A rare chance this morning to do a new parkrun in my home county of Surrey. I’d long exhausted the list of parkruns within a short distance of home but then a new one popped up at Brooklands in Weybridge.
Weybridge is on the northern edge of Surrey, the southern edge of Greater London. It’s just inside the M25 so you might consider it as part of London. The name Weybridge come from the fact that this is where the River Wey runs into the River Thames. Weybridge is a prosperous commuter town. It is known for its upmarket housing estates and golf courses, such as St George’s Hill, home to wealthy stockbrokers and big showbiz stars. The Beatles lived here for a while in the sixties.
To the south of the main town lies the district of Brooklands. Now Brooklands is famous in the motoring world as the first home of motor racing in the UK. The racing circuit was the brainchild of Hugh Lofte King and was opened in June 1907 with a parade of cars from all the major British manufacturers including Rolls Royce. The track was oval in shape, made of concrete, about 100 feet wide and 2.75 miles long, with an extended finishing straight running through the middle. Around the bends there was steep banking to allow the vehicles to pick up speed around the curves. Brooklands was the place where many speed and distance records were established in the early days of motoring. In February 1913 Percy Lambert, driving a Talbot, became the first person to cover over a hundred miles in an hour.
Brooklands was also associated with the early development of aeroplanes. The first official flight at Brooklands was made in October 1909. Many of the early pioneers of flying - Vickers, Sopwith, Blondeau and others - established flying schools at Brooklands. During the First World War motor racing was suspended and the site was given over entirely to the production of aircraft and the training of pilots.
After the war ended, motor racing resumed at Brooklands. This was a golden age of British motor sport. The first British Grand Prix was held here in 1926. Speed records continued to improve and a new track record of 144 MPH was established. The circuit could hold tens of thousands of spectators and huge numbers came to watch the races.
In the Second World War Brooklands reverted to its secondary purpose as a place for aircraft development and manufacture. The two big manufacturers were Vickers who produced the Wellington bomber and Hawker who produced the Hurricane fighter. The site was a prime target for German bombers during the Battle of Britain and in an attack in September 1940 around 90 aircraft workers were killed and many more injured.
After the war motor racing ceased - the track was too badly damaged and nobody had the money or enthusiasm to rebuild it. Aircraft manufacture continued though until as late as the 1980s. The last remnant of this industry - there are still some elements of BAE based there. As for Brooklands today, you can still see the outline of the track on aerial photos. In some corners of the park you can find a few sections of the high concrete banking. Within the oval nowadays you will find a large retail and business park. There is a big Amazon warehouse here and a Tesco superstore. At the northern end there is the Brooklands Museum which traces the history of both motor vehicles and aviation. And there is a large open area designated as Brooklands Community Park. This is where the parkrun takes place.
The western side of the park is fairly open with grassland and a broad tarmac strip, probably the remains of a runway. The eastern side is composed of woodland along the banks of the River Wey. The parkrun course consists of two laps, largely flat, about half on tarmac and half on dirt paths through the woods. It was a little bit muddy today but not too bad.
Brooklands parkrun has proved reasonably popular so far in its brief existence. There were 261 starters today on a grey and misty morning. Also there were Kath and Richard Miller, who live nearby. It was, of course, a delight to see them again and catch up on their medical history! Kath was able to jog/walk round this morning but Richard is still not allowed to do anything too energetic.
So to the run. We shot off down the runway. There was a young lad in black who went off very fast. Behind him was a cluster of runners in joint second place and a little further back came me. I was moving reasonably well and passed the approximate halfway point in around 9:40. On the second lap I passed one or two people and was passed by one or two others. I maintained a reasonably steady pace and came in in a time of 19:38. That was fine, about what I expected. Afterwards I trotted one more lap alongside Kath. I quite enjoyed the Brooklands course - maybe I’d like it better in the summer when it’s dryer. I might possibly come back to Brooklands one week as it’s only a thirty minute drive from home and I’d like to take a look at the Brooklands museum.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 195. I was first in my age group and first overall on age graded scores.
To finish with, here’s a YouTube video of a previous event. This is what it looks like.
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