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Bandstand On The Run: a top five list of bandstand-related parkruns

PUBLISHED: 07:59 04 March 2020 | UPDATED: 07:59 04 March 2020

The bandstand along the route of the Dartford parkrun. Picture: ARCHANT

The bandstand along the route of the Dartford parkrun. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads to Dartford and encounters yet another bandstand, prompting this top five list of bandstand-related parkruns

Runners at the start of the Dartford parkrun, in Central Park, Dartford. Picture: DARTFORD PARKRUN FACEBOOK/ROCKETDOG PHOTOGRAPHYRunners at the start of the Dartford parkrun, in Central Park, Dartford. Picture: DARTFORD PARKRUN FACEBOOK/ROCKETDOG PHOTOGRAPHY

With more than a hundred parkruns cancelled, up and down the country, due chiefly to all the recent rain and subsequent waterlogged courses, I nipped over the River Thames into Kent to take part in the well-established Dartford parkrun last Saturday morning.

Now I didn't go in the quest for a bandstand - I didn't even know that the two-and-a-half lap route of the Dartford parkrun, in Dartford Central Park, boasted such a landmark.

But runners and walkers do encounter a bandstand on the two longer laps of this 5K treat, which was a very, very wet and muddy treat last weekend.

I'm not a massive fan of bandstands - though I do like to see the odd brass band or other musical ensemble in action - but it does seem to me that the world of parkrun, at least in the UK, does feature an exceptionally high figure of bandstands - the ratio of bandstands to parkruns is probably a big one (I haven't done the maths, or the research).

Runners, joggers and walkers assemble before the start of the Harwich parkrun, next to the bandstand, in Cliff Park. Picture: HARWICH PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGERunners, joggers and walkers assemble before the start of the Harwich parkrun, next to the bandstand, in Cliff Park. Picture: HARWICH PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGE

But in homage to last weekend's visit to the Dartford parkrun, here's my top five list of bandstand-related parkruns, or what I would like to call my 'Bandstand on the Run' feature.

1 Dartford

This was one of the wettest parkruns I had so far encountered on this mini-tour, so it was perhaps not surprising that numbers were slightly down with 140 toeing the start-line, around the back of the Central Park Athletics Clubhouse (home of Dartford Harriers) - everyone sheltered in here, up until a couple minutes before the start.

Runners congregate for the start of the Bedford parkrun, with the bandstand close byRunners congregate for the start of the Bedford parkrun, with the bandstand close by

Bandstand-wise, unlike most others in this list, the Dartford parkrun does not start next to the local bandstand. Instead, it is a structure that you come across, en route.

Run-wise, I left my glasses in the clubhouse, because there was no point in being blinded by the rain, and slipped and slithered graciously around a muddy course, albeit for a welcome section on pavements around the cafe and, of course, the bandstand.

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The bandstand is a major feature of the weekly Bedford parkrun, in Bedford ParkThe bandstand is a major feature of the weekly Bedford parkrun, in Bedford Park

The River Darent is crossed via the Ellenor Lions Bridge twice, on both of the big laps, while the 130-metre uphill stretch up to the football pitches was starting to resemble a waterfall, more mud and water than grass.

Last Saturday was the 276th staging of the Dartford parkrun, following the inaugural event in July, 2014, and, as for that resplendent bandstand, it was built in 2010 near the site of the first bandstand, which had hosted concerts from the date of the grand opening of the park, in 1905.

It looked a picture, in the middle of the formal gardens, even on the wettest of all Saturday mornings .

Runners in action at the Colchester Castle parkrun, which starts and finishes by the bandstand. Picture: NIGE BROWN.Runners in action at the Colchester Castle parkrun, which starts and finishes by the bandstand. Picture: NIGE BROWN.

2 Harwich

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The Harwich parkrun, and the bandstand, take pride of place in Dovercourt Cliff Park, overlooking the seafront, promenade and the nearby port of Harwich, in Essex.

I visited just two days before Christmas, 2017, so it was a bit chilly, and a little icy underfoot.

The Victorian bandstand, already a feature before Cliff Park was opened in 1911, is a focal point of the parkrun. The start and finish is close by, and rucksacks can be dangled off the sides.

The parkrun course, along the seafront past the Dovercourt lighthouses, is a gem.

3 Bedford

The bandstand in Bedford Park, a Victorian urban park opened in 1888, is where the weekly Bedford parkrun briefing takes place, as important an occasion as any festival or musical treat.

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I visited in the autumn of 2017, and was struck by how fast and flat the two-and-a-half-lap course was, and how handy the bandstand was for leaving my rucksack.

4 Colchester Castle

The Colchester Castle parkrun is dripping in history, based in Castle Park (opened in 1892) complete with a Norman castle, Roman walls and ramparts and, of course, a Victorian bandstand.

I first visited in September, 2017, full of hope for a good run while I stretched the hamstrings and calf muscles beside the bandstand.

But the course is a tester, with some hilly sections between the Lower Park and Upper Park. The finish, by the bandstand, couldn't come quick enough!

5 Norwich

I've saved the best until last, a majestic bandstand in Eaton Park, Norwich, with eight Tuscan columns and a domed roof, a centre piece surrounded by four pavilions.

It is known as the Rotunda, and the finish to the three-and-a-half lap parkrun is nearby. It's simply stunning.


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