Well I thought I should get myself back on the parkrun tour bus. It’s been a few weeks. The trouble is … having completed over 250 parkrun events I am running out of places to go that are within a reasonable driving distance. I have done nearly all the parkruns in London and the southeast so now it’s a case of waiting for some new ones to pop up. Thus it was that this morning I was headed off to Church Mead parkrun, which is in Amersham. This would be a mini landmark as it was to be my 300th parkrun.
Amersham is an historic market town in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, about 25 miles to the west of London. There are actually two distinct sides to Amersham. There’s Old Amersham, the picture postcard bit, and then there’s Amersham on the Hill where most of the 15,000 population live. Old Amersham is very old indeed. It lies at the bottom of the valley of the River Misbourne, a chalk stream. There is evidence of habitation here going back to ancient times, the earliest version of its name being Agmodesham. According to the Domesday Book, “Geoffrey de mandeville holds Amersham. It answers for 7 ½ hides. Land for 16 ploughs; in lordship 2 hides; 3 ploughs there. 14 villagers with 4 smallholders have 9 ploughs; a further 4 possible. 7 slaves; meadow for 16 ploughs; woodland 400 pigs. The total value was and is £9.
The local economy was based largely on farming. A market was opened in the Middle Ages and traded mainly in grain. Later on brewing became an important local industry. Tanning, lace making and brick making were also important to the town. Old Amersham grew only very slowly and the town centre today has many surviving historic buildings.
On the higher ground to the east is an area formerly known as Amersham Common. This area was transformed by the arrival of the railway in 1892. This gave a direct link into central London and a prosperous commuter town grew up around the station. Nowadays Amersham marks the westernmost extremity of the Metropolitan Line and so it is possible to travel from here right into the heart of London. The more modern part of Amersham is generally referred to as the New Town or Amersham on the Hill. In surveys Amersham is regularly voted one of the best commuter towns in the southeast, indeed one of the best places to live altogether. The combination of nice shops, restaurants, leisure facilities, well regarded schools and attractive countryside make this a particularly nice, if expensive, place to live.
The parkrun course at Amersham is in the Old Town and consists of two laps. It starts in a meadow by the churchyard (hence Church Mead). The first part is easy enough - it runs along the bottom of the valley and so is relatively flat. But then you take a left turn and face a long stiff climb up the side of the valley. At the top there is a patch of woodland which you run through. You emerge from the trees and find yourself near the top of the valley (lovely views!) and then run back down to the start point. It’s one of the tougher parkrun courses that I have run but I imagine it could be a lot tougher in winter when it gets muddy!
Church Mead is a recent addition to the parkrun family, this being only run number 7 today. It’s proving pretty popular and there were nearly 200 starters there on a lovely spring morning. They had decided to move the start back to the car park and so off we went from there. It is a tricky course to negotiate because it is on uneven ground most of the way and I needed to watch my step - I didn’t want to fall over again. Also it was quite narrow and so difficult to pass anybody. After the stiff climb up the hill, the woodland section can be quite tricky - you have to watch out for those tree roots! Then, as you come out of the woods, there is quite a steep descent. I took this section very slowly - my elderly joints didn’t appreciate the pounding. A lot of people came flying past me on this section of the course. And then we had to do it all again. At least by the second lap I was better aware of where the tricky points were. At last we came back down the hill again and turned into the finish. 36th place in a time of 25:29. My slowest time for quite a while. Was I bothered? Not at all! I was just happy to have got round without any problems.
My statistics for today … that takes my total of parkrun venues up to 254 and my outright total of parkruns to 300. I was second in my age group and 16th overall on age graded scores. I very much enjoyed my visit to Amersham. The town is lovely and the folks there were perfectly friendly. But would I choose to make this course my home parkrun? Not likely … far too tough!
If you’d like a quick glimpse of the course, here it is in YouTube form.
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