Friday 1 January 2016

Barclay parkrun

In Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, there was once a privately owned house and grounds called High Leigh Estate. It was the home to a Mr Robert Barclay from 1871 until his death in 1921. During his time in residence, he and his family had made a number of charitable contributions to the local community including the land at 'Lowfields' for the Hoddesdon Cricket Club and Hoddesdon Football Club. The family also commissioned an ornamental lake to be dug within the estate in order to provide much needed work to the men of Hoddesdon.

barclay park [photo:7t]

A few years after Robert Barclay's death, and in celebration of King George V's silver jubilee, the family donated a 7.4 hectare area of the estate to the people of Hoddesdon for the creation of a public park. This new park was fittingly named Barclay Park and was officially opened on 12 May 1937. It sits on a gently undulating piece of land and features open grass areas as well as landscaped outcrops of trees.

barclay park [photo:7t]

On 6 June 2015 Barclay parkrun became part of the parkrun family and at the time of writing has an average attendance of 52.3 people per event. I visited on New Years Day 2016 as part of my New Years Day parkrun double with Hatfield Forest parkrun [Link: my Hatfield Forest parkrun blog]. I think I was the only person to do this double.

a bit of pre-run mingling [photo:7t]

Participants arriving by car are encouraged to park in the free car park at Broxbourne Civic Hall, just off Cock Lane. There are some spaces on Park View but the majority of road space around the park is marked with yellow lines. I followed the official advice and parked in the suggested car park, but had I driven to Park View I would have found a space.

early on in the lap (dropping downhill) [photo: 7t]

Broxbourne station is the closest you'll get to the venue by train. It is around a mile from the park so is a perfect distance to get those legs warmed up before the run. I didn't see any cycle racks in the park, but there are always some railings or a bench to be found if required - all of the cyclists I saw had left their bikes lying on the grass near the start area.

a glimpse of the lake [photo:7t]

Once inside the park, you'll find some toilets tucked away next to the football/cricket club. Be careful in the gents though - the toilet door wedged shut so tight that I couldn't open it to get back out - fortunately I managed to hook my foot under the door to prize it open. The official webpage suggests that the meeting point is at the cricket/football club, but when I visited all of the runners and volunteers had assembled next to the start area, so if in doubt I would head to this point of the park. [edit: the venue now has a 'b course' with a different start point so try to head for the cricket/football club as advised on their webpage just in case they have to switch courses at the last minute].

a couple of happy parkrun tourists [photo:7t]

This parkrun takes place over three-and-a-bit anti-clockwise laps. It's part-tarmac-paths, part-grass, part-mud and it undulates gently throughout. The start on grass sees the runners heading slightly uphill until they reach a narrow tarmac path. These narrow paths are a feature of this park, so if you are going for a time I would recommend making sure that you are not out of position by the time you  reach this point otherwise you could have trouble filtering through.

the muddiest section [photo:7t]

As they follow the path around, there is a fairly fast downhill section and at one point a very tight turn. Another turn onto some very slippery grass (now mud) brings the runners out near the aforementioned lake. Almost a full lap of the lake later, the anti-clockwise loop continues. There is now a section that was very muddy and slippery when I visited - great fun but you really need to watch your step along here.

a short climb on grass [photo:7t]

After cutting through a small car park at the southern-most tip of the park, the runners return to grass and head slightly uphill again as they pass the children's playground. They re-join the path and continue to climb gently until it flattens out, then dips, then rises. Again the path remains quite narrow so it's worth keeping an eye out for other park users and take to the grass to let them pass if necessary. This path weaves around and the lap is complete.

the narrow path weaving around [photo:7t]

At the end of the third and final lap, the runners will see a long line of small cones marking the way to the finish funnel on the grass (in a slightly different location to the start). In line with most other venues, the barcode scanning takes place right next to the finish line. Something that has really stuck with me about this venue is the very vocal support from spectators and volunteers alike. It almost felt a little bit like being at a cross-country race.

more path (towards the end of the lap) [photo:7t]

Another couple of stand-out things were the lovely conversation I had with one of the marshals shortly after arriving, chatting to a lovely lady from Panshanger parkrun [my Panshanger parkrun blog is here] as we made out way around the second lap of the course. And I had my first sighting of a fellow Cow Cowl wearer and his son (the cow cowl lets fellow uber-tourists identify each other). We spent quite a bit of time chatting and also ran our last lap together, which was great fun.

finish [photo:7t]

I ran here at event 31 and really enjoyed it. Three laps around the outside of a park can be a recipe for a dull run, but this is not the case here. The undulations and the challenge of negotiating the muddy sections really make this a huge amount of fun and it's also a pretty decent looking park too. For anyone interested in seeing the course in more detail, please feel free to have a look at my GPS readiings on Strava [my Barclay parkrun data on Strava].

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