I can admit immediately that my initial plan to follow up on my Parkrun streak from Ireland with three Parkruns in England failed. There was no way I could get up and pack my tent at the break of dawn after a busy WIMA rally and farewell dinner followed by a rock concert by Thor, the gods of rock (that is what they call themselves, and I’m inclined to agree).
The first weekend in England we headed into Stoke-on-Trent and Hanley Park. Parking possibilities there were excellent and the park offered a challenging and rather complicated combination of loops before the beautiful home straight by the pavilion. But before we got started, the Parkrun organisers had to deal with a medical emergency and an ambulance was called in. Someone had collapsed and needed medical attention, which the team saw to with impressive professionalism. With a mere 20 minute delay, the rest of us were sent off running.
After the rather small Parkruns in Ireland, this one felt gigantic, probably about 250 runners. We did not stay for Parkrun coffee, instead we returned home to Christopher’s parents for a brunch consisting of rice and stirfried veggies that his mum prepared, yum yum.
The last Parkrun, in Ludmoor Park, Weymouth, was one I had looked forward to for a long time as my friend Sheonagh was going to join me. I’ve done this Parkrun a few times before when I was house-sitting and she was away riding motorbikes in Africa, but we had never done it together before. In the three years since I last ran, there the gathering had grown to a shade over 400 hundred runners and we all set off like a colourful snake through the park. I think this is the largest Parkrun I have attended.
For this outing I had swapped my motorbike for an e-bicycle. After the run, we returned home for coffee and toast with homemade marmalade in the garden. Then off to the beach. A grand finale for my Parkrun tourism!
Next time will be with my Sudbury Court mates in December when Christopher and I are going to London for a cultural weekend.
“Are you going to take part?” the man asked me rhetorically as I parked my motorbike near the Parkrun start and finish. He was happily surprised when I responded, “Yes! I’m just going to get changed”. Off with boots, trousers, jacket, gloves and helmet and on with my Vivo Barefoot shoes, running watch and cap. When all my motorbike gear was packed away and secured on my bike, I was ready to start. Ride and Run, yeah!
Parkrun tourism is a great way to interact with the local running communities while running in some new and interesting places. All our Saturdays were planned so that I could run a new Parkrun.
First out was Tullow Parkrun near the Wicklow Mountains. Their Parkrun is a two lap course in Rathwood Rath nature park near a garden centre where you could eat full Irish breakfast to the price of two for one afterwards. The run itself was an enjoyable, flat course in the forest and around a pond, overall on a rather soft, pleasant surface and the breakfast got full points.
The following Saturday we were on the south coast camping at Eagle’s Point. We had just waited out a horrible storm and the weather for Saturday’s Parkrun at Glengarriff Nature Reserve was excellent. The course was a figure of 8 on a mixed surface, some excellent soft trail but also some rather harsh tarmac. It was a rather challenging course with one super long hill but I made a point of running all the way, albeit very slowly at points. This Parkrun had no feasible breakfast place so we continued over the mountain and the Caha Pass and on to Kenmare for a full Irish, but not before I’d had a splash in the river to freshen up. So, full points for the location, the route was very scenic and the river refreshing. This was my overall favourite among the three Parkruns I participated in.
The third and last Parkrun in Ireland, Clonmel, was the most sociable one. They might be disappointed to see that their Swedish Parkrun tourist from Spain actually is registered with Sudbury Court Running Club in London. Well, it is the running club in my heart and it is difficult to let go. The course was a temporary one, normally they run on the perimeter of the horseracing track, but the substitute was a delightful 2.5k along the River Suir and back again.
Three weeks, it sounds like a long time in a small country like Ireland and one can easily make the assumption that within that time we could complete the Wild Atlantic Way. However, doing things in a rush is not our style, we like living slow and there were a lot of things we wanted to do. I was happy to be out and about on my bike, camping, running and getting some good rest after a stressful year. Christopher was happy to be out and about checking out old stuff, like stones and taking photos and more photos. We also wanted to sample some ciders and eat some tasty food.
I arrived ahead of Christopher – I came over from France with an overnight ferry and arrived early morning while he ferried from Wales and arrived in the afternoon. This gave me a good opportunity to run some errands, more precisely to check out the Knox Urbane Pro riding shirt at the Overlanders in Gorey. The Knox gear is not yet available in Spain, so this was good use of time for me, and I could have coffee and scones while resting a bit after a sleepless night on the ferry. Business done, we headed up to the Wicklow Mountains for camping and riding, a highly appreciated recommendation from the guys at Overlanders.
Our aim had been the the southwest coast but the Wicklow Mountains were a pleasant surprise and we fully enjoyed riding there a couple of days taking in the diverse landscape. The contrasts in nature between overgrown thick forest and nearly tropical look, to barren fields and mountains made for great photo opportunities and we found some small roads where we were nearly alone. It was rather chilly so I layered up with my rain jacket on top to keep warm – but it did not rain, which was great.
Over on the southwest coast we set camp for a few days and explored some very small rural roads on the Beara Peninsula and the smaller peninsulas to the south. The smaller the roads the happier Christopher is, and I must say that not all roads were easy on the BMW, although if I’d still had the Kawasaki I probably wouldn’t have even tried. We had had some very mixed weather, none of it what I would call summer weather, but especially when riding along the coast we got some sunny moments and I could occasionally pack my rain jacket away.
While I don’t have any photos to show from our riding on the Iveragh Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, I do have some from seeing extremely old footprints on Valentia Island. One of the perks of travelling with Christopher is that he does research and finds out about cool stuff to see for free, like these footprints from a tetrapod. These footprints can only be seen in a handful of places in the world and they are 360 million years old, tetrapods were, in fact, the very first vertebrates to get out of the sea and live on both land and water. This was so so cool to see!
We moved up one peninsula and explored the area around Dingle. The town itself we tried to avoid, as it was packed full of tourists (hey, no – we’re not tourists, we’re travellers!) Our only reason to venture into Dingle was to buy camping gas and new sporks, as we kind of had run out. Foxy John’s, the only hardware store with a pub I’ve ever been to, got us sorted on gas (FYI, he stocks click, screw and pierce cannisters).
We had some amazing weather here and we enjoyed exploring the area and taking lots of photographs. We also had some clear nights where, even though we were not in the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, we could see the stars very very clearly – like I have never seen them before. Unfortunately we had no clear skies while in Kerry, so that is still on the list to come back for.
One of our quests on the Dingle peninsula was to find the Ogham stones. We circled around quite a while without finding them, the GPS and map both clearly marked the spot. Well, the farmer had also marked the spot, they were in a field with a “Beware of the bull” sign. Hmm, seems the farmer wasn’t happy having a national monument on his land. Ogham is an early medieval writing using lines used in this area.
The Dingle and the Beara peninsulas were my favourites, perhaps because we had the best weather and we found some interesting stuff and tiny roads to ride. Sadly, this was as far north as we got before heading back towards Dublin. We passed by Overlanders again, my bike desperately needed a new chain kit and I was very happy to get this done before taking on the next leg in my journey.
Our last night in Ireland was booked in Dublin. However, there was a hassle to find a place to stay, the hostel we booked especially for their parking in the back had no parking at all and could not see the problem of parking in the street and later in the conversation the receptionist conveniently had trouble understanding English. I lost my patience, demanded a refund and we went to stay near the police station where we parked and securely locked our bikes.
While locking the bikes, Christopher had his five minutes of glory – a guy enthusiastically commented on his British registration plate: “Have you come all the way from England on a 125? Fair play to you!”. I must add that he is a fairly seasoned traveller by now, although for him it is never a motorbike holiday, it is a photography holiday. So while I tried to slim down the packing, he brought two cameras, but that is a whole other story, not to be told now.