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.
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.
I ran the first ever two Beckenham Place Parkruns in November 2016 and ran again in December 2017. It attracts around 150 runners each week. While Beckenham Place Park is very large – running from Sydenham down towards Bromley, and including a golf course, a wooded area, and some wide open parkland – the run itself takes place in a very flat area on the east side of the railway line that connects Sevenoaks with Blackfriars (and has the benefit of being less than 5 minutes’ walk from Ravensbourne Station). While this has the benefit of making the park relatively quiet, it also means the run is well away from the facilities – so you need to allow plenty of time (at least 20 minutes) to walk from the Mansion, which has toilet facilities and a café, to the run start.
Crystal Palace is my ‘home run’, and is also the first Parkrun I ever did. It typically attracts around 250-300 runners. The park itself is pretty large, covering the side of the hill between Penge and Crystal Palace Parade (site of the remains of the Crystal Palace itself, and the location of the famous TV transmitters). There are various features inside the park including a sports centre, café, farm, outdoor concert venue, hedge maze and dinosaur park, and the run – whichever route it goes, takes you past most of these.
Because this is a large park and often hosts events such as funfairs, the route can vary quite a lot:
I had the pleasure of running at the inaugural Hoblingwell event on 15th July 2017, along with 214 other runners. More typically, it has around 50-60. The course is one of the more complicated – on the map at least (it’s fairly straightforward once you get going, especially as the marshals and signage all give very clear directions). The park is called Hoblingwell Wood Recreation Ground and as the name suggests, it’s not a landscaped, ornamental park. It’s a mix of football pitches, a bit of scrubland and some woodland around a series of low, brick buildings, and surrounded by the Orpington suburbs.
Back in March 2016, my friend Geoff persuaded me to get into Parkrun – free, timed 5km runs that happen all over the world at 9am every Saturday, organised by amazing volunteers. Geoff was coming to the end of his mission to run all of the (then) 47 Parkruns within the London Boroughs. I went with him to the last dozen or so on his list – and became a Parkrun tourist myself.