Normal service is resumed. Well, sort of. I’ve been struggling for several weeks now with my dodgy left ankle. Just when I think it might be getting better ... it gets worse again. I have once again resumed gentle jogging around the sports fields every other day. I decided that if I could run three miles around the fields, however slowly, then I could maybe do a parkrun again. I’ve been rather missing my usual Saturday morning ritual although I have been still able to participate by volunteering at local events. Still I would rather be running and so I tentatively took the risk of travelling to a new venue and thus headed for Seaford.
Seaford is on the Sussex coast, roughly halfway between Brighton and Eastbourne. Seaford is just to the east of the port of Newhaven and just to the west of two well known beauty spots - Cuckmere Haven and Birling Gap. From Birling Gap you can see that iconic view of the chalk cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters. I can’t recall ever visiting Birling Gap before so, after the run was over, I travelled the short distance to see it for myself.
I’m jumping ahead. Back to Seaford. Seaford has a history going back at least as far as Roman times. Its name comes from the fact that it lay at the point where the River Ouse met the sea (and presumably there was a ford here) For several centuries Seaford was an important port on the south coast, indeed it belonged to the Cinque Ports as a limb port of Hastings. It was raided many times by the French during the Hundred Years War and beyond into the fifteenth century. In the 16th century, the people of Seaford were known as the "cormorants" or "shags" because of their enthusiasm for looting ships wrecked in the bay. Local legend has it that Seaford residents would, on occasion, cause ships to run aground by placing fake harbour lights on the cliffs.
What eventually stopped Seaford from being a port was coastal drift which caused the estuary of the Ouse to move westwards to where the port of Newhaven is now to be found. Without a port, Seaford became simply a small town beside the sea. Because of its topography it was vulnerable to storms and flooding, a situation remedied only by the building of a concrete sea wall and, in more recent times, the piling up of thousands of tons of shingle on the seafront, raising the level of the beach and offering a barrier to the sea.
In the nineteenth century some attempt was made to develop Seaford as a seaside resort but it was never likely to compete with much larger and fancier places nearby such as Brighton and Eastbourne. It did establish itself though as a centre for education at a time when it was thought that the seaside was the ideal place to send your offspring to be educated. At one time there were thought to be around sixty educational establishments in the town. Seaford was sometimes known as “school town” and some distinguished figures received their education here.
Seaford also has a military connection. During the Napoleonic wars, a Martello tower was constructed here. The tower is still there and is now home to Seaford museum. During World War I there were two enormous camps in Seaford with a total of nine parade grounds and a startling 25,000 soldiers, which increased the town’s population by more than 600 per cent. During World War 2, the beach again had to be heavily fortified as a potential landing ground.
Seaford today is a medium sized town of around 23,000 residents. I guess nowadays it is primarily a dormitory town for people who work in Newhaven or Brighton or Eastbourne. There is a railway station so you could even commute to London. It does still have its seaside setting though and would be a good place to live if you enjoy a stroll along the seafront.
Seaford parkrun has been going for around six months and has proved pretty popular, typically attracting up to 200 starters. The parkrun course is a straightforward out and back along the concrete promenade that runs along the back of the beach. It begins at the western end, near the sailing club. The turnaround point is just beyond the Martello tower, next to some rather colourful beach huts. I chose to come here because the course is fairly flat and the running surface is smooth so it would hopefully put less strain on my ankle. As I lined up for the start I wasn’t sure that this was a good idea. I have done little training in the last three months and rarely more than three miles at a jog. On the plus side it was a bright blustery morning and I always enjoy running at the seaside - the clear blue sky, the sound of the waves, the salt sea air!
I started off at a gentle jog and built up to a slightly faster jog. We had the advantage of the wind behind us in the first half and I reached the turnaround point in around 12:40. The return journey was into the wind and, even at an easy jog, I was feeling the strain. At times I seemed to be going barely faster than walking pace. I was relieved to see the finish up ahead and crossed the line in 26:24 for 64th place. I was a bit disappointed to be so unfit but glad to have ticked off another parkrun. Maybe I can come back to Seaford and improve my time later. Certainly I enjoy coming to this stretch of the coast. After the run, as already stated, I made a detour to Birling Gap and checked out those white cliffs.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 207. I was third in my age group and 39th overall on age graded scores.
There isn’t yet a video of Seaford parkrun so I will leave you with a few photos of the course.
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