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Top seven list of one-lap parkruns - Carl Marston's parkrun tour

PUBLISHED: 15:01 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:01 07 January 2020

A good sign: The Salcey Forest parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

A good sign: The Salcey Forest parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads to Salcey Forest and lists a top seven one-lap events

The long line of runners and walkers snaking into the distance, waiting for the start of a record-breaking 10th Salcey Forest parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe long line of runners and walkers snaking into the distance, waiting for the start of a record-breaking 10th Salcey Forest parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

I always have a soft spot for one-lap parkruns, as opposed to the multi-lappers, not least because they are usually to be found in forests, country parks or the sprawling grounds of picturesque country houses.

One such gem of a one-lapper has recently been introduced in south Northamptonshire, on the border with Buckinghamshire and close to the M1.

The Salcey Forest parkrun, which attracted 283 runners and walkers for its inaugural event, on October 26, marked its 10th event with a record 370 finishers last Saturday morning.

I seem to be a magnet for record fields, these days. My New Year's Day double in Kent, at Cyclopath and Shorne Woods, both broke their record attendances, as did Roding Valley, in Essex, when I visited on Christmas Day.

Runners approach the finish to Saturday's Salcey Forest parkrun, in Northamptonshire. Picture; CARL MARSTONRunners approach the finish to Saturday's Salcey Forest parkrun, in Northamptonshire. Picture; CARL MARSTON

Salcey Forest parkrun is a treat, a one-lap challenge along gravel paths and muddy trails within ancient woodland. No hills to speak of, but at this time of year, with all the recent rain, it can be energy-sapping.

It has also prompted me to compile a top seven list of parkrun one-lappers.

1 Salcey Forest (Northants)

Runners on track at the 10th Salcey Forest parkrun, which attracted a bumper field of 370. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners on track at the 10th Salcey Forest parkrun, which attracted a bumper field of 370. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Well, it was a squeeze getting 370 runners and walkers to the start-line, close to the cafe and car park at Salcey Forest, not far from the village of Hartwell, on a cold but dry Saturday morning.

The paths are narrow, so we were encouraged to approach the start in terms of likely finishing times, the quickest first.

This worked well, although I went straight to the front (self-delusion) and was overtaken by a dozen or so fleet-footed runners within the first kilometre.

A selection of the dogs, with their owners, who reached the finish of the Wimpole Estate parkrun ahead of toiling columnist Carl MarstonA selection of the dogs, with their owners, who reached the finish of the Wimpole Estate parkrun ahead of toiling columnist Carl Marston

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No matter. There's one long stretch along a rather rocky path (dry, but a little uneven), which can test the ankles, and one sharp bend can see you flirt with an unwanted dip in a small stream, but otherwise its plain sailing all the way to the finish. I think I can say, on behalf of all the fellow 243 'first-timers' at Salcey Forest, it deserves its place in this top seven.

And if I ever feel the urge to compile a top seven parkruns, for those staged within a small slither of a former medieval royal hunting ground, then Salcey Forest would be a shoo-in.

Runners and walkers congregate in the cold and wet before the start of the Hadleigh parkrun last month, with the Thames Estuary beyond. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners and walkers congregate in the cold and wet before the start of the Hadleigh parkrun last month, with the Thames Estuary beyond. Picture: CARL MARSTON

2 Wimpole Estate (Cambs)

This is the place to come for a pure one-lap cross country challenge, and the guarantee of being show a clean pair of heels by a canine participant.

I visited just over two years ago, in November, 2017, and was greeted by a Husky, a Beagle, a Border Collie and a Shorthaired Pointer, all within the first couple of minutes of rolling up to this National Trust-owned estate, to the south-west of Cambridge.

The snowy scene at the Panshanger parkrun, in March, 2018. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe snowy scene at the Panshanger parkrun, in March, 2018. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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The going was tough, due to overnight rain have churned up the route, and the nasty little climb near the lakes reduced my jog to a shuffle.

But it was all worth it - for the record, I trailed in behind not one, not two but THREE dogs.

3 Hadleigh (Essex)

I visited Hadleigh Country Park, in south-east Essex, just before Christmas, and I'm still feeling the effects.

A stiff breeze and some late driving rain complemented the undulating one-lap course, with its super-quick first half down the 2012 Olympic Games mountain bike trail, followed by a couple of steep ascents to the finish.

The views across the Thames Estuary are stunning, and worth the visit alone.

4 Panshanger (Herts)

Panshanger Park was knee-deep in snow when I popped over to Hertford in March, 2018.

I could have done with a pair of trail shoes, but the winter wonderland course was a picture postcard. The routes takes in forest trails, dirt tracks, woodland paths, fields and grassy sections along a river and lake, but, to be honest, I can only remember the snow and ice.

A winter paradise.

5 Frickley Country (Yorks)

If this was a list for the best one-lapper staged on the site of an old colliery, then Frickley Country would be top-three material. The place has enjoyed a facelift, since the days of the old Frickley Colliery, and the parkrun boasts a cracking early ascent to blow away any cobwebs.

6 Holkham (Norfolk)

This was the venue for my 100th parkrun, so naturally gets on any list - a slog uphill, followed by a delightful downhill in the shadow of Holkham Hall, and an imposing obelisk.

The crown of North Norfolk.

7 Ipswich (Suffolk)

I approve of any parkrun which starts and finishes near a cricket pavilion, especially if it is just a short drive from my home.

A twisty course within Chantry Park, with plenty of trees and plenty of cones. A delight.

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