Reigate Priory is a grade 1 listed building which was originally founded in the early 13th century and converted to a mansion in tudor times. The building is home to Reigate Priory Museum and Reigate Priory School. However the museum is currently closed for refurbishments.
Of course, I was here for the 65 acres of open parkland that surrounds the building. The parkland contains sports fields, a woodland area, a pond, formal gardens, skate park, tennis courts, croquet (crockwet) lawn, a children's playground, and a pet cemetery. You'll also find the Armada Beacon in the park, which was erected to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Armada.
|a bit of history
For parkrunners arriving by vehicle, there are a few options - the official car park for the park (£1.20 for up to an hour, £1.90 for up to 2 hours) is just off Bell Street, there's also a large Morrisons car park that is adjacent to the park, this has lots of signs up notifying drivers that there's a two hour limit and that the car park is only for customers. Reigate and Banstead Council advise that anyone planning to visit the park for over three hours use Bancroft Road multi-storey car park.
For those travelling by train, Reigate station is the place to head for and it's less than a kilometre away from the venue, so very easily walkable or warm-up joggable. Lastly, the cyclists - I haven't seen this many cycle racks for a long time. There are about 15 bicycle racks near the cafe / start/finish area, just adjacent to the playground. There are an additional 19 bicycle racks in the Bell Road car park and apparently some more in the Morrisons car park.
The meeting point for the run is just outside the circular, ultra-modern (and very shiny) park cafe, which is also used as the post-run social venue. If you can find which segment of the design is the door, you'll be able to use the toilets inside, which are well presented, clean and painted in a shocking pink. The run takes place almost exclusively on grass and dirt trails, which can be quite uneven underfoot at times - with this in mind, I wore my trail shoes. In addition there is a short section on a man-made path, but if you were wearing spikes you could stay on the grass to the side. The southern half of the park is woodland and contains some fun roller-coaster-style undulations to play on.
|the course is mostly run on grass
The run itself starts right next to the playground and takes place over a two lap course with a little bit extra to reach the start and finish areas (official course page). From the start, runners head north with the playground on their right, before crossing a man-made path and following the line of trees past the tennis courts and skate park.
|the short section of path next to the pond
At the very end of the trees, the course does an almost-180-degree turn and the runners start to head south towards Priory Pond via a short up-and-over through a small cluster of trees. At the pond, the runners join the man-made path and follow it in a clockwise direction as it meanders around approximately a third of the pond before entering the wooded area, swinging left and up a short, steep incline.
|the forest trail
Now with a dirt trail path underfoot, the runners head east along the roller-coaster path through the trees. The up sections take you higher than the downs give back and at the end of the trail the runners have reached the highest part of the course. Here, the course does another almost-180-degree turn (watch out for the tree roots!) and with grass underfoot once again, the runners head back towards the pond, passing the Armada Beacon on the way. Just before reaching the pond, the course has a couple of right-hand turns before taking the runners along the grass adjacent to the main tree-lined avenue that leads back towards the playground.
|a fast down and then back up the other side (rollercoaster)
At the end of the avenue, the runners turn left and repeat the lap. At the the end of the second lap, the runners turn right, run back past the start line, left at the end of the playground and finally past the finish line. Then they collect ye ol' finishing position token and head off to have it scanned by one of the wonderful volunteers that will most likely be sat under the tree just after the finish area. If you'd like to check the hill profile, please feel free to have a look at my gps data from the run.
From the very second week (the first doesn't count), this run has been very well attended, with well over 150 runners on each occasion. I ran at event number 4 and there were 182 runners. It is a very nice park which seems to be quite heavily used for different sports activities. There are also quite a lot of dog walkers and I did have a little incident on lap one where a dog got a bit too excited around me - After the run I noticed that my shin was sore, looked down and saw that I was bleeding slightly. It's no more than a scratch but I can only assume this happened during the dog incident.
|the finish area and volunteer scanners under the scanning tree
I really enjoyed running this course. Yes it was hard work, but you can't beat a bit of rollercoaster style trail running first thing on a Saturday morning! As far as the #7weeksofparkrun challenge goes, this was week 3 and provided me with my first 'r', my third county, and my third sub-20 (19.41) finishing time.