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Kings of Anglia Issue 10 Magazine Offer

Top seven list of 'H' parkruns with seven more on an 'H' wish-list

PUBLISHED: 11:03 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:23 29 October 2019

The finish funnel at the low-key Harcourt Hill parkrun. at Oxford Brookes University. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The finish funnel at the low-key Harcourt Hill parkrun. at Oxford Brookes University. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he compiles a top seven 'H' list after a visit to Harcourt Hill, on the outskirts of Oxford

There's no doubt about where the Harcourt Hill parkrun starts, every Saturday morning. Picture: CARL MARSTONThere's no doubt about where the Harcourt Hill parkrun starts, every Saturday morning. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The 'H' is for happy, for homely, for helpful, for honourable, all happily associated with parkrun events.

So it's about time I listed my top seven 'H' parkruns, prompted by the promise of a weekend of 'horrendous' weather, and an impromptu visit to the Harcourt Hill parkrun, on the western fringes of Oxford.

Alongside my previous list in this mini-series - last week's 'B' list - I reckon I've visited more 'H's and 'B's' than any other letter of the parkrun alphabet. A Happy coincidence?

So it was difficult to whittle this down to a top seven, while opting for just one 'H' per county.

The finish area of the Harcourt Hill parkrun, on the sports field in front of the Brookes University Sports Centre. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe finish area of the Harcourt Hill parkrun, on the sports field in front of the Brookes University Sports Centre. Picture: CARL MARSTON

It was not a Harrowing task, but the final choice still Haunts me. Was I Harsh to leave out so-and-so …… best not to Hark on about it.

1 Harcourt Hill (Oxfordshire)

I love parkrun courses that remind me of schools cross country races, with those endless circuits around football/rugby pitches. They were always cold, muddy, dizzy affairs.

Runners were buffeted by strong winds at last Saturday's Harcourt Hill parkrun, on the edge of Oxford. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners were buffeted by strong winds at last Saturday's Harcourt Hill parkrun, on the edge of Oxford. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Sometimes, you don't need a stately home, shimmering lake or an ancient woodland to enjoy the weekly parkrun fix.

My visit to the Harcourt Hill parkrun, on a weekend break of ambling around the colleges of Oxford, had no lakes, no listed buildings, no forests, no seafront, no rolling hills. But it was still great.

A total of 123 hardy souls rolled up for the 256th staging of this simple two-lapper, starting from the Brookes University Sports Centre, about a two-and-a-half mile drive from the city centre.

The wind was blowing, and the rugby posts were swaying, while each muddy corner was slippery underfoot. After a lap around seven sports pitches, skirting a golf course and past some tennis courts, it was time to repeat.

Runners set off at the start of the Hastings parkrun, on the promenade. Picture: HELEN MARSTONRunners set off at the start of the Hastings parkrun, on the promenade. Picture: HELEN MARSTON

It felt like I was back at school, or at least back at university. The only difference was the limbs ached more, and there were no post-run pints of amber nectar.

Reason: fresh in the memory.

2 Hastings (Sussex)

The start of the first-ever Haverhill parkrun, in Suffolk. Picture: PHIL MORLEYThe start of the first-ever Haverhill parkrun, in Suffolk. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Back in the summer of 2018, I had the pleasure of this out-and-back 5K from St Leonards to Hastings pier, along the promenade and through 'Bottle Alley.'

It was a seaside treat. Blazing hot sunshine, the odd skateboard trickster, a pack of Huskies (watching, not participating) and a route that screamed 'personal best' material.

Reason: fantastic choice of cafes for breakfast.

A procession of runners make their way to the finish of the Holkham parkrun, beside the lake, in North Norfolk. Picture: CARL MARSTONA procession of runners make their way to the finish of the Holkham parkrun, beside the lake, in North Norfolk. Picture: CARL MARSTON

3 Holkham Hall (Norfolk)

I am no stranger to this stretch of North Norfolk, with its sand dunes and endless choice of dog-walk routes, while Holkham Hall, an 18th century country house, provides the perfect setting for any parkrun.

My top seven 'M' list of parkruns

The start is near the Ice House, close to the lake, appropriate for my visit last March due to a cruel, cold wind. The first half is gently uphill, the second half sweeping downwards along South Drive with one stiff climb to the obelisk (you can't miss it).

Reason: a nearby naturist beach (I am not a regular visitor!)

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4 Haverhill (Suffolk)

Any parkrun based at the gloriously-named Puddlebrook Playing Fields gets my vote.

The event was only three weeks old (the eighth parkrun to be established in Suffolk), when I negotiated the 18 miles from my house for a first taste of this dead-flat, multi-lap, all-grass course. It rarely attracts fields of more than 60 or 70, but that's not the point.

- What to expect from a visit to the new Hunstanton parkrun

Haverhill can be proud. Thumbs up to Puddlebrook!

Reason: close to home.

5 Huntingdon (Cambs)

Hinchingbrooke Country Park is often en route for a Saturday destination, for me, and any route description that includes a 'cafe,' 'hump-backed bridge, 'apiary,' 'ornamental lake' and 'storage container' is fine by me.

Reason: spitting distance from the A14 trunk road (almost)

6 Hockley Woods (Essex)

'If you go down to the woods today' ....... this is a peach of a course, in remote, wild woodland in the district of Rochford. Oaks, birch, sweet chestnut and parkrunners abound. But here's a warning - the two laps are no Teddy Bears' Picnic.

Reason: haunted by a ghost or two, especially when its foggy.

7 Heartwood Forest (Herts)

Included in this list, because it is no more. It's an ex-parkrun, it has ceased-to-be. But I loved it, especially the tough uphill start, and at least a new event at Jersey Farm has since plugged the gap.

Reason: fun while it lasted

MY 'H' WISH-LIST

1 Heaton Park - sweeping parkland

2 Hyndburn - I always like a visit to Accrington

3 Hay Lodge - the River Tweed, more rugby pitches

4 Higginson - Thames Path, the perfect location

5 Humber Bridge - the views

6 Haverfordwest - sweet combination of a racecourse and a cricket club

7 Harrogate - I always like to stray on The Stray

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