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 first visited on 19 October 2019 to take part in event number 5, we revisited the venue on 6 May 2023 and took part in event number 114. 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

On both of our visits, 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 event, and at some points there are parkrunners on either their first or second lap going in both directions. 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.

I will note here that the course used on our first visit was different to the one used on our second visit.

Our first visit (2019) consisted of a two-and-a-bit lap anti-clockwise (keep to the right at all times) course, but on our return visit (2023) this had been changed to a clockwise course where participants keep to their left at all times and the configuration had been changed. The start and finish are now on the path adjacent to the car park (the one that's not for parkrunners). The course consists of an initial out-and-back followed by two laps of the park. However the laps aren't loops around the park because this park isn't shaped like that. The lap starts by following the first part of the original 'out' section followed by a left-hand-turn which leads into a different section of parkland where a large triangular loop forms part of the course. Returning to the original section of park, the participants continue to complete the remaining section of the full out and back section.

The second lap is identical to the first and the finish funnel can be found right back at the start area. Please note that this is quite a tricky course to describe so I think it would be better to take a look at my 2023 GPS data or the Relive course fly-by video, both of these are from our 2023 visit. I've left the links to the 2019 data below just in case anyone wishes to compare the courses.

the rest of the out and back section

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. If you look in the right place you can 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.

As of May 2023 the event has an average attendance figure of 95.5. This event is the second in the Crawley area, giving locals an alternative to the busier Tilgate parkrun which now attracts around 400-500 attendees per week. 

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 advertised as being at the Tilgate Forest Golf Centre which is on the other side of town, so probably not the most convenient option. We didn't make it on either visit, as we had plans elsewhere.

In 2019, 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. When we revisited in May 2023 there were 75 finishers at event 114. I'm very grateful to the volunteers for welcoming us on both occasions, so a huge thank you to you all.
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