A revisit to Canons Park parkrun for Dad’s NENDY, and tea and parkrun chat

We were all set to head to Jersey Farm together, and then on Friday night Dad messaged to say that his NENDY was Canons Park, which he knew I’d been to last summer. I was very happy to go back as I really liked the route (laps around a park and through a lovely wooded area), and the community feel (including bring your own reusable cups and donate via a QR code to have tea and coffee at the end). I checked with a friend in my club (Mel, who had driven us last time) to see where to park (Canon’s Drive), and after I drove to Dad’s he drove the rest of the way. It only took around 25 minutes- lots of these north London parkruns are really not that far away at all.

The start by the folly/temple, finish token, mid run photo and of course purple pop up photo.

We missed the first timers welcome due to queuing for the toilets, but we knew it was laps (I remembered two but it turned out to be 3)- never mind- we knew we would just run until my watch said 3 miles, only after one lap I checked my watch and it turned out I had started it and then it had paused straight away. I started it as we began the second lap, and as there are no variations to each lap, just the final turn to the finish, you can get the idea. It’s mainly flat but a bit of an uphill section in the woods, which felt much steeper on the third lap! I’d packed my new parkrun hat (thanks Vinted, and thanks Branka for sending me the link- it’s from New Zealand and lovely and thin fabric so good for a rainy summer day) and it was drizzling a bit at the start so I kept it on and was glad of it.

As always we enjoyed running together, and as we got close to the finish I told Dad to sprint off so I could try and catch him- he shot off and I managed to finish in 28:41 which was a course pb- hooray! They had a photographer at the start area so we even got a few photos of us running together which is always a bonus. They seem to have lots of walkers there which I really like. In the wooded section it is fairly narrow and we had to keep left, but in the end only got lapped by one person, which was another indicator that we were going pretty fast.

After finishing we headed back to the sign to get the obligatory photos, and then walked back to the car as Mum was making us breakfast at home. So there we go, Dad’s NENDY ticked off! Next week we knew we’d be at Panshanger as it was Mel’s 200th (the same Mel) so it was good to get in some touring while we could.

Then onto more parkrun and tea related chat! On the Sunday I was volunteering at Birchwood and when I checked the rota I saw that Branka was also going to be volunteering. As mentioned last week, she had gone to Oxford and bought some of the store special for me (Oxford Comma) so she brought it along. One way to make junior parkrun even better is with Bird and Blend tea!

Happy when marshalling- even happier with tea!

While taking the photo of the tea, a person walked through the gap in the hedge (by my marshal point) and gave me a very funny look!

Do you keep an eye on your NENDY (nearest event not done yet)? I think mine is now Walthamstow, but Harrow which is close to Canons Park is also on the list, so could be visited soon.

parkwalking at Letchworth and enjoying the sunshine

After my weekend in Brighton, I was home for the following week, and had arranged to head up to Letchworth to parkwalk with Branka. It turned out that the High Sheriff was there too (after seeing her at St Albans a few weeks before)- she really is doing the rounds.

It was the most beautiful day, although it started off quite overcast and I only made the decision to wear my sunglasses at the last moment as I left the car.

After the briefing a lady sidled up to me and said rather apologetically that she might be walking too. We chatted for a bit and it turned out that she had not been to a parkrun since before the pandemic, so was feeling quite nervous. I reassured her that there was always a tail walker as well as the parkwalkers, and hopefully me telling her to take her time and just enjoy it made her feel a bit better. We didn’t see her as we walked but of course if we had have done then that would have been fine. I just hope she enjoyed it.

The Sheriff, scenes from the parkrun and my token

It is such a pretty route with views across the fields- it’s two laps which can feel harder if you are walking, but with the scenery and company it was enjoyable from start to finish. We had one incident with one of the front runners. We were walking on a narrower part of the course, and suddenly we heard this guy shouting “ladies, ladies”, he then basically ran into me and grabbed my shoulders, trying to get past, and then once he’d passed us shouted “I said ladies but none of you moved”- I was taken by surprise and couldn’t react quick enough to reply- had he said something helpful like “coming up on your left” then we would have moved over. We did try to be considerate, going single file through the field opening (but then why should a faster runner get priority over a walker? Maybe we were on for a walking pb?) and everyone else was very nice.

Standard purple sign photo (although we should have got one with the three of us) and a mid parkrun pic

The bottom photo above is one of my favourite parkrun photos- we were keeping over to the side as the runners finished their second lap, everyone looks so happy, the sunshine is filtering through the trees, it’s fab.

I absolutely love chatting about parkrun, and it was exciting to hear about Branka and Holly’s alphabet plans, how they try to wangle parkruns into other trips (eg wedding weekends) and chatting about places we have already visited because of parkrun. An hour well-spent for sure.

I’d given Branka some Brighton Rock Bird and Blend Tea (we’re now doing tea exchanges!) and I knew she had to head off pretty quickly as she was off to Oxford (handily with a B&B store there- more on that in another blog post) so I headed off to Vutie Beets for a solo parkfaff (a “me party” if you are a Muppet fan). I listened to With Me Now so it was very much parkrun-flavoured.

Pancakes, buns and my parkrun socks

Of course once I got home my parkrun socks had arrived – I feel like they purposely make sure their deliveries arrive on a Saturday so they are always too late to be worn to parkrun! Also with a random parkrun magazine that was about a year old.

Loving the sunshine at Panshanger park

We couldn’t go to a B&B store but we could go to Panshanger park and visit the Planted coffee van for an iced tea, which is the next best thing! It was a gorgeous day for a walk.

On Sunday our club had a run for the new and back to runners graduation, so we had a lovely run to the lakes (so many goslings!) and then breakfast after. I was very glad I’d put on suncream before I left in the morning. I always forget that in the summer although you have less layers to put on, getting ready still takes ages because of those sorts of things instead.

Another lovely parkrun visit- that was my 4th time at Letchworth, and my first this year which meant I visited another Herts parkrun for the Herts Vegan Runners most events table! I think I’m going to try and revisit a few of them this year as I really enjoyed the more local tourism for when I was chasing Queen of Herts. It’s just a shame there are not more Saturdays really!

Do you have local events that you like to revisit? I’m still working on my single-ton for Panshanger too.

A birthday Brighton weekend

If you have read this blog for a while, then you will know I love Brighton. Honestly, a weekend there is just fantastic and one of my favourite ways to spend a weekend. There are lots of parkruns to choose from, you can walk by the sea, there are fun little shops to explore in the lanes and of course amazing vegan food options.

My birthday is around the May Bank holiday weekend, so we often go away for the long weekend as a birthday treat (last year we went to Bakewell for the weekend), and this year we headed to Brighton. Andy had got the train down earlier in the afternoon so he could check in to our hotel (as it had a time limit for checking in), and I got the train after work and we met up for dinner, then had a sunset walk by the sea.

The run to parkrun by the sea/ the 5K app showing me my options

Of course Saturday morning was time for parkrun. We were staying in Kemp town, so I think I was actually half way between East Brighton and Hove Prom. Before this weekend, I’d been to Hove Prom 10 times, Preston Park 8 times, Brighton and Hove once, Bevendean Down once and East Brighton once. You can see my favourites (but they are also the easiest from the city centre as both are a jog/walk from most hotels). We planned to meet for breakfast after, and this was closer to Hove Prom, so the decision was made. It is probably my favourite of all the Brighton ones.

Photos with the selfie frame (lesser spotted selfie frames now… and of course the purple pop up- the beach huts in Hove make a great backdrop to photos too as they are so colourful.

It was the most beautiful morning, with blue skies and the sun glinting off the sea. It was also Star Wars Day (May the 4th) and I was very impressed to see a few people in outfits. Some people actually ran in full length costumes and masks which would have been tough in the heat. I admire their dedication. I have a Grogu Christmas jumper but there was no way I was running in that, I would have been overheating in no time.

Hove Prom is out and back twice, but you start in the middle, which sounds complicated, but basically you run out towards Hove, back along the front passing the start line, up to the Peace statue, then back along towards the start/finish line, and then repeat. It is very inclusive with a separate start for VI runners and wheelchair participants, it’s flat, well marshalled and really friendly. This time as well as people in Star Wars outfits there were a few hen dos – there were 762 runners in total which seems mad! I first went there in 2015 and there were 108 runners! They had pacers so I tried to keep up with the 29 minute pacer. I think if it had been less busy then the 28 minute pacer could have been an option but it takes a while for the crowd to thin out enough to get into your own pace. The pacer was great, turning around and cheering on the group frequently, and I was very happy with 28:38 as my time. I do really think they need a double funnel though- the funnel loops back and forth around 4 times I think and there were people trying to duck out, people milling about and not closing the gaps- the poor funnel managers were having a terrible time. It wasn’t as bad as Clapham Common but it does seem to be really exploding in size- the course can cope with big numbers but the funnel really can’t. I got there just as the funnel was filling, but a bit behind me people were stopping before the finish line as there wasn’t space in the funnel.

The most delicious pancakes from Nowhere Man (my new favourite Brighton breakfast spot), the funnel going on and on, up and down, finish token and another beach hut photo.

Andy messaged as I was in the funnel to say he had ordered breakfast so I couldn’t hang about for long- time to get scanned, get my top and head back into town. Those pancakes are delicious- Nowhere Man do vegan pancakes and also non-vegan ones. These were dark chocolate raspberry ones. They also serve Bird and Blend tea which of course makes me happy.

Children’s day parade, iced matcha and tea at breakfast

On the way back to the hotel after breakfast we stumbled across a children’s day parade- all the schools had decorated floats and were parading them down the main street. We watched for ages- they were all so brilliant. After finally having a shower and getting changed we then had our standard Brighton Saturday afternoon- a walk to Hove, a drink from Bird and Blend, a wander around the shops in the lanes, and a delicious Purezza dinner.

Sunset views, more tea and the talk at the Brighton festival

On Sunday we had tickets for a talk by Caroline Lucas, about her new book, as part of the Brighton Festival. It was a bit rainy that day but had stopped raining once we came out of the talk. We saw some more beautiful sunset views on our evening walk. Then on Monday I went for a run in the rain, picked up breakfast (The Flour Pot bakery do amazing vegan croissants too) and then headed to the train station via Bird and Blend for a final matcha. That was less fun as lots of trains were cancelled due to a reported landslip, but thankfully we got home, albeit rather later than planned.

A rainy morning run, and the matcha wall of dreams!

So, another pretty perfect weekend in Brighton.

Where do you like to head for a weekend away? Which parkruns do you like to revisit?

A new course at St Albans parkrun

St Albans parkrun is where I started parkrunning all those years ago, but since Panshanger, Ellenbrook Fields (sad face) and Jersey Farm started and they were all closer, I don’t tend to go back to St Albans much. The course has changed since I first started there, due to flooding but also the huge number of runners.

The first course was a lollipop with 3 laps (start at the car park and run out to the lake, 3 laps of the lake then back along the path to the start), but it got busy on the narrow paths as inevitably there was lots of lapping- we always got lapped by the people on their 3rd laps when we were on our 2nd. My first run there had 131 runners, and a year later there were 350. They had an off road course for when the lakes were flooded, which was a similar lollipop shape, but laps of an undulating field rather than flat laps of the lake. Then they changed the main course to incorporate one side of the lake.

Recently they’ve been trialling a new course for when the lake is flooded, around an old golf course, and I was quite intrigued by this so persuaded my dad to come along. We both needed a fairly local run, so this fit the bill nicely.

We just made it there on time, as it turned out my brother was also coming, but didn’t realise we were going to St Albans rather than Jersey Farm- we would walk to Jersey Farm and drive to St Albans, both taking maybe 10 minutes but you had to allow time to park and pay at St Albans. Anyway, when he turned up we decided to chance it and just about made it, paying for parking at 8:55! The start area is still close enough to the car park to make it there thankfully.

There was a bit of pomp and ceremony at the start, as initially named as the major of St Albans but was actually the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire (an ancient ceremonial role apparently…)- the theme was something to do with helping or sport, I couldn’t hear all the announcement, but she said she would be visiting all of the parkruns in Herts and had started at St Albans.

Anyway, we were soon off and running along the edge of the field, to the back of the park and then along the path. This was the familiar part of the course as it covered parts of previous parkrun courses. Once we crossed and got into the golf course bit it was all new to me.

I enjoyed it so much! As we ran the first loop we had views of the abbey and the park surrounding it. We ran through trees and then up a gentle slope (which reminded me of the South Oxhey slope) you could not see all the way to the top as there were trees in the way, and the course wound up gently. You could see people on the other side making their way back down, and I always enjoy those courses where you can see people on other points of the park.

Once you got to the top of the slope you headed back down, only after looping through some more trees we were treated to a short steep uphill section which was very muddy and slippery- I was glad of my trail shoes at that point. You then repeated the golf course loop and then went back to the main path, along the path, retracing your footsteps to go back to the finish.

The course had good variation with the flat sections in the park and the undulating section in the golf course, and with all the scenery changes there was lots to look at.

I ran with Dad, and after we finished we took a few photos and cheered my brother in. Lots of people were milling about on the basketball court- there is always a nice feel at St Albans as there is a cafe in the park as well as the Waffle House close by so people can parkfaff (although we usually head home as Mum will cook us breakfast).

It ended up being a parkrun themed weekend, as I marshalled at Birchwood juniors on the Sunday too (along with several OH ladies), and then persuaded Andy to head up to Letchworth together- we had lunch at Vutie Beets and brought home some buns.

Does your local parkrun have different routes?

Great Denham parkrun- completing Stay in Beds

If you have the 5k app (the purple one) then as well as keeping track of things like the alphabet challenge, you can also create your own challenges. A few members of my running club had started tracking the Bedfordshire parkruns, after completing all the parkruns in Herts, so I added it to my list of challenges. At that point I only had a couple left, Bedford and Great Denham, and visited Bedford last summer.

This April was finally the time for me to head there, as Dad fancied doing some tourism too. In fact my brother even joined us which was lovely, as he often plays football on Saturdays so then doesn’t do parkrun as much as he used to.

I was a little worried about the parking situation, as there is a car park right next to the start, but they ask parkrunners not to use it, as it is used for things like kids football matches, and instead they ask you to use a park and ride car park 1km away. We left a little later than I would have liked, but the traffic going up there was fine, and in fact the walk from the park and ride to the park didn’t take long at all (it was 0.6 miles according to Strava) so definitely a good option. We were a bit late for the first timers welcome, but at the main briefing they mentioned they are trying to get a junior parkrun agreed, but it wouldn’t be if the residents were upset with the parking arrangements, so it is important to adhere to their requests. (If you go to the parkrun page and look at the course map, you can expand the map and it opens google maps, you can then click on the green start pin and navigate towards it)

The course itself is two laps of the park, it’s very flat and all on paths. It was a beautiful day with blue skies, although there was quite a strong wind, which of course you never feel when it’s behind you, but as soon as you turn and run into it, it’s there!

Scenes of the route plus the pop up at the start.

I really enjoyed the route- the park was quite varied with grassland, a few wooded areas, some ponds, and at times you ran past a row of trees and could glimpse the river through them.

I ran with Dad and as usually chat and don’t look at watches while we run (he doesn’t have a GPS watch or anything, and I just press start and stop and that’s it) but he commented that we were going pretty quickly. I think he said more than me in the second lap. I don’t look at splits much but when cropping the route map it was pleasing to see a royal flush negative split (each mile quicker than the previous one), particularly as I felt I really slowed in the final section as we ran into the wind towards the finish line. My time was 28:23 so a fair bit quicker than I have been running recently.

The finish funnel bunting, obligatory token photo and purple pop up picture.

On that note, I loved their finish funnel! It reminded me of Clermont Waterfront, which has flags from around the world decorating their funnel. This one had bunting made from old high viz jackets- it looked so pretty fluttering in the wind.

Photos of my brother with me, and then Dad joined us. I was glad of my sunglasses as my eyes would not have been open for any of the pictures otherwise!

Time for some photos before we walked back to the car and drove home, as Mum was at home ready to cook us some breakfast.

New and old Vonoroi map! Before- that green triangle was Great Denham, and now it’s purple because I’ve been there.

The 5K app also had an update where you can now select Vonoroi when you look at the map of events. This was available if you use the google chrome extension- parkrun challenges- still the original way to track challenges. However even if you have chrome on your phone, it wouldn’t work, but now you can have the fun of looking at the map on your phone instead.

So, Stay in Beds complete, and here are the dates I visited first:

Bedford- 8th July 2023

Dunstable Downs- 2nd March 2019

Great Denham- 20th April 2024

Henlow Bridge Lakes- 27th November 2021

Luton Wardown- 4th September 2021

Houghton Hall- 27th January 2018

Millennium Country- 13th April 2019

Rushmere- 22nd September 2018

(Complete until of course another one starts in Beds…)

Have you been to any of all of these events? Are you as taken as I am with the Vonoroi map? Which challenges are you working on if any?