Tag Archives: Little Stoke

parkrun tourism: Bath Skyline

A week before, Salisbury had been our 24th different parkrun, and my 99th parkrun overall. Despite some wobbles, we’d stayed on track for my 25th (aka quarter-Cowell) and 100th to coincide. We’d journeyed to SeatonFalkirkPooleParke and Salisbury on successive weekends. The only remaining question was where to go for the 100th.

In the end, it wasn’t much of a decision: Lolly’s parents were down again, staying near Bristol for a family Christmas get-together, and so we enlisted them for some baby-sitting while we did the nearby Bath Skyline parkrun. Having steps, we knew that it was one we couldn’t do with the buggy, which was probably the only reason we hadn’t done it before.

Lolly had a great top made for the occasion.

Toilets before could have been a bit of a problem – a 90 minute drive with a toddler can often finish with a rush to the toilet, but thankfully the lovely homeless Little Stoke tourists ahead of us in the queue let us skip straight through! The parkrun community really is great.

The run starts a little distance from the car park, but after a short walk down, we had two tasks: new runner briefing and placing the cakes. Duh – 100th run, quarter-Cowell, parkrun. Three good reasons for cake right there. (Right, I should probably explain this ‘quarter-Cowell’ thing. Basically, Chris and Linda Cowell were the first man and woman to run 100 different events. So doing 100 different runs is termed the “Cowell Club”. 50 runs is a half-Cowell, and 25 a quarter-Cowell. The parkrun tourist jargon buster has this to say: “Quarter Cowell – your 25th different parkrun (cake!)” Sorted.

So, the course. Muddy? – Yes, particularly through the fields late on: definitely a trail shoe route; I mean, look at my back in the picture above. Hilly? – Well, actually, not that much. Other than the steps, most of the course is pretty flat. Pretty? – Very, although the stunning views of Bath’s skyline (it’s all in the name…) were obscured by the fog. As was mostly everything actually.

Pretty. Pretty foggy!

The course follows a distorted figure of eight, taking in one small loop of just over a mile, and another much longer loop of around two miles. The first loop drops gently down to the base of the 30 steps, which then bring you back up to about the same level as the start. I was caught a little out of position at the beginning, so spent much of this section passing people, and slipping on the leaves on the edge of the path! The route then turns back along a long straight to the start/finish, more or less level and on good solid footing. A left turn past the cheering spectators loops you into the trees once more. Again, most of the route through here was on good terrain, but there were a couple of pretty muddy field crossings, though nothing too troubling. The signage and marshals were excellent throughout, and soon we were back on the long straight to the finish. This time it really felt like a bit of a slog as we kicked on towards the end!

I enjoyed the course, though as ever with a trail route, I would have liked it to be a bit more technical, a bit more challenging. But that isn’t really that accessible for a parkrun, and there are plenty of races that give me that. It really is a good parkrun route. My time made it my third-quickest location, after Longrun Meadow and Shrewsbury, but that’s more to do with the fact that I didn’t have the buggy, and am running well right now, than anything else.

As well as my 100th run, it was also one of the Little Stoke tourists’ 100th, so there were double helpings of cake! This compensated a little for the lack of cafe (boo!) after. The out of the way nature of this parkrun, particularly with the start being a short distance from the car park, and just a track with no amenities at all (a trellis table was the height of civilisation), could have really hindered this run, but for whatever reason they don’t seem to. Everyone was just as friendly, organised and willing to hang around and chat as anywhere else. All in all, it was a wonderful place to do my 100th run!

parkrun tourism: Little Stoke

Over the Christmas period, Lolly was browsing around the internet, and was looking at some parkrun lingo. Some of it was pretty well-known, obvious stuff: DFYB = Don’t Forget Your Barcode, AOWALC = All One Word All Lower Case and similar. Among these we came across “Regionnaire”, which neither of us had come across before. Apparently, and reasonably logically, it involves running every parkrun in one region.

It didn’t take long before this became a new challenge, and we started asking ourselves a string of questions: How many parkruns are there in the South West? Which is the furthest away? How many can we do from home with a long drive in the morning, and how many would we have to stay away the night before? How many new events will have started by the time we get around all the current ones?

Us being us, it wasn’t long before a detailed spreadsheet with post codes, mileages and travel times was created. (We’re sad maths graduates.)

Little Stoke

It’s all about us runners who go round and round and round.

Around the same time, we were seeing the worrying posts about the future of Little Stoke parkrun, and the problems they were having with their local parish council. For those that don’t know about this, the information, and a link to a petition to support the parkrun, is HERE. To summarise, Stoke Gifford Parish Council want to charge parkrun, suggesting a fee of £1 per runner. As this goes against the “no barriers to running” policy of parkrun, such a fee would essentially drive Little Stoke parkrun out of the park.

We realised that we needed to prioritise visiting Little Stoke, just in case. So, last weekend, our alarm was set even earlier than on a weekday, and after much faffing about, we headed up. We’d seen that one of the concerns raised by the parish council was parking, so we’d been planning to park in the nearby Baptist Church and walk over, but we ended up getting there so early that there were loads of spaces at the park itself, and given we had a buggy with us, we decided just to park there.

While we were getting ready, we noticed a video camera there, which we later discovered was an ITV camera, for a short piece that they did on it for their local news. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, we didn’t get on TV! We were very surprised at how early the run briefing took place, and I have to admit that, for the first time as a tourist,
I missed pretty much the whole thing. I imagine it went something along the lines of “it’s a run not a race, one child on a short lead per adult, and keep dogs under 11 close”, or something like that.

It soon became apparent as to why the briefing had taken place so early – the start line was at the opposite end of the park, which was the best part of half a mile away. We ambled around, in no rush – particularly as I would be starting at the back with the buggy. I understand the rationale behind this, but I’ll be honest, I think it’s much more dangerous for me to spend most of the run weaving past slower runners with a buggy, than just to start a little bit further forwards.

Little Stoke park

Little Stoke park. (Credit: Mike Faherty)

So, with Lolly further up the field, and me surrounded by runners with dogs by the back, we started. The course takes in three and a half loops of Little Stoke park, staying on a tarmac path throughout. About a third of the lap, from the start line, is nice and wide, which did help with overtaking a little bit, although not really in the mad crush at the beginning. The route is pretty flat, although there’s a couple of noticeable short shallow climbs. Being on tarmac was a treat for me with the buggy, particularly in comparison to Longrun Meadow, which has such deep puddles at the moment that it is pretty much a no-go for the buggy right now. As at all parkruns, the marshalls were great, particularly the chap who was on the corner by the start line, who was full of encouragement.

In all honesty, it is a bit of a dull course. Three (and a bit) laps of a field, when compared to the stunning coastal scenery of Penrose, or the combatitive terrain of Killerton, fell a little short. That said, if you were after a winter PB, it would be a good course to try – the finish funnel itself it is on the grass, but other than that, it is pretty flat, solid terrain that will provide good times all year around. Lolly tells me that they run a slightly different finish in the summer, coming back across the grass, rather than continuing around the path.

I guess now, the question is, where next? There’s still Exeter Riverside, which is pretty close by and yet to be experienced. But personally, I’m more tempted by this Cornish newcomer