When someone asks ‘Which parkrun is the prettiest / most scenic?’, Lanhydrock parkrun is invariably listed among the responses. It’s also a common reply to ‘Which parkrun is the toughest?’ Both of these seemed like good recommendations to me. In fact, Lanhydrock is probably the parkrun we’ve wanted to visit the most for almost as long as we’ve been touring.
We certainly had the weather for it – a gloriously sunny early May bank holiday weekend. We travelled down on Friday evening to stay in a holiday cottage on Bodmin Moor – a convenient 20 minute drive from Lanhydrock. Being National Trust members, we didn’t have to pay for parking, but I don’t think it’s too silly at £1 for an hour or £3 all day.
After the usual toilet stops on arrival, we made our way into the House grounds to find the start. It’s a bit of a walk from the car park to the start, so it’s certainly not a run I’d want to be running late for! As it was, even bimbling along we were there at about 8:45 – plenty of time. A brief course description in the new runners briefing was following by the standard briefing at the start line, and then we were off!
And boy, were we off! A road downhill start meant that when I glanced at my watch about a quarter of a mile in, I was averaging about a 5:20/mile pace. Not sustainable! Despite the promise that the 1.5 miles were downhill (and the next 1.5 miles uphill), we hit a short incline after that first quarter of a mile, and things got a bit more sensible. For a little bit anyway. Well, until we hit the next downhill…
The course is well advertised as being ‘downhill for the first half, then uphill for the second half’. I was happy with this – I could take it easy early on, and then half plenty left in the tank for the climbing later. Unfortunately, an off-road descent is far too tempting for me to ‘take it easy’. My pace eased up: 7:00/mile, 6:10/mile, 5:03/mile, 4:31/mile(!). I was flying past people – and was also pretty certain that I was going to be pretty embarrassed later when they all came back past me again. Allegedly, this downhill was in a gorgeous wood with bluebells, but I’ll be completely honest and say that I was only watching my feet and the runners around me!
The course kicks back gently uphill for a short while before the end of the first mile, and then is mostly flat, with a slight drop for the next three-quarters of a mile, as it loops along the River Fowey. And then the climbing starts. We’d dropped about 300 ft from the start line to the river, and most of that needed to be made back up again. (Lanhydrock is actually a net downhill course, as the start line is uphill from the finish line. It doesn’t feel it.)
The uphills definitely lived up to their billing. A gentle initial climb gets harder when the course turns up along ‘The Avenue’, one of the driveways up to the house. Some respite (though it isn’t flat) is provided as you cut diagonally across a field, but the subsequent scramble up through the woods more than makes up for it. I dropped down to a walk for a while, and was far from the only one to do so – in fact I was still making up ground on those around me while doing so. The course returns to the garden drives with a short bit of climbing to do, before the final push downhill to finish.
I measured the course slightly short (4.88 km), but the twisting and turning through the woods was probably not tracked properly by GPS. It would be an odd course to be short, given they have the flexibility to move both the start and the finish.
It was refreshing to run a one-lap course; the last parkrun I ran that was a single lap was Moors Valley back in July. Of course, for my parents and the children spectating, it was less ideal! The route was nice and varied, and allegedly very scenic, though as I mentioned earlier, I don’t appear to have noticed. (Lolly took a bit longer than me, and reassures me that it was, in fact, very pretty.)
After the run, it was off to the Stables Cafe for breakfast, our daughter’s favourite part of parkrun tourism!