It was a small landmark on my parkrun journey today. Actually quite a big landmark as 250 is one of those milestones where you get another t-shirt. I had been contemplating for a while as to where I should run my 250th but in the end, working on the theory that every parkrun is as good as any other and also because I needed to be back home early, I decided to go to my nearest event, not yet done. So it was that I headed off to the wonderfully named Squerrey’s Winery parkrun.
Squerrey’s is just outside the small town of Westerham, which is on the western edge of Kent (hence the name). Westerham is an attractive, historic small town of around 5,000 residents. It lies on the River Darent and is just a few miles from Sevenoaks. It has a history dating back to ancient times. It appears in the Domesday Book as Oistreham (not to be confused with Ouistreham in Normandy)! It grew into a medium sized market town - cattle markets were held here as late as the 1960s. There were also several water mills, powered by the aforementioned River Darent. Perhaps the most famous son of Westerham was General James Wolfe who won Canada for the British with his victory at Quebec in 1759. The Battle of Quebec is commemorated in the names of various buildings and roads in the town. To the south of Westerham is the manor house at Chartwell, which was the home of Sir Winston Churchill. There is a bronze statue of Sir Winston on the town green near to the one of General Wolfe.
On the outskirts of Westerham there is a fine old manor house by the name of Squerrey’s Court. The estate here dates back at least as far as the Middle Ages and originally belonged to the Squerry family (hence the name) The Squerry name died out in the fifteenth century and the estate passed through several different hands. The present house was constructed by Sir Nicholas Crispe in the late seventeenth century. It is a fine example of its era and is filled with valuable furniture, porcelain and tapestries. It is surrounded by ten acres of gardens laid out in a formal style. The estate was acquired by the Warde family in 1731 and their descendants still live in the house today. It used to be possible to visit the house but nowadays it is kept as a private residence. The house and estate have sometimes been used as filming locations. The fields, near to where we would be running, once hosted the Battle of Agincourt for the BBC series, “The Hollow Crown”.
The main income for the estate comes, as it has done for centuries, from agriculture. They keep a 200 strong herd of cattle, which supplies both milk and beef. The arable land is used to grow a variety of crops, mainly wheat, barley and oilseed rape. The estate is always looking for ways to expand and diversify. A decade or so ago, it was suggested that their terrain was not too dissimilar to that of the Champagne region of France. A vineyard was planted in a corner of the estate in 2006 and the first sparkling wine was produced a few years later. Today Squerrey’s Winery is a thriving business with a shop and a restaurant. There is an interesting article at this link. https://tinyurl.com/t5hjcnd If you prefer beer to wine, then you’ll find Westerham brewery on the same site, making traditional beers from local hops and barley.
The parkrun here has been going for just under three months. It starts in a corner of the field, next to the vines and then consists primarily of a loop and half around two large ploughed fields. I suspected that this might not be my type of course and my suspicions were confirmed when I went for a little jog round the top field before the start. This was probably the muddiest course I have ever run. I have done muddy parkruns before but usually there were at least some stretches that were reasonably dry and firm. Here it was muddy and slippy pretty much all the way round. We weren’t helped by the conditions - it was a dull, grey November day with a light drizzle. Despite the conditions there were 77 hardy souls at the start, including a few dogs. I have never been good at running on mud and, in my old age, I am even less suited to it. My target for the run was to get round in one piece, without slipping over or getting too mud splattered. This I just about managed to do. I set off in the middle of the field and was happy to watch the younger and more sure footed runners shoot off into the distance. There was a marker for halfway and my watch showed 14:20, which suggested to me that this was going to be one of my slowest ever parkruns. I continued to plod round. They play a little trick on you towards the end. You think you are coming into the finish but you are directed back through the vines to do another little loop. Eventually the finish came in sight and I was relieved to cross the line in 28:44 for 31st place. I believe that is my slowest ever time, apart from when I was tailwalker.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun number 250 (as I might have mentioned before) at my 213th different venue. I was second in my age group and eighteenth overall on age graded scores.
So that was my 250th parkrun. The next milestone, at least the next one that comes with a t-shirt, comes at 500 parkruns. Even if I run every weekend without fail, it will take me five years to get to that point, so for the time being, I shall put that thought out of my mind. I would like, however, to get to 250 different venues (only 37 to go) so that will be my next parkrun goal. When I envisaged my 250th parkrun, I probably hadn’t foreseen a plod around a muddy field in the November drizzle, but I am perfectly happy to have reached the target at Squerreys. Get yourself along to Squerreys if you are in the area - it’s a nice place to visit. If you’re planning to run here however, maybe wait until the summer when it’s dry.
Here is a YouTube video of the Squerrey’s course, if you’d like to see it for yourself. This was filmed a couple of months ago when the weather was brighter and the course comparatively dry.
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