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Stevenage parkrun

With my focus on attending events in new cities recently, this week I decided to attend Stevenage parkrun - the first area to receive New Town status under the New Towns Act, intended to alleviate housing shortages after the conclusion of World War 2.

The area

Stevenage parkrun takes place in Fairlands Valley Park, Stevenage. Although Stevenage only received town status in 1946 as part of a government scheme to reduce pressures on the housing market, a settlement has been present in this area since at least the Roman era, owing to the area's proximity to the Roman road between what is now St Albans, and the town of Baldock.

Fairlands Valley Park is perhaps best known for the wide and diverse array of water sports which take place on its 11 acre main lake, however, the park includes many other facilities, including woodland, parkland, and conservation areas.

Fairlands park from the main eastern car park

The course

The course follows two laps of well marshalled tarmac and trail paths around two of the park's smaller lakes, and adjacent to the largest lake in the northern section of the park, finishing with a short (~150 metres) section on grass. Despite being lakeside, the course is quite lumpy, with the uphill sections typically being on trail paths to add to the challenge.

The park is fully featured, and includes toilets, free parking, and a cafe for after-run refreshments. The park is also close to the town centre, so any other amenities are a short walk away.

Main lake from the start area

The run

After a quick warm up, the event started with a detailed first timer's / tourists briefing advising of two main hazards on the course to be aware of - a request to avoid switching between the path and the grass section at the start to avoid any injuries after a runner broke her arm several years ago, and a reminder that there are some bollards to avoid on the starting straight. After the first timer's briefing, we had a very quick run briefing, and just like that, we were under way!

It was a dry, sunny start to the day, but the openness of the lake and wider country park meant that the effects of the wind was making itself known until we reached cover provided by trees next to the path. Some parts of the trail path were still muddy following rain earlier in the week, however, it was possible to avoid the more muddy sections.

One interesting thing that I did notice was that there were other runners near me for the entire run. As many of the events I have attended of late typically attract a smaller number of participants, this felt like a novelty, even though it is common in bigger events.

Ian running

Thank you to the volunteers for hosting such a fun run. There can sometimes be a level of anonimity with larger events, but you did a great job giving the day a personal touch!

After the run

I explored the town after the run, including a number of notable landmarks.

A collection of six barrows are situated on Six Hills Common which date from the settlement's beginnings in the Roman era.

Six Hills barrows

To the west of Stevenage lies Knebworth Country Park, accessible through Norton Green Common, which part of the Knebworth House Estate, and home to annual rock festivals. The house itself wasn't open during my visit, and the path leading to it was still saturated from the rain earlier in the week, but the Country Park and attached woodland are worth the time to visit.

Knebworth Woods a bridleway

Fairland Valley Park itself is also worth spending some time to explore, whether for the views, activities, or the relaxing effects of spending time in such pleasant places.

Kayaks on the main lake, with the watersports activity centre / cafe to the right

Links: Run photos | Results | Strava

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