Brockwell Park is a large and pretty open space (with a miniature railway, various sports courts and a BMX track) running up the side of Herne Hill, about a five-minute walk from Herne Hill Station and 15 minutes from Brixton TFL. It’s a two-lap course that typically seems to attract 250-300 runners.
Participants convene by a large concrete square near Brockwell Lido – an open-air swimming pool with a café and toilets (which I understand are for café customers only), for the run briefing. The concrete doubles as a bag drop and seems to be supervised for the duration of the run. After the run briefing, the Run Director typically tries to manage the cramped start by asking runners to make their way 25m to the line (marked with a Parkrun flag) based on how quickly they think they’ll finish – sub-20 minutes to the front, sub-23 next etc.
Once you get to the start line, the reason for this degree of organisation becomes abundantly clear. On the first run of 2018, over 500 runners were crammed onto a path that’s wide enough for about 5 people abreast. The start was predictably slow, so if you do want to get a fast time you really do need to be at the front of the group.
The first lap is slightly longer than the second, and is essentially an anti-clockwise loop around the perimeter of the park. The first 200 metres or so go into a slight downhill, before runners veer sharply to the left and begin an undulating climb to the top of the hill for about 1km. While it’s not as steep as Crystal Palace or Hilly Fields, this is one of the longer uphills for a London Parkrun, and I think tends to prevent Brockwell from being a course for PBs.
Having reached the brow of the hill, you’re rewarded with an equally long 1km downhill, which is an opportunity to pick up some speed. This part of the run takes you parallel to Norwood Road, before curving left, parallel to Dulwich Road taking you back towards the Lido and the start line.
Lap Two is shorter because once you pass the start line, you take a sharp left to go up a steep slope for about 50m past the BMX track (a friendly marshal makes sure you’re heading in the right direction). At the top of this slope, there’s another welcome downhill which reconnects with the first lap for the long climb to the top of the hill. Thereafter the second lap is the same as the first, with the finish funnel about 50m before the start line. The finish is the only very short section run on grass, and the rest of the course is generally well-maintained tarmac paths (with a couple of places accumulating branches and leaves after wet and windy weather).
Typical fastest times are around 17 minutes. I think the course is medium difficulty – it’s pretty fast because it’s run on paths, but it’s very undulating, and the second time up the big hill is fairly draining with a long way still to go before the finish. However, it’s a beautiful park, and the Lido Café does fantastic scrambled eggs on toast for a post-run breakfast.
The park is very accessible both by National Rail via Herne Hill or London Underground (either walking from Brixton or getting one of the regular National Rail trains from Brixton to Herne Hill), and by car (with free on-street parking on Dulwich Road) near the Lido. It’s also a pretty park well worth a wander round if the weather is good.
Number of runs: 2
Best time: 21:48
Best place: 73rd
Surface: 4 (tarmac)
Flatness: 2 (undulating)
TFL Access: 3 (Herne Hill about 5 minutes)
Facilities: 4 (café near the start)
PB Potential: 2 (low)