If you’re the proud owner of brand new running kit and would like to keep it in pristine condition during the depths of winter, don’t come to South Oxhey parkrun. If you like being part of a mass participation event with hundreds of other parkrunners, don’t come to South Oxhey parkrun.
If, however, you like a bit of a physical challenge, plenty of space, great views, a supportive welcome and don’t mind a bit of mud splattering when it’s wet, Co-Event Director Michelle Ashwell tells us why you’ll love this secluded parkrun in south-west Hertfordshire, just north of London.
As a health care professional and a runner myself, I understand the importance of physical and mental health and wanted to bring something to my local community that is for everyone whether you run, walk, jog or volunteer. I love the small, intimate nature of our event as it’s like having an extended family. After looking at several venues in and around the Watford and Rickmansworth areas, we finally agreed with Three Rivers District Council to base the event at the South Oxhey Playing Fields.
South Oxhey is a large estate built on land that was formerly part of the Oxhey Hall Estate, and the first half of our course runs along the back of part of the estate. The estate was built after the Second World War to help alleviate the housing pressures caused by the Blitz. In 2009, South Oxhey briefly became a bit of a household name to some BBC viewers when it was featured in The Choir: Unsung Town. Choirmaster Gareth Malone assembled a choir in the town by recruiting local residents and encouraging them to take part, and two community choirs were formed as a result, which now perform at various locations around Hertfordshire throughout the year.
There are six football pitches on the eastern side of the fields, then beyond that is another mile or so of open grassland and forest. Initially we explored the idea of having a single lap course because of how much space is available, but once we realised how boggy it gets in the winter we settled on a more manageable route!
Our course is three laps and predominantly off-road; we start adjacent to the playing fields, following the perimeter until ascending a gentle slope that feels less gentle on each lap!
Once up said slope you run across the top and on a good day can enjoy spectacular views before you descend the other side avoiding the mole-holes from our furry friends who come out to join us. The slight incline (no really, it’s not a hill!) and the views from the top of the, er, hill are certainly the two most famous landmarks on our course.
The finish line is in front of the Pavillion pub. After parkrun we have Martin who serves us coffee from his van right on our finish line, and it’s also not unusual for there to be some homemade cakes.
All of our regulars have an interesting parkrun story to tell! And for such a small event we have a very wide range of backstories: youngsters with the running bug, middle agers getting or keeping fit, older people catching the running bug and people with disabilities and long-term health conditions who continually amaze and inspire us.
“As a reformed couch potato and MAMIL convert I have experienced first-hand the beneficial health and motivational effects of being regularly active and progressed rapidly from ‘what? me? run?’ to successfully completing a couple of marathons, and parkrun formed an important component of my running repatriation. I was very happy to be able to give something back when the opportunity presented itself and it’s been a joy to be involved in a heartwarming local enterprise. It never ceases to amaze me that people assemble in the corner of a park in all weathers to run together and have a chat and a cuppa after.”
Stuart Rosewall, Co-Event Director
We’ve slowly and gradually made ourselves known to the local community and whilst we have become a feature for some of the local residents, there’s plenty of opportunity to increase our local profile. We were pleased to see we’ve been adopted by a local boy’s football team who regularly use the event for fitness and team building!
We may be one of the smallest parkruns but what we have a big heart. We are like Cheers: “everyone knows your name” at South Oxhey parkrun.
If you’re interested in bringing parkrun to your own community or would like to find out more information, please get in touch with us using this form.
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