So, on with the parkrun odyssey and this week I headed off to Westmill parkrun. Where’s Westmill, I hear you ask. It’s in Ware. Where? No, Ware! (This joke swiftly becomes tedious, so I shall now cease and desist)
Ware is in Hertfordshire, north of London, about ten miles up the A10. It lies on the banks of the River Lea from which it derives its name - not from the river obviously, but from the fact that a ‘weir’ was constructed here many centuries ago. Ware has a history dating back at least as far as Roman Times. It lies on the old Roman Ermine Street and for centuries was on the main route out of London heading north. Many of the fine old buildings along the High Street were once coaching inns. In one of these inns you would have found a huge four poster bed, known forever after as the ‘Great Bed of Ware’. The bed was so well known in its time that it even gets a mention in Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) The bed is still in existence and nowadays can be seen in the Victoria and Albert museum.
A lot of river traffic also passed through Ware and one of the things that the barges brought was hops and barley to be made into beer. By 1880 there were as many as 140 malthouses in the town. There are quite a few buildings in Ware still retaining the name ‘the Maltings’. One speciality of the town was a dark beer, popularly known as porter.
Modern day Ware is an appealing place to live with many historic buildings, some pleasant riverside walks and a range of shops and attractions in the town centre, including a museum and a zoo. A lot of the working population these days commute into London but there are still some major businesses and light industry in the town. The biggest employer currently is Glaxosmithkline, the pharmaceuticals company.
The parkrun actually takes place at Westmill Farm which is on the outskirts of Ware. I’m not sure that any actual farming takes place at Westmill Farm nowadays. Rather it is an outdoor activities centre which offers three lakes for fishing, a par 3 golf course, other activities like archery and zorbing, a garden centre, a shop, a restaurant and a campsite. The course consists of two anti clockwise laps, mainly on grass or on dirt paths. It starts up near the visitor centre, then runs across a field and down a steep hill which leads you to the lakes. You run along the banks of the lakes before turning back up hill, along the edge of the golf course and back up towards the start area. It is quite a testing course and it was a little bit tougher today thanks to the overnight downpour which had left the ground rather soggy. On the plus side, it was a bright clear morning which allowed us to enjoy the lovely views out over the Hertfordshire countryside.... hmmm, I was going to insert some photos but Realbuzz won't let me. :-( I'll try something else.
Westmill parkrun doesn’t attract huge numbers of participants - only 56 starters this morning which was a contrast from last week at Clapham with 640 runners. Still a small parkrun is just as good as a big parkrun. We were joined this morning by Pudsey Bear (Children in Need must be coming up)
The start was down a rather muddy slippery lane so we all skidded through the first hundred metres.
A tall, thin young man in red shot off and went on to finish first by around three minutes. I took the first part fairly easy as I didn’t want to come a cropper on the steep downhill. Along the stretch by the lakes I gradually moved through the field and was third by the end of the first lap. I was chasing a guy in an orange vest and thought I might catch him for second place but I never quite got there. Still third place was pretty good. My time was 21:41 which is nearly my slowest of the year, but this was one of the trickiest courses I have run.
Do check out Westmill if you live in this area. You’re not going to get a PB on this course but it’s a lovely spot with some beautiful views and some friendly people.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 183. I was first in my age group, first overall on age graded scores and, although my time wasn’t fast, it was still an age category course best. I have also completed another parkrun challenge, which is the ‘compass challenge’, that is doing at least one parkrun with north, south, east or west in the name!
I shall conclude, as usual, with a YouTube video of the course. If you’d like a glimpse of Westmill Farm, here it is!
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