It is getting increasingly difficult to find new parkruns to go to. I have completed all the parkruns in London and the south east and so any new additions on the list will require a long journey on a Saturday morning. Weymouth is on the outer limit of my range, I’d been meaning to go for quite a while and so today I made the effort to get there.
Weymouth lies on the Dorset coast. It is the third largest settlement in Dorset after Poole and Bournemouth. It is so called because it lies at the mouth of the River Wey. This is not the River Wey in Surrey, with which I am more familiar. This is another River Wey which runs south from the Dorset hills down to the coast. As it enters the town it forms a lake, known as Radipole Lake, which is a haven for wild birds. Beyond that the estuary forms a perfect natural harbour for hundreds of yachts. Weymouth Bay lies in a sheltered spot, shielded by the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach and so is an excellent spot for sailing. The Olympic sailing events took place here in 2012.
Weymouth originally consisted of two settlements - the old town of Weymouth on the west bank of the river and the village of Melcombe Regis to the east. In earlier times the two towns were rivals for trade and industry and arguments about the use of the harbour were common. Elizabeth I resolved the matter by uniting the towns as a double borough in 1571. Surrounding villages were later absorbed into the town and the whole place became known eventually as simply Weymouth.
As a valuable port, the defence of Weymouth and Portland was always a priority. Henry VIII built two forts here in the 1530s. During the Napoleonic Wars the Red Barracks were constructed here and were home to around 1,000 troops. During the First World War, Weymouth was home to thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops. In the Second World War it was mainly American troops who were stationed here. Weymouth was heavily bombed during the war and much of the town centre was flattened and had to be rebuilt. Weymouth Harbour was one of the main places where vessels involved in D-Day were to gather. Here’s a short video of American troops boarding ships on their way to Normandy.
For many years Weymouth was a ferry port, across to France and the Channel Islands. The service has however now relocated to Poole. It has always been and still is home to a fishing fleet. At the last count there were 82 boats operating out of Weymouth. These days the harbour is mainly known as a centre for recreational and competitive yachting.
Weymouth’s popularity as a holiday destination began as early as the eighteenth century when King George III was a frequent visitor. There is still plenty to attract visitors today. First and foremost there is a long sand and shingle beach. There is a funfair. There are colourful beach huts. Then there is the Sea Life Centre, also Sandworld (full of sand sculptures), Weymouth Pavilion, various amusement arcades and a pitch and putt course.
Weymouth parkrun is based at Lodmoor Country Park, on the Melcombe Regis side of town, close to the seafront. The course starts in the car park then comprises a small loop around the southern end and then a longish out and back to the northern end of the park. It’s mainly on tarmac with a little bit of gravel path and it’s fairly flat, only the gentlest of inclines. All in all it should be a fairly fast course.
Weymouth parkrun has been going for nearly nine years so maybe I should have got here earlier than event number 397. It is a fairly popular event as well - there were 311 starters there today. It was very warm this morning, even at 9 AM. I went for a little jog along the seafront beforehand and I envied the people having an early morning dip. So off we went. I wasn’t being too adventurous in that heat - I was content to toddle along in the middle of the pack. On the return leg I stretched out a bit and overtook a number of people but there were still plenty ahead of me. I eventually finished in 50th place with a time of 22:24. That was perfectly fine, I was totally happy with that. I enjoyed my little trip to Weymouth (I’m not sure I’ve ever been before) and I can recommend the town and the parkrun.
My statistics for today - my total of parkrun venues now stands at 262. I was second in my age group and eleventh on age graded scores.
If you’d like to see the course for yourself, here is a short YouTube video. This is the course we ran, although you’ll have to imagine it a lot hotter today!
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