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Hockley Woods parkrun

As I was considering options for this week, one obvious box I could tick was Great Yarmouth North Beach, which would have both given me a 34 for the Fibonacci sequence, as well as a third and final "Gee" for the Stayin' Alive challenge. While this was tempting, after running Clacton Seafront parkrun a few weeks ago, I decided that although I really enjoyed the day, the cold weather did mean that I couldn't make as much of a day trip as I could, and so I want to try to save seaside events for warmer weather.

Looking at the events map, I have been conscious that there are a lot of events clustered together in south-east Essex. I'm hoping to run South Woodham Ferrers in a few weeks to pick off event 144 in the Fibonacci sequence, and so Hockley Woods was to be the destination for today's parkrun!

The area

Hockley Woods is a self-sufficient coppiced ancient woodland in Rochford, Essex. Through coppicing, the woodland has provided a source of wood to the local community since the wider area was covered by woodland after the last ice age 10,000 years ago, with the present-day woodland generating enough revenue through the coppicing practices to be self-sufficient.

The woodlands are surrounded on all sides by a combination of primarily residential buildings forming the village of Hockley to the north and east, and farmland to the south and west.

View from the first decline, looking towards the start area

The course

After the first timers briefing and the run briefing, which are held near the car park, athletes walk down the first decline to the start point. Once underway, athletes follow just under two laps of a route through woodland trails, most of which are either compacted dirt, or gravel. I expect in dryer months, road shoes would be fine here, but I did feel relieved to be running in trail shoes, and even then, I slipped and slided on more than one occasion!

As the route follows woodland trails, which are often relatively narrow and twisty, it was a challenge to keep track of where I was on the course. The lumps encountered along the way are perhaps also good waymarkers for more regular visitors than me! The lumps are not to be underestimated however, as they add up over the distance, and the last 100m or so includes perhaps the lumpiest lump on the course!

I arrived early and parked in Hockley Woods Car Park, which is free to use on weekends, although it is a relatively small car park, so you may need to make alternative plans if you arrive later. Toilets can be found at the car park entrance, and although there is no actual cafe at the woods, a mobile cafe does set up shop next to the car park / finish funnel.

The run

After a big training session during the week, I was hoping today's run could be a relatively easy one - that wasn't to be! During my warm up, I realised that the course was anything but flat! After I had warmed up, it was time for the run briefing, where I found out that this was Hockley Woods' 7th birthday, which was greeted with a big cheer. The run director shared some of the history of the event, including the fact that the two people who originally set up the event were in attendance and marshalling today, before mentioning that there were cakes available after the run!

After the run briefing, we walked to the start which was at the foot of the first decline, with the finish funnel at the top, meaning a net uphill course - not what my tired legs needed! As the paths along the course are quite narrow, including the start area, if you wanted to push yourself at Hockley Woods, I'd suggest positioning yourself towards the front during the walk to the start, as the opportunities for overtaking can be quite limited during the first kilometre, especially with a large attendance like we had today.

Ian at the start of the run, along with the main pack

The run itself was tough but enjoyable. The elevation profile on Strava doesn't do justice to the course, which is constantly switching between inclines and declines - I don't recall a single flat area more than 100 metres in length! The rain earlier in the week running up to this event also meant the path was quite muddy in places.

Thank you to the awesome volunteer team this week for such a great event!

After the run

After the run, I took the opportunity to explore the woods some more. There is a maze of paths throughout the woodland to explore, and so I started by exploring the Hockley Woods Circular before following some other random trails to make the distance up to 10km.

The woods seemed to be a very popular retreat for many people, both walking their dogs, riding their horses, and simply wandering the paths. Apart from the woodland, there are a number of openings with very picturesque views over the nearby fields and villages.

The view looking south from the southern border of the woods

Links: Results | Strava | AllTrails (Hockley Woods Circular)

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