Sunday 12 April 2015

Lesnes Abbey Woods junior parkrun 1

In the north-west corner of the London Borough of Bexley lies a 6.3 hectare area of woodland called Lesnes Abbey Woods. It is an area rich in geological history and fossils, including shark teeth, are regularly found. Part of the woods have been declared a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

pre-run briefing [photo: 7t]

At the northern border of the woods lies the ruins of Lesnes Abbey which was founded by Richard de Luci, Chief Justicar of England, in 1178. The Abbot of the Abbey was an important local landlord. However, the Abbey's chronic financial difficulties eventually lead to it being closed in 1525 under the dissolution of monasteries Act.

warm-up session [photo: brian crane]

The majority of the buildings were pulled down and some of the stone was used in the construction of the nearby Hall Place.

After this time the Abbey was effectively lost and the land was used for farming. In recent times the remains of the Abbey have been uncovered and restored making this a very picturesque and pleasant space to come and wander around. At times it's hard to believe that you're standing in the middle of suburban South East London.

the start line of the first lesnes abbey woods junior parkrun [photo: 7t]

On 12 April 2015 Lesnes Abbey Woods junior parkrun was welcomed into the parkrun family. It was at 8.05am on the day that Matilda decided that she wanted to run, so we had a little panic and headed over to the venue for the 9am start.

Free car parking is available on most of the roads around the venue - the best parking spot is on Abbey Road (B213) just near the footbridge, which is right next to the start-finish area. The nearest train station is Abbey Wood which is only a few minutes walk from the venue.

out on the course [photo: dani]

Unfortunately there are currently no toilet or cafe facilities at the venue. There are plans via the Lesnes Abbey Woods Enhancement Project to build an 'education and community hub' which should address the lack of facilities here. Until then it'll be a case of making do. There are some picnic benches where the runners, parents and volunteers meet.

Junior parkrun start times vary between venues so please always check the individual event's website. As I mentioned earlier, this venue's run starts at 9am.

parkrun [photo: 7t]

We arrived with about 15 minutes to spare which was great as we could mingle with the volunteers and have a look around the remains of the Abbey where there is a Mulberry tree that is said to have been planted by King James I. It's also worth checking out the view across to Docklands where the iconic Canary Wharf skyline can be seen in the distance.

the remains of lesnes abbey [photo: 7t]

The run briefing was expertly delivered by Mel (event director at Bexley parkrun) who has been instrumental in putting together a team of run directors and core volunteers over the last few months.

Once suitably briefed the 20 junior runners were given a thorough warm-up and then headed to the start line.

hi five, marshal! [photo: dani]

The 2 kilometre run is made up of three twisty laps around the remains of the Abbey and the formal garden area. It is gently undulating (although little legs may regard it as hilly) and is run on a combination of tarmac paths, grass and dirt footpaths.

It really is a fantastic little route.

bringing it home [photo: brian crane]

Matilda took her Mum with her on lap 1 and I joined in for laps 2 and 3 where we had at a pit stop to remove a small stone from inside her shoe. Being one of the smaller runners, she did start to struggle mentally with the three laps because it's difficult for her to watch other children finishing while she still has a lap to go.

Plus it's also worth considering that to a four-year-old three laps seems like further to run than the two laps she is used to at Gravesend junior parkrun. Still the encouragement from the volunteers (especially Richey and Angela) made all the difference.

collecting her finishing position token [photo: dani]

Once she got going on lap three and could sense the finish, she managed to get back into her stride. After 22 minutes and 10 seconds she crossed the finish line and in the process entered the junior parkrun half-marathon club (11 runs). She had a big hug with Mummy before getting in the queue to get her barcode scanned by the event director, Olalekan.

barcode scanning [photo: dani]

With all the runners accounted for the kit was packed away and everyone headed off. Apart from me and Richey - we decided that it would be rude to be standing at a parkrun venue and not have a little freedom run, so we got straight onto that.

parkrun [photo: dani]

Looking in more detail at the LAW Enhancement Project you can see all the great plans that have been drawn up for this venue and it is certainly a great place to spend a little longer exploring after the parkrun. There's a recreation area that includes a fair-sized playground. There is a special area that permits digging for fossils and there is an actual fossil bed which looks amazing. There are wildflower meadows, ponds and orienteering trails to explore.

Overall it is another great addition to the growing selection of junior parkrun venues on offer and one that I think we'll come back to many times in the future.

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