Hamsterley Forest parkrun Nov 2021

Hamsterley Forest, Saturday, November 13, 2021


Malcolm Sygrove

A lovely run and a cautionary tale

Two new parkruns have begun in County Durham in recent weeks. I have yet to visit Chopwell Woods, but thought I’d take a trip over to Hamsterley to try this one out. A dry and still morning promised an enjoyable excursion, and I arrived looking forward to a short trail run, with the browns and golds of autumn scattered about the forest floor.

Seventy-six runners lined up near the visitor centre for what I had heard was a hilly course. I had decided on trail shoes, though it transpired that these weren’t really necessary as the paths are mostly forest roads and well made trails, so road shoes would suffice, though maybe not very well after heavy rain.

After the start there is a short section next to the beck and past the kids’ play area, which I am sure is familiar to many. On crossing the bridge over the beck the route climbs steeply, and after a short out and back section continues to climb for the first half of the run, with a few level respites. I took this steadily as I don’t feel very fit right now and have been struggling on hills.

At last the course heads back downhill, along a muddy path where trail shoes really helped. It was surprising how quickly the route drops back to the beckside after all the climbing! The return to the finish is much less hilly, though by no means entirely flat. The course is lovely here amongst the trees and I was really enjoying it, and picking up a few places as well.

Now the cautionary bit. We know that parkrun always has a supportive atmosphere, and the young runner I saw ahead with his mother was clearly struggling. In such cases it is good to say a few words of encouragement: “Well done”, “You’re doing great”, “Nearly at the finish”. This I did, but forgot to follow the golden rule of trail running: Keep your eye on the path! A moment’s lost concentration saw me trip over a rock and find myself on the ground with the browns and golds of autumn, blood pouring from my right knee. I got up straight away and continued, and it was only then that I realised I had also twisted my ankle, but I soldiered on to the finish, despite losing all the places I had gained.

First aid and coffee in the visitor centre restored my spirits, but I think a few days off running will be needed. Having said that,  I can still say that it had indeed been an enjoyable morning. There will be many more visits to this one I think.

I recommend that you give Hamsterley Forest parkrun a go; it is a tough but beautiful addition to the parkrun scene, but watch where you’re putting your feet!

Details of the run on Strava

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