Monday 29 May 2017

Peacehaven parkrun

Just over a hundred years ago an entrepreneur named Charles Neville bought some land in the parish of Piddinghoe in East Sussex, and began to develop it into a town. This town was originally called 'New Anzac-on-Sea' and offered the opportunity for people to buy a fairly cheap plot of land and build on it themselves. In 1917 the town was renamed Peacehaven and by 1924 it was home to 3,000 people.

The town sits on the exact point where the Greenwich Prime Meridian passes through the south coast and this is marked by a 3.5m tall obelisk which was commissioned by Charles Neville and unveiled in 1936. Peacehaven is now home to around 14,000 people and although separate from it's neighbour Brighton, it forms part of the Brighton Kemptown parliamentary constituency.

peacehaven [photos: 7t]

There are a few links to TV and movies in the town - notably the scene at the end of Quadrophenia which was filmed atop the sea front cliffs and the scene in the very first Mr Bean TV show where he gets changed into his swimming trunks is filmed at the bottom of the cliffs.

In 2011 the 'Big Parks Project' was set up in order to improve recreation and leisure facilities using some land given to the town by Southern Water following the completion of the adjacent wastewater treatment works. The building has been cleverly blended into the landscape through the use of its green living roof. The roof covers 18,000m² and is one of the largest in Europe.

start [photos: dani]

After consultations with the local community it was established that residents wanted a place to play, walk, cycle and to meet their friends. Work on the new park began and on 15 April 2015 'Peacehaven Centenary Park' was officially opened by HRH The Duke of Gloucester.

The park borders the south downs national park and provides a gateway into the local countryside. It also features sports facilities, skate park, playground and a cafe called 'The Gateway'. On 20 May 2017 the park became home to Peacehaven parkrun - this is a free, weekly, 5km event that takes place every Saturday morning at 9am.

the course (east) [photos: official photographer / 7t]

We headed over to the park for Peacehaven parkrun's 2nd event. Free parking is available in the onsite car park, and if you are following road signs, look out for the brown ones with 'THE BIG PARK' and 'Centenary Park' on them. If travelling by train you'll need to head to Newhaven Town which is about 2 miles away and as I understand it, a number 12 bus will help you to complete your journey. Cyclists have two sets of bicycle racks to use at the venue - some in the car park and more outside the cafe.

The parkrun meeting point can be found just beyond the car park and if you need to use the toilet you will find the facilities next to the cafe - when we visited, the toilets were opened at about 8.45. The course consists of three anti-clockwise laps (not all identical) essentially using the perimetre of the park. Underfoot is a mixture of a pea shingle path and grass, and the terrain is gently undulating all the way around.

the course (north) [photos: official photographer / dani]

It all starts a stone's throw away from the cafe, and after the briefing the participants head off to the east for lap one - this is the longest of the three laps (1.8km) and features an extended section on grass at the most easterly end of the course. The second and third laps clock in at approximately 1.6km a piece which rounds it all up to a nice even 5km.

The park is fairly compact and you can almost see the entire course from the central grass area. Looking beyond the boundaries of the park you can see the rolling hills of the south downs, and they certainly provide a great backdrop to this event.

course (west) [photos: dani / 7t]

Anyway, after the opening eastbound section, the loop of the park see the runners heading back along the northern border of the park on a grassy section - I suspect that during the winter this could be on the muddy side, so shoe choice could prove to be a little tricky at that time of year - a light pair of trail shows might end up being quite useful here.

The final 700 metres of each lap has the runners back on the pea-shingle path taking in a long left-hand loop at the western end of the park. During this section, the runners pass the park's two brilliant playgrounds and then the brand new state-of-the-art skate park. The path then leads the runners back to the start point where subsequent laps start.

end of lap / end [photos: dani / 7t]

At the end of the third lap, the runners split off onto the grass outside the cafe and head for the finish funnel, collect a finish token and then have it scanned along with their personal barcode. During my visit the scanning took place right next to the finish line, and once that was done it was time to head straight over to the playgrounds where my daughter had been playing all morning.

After all that exercising and playing we would have had a drink and some breakfast in the venue's cafe, and while this one looked pretty decent, we had already made plans to head down the road into Brighton for some vegan fish and chips at 'The Loving Hut' at 'The Level' just like we had a few weeks earlier after our visit to Hove Promenade parkrun.

post-run playtime [photos: dani / 7t]

I recorded the run using my Garmin so if you want to see the course in detail please have a look at my GPS file on Strava: Peacehaven parkrun. While we were eating our lunch, my result came through and the full results page shows that 116 people had taken part in event number 2 which is a great number to be starting with. The venue is lovely and the course is challenging but still very runnable - a great balance and it's well worth swinging by sometime!

Link: Sussex parkrun venues

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