Hooray, I made it to Basildon! I’d guess that a visit to this Essex town wouldn’t be on most people’s bucket list but then I’ve been meaning to get myself to Basildon parkrun for a little while. Today I finally made it.
Basildon is in the southern part of Essex, one of those towns along the A13 corridor. It does have a long history, being recorded in the Domesday book as Belesduna. Other former names included Berdlesdon and Batlesdon. For much of its history it was just an insignificant village. Then, after the Second World War, the area was chosen to be one of Britain’s “New Towns”. The neighbouring villages of Basildon, Pitsea, Laindon and Vange were to be merged and the gaps in between were to be filled with new roads, new housing and new facilities. You can still find historic buildings dotted here and there, as remnants of the former villages. There are some ancient churches, some old pubs and farmhouses. Most of Basildon however is fairly modern and dates from the fifties and sixties. The population of the borough has grown to around 175,000, making it the fourth largest town in Essex.
Quite a few of the residents commute into London for work but there are also a number of major businesses that have moved into town. It has one of the biggest shopping centres in the country at Eastgate. Ford Motor Company has premises here as does Gordon’s Gin, GEC - Marconi, Yardley (soap and perfume), Argos and Amazon. Costa Coffee has its roastery here, roasting thousands of tons of coffee beans every year.
Basildon is of interest to political pundits in that it is the ultimate election barometer. Invariably the party that wins Basildon is the one that forms the government.
The trouble with new towns is that what was considered novel and exciting back in the 1950s, starts looking a bit tired and shabby in the twenty first century. The local council has introduced several initiatives to rebrand the town, one of the most recent was to install some large letters spelling out the town name. It was suggested that this might be likened to the Hollywood sign in LA. Strangely the comparison of Basildon with Hollywood was greeted with hilarity in certain quarters.
Basildon has nonetheless managed to produce some famous people. The electropop band, Depeche Mode, came from Basildon, as did Alison Moyet. Actresses Kara Tointon and Denise van Outen came from here. Basildon has, or at least used to have, a very good athletics club. Eamon Martin, the last British male winner of the London Marathon, was a Basildon man.
Basildon parkrun takes place in Northlands Park which is just to the north of the town centre. As often happens, modern towns have some of the nicest parks. Northlands was created out of farmland in the 1970s. It offers a pair of lakes, some sports pitches, some open green spaces and pockets of woodland. It is one of the more attractive parks that I have been to recently. It has a café and toilets by the start/finish which is always a big plus. The parkrun course comprises three laps around the outside, on grass, on tarmac and on dirt paths. It is fairly flat at the north end by the lakes but there is a little hill to climb at the southern end. Not the fastest course ever but certainly not the slowest.
The weather today was hot, even at 9AM, definitely my hottest parkrun of 2018. I’m usually okay in hot weather but I wasn’t sure how it would affect my time. After we had charged across the grass and reached the tarmac path, I was about six or seventh. By the time we reached the hill for the first time, there was a group of four runners about thirty yards ahead of me. At this point I glanced at my watch, to see how much time had elapsed, and discovered that, for the first time in my parkrun history, I had double clicked and my time was stuck on 0.25 seconds. Oh well, who needs a watch! One of the runners dropped of the back of the group and I passed him to move into fourth. On the second lap another runner dropped back and thus I moved into third. On the final lap I almost caught up to the second runner but then he got away from me on the hill. So third place it was. I had to wait to find out my time and it was 19:55. That was okay. I would have liked a teensy bit quicker but then, if it had been a cooler day, I probably would have. I enjoyed my visit to Basildon and would be happy to go back there, perhaps when the weather has cooled down a bit.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 168. I was first in my age group and first overall on age graded scores.
I’ll conclude with a little video of a previous event. If you want a little glimpse of Northlands Park, here it is! (This was obviously in winter, it was a lot brighter and hotter today!)
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