Event 100 Houghton Hall

The final stop on this current parkrun adventure was at the lovely Houghton Hall park in the town of Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire and located only 7.5 miles away from my home in Luton 🙂

So Houghton Regis with a population of 17,280 has seamless borders with both towns of Dunstable and Luton respectfully and combined totals a urban area of 255,000 people!

The known history of Houghton Regis goes back to the Doomsday book of 1086 when it was referred to as the village of Houstone! In 1950-60’s Houghton Regis greatly increased in size to accommodated government housing policy of relocating large number of the Greater London population to the home counties!

Park Transformed

So  Houghton Hall park is a 42 acres of parkland and woodland that has been transformed with a 2.2 million National Lottery grant with work completed in 2017 with facilities included is a new visitor centre for the local community to enjoy!

I have seen through my own eyes the benefits of how Lottery funding betters the life of local communities by improving the areas green space, this is a top initiative!!!!!

Cowell Club

After completing Houghton Hall event I am now a member of the unofficial parkrun tourist club of park runners who have run at 100 different parkrun events called the Cowell club!

This is named after Chris Cowell from Basingstoke who was the first person to reach this feat in August 2012 and his wife Linda soon afterwards was the first female runner to reach the same hallowed total!

Can I say that I had the pleasure of meeting Chris at Heartwood Forest parkrun and for the record what a top gentleman he was to talk too!!!!!

Me with Chris Cowell

Thank You!!!

I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart everyone who turned up and shared this milestone moment with me from tourist friends to the local running community!

Also special mention to everyone who has been part of my parkrun adventures of the last few years from Inverness to Ally Pally you all have reinforced my love of running through parkrun!!

Dedication

I am dedicating my 100th different parkrun event to my dad who very sadly passed away on 18th February this year aged 82 and this was the most devastating moment in mine and my mum’s life!

Dad profile

He was a lifelong Tottenham Hotspur supporter and one of the items I kept of his was a spurs t-shirt. I have already run it at Homewood parkrun and thought it would be appropriate to wear his colours one last time!!!

RIP

Dad xxxxxx

Course

Houghton Hall course map

The course is two and half anticlockwise laps of Houghton Hall park that is very flat in nature and surfaces is a mixture of gravel, woodland trail earth path and a small strip of grass up to the finish funnel!

Points to note

  • On the start line there is little bit of congestion as the path cuts runs through an opening between the trees!
  • Great little woodland section that is a pleasure to run
  • Very good to see potential hazards clearly marked up from low-cut tree stumps to both park gates leaving/entering back they use have a number of Hi-Vis vests placed on them (sorry not shown in picture above as it was taken after the event had finished)

My time this week was 36:24 and this was used in a sweepstake by my club Stopsley Striders to help raise funds for Luton & Dunstable Hospital Charity fund. Glad I could play a very small part in supporting this years noble charity!!!!

Facilities

There is up to 3 hours free parking available at the park, be careful though as the Sat Nav address is LU5 5UZ by default sends you into a nearby business park, so I recommend one way is typing in a Sat Nav search for Houghton hall park cafe to get the correct location!!!

There are toilets available at the parks Visitor Centre but unfortunately normally it does not open before 9am and for the post run coffee we retired to the parks cafe that is also located inside the same centre. For the record I love their cheese & sausage toastie that is always a welcome on a visit 🙂

Special mention to Sarah the cafe manager who royally looked after me and my friends throughout the time of this event, it was greatly appreciated 🙂

Other facilities included

  • Children’s play area
  • Visitor Centre
  • Large play features dotted around the park

Final Verdict

I would like to say it was completely my honour that my good friend Adam Langford for volunteering in being my 100th run director that was a lovely gesture sir!!! As always I would like to also thank all Houghton’s Hi Vis heroes for your support with a special mention to Hannah Bailey the lovely dancing lady on marshal point 2 🙂

A long time ago one of the core team at Wimbledon Common parkrun asked me this amusing question, “Are we much better looking than last weeks mob!” Well all I can say Houghton after 100 events you are a welcoming sight for these sore eyes and the most beautiful bunch of people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and run with 🙂

So to my tourist readers I throughly recommend Houghton Hall to you all with a flat course, modern visitor centre and top parkrun community! I may be biased but I was so delighted in having them as my 100th parkrun location and will definitely be back in the future to visit you all again!!!!!!

So what next for me, I will still be touring new parkrun events to me, writing my blog reports and telling the stories of the amazing unsung heroes that I meet each week!

Finally for now happy park-running everyone!!!!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner 21-02-2015 to 08-09-2018

Extra News

I would like to congratulate two very good friends David Brown and Karen Bull both celebrating milestones, David who is RD at Luton, Wardown run his 100th parkrun and Karen fellow member of the core team at Wardown Juniors run her 50th parkrun respectfully!

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Finally have a great 50th birthday as well Dave 🙂

 

Event 99 Letchworth

On a warm barmy autumn morning at Grange Recreation Ground, Letchworth, Hertfordshire I truly found peace on the penultimate event of my current adventure!

I have been blessed with meeting so many marvellous people in the previous run 98 events it was always going to be that I needed to give something back in some form of gesture to a parkrun community!!!!

99 celebration

I decided a good few months ago to celebrate my 99th different parkrun event with free ice cream with the community of Letchworth parkrun in honour of a good tourist Mark Sherwood from Basingstoke who very sadly passed away after a short illness!

So where did the idea of ice cream come from, well on Mark’s 99th event at Cassiobury, Watford he brought ice creams so with great fun help him to celebrate his milestone, top idea from a top man!

I received a very moving Facebook comment from one of my Letchworth parkun post yesterday from his brother Barry, ” Congratulations and you’re a top man Mark Layzell for dedicating it to my brother, I have no doubt he is watching all his friends at each parkrun every Saturday at 9am” 

As you can see from the pictures below everyone likes an ice cream and I think Mark would have approved and smiled down on us all yesterday!

Running Vest 3 – Luton, Wardown parkrun

This week I wore with great pride my home event of Luton, Wardown apricot parkrun UK vest that was number 3 of 4 on my run in to Houghton Hall for 100th event!

Orginals Luton

I was there volunteering at the start on 18/04/2015 and each week I always look out what Luton are doing while I am on my tourist adventures!

Now I am very delighted to be one of the run director at our Wardown Juniors and in so doing support our next generation of runners!

Course

Course map Letchworth

The course is almost 2 undulating clockwise laps that surface is a mixture of grass, gravel and trail earth paths! The start is just outside Grange Recreation Ground park, then you run steadily downhill around the parameter of crop fields and half way round the course you hit a noticeable incline that on Strava is called Xfields!

Next you run down a steady decline gravel path back into the park, then turn right onto the grass and at the corner of the field onto an unusual wooded section that is a trail path running between two sets of trees! You then run to the left hand corner of the park, go through an A barrier exit to start lap 2.

On the end of the second lap you run along the wooded path again but this time turn sharp left onto the playing fields with the finish funnel located almost in the centre of the field!

Points to note

  • In wet conditions this is definitely a trail shoes course
  • Just take it steady running through the A barriers
  • There are tractor tire impressions on the trail section that are quite deep for the unwary runner!
  • As with any wooded path be careful of exposed tree roots, but to be fair they were not to bad on this course!

If you love course country-style parkrun courses than Letchworth is definitely the event for you, with undulating terrain run on multiple surfaces with a woodland path this is an off roads runners dream!

My time was 37.22 that was fine on a day more about the celebration and not the time!!

Facilities

There is a free small car park at Ground Recreation fields Sat Nav SG6 4PN with toilets are available before the start at the Grange Pavilion that is always welcome to us tourists!!

Grange Pavillion

Unfortunately I hear there is no mobile cafe on site anymore and they instead go into town for their post run coffee!

Even though this is predominately sports playing fields there is a on site children’s play area and basketball court!

Final Verdict

I would like to thank Suzy Holding on her first stint at being a run director, you are a natural at the job especially having to deal with the extra craziness that I brought to the event 🙂 I would also like to thank Suzy’s Hi-Vis team with a special mention to Rebecca Greener who was my ice cream voucher volunteer for the morning!

Letchworth volunteer group shot

Also special thanks to Vince and his company One Coronetto for supplying delicious ice creams to the Letchworth faithful and Andrew Mills from North Herts Council who granted me a land licence for the morning to use the car park!!

Last but definitely not least my running and university friends who made it even more a special day! I loved the celebration flags Danielle that you and your daughter Bridget (right of picture) made for this event, then she cheered me on around the course with her new friend Isabelle, a truly lovely touch 🙂

Celebration 99 Flags

So thank you Letchworth for being great hosts and for me this day will live long in my memory!

Now just the small matter for the final event 100th event at Houghton Hall next week where there will be no ice cream but I can promise a stupendous cake to eat 🙂

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

 

Event 98 Gadebridge

So after a number of weeks visiting country parks it was different but just as rewarding running an attractive urban park in Gadebridge, Hemel Hempstead!

So Hemel Hempstead classed as a new town has a population of 94,932 as of the 2011 census that was developed after the second world war to accommodate displaced London families!

The town does though have a rich history beforehand going back far back as the 8th century as being a settlement and received town charter status in 1539 by King Henry VIII

Gadebridge Park

So Gadebridge is the main park in Hemel Hempstead covering a total area of 32 hectares is split into two main sections west and east. The split is cause by both the A4146 and river Gade running through the heart of this park!

Both section make the most of the Gade Valley with sloping banks that especially on the west side give you stunning views of the river, park and exquisite old town part of Hemel.

For the record the park is joined together by a bridge and underpass that makes this an interesting course to run!

Running Vest 2 – Keech Hospice

This week vest I wore with great pride was Keech Hospice Care that was number 2 of 4 on my run in to Houghton Hall for 100th event!

Keech vest no 2

This vest has a lot of meaning to me as I got my love of running back by completing a year of parkrun fundraising for them back in 2016-17 by running all the events in Greater London region that at the time was 47 in total 🙂

Brilliant memories and here is the blog I wrote at the time about my adventures Lon-done, enjoy 🙂

Course

Gadebridge course map

This course comprises of 2 undulating anticlockwise loops of Gadebridge park. Each loop comprises after the initial start on tarmac a grass loop of a section of the East side of the park, cross the bridge, then use the underpass to run a complete loop of the west hand side of the park, then come back the way you come to a T section in the path to start loop two!

At the end of the second lap you run back the way you came to the finish funnel that is close to the start!

This course is about 90% run on grass and the rest is tarmac paths, in wet conditions this would definitely be a trail shoes style course!

Today my time was 47.07 that invold just running with my friend Martin who is coming back from injury!

Facilities

There is free car parking at Gadebridge Line Sat Nav HP1 3HZ. There were toilets available in the park before the start of the parkrun that is always good to know!

For the obligatory post run coffee we retired to the charming Pie in the Sky Tea Room in Hemel old town and a lovely Bacon bap they served up too 🙂

Pie in the Sky team room

Other Facilities include

  • Splash park
  • Play area
  • Skate park

Final Verdict

I would like to thank Mustafa Readdie and his team of volunteers for making us all feel extremely welcome! Must admit it was very moving when you brought me up in front of your community, explained about my adventure but more importantly it was dedicated in the honour of fellow tourist friend Mark Sherwood and my father who have sadly passed  recently, class touch sir!!!

Gadebridge volunteers shot

So Gadebridge this beautiful urban Gade valley park will test out your running credentials, but this is definitely a park that will live long in the memory!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Extra News

There has been one constant in my parkrun adventures and that is my top buddy Martin Ball, even on the dullest of days you bring sunshine to the event with your humour and brilliant personality sir!

I am blessed to have you as a friend mate 🙂

Gladebridge me and Martin

Event 97 Rushmere

Always I pleasure to be back in my home county of Bedfordshire at another stunning event at Rushmere Country park, once again I have been blessed with another course that will live long in the memory!

So Rushmere is a 400 acres park that has been combined with other existing woodlands including Stockgrove, Oak Wood and the complete site now known as Rushmere Country park was opened in 2011 for the public to enjoy its splendour!!!

Run by the Greenland Trust in partnership with Central Bedfordshire Council on a non for profit basis, I love what they have done with the sculpture trail that gives the parks woodland a feeling you have entered a world of enchantment with a Giants Chair, Beetle and Wild Things Gate, the big kid came out in me and I had to explore!!!!!

 

Good Friends

Being so close to the end of my current adventure it was a great pleasure to bump into fellow Stopsley Striders tourist friends again in (from left to right) Liz Davies, Stewart Read, Terry Willis, Chris and Kim Caddy 🙂

With Strider friends at Rushmere

Course

Rushmere course map

A beautiful 2 anticlockwise woodland laps of Rushmere Country park that is undulating and run entirely on earth trail paths!

Points to Note:

  • Love the sculpture trail that is dotted around this course!!!
  • In wet conditions definitely a trial shoes run
  • Steep decent down to Charcoal pond
  • Be aware of exposed tree roots
  • No spike trainers allowed
  • No dogs allowed to run with their owners on this course

This course is a joy to run with a soft cushion of pine needles on a large parts of the route, my time was 38.09 and thank you Liz for keeping me honest by pacing me around the course 🙂

Finally it would have been rude not to I had to ring Rushmere’s famous PB gong and what great fun that was too…..:)

Rushmere PB gong

Facilities

There is paid parking available at Rushmere costing £3.00 on exit from the car park Sat Nav LU7 0EB, if you are planning to have this as your home parkrun cheap discounted season tickets are available from £40

There are toilet facilities on site and available before the start of run! After this enjoyable run we retired for the post run coffee to the parks Tree Top cafe that has stunning views from the balcony of the woodland vista below that was simply breathtaking!!!!!

Other Facilities

  • Networks of trails for walking and riding
  • Children play area
  • The Heronry

Final Verdict

I would like to thank the charming David Ayers and his team of volunteers for making us all feel extremely welcome at Rushmere, well done guy’s!!!!

Rushmere Volunteer shot

So finally Rushmere with its beautiful woodland course and stunning views from the cafe of Heron Valley this surely must be up there on your tourist parkrun to do list, you have been told!!!!!!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Extra News

Running vests

Over the final four parkrun events I will be wearing different running tops for each week with everyone having a close place in my heart!

Running vests

97 Rushmere – Stopsley Striders training vest
98 Gladebridge – Keech Hospice after my year of charity running for this noble charity!
99 Letchworth – Luton, Wardown home parkrun
100 Houghton Hall – Spurs top worn by my dad who I miss deeply

100th Celebration

Special mention to Val Nix who run her 100th event at Kettering parkrun and is on course at 95 to run all the first 100 events held at her hometown course, she even run a new PB of 23:47, wow outstanding achievement Val 🙂

Val Nix 100th
Val Nix 100th parkrun

Event 96 Panshanger

I am truly blessed at the moment in running courses that have stunning views with Panshanger Park, Hertford as being right up the with the best of them!

The road to my 100th event at Houghton Hall is definitely a very scenic one with locations like Westmill, Tring and now Panshanger at times I don’t think we realise what beautiful countryside we have just outside our front doors to explore 🙂

History

Panshanger was formerly a large country house and estate acquired by the Cowper family from 1700 and parkland was developed from advice given by Humphry Repton to make the most of the surrounding Mimran Valley!

After the death of the final owner Ethel Grenfell in 1952 the estate was sold off with the house sadly being demolished through lack of interest!

Since the 1980’s the company Tarmac has owned this 1000 acre site for gravel extraction on the understanding that they will return this land to its former glory! Working closely with Hertfordshire & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Hertfordshire County Council and pressure from the Friends of Panshanger Park this estate is getting back to its beautiful best for the local community to enjoy!

Course

Panshanger course map

The course is very scenic undulating one anticlockwise lap of Panshanger park that surfaces is a mixture of grass, gravel and dirt paths!

The course starts in the car park, you then run alone a woodland trail path, then turn right on a grass section before running around the parameter of a large field, next you run down through Garden Wood and followed by running down a dirt track!

Next you run over a small wooden bridge over the River Mimran, run around Kings Lake on to a grass track behind the river and Osprey Lake, cross over the river again and follow a trail path to a small field that you then run around to the finish funnel!

Points to Note

  • Just need to be watchful when running for exposed tree roots and the odd uneven surfaces
  • Couple of pinch points on the course, first at the start and near the end along this single track trail path! Overall though to be fair there are a lot of wide places to overtake!
  • After a long period of run definitely a trail shoe style course
  • Finally  a sharp little incline at the end that catches your breath away

So overall this course was a joy to run with a beautiful backdrop that keeps your interest!

My time was 36:38 that was OK in this heat and my current lack of fitness!

Facilities

As Panshanger website states please do not use the Thieves Lane car park as this is being limited to volunteers, park users, blue badge holders and emergency services.

Recommended for this event is limited free road side along Old Hertingfordbury Road Sat Nav SG14 2AR.

There are no toilet facilities available in this park and for the post run coffee there was mobile catering van at the car park that was owned by a lovely woman called Mary!

Cafe2u van Panshanger

Other Facilities

  • Walk the many paths including Butterfield Way and Oak Trail
  • Observation points for bird watching including Osprey, wild fowl
  • Visit the remains of the Orangery and the former site of Panshanger House

Final Verdict

I like to thank Michael Scutt and his time of volunteers for making me feel extremely welcome, also it was great to bump into the legend John Butcher again so soon after Westmill, the pleasure was all mine sir!!!

Panshanger volunteer shot

So finally any self-respecting parkrun tourist should schedule a visit to this single lap scenic course, you have all been told!!!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Event 95 Tring

So I have finally reached Tring, Hertfordshire on my adventure with wonderment and trepidation, is it true that this is one of the toughest events in the country to run?

Tring is a small market town with a population of 11,730 that lies on the edge of the Chiltern hills and has interesting history that includes a close link to George Washington and how the Rothschild family set out a major transformation of the town over 40 years period stating from 1872 with the purchase of Ting Park!

This event is based at Tring Park is one stunning venue for a parkrun and as the Woodland Trust who manages it states “Tring Park is one of Hertfordshire’s most important ecological areas and one of the Trust’s most exciting and diverse sites. Covering an area of 107 hectares (264 acres), it contains a mosaic of habitats such as chalk grassland, scrub, mixed woodland and parkland landscaped by Charles Bridgeman in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.”

There are simply just some parkruns where you have to say what a privilege it was to run there and Tring ticks all those boxes if you had to design a course, wow!!!!

Local Celebrities

A must for any self-respecting tourist has got to be a photo with the park’s friendly heard of Friesian cows in the background, these ladies help make this course rather special event to run!

Course

Tring course map

This course is a single anticlockwise lap of Tring park that running surface is a mixture of grass and trail paths! The start is near Lime Tree avenue and after an initial drop to the valley floor there is a steady hard incline that first half is exposed grassland, then when you hit the tree-line there is a tough dirt track zig zag path to the top of the ridge at the 1km mark!

For the next 2km you are running along a woodlands covered ridge called King Charles Ride up to the summer-house, then downhill along another woodland path past the obelisk!

The final 2km is mainly made up of undulating grassland path along the valley floor, until you do a right turn up a short steep slope, turn right again onto the beautiful Lime Time avenue, then finally turn right just before the footbridge to run down into the finish funnel!

Points to note

  • Very tough incline for the first 1km
  • This is one of those courses that ideally needs a gentle warm up jog beforehand as you really don’t want to test a hill climb with cold muscles just after the start!
  • Very exposed on the grassland section with the wind today almost stopped you in your tracks!
  • Definitely a trial shoes event after prolonged periods of wet weather

My time was 39:25 that at the moment I am just going through the motions of completing all these events up to my 100th at Houghton Hall.

Facilities

There is free car park on Haste Lane Sat Nav HP23 6AP, please note the gates for this car park open at 8:30am. Unfortunately there are no toilet facilities at Tring Park itself!

For the post run coffee we retired to The Akeman restaurant for a well-earned breakfast at this lovely venue!

The Akeman restaurant

Natural History Museum – Tring

After our refuelling stop it was great to be able visit The Natural History Museum, Tring and look at all the interesting wildlife exhibits based over a number of floors from insects right up to elephants!

This was a perfect way to end to my Tring adventure 🙂

Final Verdict

I would like to thank the run director Ken Douglas and his team of volunteers for making us all feel extremely welcome on the morning, top marks guys!!!

Tring volunteer shot

Finally this is undeniably one of the toughest cross-country style courses in the UK, but I can wholeheartedly recommend this event for the stunning views and the sense of real achievement in completing Tring parkrun!!!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Extra News

So it has finally happened I have completed my first ever stint as run director at event 5 Wardown Juniors!

I would like to thank the fellow members of the core team for just being awesome to work with over the last few months and all the lovely volunteers who helped out brilliantly on a very wet windy morning!

29th July First RD stint

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