Brockenhurst parkrun

One of the most scenic parkruns we’ve done is Brockenhurst parkrun. During the winter months, the event takes place at Wilverley Inclosure in the New Forest National Park.

New Forest ponies at dawn
New Forest at day break

Orientation

The start/finish are just inside the entrance (Kissing Gate) to the Inclosure adjacent to Wilverley Plain car park, between Burley and Brockenhurst. This is realistically an event you need to drive to as it’s rather remote and 3 miles from the nearest station.

New Forest
New Forest

Facilities

There is a free car park, with a toilet block adjacent to the Inclosure. You’ll probably meet a New Forest pony or two in and around the car park.

New Forest Pony on Wilverley Plain
New Forest Pony on Wilverley Plain

Course

The course is pretty much one lap of Wilverley Inclosure, so a nice simple route. All the more opportunity to enjoy the beautiful forest scenery.

Brockenhurst parkrun Strava Segment
Brockenhurst parkrun Strava Segment

Terrain

The event takes place on a well maintained gravel trail through the forest.

Start of Brockenhurst parkrun
Start of Brockenhurst parkrun

Difficulty

Run Britain Rankings for UK parkruns place Brockenhurst as the 446th fastest out of a total of 706. There are two slight hills, bringing the total elevation to 52 metres.

End of Brockenhurst Parkrun
End of Brockenhurst Parkrun

Fun Factor

I love this run. From the spectacular dawn drive across the New Forest as the mist hovers above the ground. To the ponies breakfasting on the plain as you arrive at the start. To the run itself in the forested inclosure. It’s definitely one to factor in some extra time taking in the beauty of the forest before finally heading off in search of breakfast…

End of Brockenhurst parkrun
End of Brockenhurst parkrun

Note that the Forestry Commission permit does not cover the whole year. In the summer, Brockenhurst parkrun moves to become laps of the somewhat less scenic playing fields at Brockenhurst College. It returns to the forest at the beginning of September.

Upton House parkun

Orientation

Upton House parkrun takes place on the trails of Upton Country Park. The park is on the outskirts of Poole, overlooking Holes Bay. It is 3 miles north-west of Poole, just off the A35/A350 and easily accessible by car. Upton House is a popular parkrun with tourists (particularly those attempting to alphabeteer – run a parkrun beginning with each letter of the alphabet as there aren’t many ‘U’s). The start is a short walk from the car park – just follow the crowd!

I Love Upton Country Park
I Love Upton Country Park

Facilities

There is plenty of parking at Upton. It’s pay & display; general parking costs £1.50 hour. There is a Weekend Earlybird price of £1 as long as you exit by 10.45 am. Note – this requires pressing a button on the ticket machine when you purchase your ticket – easily missed! There is a large toilet block in the car park and a couple more toilets by the tea rooms near the start.

Upton House Parkrun
Upton House Parkrun

Course

The course consists of one large loop, one small loop, then once more round the big loop. The start and finish are in a slightly different place. If you want to leave belongings – I would do so near where the briefing takes place, which is between the two.

Upton House parkrun Strava
Upton House parkrun Strava

Terrain

The run takes place on gravel trails. At times, these trails run though the woods. There is one raised, exposed section where it can be a bit windy, but offers spectacular views across the bay. It’s gently undulating with one short, sharp incline which must be negotiated twice; once right at the finish when you could really do without a hill…

At the finish of Upton House parkrun
At the finish of Upton House parkrun

Difficulty

Run Britain Rankings for UK parkruns place Upton House as the 454th fastest out of a total of 706. The course has a total elevation of 41 metres.

Final incline at Upton House parkrun
Final incline at Upton House parkrun

Fun Factor

Upton Country park is a very pleasant place for a run, with its wooded trails and views across the bay. It’s very friendly, with a nice mix of regulars and visitors.

Upton Country Park
Upton Country Park

Moors Valley parkrun

Orientation

Moors Valley parkrun takes place at Moors Valley Country Park, which is 10 miles north of Bournemouth, on the edge of the New Forest. It is situated just off the A31/A337 and is well signposted. After entering the park, and following the signs to the car park, the start is just in front of you to the right. It’s not really a course that can be easily reached by public transport.

Moors Valley lake
Moors Valley lake

Facilities

There are plenty of toilets near the start at the Visitor Centre. I have to say, they are some of the nicest toilets I have encountered at parkrun. The Visitor Centre also has a cafe for your post run refuelling needs. There is ample parking, but it is not free – you must pay at the paypoint before departure. There is a special price of £1.50 for parkrunners. To qualify for this, you must pay by 10.30 am and depart by 10.45. If you choose to stay longer and enjoy the park’s other facilities (trails, play areas, model railway, golf, Go Ape…), then standard parking charges (approximately £4 an hour) apply. More details can be found here.

Moors Valley parkrun
Moors Valley Totem Pole – parkrun starting point

Course

The course starts by to the totem pole and consists mostly of an anticlockwise loop, with one short out and back section. It is quite narrow at the start, so can take a while to get over the start line. There are signs with estimated start times for you to place yourself behind to help make the start more manageable. (Or to make the slow runners even slower – depending on your point of view). The start is in a slightly different place to the finish, so it’s not a run where you can leave sweatshirts etc at the start beforehand.

Moors Valley parkrun Strava
Moors Valley parkrun Strava

Terrain

The course is mostly on compact gravel trails in the forest, with the last kilometre on a paved path round the lake.

Moors Valley trail
Moors Valley trail

Difficulty

Run Britain Rankings for UK parkruns place Moors Valley as the 176th fastest out of a total of 706. The course has a total elevation of 18 metres.

Moors Valley parkun
Moors Valley parkun paved section

Fun Factor

The narrow start is a bit tedious. But once you’re on your way, you run through the forest and then alongside a lake, so it is particularly scenic, which helps to put a smile on your face!

Finish of Moors Valley parkrun
Finish of Moors Valley parkrun

Nonsuch parkrun

A guide to Nonsuch parkrun

Back to where, for me, it all began 9 years ago at Nonsuch parkrun. Nonsuch Park is the grounds of King Henry VIII’s former hunting lodge, Nonsuch Palace. The word ‘Nonsuch’ is said to derive from Henry himself who declared there was nonsuch place like it. The palace is no longer there (the mistress of Charles II had it demolished and sold the materials to pay her gambling debts).

Nonsuch Park
Nonsuch Park

Orientation

Nonsuch Park is in Cheam on the outskirts of South London, in fact the boundary between Greater London and rural Surrey runs along the edge of the park. The park, which borders south Cheam, has free car parking at either end (Ewell Road and London Road). This fills up quickly. So if you are driving, it pays to arrive early. Alternatively, it is a 15 min walk from Cheam Station.

Nonsuch Park in spring
Nonsuch Park in spring

Facilities

The run starts near the Mansion House, which has a cafe and toilets. With an average attendance of around 500, the toilet queue (particularly for ladies) can be rather long…

Nonsuch parkrun
Nonsuch parkrun start (my 100th parkrun)

Course

The course consists of a mixture of tarmac paths and grass. The summer route (Course A) is two laps. In winter, to reduce the amount of running over the grass, a slightly shorter, three lap course (Course B) is used.

Terrain

As already stated, the course consists of a mixture of grass and tarmac paths. Course A is very flat, with one slight incline (total elevation 37 metres). Course B is even flatter (total elevation 7 metres).

Nonsuch parktun
Nonsuch parkrun

Difficulty

Run Britain Rankings for UK parkruns place Nonsuch as the 70th fastest out of a total of 706. Course A has a total elevation of 20 metres. Course B has an extra hill, so a slightly higher elevation of 24 metres.

Nonsuch parkrun
Nonsuch parkrun finish

Fun Factor

Nonsuch is a large, well established parkrun. It began over a decade ago and regularly hosts over 500 runners, many from local running clubs. It’s very friendly and inclusive. Turn up, and pretty soon someone will be chatting away to you like you’ve known each other for ever!

Making friends at Nonsuch parkrun

Bournemouth parkrun

A guide to Bournemouth parkrun

My home parkrun for the past 5 years is Bournemouth parkrun, which takes place in Kings Park, Boscombe on the outskirts of Bournemouth.

Orientation

Kings Park is 2 miles from central Bournemouth adjacent to the A338, the main road into town. As the park is also the home to AFC Bournemouth, it is well signposted. The start takes place in front of the Athletics stadium. There is some free parking in the park and neighbouring roads, although it can fill up quickly (especially on match days or in peak summer, as the beach park & ride also operates from here).

Bournemouth parkrun start
Bournemouth parkrun start

Facilities

There are toilets located right next to the start, in the athletics stadium. The stadium also has a cafe which is open for post run drinks and snacks.

250th parkrun celebration
Celebrations in the cafe at Bournemouth parkrun

Course

The original course (Course A) consists of one small lap plus 2 large laps of Kings Park, starting in front of the Athletics stadium and finishing at the rear of the stadium. The post-Covid course (Course B) consists of a slightly smaller first lap and extended third lap, starting and finishing in front of the stadium.

A slightly different course (Course C) is temporarily being used due to construction work taking place in the park. This consists of the original first lap, plus two shortened long laps, finishing with a mini lap of the field in front of the Athletics Stadium.

Terrain

The course consists of a mixture of grass, tarmac paths, a short section of trail and a short gravel section. It’s mostly flat with a couple of slight hills.

Bournemouth parkrun finish
New Year’s Day finish at Bournemouth parkrun

Difficulty

Run Britain Rankings for Uk parkruns place Bournemouth as the 275th fastest out of a total of 706. Course A has a total elevation of 20 metres. Course B has an extra hill, so a slightly higher elevation of 24 metres.

Bournemouth parkrun
Bournemouth parkrun

Fun Factor

I love Bournemouth because it’s my home parkrun, but it is bit repetitive and not hugely scenic. Some sections of the course can get muddy in wet weather. Everyone is friendly and plenty of people stay behind after the run for a drink and chat at the cafe. There is often cake…

Bournemouth parkrun
Tail walking in style at Bournemouth Parkrun

The Great Field parkrun

The Great Field parkrun Poundbury

Today, we ran a recently started local(ish) parkrun in Poundbury, on the outskirts of Dorchester, The Great Field parkrun.

Orientation

The event takes place at The Great Field in Poundbury, a new town built on Duchy of Cornwall land, following Prince Charles’ principals on urban planning. The The Great Field, is like an old style village green and is the focal point of the area, so easy to locate. Parking is available around the edges of the field and is free.

The Great Field parkrun Poundbury
The Great Field

Facilities

There are toilets in the Pavilion in the Park, located next to the start. They’re very clean – probably the nicest toilets I’ve encountered in a park. There are only two toilets, so a bit of queuing was involved, which meant I missed the first timers’ briefing. There is a cafe in the pavilion for post run drinks and snacks.

Pavilion in the Park Poundbury
Pavilion in the Park

Course

The course consists of three and a half circuits of The Great Field on, what is described on the website as a ‘medium elevation route’. It’s actually not as hilly as I’d anticipated, although the field itself is fairly elevated and exposed, so it’s quite windy. As it’s laps, there’s one side which requires running into the wind, which was fierce enough to make my eyes water.

The Great Field parkrun Strava
The Great Field parkrun Strava

Terrain

Most of the route is on prepared paths, with a short section of tarmac and a short section on the grass. On the uphill section, there a few drainage channels cut into the path, which needed to be stepped over.

Parkrun start the Great Field Poundbury
Parkrun start

Difficulty

Run Britain rankings for UK parkruns puts The Great Field at 249th fastest parkrun out of 706. It has a total elevation of 37 metres.

The Great Field Poundbury
The Great Field

Fun Factor

Although it consists of three loops, which is a bit repetitive, I really enjoyed today’s run. The area is well maintained and its elevated position means you get great views of Dorset to enjoy as you run. Also super friendly – I made lots of new friends in the toilet queue.

Pavilion in the Park Poundbury
Finished!

Bartley Park Parkrun Guide

Bartley Park parkrun

Introduction

My first parkrun of the year and we’ve opted for Bartley Park parkrun; a new parkrun, which only started at the end of December 2021. It is also (drumroll) the first outing for my brand new 250 parkruns T shirt.

Bartley Park parkrun
Bartley Park parkrun

Orientation

The event takes place in Bartley Park, Totton on the outskirts of Southampton. The park is on the edge of a housing estate.

Parking

There appears to be plenty of parking available in nearby roads, but organisers have asked that visitors park further away so as not to antagonise local residents. We parked near the start because well, it’s a free country.

Bartley Park parkrun start
Bartley Park parkrun start

Facilities

See toilets below. There are no other facilities in the park.

Toilets

There are toilets in the park, but they’re a good 10 minutes walk from the start.  So if like me, just thinking about going for a run makes you need a wee, the choices are threefold; as we drove to Totton, I opted to stop at the toilets first, then drive on to nearer the start.  This was easy as the toilet block is close to the road, so I could just pop in and out while the old man sat in the car.  Alternatively, make sure you leave ample time to make it to/from the toilets and the start line.  Although, as the toilets are actually on the run route, option number three, if you’re not after a PB, could be to stop on the way past.

Bartley Park toilets
Bartley Park toilets

Course

The course consists of two laps. The park is rather linear so there’s several out and back sections within those laps.

Bartley Park parkrun Strava
Bartley Park parkrun Strava

Terrain

It’s mostly flat with sections of paved paths and some sections of trail. However, on a wet January the trail sections were very water logged and there was rather a lot of mud and puddles to negotiate.

Bartley Park parkrun route
Bartley Park parkrun route

Shoes

In winter, definitely one for the trail shoes. Or perhaps wellies…

Difficulty

Run Britain rankings for UK parkruns places Bartley Park as 325th fastest out of 706. It has a total elevation of 19 metres. Although it’s pretty flat, there are 4 x 360 degree turns to negotiate.

Bartley Park parkrun route
Bartley Park parkrun route

Fun Factor

Not the most scenic of routes, but no major obstacles or inclines meant it wasn’t too taxing, apart from trying to avoid slipping in the mud. It might be fun on a drier day.  I got very wet feet, which made me rather grumpy.  Also, the path is quite narrow in places, so with runners going out and back along the same path, plus runners lapping me, it was rather congested and not conducive to any sort of social distancing. 

There also appears to be some local opposition to the event, which was evident among a couple of dog walkers I passed along the way who felt the need to make their opinions known.

Havant Parkrun Guide

Introduction

We didn’t pick the best day for a visit to Havant parkrun. The weather was absolutely atrocious, which may have affected my opinion of the event somewhat.

Havant parkrun
Havant parkrun

Orientation

Havant parkrun takes place in Staunton Country Park in Havant, around 8 miles north east of Portsmouth. It’s just off the A3(M)/M27, so easily accessed by car. It’s a couple of miles out of Havant so not the easiest to reach by public transport. According the the website; ‘Staunton Country Park is 1.7 miles from Havant Station. Bus numbers 21 and 27 stop outside the entrance.’ Travelling to the park from the station by bus would take around half an hour. However, from my home 50 miles away, travelling by public transport would entail 3 trains and 2 buses. So we drove.

Parking

The park has plenty of car parking spaces a short walk from the start, but it isn’t cheap. In fact, costing £3.50 for two hours, it’s one of the most expensive parkruns I’ve ever attended.

Facilities

According the website there are tea rooms at the coach house. These apparently include toilets. When we went, they were closed.

Toilets

There was only one toilet, and there was a queue, thus making the start on time was a bit marginal. To make matters worse, there was a woman with a stopwatch outside, who calculated that everyone in the queue could make the start as long as we all stuck to two minutes each. She proceeded to time us. I really needed the toilet, but the pressure of a lady outside with a stopwatch really didn’t help.

Course

Having managed to pee within my allocated time, I reached the start with 4 minutes to go. As mentioned above, the weather was very wet when went. This made the course; once round the lawn followed by two laps around the country park among the trees pretty scary. As we ran, the wind continued to pick up and the trees were swaying and creaking.

Havant parkrun Strava Segment
Havant parkrun Strava Segment

Terrain

The course started with a lap round the lawn, which was super slippery and squelchy. Then onto the laps of the park. The website describes the terrain as compacted gravel, but it’s really just mud with a few stones and lot of bricks jutting out of it. It also has a steep camber. With my record of falling, it was far from ideal. I tried to stick to the ditch at the side, which was pretty much like running 5 km in a stream, but I didn’t want to risk falling on the uneven, rocky bit. By the time I reached the final slippery, squelchy conclusion back on the lawn, I had had more than enough.

Havant parkrun

Shoes

The course is run on a combination of grass and trail. So, definitely trail shoes in winter to deal with the trails and the slippery grass area at the start/finish. Probably trail shoes in summer too. The grass may be less slippery but the trails will still be well, trails.

Difficulty

Run Britain Rankings for UK parkruns place Havant as the 549th fastest out of a total of 706. There is one hill on each lap, bring the total elevation to 54 metres.

Fun Factor

I did not enjoy one second of my run. To be honest, this was partially due to the weather, but the cost of parking and the slippery, uneven, hilly route didn’t help my mood much. I was so wet and miserable that I only managed to take one photograph. Here is a photo of my friend who chose to run on a less wet and windy day and claimed to actually enjoy Havant.

Havant parkrun

Henstridge Airfield Parkrun Guide

Introduction

Henstridge Airfield parkrun takes place around the perimeter of Henstridge Airfield on the Dorset/Somerset border some 15 miles east of Yeovil. It was our second visit to Henstridge; the first was for a balloon flight.  This time, instead of taking off and floating serenely into the distance, we had to run round the edge of the airfield twice, puffing and grunting. 

Henstridge Airfield from above
Henstridge Airfield from above

Orientation

The airfield is rather tucked away at the beck of an industrial estate, but is well signposted. We drove from Bournemouth on the morning of the event, which was a very scenic drive. It’s not a parkrun I’d attempt by public transport; in fact, Google Maps wouldn’t even attempt to provide a route by public transport.

We arrived to discover that it was their first anniversary run and felt somewhat under dressed in our running gear surrounded by runners in fancy dress. We assembled ready for the start between a selection of dinosaurs, fairies, cowboys and a man who appeared to be naked apart from a large number of balloons. I was left hoping not too many popped on the way round!

The briefing was hard to hear; there were aeroplanes taking off and the Air Ambulance was revving up its engine in the background.  It appeared to be mostly a list of recent injuries. And a lot of talk of cake.

Morning drive to Henstridge
Morning drive to Henstridge

Parking

There is plenty of free parking near the start.

Henstridge Airfield from above
Henstridge Airfield from above

Facilities

There is a clubhouse with a very nice café near the start, plus plenty of outdoor seating with a view of the airfield where you can sit and enjoy post run refreshments.

With it being an anniversary event, cake was provided. Unfortunately, the cake was in plain boxes with no labelling so I couldn’t eat any as I couldn’t be sure it was nut free. Although, to be honest, if you are going to risk going into anaphylactic shock, there are worse places to be than standing on the end of an airfield next to an air ambulance with its engines running. Luckily, the old man stepped into the breach and ate two pieces of cake…

Toilets

Nice, clean toilets are also available in the clubhouse.

Course

According the website, “Two laps with an out and back section on a mixture of grass, trail and tarmac, near the edge of the airfield and alongside a river. The start and finish are close to the airfield clubhouse café.” I would describe it as more of an elongated, squished figure 8 (using all the technical terms). It’s very flat with only 3 metres elevation in total. However, according to my Garmin, it was somewhat over 5 km. This always makes me rather grumpy when my watch tells me I’ve reached 5 km and the finish is still not in sight.

Henstridge Airfield Strava segment
Henstridge Airfield Strava segment

Terrain

It was a hard run on the uneven terrain, so the route required a lot of focus as I tried to pick out a path among the many rabbit holes and other pitfalls along the way. In addition, much of the route is lined either with metal fencing or trees and the morning sun shining through these obstacles created a dappled effect which made the ground a whole lot harder to focus on. I reached the end without breaking anything (ankles or records).

Finish of Henstridge Airfield parkrun
Finish of Henstridge Airfield parkrun

Shoes

I wore trainers, which was probably the right decision on the day, as there are tarmac sections as well as grass and trails. In wet weather, trail shoes would probably be the best option.

Difficulty

Run Britain rankings for UK parkruns places Henstridge Airfield as 557th fastest out of 706. With only 3 metres of elevation, an indication of the terrain is that it is almost completely flat yet there are 556 parkruns considered easier to complete.

Henstridge Airfield
Henstridge Airfield

Fun Factor

The terrain made the run hard work. I felt I had to really concentrate so as to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle. However, it is a scenic route along the river. Plus you have the novelty factor of running alongside an airfield, there’s a nice café at the end and the local parkrunners were really friendly and welcoming. So, in all I enjoyed my morning.

Henstridge Airfield
Henstridge Airfield

Queen Elizabeth parkrun

For this weekend’s parkrun adventure, we arranged to meet some friends and run Queen Elizabeth parkrun together. It turned out to be an absolute shocker weather wise with seemingly unending torrential rain. We met up in the car park at Queen Elizabeth Country Park and braved leaving the dry warmth of our cars to slip our slide our way through mud and puddles to the start, where we huddled under a tree for the pre race briefing, before setting off our our mudfest.

Orientation

Queen Elizabeth Country Park is situated within the South Downs National Park and is probably very scenic when visibility is more than a few metres. It is easy to reach, as it is just off the A3 (London to Portsmouth road). Entry to the park is free, but parking is not and costs approximately £2 per hour between October and March (£2.50 an hour April to September).

Old Road Sign
Sign in Queen Elizabeth Country Park

Facilities

There are toilets located in the Visitor Centre near the park entrance. There is also a cafe (Beechwood Kitchen) for your post run drinks and snacks. We opted to have breakfast here after we finished running, which I can thoroughly recommend; the Butser Buster consisted of sausages, bacon, eggs, beans, tomatoes, hash browns and toast for £8 and certainly ensured we replenished any calories we’d burned during our run!

Breakfast at Queen Elizabeth Country Park

Course

The course is described on the parkrun website as ‘undulating’. Undulating is one of my least favourite words. It consists of two loops; one larger and one smaller; each is hilly in its own special way.

Queen Elizabeth parkrun Strava segment

Terrain

The parkrun website states that the terrain consists of a mixture of grass, gravel paths and forest trails. When we ran it, it consisted primarily of mud. Lots and lots of mud.

Queen Elizabeth parkrun
Mud, mud, glorious mud

Difficulty

Run Britain Rankings for UK parkruns place Queen Elizabeth as the 675th fastest out of a total of 706. The course has a total elevation of 113 metres.

Queen Elizabeth parkrun
Queen Elizabeth parkrun

Fun Factor

Queen Elizabeth parkrun is a small and friendly event; the average number of finishers is just 88. On the weekend we visited, a mere 66 runners came out to play in the rain and mud. Among this number were plenty of parkrun tourists, in particular ‘alphabeteers’ (those looking to attend a parkrun starting with each letter of the alphabet) in search of their Q. Visitors are made to feel very welcome. I’m not sure if I enjoyed my trip to Queen Elizabeth parkrun or not. I think I need to return in very different weather conditions to make a fair assessment. Although, to recap, it is hilly.

Finish of Queen Elizabeth parkrun
Finish of Queen Elizabeth parkrun