Saturday 17 February 2018

Linford Wood parkrun

I last visited the New Town of Milton Keynes, which forms part of the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire, back in 2014 when I ran at Milton Keynes parkrun (my blog). In the time since my visit, attendance numbers had began to creep up into the 500's (occasionally into the 600's), and the town was really in need of a second venue. In July 2016 that second venue went live and its name is Linford Wood parkrun.

linford wood (parkrun)

Finally in February 2018 I got around to visiting the event which, true to its name, takes place in Linford Wood. I drove and parked on Foxhunter Drive which is adjacent to the start line. There is also an official car park located a short distance away off of Breckland Road. Had I been local and cycled, I would have used the bike racks outside the venue's post-run breakfast venue, Ora Cafe, which is in sight of the finish line.

If I had travelled by train I would have alighted at Milton Keynes Central train station which is just over 2 miles away and covered the rest of the journey on foot as a warm-up jog, but there are also bus services that will help you complete the journey - I'd advise checking these independently as they may be quite infrequent. For the record, there are no toilet facilities here - actually there is one in the cafe but it is only for customer use and I believe only post-run. As I had been driving for 1.5 hours, I decided to have a quick pit-stop at a local McDonalds en-route.

the opening stretch

Linford Wood covers an area of 97.1 acres and is the oldest remaining woodland within Milton Keynes. Eighty percent of the area has been continuously wooded for at least 700 years and this gives it Ancient Woodland status (I visited a parkrun in ancient woodland the previous week as well), the other twenty percent are trees that have been planted at later dates. The mature trees in the wood are predominately Ash (60%) and Oak (31%). During the spring, 'swathes of Bluebells' appear, creating a beautiful sight.

It would have been part of the Manor of Great Linford and in 1284 was enclosed by Baron Ralph Von Pippard as a deer park (for hunting) and for pig pannage (releasing domestic pigs into a wood in order for them to forage for acorns, nuts etc..). At one time the wood would have been connected to the village of Great Linford (and the Manor House) by a tree-lined lane.


When Milton Keynes was designated a New Town in 1967 the wood was retained as a haven for people and for wildlife. It sits in its own Linford Wood grid square, which also features a few office and industrial units. It is still home to deer and many other species of wildlife including bats, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The latter two finding homes in and around the wood's seven ponds. Pathways were laid in the early 1970's to give the local community good access and many of these are still in use today.

Upon arriving in the woods, the meeting point and start area was very easy to find as it was visible from my parking spot on Foxhunter Drive. The main run briefing takes place next to Keeper's Cottage Pond and the participants then move over to the start area which is in the north-east corner of the woods. The 5 kilometre run takes place over one single lap which covers a large part of the woods and some adjacent areas.

a made a new friend during the run

Underfoot is 100% hard surfaces (tarmac or similar) so road shoes are the way to go all year around, and the course profile is basically flat with the exception of the occasional underpass slopes which are all encountered during the first 2.5km of the run. The average attendance is about 180, but be warned that if Milton Keynes parkrun cancels, this is likely to jump up to around 500.

From the start, the participants head in a southerly direction along the eastern border of the woods. In fact the first half of the run is exclusively run on the Milton Keynes Redway System (Redways) which are a network of shared use pedestrian/cyclist footpaths. The redway name has also found its way into the local running community, with Redway Runners being the name of one of the local running clubs - very well represented I must add.

stanton wood and back into linford wood

At 800 metres into the run, the course leaves Linford Wood and enters the residential grid square of Conniburrow via the first of four underpasses that are part of the route. After following the Redway through the first three of these underpasses (via the adjacent grid square of Bradwell Common), the course returns to greener pastures as it follows the redway along the border of Heelands Sports Field and Stanton Wood - this wood, which is not ancient woodland, used to be contiguous with Linford Wood, but the main road now separates the two.

Once through the final footpass, the second half of the run takes place wholly within Linford Wood. The paths here are a little narrower than the redways, but as the field would have thinned out considerably, it doesn't cause a problem. After travelling through the western part of the wood, the course then turns towards the centre. It's worth noting that around here is a separate path containing a nature art trail - it's not part of the course, but it features some brilliant wood carvings in old tree stumps.

into the woods...

Anyway... just after the 4 kilometre point, the fun really begins. If you've read my other blogs you will know I'm a fan of twisty courses, because, well, they are so much fun. This next section features, I think, 17 corners which alternate from left to right. They are all quite meandery (ie no tight corners), and flow extremely well. Brilliant!

Finally the course emerges from the woods back at the original meeting point at Keeper's Cottage Pond where there is a 250 metre stretch to go before reaching the finish line. Barcode scanning takes place here and then it's time to head into the adjacent office/industrial area where the Ora Cafe can be found. I headed back out onto the course to continue taking photos for the blog (they have a very smiley, wavey bunch of runners here! Also there's an album on flickr) and before I knew it had run out of time and had to leave, so sadly didn't get the chance to sample the breakfast.

the last 300 metres and the finish

I had recorded the run with my Garmin and you can view the course data (hill profile etc) on Strava. I also created a course fly-by video with the Relive app on my phone. The results were online before I arrived home and event 87 had attracted a total of 276 attendees. As always, a massive thanks goes out to all of the volunteers who were fab - I had a great time!


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