Devon knows I’m missing balls now – Newark parkrun #335, 16 November 2019

Devon knows I’m missing balls now – Newark parkrun #335, 16 November 2019

 My trip to Newark was a personal one. I worked briefly at the Southwell (Brackenhurst) campus of Nottingham Trent University many years ago and have fond memories of the area. Dad spent family holidays in Newark in the early 1950s, trips he fondly remembers. I visited Newark Castle on Friday afternoon (parkrun eve). A small sign proclaims ‘to cover the distance of just one mile, walk eleven times along this ancient pile.’ So the parkrun is simply 33 and a bit lengths of Newark Castle! How easy! I also noticed a mysterious black silhouette in a lit tower window, resembling the image of Norman Bates’s deceased mother in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic, Psycho; a very tenuous link to my last run report ‘Hitchcock Presents’ for Maldon Prom.



a sepia photo

of Newark Castle

father’s memory

of mother


all that’s left for me

are the towers

of Southwell Minster

and Sherwood rain

So with a sense of family nostalgia, I arrived at Sconce and Devon Park on Saturday morning to make some new parkrun memories. It’s an interesting place and a key part of the first English Civil War, with the earth fortification built to protect King Charles I in Newark Castle. The parkrun itself makes good use of the park, taking in views of Queen’s Sconce, the River Devon and riparian woodland. Last week saw an alternative route run due to the severe flooding which has affected Newark recently and this morning was no different, the lower half of the course underwater. An added ‘bonus’ for runners was a prize (my Peak District poetry book ‘On the Edge’) in this week’s ‘beat the poet’ competition for the runner with the highest age category to finish ahead of me.

warm up-

my lungs burst

their banks

I noted with interest, that a runner named Dylan Thomas has been a first finisher at Newark. The Swansea poet of the same name is a firm favourite of mine with his theatrical readings of classic poems such as Fern Hill and The Hunchback In The Park. Given the appearance of Dylan Thomas in previous runs at Newark, this report will not go gently into that good night, including strategically placed 3 line haiku poems inspired by the event, the first two with a reference to the great man’s work:

Sconce Hill-

a King Charles spaniel

on the sad height


in the parkrun-

my shoulders slump

At nine sharp 165 athletes set off, running past the earth hills of Queen’s Sconce and the impressive bridge which leads to the ancient monument.

civil war-

runners jockey for position

by Queen’s Sconce

The quest for a decent time is further hindered by the absence of the Garmin time piece left behind in Gorleston, Norfolk. Members of the nearby Horological Museum in Upton would no doubt be dismayed.

clock museum-

unnoticed, how quickly

seconds pass

We then descended, like a misguided pack of wolves, onto a narrow woodland path by the ‘in spate’ River Devon. The infamous steps of the Stairway to Devon, thrice took us up to the football field, injecting a fun, yet tiring element into the run. Winding around the football field, some of the 19 volunteers for this morning were in evidence, their task even more admirable on a cool and misty autumn day. The positivity of these stoical individuals never ceases to amaze me. Super organised run director, Sharon Ingle, reminded us to stay off the pitch, although we were nearly hit by a couple of wayward balls (hence the title of the report)! And so the circle was complete and lap two began, runners filtering between oak and dogwood.

riverside walk-

a kingfisher jogs

along the branch

By now, energy levels were dropping, the steps more of an annoyance the second time, silent thumbs up are all I could muster for the marshals. Descending into the wood for the final time, the early ‘pace’ had dissipated.

slow run-

perch and bream

go with the flow

Geared up for the final skirmish in this most enjoyable trail run, the football field came and went, no errant leather wind bags this time. After a light-hearted ticking off by a runner for living up to my childhood name of ‘Corner Cutter Gardiner’ I noticed the Queen’s Sconce with its faux armament before the finish funnel was reached after the final slope.

mock canon-

my sprint fails

to ignite

Today’s first finishers were Simon Daniel (18:54) and Liz Fleuty (24:25), not an easy achievement in the wet conditions. Zoe Smith, managed to run the entire parkrun for the first time since breaking her ankle, and Brian Chapman finished well on a prosthetic leg. Ann White joined the 50 Club, well done to her. Fabulous volunteers were young Theo Falla who helped with the finish tokens and top timelord Alan Robinson.

The highest age graded runner to finish ahead of me was Samuel Spencer (a superb 76:41%), who won the signed poetry book as one of the 60 athletes to ‘beat the poet.’ After a cup of tea and cake, I was off to the Peak District for some fell running at Curbar Edge. Buoyed on by the atmosphere of the gothic stones high above the valley, I took an ill-advised run up 600 ft. to Curbar Gap, before running a mile to the Eagle Stone which is on the front cover of the poetry book won by Samuel. A poetic end to an exhausting day!


into mountain ash

the path ends

Tim Gardiner

aka the parkrun poet