Newbiggin-by-the-Sea is a small town on the North Sea that lays claim to having the longest promenade in Northumberland. Each Saturday this famous promenade plays host to a thriving new parkrun where participants are greeted by the Town Mayor, as Event Director Jacqueline Prouse explains.
My very first parkrun experience was at Newcastle parkrun as a participant back in February 2012. I was blown away by the friendly volunteers and participants and the whole social aspect of parkrun.
In 2014 I helped set up the first parkrun in Northumberland at Druridge Bay Country Park and I regularly helped there as a volunteer. I work in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and in January 2017 went to a town council meeting where the local community were discussing the loss of a triathlon event that the town had been very proud of hosting. The town councillors and members of the public were keen to attract another event.
During my lunch breaks at work I frequently walked along the Promenade. I thought the location would be fantastic for a parkrun. The town council agreed and with some help from Newbiggin Partnership and the Town Portas Team, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea parkrun was born.
I love our event here at Newbiggin because it has spectacular scenery, some truly unique features and a fantastic community spirit.
The course is two laps out and back along the Promenade, Bay and Milburn Park areas of the town, and largely encompasses the original 5k route of the former triathlon event. We currently average around 60-70 finishers and 15 volunteers per week.
We start on the sand between the Lifeboat Station and the Maritime Centre Museum. From the start, run 60 metres on sand, up the RNLI slipway and along the entire length of the Promenade.
At the end of the Promenade drop onto the sand for approximately 15 metres then bear right and up the small but steep grass bank / steps. At the top of the bank bear left and complete a clockwise loop of Milburn Park (old tennis courts).
At the end of the loop bear left along Beach Terrace and then down the tarmac ramp and back onto the Promenade. Follow the Promenade until you reach the Sailing Club and then turn to start the second lap. At the end of the second lap the run finishes on the Promenade near Caffe Bertorelli.
The local community have been very supportive of parkrun. Residents who live in the townhouses along the Promenade and Beach Terrace line their gardens to cheer the runners on and offer coffee to the volunteers when the weather is cold. The team here at Newbiggin are very grateful to the Town Mayor who turns out every Saturday to meet the volunteers and participants.
We’re also grateful to Northumberland County Council and the Local Council for the amazing support they afford the event.
The most famous landmark on the course is Newbiggin Lifeboat Station. It is the oldest operational boathouse in the United Kingdom, dating back to 1851. The crews have seen many awards for gallantry over the years and today the station operates an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat. There is a newly restored rocket house adjoining the lifeboat station which showcases the history of the auxiliary coastguards and their seafaring rescues.
Our most unique feature is a resident Llama, two donkeys and an array of locally made scarecrows in the allotments adjacent to Milburn Park. parkrunners can see them if they glance left!
For anyone considering joining us one Saturday, we are set against the beautiful backdrop of Newbiggin Bay. The Promenade curves around the Bay and from an elevated view at Needle’s Eye, to the south of the Prom, participants can see some spectacular scenery and magnificent focal points.
Standing in the middle of the Bay is 12.5 metre offshore sea sculpture known as ‘The Couple’. A smaller ‘couple’ land sculpture can also be seen on the Promenade.
From Needles Eye, the recently constructed Maritime Centre Museum can be seen at the far end of the Promenade. Its exhibits include local sea vessels from times gone by as well as depicting life in the historic fishing village.
Standing dramatically above the Maritime Centre and overlooking the sea is St Bartholomew’s Church. It is steeped in local history and dates back to the 13th century. The nave and chancel were restored in 1845 and a new chancel arch and organ chamber were built in 1898. The church has a very individual look and the locals are proud of its stature and beauty.
The Promenade itself is the longest in Northumberland and has become a prime location for naturalists watching the North Sea seabird migratory passage. From the Promenade many dolphins can be seen swimming in the Bay.
The course is truly unique with long sections of flat tarmac interspersed with challenging sections of grass, sand and a very short but sharp grass bank. Just yards from the Promenade is an eclectic range of local cafes and eateries for participants to indulge in post-run. There is a large childrens play area near the Maritime Centre.
We grab a post-parkrun coffee and process the results (team effort) at Caffe Bertorelli, a 1930s art deco themed cafe which stands only a few yards from the finish line. The cafe first opened in 1910 and is famous in Northumberland for its homemade Gelato Ice Cream.
Newbiggin parkrun is a relatively new event, but already two volunteers have become very popular with the participants and local community. 72-year-old Bill Hedley and 53-year-old Ray Snell have had their fair share of health problems in recent years. Bill suffers from arthritis and Ray has vasculitis which has resulted in numerous hospital visits in recent months.
Despite this, both are up early every Saturday morning to not only volunteer as marshals but set out the entire course. Their efforts have been tremendous, so much so that the residents along Beach Terrace near Milburn Park are now supplying them with bacon butties and cups of coffee. Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed with participants either.
Their fantastic support and encouragement from their marshal point at the top of the grass bank has resulted in the event receiving some great reviews on our Facebook page. Bill and Ray are fantastic ambassadors for our event here at Newbiggin.
Newbiggin parkrun brings the local community together not only through participation in the event but through volunteering. Family members who come to support their loved ones often end up volunteering and enjoy it so much that they return. The local cafes and eateries are also seeing an upturn in trade and it’s fantastic to see the local community engaging with participants during post-parkrun coffee.
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