As it worked out, the team didn't have to look too far for an alternative, as less than a kilometre away from the original venue is another area suitable for a parkrun, and this is of course Jersey Farm Woodland Park. When the announcement came that this was to be the new venue, the parkrun touring community got very excited indeed as it meant that those wishing to become 'alphabeteers' could now 'get their J' without leaving the mainland.
|jersey farm woodland park|
The 55 acre park which is home Jersey Farm parkrun was formerly part of the estate owned by the founders of the neighbouring village of Marshalswick. As the name suggests, the land's previous role was as a farm, but historically it was called Evans Farm, and covered 309 acres. In the 1930s a well-known tuberculosis researcher, Dr Corner took over the farm and renamed it Jersey Farm after his heard of Jersey Cattle.
The original farmland was eventually sold with much of it being developed into housing, and Jersey Farm is now a residential neighbourhood within the civil parish of Sandridge. During the redevelopment, proposals were submitted to transform the area of the country park into a school sports field with accompanying floodlights etc. This proposal was fought and won by the local 'Major Open Spaces Preservation Association' (MOSPA) and the land was subsequently turned in the country park.
|start / finish area|
The first tree was planted in 1991 by the Mayor of St. Albans and during the years leading up to the Millennium a total of around 10,000 native trees were planted by volunteers from the local community. The park is not entirely woodland and there are large sections of open meadows which are rich with long grasses and wildflowers, providing the perfect habitat for many species of animals and insects. The most endearing of these is probably the Skylark, which nests within the long grass.
We visited Jersey Farm parkrun on 6 July 2019 and took part in event number 34. The woodland park itself does not have any facilities at all, including parking. I found the best place to park was in the free car park at Sandridge Village Hall which comes with the added bonus of having public toilets (this the same car park I used when I visited Heartwood Forest). Finding the country park from the centre of the village is the next task...
|start / opening section|
There are many entry points into the park, but from the main road in the village they are not easily identifiable. We entered via the entry point at Highfield Road but due to the nature of the landscape, it's not totally obvious where the start area is. So if approaching from the village I would stay on the main road for a little longer and use the entry point at St. Helier Road instead where the main path will lead you right into the meeting area which is on open grass at the highest point of the park. If you approach from the southern side of the country park, the entrance on Sandringham Crescent leads directly into the meeting area.
If you were trying to reach the venue by public transport, the closest train station is St Albans City, but that is still about 2 miles away. The Jersey Farm parkrun Course Page advises that there are some bus services (304 / 305 / 657) that will help complete the journey, if required. If cycling there are no proper cycle racks on-site, but you may be able to find a fence or post to secure it to. Incidentally there are some cycle racks at the Village Hall car park, but they are not that convenient unless you plan to go to the post-event coffee venue afterwards, in which case it could be a decent option.
|bridleway / outer-loop|
There are a couple of different course options used here, both run in a clockwise direction. The summer route essentially has a mini-loop followed by two slightly different laps whereas the winter route is run on two identical laps which avoid the more sensitive inner areas. Either way you'll find the course is very well marked out with marshals in all the right places. The start was in a slightly different position to usual when we visited so as not to disturb the nesting Skylarks.
The venue's terrain is of the off-road variety, so while road shoes were fine for when we visited, you will certainly be looking at using trail shoes during the winter or following other particularly wet periods. As far as the elevation is concerned this an undulating course with the ups and downs generally being fairly gentle, but frequent with very little flat ground. My Garmin recorded a total elevation gain of 59 metres.
The outer-loop (used for both summer and winter courses) is run on a fairly narrow bridleway so you'll need to keep an eye out for horses. It spends most of its time meandering through the different woodland plantations and these generally take their names from their relative compass position from the centre of the park, EG West Plantation, North Plantation etc. However one of them is called Bill's Wood - This is named after Bill Morris who formed the aforementioned MOSPA without whom this beautiful park would not exist.
As we were running on the summer course, at the end of the outer-lap we transferred to the inner-lap. This is run next to and through the open meadows which cover the central areas of the park. There was a particularly memorable section where the grasses had grown so long that there was barely any path to follow - fortunately there were some cones placed along here to help lead the way through. My daughter loved running through that section and I have a feeling my son enjoyed being pushed through even though I annoyed him by trying to keep the grass out of his face.
It's worth looking out for the view at the northern end of the course where you can see across to St. Leonard's Church down in the centre of the village. It is partially built from recycled Roman brick, possibly from the stockpile held by the abbots of St. Albans, and is thought to be almost a thousand years old. Also look out for the Burma Star Association memorial stone which is just alongside the course at the southern end of the park.
There is a section that is used on both laps so you may find yourself lapping or being lapped by others. It gets as narrow as a single file path at times so be mindful of your fellow runners and walkers during this part. This leads into the final part of both laps which is uphill on a gravelly/stony section of path. I was pushing a buggy and had my daughter with me so we pretty much walked it on both laps, but I imagine it would be a bit of a slog at the end of a decent hard effort.
|towards the end of the lap|
The finish is found back up on the open grass at the top of the park and barcode scanning all takes place right next to the finish line. The team then move down into the village for post-event coffee - the official webpage says this will be either the Heartwood Tearooms or The Potting Shed. We had other arrangements so after letting the kids have a quick play in the playground next to the car park, we headed back home.
The results soon came through and 183 people had participated in the day's event. This was almost spot on the official average number which as of 7 July 2019 stands at 180.2. This number is of course boosted due to the large number of parkrun tourists ticking of their J, but the venue is truly fantastic and deserves recognition for being much more than just another letter on somebody's list.
You can view my GPS data of the course we ran on the day via my Strava account, just bear in mind the start was slightly adjusted for the Skylarks so it may be slightly different at future events. Plus you can see the Relive course fly-by video which I have uploaded onto YouTube.
- My blog for the original Heartwood Forest parkrun
- The Hertfordshire parkrun venues
- My GPS data
- Relive course fly-by video