at junior parkrun’ badge what a great idea! I love the different ways parkruns do things, that’s such a simple thing to try to get people on board, and we do need volunteers desperately. Endcliffe parkrun had to cancel for the first time ever due to lack of volunteers this week, it’s heart breaking, that’s a huge parkrun but has only a handful of regular volunteers who inevitably reach burnout, myself included if I’m honest. Oh well, maybe it will be a wake up call for more people to step up in future. There is still this sense that volunteering is ‘giving up a parkrun’ whereas it really isn’t. It’s just spending it in a different way. A new kind of joy and one that delivers virtual badges on the Running Challenges sticker chart. I mean, what’s not to like? And if you think volunteering at a Saturday parkrun is fun, wait ’til you turn your hand to junior parkrun! It’s a distillation of all that is glorious in parkrun, with extra high fives and fancy dress!

parkfaffery concluded, stories shared and then people started to peel away. There is loads to do in South Shields, but I was flagging so needed to get home. This is definitely one to come back for though, it would be super fun to actually run it, fast and flat, but with compensatory views on route if you picked a day with an icy headwind to slow you down. Even in the wind though, there is something energising and life affirming about being by the sea and at the mercy of the elements – especially when you know there’ll be a warm put to welcome you at the end should you survive it!

I knew I didn’t have the stamina for a full on day out, but I did have a mini explore on the way back to the start where my car was. I had a peer into the rockpools, checked out the big guns and just breathed the sea air.

Like I said, not too shabby. Oh, and if you want to look at some decent photos from the Bank Holiday parkrun, check out the Facebook post with the official ones, aaah, aren’t they splendid!

and that was that, time to go home and dream of parkruns again until next time.

So once again, congratulations on completing your 250 milestone, hope by now you’ve ordered you milestone club tee. Oh, and extra kudos for planning it so you did your 250 on the day when PSH and JSH both nabbed their 500. You are basically milestone triplets! Good work. Check out the results for that weekend from Dietenbach parkrun and allow yourself an aaaah moment. Lovely isn’t it? Don’t you wish you were the photobomber though #lifegoals

The end

Thanks for sticking with me. It’s good to know there is parkrunner support right to the end!

By the way, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though and forward for more recent ones.  Your choice. 🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking the plunge on parkrainday aquaplaning the undulations at Sheffield Castle parkrun

Digested read:  went back to Sheffield Castle parkrun today, it rained.  It’s been a while.

Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do a blog post today, as it’s sort of my home patch and I’ve done a post about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, loved it then, two years ago – they had tadpoles* for goodness sake – what’s not to like?  But then this is such a fabulous parkrun and so under-recognised in my view, I changed my mind.  Putting up a post, even if no-one ever reads it, is my way of sort of writing a thank you letter to the individual and collective awesomeness that is the Sheffield Castle parkrun team.  They are dedicated, welcoming and cheerful, and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back for another visit.  It’s a great run, and hardly ever cancels.  Once because of black ice, and once because of another event in the park, which isn’t bad going for a parkrun which started way back in August 2013.  Today was their 318th run.  And the ratio of volunteers to runners is impressive, how they pull it off week in week out is a minor miracle.  It would take more than apocalyptic flooding for them to pull the plug on their run.  Though to be fair, the irony is if that flooding did make them pull a plug, then the water would all drain away and everyone could run without getting their feet wet, so they wouldn’t need to pull the plug after all.  I know, the contradictory logic messes with your head!  Still, point is, lovely parkrun, why not celebrate it in a post.   Thank you lovely Sheffield Castle parkrun people, your parkrun is epic, as indeed are you!

Also, on the subject of plug holes, check this one out at Ladybower, not a magic portal to a parallel universe unfortunately, but pretty impressive all the same, although not a good idea to dive into it I’d venture.  It would have taken something on this scale to dry out the roads of Sheffield this weekend though.

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So there has been was a lot of rain.  No really a lot.  They say every cloud has a silver lining, and that is true, but they also hold an enormous amount of rain, and a great many large clouds have been jettisoning biblical quantities of rain for what seems like forever.   This plays havoc with my parkrun plans!  What to do?  I was thinking earlier in the week of venturing away from Sheffield before winter properly sets in.  However, parkrunning tourism isn’t that appealing when it might involve aquaplaning down motorways in early morning darkness through zero disability torrential rain.  I’m a bit of chicken driving, unlike rats, surprisingly.  No really.  Look, it was on the BBC website so it must be true check this out:   Rats taught to drive tiny cars to reduce stress levels.  I mean, they’d probably be less stressed if not in a lab in the first place, but even so.  Amazing.  Counterintuitive, as I find driving incredibly stressful, but then again, I’m not a rat, and maybe the roads are better in Canada?

Fab ratmobile though…  I wonder if this was inspired by the bat or popemobile, or vice versa. So hard to establish what is cause and what is effect sometimes, or indeed correlation.  We live in a world of mystery and wonder.  On the subject of bats (yes we were, albeit tenuously) did you see this?  Sweetest thing ever.   Bumblebee bat apparently.

bumblebee bat avant gardens

Stop distracting me by asking about the bat, I’ll never get to tell you all about the Castle of parkrun adventure at this rate what with all these pesky interruptions!

The other complication, was the amount of cancellations popping up.  Wouldn’t want to risk life, limb and worst of all sense of humour bypass, from turning up somewhere only to find it cancelled at the last minute.  I’m desperate to get my running challenges gold running obsessive badge this year by completing 50 parkruns within one calendar year. I know it’s basically a virtual sticker chart for grown ups and inherently pointless, but I don’t care.  I seek it out.  This compulsion hurts no-one.  Sigh, it would be awesome on my profile…  Blooming love the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.

runner-obsessive-gold

I’ve actually not missed a parkrun this year, but at three of them I didn’t get to run.  Two of them I ended up watching with my mum including supporting her getting her Spirit of parkrun award which was amazing by the way (parkrun royalty, had to be done, and well worth it), and one I turned up at only to find it had been cancelled at the last minute due to high winds, which I completely support – difficult decision for RDs and all that – but it meant it was too late to go anywhere else.  Can’t afford for that to happen again this year.  I’ve just one parkrun in hand, perilously close… in my reach, but not in my reach, like blooming parkrun bingo.  The idea for Stopwatch Bingo , is that you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times.  I’m on my 227th run, and yet STILL the 20 second time eludes me.  So near and yet so far.  Aaaargh.  Would today be the day I scooped it.  Spoiler alert, nope, it wouldn’t.  But I did a whole lot worse than that, though you’ll have to read on to find out why.  Blooming hate the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.  Pointless stress-inducing obsessive-behaviour-cultivating oojamaflip.   As if life isn’t fraught enough!

Where was I?  Oh yes, in Sheffield, watching the parkrun cancellations tally be revised ever upwards on the parkrun cancellations page.

parkrun cancellations

Bit of a theme emerging eh?  It’s worth looking at this page from time to time, some parkruns are quite creative with their cancellation reasons.  My favourite was one stating the parkrun had actual polar bears on their course, such were the arctic conditions, which I daresay they did, though I can’t remember which one it was now… oh hang on, I can check.  Give me a minute…  it was Bradford parkrun!  I mentioned it in an earlier blog post.  I’m almost disappointed they didn’t cancel today, because they have a gift for communicating their cancellation reasons.  They’d have been building an ark or something.  Wish we’d thought to do that in Sheffield too to be fair.  And, of course I wouldn’t really wish a parkrun cancellation on anyone.  The horror of turning up and finding only tumbleweed or a solitary sodden marshal detailed with breaking the bad news to you.  Too cruel anywhere, as has been said before…

Best stay local.  I was thinking Millhouses parkrun, to continue to support it, what with it being both local and new having only had its inaugural last Saturday.  Then that became definite, because I was going to stand in and be tailwalker for someone else (complicated story), and then there was a suggestion it might be cancelled, due to stretches being not so much puddled as underwater and then it was cancelled.  Oh dear.  Now where?  And then there was a chance Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be cancelled too, on account of the fact it basically being a pond.  I didn’t want to leave it too late to decide where to go if I was going to need to drive.  I wasn’t 100% about whether Graves parkrun would go ahead (also good choice for halloween theme of course) it usually does.  Then as I was browsing through various Sheffield parkrun Facebook pages there was a little comment on one of the posts for Sheffield Castle parkrun Facebook page, just saying almost coyly – ‘yes, we’ll be there in the morning‘ with some fine running emojis.

we ll be there

It was meant to be dear reader, it was meant to be.  I’m in!  Sheffield Castle parkrun has slipped off my radar lately, mainly because it involves driving without the incentive of Highland coos at the end of it, but it’s a great reliable parkrun, so why not.  Make a change.  It’ll be fun, it’ll be fine.

In the morning there was some conferring and some last minute call outs and checks.  Smilie Selfie Queen was going for Castle, Sheffield Hallam reported flooding but would try to go ahead -though not confirming til 8.30.  It’s astonishing those that did as well as those that didn’t.  Penistone parkrun cancelled the night before on account of a bog:

Sheffield Hallam parkrun went ahead, too good an opportunity for triathlon training to pass up.  Plus, must have been hilarious to be fair.  Not to mention a triumph of hope over experience, as one parkrunner at least clung to a King Canute like belief he could turn back the tide.  You have to admire this kind of tenacity, not to mention my boundless appreciation for any parkrunner who seemingly never travels without a yard broom in case of just such a parkrun eventuality.  Yes, that is on the actual course by the way, and what’s more, a bit you get to run/ splash/ swim through four times.  The joy!

Sheffield Castle parkrun facebook page hadn’t got a more recent update, but that’s OK, I’d go there.  Point of information if you don’t know this particular parkrun, it’s a really cool parkrun (get me and my trendy yoof speak**), small (by Sheffield standards) and ‘proper’ community one.  It’s held in Manor Fields Park, which to be honest, when I first moved to Sheffield about ten years ago had a reputation for being something of a dump.  Dog shit and fly tipping, a sad and derelict site.  In recent years, it has been utterly transformed with wildflower planting, sculptures and – best of all – it’s very own parkrun!

Sheffield Castle parkrun is small but perfectly formed, so we can forgive it for being devoid of an actual castle.  The committed team of volunteers who run it are locals invested in the area rather than necessarily runners as such. This gives the run a uniquely friendly, welcoming and community vibe.  It also has a sort of informality to it, which to the uninitiated may seem disconcerting. For example, if you look at the volunteering rota as a way to check its on as tourists often do (blank rota usually means no run) you’ll just see a void, stretching into eternity, it only gets populated immediately after the run when they are events processing for the days parkrun.  In fact, they don’t really bother with it in advance, they have a dedicated team, who presumably rock up each week and sort it out on the day I think.  It works anyway, but is unnerving if you are traveling any great distance I imagine!  Concord parkrun similarly don’t really bother with their volunteer roster in advance either.  Nerves of steel to travel a long way to go there too, but each Christmas day they deliver parkrun magic, no excel spreadsheet required!

castle vol rota

The website also doesn’t list any facilities, but dear reader, on arrival you will find there is a loo, and a little warm room to wait at the start and ‘free’ (for an optional donation) tea and coffee in the community room at the end. Some limited free parking, but it’s on a tram route so accessible by public transport anyway.  if you are driving, I went with the postcode for the premier store next door at 525 City Road with a postcode of S2 1GF, and that worked fine, but be warned, it isn’t a premier store anymore, it’s called something else, so you could miss the turning on arriva.  However, the postcode will get you there – make sure you don’t use the store carpark, turn into the Manor Fields Park area instead.

Right, whilst I’m doing the routine stuff, I might as well tell you about the course, don’t think I did last time, honestly can’t remember. Anyway, the Sheffield Castle parkrun course blah de blah on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

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.

Which makes it sound reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally complicated.  It’s not, you can either just follow the person in front, or just be guided by the strategically positioned cones and smiley marshals.  You won’t be lost.  You do need to be able to count to three though, or you might over or under shoot your parkrun experience.  It has happened.  I was definitely at a parkrun where a first timer did an extra lap once, but then again, I like to think how chuffed he would have been on completing his ‘difficult second parkrun’ where he must have got a stupendous personal best!  Not sure if that would be absolute consolation though.

The course looks like this:

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What they don’t tell you with quite sufficient emphasis in my opinion, is that it’s Sheffield Flat.  i.e. undulating, i.e. some really quite big hills, two in fact, each of which you do three times.  The views are fab though, and what goes up must come down, so you do get to whizz down them again, which is always a boon.

Anyway, that’s the background info.  My day involved waking up early and thinking it was the middle of the night it was so pitch dark outside.  It wasn’t.  It sounded like torrential rain was beating down on my attic window, shudder.  It was.  This was definitely going to be a wet one. What’s more, at the minute my back is stuffed, so I’m just walking.  In a way, this was something of a relief as it legitimised me wearing waterproofs and even a scarf and woolly hat, but I am getting so sick of not being able to run or do anything very much.  It’s soooooooooooooooo frustrating just pootling round, I wonder if I’ll ever get back to running again, however ineffectually.  Mind you, pootling might be the better option to running to the point of collapse.  Super speedy runners are impressive, but sometimes I worry they don’t have as much fun as the walkers.  Here’s one trying to emulate Mr Kipchoge’s marathon pace for just a kilometer.

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It didn’t end well.  Worth a gander though, and if it’s still raining and you now know what happened in the Rugby***, what else are you going to do today?

Sometimes slow and steady will get you there more reliably.  Hare and tortoise anyone?  For longer distance challenges, pause for a moment to celebrate this woman.  Maggie Guterl.

Maggie Gurtel winner ultra

Oh yes she did!!! Maggie Guterl just won Big’s Backyard Ultra. She ran 250 miles straight and was on her feet for 60 hours!! She is the last WOMAN standing and the first woman to win this race. History is made and barriers have been smashed.

Both ends of the distance are impressive.  Beyond impressive, but I’m thinking for me the goldilocks zone is somewhere between a flat out 1 miler and 250 miles straight (averaging 4.1 miles an hour – about my parkrun speed today, so I’m on target 😉 ) that is, a nice 5k parkrun distance.  I’ll try that, but note the achievements of others in terms of acknowledging what is possible.  Maybe not for each one of us, but within the potential of humankind at least.

So up and out and off to Sheffield Castle parkrun.  My satnav obviously felt my life needed an element of surprise and enrichment, and not only took me the most roundabout route imaginable, I’m pretty sure I went via Aberystwyth, or possibly Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun, but also had a 3 second delay as the signal dropped in and out, so I kept misunderstanding or missing altogether directional instructions.  Probably those things are related, but I choose to believe my satnav is sentient and mischievious, trick or treating me in keeping with the season.

It was pyjama parkrun day, so in theory you could run with your duvet, which would have been fab, but susceptible to extreme waterlogging, so that didn’t happen. Oh well.

I still arrived really early, and was seriously impressed to see a cheery finish funnel already up.  Welcoming lights gleamed out from the community building, this run was happening!

I love the sculptures in this park too, they truly are spectacular.  It’s a while since I’ve been, and I went for a quick wander a  gander.  I  think it was winter when I was here last, so I didn’t fully appreciate the amazing wetland bit with huge bulrushes and boardwalks as well as ducks, and I do love a duck as my regular reader will know.  There was also a great playground, and even though it’s basically winter now, still lots of flowers around.  It’s an amazing place.  It has taken real imagination, passion and dedication to transform this site, it’s astonishing.  It’s not promising when you approach, and then you find the oasis of green space for wildlife and people alike.

I also spotted another slow and steady potential parkrun participant.  This is the parkrun pact, thou shalt not finish last, there shalt be a tailwalker, and possibly even a mollusc, to reassure you there is a chance you’ll get to storm ahead of some living creature at least!

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And, for the first time, I spotted this fabulous revelation.   Finally, a pb parkrun, even if three laps!  I know, I know, the jokes been made before, but with an open goal like this one what are you supposed to do?  It might be raining, but this is doable, very doable indeed!

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It was definitely still raining, really rather a lot.  So I used the facilities for my precautionary pee.  Top tip, the light switch is inside and low down, you will be plunged into darkness if you shut the door first without locating it.  Just passing on the info for a friend, obvs.  Next door there is a store room, where the innovative Sheffield Castle parkrun team have completely solved the impossible challenge of working out how to pack away the start/finish banner.  Just leave it popped up the whole time!  Genius.  No more ritual humiliation trying to contort the parkrun pop-up banner cat back in the proverbial bag! Talented team here at Manor Fields Park like I said.

I went to join the little huddle in the brightly lit community room.  I didn’t take a picture as it didn’t seem appropriate.  But volunteers were assembling and hot steaming cups of tea and coffee were available as hi-vis was donned.  A few tourists appeared, I like to think it was quality if not quantity.  Some from Nottingham, braving it in shorts – skin is waterproof being their mantra.  I know they are right, but even so, brave and bold parkrunners there.  Properly hardcore.  There was a Rother Valley ‘local’, who like me had decided venturing too far for tourism with so many cancellations potentially pending was not the best move, so keeping it relatively local and visiting a too long neglected parkrun friend.  There were also some refugees from Millhouses parkrun as well as some who were clearly regulars.  A friendly and even optimistic vibe.  Call that rain?  Hardly drizzling!

This parkrun prides itself on starting bang on 9.00 (my watch today said I started my run at 9.01, which is pretty darned close).  So about 15 minutes before the run director braved the rain to put out the final course touches pre run briefings.  Seeing the activity, parkrunners began to emerge from their cars like crabs from under rocks.  It’s always amazing how from nothing a parkrun appears just at the last minute.

The unique selling point of this parkrun is that the volunteers are all spectacularly photogenic, and also have the most extensive collection of golfing umbrellas ever held aloft at a parkrun.  FACT****.  I had no idea golf was so big up at the Manor.  Assume nothing dear reader, rather expect and embrace the unexpected.  I don’t know (or care) enough about golf to make any golf-related small talk, but if it’s your thing I daresay you could give it a whirl.

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Whilst chatting with volunteers I also learned more about Manor Fields.  For example, it was among the first in the UK to adopt

an exemplar SuDS system reproducing natural wetland features to assist with drainage solutions designed to cope with major wet weather incidents.

That means, all the run off from the surrounding houses collects in Manor Fields, and so creates that amazing wetland habitat.   I also learned that the work that has gone into creating wildlife habitat has started to pay off.  I’m not a twitcher as such, so might be getting this wrong, but various endangered species have somewhat surprisingly found a safe haven here, including I think the grasshopper warbler.   According the the RSPB website:

The high, insect-like reeling song of the grasshopper warbler is the best clue to its presence. Even when you hear one it can be difficult to locate it due to the ventriloquial effect of its singing. If seen on migration it moves like a little mouse, creeping through the foliage. Dramatic population declines have made this a Red List species.

Who knew a bird could be a ventriloquist!  Every day’s a learning day!

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So that was great, but we were here to parkrun, and so volunteers headed off to the far corners of the fields, and parkrunners materialised in time for briefings.

Smiley Selfie Queen and her making-an-effort comrade were just in time arrivals, but appropriately attired.  Good work my running friends, good work.  Also, handily posing in the doorway of the community room, so you get a little hint of how welcoming and roasty toasty it was in there, pre or post run.

CS made an effort

There was a little comradely huddle of first timers:

the atmosphere built, the crowds assembled:

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and then the RD was astride his podium.  I like to think this was put in place especially for this purpose, but reluctantly concede it is part of the kit for an outdoor gym type initiative:

The brief was pretty focused and brief, with a pleasingly attentive but small cluster of a select 56 runners.  A late arrival didn’t mean there wasn’t time for a bit of parkrun posing.  Shame not to.  After all, if you can’t flash your boo at the parkrun nearest to halloween, when can you?  There were some fine skeleton earrings donned by a participant today, but you might need to be rather eagle eyed to spot them.  … Anyway, ages since I’ve been at such an intimate parkrun gathering.

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quick shuffle round to get in position

and then – a la junior parkrun – there was a collective countdown from ten, nine, eight… to go!  This was great, as it meant I had an accurate start time, creating the giddy possibility I might be able to help along acquisition of my last outstanding parkrun bingo number.  Ye gods, if only!

Awf we went.  Two tail walkers at the back, I wanted to keep just ahead of them.  Despite appreciating the social aspect of parkrun, I can’t bear running with other people, I just find it really stressful.  There was a jeffing run/walker with the tails, so I sort of did impromptu jeffing to keep just away from them, but interspersed with pauses for photo ops.  One thing about being really slow at the moment, is I can appreciate routes more and stop to take pictures on the way round.  Might as well quite frankly.  I think I overheard the tailwalkers say to one another ‘oh no, only runners today!’ which made me feel better in the event I was last one in.  They were looking forward to a walk and talk perhaps.  They were lovely anyway, I warned them I might have to walk a lot because of my back and they just said ‘no problem, that’s what we’re here for’ and more than saying it, clearly meant it.  I could feel the wave of relief wash over me.   The inclement weather did seem to mean only the more hardcore runners had turned out, numbers were definitely down – well, that and the Rugby apparently – so fewer slow and steady participants than usual perhaps.

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It’s a three lapper, and I normally don’t like them, but honestly, there’s so much of interest to look at going round this course is isn’t boring at all.  You can see the other runners in the distance, you can admire the views across Sheffield or the cemetery, you can admire the autumn leaves on the trees or the weird and wondrous sculptures, AND, as if that wasn’t bounty enough, you can interact with the cheery marshals on the way round.  No chance of getting bored here! 

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You start off down hill, but pretty soon have to go up, but it’s fun, no really it is, like a DIY roller coaster.  And it looked spectacular.  Those golfing umbrellas are great for creating a cheery and colourful vibe too!

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Check out the wildflowers too.  Reet nice oot!  Reet nice marshals too, which was fortuitous as you pass them at least three times, more if you are wandering around pre and post parkrun.  Here is one, strategically places at the bottom of heartbreak hill.

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What’s that you say?  Why heartbreak hill?  Erm. Tell you what, come find out for yourself, put on a spurt as you go past the entrance to the conveniently placed cemetery and you might be able to make an educated guess.  Alternatively, if like me you are walking at parkrun on the day, you can pause to admire the bog plants thriving at the wayside, look in admiration at the community orchard, planted so people can help themselves to the fruitful bounty (brilliant idea, don’t know if that’s a thing elsewhere too) and watch in wonder as front runners – admittedly somewhat sodden, come steaming by!

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Walking at parkrun is fine by the way, parkrun are rather proud of their walkers as it shows it is creating opportunities to be active for people who might not otherwise be so.  There is even a Walking at parkrun Facebook group.  Good to know.

You have a tantalising glimpse of the finish funnel, with a concentration of high-vis heroes all tooled up and ready to go, and then round you go for lap two.  Or lap three, if you are faster than me, and have just lapped me.

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Ding ding, round two.  Looking lovely curving round the uphill ahead.

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I love that you can see the houses, it really highlights how the park is city based resource.  There weren’t all that many other users out and about today, a couple of dog walkers.  And one guy with a huge umbrella in one hand and an enormous bap in the other, chomping away.  I’m not going to line, I did have a moment of thinking his approach to a walk in the park looked like it was potentially a bit more fun than mine – but then again, he didn’t have the camaraderie of an entire parkrun community alongside him.  Though he did have breakfast…  tough call.  Still, no breakfast is better than a post parkrun breakfast.  FACT!*****

As I went round again, I espied a different style umbrella, this one with unicorns.  Not real unicorns, just a pattern of them.  Not sure if this was here as an emergency resource, much like one of the volunteers was despatched to their spot clutching a first aid kit, and there’s a defibrillator somewhere – or if it was just soooooooooooooo wet now, even the bushes wanted a bit of respite from the inclement weather.

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Round we go, wave at marshals, back to heartbreak hill, oh look, more runners coming through, and sprinting to their finish.  Yay!  Go them.  Some still had time to shout encouragement or offer up a cheery wave as they sped on by.

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Past the finish again.  Inexplicably, I am never thought to have already done two laps, but I got cheers of encouragement as I set off for the final lap.

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In truth, I think it was me, the jeffer behind and the tail walkers on our own for the final lap.  A couple of the volunteers had started to wander back towards the start to see where we were.  They were still directing, just checking everything out, which was fair enough.  The tailwalkers were a bit further back, as they ‘released’ marshals as they passed, and scooped up the cones that had signalled the way.

In the final stretch, Smiley Selfie Queen appeared.  I thought she’d have had to rush off, so that was great.  And also, of course she obliged with photos.  Yay!  I concede I’m hardly dressed for running, but I was dressed for the elements.  And I still got wet through to my knickers.  It was a wet one, seriously, very wet indeed!

CS not very action stations

Finally, the end was in sight, and I glimpsed my watch.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  So close to time, I jogged and then sprinted through the finish, and the time called something 20!!  BINGO!!  BLOOMING BINGO!!!  DONE IT DONE IT DONE IT!!!  If this comes good, I’ll get a pointless virtual badge that only I can see on my running profile!  I wondered if it was cheating to have helped it along, but decided not, because it’s not like I waited, and it’s so arbitrary, and anyway, it felt goo.  Hurrah.  This is the parkrun that keeps on giving.  Could this get any better?

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Through the fun of the funnel, token issue, 15th birthday flat-band scanned.  Job done.  Smilies reunited.  Boo!  I wasn’t alone in getting wet en route methinks!

Time for the obligatory group selfie, courtesy of Smiley Selfie Queen and facilitated by a volunteers golfing umbrella!

CS selfie

And that was that.  Team stood down.  Course dismantled, and volunteers disappearing off to the community hut, splashing through the standing water en route to get there.

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I had wanted to stay for coffee to be sociable, but I was so wet I decided to head home after thanking the team.  It was an excellent choice, and I’m really glad to have Sheffield Castle parkrun back on my radar once again.  It’s such an intimate run, and it’s an interesting course, challenging if you want it to be, but supportive if you are wanting to take it more slowly for whatever reason.  A good inclusive parkrun community.

Rained on the way home, but some nice views across the city from on high.  Don’t worry, I was stationary when I took the photo.

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And as I stepped through my front door, super fast results processing meant I heard the ping of the results coming through on my phone.  Just a formality to check.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Not my twenty second time as expected, worse it was twenty-one seconds.  One second awry!  That’s hard to take dear reader, I’d rather miss it by a mile.   If there’s one thing worse than not getting a bingo number, it is to miss it by just one second.  I don’t think I’m ever going to get that elusive 20, it is so very random.  Oh well, perhaps I should be grateful to have it still outstanding and something to chase.  Who knows, when all my bingo dreams are fulfilled, perhaps life will seem strangely pointless?  Best not to know.

Oh, and in a parallel universe, they were showcasing the joy of running, if not singing in the rain over at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Good work behind the camera George, with these pics you have surpassed even yourself!  Just a bit of surface water, no great drama.

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There was a fair bit of water at Poolsbrook parkrun too!  Never have so many parkrunners had soooooo much fun, splashing through puddles.  You have to pity the poor trolls that normally live under the Poolsbrook parkrun bridge – where would they have gone to hide?  Heaton parkrun had a water feature too! 

So that’s that, thank you fellow parkrunners in general and Sheffield Castle parkrun team in particular for another precious parkrunday.  What a cracking parkrun Sheffield Castle is, I’m not going to leave it quite so long between visits next time!  Special thanks to the amazing volunteers who kept cheerful and enthusiastic with their clapping and directional pointing despite what might be referred to euphemistically as ‘sub-optimal’ conditions. You are all superstars!

What did we ever do with our Saturday mornings before.  I know one thing, as I stood dripping in my hallway, gazing at my one second out bingo time, there is no way on earth I’d have spontaneously out of the house for any sort of outdoor exercise today were it not for the pull of parkrun.  It’s been life changing for me as well as life enhancing.  #loveparkrun hope you do too!

That’s it for now then.  Don’t forget, clocks go back tonight, we all get an extra hour in bed in which to dream about parkrun, sigh.  Lucky it was a day full of adventures!

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You can waste more hours of your life 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.  Enter at your own risk.

You’re welcome.

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*just to be clear, the tadpoles were present, but not actually participating. That would be stupid.  Little did I know back then that 2 1/2 years later, I’d have tadpoles of my own.  Just goes to show, you never really know what the future holds.  Giddy times.

**sarcasm alert people, sarcasm alert.

***don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really care about the Rugby, and haven’t found out the result yet therefore.  Hence you’ll find no spoilers here.

****Lucy fact, that is, I choose to believe this to be true.  Works for me.

*****also Lucy fact.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What lies beneath. Scrutinising Ladybower’s bottom in search of Atlantis Sheffield

Digested read: lured by Smiley Selfie Queen, went in search of the underwater village ruins at Ladybower reservoir.  Found them.  It was epic!  Go see for yourself before the waters rise again.

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Unabridged read:

Honestly, I’m really torn.  I mean I do get the general point about literal jumps into the unknown being potentially perilous, but then again, it’s the metaphorical leaps into the unknown that make life interesting.  If we only ever keep hanging on to what we know already we’ll never learn anything new, and if we only do what we’ve always done then nothing will ever evolve.  So I note the signage at the Ladybower Reservoir, and totally endorse not risking paralysis by dive bombing into possibly shallow waters, whilst simultaneously believing a bit of exploration and adventure is fine and dandy, recommended even – but maybe just do your risk assessments properly at the outset.

And on the subject of signs, did you see this BBC news story on an Edinburgh initiative to improve road signage?  It’s quite marvellous!  Bringing joy to a joyless world…

 

 

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to talk about signage, lovely as that would be, it is to tell you about my adventures with Smiley Selfie Queen, exploring the exposed bottom of Ladybower Reservoir.  Generally speaking, one shouldn’t explore exposed bottoms with such public abandon, but in this case it’s OK because it’s a rare treat and not of a living thing.  No dear reader, rather it is a consequence of the extreme heat of the summer of 2018, which has led to the dropping of the water levels of Ladybower and the associated reservoirs so low, that you  can see once again the remnants of the villages that were flooded when the dams were constructed and the reservoirs filled.  I’ve been meaning to go for ages in a vague ‘really must go and do that sometime‘ sort of way, ‘before it’s too late‘ much as I did with intending to visit the millennium dome.  I never did get to see that, and it is most definitely too late now, but with the viewing of Sheffield’s Atlantis it was a different matter altogether.  I was prompted to take the proverbial plunge into the waters of Ladybower by Smiley Selfie Queen who proposed an excursion. ‘Fab idea, why not?’  So that is what we agreed to do.  I knew the water level was really low, but I’d actually thought part of it was because some had been pumped to facilitate some sort of maintenance work, but it seems I must have made that up, because there was no evidence of it, and no reference to it when I googled, so there you go.

The day dawned, and rain fell.  No worries, we can still have an adventure in the rain.  She scooped me up, and we drove over to the lay by just a few hundred metres (if that) ahead of the Fairholmes visitor centre so we could park for free.  (More about the visitors’ centre here). On a rainy Wednesday morning there was no-one much about, so we had the place to ourselves.  I was astonished at how beautiful the autumn colours were. The rain cleared and gave way to sunshine, and get a load of this, magnificent!

 

It was crazily beautiful, the pictures nowhere near do it justice.  I had a faff about what to wear, I took my hat in the end as you can see, though for a lot of the time it was in my coat pocket rather than on my head.  You might think therefore dear reader that I’d come to regret having taken it with me, but dear reader, you would be wrong!  This fetching hat, which I’ve had for a great many years, and which rather pretentiously I bought from a vendor on a floating island on Lake Titicaca in Peru, who had knitted it himself today had its moment of glory.  It has done me many quiet years of service, nearly 20 years I think, and I am grateful for that, but today it also came into its own as an indispensable aid to our progress – more of that later.  Yes, it does have a llama on it, but no need to be allarmared by that!

Meantime more views, look:

 

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Sigh, it really was glorious, you should have been there, the photos don’t do it justice.

We followed the signs to the dam, there is a well-marked path that take you up, so we had a little explore.  No time to walk the entire circumference of the water today, so we just had a squint at the dam and accompanying points of interest which included, a monument to a dog that stayed by its dead master for 15 weeks.  Fifteen weeks!  Seriously, that’s extraordinary, but also somewhat unlikely, how did it survive, what happened there?  There were also some tributes for remembrance day which is coming up, info panels about the testing of the bouncing bombs, and interesting man-made constructions peeking out from the water.  I don’t know enough about civil engineering in general or dam construction in particular to know what we were looking at exactly, but it was all quite intriguing and made me wish I’d concentrated more in school.  We probably covered this kind of thing in human geography at some point.  That’s the trouble with education, wasted on the young…

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Tempting as it was to march round the top reservoir, which is apparently Derwent, with Howden beyond, our focus was to get to the bottom(ish) of Ladybower, where the sunken village of Ashopton is currently in view, well, what’s left of it.

We paused to look at the Dam from below, and then followed some inviting looking steps that took us up and above the water.  All good exploring territory, though I’ve realised a limitation of me relying on Smiley Selfie Queen to take all the photos is that it gives the impression I am forever scurrying along behind her.  This may be an accurate representation of how it was of course, but I don’t really like it being immortalised in jpegs. Oh well.  The truth will out.

After much scurrying around and posing in various locations, my Smiley Buddy started having flash backs of having been there before.   This very place was, it turned out, an early date with her partner when she presumes they were trying to impress one another by agreeing to do something outdoorsy and cultural together which ironically wasn’t really either of their things a decade or so ago though it most definitely is now.  How the wheels of time and fortune turn full circle eh?  I found that entertaining, but then again, I am on record as being easily amused.

We back tracked, then and searching for a way down to the water line, once we’d crossed over, followed a little detour which turned out to be the sweetest little nature trail with signs identifying trees and wooden sculptures including ginormous moles and teeny tiny locomotives – perfect posing opportunity for me and my training buddy!

 

See what I did there – with us on the train…. genius!

We had to clamber our way up and out of this nature reserve, alongside a fence, and emerged on a wide tarmac path.  We were just ahead of some dog walkers with boisterous dogs that kept charging up alongside and between us.  They weren’t aggressive but they were very annoying.  We’d passed a sign earlier saying dogs should be on leads, but I’m not sure if that rule applied on this part or not.  In fairness to these owners I don’t think it was clear either way.  Even so,  I do wish dog owners would understand however much they may love their ‘adorable hounds’, others don’t necessarily appreciate these slobbering, bounding canines invading their personal space.  It got tense.  I am getting less and less tolerant of dogs these days.  Dogs in general that is. Particularly out of control, off lead ones, I don’t care if you say they are friendly, keep them away from me unless invited thank you very much.   Individual dogs I know are lovely of course, and Tilly is the loveliest of them all.  Actually, I like Skip too, although he just ignores me, it’s a bit one-sided there.  Harry and Barry are all right as well.  Basically, well behaved dogs where we’ve been introduced, or those who are adoring are fine, but random slobbering ones are not.  I think that’s pretty clear…

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We got jumped as we were admiring a somewhat incongruously placed but beauteous telephone box.  We inadvertently went full circle and as swamp creatures emerging from the mud came back to here later on.

 

We tried to walk briskly ahead to keep out-of-the-way of the bloody dogs.  Trouble is, we were obviously all heading for the same boggy bottom.  Now, I know you have to be careful out there because it’s incredibly tempting to venture out too far and then you get stuck in the mud and have to be rescued.  Only last week Edale Mountain Rescue had to haul someone out that’s awful and everything of course, though it did give me a little flash of an idea and a spark of embittered hope…

Incident 101 – Saturday 3rd November 2018 12.10hrs

The duty team leader received a call from Derbyshire police regarding a gentleman who had, given the low water level, walked out across Ladybower reservoir to take a closer look at the currently exposed ruins. The mud is however extremely thick in places and he got himself completely stuck. Due to concern for his temperature and general welfare his partner ran round to the rangers station at Fairholmes to summon assistance.
The team was able to access the casualty with a variety of specialist equipment designed to spread an individual’s weight over a muddy surface and after approximately 30 minutes of digging was able to free the gentleman and walk him back to solid ground. Team members then returned to base to start a long session of equipment cleaning!

 

I just was thinking, nay secretly hoping that these wayward canines might go out to explore a bit too far and soon find themselves sinking in the mud sufficiently that their owners would rush to rescue them*, only for the hounds to break free and the owners to be entombed and slowly sucked under by the clogging mud.  Obviously I’d rush to get assistance, but who knows whether I’d make it back in time, and despite what you may have been led to believe from watching Lassie films or even the monument to the loyal sheep dog from earlier, not all canines are of practical assistance in a crisis.   It’s often what happens though isn’t it? Dogs in peril escape from the watery peril of the sea or outrun stampeding cattle, or extricate themselves from  bogs or whatever and their hapless concerned owners perish whilst misguidedly trying to save them.  I know I sound mean, but you weren’t there.  And anyway, I don’t believe you have never experienced Schadenfreude, even if you choose not to admit it even to yourself.  Also, my fantasy mud-sucking scenario didn’t occur, so no harm done on this occasion, unfortunately.

*No dogs were injured in the conjuring of this fantasy rage scenario, so don’t judge!

Apart from nursing gnawing resentment about being hounded by the bloody dogs, we were partially distracted by the increasingly amazing views.

 

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After a bit, we found a way to scramble down to the water’s edge, and it was instantly amazing and distracting, and oh, so very tempting to walk out much further than you ought.  The exposed reservoir base looked like an alien planet or something.  Just the mud alone looked like a lifeless lunar landscape, perfect film location for next Dr who say and a striking contrast to the Park Hill Flats.  Then it was set off by the frame of autumnal gold on the banks.  It was extraordinary.

 

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We’d been tipped off about what we might be able to see, so that gave us a bit of tenacity in exploring.  At first, we couldn’t really make out much at all.  There was an exposed bridge, and some generic bricks that might have been from the old church but it was hard to be sure. However, emboldened by the sight of other people further out, we ventured further.  I am pretty risk averse, so was cautious about stepping out, but if you were sensible and careful, you could pick a route over to a great heap of stones which contained within them an actual fire-place! It is weird-looking at it, and imagining others sitting by a lit fire, you can still see the soot stains in the hearth and within the shattered breast of a collapsed red-brick chimney.  Then there was the grand pillar and the outline of rooms that you could sort of move through.  Very eerie, and compelling too.

Turns out that in this context, I was a bit more of a trail blazer than Selfie Queen.  I had the advantage of better footwear partly.  I was wearing walking boots, she was in trail shoes.  The muddy clay just gripped and infilled the tread of her running shoes so she might as well have been trying to get around on greased skis by the end of it.  Still, between us we were intrepid, within the bounds of reason.

 

We saw a fair bit, but decided against venturing out beyond the collapsed hall to another bit of projecting stone work a bit further out.  We were mindful of the mountain rescue exploits of others and didn’t really want to add to those stats.  It was  a good call actually, because when we started back across the mud flats it was harder to retrace our steps than it had been to find a path heading out.  Oh well, we lived to try another day.

As we exited, a very jolly pair of men with cameras were swapping places with us. They have visited the reservoir bottom over the years and were full of information about what was there and how it had changed.  The arched structure I couldn’t identify was actually an old pumping station from when the series of dams was being built for example. They also were able to tell us that where we were standing was originally the main village/ manor hall, but had also been a chapel and a school too at various points, most educational.  We took photos of each other, which amuses me, here they are.  Being informative and convivial!

 

They were joking about taking away some of the abandoned masonry, I say good luck to them, if they think they can carry away a door mantle on their shoulders without being squelched down into the mud then why not!  We left then sliding about, holding their cameras aloft to keep them safe.

We opted to find a route back from the waterside.  We did achieve this, but there was a flaw in our plan in that of course normally the water level is never this low (it is actually at only 35% capacity at present according to signs in the visitors centre), therefore, there aren’t obvious entry points or footpaths leading back to where we were.  Oops.

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In theory, we could have retraced our steps, but that seemed like an awfully long way round and surely there’d be a short cut.  Plus we were running out of time due to other commitments for the day.  We skirted the edge, alongside us was quite a determined looking and unbreachable fence.  I was pretty confident there’d be a get out at some point, and sure enough, eventually, just as I was losing faith a bit, we saw an old gateway and road, passed through and… hit a dead-end.  Oh.

We walked on a bit, still the wrong side of the fence, though above the waterline and tantalizingly, could see the ‘proper path’ up the hillside above us, with two fences in between. After some consultation, we decided there was nothing for it but to clamber out.  Well I decided that.  Selfie Queen was a bit more dubious about the realism of this plan.  However, I’ve clambered a great many gates and fences in my time, and even done Endurer Events (tough mudder light) for goodness sake, it takes more than a strand of wire to defeat me!  The upshot was I would lead by example, but she wasn’t having the barbed wire hamper her progress. Well, this dear reader is where my hat had its day!  I got my fine Peruvian beret and used it to wrap round the barbs of the wire so we wouldn’t get them caught up on our leggings.  Finding the strongest post to steady us, it was a simple matter of quick leap over and voila, ’twas done!

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That was progress, but then I was a bit paranoid (which I didn’t share) that we were probably now trespassing and I didn’t want to find out the hard way we’d encroached on a field of cows, and probably a pack of dogs too.  Fortunately, we were both distracted by heavy rain which was short-lived but stinging and the presence of a fenceless gateway, which is one of our very favourite things to find on walks.  We did what we had to do:

 

Also, to be honest, I was fairly confident I knew the field was empty as we’d passed it earlier, but even so, I was relieved when we eventually found a path, which became a track, which led to a gate which led us out to the phone box aforementioned above!  Hurrah!  Job done.

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Then just a little matter of a scurry back to the car, via the loos at the visitors’ centre and a quick peak in their shop.  They sell a book of walks I might be tempted to get next time, only £2, bargain.

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And that was that.  Another adventure with Smiley Selfie Queen done and dusted, and a very fine and unexpected one too.

Of course, there was plenty we didn’t get round to see – low water has also revealed dwellings from Birchinlee Village under Derwent too, and the plug holes of course, need to go back for them one day soon.  Could be a long day out given how long it took us just to amble 5 miles or so this morning.  This is where we went by the way, Strava never lies.

 

Although the water levels were low today, Sheffield has not always been so depleted of the wet stuff.   I’ve googled so you don’t have to, about previous times in history when Sheffield flooded.  I had a vague sense there was a catastrophic flood when a dam burst a hundred years or so ago, and Wikipedia confirms this.  The Great Sheffield Flood:

 was a flood that devastated parts of Sheffield, England, on 11 March 1864, when the Dale Dyke Dam broke as its reservoir was being filled for the first time. At least 240 people died[1] and more than 600 houses were damaged or destroyed by the flood. The immediate cause was a crack in the embankment, but the source of the crack was never determined. The dam’s failure led to reforms in engineering practice, setting standards on specifics that needed to be met when constructing such large-scale structures. The dam was rebuilt in 1875.

The account is worth reading actually, it seems the rush of water wiped out whole sections of Malin bridge and Hillsborough.  Completely devastating.  I even found a little YouTube account of the flood, but I think we can safely assume it wasn’t made contemporaneously! Then there were more floods in 2007, from shere deluge of rain causing the River Don to burst its banks.  No wonder there is a whole list of Sheffield Floods to refer to.  For the first time in ages, I’m quite relieved I live at the top of a hill.  Something I rarely feel pleasure about as head down I climb up it carrying shopping on the way home.  The Star did a Retro feature about the 2007 floods, it was before I moved here. Quite astonishing to see the photos though.  Anyone would think it was part of our emergent Sheffield Atlantis discovery at the base of Ladybower reservoir rather than a snap shot on the way to complete submergence…

 

So there you go, well worth the trip out.  It always is.  I feel really blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world, I don’t care what the posters say, sometimes it is worth taking a dive into the unknown – metaphorically at least.

Look, we saw this:

cs other world

What’s not to like?

You’re welcome.

More about the sunken ruins here: BBC Ladybower Reservoir’s low water levels reveal abandoned village

and here: “Come see the ruins but stick to the shore” – warning as exposed ruins of Ladybower reservoir’s lost villages entice sightseers into danger

 

Categories: off road | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Brill walk for Halloween. Top bird interaction.

Digested read: went for a walk to explore new paths. Found a vineyard, a top bird and some jaw dropping dwellings along the way.

Unabridged version:

It’s a bad sign when it’s so long since you ventured out onto the moors you don’t even know what to wear.  How cold will it be up top? What about wind chill?  I don’t know if I’m on to something here or not, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just possible there may be some sort of link between my seemingly increasing inability to ‘just get out and run’ and the fact that my parkrun performances are getting ever more woeful.  I wouldn’t want to jump ahead of myself and the evidence but suggesting at this stage the effect is causal, but there does seem to be a correlation at least. Coincidence?  Who knows.

Anyway, today was a day for a new, and pleasing adventure.  It was agreed, me and my most loyal recce buddy from Dig Deep explorations earlier in the year would try out a new route.  Just a walk, just to see what was out there.  She was in possession of an idea, and I was happy enough to trot along behind.  It was a Brill walk in fact.  It said so on the cover:

Brill walks book one

‘Oh my gawd!’ exclaimed I.  Seeing the book from which the walk was sourced. ‘What a brilliant name for a walking book.  Because that’s what you say isn’t it? “I know a brill walk, or I’ve got a fab route.” Inspired!’ I was slightly disappointed when I realised it was actually the name of the author, one of them anyway, as it made it more of an appropriate witty pun as opposed to an exclamation of unabashed enthusiasm.    On the other hand, what a Brill name.  Literally and metaphorically.  So I suppose what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, or something like that anyway…

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading out for a rendezvous. I actually failed at the first hurdle because I couldn’t fathom which of the many car parking areas we were supposed to meet at, despite comprehensive directions.    There is no signal around Fiddler’s Elbow, but we opted to meet there and then go to the first parking area along from there.  We picked a grand day for it, the weather was perfection. Crisp but not too cold, quite still and the most amazing views in all directions, which was counter intuitive because it was misty, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so far from there, the photos don’t do it justice as the light had a bleaching effect, and also I’m not very good at taking photos, but maybe if you squint a bit and use your imagination you’ll get the general idea.

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I sat in the car for a bit, marvelling at the view, and wondering whether or not to wear my waterproof over-trousers (they restrict mobility a bit, but do keep you warm) and then when my walking buddy drove up, we exchanged pleasantries through our car windows as she kept her engine running, before she sped off to the proper parking point to start the route with me following on behind.  If you were either a lover of conspiracy theories or had an overactive imagination and had witnessed this, I like to think you’d have thought you were witnessing at the very least spies exchanging secrets, otherwise maybe a drugs deal or some other suspicious and clandestine endeavour, perhaps en route to check out spots for disposal of bodies or evidence or some such.  It wasn’t… but then I would say that, wouldn’t I.

To get to the official starting point for the walk, you veer right at Fiddlers Elbow and then take first right & park there where there is some hard standing on the side of the road at the base of Stanage Edge.  Spoiler alert, this is the route we took, it was more up and down than expected 1,169 ft of elevation, according to Strava, which never lies.  Except when it does, and it puts you splashing through a pond or reservoir or something instead of on an adjacent path, but those instances are for the most part entertaining rather than ruinous, so I’ll take their elevation estimate.  It felt like quite a bit.

Brill halloween walk strava

Parked up, we both faffed over what to wear.  I did go with the waterproof trousers, also sunglasses and a woollen hat.  Also a scarf.  I did get a bit hot though. It seems I have learned nothing from my Dronfield Round Walk excursion of a few weeks back.

First off, up the hill to Stanage Edge. This is very familiar territory.  I’d thought we were going to go towards Stanage Pole, but we actually went up to the trig point and came off down the paved path back to Fiddlers Elbow.  It was beautiful of course, it always is, but no surprises here.

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We descended to the car park where we’d rendezvoused earlier, then after a bit of bovine appraisal – lots of cows out and about on the path – we headed over the style from the main car park and took a right along the main path to Higger Tor.  I learned, from the walk book, or more accurately from my exploring buddy reading out to me from said book, that Higger Tor is so-called because it goes back to Viking origins.  Something like that, I can’t remember all that well. The walk would have been even more educational if I’d concentrated a bit more.  The book was a good guide to be fair.  Although it has no map as such, just a sketch of approximate route – it included little nuggets of local and historical knowledge and ideas of add ons and places to stop.  The written instructions were clear enough that we could work them out mostly without too much confusion. Then again, I didn’t have custody of the book, maybe the route finding was uncomplicated because of my recce buddy’s powers of deduction which exceed mine.  Oh, and I tried to find out more about why bits of the landscape are named as they are, and came across this blog post discussing archaeological features of the are, which seems credible to me.

The cattle were completely uninterested in  us, which was fortunate, as we had to squeeze past them on the track.  I found a Halloween spider, which seemed apt, but which I removed, as it’s still litter isn’t it. That was my only litter pick of the morning, not that impressive, but every little helps eh?

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No sooner had we got to the top of the path, we were directed off back again, down the track that leads back to the road. Though there was an option ‘if you wish to explore Higger tor, carry on, but come back to this point to continue the walk’ sort of blah de blah.  I was a bit perplexed the walk didn’t include going along Higger, but it made sense by the end.  As we descended, we had a really bizarre wildlife encounter with this top bird.

I’ve seen them before – red grouse, but normally they are squawking and bolting for cover, crashing through the heather undergrowth.  On this occasion though the bird was blocking our path.  We descended slowly,  not wanting to disturb or scare it, assuming it would move aside.  It didn’t.  It basically started swearing at us noisily, and then actually came towards us.  It seemed particularly taken by my recce buddy, chasing after her and chuntering away.  Another couple of walkers further up the hill looked on with amusement. It seemed strange behaviour, but it was grand to get up close and personal to what is on closer inspection actually quite a remarkable looking bird. Rich brown and red feathers and a half-moon bright red ‘eye lid’, so scarlet it looked almost fake.   I’m sorry we ruined it’s day – or maybe we didn’t, as it saw us off its land all right, so maybe it considered that was a win. I googled it subsequently and learned this much from the moorland species section of the peak district website:

RED GROUSERed-grouse

Scientific Name: Lagopus lagopus
Distribution: Widespread in the uplands
Conservation Status: UK BAP species, Amber Listed species
Where to see: Any heather moorland in the Peak District
When to see: All year round

Resident in the Peak District all year round, the red grouse is a familiar sight (and sound) of the heather moors and blanket bogs.  They feed on heather, seeds, berries and insects and nest amongst the heather.  The UK population is in decline, hence this species was added to the UK BAP priority list in 2007.

So now we know.  Splendid.

So far, so familiar.  I was even wondering if this walk was going to be worth the effort of  navigation, not that it wasn’t lovely, but it was all known roads.  We crossed back over Ringinglow road, over a style, and then after a bit started a descent. This was unknown territory, and you know what dear reader, it quite rapidly took us to completely new and unexpected areas.  I had no idea there was a sort of ‘hidden’ tree rich valley down there. By which I mean, admittedly not that hidden if you bother to explore, but previously unknown to me which amounts to the same thing.  We ventured down towards a ruined and collapsing building – wondering what its history might be..

Then, we took a clear path towards a hidden dwelling.

I didn’t take any photos of the residence because I thought it might be a bit stalkery and inappropriate – not that that always stops me, but on this occasion it did.  It was absolutely extraordinary.  Huge and beautifully maintained but the real appeal was the breathtaking views back across to Higger Tor and in fact in all directions really.  I don’t know what the reality of living there would be like, I would have thought you’d get cut off pretty regularly in the snow, but if you like a view, hard to beat surely.

You skirt round the side of this amazing converted farmhouse presumably, I think Mitchell Field Farm and through what feels like their back garden, over a wall, and head off through fields and up hill again.  Can’t really remember the details, but it was all pretty darned nice.

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We got great views of various rock formations as we walked along.  My companion was not only tour guide and navigator, but had also done some sort of archaeology course that included a visit to a bronze age site we could see from the path.  If you go explore, you can see evidence of entrance ways apparently.  I’ve only ever gone underneath this, so not explored, and I’ve not even really explored Carl Wark either which is more obviously an old fort with clear man-made additions to the natural rock structures. Whatever the outcrop may be called, it was in fine silhouette today.

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As we walked and talked, we suddenly came upon another incredibly impressive stone house.  As we approached, a guy there called us over saying we could come on to the property to avoid a really wet and boggy patch where the path was temporarily diverted.  That was quite something, even just walking down the driveway as we exited, marvelling at the views the occupiers would have from the huge front windows that looked out across the moor.  Excitingly, as we approached the gate to exit the land, they opened as if by magic, our saviour having operated the electric gizmo automatically to ease our path.  Wow.   I’m hoping this photo is taken from sufficiently far away not to be categorised as creepy behaviour.

Actually, it’s fine.  I’ve just googled it, loads of far more searching pictures there.  It’s apparently a listed building, and Scraperlow Farmhouse and attached outbuildings, so now we know.

We walked on, heading towards Hathersage now.

I was really excited, because we came out onto the main Hathersage Road (from Sheffield) down a little path that I’ve often noticed and idly wondered where it led to.  It’s grand to join up places in this way.  That’s why I need to get off my backside and start going off-piste a bit more.  Especially in these last precious days of Autumn, before winter sets in and no-one with their wits about them ventures out again until Spring.  Obviously people training for spring marathons or similar are included in the witless category for this purpose, they will be out however inclement the weather.  And Dark Peak Runners, clearly.  Nothing stops them.

You go almost into Hathersage, except that you don’t.  The guide-book thoughtfully suggests you can if you wish, and so avail yourself of coffee shops or whatever, but we took the right hand road, past the little school and the Scotsman Pub and then up a little path that leads to the church.  We took a detour here, to go and look at the Church, and more specifically, the grave of Little John.  I was surprised on two counts, firstly, because I had no idea that there was a connection between him and Hathersage, and secondly, because I’d always thought/ presumed him to be a fictitious character.  As I said earlier, this walk was most educational.  To be fair, I’m still not completely sold on the idea that he did really exist, but an interesting bit of local history all the same.