Sunday, 14 May 2017

Homewood parkrun (Ottershaw Memorial Fields)

I first visited Homewood parkrun when the event was based at its original venue, Homewood Park, in Chertsey. However, after only a few weeks at its original location, it was announced that the event would be permanently moving a mile down the road to a different park.

The blog for the original venue is here - blog7t: Homewood parkrun. By moving location, this venue became an oddity in my parkrunning record and as such became my 'Schrödinger's parkrun' - A parkrun that I had simultaneously visited AND not visited. It was time to open the box.

Despite moving to a new venue, the event has retained the name of its original park. I don't know if this has caused any confusion, but an update of the name would seem to fit in better with parkrun's event naming guidelines. Anyway, after finding a space in my parkrunning calendar, I headed over to check out the new venue, in Ottershaw.

ottershaw memorial fields

Ottershaw is a village in Runnymede district of Surrey. Although separate from its larger neighbour Chertsey, it still falls within the same postcode area. The village sits on what was originally heathland and over the years has been home to a number of small farms.

In the mid-19th century, the village began to be known by its current name which it took from the local country estate 'Ottershaw Park'. The owner of the estate at the time also gave the village one of its most notable landmarks, the Grade II listed, polychromatic style, 'Christ Church'.


The venue for this parkrun sits just to the north of the grounds of Ottershaw Park on the land formerly known as Potters Park or Potters Park Farm (at least, that's what I can make out from some old maps). A significant portion of the area is woodland but some of the land was formerly used as nurseries which supplied vegetables and flowers to the markets of London.

At some point between 1960 and 1973, the nurseries were developed into Ottershaw Memorial Fields and these are in memory of the people of Ottershaw who gave their lives during the second world war. If you look closely you'll find a couple of memorial plaques and a memorial garden. Also, the Ottershaw and Hamm Moor Cricket Club Pavilion is home to a memorial clock.

start and lap of field

The park consists of the main playing field which is primarily marked out for cricket but is sometimes changed to a football field, a tennis court, basketball court, bowls green, and children's playground. However, there is slightly more than meets the eye because the park extends into to adjacent woodland which includes Ether Hill.

We travelled over to the venue by car and had the option of parking in either of the park's two, free car parks. For anyone travelling by public transport, it's not quite so straight forward - the closest train stations are Chertsey and Addlestone which are both around 2 miles away from the venue. There are a couple of bus routes which stop within ten minutes of the venue, so they may be an option for some.

in the woods

Once in the park, there are toilets located adjacent to the car park next to the cricket pavilion. As the park consists mostly of a large open grass area, it is pretty easy to spot where the parkrun crowd are forming. The meeting point is on the grass in-between the two car parks and once the first timer's briefing has taken place (one of the best I've ever heard - delivered by Steve), the whole field gather for the main briefing. The run itself starts just next to the Fox Hills Road car park which is, unsurprisingly, adjacent to Fox Hills Road.

The course is made up of a partial clockwise lap of the playing fields, where the runners pass the bowls green and cricket pavilion on the eastern side of the park before the being sent off on an anti-clockwise three-lap roller coaster ride adjacent-to and through the woodland which covers and surrounds Ether Hill. Underfoot is a combination of grass and dirt (mud during the wetter seasons).

in the woods

It's not the ideal course for buggy running and I certainly wouldn't encourage less-confident or ill-prepared buggy runners to do so here. However, if you have a proper running buggy, are confident, and the occupant likes a bumpy ride then you'll get around the course - it won't be pretty, but it should be fun!

The first section of each lap is run on the grass adjacent to the woodland which has a very gentle incline leading into the woods themselves. Once inside the woods the ground underfoot changes to dirt paths which were pretty uneven, but manageable when I visited. There were plenty of arrows and marshals posted in the woods and the route was easy to follow.

in the woods

In the woods, the course undulates most of the way around. There is a notable incline early on each lap with one section being particularly steep which has been lovingly named 'Achilles Hill' - I imagine a fair percentage of the participants would be briefly reduced to a walk here. However it is fairly short and over quite quickly.

The woods are beautiful and the official course description says that there are wonderful views over the adjacent golf course, but I didn't get to see that because I was mostly looking down and trying to avoid the sheer number of tree roots lurking on the paths, just waiting for an innocent foot to grab hold of. I imagine that the risk of people tripping or twisting ankles here is fairly high, so if you are prone to face-planting, this might not be the best venue for you.

in the woods

I ran here in the early summer and everything was very dry and in these conditions road shoes would be ok. However, I wore my trail shoes and I was happy that this was the correct choice for me as the extra grip they gave through the woods was very welcome. If running here during the winter, I imagine it will take on the feel of a proper cross-country course bringing with it plenty of mud - trail shoes would be a must, but some people may even opt for cross-country spikes.

The second half of the lap features more tree roots than the first half, but has more of a downhill theme going on. At the end of each lap, the runners exit the woods and start the lap again. As the laps progress most people will either lap someone or be lapped themselves. With all the tree roots and some narrow paths it is important to listen to the marshals and keep an eye out for each other. With those points in mind, I would avoid wearing headphones here.

end of lap / exit woods

Once the three laps are complete, the runners emerge from the woods and head back around the playing field, past the pavilion and bowling green, before finally reaching the finish line which is adjacent to Fox Hills Road, but not quite back where it all started. Barcode scanning is taken care of right next to the finish line.

Anyone in desperate need of a post-run beverage can make use of the 'Eastwick Coffee Company' portable coffee van that will probably be parked up in the car park next to the bowling green. Those with a little more time or a need for a more substantial breakfast may choose to carry on to the Old School Cafe with the rest of the team.

back on the fields

With the run all done and dusted, I uploaded my GPS file of the course to Strava and you can view it here: Homewood parkrun 31 (Ottershaw Memorial Fields). The results for event #31 were processed a short while later and 115 people had taken part. I really enjoyed my run through the woods and I'd be interested to give it a go during the winter. A big thanks to all of the volunteers that made it possible and to my wife for making sure I had some extra photos for the blog.

Link: blog7t - The Surrey parkrun Venues

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