Rushmoor parkrun- one step closer to Bingo!

Last weekend we headed to Aldershot/Farnborough on the Friday night, as it is on the way to the New Forest. Originally the plan was to stay further south so I could do the Queen Elizabeth Country Park parkrun, but we couldn’t find a hotel near/cheap enough, so this was plan B. The hotel (one of those Village hotels) was around a mile from the start of Rushmoor parkrun (not to be confused with Rushmere parkrun in Buckinghamshire….) so I didn’t need to leave that early.

Anyway, it turned out that the business park where the hotel is was a mile away, but the hotel to the parkrun start was more like 2 miles- whoops! Combined with a slight panic when I ran past some army signs about dog patrols and this meant I arrived more than a little flustered! When I was close I re-started the directions because I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right place having seen basically no runners (and it gets several hundred runners).

They had a really friendly welcome board with some photos of the core team, the volunteer roster, and pace per km and per mile for a huge range of finish times.

They were having a junior takeover  (I think to promote their newly started junior parkrun) so all the main jobs (including the briefings) were by children (with their adults hovering and whispering hints). In the main briefing they asked for where the tourists were from- someone near me said “Southampton” and they then asked if anyone had come from further. I was about to say Hertfordshire, when someone behind me said “Germany” and then someone else said “South Africa”- I think they win!

The course began in some playing fields and was two laps, all fairly flat. The main paths were quite pebbly (bigger lumps than gravel) so I ended up running on the grass for the field bit. I’d imagine in winter it would be tougher to do that. The route then went out of the fields and along a pavement for a bit, before heading down next to a canal- this bit was lovely (and also shaded)- before running close to the start/finish area to do it all again. I find two lap courses seem to go by fairly quickly- it doesn’t seem long before you are back at the start and then you only have one lap to go.

I tried to keep in mind that I had a 10k race the next day and realised after the first two miles I was going a bit fast, so I tried to ease off a bit.  I finished in 28:51 and when I looked at the parkrun challenges chrome thingy I realised I’d filled in another slot on the parkrun bingo as I needed a 51! This sort of made up for the not ticking off the letter q- I only have 3 left for bingo now.

Anyway, I was pretty tired after that and Andy did message me to say he’d come and pick me up in the car, but with all the army stuff around I wasn’t quite sure where he’d park or where we would meet (there seemed to be lots of clearways with no stopping etc.), so I ran back (and instead of going back the way I came through the business park, blindly followed google maps on my phone which then took me into a bridge without a pavement – luckily a bit of the fence was trampled down so I could hop over it and get to an underpass!) – I got back around 10am so not too bad.

Anyway, after that it was time for tea and a cinnamon roll (the bonus of the Village hotels is that they tend to have a Starbucks in the lobby, and Andy had picked us up breakfast while I was running back) and a quick shower (they downside of those hotels is the 11am checkout time which doesn’t give much time for drying hair!).

We drove to some nearby gardens which were included in the National Trust pass (not actually NT though) and looked at the beautiful flowers. Then we drove into the New Forest and picked up our numbers (and paid for parking), before heading to Lepe, by the water, for a lovely walk along the coast. There was lots of info about the war as it was used to preparations for D-Day, so it was quite interesting. Despite being a bit overcast you could see across to the Isle of Wight and over to Portsmouth.

There was a nice looking tearoom by the water so we shared a piece of cherry and almond cake (a bit like a bakewell slice) and then drove to see Andy’s Grandma.

We’d booked Bill’s in Southampton for dinner, and then had a bit of a wander around IKEA after that (we know how to live!) before getting our kit out ready for the New Forest 10k the next morning.

Have you ever seen a junior takeover? Do you have a local junior parkrun? There is one around a mile from here, but I’ve never been as I’ve not got children- I think it might be a bit weird to turn up to one without any.

Another weekend in Brighton

I am so behind with blog posts at the moment, so this is from 2 weeks ago now. For the final weekend of the summer holidays we had booked a Friday night in Brighton. After getting the train down and dropping our bags off at the hotel, we made it to Bird&Blend tea for drinks to take with us on a lovely long walk along to Hove Prom.

We had dinner in Leon and then the next morning I went to parkrun and we met for breakfast after in Cafe Coho (I love their pancakes with berries).

Then we had the rest of the day to wander around Brighton. We headed East along the coast (we normally go West towards Hove) and saw a sort of car drag race thing happening (an official thing with a start and end gantry) so we watched that for a bit. It was really hot and there were so many people sunbathing on the beaches.

We  went around the shops in the lanes for a bit in the afternoon, and when we felt we needed a sit down, went into Cloud 9 for some tea and a piece of cake to share.  Then we walked back to Hove, before going to Food for Friends for dinner. We had sat down at the table and began looking at the menu when we were approached by one of the members of staff, asking if we could move because we’d been sat at the wrong table by mistake, and they needed to put our table with some others for a bigger reservation. Of course this was fine with us, but they were so apologetic and told us we could have bread and olives as an apology. This was lovely of them, and it wasn’t something we would usually order but it was a great selection of different breads with the all important balsamic vinegar to dip into.

Before going to the train station I wanted to stop off at Bird&Blend (I am doing so well not calling them Bluebird any more) as they made a Brighton cup which I had looked at on the Friday but hadn’t decided. Anyway, I also wanted to go there on the Saturday as it was the 1st September and I wanted to get some of the “Honey I’m Comb” tea from the tea club ( out in September).

(Yes, still having the problems with the upside-down photos…) but when I asked about it, they told me that they were in store but not on sale until the Sunday- insert sad face. They were so lovely and when I ordered an Earl Grey cream latte for the train journey (basically a London Fog- Earl grey + vanilla + steamed almond milk) they told me it was free as a way of an apology, which of course they didn’t need to do. We would just have to head to another one before the end of September!

Of course, anyone who has got a train recently will know what a faff it can be, and after getting to the station with 10 mins to spare, our train was promptly cancelled. We managed to get a Gatwick Express and then change there, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

On the Sunday morning I did 7 sunny miles before getting myself sorted for going back to work on the Monday- how have those 6 weeks gone by so fast?


Bevendean Down parkrun- what amazing views!

As I am sure you will know, I love any excuse to visit Brighton, and so to make the most of the final weekend of the school holidays, we booked a Friday night down there.

The weather was amazing and we enjoyed a long walk to Hove prom and back before having dinner in Leon.

Of course I would parkrun in the morning, and have already been to Hove Prom and Preston Park a couple of times, and Brighton & Hove once, so I started looking to see if a different Brighton one would be possible. We got the train down so it had to be either a runnable distance from the hotel, or accessible via public transport. I had discounted Bevendean Down parkrun on a previous visit as it looked a little way out of the city, but when I revisited the course page it mentioned a train station, Moulsecoomb, around a mile from the start.  Excitingly (for me), this was two train stops and a 6 min journey from the main Brighton station, so I decided to head there.

Sign to the park/ views from the start/the path to get there/ my map showing where I was compared to the start

I bought my tickets the night before to save on the morning panic, and had emailed the link from the course page so I could look at it on maps once I got there. Thankfully I left loads of time, getting a train that arrived at 8:17 am (with a backup of a train 10 mins later). The course page does warn that it’s hard to find, and it turned out I went a different (slightly longer) way than it described. I was running along a residential street and saw the sign to the park, so followed the path instead of the map for the last bit. As I reached the lower end of the field, I saw a couple of runners heading to the left, so I followed them and could see a few high-viz people so I knew I was in the right place- phew! I got there at 8:45 so I was glad I hadn’t got the later train.

Everyone collected by the finish area (the start and finish are in slightly different places)- there was a tarp to put any belongings on, so I left my jumper there. There weren’t many people and I ended up chatting to a girl in a Finsbury Park apricot top, and her mum, who’s come along to walk the first lap.

At 9:00 everyone walked back along the edge of the field (back the way I had come) to the start. I was looking for the amazing views that were promised, but all I could see were the houses in the estate.

I didn’t actually walk on the first lap but my running was so slow it looks like I did!

However, I needn’t have worried as look at that elevation- we were going up for some fantastic views. They warned the first timers that it’s two laps, and behind the first hill that you could see, was another, even bigger hill, so we should pace ourselves. I was going along for the views and had no illusions about any sort of good time.

It was a small group (32 runners) that set off, and even as I ran past the finish area (it’s two and a bit laps) I was very near the back.

The course started by the bottom of the field, running along to the finish, before turning and running up along the field- it was as I got to the end of this that I could see the hill that they meant! It was steep and long.

However, when you got to the top of the hill you were rewarded with the most amazing views-you could see all the way down to the sea, including the big tower (i360 thing).

Then you ran down where we had started, and then did that all again. I had worn my trail shoes (again it was advised on the course page) and I was glad I had as the ground was uneven and I found it hard to run fast on the downhill. On the second lap I could see a group of people ahead of me all walking, so I thought I’d catch them up, but then as the hill carried on I ended up walking too!

The marshals were fantastic, and lots of people were waiting and chatting by the finish area. I got one of my highest token numbers (28) but my slowest time (minus tail-walking)- 36:04- that shows you how tough it was as it was 5 mins slower than my Tring time from a few weeks ago- also a hilly route.

The lady I had been chatting to offered me a lift back to the station, which was so kind of her, and on the walk back to their car we came the way described- there were even parkrun arrows on the street to show how to get to the start.

I met Andy in Cafe Coho for pancakes and then we spent a lovely day walking around Brighton (35,000 steps in total!) but I’ll get to that another day.

So, another Brighton parkrun done, and I must agree that this is a pretty  special one. Yes, it’s tough and hilly, but who cares about times when you have amazing views like that?

A week in the Dordogne

The week leading up to the August Bank holiday was spent in the Dordogne, in France. Although a small bit of it didn’t go quite to plan, it was a lovely relaxing week. Andy had the Friday afternoon off work so we drove to the tunnel (got on an hour earlier which is always good) and then after a quick stop in the supermarket for food, had around a 4 hour drive to our travel lodge style hotel. The next morning we were up early and had around a 7 hour drive to get to our cottage. Lots of podcasts were listened to (Judge John Hodgman is my favourite at the moment).

The cottage gardens and surrounding countryside

Our cottage was gorgeous- it was an old barn that had been renovated by an English couple – and was set in really pretty countryside full of fields of sunflowers and plum orchards. We would head out for a walk in the evening once it was cooler, and even saw some deer one evening by a little reservoir.

I’d packed some running kit with me, aiming to run early in the mornings before it got too hot. However on the first evening whilst out on a walk, I stupidly decided to jump over a ditch (we were walking along the roads which were very quiet, but we saw a path on the other side of the ditch)- anyway, as I landed I jarred my hip/leg, which then made the muscle seize up. For the rest of that evening I couldn’t even sit on a chair as my leg wouldn’t bend at all- that put my running plans back a bit!

On the Sunday we headed to a nearby town as they had a famous Sunday market- the town was bustling and I knew moving would help my leg (so it would not get more stiff) but we didn’t stay too long. We did find a local bakery that sold chocolate almond croissants (the king of the croissant) so that was a good addition to breakfast.

It was hot hot hot until the Friday!

The hammock in the shade, breakfast of fresh fruit + croissant, and the decking area (had to move each time the shadows moved as it was way too hot to be in direct sunlight)

On Monday after chilling out in the morning (lots of reading in the shade) we drove to some gardens on the edge of a cliff (this was fun because I could go downstairs and slopes fine, but as I could not bend my leg in front of me, I had to go up stairs one at a time, and the gardens were at the top of cliff-side stairs). There were beautiful views across the valley to the river and beyond so it was worth it.

They had a really cool beehive with a sort of chimney entrance- apparently bees need free space around the hive so they can fly directly into it, and so the chimney on the top of the hive meant that no people were in the flight path of the bees. It had little flaps you could open and see the various parts of the inner workings which was very interesting too.

There were some amazing clouds in the evening when we headed out for a walk.

On the Tuesday we headed to a nearby town, Bergerac, and had a lovely wander around the streets as well as a walk by the river.

The Wednesday saw us head further afield, visiting some more cliff-side gardens (and as it was the hottest day it was great to find a trail through woodland with lots of paintings hidden in the forest to admire), wandering around a couple of little towns and spending the afternoon at a chateaux.

And then hooray!

On the Thursday my leg felt good enough to try a short run-  I could walk up stairs normally and it seemed to be bending OK so I did a very gentle not-quite-3 miles and all was good. Although I did have a panic when I got back to the cottage as there was a dog half way down the drive (something that looked like a husky- big and wolf-like)- I usually stop if I come across a dog, but there was no-one around so it wasn’t like the owner would call it. I slowed down a bit and kept looking back- it walked around the corner and watched me- my hands were shaking a lot and it took a while for me to unlock the door but it didn’t chase me thankfully. After yet more reading in the shade (I managed to read two and a half books in the week we were away) we went to another local medieval town in the afternoon for another wander.

On Friday we got up early to see some caves- there are loads of caves in this part of France, some with amazing rock formations and some with prehistoric paintings. I was very keen to see some paintings, and after a bit of research (some of the caves are replicas because the originals were being damaged by light/ algae or something) we found one, Rouffignac, but there were only a limited amount of tickets per day, as you were shown around by a guide in a little train, so we wanted to be there first thing.

It was much cooler on the Friday so the hour drive wasn’t too bad. We got there at about 8.40am, along with a group of other early birds. I had read stories of people turning up at 10.30 and being given a 4.30pm time slot which we really didn’t want, but we got on the first train. You were not allowed to take photos inside the caves, and although the guide spoke French (some would speak English but it was down to the luck of the draw) you could use a little tablet with information on it. The paintings were fascinating to see, and I was really pleased we had made the effort to get over there.

As it was more overcast, I’d decided to have a run in the afternoon, but as we went out for a walk after lunch it got very hot indeed, so I left it until a bit later in the day. A 4 mile run done (with only a tiny scare when seeing a dog sat at the end of a driveway) and I was pretty pleased with that. I was also excited to get an email from my yoga teacher (Josie) who had put a short video on you tube– I followed it when I got back from my run (and several times since)- it’s only 15 mins long but I have appreciated following along as I just can’t remember all the poses on my own.

On the Saturday we checked out and drove to Orleans for an overnight stop en route to the tunnel. The city was a great place to stop, right on the river with lots of little streets to wander around. Then on Sunday it was another long drive to the tunnel and home (in the pouring rain I might add).

Did you have a good Bank Holiday weekend?

Tring parkrun round 2, tea and tidying the garden

*For some reason some of the photos are upside down in this- no idea why and I will have a go at sorting them out! Sorry!

Tring parkrun was the 10th parkrun venue that I visited, not long after discovering the joys of parkrun tourism and around the time that I decided to try and run all of the parkruns in Hertfordshire.  We are so lucky in Herts that we have so many stunning and varied courses but Tring was always mentioned when we spoke to locals because of the amazing views. It is right by the Chiltern hills and although it’s a hilly one, the views were meant to be worth the effort. I went with my dad in October 2016, and it was a super foggy day, so although we loved the route, we didn’t get the sweeping dramatic views so we always said we would go back. This summer I was only around for a couple of weekends, and as Dad been cycling across The Ridgeway ( a trail crossing the Chilterns) for a few days we decided to keep with the theme of the Chilterns and head to Tring on the 11th August. Thankfully the weather in August had no fog in store for us!

The course had changed a tiny bit since we were last there- starting on the field next to the avenue of trees (last time we ran through the avenue of trees at the start) but on the whole it was the same- run up a hill, run into some woods and keep going up, then go up a bit more, run along the ridge and enjoy the views, run down, across some fields and near the finish before a little bit more of an uphill.

My brother came too, and the three of us started together but within a few metres Dad was heading off ahead so we all ended up being spread out. It was very enjoyable- breath taking hills and breathtaking scenery. I did walk up a few of the steepest bits as I felt I was sort of comedy running and really going more slowly.

I finished slightly slower than my last visit, but with the heat that wasn’t a surprise, and the point was to enjoy it (which I did).

After we finished it was back home for Mum’s pancakes- always a fab start to the weekend. I walked into town in the afternoon and one of my knees was pretty sore- I think the steep downhills had taken their toll.

The holidays have been going by so fast- I’ve been enjoying running first thing in the morning, and going out on lots of walks. I spotted loads of blackberries on a run, so returned there on a walk later armed with some bags to collect them- I should have also taken something to wipe my hands with as I had very sticky hands for the walk home!

I finally signed up to the Bird and Blend (formerly Bluebird Tea co- I keep forgetting they have changed their name) tea club where you get a small selection of teas each month.

This month the theme was honey, but they were all vegan teas (I signed up to the veggie/vegan one anyway, although I am sure they were sorting it out so that all of their teas were veggie- not containing cochineal and so on).

The three teas have all been delicious, but “Honey, I’m Comb” has to be my favourite- black tea with cacao nibs. I was also very excited to get some Red Velvet tea in the sales- they had sold out on the first day and I was too slow in ordering, but then it was back in stock so I left them a note on the confirm order page, and they replied in their shipping note which was a lovely touch.

I’m not opening it until I have finished the tea club teas though, otherwise the tea cupboard gets too confusing.

Time on my hands at home has meant that loads of jobs have been ticked off the list too- from going through all of my clothes and sorting out a bag for charity, tidying the utility room (I found things still wrapped in bubble wrap from when we moved house over 2 years ago!) and finding a few things at home to sell on ebay, it’s all been therapeutic. Tidying the garden is the most enjoyable one. We have been adding plants, and although the hot weather meant the ground was rock hard and impossible to dig or weed, a few days of rain sorted it and I’ve been out there plenty of times.

One problem we keep encountering is the vast amount of junk buried just below the surface of the soil- I was trying to plant a little blackcurrant bush and when I dug down I found this huge paving slab. We also have a mountain of lumps of concrete- some I dug out of the ground a while back, and some were just left in a pile behind the shed (from the people who lived here before us). My dad keeps doing tip runs for us as he has a big people carrier and can take the seats out. We had arranged one morning for him and mum to come over, have coffee and a walk in Panshanger park, and then load up the car. However, it was pelting with rain so we opted to stay inside and hope it would ease off. It slowed, but didn’t stop, so in the end we spent a good hour carting the blocks of concrete to the car. I didn’t take a “before” photo, but there were three layers of concrete lumps in the car before we put any of the other junk (wood with nails in it, an old rusty chiminea thing) on top. My arms were aching the next day, and poor Dad had to then unload it all at the tip when he got there. It made a huge difference, but Dad was a bit annoyed that he didn’t manage to clear it all, so when we saw them on the Bank holiday he told me he would be over at 2 the next day to clear the rest of it away.

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

(Top right at some of the lumps of concrete that I had previously dug out of the ground). I’d been on a run in the morning and then pottered around at home, and we then spent just under 2 hours loading yet more concrete lumps into the car. Some of them were too big to lift, so Dad hammered them into chunks. He took the rest of the big logs, and again the back of the car was completely full when he left. I am so annoyed that I didn’t do a before and after pic, because it has made a huge difference, and now there are only a few remaining lumps (plus an open bag of concrete which filled with rainwater and then went solid). More therapeutic activities anyway.

Which parkruns would you like to go back to the most? 

Have you signed up to any mail subscription services? Years ago I used to get a weekly Graze box but it seems like you can get their snacks in lots of shops now.