Sunday, 20 October 2019

Ifield Mill Pond parkrun

Ifield is a neighbourhood within the West Sussex town of Crawley. Its name is derived from 'Yew-field' owing to the numerous yew trees found in the area. It was recorded in the Domesday book as Ifelt and contains some of the oldest buildings in modern-day Crawley. It was originally a village, but was absorbed into the town of Crawley shortly after the latter was given New Town status.

This area of West Sussex was once home to many corn mills, and the Ifield Water Mill was a significant one. By the 18th century it was the largest in the area, and survey conducted around this time showed that it could supply 16 sacks of flour per-day when others could only manage 4 sacks. This replaced an earlier iron forge on the same site and in order to provide water to drive the wheel, the Ifield Brook was dammed in the 16th century. The dam is responsible for the formation of the Ifield Mill Pond.

ifield mill pond parkrun

The present-day Ifield Mill Pond is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) and is considered to be the most important wetland site in Crawley. It supports many species of birds including kingfishers and swans, and also frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies to name a few. The banks are home to many types of trees, all of which can be seen via the extensive network of footpaths that run adjacent to the pond.

In September 2019 the area became home to Ifield Mill Pond parkrun, which we visited on 19 October 2019 to take part in event number 5. It's a good idea to read the course page before visiting as there are some important details to take note of. Firstly, there are no facilities on-site. Actually, there is a tiny car park next to the parkrun start area, but this is not for the use of parkrunners. Instead, parkrunners are directed towards either Waterfield Gardens or Gossops Green Community Centre for free parking. Both are around 5-7 minutes walk from the start.

main out and back section

When we visited, we went for the second option for parking as this is where the closest toilets are located. For the record, the toilets are just beyond the shops at Gossops Parade (behind The Windmill pub) - officially open from 8.30am, but since the parkrun started they should be open from 8am. The walk from here to the start area is found by heading downhill along Gossops Drive - it's a straight line, so very simple.

If you were to travel by train, you will find Ifield Station conveniently placed approximately a kilometre away from the start. If you happen to be local enough to use the bus, you can use the Metrobus numbers 1, 23 and 200 buses totally free of charge by showing your parkrun barcode. I wasn't aware of any proper bicycle racks on-site, but there were a couple of bikes secured to various posts in the car park and lampposts near the finish area.

around the loop

The next set of important details to note is that the course has been deemed unsuitable for buggies and dogs. This is due to some of the paths being narrow, which on it's own may not have been a problem. However these same narrow paths are also used in both directions during the run. So while I really don't like to see any specific sub-groups of runners/walkers face bans or restrictions, I can understand why they would feel the need to put this policy in place.

The surface underfoot is tarmac all the way around and the course is pancake flat. The only part that isn't on tarmac is the finish, and if it has been raining it is likely to be pretty waterlogged. The easiest way to describe the course would be as a two-and-a-bit lap anti-clockwise (keep to the right at all times) course, and if that keeps things simple for you, it's best to stick with that. However the lap isn't just a loop. It's an out-and-back with a loop off to the side during the back section, before returning to the main out-and-back to complete the lap.

Another way of looking at at is this...

There is a central point on the path where the paths cross (the finish is here) - think of that as the centre of the course. The start is further down the path next to the tiny car park just off Gossops Drive and if you think of the Start to the Central Point as the 'start leg', you could then think of the lap starting at this point where it can be broken down into three distinct legs. There's the Central Point to the Hollow Road out-and-back, then there's an out-loop-and-back section which goes off to the side, this is followed by another out-and-back to Gossops Drive and back. Complete this twice and you're done!

the rest of the out and back section

However you prefer the description of the course, it's actually very simple to follow plus it is fully marked with arrows and very well marshalled. The paths themselves are tree-lined and generally meander in a very pleasing way as you follow them. You spot glimpses of the picturesque Mill Pond through the trees and that is very nice indeed. It's worth keeping an eye on your footing during the return section of the main out-and-back section as leaving the path could result in a slip down towards the water's edge - for me, this added weight in favour of the decision to not allow buggies on the course.

To date the event has an average attendance figure of 140, so it's a healthy way to start a new event - it may of course instantly have become home to locals who had previously travelled across town to the original parkrun in Crawley at Tilgate Park which now attracts over 500 attendees per week. Either way, it's a peaceful and pleasant place to come and spend some time on a Saturday morning.

the finish, the big community relay baton and ifield water mill

The post-event coffee venue is at the Squires Garden Centre which is just under a kilometre down the road. We didn't make it, as once we had finished (and after we'd had a photo with the Big Community Relay baton), we made our way over to the northern end of the area to have a look at the 17th century Ifield Water Mill building which is still standing. It's only open for visits on the third Sunday of every month, so we had to make do with admiring it from the outside.

The results were published shortly after and 114 attendees took part in event 5. My GPS data of the route can be found on Strava while the Relive course fly-by video can be viewed on YouTube.

Update regarding the course: In the event report for event 5 it was announced that a slightly different configuration of the course would be be in use for event 6 to avoid finishing on the slippery glass, and this may stay in place over the winter. There's a full description within the report.

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