Carl Marston's On the Run: no ghosts at Hockley Woods parkrun
PUBLISHED: 18:52 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:52 21 February 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Hockley Woods in South-East Essex
After a succession of weekends running in urban parks, at the likes of the Billericay, Harrow, Gadebridge and Bexley parkruns, it made a pleasant change to return to some proper cross country running at the Hockley Woods parkrun last Saturday.
Hockley Woods, an area of fairly remote, wild woodland in the district of Rochford, Essex, is supposedly haunted by a ghost or two, but on a Saturday mornings it is usually swarming with parkrunners, both of the local and the ‘tourist’ variety.
On a foggy day, I’m sure Hockley Woods can take on a ghostly scene with shadowy figures, many of them clad in garish colours, running through the trees.
But last weekend was mild and bright, not the ideal conditions for phantoms or headless Anne Boleyns to be roaming around.
The course is a delight, around two laps of undulating woodland trails in an historic setting, amongst a sea of oaks, sweet chestnut, birch and alike.
In fact, Hockley Woods is famed for being ‘the largest remaining area of wild wood which covered Essex after the Ice Age of 10,000 years ago.’
From the start, there is a steady climb to the outer reaches of the woods, before a downhill stretch through Beeches Wood and then a short, sharp incline in Great Bull Wood to start lap two.
Last Saturday’s results
James Ellis, a member of Clapham Chasers RC, led home a field of 211 at the 207th staging of the Hockley Woods parkrun.
Ellis clocked 17mins 46secs, just two seconds adrift of his personal best for the course.
Teenager Sam Wheatley, of Southend-on-Sea AC, was second in 18:13, running in the 15-17 year-old age group. They were the only two to beat 20 minutes.
Charley Jennings, an over-40 veteran, was the first female in 22:06, with Southend’s Lindsey Colman (22:21) not far behind. Colman actually has the second fastest time (19:27) recorded by a female at Hockley Woods.
Adam Hickey, a familiar name at the top of most leader-boards in the region, posted the quickest time of 15:24 at Event No. 190, last October.
Hickey, of Southend-on-Sea AC, is a regular on the international scene. In fact he was in the same England senior men’s team as Suffolk’s own international star, Jack Millar, at last month’s Cross Country event in Elgoibar, Spain.
Millar was 14th that day and Hickey 24th, although the latter was on his way back from injury.
Billericay Striders’ Crispian Bloomfield is second on the list at Hockley Woods with 16:48, while Ilford AC’s Malcolm Muir, who used to feature highly in the Friday Five Series in Suffolk and North-Essex, posted the fourth fastest time of 17:24 at the inaugural event (February 7, 2015).
Last Saturday’s runner-up Wheatley is No. 10 in the rankings, with first-placer Ellis in 14th.
North-East Essex runners to have posted quick times over the last four years include the Springfield Striders duo of Gary Chandler (18:14) and Paul Broome (19:410, Witham’s Leo Cole (19:51), Colchester Harriers’ Martyn Clarke (19:59) and the Tiptree RR duo of James Haskey-Jones (20:09) and Andrew Conway (20:47). Woodbridge Shufflers’ Andrew Craig (20:23) is also to the fore.
Kerry Holland spearheads a select group of just five women to have eclipsed 20 minutes. She registered her landmark 19:04 from November, 2016.
Over the years, I have written and subbed many stories featuring Essex League Cross Country races held at Hockley Woods, but this was my first visit to this area of 130 hectares of woodland.
It is paradise for dog-walkers (I wish I’d brought along my own 12-year-old Italian Spinone, Oscar) and dry conditions underfoot were conducive to quick times last Saturday.
Not that ‘conditions underfoot’ make much difference to my times, these days.
I enjoyed the run, through a wood that incorporates several woods, including the delightfully named ‘Parson’s Snipe’ amd ‘Winks Wood.’
However, both calves began to tighten up during lap two, and I ended up clocking just two seconds slower (21:44) than the previous weekend’s 5K effort at Billerocay.
At least consistency is no problem – and every football manager, over the last three decades, has told me that consistency is everything!