Another away day this weekend. One of my other interests is going to the theatre and at least once a year I try and get myself up to Stratford upon Avon to see some Shakespeare (It was Richard the Third on Friday evening). It does give me the chance to visit a parkrun a bit further from home than I would normally venture and so this morning I was in Evesham.
Evesham is a medium sized town (pop. 23,000) in the south west corner of Worcestershire. It lies on the same River Avon as Stratford. The flood plain of the Avon is known as the Vale of Evesham. The river brings prosperity in the form of fertile ground, suitable for market gardening, but also the regular risk of flooding.
The name Evesham is believed to derive from an Anglo-Saxon gentleman called Eof, who apparently enjoyed a vision of the Virgin Mary on the riverside meadows in around 700 AD. This led to the construction of Evesham Abbey which soon became one of England’s largest and most important monasteries. The Abbey grew and flourished in the Middle Ages but ultimately fell victim to Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries. The main body of the abbey was demolished and the stone taken away to be used for building works. One part of the abbey remained and that was the Lichfield Bell Tower, which still stands today.
Evesham was the scene of a major battle in the thirteenth century, part of the Second Barons War. This was essentially a rebellion led by Simon de Montfort. Montfort’s troops found themselves trapped in the loop of the river by forces loyal to the king (Henry III) Many of them were massacred including Simon de Montfort himself. Subsequently he was buried in the abbey, but his tomb vanished when the abbey was destroyed. His name though still lives on in the name of some buildings and institutions in Evesham. There was a second, though smaller, Battle of Evesham during the English Civil War. (1645).
The architecture of the town centre is more Georgian than anything though some older buildings survive. Improved communications through road, rail and canal brought more people to the area and the town grew steadily. The river was canalised between Evesham and Stratford which allowed people to travel by boat from the Midlands out to the River Severn and the Bristol Channel. Modern day Evesham doesn't attract the vast numbers of visitors that maybe Stratford or Worcester might expect but it is a pleasant enough place with some historic buildings and some nice countryside on its doorstep.
The parkrun at Evesham has been going since 2015 and is now approaching its 300th running. The run takes place in some parkland which adjoins the loop of the river, starting at Hampton Ferry. It’s a lovely spot, beside the river, with boats and rowing crews going up and down. The course consists of two laps. You head out along the riverside path for about 1.25 kilometres and then do a turn around and come back on the grass. It is largely flat and if the ground is dry, which it certainly was today, it should be a reasonably fast course.
I was slightly concerned as to what the weather would be like yesterday. It was certainly warm but well within bearable limits, with a slight breeze coming off the river. There were 139 starters yesterday which is about average for Evesham. The first few hundred metres were over the only really bumpy part of the course so I got off to a slightly slow start. Once we had got on to the smooth tarmac path, I could start to run more freely. I seemed to spend much of the run chasing a chap pushing a buggy and never quite catching him. I passed halfway in about 11:07, which was about what I was expecting. I then maintained this pace, more or less, to reach the finish in 22:19, which gave me 18th place. Perfectly happy with that. I was pleased also to have added Evesham to the list of places I have visited on my parkrun tour.
My statistics for today … my total of parkrun venues has now climbed to 260. I was first in my age group and fifth overall on age graded scores.
I shall finish with a YouTube video of the course. This was from a few years ago when the course was run in the opposite direction. It was also a lot colder!
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