My Other Hobby is genealogy, and during a rather bored moment the other week I decided to combine the two and come up with a parkrun Family Tree, that is, a tree comprised of the nearest parkrun to the birthplaces of me, my parents, my grandparents and my great grandparents. It looked like this:
The next challenge of course, was to set about doing them. On the whole, it’s definitely a project for warmer weather, but this weekend was an easy opportunity to tick off the parkrun closest to Stone Park Maternity Hospital in Beckenham, Kent, where I was born, as I was staying at the parental home and a local friend, Miranda, was willing to accompany me for a run. That would be the relatively new South Norwood parkrun, which takes place in a sprawling wilderness nestled between a cemetery and an athletics stadium, which apparently used to be a sewage works in the 1960s. (The smell has not persisted, thankfully).
I actually enjoyed South Norwood a lot more than I thought I was going to. It is a trail run, but as trails go it was pretty solid (though I have seen photos of it in less clement weather where it has turned to a mush of mud and puddles). The start is on tarmac, but this doesn’t last long and it moves on to a gravel path. The first kilometre is very slightly downhill and takes you through a relatively open area with a view of the cemetery where my father and brothers are buried. As you reach the Elmers End end of the park (too many consecutive “ends” in this sentence), the path goes through some trees and turns to packed earth. You then go back on to gravel up the very slight hill and there are a couple of bends and a little bridge to negotiate. The scenery is all quite overgrown and wild and there is a lake in the middle but you have to squint through the undergrowth to spot it. My mother started going on about “I don’t like the countryside, it gives me the creeps, I’m a town person.” I had to point out that Croydon is hardly the countryside.
On arrival back at the Croydon end, I was delighted to find an actual, proper hill. Not a very big one, but quite steep and definitely a hill and not an “incline” or a “slope”. At the top of the hill the path fizzles out entirely and you come back down on a grassy trail which delivers you back to where you started. Then you go round again. The finish is another half a kilometre ish past the start, so a total of two and a bit laps. I was only lapped by one person (who finished just under 20 minutes, so I am thinking this might be a good place for certain fast runners to nab the number one token…) South Norwood only gets an average of 150 runners and I never felt like I was in a crowded run or jostling for position with other runners, which after some very busy recent parkrun experiences was very welcome.
My time was 36:37 which was better than I’d expected and I was very pleased indeed, taking the lack of tarmac into consideration.
All in all, I think South Norwood is a hidden gem – a teeny pocket of countryside where you wouldn’t expect it and a great place for a relaxed morning run. It’s not a PB course but it’s not massively difficult either and it also has automatic flushing toilets which are well worth a look at.
I’m not sure which of my parkrun Family Tree venues to tick off next. Kettering appeals because it’s in Wicksteed Park, which has a rollercoaster and a load of childhood memories and I’d love to do Tamar Trails (and I need a “T” for the alphabet challenge) but I haven’t the foggiest how I would ever get there. I’m not entirely sure where “Shipley County” is and I’m hoping that by the time I work my way round the Emily Whibley they might have found a new venue in Croydon with less muddy grass to negotiate. It’s a shame none of my ancestors are from Zielona Gora.