The Pastures parkrun- three quarters of a Cowell!

If you are not familiar with the parkrun tourist term, a Cowell is 100 different events. The Pastures was my 75th, so I am 3/4 of the way there now. This seems crazy to me. Yes, I do love parkrun, and I do love going to a new one if we are away for the weekend, but still, 75 different ones- it seems like a lot. I have not even got my 250 shirt yet, and I have been to my local ones (St Albans, Panshanger, Ellenbrook Fields, and more recently Jersey Farm) regularly. But then, when I start to think about it, I’ve been doing lots of little challenges – completing all of the parkruns in Herts, doing things like the Compass Club (parkrun names containing North, South, East and West), the alphabet challenge, the name challenge (all the letters in my name), Pirates (7 C’s and one R). All of that adds up!

So this was on our way back home from Scotland- we drove from Edinburgh on the Friday, stopping at a few Northumberland beaches on the way, and having a nice wander around the town in the evening.

Our hotel was less than a mile from the start (the start is just outside the castle) so it was a leisurely start for me.  It isn’t a big parkrun (100 people did it on that morning) and it had such a lovely feel with people catching up with each other. The field did have a “beware of the bull” sign on the gate, but I didn’t see it- hopefully the sign is there all the time but the bull isn’t. There were lots of cows in the  adjacent field, and plenty of cow pats to dodge during the run! Just before the run brief, someone dressed in a kilt stood near the sign and began playing bagpipes. He played Chariots of Fire and the theme tune of Star Wars, which answered a question that Andy and I had had in Edinburgh- are there other tunes that you can play on the bagpipes?

When he finished playing, everyone clapped, and then the RD did the briefing (no explanation of the bagpiper though). This course was the kind that I love- totally simple (2 and a bit laps of the field) with easy instructions- run to the tree, then turn right and run to the river, then back up to the start.

The marshal by the tree was trying to keep count, saying to everyone “One lap to go/ I think it’s your last lap now?”. The people manning the finish funnel were so enthusiastic, cheering us on each lap, commenting on the dog that was running, or the big smiles of the runners, or encouraging you to do a final sprint at the end.

It really felt as if this parkrun had minimum impact on the surroundings – not many cones or flags or signs to put out, the use of one field, a few cars parked in the street next to it but most people seemed to walk over from the town. In a good way, you could have walked to the field just after 10 and seen no evidence of parkrun being there- they went to a café in town to process the results.

My legs were feeling quite heavy, and the uneven ground (mole hills, tussocks of grass) meant I took my time. This was not a course for a pb, but it was my 75th different parkrun course so I was going to enjoy it. I took a few photos as I ran around, and just enjoyed looking at the castle, the river and the cows in the field next door.

I finished in 31:07, and took a few photos at the finish but then the drizzle got harder so I didn’t hang about. I did briefly chat to someone heading back to her car, but it was time for a quick shower and breakfast before the long drive home. So there we go, 3/4 of the way to a Cowell!

(One thing that did throw me a bit was as I was coming in to the finish I could hear some people charging up behind me. I was speeding up at this point, and never mind a sort of race to the finish, but these 2 guys ran past me literally at the finish line- they were going so fast they carried on straight through the funnel without getting a token. When the person handing out the tokens looked confused at them, pointing at me with the tokens and looking at them (maybe they thought we knew each other?). I pointed to the 2 guys and asked if they needed one, and the volunteers were trying to sort it out, counting out the tokens for the missing people, but then the guys came back again and grabbed some tokens. I do not at all mind which token I get, but this sort of thing makes it harder for the volunteers. I am not quite sure why they had to sprint by right at the end and confuse everyone. When I looked at the results, there are two unknown runners, one just before me and one after me, so maybe they were new to parkrun?)

How many parkrun courses have you visited? Are you working through any challenges at the moment? 

Scotland (holiday Summer 2021)

And yes, it is a holiday and NOT a staycation- I was not staying at home, I was travelling around, on holiday, paying for accommodation etc etc. It was a holiday.

Our holiday was split into roughly 3 sections, plus travel there and back. On the way up we stopped in York for the night (see my Heslington parkrun post) and on the way back we stopped in Edinburgh for one night, and then stayed in Alnwick (for The Pastures parkrun).

Part 1: Edinburgh

Part 2: Loch Ness

Part 3: Glencoe

I’ll try to keep each part brief!

Part 1:

We had booked a few days in Edinburgh, originally because Travis were going to be doing an outdoor concert there, but that was then cancelled. But of course we are happy to go to Edinburgh any time. We got there in the afternoon, after driving up from York, and spent a lovely few hours wandering. Being in a city meant taking full advantage of delivery options for food (as we don’t really have anything that we like near us)- delicious vegan burger/ Wagamama and vegan pizzas were consumed over the few days.  I recently got the Happy Cow app, which is a bit like Trip Advisor for veggie and vegan places, so we found some excellent food (it lists chains or places with vegan options too, but we mainly used it for finding independent places)- mentions go to Orinoco Vegan, a fab place in York, Holy Cow in Edinburgh did some amazing cakes, as did the Black Rabbit.  The following day we had a lovely walk around Leith river- it was forecast to rain but we had beautiful blue skies. The day after we went to the Botanical Gardens and it poured once we were there- we got soaked! But this was probably the worst weather of the holiday. I ran towards Arthur’s Seat one of the mornings, and popped into a Pret on my way back to pick us up some breakfast- it’s almost like a traditional weekend away once again.

I loved the Rapunzel style waterfall of flowers on the side of this tower- I think it was actually a bar but to me it seemed very Disney.

Of course we had to get breakfast from the Hula Juice Bar one day as they do amazing acai bowls- check out all the toppings!

Part 2:

We then had a few days staying by Loch Ness.  We took our time driving there, stopping in a few places to stretch our legs as it was a fairly long drive. We had a little apartment on the shores of the loch, and it was also close by to a canal (with one of those stair cases of gates) so we would often walk along there, and I had an easy running route for several mornings.

Loch Ness scenes

Having an apartment meant that we could self cater, but we did actually brave lunch out in Fort William. We saw a café and while perusing the menu  realised it was 100% vegan- how exciting! Originally we were going to get food to take away, but looking inside we could see there were only a few tables,  they were well spaced apart, and everyone had masks on unless they were eating (sensible Scotland has kept the mask rules when they have been abandoned in England…), so we had a lovely lunch inside- a big deal for us as the only place we’ve been out to eat has been the afternoon tea we went to on my birthday, which was outside. Andy had a pasty and I had toast with “avoca-no”- a green hummus made with peas and beans (really tasty)- we shared them both, alongside a chai latte (me) and matcha latte  (Andy).

Lunch out and lattes

We were well-placed to visit lots of woods, waterfalls and of course the lake for walks and views. We had mostly overcast weather with some sunshine, but perfect weather for walking as you didn’t get too hot, and no worries about sunburn (and yes I know you can get burnt when it’s cloudy, and yes I had sun-cream on my face, but nothing compared to a hot sunny day).

Alongside Loch Ness and a vegan cinnamon roll for breakfast one day

One day we drove up to Inverness, stopping at various places on the way, and having a lovely walk through the centre of Inverness (there are some lovely bridges over the river near the centre), and then stopped in a few places on the way back. Andy actually saw a red squirrel on that day, as it ran out in front of the car in front of us, but I didn’t see it.

One day we visited the ruins of a castle on the edge of the loch, and when we arrived it pelted down with rain! We sheltered in one of the buildings and thankfully it cleared up fairly soon.

I was really hoping to do a parkrun in Scotland, as the middle Saturday was the date of it returning. We were moving from Loch Ness to Glencoe on that day, so the plan was to check out, drive to a parkrun, I’d run it and then we’d head to our new place. Sadly, the two that were realistically in driving distance (eg under an hour) didn’t start on that day. I looked into Aviemore as I would love to do that one, but it was nearly 2 hours from where we were (small twisty roads, no direct routes) so in the end I had to accept defeat, and do a (not)parkrun along the canal before we checked out.

It was still exciting to think that all over the land people were returning though- welcome back Scotland!

Part 3:

Vegan cake and the imitation Canada

On the way to our new place we stopped at the café in Fort William to get some cake for later- we were staying in another self-catering place, so of course we can make a pot of tea in the evening to go alongside the cake. Their lemon cake was amazing. We also stopped for a walk through some woods (I got a bit obsessed with trying to see a red squirrel, and we thought it looked like a good place to see one). It reminded me so much of Canada, with the tall pine trees and views of the mountains reflecting in the lake. When we got to our cottage, we looked in the guidebook and it turned out that the land had been created by a man for his wife, who was from Canada and was homesick. I must say that they replicated it perfectly.

Our cottage was close to a little village, so one day we drove down to the centre and then followed a walk to a waterfall, up along the edge of the hills and then back down following part of the West Highland Way (a path which links Glasgow to Fort William). There was a deer just walking through the village- again, a bit like the elk that just wander about in Canada. We also saw a couple of deer in the grass in front of the cottage on a couple of occasions.

Seaweed sculpture, curved train tracks on Glenfinnan Viaduct, coast.

One day we drove out to the coast, looking across the waters to Skye, and reminisced about our holiday last summer. I saw that piece of seaweed and from a distance thought it was a red squirrel! I really wanted to see one! On the way back we stopped at the viaduct, and happened to be there as the steam train went over. We walked along the path under it and then up into the hills surrounding it to get a better view, as you could see the curve much better from that angle.

Another day we drove to Oban and had a walk along the sea- the tide was coming in so fast in the afternoon and there were so many jellyfish. At times it looked as if the beach was covered in bubble wrap as it was covered in hundreds of tiny clear jellyfish, but among them were larger colourful ones.

And one day we headed to Fort William to walk to the fort- it was a gorgeous walk alongside the waters, through some woods and through fields.

My final request was to go back to the “Canadian woods” for a final walk around, and we also went to get a takeaway from the vegan café because their cakes were delicious. Sadly I didn’t spot a red squirrel, but of course that means that I’ll have to go back.

We had to check out fairly early, and so were in Edinburgh by lunch time. Picking up lunch (from Pret obviously) we walked back to the botanical gardens, as the weather was beautiful compared to our last visit.

Later in the afternoon we walked to the top of the park next to the city where you get amazing views of the city on one side and the coast on the other.

Acai bowl, scenes from my run

I decided to have a run in the morning, so met Andy by the Hula Juice Bar to get an acai bowl for breakfast. We walked the long way back to the hotel, via Black Rabbit, as they did amazing looking vegan bakes goods- we got a biscoff cruffin for later.

We were only driving as far as Alnwick, so we stopped at a couple of beaches on the way down. One thing we both really noticed was the lack of masks and social distancing once across the border. I used some public toilets and not one other person had a mask on in there. It was quite jarring to experience.

Northumberland beaches and delicious cruffin

The cruffin was delicious but oh so messy to eat! All that was left was for me to do the parkrun in Alnwick the next morning, and I’ll save that for another post as this one is long enough.

What type of holiday do you enjoy?

Heslington parkrun- around and around and around (and around, and around)

In case you hadn’t guessed, it was a 5 lap course. Yes, five laps.

So this was step 1 of our holiday to Scotland- we left on Friday lunchtime and drive up to York, to stay there for the night. In a previous trip to York I had completed York parkrun (Y? Yes, to get my Y for the alphabet) and I wasn’t overly keen on the route, so I was keen to do a new course. Heslington parkrun was just under 3 miles from our hotel, and an easier route. I remember getting a bit lost on my way to York parkrun as I had to get out of the walled part of the city.

I set off and only got stuck for directions once, where Google Maps wanted me to go straight one (with a slightly slower alternate route turning right), but there was no pavement, and I saw a runner heading off to the right, so I decided to go the way of the runner.  This took me through some of the roads near to the sports village complex, and soon I saw a car park steadily filling with people dressed in brightly coloured running gear- I’d made it!

Just before the main briefing there was a quick call for new parkrunners, and they explained the course- not much explanation needed as it was 5 laps of the cycle circuit- you just needed to keep count! A quick main briefing and then we were off.

I didn’t think I would enjoy the 5 laps that much, but in fact it reminded me of the East Brighton one, where pretty much the entire time you could see everyone who was participating. They didn’t need many marshals, but each time you went past the finish area you got lots of cheers from the marshals. Some people were thanking the volunteers- this is something that seems to vary a bit from course to course. I’m never running flat out so I can always thank them! The route was pretty flat, but at some point you were heading into the wind so it was harder to keep a steady pace. I had to be mindful that I had another  3 miles to run back after, and think I managed a fairly steady run in the end- 9:35, 9:24, 9:27 and 8:28 for the final bit, with 30:45 being my finish time.

I took a few photos when I had finished and then headed back to the hotel. Andy made me a cup of tea and had been out to Pret to get one of their delicious vegan berry croissants, so once I was showered we headed back to the car to drive up to Edinburgh.

Are you a fan of lapped routes? I think the most I had done before this one was 3 laps, and although they are OK, my preference would usually be a single loop, or out and back style route.

Do you tend to revisit parkruns if you are travelling, or do you always look for a new one to go to?  I do love going back to the Brighton ones whenever I am down there.

The Lavender farm, baking and EV fun

I was well and truly in the summer holiday mode by this point.  I did have to catch up on some work one day, but mainly I was properly recharging the batteries. I even had a couple of afternoon dozes (which is most unlike me) so I think the busy end of term/year had really worn me out.

I had ordered us some buns to have over the weekend from Random Buns of Kindness– a plant based bakery. You could order different amounts and types, so I ordered a mixed box with some almond ones (amazing), cardamom (just like a bun from a Scandinavian bakery), plus one chocolate orange and one cinnamon one. They were really delicious and a real treat (they lasted a few days after the day of arrival, and you could warm them up in the oven for a few minutes too).

I did a bit of baking too. In the previous week I had picked around 400g blackcurrants from the bush in our garden, and in the end made these vegan crumble bars. They are very tasty but very tart (I just used blackcurrants but a mixture would make it sweeter).

I checked the weather at the start of the week, and with Tuesday looking like the best day weather wise, I pre-booked a ticket to the lavender farm. I love going there- you can just wander around the fields or pay a few pounds more to pick some while you are there. Last year it was a bit different due to covid (there is usually a barn with a shop and café, but they were both closed), but this year they have come up with solutions- lots of trailers/ food truck type things in the main field, so you could get a drink/ buy lavender themed gifts without going inside. I did have a bit of a stress dream the night before about the car running out of battery (still getting used to it), but I had 118 miles left and when I got there after driving 18 miles, I still had 108 miles of battery left so I knew I would get home with plenty to spare. (I think the stress dream was linked to several news articles, as the climate spokesperson for the government had said that that a diesel car suited her better than an electric, saying the time it takes to stop and recharge on a long journey is too much- all then disputed because the range of most EV’s are over 200 miles, and if you are driving further than that then you should have a break for safety anyway. It made me so cross- in 9 years you won’t be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car so they really need to start encouraging and supporting people to switch over instead of complaining.). The journey tipped the car over 1000 miles too, but a weekend in Suffolk and the drive to Hastings would have made up a large portion of that. My annual mileage was usually fairly low (6-7000) but now we have one car instead of two it’s bound to go up a bit, as we would do the longer journeys in Andy’s car.

I realised when driving that I’d forgotten my water bottle. “Never mind”, I thought, “I’ll buy a lemonade from the café”. When I got there, I spent time picking the lavender first, and then made my way down to the shop and café. After queuing for a while, I was very sad when I found out they had run out of lavender lemonade- no drink for me! I was very thirsty by the time I got home.  (I could have queued up at a different place and got a hot drink, but I didn’t fancy something warm when the weather was so hot).

They did have two vegan cake options though (both chocolate, not sure on the difference), so I got a piece for us to share later on.

One day I decided to have a bit of a practise at a local parkrunday- Panshanger has changed the route, and now starts much closer to home. I’ve run to and from the start point, and attempted doing the new route, but I’ve tended to add bits on or not take the most direct route. Although I won’t be going there for a while, I thought I would run there, run the route (as best I could work out) and run home to see how long it would be.

It ended up being just over 2 miles to the start, so just over 7 miles. I think this is perfectly doable on a Saturday morning, as I would not need to leave very early, 2 miles would be a nice warm up, and then I could take my time on the 2 miles heading home after.  Also good to know that I can get to parkrun if Andy has the car.

The weather was so much nicer than forecast, so I decided to have breakfast in the garden. This is something I did a lot a few years ago, but got out of the habit and also just seemed to miss the best weather days (eg it can’t be too hot).

After some cleaning and admin bits, I decided to sit in the garden and read. I’m reading a book that is not that great to read before going to sleep (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark- we’d watched the documentary series based on it- the author Michelle McNamara looks into the case of the Golden State Killer from California in the 1970s and 1980s), so reading this in the sunshine felt like a better option.

One day I met up with a friend in Panshanger park- she drove over and met me in the car park, and we spent ages walking all the way through the park, up to the big old oak tree (450-500 years old!), down to the lakes and along the river, through the nature trail…. she’d not been before but loved it and am sure will head back. Then it was time to charge up the EV and get ready for a little holiday up to Scotland.

What sort of books do you like to read? I do like detective books but nothing too graphic as I read before I go to sleep! I also love travel books, eg Michael Palin or more recent “adventure” books such as Anna McNuff travelling tales.

Could you be tempted by an electric car? 

Summer holiday time including Christmas in July and parkrun!

I’m still not over the novelty of parkrun being back in England (hold on Scotland and Wales- not long for you guys too I hope).

Vegan biscoff flapjack from the festival, vegan box and CIJ teas.

A few years ago we were in Canada and they had a huge Christmas in July celebration, with floats going past, food trucks, decorations, live music and other fun things, and ever since then I have really loved the idea. I think that this year in particular our government could have sorted something when they were going to have to “cancel” Christmas (eg more restrictions), but anyway- eg an extra bank holiday in the summer when cases were lower. Anyway, a few places seem to take it on board (eg Pret released their “normal” Christmas sandwich this year, not the delicious vegan one sadly), and Bird&Blend have been doing a Christmas in July sale for the past few years so of course I ordered some teas (some of them are usually only available for a month – eg Snowball which is black tea with coconut and vegan marshmallows).

I’d saved this Santa gingerbread from December too

After spending all day Sunday at the festival, we drove home, getting back at 2am. The next day was really just a day of recovering and washing. I headed out on a run at lunch time, as it was meant to be cooler (it wasn’t), but mainly because I had not had anything to drink while at the festival (a few sips of water) as I have a bit of a fear over using portaloos, so I knew I was quite dehydrated and wanted to have a lot to drink in the morning before I went for a run. The run was hot as the sun came out and so I spent the rest of the day relaxing inside.

Views on my run and blackcurrants growing in the garden

The week was out of routine, as I’d usually do a longer run on the Sunday, but obviously didn’t. As it’s the holidays, I can be flexible, so in the week I did a couple of 5 mile runs and a 9 mile run, as well as lots of walks.

One day we headed down to Hastings to meet up with Andy’s family, as they were renting a house by the sea for the week. We had a lovely day walking by the sea, having a picnic on the cliff tops and generally enjoying all of the fresh air. I think they were a bit worried about me finding some food, but there seem to be vegan options everywhere so it wasn’t an issue. We found a nice bakery which had loads of options (vegan pasty, vegan sausage roll, vegetable bake things, even a vegan raspberry croissant).

Hastings views

Run scenes and rainbows in our drive in a storm

Muddy running route- but I have actually remembered to order some new trail shoes as my old ones have holes in them! 

I was getting into the Olympics a lot too- I have a nice routine going of heading out on a run first thing, pottering around at home for a bit and then watching some of the coverage in the afternoon. Of course on Friday I had to get out my parkrun wristband again- DFYB people! When watching the Olympic highlights they mentioned that there was going to be a mixed triathlon relay, which intrigued us (who does which section? in which order? how does a team of 4 do an event with 3 sections?) and so we decided to stay up late and watch it- it didn’t start until 11.30pm and was around 90 minutes, so it was a bit of a late night before a parkrun, but it was so exciting. (And if you missed it, each team has 2 men and 2 women, and they each do a mini triathlon, in the same order- female- male- female- male. Sometimes these longer events can feel a bit samey, but it was so exciting as each section only seemed to last a few minutes before the next part of the race/ next transition/ next team member).

After the tourism of last weekend, I was really excited to be parkrunning closer to home this weekend- of course Ellenbrook Fields is not existing at the moment, but Jersey Farm had become another “home” event as it’s so close to where my parents live. I couldn’t remember what time I needed to leave to be there on time though!

Comedy garden in and after the rain, parkrun token and parkrun field

We walked along to the start together, and it felt like a normal Saturday, in the best way. As Dad is a faster runner than I am, he would sometimes run off ahead, but he decided to run and chat with me, and it was great. The park was looking beautiful, covered in wildflowers with paths mown into the long grass. One of my club mates was doing her 100th parkrun (how frustrating to be so close to a milestone all during lockdown) so at the end we cheered her across the line too.

We walked back for breakfast in the garden, but I couldn’t hang about for too long as we had tickets for the comedy garden in St Albans in the afternoon. It was a bit of a shame, as originally Aisling Bea was meant to be in the line-up, but she had cancelled (been pinged?) so they had replaced her with Simon Amstell- we’d just seen pretty much an identical set from him at Latitude. Ah well. Kiri Pritchard-McLean was very funny as the compere, and Sara Pascoe was great as the headliner. It did rain a bit though- we were glad of our umbrella (we were in the back row so not blocking anyone, although most people put theirs up anyway).

Sunday was time for a long run, this time 9 miles to Panshanger and back. In the afternoon, Andy was watching the Grand Prix so I went back to the tradition of watching something on Disney+ , this time Aladdin. I watched the original one, and it did make me laugh when I finished that it suggested the newer Aladdin. I mean, I can sort of see the logic, but I am not going to watch a shot for shot remake straight after watching that version.

Have you been enjoying the Olympics? 

Are you a fan of Christmas in July? I was going to do some more things but as we were at the festival it didn’t pan out and I still have an unopened bag of chocolate lebkuchen that I saved!