Tidworth parkrun

Posted on: 06 Aug 2022

I was back on the parkrun tour bus today, after a short break, with a visit to Tidworth.

Tidworth is a small town in Wiltshire, on the eastern edge of Salisbury Plain.  This is an area with strong links to ancient history.  Stonehenge is only a few miles down the road and to the north, there are the remains of an Iron Age hill fort called Sidbury Hill.  Various other mounds and barrows suggest that this was a busy area in ancient times.  The place originally consisted of two villages, North Tidworth and South Tidworth, lying in the valley of the River Bourne.  The Domesday Book records it has having a total of seven landowners and thirty eight households, plus a church.  Nowadays it is called Tidworth, but Tedworth and Tudworth have also been recorded.

At the heart of the community there would have been a fine manor house.  The ownership of the land changed several times over the centuries and the manor house was rebuilt more than once.  The current Tedworth House, which still stands, was rebuilt in an ornate classical style in 1828 - 1830.

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The great transformative event in the history of Tidworth occurred towards the end of the nineteenth century when the War Office acquired Tedworth House and much of the surrounding land in order to turn the place into a garrison town.  Tedworth House became the headquarters of the general in command of the Salisbury Plain training area.

Much of the British Army is nowadays based in and around Salisbury Plain.  Those of us who have occasionally driven the back roads of this area have had the experience of having to stop to allow tanks to cross our path.  Tidworth Camp was one of the earliest military camps here.  A large number of troops were housed here during the First World War and a military hospital and a branch line of the local railway was built to cater for them.  In the Second World War it was mainly American troops based here.  Nowadays Tidworth is home to around 10,000 personnel.  The Royal Tank Regiment is stationed here along with units of the Royal Artillery, the Royal Hussars, the Royal Welsh and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.  In recent years, in association with the charity Help for Heroes, Tidworth has also been a recovery centre.

There is a civilian population in Tidworth as well and there are some pleasant residential areas as well as shops, pubs, schools and churches.  A recent survey by the Royal Mail declared Tidworth to be the most desirable postcode in the UK.  This conclusion was reached by looking at unemployment (virtually nil, thanks to the military camp) and crime (ditto) and affordability of housing.

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For many centuries much of the British Army went into battle on horseback and thus polo became a popular sport among officers as a way of exercising their horses.  Tidworth established a polo field as long ago as 1907.  This subsequently became Tedworth Park Polo Club.  It’s still there, standing in front of Tedworth House, and this is where the parkrun takes place.  The course consists of three laps around the perimeter.  It’s gently undulating and mostly on grass. It could be a reasonably fast course if the ground is dry, which it definitely was today! There was a good turnout this morning - 159 runners, about average for what they have been getting in their early weeks.  The sun was shining from a clear blue sky though thankfully it was a bit cooler and fresher than it had been earlier in the week.

They seemed to set off quite briskly around the polo field and I followed along behind.   I completed the first lap in around 7:15, which was encouraging and I wondered if I could keep that pace up.  I couldn’t!  The temperatures were getting warmer, I was getting slower and, by the third lap, the gentle rise up towards the car park seemed more like a serious hill!  The second lap took around 7:30 and the third around 7:45.  My final time was 22:32 which gave me 22nd place.  I was happy enough with that.  Indeed I was perfectly happy with my visit to Tidworth.  It has a lovely setting and there is a café on site where you can relax afterwards.

My statistics for today - my total of parkrun venues has now risen to 261.  I was first in my age group and fifth overall on age graded scores.

If you’d like to see the course for yourself, in speeded up form, here’s a YouTube video.

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