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Clare Castle parkrun

After the hustle and bustle of Chelmsford Central parkrun last week, I decided that I wanted to attend a smaller event that would also contribute to completing a region this week, and Clare Castle parkrun fit the bill perfectly.

The area

According to a 2015 poll, the village of Clare is one of the top 50 rural villages in the UK owing to its period buildings, though it lacks the tour busses common in other rural villages. The village has been populated since prehistory, including both Roman and Norman occupations, though the area takes its name from the Feudal period, where the area was the manor of the Clare dynasty, with Clare Castle being its home.

Clare Castle dates from before 1090, and has provided incomes and support for nearby villagers over its time. Its occupants have included some notable people throughout the years, including Elizabeth de Clare; one of the wealthiest women in the UK. Unlike the castles at Colchester Castle, Norwich or Thomas Mills (Framlingham) which are still actively used, Clare Castle was never developed beyond a more simplistic Motte style castle, much like the castles found near Hadleigh, Thetford, or Panshanger (Hertford).

Clare Castle

The course

Clare Castle parkrun's course follows three lollipop laps of the grounds of Castle Park, with an out-and-back section along the River Stour on each lap, starting and finishing near the cafe. The course is a mixture of tarmac and gravel and is relatively flat throughout. As the course is adjacent to the river, and at river-level, an alternative course may be used during wet weather.

The country park includes parking, toilets and a cafe in the former station's waiting room for post-run refreshments!

The run

It is always pleasant spending time in beautiful scenary, and Clare Castle parkrun definitely meets that criteria. The three laps of today's course give plenty of opportunity to see the park from many different angles, and I found the time passing very quickly!

It seemed like there were far fewer walkers at this week's event than previous events I've walked at, and I managed to finish second only to today's tail walker 1 second behind me, in under 48 minutes!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making today such a pleasant day!

After the run

As today's parkrun takes place in the grounds of Castle Park, it would be remiss of me not to explore the castle. Like many medival castles, the castle sat atop a motte, much like at Thetford parkrun.

Clare Castle from Lady's Walk

As with many castles, the grounds were used to supply food to the inhabitants. The original fish ponds were a casualty of the railway, however, a new pond was dug in the 1970s on the site of the former pond.

While many castles are fully ruined, Clare Castle has a unique quality in that the surfaces of the walls remain in tact, and feature some elements not found at other ruined castles such as Hadleigh castle.

Clare Castle showing some of the outer wall of the motte

Unfortunately, the construction of an alternative route for the Great Eastern Railway included running through the grounds of the castle, giving the distinction of being the railway station in a castle. The railway was decomissioned in 1967, and the track removed, though the restored station buildings and some railway equipment still remains in the park, and remains the only set of 1865 Great Eastern Railway buildings to survive intact.

Station buildings at Clare Castle / Clare station

At the time Clare railway station was operational, it was used to transport a significant portion of the village's goods from other towns, as well as from London, and so the station included a goods shed as well as platforms specifically intended to transport livestock such as cattle.

Hand-operated crane and goods shed at Clare Station

The former railway alignment is now a footpath leading to open fields, although the memory of the railway continues to shape the landscape.

View through railway bridge to Clare Station from the railway alignment.

The River Stour features heavily in the course, as the route traces the river for a section each lap. The clear water that runs through the river is possibly the reason behind the area's name - clear becomming Clare.

River Stour at Clare

Clare Priory was originally established in 1248. Though taken by the Crown during the dissolution of the monestaries, the site passed through many owners' hands until 1953, when it was purchased by the same group of friars who originally established it! The site has now reverted back to its original purpose, and is once again an active friary.

Clare Friary

As with many buildings of the priory's age, the site also includes a number of ruins from former buildings, including a Cloister, and a former church.

Ruins of the former Cloister at Clare Priory

The site also houses an infirmary, which has been converted for modern use.

Infirmary at Clare Priory

The village of Clare itself is lined with many picturesque buildings, and is well worth exploring after the event.

View over Clare from Clare Castle

Links: Run report | Results | Strava

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