Saturday, 4 January 2014

Shorne Woods parkrun (event 42) (winter course)

Originally part of the Cobham Hall estate, the area of Shorne Woods is 288 acres of ancient woodland in Kent, near Gravesend. It was leased by Lord Darnley to a cement company and used for clay extraction from the 1930's until the 1970's. In 1987 it came under the ownership of Kent County Council, was turned into a country park and opened to the public.

pre-run briefing [photo: Jonathan Crowle]

On the 30th of March 2013, Shorne Woods parkrun held their inaugural event, and I have had it on my list of parkruns to visit ever since. I moved to Dartford in the summer of 2013 and, from a tourist-ing point of view, had been saving this venue for a rainy day. And that's exactly when I went... a rainy day!

moi [photo: Dawn Granger]

Shorne Wood Country Park shares a border with the A2 and is easily accessible from this road and is also not far from the M25 and Dartford crossing. There is a spacious car park, but you must bring some change to feed the machine. It currently costs £2.50 at weekends to park. I had an issue here because I fed the machine the required amount of money but despite hearing the cogs turning and the printer printing, no ticket came out for me to display in my window. I didn't have time to try to find someone to tell so I continued with the run - as far as I know I haven't been fined for not having a ticket.

the widest path [photo: me]

If you travelled by train, you'd be heading to Gravesend mainline train station which isn't really that close at all so I would have a plan for getting to the woods from the station before leaving home. Another option, which is one I plan to use when the weather is better, is to cycle using the shared use people-cycle lane which runs alongside the A2 between Dartford and Strood with Shorne Woods conveniently located in between the two. There are bicycle racks in the car park - they look like they've been here since the clay pit was first opened but they will do the intended job!

typical easy access path at shorne woods [photo: me]

There are toilets in the main visitors building/cafe. They are eco toilets that use rain water collected in a tank on top of the building to flush. From here it's just a short walk into the woods to the start area - there was a marshal on hand to point runners in the right direction. I wore my trail shoes for this run, but you could easily get around in standard road shoes. If you like to keep your road shoes clean then probably go for trail shoes in the winter.

there are many different waymarked routes through the woods [photo: me]

Being in the woods you might expect to find narrow trails and tree roots on this course. However, most of the run takes place on well maintained easy access paths throughout the central part of the woods. If you have come prepared for some serious off-road trail running, just wait until after the parkrun and head off further into the woods and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed!

moi again [photo: Dawn Granger]

During the winter, the organisers have switched from the usual route to the winter route (or 'b route') which avoids the areas that are most badly affected by the poor weather conditions. On paper, the b route actually looks a bit simpler to follow, but I haven't run the standard course so I will have to wait until the weather improves before writing any more about that.

a tight turn over a bridge followed by a fun twisty section [photo: me]

So the b course is three-and-bit laps and the course is mostly flat - not completely pancake flat, but not too far off. About three quarters of the lap is on the accessible paths which are solid underfoot but still quite splashy and muddy. The rest of the lap is slightly muddier and a little uneven and the are one or two tight corners and a couple of wooden bridges to cross. The parts that I found to be the most fun were the sections that had multiple twisty corners one after another - I'd come back just for these!

this was the worst of the mud, and it looks worse than it was [photo: me]

The finish area is a few hundred metres away from the start and is very clearly marked with cones, you just break away from the main loop to run the last few metres. It worked really well. On the day I visited there were 86 runners. After the run I headed off for one more very slow lap of the course with my companion for the day, Terry (aka @rencestar ) to take some photos of the course and to cool down before going back to the cafe to have a nice cup of tea and some fruit.

5k done [photo: Jonathan Crowle]

I finally got around to trying out my new Miles Stronger running top - they are a small company that only sell products that are made in Britain. This particular top comes with your personal barcode printed on the arm. I've written a separate post about it, if you're interested you can read about it here.

a little bit of mud sprayed up the back (it looked worse in real life!) [photo: terry/rencestar]

I really enjoyed this one. I have a feeling that I'll be making it a regular venue once I exhaust all of the reasonably reachable touring venues. Even before that happens, I want to come back to run the b course again because I think I was tired from the last few days of running and wasn't able to run as well as I had hoped. As always, thanks to the volunteers and an extra special thanks to the photographers that were kind enough to let me use their photos on the blog. I suspect I'll see you all again soon.

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