Barclay parkrun

Posted on: 18 May 2019

Well I continue on. I am back up to running every other day now, resting on the days in between to try and get my ankle to settle down.  As long as I am able to jog a few miles,  I feel compelled to keep my parkrun streak going and so this morning I headed off to Barclay parkrun.

Barclay parkrun has nothing to do with banks.  It takes place in Hoddesdon, which is a town in Hertfordshire, north of London, about 20 miles up the A10.  It lies towards the northern end of the valley of the River Lea.  The name Hoddesdon is believed to come from an Anglo-Saxon chief called Hodda, or something similar; the suffix ‘don’ indicates a down or a hill.  Hoddesdon had grown into a small market town by the Middle Ages.

Its position on the road leading northwards towards Cambridge and beyond made Hoddesdon a major staging post.  A number of the old buildings on the High Street were originally coaching inns.  In Tudor times the town acquired its first hospital and grammar school.  There was a fine manor house in Hoddesdon called Rye House, which was the scene of the Rye House Plot.  This was a conspiracy to murder King Charles II and his brother James (later James II) for their pro Catholic sympathies.  The plot failed because the king and his brother passed through the area earlier than expected.  Rye House was later demolished and only the gatehouse remains as a local landmark.

Image result for rye house hoddesdon

The River Lea was a major source of the economic activity in the town for centuries.  It provided the power for several water mills to produce flour.  Later on brewing became an important industry in Hoddesdon.  In the twentieth century gravel extraction became a major local industry.  Once most of the gravel had been removed the holes filled up with water to become a chain of ponds and lakes along the river valley.

Hoddesdon is one of the few towns in the UK with a sizeable community of people of Italian ancestry.  During the Second World War many Italian prisoners of war worked on the farms of the Lea Valley.  Many chose to stay after the war and later brought their families over.  This area of the Lea Valley is sometimes known as Little Sicily, reflecting the origins of many of the Italian immigrants.  The town celebrates the Festival of San Antonio in June.

The town centre was extensively redeveloped in the 1960s.  The result is an odd mixture of attractive historic buildings alongside modern shopping centres and tower blocks.  The main feature of the town centre is the clock tower built in 1835 on the site of an old chapel.

Image result for hoddesdon clock tower

Barclay Park comprises some 18 acres over on the western edge of town.  It was formerly part of the estate of a manor house called High Grounds.  In 1871 the estate was purchased by a Robert Buchanan Barclay and renamed High Leigh.  In 1935, as part of George V’s jubilee, the Barclay family donated some of the grounds to the public to become a park.  High Leigh house is still there, still privately owned and is today a conference centre.  Barclay Park is an attractive mix of undulating grassland, a lake, a stream and areas of woodland.

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The parkrun at Barclay has been going for about four years, (run number 209 today).  It doesn’t attract the biggest fields, maybe around 70 or so, but then there are a lot of parkruns to choose from in this area.  There were 118 starters this morning, more than usual - maybe they’d heard that I was coming!  The web page tells you that the course consists of three laps around the perimeter of the park, a mixture of grass and tarmac paths.  This is correct but it doesn’t mention the fact that they change the course in summer.  I arrived at Barclay Park at around 8:45 and saw all the markers put out for the run but no sign of any volunteer or any other runner.  It was a bit like the Marie Celeste!  Where were they all?  I noticed a couple of people heading down a woodland path and decided to follow them.  The path came out at a cricket pitch and there everybody was.  The summer course starts with a lap round the cricket pitch, then out along a narrow path into the park.  There are then two and a half laps around the park before you head back to the cricket pitch and the finish.  The course is twisting and undulating throughout.  Results suggest that this is quite a tough course - in four years only one person has managed an age graded score of over 80%.   

So to the run.  We set off round the cricket pitch.  There were maybe 20 people ahead of me as we left the field.  My ankle was still a bit stiff and sore but it felt better than it did last week at Sunny Hill.   I seemed to be moving a bit quicker as well, though I found the undulations a bit testing.  I had worked up to 11th place by the time we came back to the cricket pitch.  I had hoped we could turn right and head straight to the finish but no ... we had to do a full lap of the pitch at the end.  I was huffing and puffing a bit by the end - a sign of lack of fitness - but I crossed the line in 23:36 and 11th position.  I was happy enough with that.  I could see that it was a tough course and I had run as well as I could.

My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 204.  I was first in my age group and second overall on age graded scores (quite encouraging!)

I could only find one video of Barclay parkrun so here it is.  The actual run starts at approx 5:30 if you want to fast forward.

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