Hilly Fields is a small park in Lewisham, about 500m from Ladywell Station. As the name suggests, it’s an open space covering the hill next to Adelaide Avenue. From the top of the hill there are great views of London, plus a small and very pleasant café; tennis courts, and a bowling green. Many of the paths in the park look like they have recently been resurfaced – although only about half of the run is on these. The rest is on grass and dirt tracks round the edge of the park.
Typically, the run has been getting 250-300 runners, with a typical fastest finish of about 18 minutes. This is one of the hilliest courses in London, and is not necessarily one for PBs.
Runners congregate at about 8:50 at the top of the hill next to the tennis courts and the children’s playground for the new runner/tourist briefing (and bag drop). The start line is actually next to the café, and just before 9am, runners make their way across. The start can be crowded, so if you are aiming for a good time it’s best to be near the front to escape the melee.
The run is clockwise, setting off initially on a long, 200m straight on tarmac which is slightly downhill, before
runners bear right onto a downhill section also on tarmac for about 50m, running alongside Montague Avenue. At the junction of Montague Avenue and Hilly Fields Crescent, runners bear left right again onto a dirt track. It’s worth bearing in mind that this section, and especially the turn, can be quite muddy and slippery, especially on the third lap when 500 pairs of feet have already churned up the ground a bit, so you might prefer to run on the grass alongside the track.
After running about 300m along this section, you bear slightly right back onto tarmac for an uphill section. Then, after about 200m on tarmac there is a slight difference between the winter and (slightly harder) summer courses. In winter, you continue running on the tarmac path back up towards the café and the start line, whereas in summer there is a short loop on grass before you rejoin the main course near the cafe. The course page on the Parkrun website shows the summer course, and my map shows the winter course.
Having passed the café and the tennis courts, runners then turn left, and run downhill on tarmac for a long stretch towards Adelaide Avenue. At the bottom of the hill, runners then circle a tree, and bear right up a steep hill, on grass for about 100m. This is easily the hardest section of this Parkrun (and one of the toughest bits of any London Parkrun). The grass can be slippery, you might have to dodge overhanging tree branches, and the uphill is a real test especially when you know it has to be tackled three times.
At the top of this hill, you begin lap two at the top of the first downhill, heading back down towards the turn to the dirt track stretch. The second lap is the same as the first. At the end of the third lap, rather than running straight on at the top of the steep hill, you bear right for a 50m dash on tarmac to the finish funnel.
I won’t lie: this is a course I’m always a bit nervous of. It’s hard going, and the first time I ran it I had to walk the final hill as I had nothing left. But if you pace yourself, it’s a really interesting and varied course that makes the most of the relatively compact space. It also helps that there are lots of volunteers who are really encouraging.
Afterwards, runners can convene in the park café for tea and bacon rolls, or make their way to the nearby stations Ladywell (about 2 minutes run / 5 minutes walk), or Crofton Park, Brockley or Lewisham (all around 15 minutes).
Definitely one of the tougher courses in London, this can be hard going, but also really rewarding.
Number of runs: 3
Best time: 21:31
Best place: 34
Surface: 2 (mixed tarmac, track and field)
Flatness: 1 (hilly)
TFL Access: 4 (Ladywell is the closest station)
Facilities: 4 (café and toilets right next to the start line)
PB Potential: 1 (not one for a PB)