Sunday 20 November 2022

Lordship Recreation Ground parkrun

The area of Tottenham in north London has been occupied by humans for over a thousand years. It is said to be named after a farmer called Tota and was recorded in the Domesday Book as Toteham. Historically, a third of the land in Tottenham was owned by the Bruce family of Scotland. The area remained a rural settlement on the outskirts of London until the arrival of the railway in the late 19th century. This triggered a period of rapid expansion where many homes aimed at the working-class were constructed. Amongst all of this development, a notable area of land remained rural. This was Broadwater Farm, and it remained a working farm until its closure in 1916.

The main reason it had not been developed earlier was that the area was typically waterlogged or flooded due to the land being low-lying and the presence of the River Moselle. In 1932 the land was purchased by the local council where the eastern half was initially used for allotments. The western half was drained and repurposed as a public park called Lordship Recreation Ground. The section of the river that flowed through the former farmland was culverted to reduce the possibility of flooding. The eastern section was marked for future residential development.

tottenham / bruce castle / broadwater farm estate

Eventually, in 1967, the construction of housing commenced on the eastern half of the former farmland. This was a typical 1960's concrete, dense housing solution. Twelve residential buildings were built and together they formed the Broadwater Farm Estate. To protect homes from the risk of flooding, the ground floor was designated as space for car parking while the residential and retail units started from the first floor. The buildings were interconnected via walkways at first floor level. However not long after its completion, problems began to materialise. The design incorporated many isolated areas and crime grew out of control. I've read that during 1985, the estate recorded 875 burglaries or attempted burglaries, 50 robberies and 50 assaults.

Infamously, also in 1985, the estate was at the centre of the Broadwater Farm Riot which was the culmination of years of racial tension between the largely Afro-Caribbean community and the largely white police force. The tensions finally boiled over when a local Tottenham resident, Cynthia Jarrett, died following a police search of her home. During the riot a police officer, Keith Blakelock was killed. They both have memorial plaques locally, Cynthia Jarrett's is outside Tottenham Town Hall, while Keith Blakelock's is in Muswell Hill. In the following years, a £33 million regeneration scheme was launched, and widespread improvements were made across the estate.

The Lordship Recreation Ground, which sits in the shadow of the estate, continued throughout this time to provide a green space for local residents. However, like many public parks it suffered from years of neglect, but I'm pleased to say that this is no longer the case, and this is largely thanks to the Friends of Lordship Rec. The group have been meeting monthly ever since 2001 and have been instrumental in campaigning for regeneration works to improve the park.

lordship recreation ground

It is around 49 acres in size and opened in 1934. The modern-day park features a children's playground, a paddling pool, football pitches, BMX track, basketball court, an orchard, picnic area, outdoor gym, cafe and toilets. One of its most interesting and longest standing features is the Model Traffic Area, opened in 1938 and is a scaled-down version of a regular road system. It came from a time when the ownership of motor vehicles was still a relatively new concept. It was designed to be a safe environment for children to learn about road traffic and the rules of the road. It was the first of its kind in the UK and maybe even the first in the world. There is some video footage on YouTube from the opening ceremony in 1938.

The park's name comes from Tottenham's Manor House, which is now called Bruce Castle. However, I understand it was originally called Lordship House, and this is also reflected in the name of the road which runs along the park's northern border, Lordship Lane. Bruce Castle is said to be one of England's oldest surviving brick houses and is now a museum. It can be found just to the northeast of Lordship Recreation Ground. Since 1892, the grounds of Bruce Castle have been a public park, which makes it the oldest park in Tottenham.

Heaading back over to Lordship Recreation Ground, which is the largest park in Tottenham. In 2012, the River Moselle (also known as Moselle Brook) was restored to once again flow above ground through the centre of the park via a newly created meandering channel. Three scenic wooden bridges were also installed at this time. There is also a small lake. It is believed the lake is on the same site as an earlier Anglo-Saxon moat. It was once used for boating but has now been given over to wildlife where it provides home to birds, insects and amphibians.

briefings / start

In October 2022 the park became home to Lordship Recreation Ground parkrun, a free, weekly, timed, 5 kilometre event. Despite having the word 'run' in the name, the event is open to everyone and there is actually no need to run it at all. Walking is a perfectly acceptable way to participate. For those that are new to parkrun, you just need to register on the parkrun website where you will be assigned a unique barcode. This one barcode can then be used at any parkrun event worldwide and the result will be linked to your account. A printed copy of this is preferred, but it is now possible to have the barcode scanned directly from your phone screen.

Being a London parkrun, participants are encouraged to avoid using their cars to travel here. In fact the official Lordship Recreation Ground parkrun course page says that there is no car parking within or near the park and that the local roads are covered by Haringey Council's controlled parking zones. While I appreciate the sentiment behind discouraging car use, and not wanting to upset the locals, the information given does not tell the whole story. There are indeed controlled parking zones (CPZ), however, many of the CPZ's in the vicinity of the park only cover Monday to Friday.

It is true that some of the roads nearby do have parking restrictions on Saturdays but the exact timings of the restrictions vary from road to road. However many of the restrictions seem to be designed to be active when Tottenham Hotspur Football Club has a home match. The point here is to make sure you check the on-street signs before parking. When we visited, the roads to the south and the west of the park seemed to offer the best options. Just remember to be respectful and don't do anything that could cause problems between local residents and the parkrun organisers.

around the course / model traffic area

Public transport is of course the preferred method of travel, the closest London Underground station is Turnpike Lane and this is on the Piccadilly Line. It sits just over a kilometre to the west of the park. The London Overground stops at Bruce Grove which is a similar distance away but sits to the east of the park. Seven Sisters station seems to be the closest National Rail station (1.3 miles away), but as it runs along the same line as the London Overground, it'd be fairly easy to change to the Overground and just alight at Bruce Grove, which is much closer to the park. There seems to be a whole range of buses that stop close to the park. The parkrun course page covers the buses quite well, but the options seem to be the 123, 243, 144, 217, 231, 444 and W4.

We visited the park on 19 November 2022 and took part in event number 5. We entered via the gate off of Higham Road which is at the highest point of the park. If you stand in the right place, you can see Alexandra Palace in the distance (home to Ally Pally parkrun). The meeting point for the parkrun is in the centre of the park next to the Lordship Hub community centre, and this is also where the toilets can be found. There are two sets of cycle racks in the park; the first at the Lordship Hub and another set near the multi-use games area over on the eastern side. The 5 kilometres are covered over a three-and-a-bit lap course which uses the main tarmac paths around the park. The course is basically flat with just the slightest change in elevation of a couple of metres each lap, which makes it suitable for everybody including wheelchair users and for those pushing buggies.

The park is big enough to accommodate a two-lap course, but that would have involved a couple of trips up a hill. I learned from an interview on episode 227 of the With Me Now podcast that the decision to stick to the flat areas was an intentional design feature in order to make the event accessible to all. The event has two briefings. One is for first-timers, and took place outside the Lordship Hub. This was followed by the main briefing for everyone over at the start line. The start of the event is on the path that runs east-to-west across the centre of the park.

around the course / shell theatre / north side

The participants follow this path heading westwards and at the end turn left to join the main quadrilateral-shaped main loop which makes up the majority of the 5km. The route is really easy to follow, but there were also plenty of direction signs and marshals dotted around the course. The first significant feature that is encountered is the Model Traffic Area (the course goes through this area four times). It's such a brilliant feature of the park and is super cool to run through - just watch out for the low hanging branch on one of the trees. Also look out for the Shell Theatre with its bold eye-catching colour scheme - it has been a feature in the park for many years and has been used for all sorts of performances from tea dances in the 1940's to folk and jazz festivals in more recent times.

The lap continues right up to the northern end of the park where it passes the Lordship Lane entrance and this leads into the last part of the lap which heads along the western side of the park - this western side of the park really stood out for me, as I really enjoyed the meandering path which is lined with historic lamp posts. Once the three-and-a-bit laps are complete, the course turns onto the original east-west path from the eastern end where you pass back through the original start point and carry on a bit further until reaching the finish area.

north and west sides

The parkrun volunteers take care of barcode scanning right after the finish line and the Lordship Hub Cafe is the place to go for post-parkrun refreshments. The hub has a fairly limited range of food options but you can get the usual selection of drinks. It's run by volunteers, and this gives you a sense of how the local community really gets involved in all aspects of this park.

The hub also hosts all sorts of community events and sessions every day of the week. You'll find things like weekly older people's coffee mornings, yoga, pilates and capoeira classes, watercolour painting group, and a 'Lunch Hub and Pantry' where people on low incomes can get a free hot meal and also have access to a food bank. There's also a Hub Repair Cafe where clothes, toys and gadgets can be brought in and experienced fixers will assist in repairing them. Plus on the first Saturday of each month you can find The Trove Market which has lots of free activities as well as goods for sale on the stalls.


The community spirit is clearly very strong here, and this was also seen over at the Model Traffic Area, where we joined in with a children's bike training session run by the Wheely Tots charity. The kids were allowed to borrow bikes and spent a good hour riding around the mini roads.

I was hoping to find some locally made Tottenham Cake while we were here, but I couldn't find anywhere that sold any in the vicinity of the park. Tottenham Cake is a tray-baked sponge with a pink icing on top. It was created by a local baker named Henry Chalkley and the pink colouring for the icing came from the Mulberries that grew in the grounds of the Quaker House on Tottenham High Road.

I recorded the parkrun course using my Garmin, and the GPS data can be viewed on my Strava account. That data was also used to create a Relive course fly-by video, and that can be viewed on YouTube. The results for event 5 were online shortly after the event. At the time of writing it is difficult to know exactly how many participants this event will attract on a regular basis, but on this particular week there were 229 finishers. The numbers are still a little inflated as there are still a large number of tourists visiting, so it'll settle down soon enough.

post parkrun: the hub / model traffic area

This is one of those places where the history of its past events had made me feel a little nervous about attending, but what we found when we arrived was the most amazing community of people doing things purely to make their neighbourhood a better place to live in. Not all places we visit are like this, and we were only there for a very short period of time, but we could definitely feel it in the air. It's so, so humbling to see this in action. This was captured on film when BBC Countryfile did a piece on Lordship Rec, it's available on YouTube and definitely worth watching.

The parkrun, of course, perfectly encapsulates the same values, and I'm sure it'll be such an important part of the future of the park and the community that uses it. Thank you so much to all of the volunteers for putting the event on and for the very warm welcome when we visited.

Related Links:

The course GPS data (November 2022)
The course fly-by video (November 2022)

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