The Hertfordshire parkruns

Since running all of them, I thought I would do a post about the different parkruns in Herts to give you a bit of an idea as to what they are all like.

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Aldenham

Near to Elstree

How to get there: I don’t think you would be able to get there via public transport. We drove, using the postcode provided on the website. You have to pay to park as it is held in the country park, but you get a discount by showing your parkrun barcode. It’s close to the M1 so easy to get there from other parts of the country too.

Course: Two flat laps of Aldenham reservoir- really nice scenery as you run through wooded areas as well as next to the water.

Amount of runners: It’s a really small parkrun, according to their page it’s 60 runners on average per week. If you fancy a high placing, it’s a good place to go.

Post-run food options: There is a cafe on sight, but we didn’t sample anything from it when we visited.

Anything else: Somewhere I’d like to revisit (although it was 2016 I went and I still haven’t been back!).

Barclay

Hoddeston (between Cheshunt, Hertford and Harlow)

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How to get there: I drove and parked in the car park (postcode EN11 8JY)- it was free to park and around a 5 minute walk to the park where the run was held. Lots of people were walking to the start as it’s very close to the town centre.

Course: When I visited they had to modify the course, but it is essentially 3 laps of a town centre park- there’s a lake in the middle, there is a hill to run up each lap.

Amount of runners: When I visited it was fairly busy, but the local running club Ware Joggers (famous for their lovely cakes- they are the ones in red in the photo above) were giving out cakes to promote their 10k and 10 mile races. Usually there are around 60 runners (according to their website).

Post-run food options: Well I had some cake when I went there!

Anything else: The Ware Joggers are a super friendly bunch and it seems there will always be someone from that club at this run.

Cassiobury

Watford

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How to get there: I followed the directions on the course page and parked in the underground station car park (it takes cards- phew), although there seemed to be plenty of on-street parking nearby if you were willing to take the chance. If you were travelling from London, the underground would be an option (it’s a 5 min walk to the park from there).

Course: Two and a half laps of a section of the park- fairly flat (gently downhill then gently uphill on each lap but a fairly fast course really). All on paths so would be a good one for the winter time.

Amount of runners: It’s a busy one for around here- around 300 runners a week.

Post-run food options:There’s a cafe right by the finish area, although I was heading to breakfast at Mum’s so didn’t even sample a cup of tea.

Anything else: They had a nice cheer station when I was there (by the local club, Watford Joggers). It is very close to South Oxhey, which has tiny numbers of runners each week in comparison.

Castle Park

Bishop’s Stortford (close to Stansted airport)

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How to get there: I used the postcode (CM23 2BA) on their course page which took me directly to the town centre (pay and display) car park. The start was very close, although I hadn’t looked in advance. I walked through the Waitrose car park, crossed the road and then saw the park. It’s a central parkrun so using the train would be an option.

Course: Two very flat laps of parkland and playing fields (dodge the stray footballs). I imagine it would be very muddy in the winter.

Amount of runners: 250 per week

Post-run food options: You’re in the town centre so there are a lot of options. After Hatfield Forest we drove into Bishop’s Stortford and went to Bill’ for breakfast, and after I ran Castle Park I went to the Starbucks in the shopping centre, but there are plenty of options all within a few minutes walk.

Anything else: This is an unusual one, as it started up when Hatfield Forest  had to close. I think most of the event team transferred over. The team had a good sense of humour with some of the event signs.

Ellenbrook Fields

Hatfield

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How to get there: There is free parking in the University (make sure you use the post code and don’t end up in the wrong campus though)- the Sports Village backs onto the fields where the run is held. The train station in Hatfield isn’t that near (2 miles ish) so you could run it if you fancied a longer warm up/cool down.

Course: The route is very flat, across fields on the old airfield (even through a field of long-horned cattle), past woods and then finishing on the old taxi-way. You begin on the taxi-way a little way along, running a small loop that takes you back past the finish area, before going on a big loop around the fields, finishing on the taxi-way again.

Amount of runners:133 on average- it’s a fairly small one.

Post-run food options: There’s a coffee van that parks up in the finish area. There is also a Starbucks inside the Sports Village building but I’ve never found it (I’ve only been inside once though!). You are also a short walk from the “Outlet” shopping centre of the Galleria with Caffe Nero and Costa for quick things (plus pre-cinema places like Nandos).

Anything else: I may be biased but the OH ladies make the most encouraging marshals. We also have parkrun royalty in the form of Danny Norman’s mum and dad, who set up, marshal and tidy away pretty much every week without fail.  Although I don’t usually like laps, this one isn’t really (you only repeat the first part of the first loop a second time) and I do like running past the finish area as you get lots of cheers and smiles from the volunteers. Saving Private Ryan was filmed on the fields, and there is lots of wildlife (I’ve seen foxes, owls, red kites, woodpeckers and heard cuckoos…).

Gadebridge

Hemel

How to get there:I used the free car park mentioned on the course page, which was easy to find and you could pretty much see the start from the car park. It’s fairly central to Hemel, (a walk through the park takes you to the town centre) and about 1.5 miles from the station.

Course: Quite hilly! It’s pretty much two laps with a bit of out and back at the start, but you run under the road (an underpass), up along a ridgeline and back down.

Amount of runners: 133 on average

Post-run food options: A short walk through the park would take you into Hemel town centre where there are lots of cafes.

Anything else:

Heartwood Forest

St Albans/ Sandridge village

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How to get there: You can’t park in the Heartwood Forest car park, so you need to find somewhere in the village of Sandridge. There’s lots of street parking (I think I used St Leonard’s Crescent) but make sure you allow time to walk to the start from wherever you park.  If you live in St Albans you can easily run or cycle- it’s close to the Jersey Lane cycle path.

Course: Just under two undulating laps of lovely countryside.

Amount of runners: Hovers around the 100 per week mark.

Post-run food options: There are a few pubs and even a tearoom in Sandridge village.

Anything else: It’s a fairly new forest, so lots of the trees are still very small. It is filled with amazing wood carvings and is well worth a walk at another time.

Panshanger

Welwyn Garden City/Hertford

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How to get there: You can’t use the main car park (it starts in a car park) but there is plenty of street parking in the village of Hertingfordbury, or parallel to the main road into Hertford. Lots of people cycle and there are lovely cycle racks presented to the parkrun team on their second birthday. It’s close to Hertford town centre (1 mile ish) so you could come by train and then walk/jog to the start, and it’s close to the Cole Green Lane old railway (now a cycle/footpath).

Course: One beautiful lap of lovely parkland, woodland, fields, past lakes… it’s very very beautiful. It is undulating, but not a slow course (compared to Tring/ Gadebridge). Yes, it is a bit uphill at the start, but then it’s flat with long downhill sections before a teeny uphill finish. It does get congested at the start as it narrows immediately for the section through the woods.

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Amount of runners: 250 average, but they did get 364 on Christmas Day this year.

Post-run food options: There is a coffee van in the car park by the finish area.

Anything else: It’s really worth a visit- in the spring there are bluebells carpeting the woods and lambs in the field, in the summer the lakes twinkle in the sunlight and in autumn the  colours on the trees are stunning. It’s also one lap- my favourite type of course! The park is gradually being opened up more- there is a very old oak tree that you can walk to, and a bird spotting area.

Rickmansworth

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How to get there: I used the info on the course page and parked in the car park of the Rickmansworth Aquadrome – the car park is free.

Course: Two flat fast laps of the lakes. It did feel busy on the first lap as the paths are narrow in places.

Amount of runners: 200-300, although they had 501 on new year’s day!

Post-run food options: The on site cafe looked lovely but Mum was cooking for us so we didn’t hang around.

Anything else: Lots of bird spotting opportunities here- seems like a lovely place for a walk after. If you like this, you’ll like Aldenham (and probably place much higher too!).

South Oxhey

Watford

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How to get there: We followed the directions and parked in the pub car park (for free), right by the start area.

Course: It’s three laps of a big field (but with a sort of wooded area in the middle so you can’t see all the way to the end)- a bit uphill at the start of each lap and a lovely long downhill to finish. A bit of a hidden gem.

Amount of runners: Very small compared to the other Watford one (Cassiobury)- 45 per week on average

Post-run food options: A coffee van (when we visited, someone was doing her 50th and supplied slices of watermelon which was the most amazing post-parkrun snack for a warm day).

Anything else: This was so friendly- the RD greeted everyone and chatted to tourists and new runners- I think the smaller number of runners meant it felt like a real community.

St Albans

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How to get there: I always drive and park (pay and display starts at 9.30 so unless you are super speedy and can guarantee there won’t be a wait for scanning, you’ll need to buy a ticket). If you were local you could easily walk or cycle.

Course: Flat. Along a path to the far end of the lake, three laps of the lake, then back along the path to the finish. They do sometimes have an alternative course which is three laps of the playing fields (not flat).

Amount of runners: Busy. Regularly over 400, and as the paths around the lake are narrow in places it can feel very congested.

Post-run food options: The official place is the Inn on the park, but a short walk down the road you will find The Waffle House, which is possibly the best option. Or you can walk through the park (seeing as you have paid to park) into the town centre where there’s loads of coffee shops and restaurants.

Anything else: It was where I started parkrunning so I try to go back once a year (now usually when my car has a service as the garage is in St Albans).  They have a parkrun band (they played at the parkrun evening I went to) and are very funny at adapting songs to a parkrun theme (for example changing “It’s all about the bass” to “It’s all about the lake”.  Get there early if you want a parking space!

Stevenage

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How to get there: We drove and parked in the large (free) car park in the Fairlands park area.

Course: Two laps of the lake and parkland. Fairly flat, although you finish on a hill. In speaking to other people, if this is their only parkrun, they think it’s hilly- if they have been to other parkruns, they realise it’s fairly flat!

Amount of runners: 230 on average, but inching closer to 300

Post-run food options: There is a cafe in the park (but in a break from routine, we actually came back to mine for breakfast that day!).

Anything else: Stevenage has a bit of a bad rep as a town, so finding this huge park in the centre was a bit of a surprise.

Tring

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How to get there: The car park is a short walk from the start- apparently now it’s getting quite busy, but it’s close to the centre of Tring so you could park  elsewhere.

Course: One glorious lap with a big hill (partly hidden in the trees so you don’t realise how steep it is. You come very close to the finish at around the 4km point, but then veer away. When we visited it was very foggy, so we didn’t see the amazing views (or cows- they have a cow marshal apparently).

Amount of runners: 161 on average (but quite often well over 200)

Post-run food options: You could walk to the town centre- the official venue is a pub in the town centre, but there are lots of other options.

Anything else: This is top of our must revisit list, as it’s meant to be stunning when you can see across the countryside. It was tough, but a one lapper is always going to beat other ones anyway. They have a pb bell- they let me ring it on my first visit (as technically it was a course pb) but to ring it properly I shall have to go back and beat my time- easier said than done!

Westmill

Close to Ware at the Edge Outdoor Activity centre

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How to get there: I drive and use the first car park by the activity centre, but if you drive down the track there is a car park right by the finish area. Not sure if you could run or cycle there. Parking is free.

Course: Nearly two laps- you begin half way up a hill, run a lap of up and down, around a golf course, past some lakes and along the bottom of the valley, before running up, past the finish area and doing the same again. The uphill finish is a bit tough, but it is a really stunning location.

Amount of runners: 70 on average- it’s a diddy  one.

Post-run food options: They have a waffle house on site (but not the same as the St Albans one) so we are going to sample it when it’s warmer (as you sit outside).

Anything else: You sometimes see people on segways or going on the high rope course- you could make a day of it if you liked that sort of thing!

 

So, there you have it- the Herts parkrun venues. If you are ever visiting any, let me know (and feel free to ask any questions). I feel like I am so lucky to have so many brilliant parkruns so close to me. I tend to go between Ellenbrook and Panshanger, but I am sure I will be adding Westmill into the regular rotation.

Which parkrun do you like the sound of the most?  Why do you think there’s such a variation in numbers in relatively close events? Have you collected any parkrun “sets”?

P.S. Letchworth is coming soon (end of January) so I’ll add that in once I’ve visited… a parkrunners work is never done!

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6 thoughts on “The Hertfordshire parkruns”

  1. Wow! You have so many different events near you.
    It is funny how the numbers are so different. I’ve no idea why that would be but I’m sure I heard Paul Sinton-Hewitt on a podcast saying their aim was to have parkrun in every park, regardless of numbers and I really like that.

    1. Yes, I love that they don’t mind if 10 people or 1000 people run, but they will hold the events whatever.
      Yes, I know I’m very lucky to have a lot, although some of these are nearly an hour away so not easy to “pop” to.

  2. We once stayed at a lovely hotel in St Albans that we keep saying we should go back to. Now I know there’s a parkrun there I’m a bit more inclined to make this happen!

    1. Well let me know if you do- Heartwood Forest is also in St Albans so could be another option depending on where you are.

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