My parkrun alphabet tourism list

I love travelling around and trying different parkruns and I’m now well on my way to completing the alphabet challenge: 17 letters (out of a possible 25) at 29 locations. As a member of the Vegan Runners club (the largest currently in the UK at parkrun), I often try to attend meetups and enjoy going for a vegan breakfast afterwards.

Last updated: 29/01/2023

AAlice Holt: Starting near the country park’s café (which sells a great range of vegan options), Alice Holt parkrun consists of some loops along woodland trails. The course description makes it sound a lot more complicated than it actually is once you get going. It also includes Dragon Hill (which drags on and on…), a toughie, but certainly not the worst hill I’ve encountered on parkruns. This is a lovely parkrun and a wonderful place to spend the rest of the day. Parking isn’t particularly cheap if you stay for a few hours, but it’s definitely worth it.

Blandford Start and Finish

Start and finish of Blandford parkrun at Jubilee Way bridge, with the path leading down to the start on the left.

BBlandford: The course takes you along part of the North Dorset Trailway. It’s an out-and-back parkrun with some great countryside views just before and after the turning point. On the way back, there’s a bit of a slope to content with, but essentially, the route is quite straight and flat, so good for PBs. I got my best time since before the pandemic here. The facilities are not as good as at most other parkruns I’ve been to. As there are no toilets, I recommend stopping somewhere on the way before you arrive if you’re coming from a distance. I parked in Milldown Road before turning into Jubilee Way, which was a good decision as all the spaces had already been taken as far as I could see.

Bolton: This parkrun takes place in the lovely Leverhulme Park, but includes some climbing, including twice up Cruella de Hill. I had to give up any attempt to run up Cruella when I was passed on it by two leisurely walking ladies. Definitely a toughie for me.

Bournemouth: My nearest event, which I can walk to, making it an environmentally friendly option. It’s not the most interesting parkrun as you have to do three laps of one field and two of another in Kings Park, but the people are friendly, it’s usually busy and relatively flat. There are a couple of parts of the course that can be quite slippy if it’s been raining, so you might want to consider trail shoes if, like me, you want to ensure you stay upright Facilities include parking spaces, toilets and also a café (which I’ve never been to). For more interesting vegan breakfast options, head to nearby Cafe Boscanova in Boscombe.

CColchester Castle: Although this event in Castle Park is a bit hilly, you get to run past the castle a couple of times and along the river path, so a scenic parkrun. Do try to find time to visit the castle afterwards as it’s well worth it.

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Cooling down after running Delamere parkrun

DDelamere: Even though the weather was a bit miserable when I did this parkrun, Delamere Forest is still a lovely spot. For 1k, the route takes you to a lake, which you then run around in a clockwise direction for 3k, before retracing your steps back to the start. Despite being a bit muddy under foot when we visited, road shoes were perfectly adequate as the paths are all firm. The vegan breakfast in the new onsite café was lovely. Parking is a bit pricey, but there’s lots of it.

IMG-20230101-WA0006Durlston Country Park: Do parkruns get any tougher than this one? I hope not, because I found this one a real challenge. The views would have been spectacular if the weather hadn’t been so foul (lashing with rain). If I hadn’t been attending a Vegan Runners New Year’s Eve meetup, I’d definitely have saved this one for another day. The route comprises two loops, which you run twice, and an out-and-back section. And they all contain quite steep hills, so five in total. I was incapable of running up any of them (will definitely have to programme in some more hill reps) and felt completely worn out by the time it came to the fifth and last hill (which, if I heard right, is said to be the parkrun slope with the steepest gradient). The castle where you start and finish and run past several times has a lovely café serving vegan breakfasts and other fare. Certainly worth a visit!

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Running past Durlston Castle towards the end of the first loop

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FFareham: I went here for a Vegan Runners meetup. It’s an out-and-back course on quite a narrow path, so although it’s quite flat, congestion could stop you from running at your pace and getting a good time. It had been raining when I visited, resulting in loads of puddles that were impossible to avoid, so bring a spare pair of shoes to change into if it’s wet. Not one of my favourite courses, TBH.

Folkestone: This is a fantastic parkrun run along the cliff top. The course is two loops, which just gives you more time to soak up the views. It was easy to park quite close by and there are toilet facilities. I visited for another Vegan Runners meetup and we all had breakfast in Dr Legumes in a great spot by the harbour. Afterwards we strolled around Folkestone and had a great day out. Hopefully, I’ll be back!

GGanger Farm: This is a new addition to the parkrun family, taking place around a couple of fields in Romsey. The course is three times around the small field and two and a bit times around the bigger one, starting around the small field and ending along the first longer side of the second. Although it’s not the most exciting parkrun out there, it’s quite flat and it was also great to get a localish “G”. Trail shoes are probably best for this parkrun when it’s wet.

HHighbury Fields: As London is so vast, it’s not always easy to get to the nearest parkrun, despite there being so many to choose from. This event was my nearest when I was visiting London one December. It’s easy to get to as the start is a short walk from Highbury & Islington tube station. However, the park is small and so you have to go round it five times! Sorry to say that there are obviously much nicer parkruns out there.

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Hogmoor Inclosure: Another Vegan Runners meetup took me to this parkrun. It’s twice round the park, which can get very muddy and wet when it rains. See photo for the size of the largest puddle! We had to be guided through it by the kind marshals in their wellies as otherwise we might have fallen into quite deep water. If you don’t fancy that, there is a drier detour around it.

IItchen Valley CountryA great, one-lap course on forest trails. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time to park and process the payment; I was still trying to get the app to work during the first few metres of the run.

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LLee-on-the-Solent: This is a classic parkrun along the seafront, so it can get quite blowy. Essentially, the course is two out-and-backs from the start and mostly flat except for a slight incline (which you do twice). A shingle section (also run twice) in the second out-and-back might also slow you down a bit.

M – Maidstone: A lovely course alongside the River Medway. The path is quite narrow in places, though, so it can get a bit congested. Watch out for the bridge, which you have to cross twice; with so many runners thundering across it, it can get a bit wobbly and put you out of sorts. Plenty of parking and toilet facilities.

Moors Valley: This is my home parkrun (despite not being the closest) and the one I’ve run and volunteered at the most. Moors Valley is a lovely country park and the one-lap route (there’s just an extremely short out-and-back section after 3k) ends up at a lake. All very scenic. Although there’s a bit of congestion at the start, there are markers telling you where to stand based on the time you expect to do. The paths soon become wider and so this is a good course for PBs, even though it’s not entirely flat. The café serves vegan coffee and food and parking is cheap (currently £1.50) if you leave before 10.45 a.m.

Mote Park: I have both run the course and taken part in a Vegan Runners volunteer takeover day, which was great fun. Unfortunately, the place where we all headed for breakfast afterwards, The Rainbow Skull, has now closed down. A great pity as the food was fantastic. The course is in a lovely park past a lake and Mote House (which you run past four times). There’s a point called The Rock, marked with a photo of Dwayne Johnson, which roughly represents every kilometre you run, as you also go past it four times. Well worth a visit.

NNetley Abbey: This takes place in the Royal Victoria Country Park. I’ve only done the winter version of this three-lap course, which, besides the hill up to Bluebell Wood, takes you down to the waterfront and up another slope towards the chapel. So, it’s a six sloper in total, quite a toughie for someone like me who needs to practise more hill repeats! On a clear, sunny day, the run affords some good views of Southampton Water. In icy conditions, it can be a bit slippy in places, although road shoes should be fine for most of the course. There are loads of parking spaces, toilets and a café. The latter was a bit disappointing as the vegan options were not very tasty or good value for money.

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PPoole: Another stunning location for a parkrun. Poole is known for being flat and fast, so a great opportunity for a PB. It is, however, a popular event, so it can get congested. You go twice round the cricket pitch and once round the lake. Parking and toilets are close by.

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RRiddlesdown: This is a pleasant, relatively flat, two-lap course run in the South London Downs National Nature Reserve with parking and toilets nearby.

Roundshaw Downs: Another parkrun on a chalk downland nature reserve, just a few miles north of Riddlesdown. The course is twice round the fields, with a long downhill section towards the finishing line on both laps. I recommend wearing trail shoes if it’s been wet as parts can get muddy and are run on grass.

IMG-20191130-WA0006S – Sittingbourne: The course is two loops around Milton Creek Country Park. This is a new green space in the town and so will be even lovelier once the trees mature. Toilet facilities are available.

Southampton: This is another course I know well as I have run and volunteered here a number of times. It’s also popular and can get very congested in the first 1k before the path widens. As always, if you’re a fast runner, start at the front. Make sure you arrive early if coming by car to ensure you get a parking space. Toilets are available at Hawthorns Centre (if it’s open), where there’s also a lovely little café with some vegan options. Further into town, Happy Bean Coffee Bar (selling cake to die for) and Cafe Thrive are other good options for vegan breakfasts.

St Albans: Three laps, including around a small lake. Not the most impressive of parkruns, but nice enough if you happen to be in the area. The first half a kilometre on the grass can be really slippery in wet weather.

Storeys Field: This is another three lapper (well almost) around some fields in the new Eddington development in Cambridge. It’s a flat course, so could be quite fast for some. I found that the wind was blowing so hard it almost stopped me in my tracks at a few points along the course. There are toilets in the cricket pavilion. I walked from the city centre and it took me 45 minutes, although there is a bus.

TThe Great Field: Three and a half laps around a park at Poundbury in Dorchester. Once the trees have grown, this will be a lovely place to run. Despite some inclines, this has the potential to be a fast parkrun, although as it is currently very exposed, the wind can slow you down. For a vegan breakfast afterwards, head to the centre of town to Vibes.

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Running at Upton Country Park in a 5.5K race organised by Poole Runners

UUpton House: I’ve run in Upton Country Park quite a few times but only ever done the parkrun once. Great views and a few hilly stretches around three loops (big, small then big again). Plenty of parking and toilet facilities.

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WWalmer and Deal Seafront: I love running alongside the sea and often train on Bournemouth promenade. This is an out-and-back course from Walmer Castle to Deal pier and back. There are toilets at the nearest car park.

Whitstable: Another scenic seafront route consisting of two laps. The finish is in front of the Marine Hotel at the top of the cliff, which is where runners meet before the race for the pre-briefing. You then walk down the slope to the start. There are toilets by the finish area and parking available along the road. We went to the Marine Hotel afterwards for breakfast, which has good but expensive vegan options.

X – There is currently no parkrun anywhere in the world beginning with X. But I live in hope!

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