Sunday 26 June 2016

Cranleigh parkrun

Please note: The park has been completely redesigned and the course has changed since my visit. I hope to revisit at some point in 2024.

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Cranleigh is a large village in Surrey which has a population of just over 11,000 people. It is thought that the name came from the two Old English words 'Cran' (meaning Crane) and Leoh which combined essentially mean 'a clearing in a wood which is visited by Cranes'.

There are large Crane breeding grounds at Vachery Pond (known locally as Vachery) so that all ties together quite nicely. The village (along with twelve others) lays claim to the being the largest village in England.


To the south of the village you'll find Knowle House which was formerly the centre piece of a small estate called Knowle. This is now a care home but was formerly a private house owned by Bruce Mckenzie - a South African man who was a politician in Kenya eventually becoming confidant of Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta and had close links to leaders all across the world. Bruce Mckenzie was assassinated in 1978 when the small plane he was travelling on was destroyed over by a bomb whilst flying over Uganda.

In 2013 Cranleigh council exchanged some land with a local businessman for the building of a new hospital. As part of the deal the land adjacent to Knowle House was gifted to Cranleigh Parish Council and became a sports field called 'The Bruce Mckenzie Memorial Field'.

run briefing / start

On 4 Oct 2014 the sports field and the adjacent fields became home to Cranleigh parkrun. Interestingly, when I visited I heard word that some of these fields are under threat of development which could jeopardise the future of this parkrun venue.

So I turned up and parked in the free, on-site car park at the Bruce Mckenzie Memorial Field. The car park is pretty small so if it is full the official advice is to park across the road in the Snoxhall Fields car park which is also free-of-charge. Failing that there are a few other car parks in the centre of the village but you'll have to pay to use those. As far as non-car travel is concerned, it's not ideal. There used to be a train station in Cranleigh but this was closed in 1965. The closest train station is now Guildford and the onward journey can be completed in 25 minutes by bus (53 or 63).

through the long grass

With the exception of the car park, there are no facilities at all at the sports field so if you need the toilet you'll need to go elsewhere.

The official parkrun page suggests that runners use the toilets in the nearby leisure centre but it is worth noting that the toilets are on the other side of the entry barriers and I felt a little nervous asking to go through. Fortunately there is a public toilet block a few metres away from the leisure centre so I nipped in there.

the hill

As mentioned above, the run itself takes place on the Bruce Mckenzie Memorial Fields and also uses the adjacent fields. It is a two-lap course and underfoot is entirely grass and dirt with the exception of a few footsteps at the end of the first lap where the course briefly enters a coned off section of the car park. The profile is best described as a combination of flat and mildly undulating with the addition of a hill to climb halfway around each lap.

On more than one occasion I have heard/read the route described as 'convoluted' and while this might sound a little harsh, it does actually sum it up quite nicely (in a good way). I suppose technically it's only the second half of each lap that can be described in this way.

other side of the hill

The first half of each lap is quite straightforward and follows the natural paths in a natural way. I'd like to give a special mention to the long grass that hugs the footpath at the 500 metre (and again at 3.1km) point - I found each knee-high blade of grass whipped my shins as I passed through and although there was no long-lasting damage, my legs were pretty tender from it straight after the run.

Also in the non-convoluted first-half of the course is the hill. It's a gentle slog uphill for about 200 metres or so. It levels out for a bit where you can enjoy the view across the Surrey Hills (it's worth putting in the effort to glance sideways during the way up) and then sends you back down via a pretty steep downhill. The really steep part doesn't last for too long but it's worth being aware of it beforehand.

the twisty sections

It's after this point where the convoluted part starts and involves quite a lot of weaving around the fields which is great fun for people like me that love twists and turns.

Another thing worth noting is that as you near the end of each lap (at 1.8km and again at 4.4km) there is a small bench on the other side of a blind bend which effectively sits right on the natural running line - there is a path next to it but it would be easy to crash into the bench if you were in full flight and not paying attention. The final section of each lap is on the Bruce Mckenzie Playing Fields where after a bit more weaving around the finish line is reached.

the final stretch

As I've mentioned, underfoot is grass and dirt paths, and as it was summer I wore my light trail shoes. I visited this venue on 25 June 2016 for event 92 and there were a few slightly splashy sections which lead to me finishing the run with wet feet. I was glad that I'd brought a change of socks and shoes so I'd advise doing that. In the winter I suspect this course is likely to be a mud-bath so it'll be a case of full trail shoes or even spikes.

For the full course GPS details you can see my data on Strava: Cranleigh parkrun 92


The venue had been a delight to visit - I found everyone to be really nice and the atmosphere felt friendly and relaxed. I didn't join the team for post-run coffee but I did have a good chat to some of the volunteers and some fellow parkrun tourists which was very nice. I also managed to bag myself a piece of chocolate brownie after the run which rounded a great morning off nicely.

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