p minus 2 weeks (and holding) with a plea for your help

It’s a bit of a long one this week…There’s a lot that’s been going on in parkrun world, with some sad news closer to home, parkrun Tring-wise. So stick with it. Skip over my cheesy song if you (dont) like, and focus in on the local debacle with the Woodland Trust, because we need your help.

Tring virtual parkrun challenges

Challenge #61:
“Welcome to Tring virtual parkrun #61. Tomorrow our theme is “The FA Cup Final” which disappointingly won’t be held at the traditional time of 3pm. I had got my red & white Southampton shirt all ready for this week’s theme but unfortunately they went out in the semi-finals so the shirt will go back into the cupboard for a few more years! Instead, the final is between Chelsea, wearing blue, and Leicester who will play in maroon.
We went AWOL last Saturday to a certain race course in Surrey for a not unrelated parkrun reason. More on that story later…

(This week) Challenge #62:
Welcome to Tring virtual parkrun #62: I saw that this week was the Eurovision Song Contest which seemed such an obvious theme. No, I thought, the virtual runs need to carry on running! So this week welcome to Tring virtual parkrun #62 – with a theme of “All things Eurovision or any song title will do” – If you’re feeling brave – run in your best Eurovision costume and post a pic, recreate that Abba moment, dress up as Brotherhood of Man, recreate a Bucks Fizz dance routine – or simply post a pic of something with a suitable song title theme. After all, despite our current gloomy news [**}, there is nothing like a good sing song to pick you up.
[**] Reference to the Woodland Trust’s decision to withdraw permission for Tring parkrun to take place in Tring Country Park.

So our Tring virtual parkrun contribution this week was with reference to two past Eurovision Songs songs.
Firstly…

Bucks Fizz singing “Making your Mind Up” – the title reference is a bit random, unless you have been following the social media posts about this week about Tring parkrun’s existential crisis.

See our parkrun Event Director’s (Andy Evans) remarks, on the latest media storm surrounding Woodland Trust’s refusal to let Tring parkrun back into Tring Country Park.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ftringparkrun%2Fposts%2F3580708135487921&show_text=true&width=500

and also this twitter feed from one of the founding Tring parkrun Run Directors, Wes Ball.

Then the following Eurovision song…
I couldn’t resist the obvious Tring-link in the title of the 1967 British winning entry to Eurovision: “Puppet on a String”. So here goes with my homage, with just a hint of reflection over the events of the past week. (With apologies for the cheesy (and in one case non-existant) rhymes and sometimes quirky phrasing, but I hope it lightens your mood)   

The song is addressed to the Woodland Trust, particularly to those who think that a free weekly timed event open to anyone, but usually averages about 200 people for one hour in a park of 132.9 hectares, endangers the bio-sustainability of the park’s flora and fauna.

[Chorus]
We’—re,  hoping that one day that
You’ll say that you care
If you say you love Tring parkrun
We’ll gladly be there
We love running out at Tring

[Verse 1]
Tring Park is.. second home to us
With all the fun in fresh air
One bit we’re running on flat ground
Then we’re up on the hill
We love the trees in the Spring,
We love the grass, so we sing…

[Chorus]
We’—re,  hoping that one day that
You’ll say that you care
If you say you love Tring parkrun
We’ll gladly be there
We love running out at Tring

[Verse 2]
We have run where you’ve guided us to
We’ve shown you that we do care
We don’t think you have listened to us
We think your decision’s unfair
Are you reading us wrong?
We’d despair if Tring parkrun was gone!

[Chorus]
We’—re,  hoping that one day that
You’ll realise we care
If you say you want our help then
We’ll gladly be there
We love running out at Tring

We’—re,  hoping that one day that
You’ll realise we care
If you say you want our help then
We’ll gladly be there
We love running out at Tring

[Outro]
Let us back out onto
Tring

A number of reasons have been put forward by the Woodland Trust [WT] for their decision.
I paste below what they are and Tring parkrun’s [TPR] reaction

WT: Tring contains several sensitive and significant ecosystems including one of the biggest chalk grasslands left in Hertfordshire, protected with statutory designations.

TPR: Tring Park is a beautiful and special place. We know that as well as anyone. We have constantly adapted how we do parkrun to help maintain the park and all our routes have been agreed with the Woodland Trust. We know there are sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) in Tring Park but this does not apply to all parts of the park and the route previously agreed with the Woodland Trust avoids entering any areas of the park that are SSSI. The park is an open space with no restrictions put on other users. A new route was agreed and based on a suggestion by The Woodland Trust and run on only 3 times before the Covid lockdown. This route is entirely on the woodland hard-packed paths and, at no point, enters the sensitive grass area. Over half of this agreed route is along the Ridgeway National Trail where physical activity is actively encouraged. At our events our brilliant volunteers marshal participants, so they do not go near the SSSI when arriving at and departing the park.

WT: The growing success of the parkrun at Tring parkrun makes it unsustainable for us to accommodate an event of this scale

TPR: Our numbers have averaged a little over 200 runners over the past few years and it is not a growing event. Indeed, pressure has been taken off the event by other parkruns opening in the region. We are surprised that the Woodland Trust believes the park can’t accommodate 200 runners once a week for an hour, whilst at the same time it is planning to build a new 50 vehicle car park on the field next to the sensitive Lime Avenue, close to the SSSI, to encourage more visitors.

WT: There are a number of other parkrun events locally should the social aspect of parkrun be the key motivation: Wendover Woods (2.7m), Dunstable Downs (7.5m), Gadebridge (8.2m) and Aylesbury (8.2m)

TPR: Tring parkrun is a community event in a local community space. Most of our runners are from Tring and they typically walk or cycle to the site. We know from all the responses from Tring parkrunners how much the event means to people in Tring. Given the Woodland Trust’s statement that “we are amidst a dual nature and climate crisis” we are unsure how encouraging the people of Tring to get in their cars and drive to other parkruns is going to help towards dealing with the climate crisis.

In other news

We took part in a Government Pilot Test event the Saturday before last. No, not a rave, not a snooker or football match, it was a 5k run at Kempton Park racecourse. The event involved Covid testing before and after, the aim being to gather evidence that – hopefully – mass running events do not spread Covid-19. Very happy to do our bit towards getting parkrun and other running events back again! Superbly organised by London Marathon Events, it was a great experience, such a joy to take part in a large running event again. And the icing on the cake: My wife, Cathy got a PB too!

Glad we signed up for this, although this involved having to take a before and after COVID test. Wasn’t looking forward to the testing part. Although one might say that we were gagging for the run. I also have to say that I was gagging because of the test swabbing. (However, needs must….) And yes, it was worth it. The atmosphere was just great. There was a real buzz amongst competitors participants as everyone was just glad to be there in numbers to do an organised run. The Marshalls were amazing too. They really entered into the spirit of things, shouting encouragement to the runners, and applauding them as they finished and also as everyone left the course to get in their cars to drive home.

A little longer to wait

Not unexpectedly, parkrun HQ announced yesterday (21st May) that the parkrun restart in England, that had been scheduled for 5th June, is to be rolled forward by three weeks to allow time for a critical mass of Landowner permissions to have been obtained for individual parkrun venues to restart. I totally think this is the right thing to do given present circumstances. I am not going to dwell on how things might have been handled differently…We are where we are, and the direction of travel is towards parkrun coming back in early Summer. So there is much to look forward to for parkun England and, hopefully not too far behind, for the rest of GB. The only fly in the ointment as far as we are concerned was that we are on holiday in the Lake District next month, but will miss the reopening of Keswick parkrun by just one week. We will do a freedom run instead, so there’s a silver lining.

As to Tring parkrun returning to Tring Country Park.. I refer the honourable reader to the section title I penned earlier: A little longer to wait. We ain’t done yet…

Thank you reading this very long post, Dear Reader. Please share this post with friends, particularly those who care about parkruns taking place in beautiful natural surroundings.

One thought on “p minus 2 weeks (and holding) with a plea for your help

Add yours

  1. Brilliant post. It’s gut wrenching news about Tring parkrun being so under threat, but very articulate responses there from the parkrun organisers. It breaks my heart to hear the news particularly as Tring parkrunners are so committed to their beautiful venue they are guardians of that precious place. That respect for place is also manifested in respect for people and each other. The community cohesion of Tring parkrunners throughout the pandemic has been inclusive and inspirational. Whatever happens, Tring parkrunners are a precious and remarkable band. That won’t change. Hang on in there. Lx

    Like

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