Course Changes in January

parkrunners, our winter course is changing. Over the next couple of weeks we are implementing two route changes, these will result in us settling on a winter route which we are hoping will become our permanent option over the winter months.

Why are we doing this?

Hatfield Forest is a unique parkrun venue & faces conservation challenges that are exacerbated by the increase in visitors to the forest as the local population has grown. It is a never ending journey of proactively managing the forest that the National Trust takes on.
Every footprint at the forest counts & although our numbers are inconsequential in the grand scheme of visitors to the forest every year, we need to play our part in the conservations efforts on site.

This is something we’re aware of, having proactively changed routes in the past. Those that have been with us since our inception in March 2015 will be aware that our first winter route used to take us as far as the main entrance gate. This is an area that is used by a great deal of forest users as it’s vicinity to the main gate means that many visitors park up & walk from this point, removing what was approximately 150 pairs of footprints a week wouldn’t be the solution, but we as a parkrun event could at least contribute. At the start of 2016 this part of the route was phased out, leading to the route we are currently using as our winter course.

Runners of our current route will be more than aware that there are muddy sections on it. One key section is another area that is very popular with other users of the forest. The last kilometre, from Elgins, through to the Bridge of Doom & onto the Shell House finish. Also a concern but less of an immediate priority is between 1km – 1.6km & the area which includes the Hill of Questionable Merit. Despite these rides being wide, they are starting to churn & we also need to plan to move away from this area as well.

What’s Next?

For the next two weeks we are going to return to a route that was used last spring, over our anniversary event when the dam was being rebuilt. This is a temporary route change that allows us to operate for the next two weeks (Jan 14 & Jan 21). Here is a reminder of the route, known as route J, course 7.

Why The Two Week Change?

The final kilometre of the route needs our immediate attention, but we can’t move straight away to a new course as this takes time to walk the route, create maps, marshal lanyards, risk assess etc. With this in mind, we were faced with two options, cancel for a fortnight, or use an interim route.
The NT have allowed us to operate on our revised route in order to give myself & the core team time to create & familiarise themselves with the new route.

Introducing Route K, Course Number 7

From January 28th, we will be in a position to launch our newest & hopefully final winter course. This is a course that I have always suspected we would have to move to eventually & will include no off road running, sticking to the roads & gravel tracks in the forest.

This route will include an out & back on the plain, with runners now running in both directions on the gravel access road. We will need you to work together on this by all running on the left hand side as in most weeks the tail will still be navigating this area as front runners return. You will then turn left onto the estate road until you meet the Entrance road on the right hand side. From here you’ll carry on straight, carrying on the loop that you currently run between 3.2km – 4.0km at present. Only on this course, you’ll run that loop twice. Again we’ll need runners to be sensible here, on the first lap keep left, on the second, keep right & remember to complete a second lap before heading home!!! Once that second lap is completed, turn left & run all the way back to the Shell House along the access road, where the finish funnel will be waiting for you.

One last thing we’ll need from all of our participants. If you park in the Shell House car park, you won’t be able to leave until the tailrunner has completed the course. This is to ensure the safety of all of our runners. If you know that you’ll need to leave before 09:50 (on most weeks), then we recommend that you park at the Main Gate car park instead.
Here is a preview of the new route. This is very much a work in progress as I’ve drawn this on Strava. The core team will be walking the route over the next couple of weeks to familiarise themselves with it.

So Why Again Are We Doing This?

Because without a sustainable winter route, we’d be a seasonal parkrun event. And the last seasonal parkrun event was in Iceland (the country, not the supermarket) & now ceases to exist. This means we have to adjust in order to ensure the event continues to go ahead. Please bear with us in the first couple of the weeks of the new route should we make subtle adjustments to the start & U turn positions, plus marshalling on the route. If the route isn’t a perfect 5.0km on your Garmin (or other such device), please consider it bonus extra metres, or a treat from us that you get to run a little less / more.

I’d also like to thank the National Trust for reaching an agreeable position on an interim route that allows the event to continue for the next fortnight whilst we prepare the new course. This allows our participants, both runners & volunteers to still get their parkrun fix in at the forest whilst we as a core team work on course design in the background.

As the Event Director for the parkrun, I always knew it would be a challenge to keep a parkrun sustainable within the amazing grounds of Hatfield Forest. That we can continue to do so is a credit to our core team, the National Trust & their volunteers, plus our runners for their continued enthusiasm for both the forest & the event.

This does of course mean goodbye (at least for now) to the Bridge of Doom..........

Chris Holt
Hatfield Forest parkrun Event Director