Back on the tourist trail today with a visit to Edenbrook Country parkrun, which is on the western side of Fleet in Hampshire. Fleet is only a short journey for me as it is just the other side of Hampshire. I know the town pretty well and its surrounding roads because I have participated several times in the Fleet half marathon, most recently in 2017.
As a town Fleet didn’t really exist before the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was an area of sandy heathland criss crossed by some little streams and dotted with small ponds. The largest of these is Fleet Pond which comprises over 100 acres and is maintained nowadays as a nature reserve and a site of scientific interest. The name Fleet is believed to derive from the French word Flete meaning a stream or shallow water. The main Farnham to Reading road passed through here and the Basingstoke canal was constructed in the late eighteenth century. The development of the local area however only began with the arrival of the Great Western railway in the mid nineteenth century. The railway company promoted Fleet Pond as a destination for excursions and new roads and houses started to be built in the area.
Land agent Henry Brake bought 457 acres of the enclosed land in 1878. He made roads including Albert Street, Clarence Road and Connaught Road, Victoria Road, and those at Pondtail. He set out thousands of building plots for sale and his son Charles continued these sales from his office in Fleet Road.
The area attracted new residents and Fleet's population increased from 380 in 1871 to 2000 in 1901. London bankers and lawyers created large estates for themselves, army officers retired here and others set up businesses, large and small. Tobacco was grown commercially for 25 years on the Redfields estate, and County Commercial Cars Ltd. of Albert Street built tractors to their own designs for over 50 years.
After World War I some large estates, including Basingbourne, Courtmoor and Dinorben, were sold for housing. Farmland at Ancells Farm and Zebon Copse, and heathland at Elvetham were developed, and many owners of smaller properties sold off part of their gardens. Today Fleet is home to around 42,000 people. Some of them commute to work but there have also been, in recent years, developments of new business and technology parks. Hart District council is based in Fleet. Recent surveys have shown repeatedly that this corner of Hampshire is the most prosperous corner of the UK with the best standard of living. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/21/fleet-hampshire-britain-halifax-survey-quality-of-life#:~:text=The%20Hampshire%20town%20of%20Fleet,a%20particularly%20gung%2Dho%20audience.
To the west of Fleet lies Edenbrook Country Park. The park is a fairly recent addition to the town’s amenities. In the late 1990s the property developer Berkely proposed building over 600 homes on this side of the town. The plans were approved on the understanding that Berkeley would also construct leisure facilities in the form of Hart Leisure Centre and adjacent to this an area of countryside would become a country park. Edenbrook contains a few hundred acres, mainly of grassy meadows alongside the River Hart. It would be a nice place to walk, run, cycle or go birdwatching.
Edenbrook parkrun is a very new addition to the family, having only got to run number 8 today. One of the run directors is Darren Wood who owns the distinction of having run more parkruns than any other person. Darren has so far completed 808 parkruns. I was hoping that he would be there today but … after 808 parkruns, Covid has brought him to a halt! The course at Edenbrook consists of a short runout to two laps. It’s mainly flat and on compacted gravel paths so it ought to be a reasonably fast course, at least when it’s dry.
Edenbrook is proving a popular event in its early weeks. There were over three hundred runners there this morning, many of them first timers. The only slight problem with the course is that the paths are rather narrow so it took me a little while to get going. It was a nice sunny morning and it was a pleasant experience running alongside the river. I got to the halfway point in just under eleven minutes and then maintained that pace to get to the finish in just over twenty two minutes. 22:05 and 44th place. Exactly the same time as I managed last week at Bushy. So that was Edenbrook. It’s a nice course and one I wouldn’t mind doing again.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 256. I was first in my age group and seventh overall on age graded scores.
If you’d like a quick view of Edenbrook, here’s a video by Danny Norman from a few weeks ago. It includes some nice drone footage and an interview with Darren Wood.
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