Swanley parkrun

Posted on: 15 Jan 2022

So on we go with the parkrun tourist trail and this week I was headed for the town of Swanley.

Swanley is on the south-eastern edge of Greater London.  Technically it belongs in Kent but it is inside the circle of the M25 so it could also qualify as a London parkrun.  Swanley has a history going back many centuries but for most of that time it was just a tiny village.  The name Swanley … well the ‘ley’ bit suggests a clearing or meadow.  It was a meadow where you would see not swans, but more probably swine!  Up to the middle of the nineteenth century it was just a small cluster of houses around a road junction.  

Then, in 1861, a rail line was built through here and a new station was established at Swanley Junction.  A fast rail link into central London encouraged developers to start building new houses in Swanley.  In 1889 Swanley Horticultural College was established just to the north of the village.  Kent was, and still is, the “Garden of England” and the college was intended to promote the science of growing crops and garden plants.  The college was something of a trailblazer in that, although it started out as a men’s college, many women were interested in studying here.  Soon female students outnumbered the men and by the early 1900s it had become an all female institution.  More recently it was absorbed into the University of London and ceased to exist as an independent college.

In the late nineteenth century, in the days before the NHS, it was felt that the best thing for patients was to take them away from the dirt and the smog of London and out to the rural idyll of Kent.  Accordingly three hospitals were built in the vicinity of Swanley to allow patients to recuperate in the fresh air.  There was also an orphanage - the Swanley Home for Little Boys.  All these institutions have long since closed.

In the second half of the twentieth century Swanley was heavily redeveloped and it seems that anything of any architectural interest was demolished.  The buildings of Swanley town centre are modern and functional but hardly picture postcard material.  I looked on the internet for “Places to visit in Swanley” and the first place it suggests is the Asda superstore.  (Mind you, it is a particularly large and magnificent example of the genre!) The population of Swanley is now around 18,000.  A recent survey named Swanley as the worst place to live in Kent, which is a tad unfair.

Swanley named the worst place to live in Kent in scathing iLiveHere review  - Kent Live

Thank Heavens, I say, for Swanley Park.  It is one of the nicer parks that I have visited on my travels.  It is just to the north of Swanley Village and still retains traces of the farmland that it used to be.  At its heart there is a largish lake on which you can go boating.  There are lots of things for children to enjoy - playgrounds, bouncy castle, paddling pool, gokarts etc.  And there is a miniature railway.  Who doesn’t love a miniature railway?  This one takes you on a half mile loop around the western end of the park.  Unfortunately it isn’t open in winter.  

All Other Activities | Swanley Park

The course at Swanley is slightly convoluted.  You start near the southern carpark then run downhill for a hundred yards.  There is then an out and back along a muddy path.  Then you run a loop around the western field, alongside the railway.  Then a loop around the eastern field beside the lake.  Then you repeat the process.   It was a cold foggy morning and as I jogged round for a warm up I could see that the course was rather muddy and slippy in places.  This would not be a day for any heroics.  One of my goals for this year is not to fall over in 2022, so I would be taking it very carefully.


Swanley is a recent addition to the parkrun family, only run number 12 today and it doesn’t yet attract huge numbers.  There were 91 people lined up for today’s run.  I took it very slowly and carefully on the slippy bits, occasionally speeding up a little on the drier patches.   I gradually worked my way through to eleventh place and finished in 23:37.  That was fine.  Rather slow by current standards but I wasn’t going to kill myself on a morning like today.

My statistics for today … I am now up to 241 different parkrun venues. I was first in my age group (fairly easy these days … there aren’t all that many over 65s taking part) and I was third overall on age graded scores.

Anyway I enjoyed visiting Swanley Park.  Maybe I will come back in summer when the course will be drier and I can ride on the railway!

If you would like a glimpse of Swanley parkrun, here’s a YouTube video from last autumn.

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