Castle Park parkrun

Posted on: 20 Apr 2019

Well it’s been a bumpy old time ever since that moment a couple of weeks ago when I decided to fall flat on my face while out on a run, leaving myself with bruised ribs and a sore back.  It’s taken a little while to get better.  Usually when you suffer an injury it’s to your lower limbs but in this case I’ve been fine from the waist down but rather sore in my upper body.  I’ve been able to walk okay, even jog at a gentle pace but any faster than that, it becomes too painful to continue.  In my desperation to keep my parkrun streak going though, I did go to my local event at Hogmoor two weeks ago and I jogged round carefully.  Last week I chose to be tailwalker at Guildford and walked/ jogged round to my slowest ever time.  I’ve been feeling a bit better this week, able to run a few miles around the local sports fields and so I decided to resume parkrun touring.  I decided though to choose a course which was mainly flat and largely on grass.  Looking at my options I settled on Castle Park parkrun, which is in Bishop’s Stortford.

Bishop’s Stortford is in Hertfordshire, north of London,  about twenty miles up the M11.  I’ve been this way before to run at Hatfield Forest.  Readers with incredible memories will recall that Hatfield Forest is one of those few parkruns that was discontinued but that it was replaced with a new venue nearby in Bishop’s Stortford .... Castle Park!  The derivation of the name Bishop’s Stortford ... well there would have been a ford here over the River Stort (a stort is an old name for a tongue of land)   Around 1060 the manor of Stortford was acquired, for the sum of £8, by William, the Bishop of London and thus the place became Bishop’s Stortford.   Around about the same time the Normans constructed a motte and bailey castle near the town centre which became known as Waytemore Castle.  The castle was enlarged and reinforced over the next few centuries but eventually fell into ruin.  The ruins can still be seen today in, where else, Castle Park.

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At the time of the Domesday Book, Bishop’s Stortford was a small village with a population of 120.   Over the next few centuries it grew slowly, helped by its position on the main road and on a river.  From the Middle Ages it hosted a weekly market and also three annual fairs. It acquired a grammar school in 1579.  Bishop’s Stortford began to grow more quickly after 1769 when the River Stort was made more navigable.  Goods could be transported along the river while people travelled along the road that is now the M11 using Bishop’s Stortford as a staging post.  The railway arrived as early as 1842.  By the year 1900 the population had risen to around 7,000.  It is around 38,000 today.

In the 20th century, Bishop's Stortford remained an agricultural town. There was still a malting industry and some light engineering. There was also flour milling and an industry making matches. Bishop's Stortford is also, of course, a commuter town.  There is a fast link into London.  There is also Stansted airport right next door, which must be a major source of employment locally.  Modern day Bishop’s Stortford seems to be a busy and thriving place, an attractive place to live, where half timbered houses can be found next door to modern shopping centres.

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Quite a few well known people have come from this area including  Russell Brand (comedy) Glenn Hoddle (football) Sam Smith (pop music) and Cecil Rhodes (the Empire builder!)  There is a museum situated at Rhodes’ birthplace dedicated to him and also to local history.  The museum is part of the larger Rhodes Art Complex which includes a theatre,  a cinema, a dance studio and conference facilities.

Castle Park has been at the heart of Bishop’s Stortford for over a hundred years.  It comprises two main sections separated by a wooded area.  The southern part is based around the old castle mound and is more of a traditional park with a playground, a bandstand and tennis courts.  The northern part is comprised of the sports fields surrounding the local leisure centre.  The River Stort runs down the western side and the main rail line borders the east.

The parkrun course at Castle Park consists of two laps.  It starts at the southern end in an area called Sworders Field.  It then heads northwards on paths through the wooded area until you reach a broad expanse of playing fields.  You do a long loop around the perimeter of the sports fields then head back through the wooded area, then turn left and do the lap again. It would be, I guess, a reasonably fast course if the ground is dry, which it was today.

It was a  lovely, sunny spring morning which, together with the Easter holidays,  brought out a total of 446 runners - a record for this venue.   My aims were fairly modest today in view of my still sore back and the shortage of training in the last few weeks.  My plan was to start slowly and build up to a pace that I felt comfortable with.  Well it didn’t quite work out that way.  I seemed to be moving quite briskly even though I was a long way down the field.  There were kilometre markers and I passed 1k in around 4:20 which seemed quite fast.  I  reached 2k in 8:12, which I found suspiciously fast.  I completed the first lap in 10:20 which was good but ... too fast.  My lack of training now became apparent and I started puffing and blowing.  The second lap was harder work and I was passed by a few people.  I was relieved to finally turn back into Sworders Field and approach the finish.  My position was 41st and my time 21:16.  That wasn’t bad ... actually it was quite good in view of my lack of training.   I enjoyed the course at Bishop’s Stortford.  If I lived round these parts I would be a regular here.

My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 201.  I was second in my age group and 12th overall on age-graded scores.  

I shall finish as usual with a YouTube video of the course.  Here it is in eight minutes.

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