If there was ever a day to try a new parkrun, this wasn’t it. But if you’re going to get up early and battle through Storm Dennis with 459 other runners, it certainly helps if you do it somewhere as beautiful as Wollaton Park.
Today was the 2nd meeting of the newest parkrun in Nottingham, Wollaton Hall Parkrun. If you’re not familiar with the setting, Wollaton Hall is a gorgeous 16th Century Country House. It upon a hill, overlooking parkland with herds of red and fallow deer roaming free. Not too shabby for your free weekly timed 5k.
It’s always best if you can avoid driving to parkrun, but if you need to then there is ample parking available. As a heads up it is £3 to park in the carpark, which goes towards the upkeep of the estate. The start is situated near the main entrance, just off Wollaton Road, very close to the car park.
The only bit about the morning that I didn’t enjoy was the beginning. As we gathered at the start, unfortunately the briefing was entirely drowned out by barking dogs. Not only is this a safety issue (as you cannot hear health and safety information), but it means you miss the fun announcements that add to the feel of community at parkrun: the birthdays, milestones, and other fun things. You also couldn’t hear the start bell, which is a fairly important element.
I’ve no doubt the organisers will already be thinking of a way to address this, so I’m sure this will be much less of an issue in the future. At our usual parkrun they ask people running with dogs to wait at the first corner, away from the official start and join in as the main group run past. This has worked really well and seems a fair solution for all.
The course itself is single lap, with an overall elevation gain of 147 feet. There is a mixture of tarmac path, track, grass and a little mud. But from experience of running around here it’s usually pretty good underfoot most of the year.
Once we had all scrambled to start our Garmins we were off on a tricky initial section – straight up a long slow hill towards the Hall. Classically, I got carried away with the crowd and probably overdid it up this bit. This slog lasts around half a mile, but you’re rewarded with a wonderful view of the Hall at the top, and most importantly a lovely half mile stretch down the other side. That’s your first third sorted!
Although much flatter, the middle mile was the one I struggled with the most today. This section takes you around a large lake, and is on a slightly muddy track. I’ve found over the winter that I actually struggle most with my pace on slippy or uneven surfaces than hills, but that might just be me! It feels like this mile is flat, but don’t be disheartened if you find it tough. It’s actually made up of lots of little undulations. On a sunny day there will be a beautiful view across the lake to the Hall at the top of the hill. Today it was more Storm Dennis blasting horizontal rain into your face.
Once you’ve gone all the way around the lake you head back on yourself to tackle the first mile of the course in reverse. This means it’s fairly tough from mile 2 to 2.5, but then you get to pick up the speed again in the final half mile for a lovely downhill finish. Well apart from a few metres incline right at the end! Save a breath or two for that!
Overall, it is a lovely, albeit tough, course in one of the most beautiful settings Nottingham has to offer. There’s a real privilege that comes with being able to take part in something that is already so positive, in such a gorgeous place.
It’s worth having an idea of the elevation in advance so you know when to save your energy, and when you can hurtle downwards, but this is also a course that is there to be enjoyed. There are multiple spectacular views of both the Hall and the lake, and if you’re lucky a few hundred deer. Sometimes it is worth forgetting PBs and goals, and simply being present. In howling winds and driving rain, however, it is absolutely worth getting back as soon as you can!
I can’t wait to visit in slightly easier conditions, particularly now I’m prepared for that big hill – both times you have to run up it! I think this course will quickly become a gem of the East Midlands, and a wonderful way to experience a little bit of history.
To finish on a more scenic photo than my impression of a drowned rat, here’s the Hall in all her beauty on a somewhat nicer day than today: