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South Woodham Ferrers parkrun

For no better reason than having attended an event in the north of the East of England last week, I decided to attend an event in the south of the East of England this week. I have been slowly working through the cluster of events in Essex, and so I decided to continue that progress this week by attending South Woodham Ferrers parkrun.

The area

The town of South Woodham Ferrers is a relatively new settlement, located a short distance from Chelmsford in Essex. Most of the buildings in the area have been constructed within the last 50 years, but this hasn't prevented the area developing a strong sense of community, with most residents reporting that they wouldn't choose to live anywhere else. The town is located on the River Crouch, a relatively short distance upstream from Burnham on Crouch where I ran Burnham on Crouch parkrun several weeks ago.

To the south of the town lies Marsh Farm Country Park, and Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park, which is the location of South Woodham Ferrers parkrun. The area is both a working farm, providing grazing for sheep and cattle, as well as home to many birds and other wildlife, especially during the winter months when migratory birds winter in the area.

A sign welcoming visitors to Marsh Farm

The course

The course follows a single lap of a lollipop style route around the country park, with an extra out-and-back section added to the lollipop. The run is primarily off-road, on a mixture of grass and trail, although there is a concrete (not tarmac) path section too. The course is mostly flat, with only one minor short but sharp incline onto the flood defences.

Although the country park does have a free car park, parkrunners are asked to park in the Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park carpark, which also provides toilets. A coffee van attends the country park for post-run refreshments too!

The run

Following a big workoout on Thursday, I knew today was going to be a struggle, and after some heavy rain in the days leading up to parkrunday, I didn't quite know what to expect from an event held on marshland. Fortunately, the route was very good under foot throughout the run, and with the encouragement of the many happy and cheery marshals, I managed to most of the DOMS I was experiencing.

The sense of community was very palpable throughout today's event, with marshals greeting most of the runners by name - a practice which continued at the finish area, where finishers cheered fellow parkrunners along the finishing straight, encouraging them by name!

Thank you to all of the volunteers, and the whole wider community, who made this run so enjoyable!

After the run

After the run, I explored the country park more closely, taking in the sights of open meadows along the way, although unfortunately, there were no animals to be found on the day.

One of the grazing meadows

Along the route, the original seawall is visible ahead of the more modern earthwork flood defences, and it is this original wall which was breached in 1953, leading to the "Great Flood" of 1953.

Part of the original seawall, pictured from atop the modern earthworks flood defence

A bridge used to connect South Woodham Ferrers with Hullbridge on the opposite bank of the River Crouch, before it was destroyed in 1645 during the Civil War. The road leading the the country park car park, along with an adjacent road on the opposite bank of the river are perhaps the only surviving remnants of this former crossing point. After the damaged bridge was removed, children were ferried across the river to attend school each day until a school opened in Hullbridge in 1929.

Site of the former bridge with adjacent road on the opposite bank of the river

Links: Results | Strava

References Marsh Farm Country Park history

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