(parkrun #165 – tourist run #37 )
The name Newbury, of itself, may not evoke a sense of history, until you take into account that the parkrun that bears its name takes place on Greenham Common: once the site of a Royal Air Force base, tenanted by the USAF during WW2, and also during the Cold War. It is also iconic for it being the site of the Women’s Peace Camp protest back in the ’80s.
It’s only when you visit this place in person, that you begin to appreciate just how vast this air force station must have been when it was once fully operational. The trading estate, where we park the car, appears to be the size of a small town. It has all of the usual buildings one might expect on a contemporary estate but, on closer inspection, you see juxtaposed, a number of utility type buildings with the distinct appearance of having been built during the 40’s or 50’s and 60’s which give a clue to the former function of the entire campus: a bustling (or should that be bristling?) military complex. A chilling thought in some ways, particularly when you remember the fact that this area once housed nuclear-armed Cruise Missiles.
By stark and welcome contrast, all that now remains of the adjacent airfield is the control tower (now a visitor centre and café ) and some 80 metres or so, of the original runway (now the start and finish of the parkrun). Mother nature has been encouraged to reclaim and revert the rest of the airfield apron into open common pasture and wildlife sanctuary for, ironically, birds of the feathered variety rather than the man made flying machines that used to frequent this place.
Newbury parkrun is a single lap course fully marked all the way round. The start is located at the centre of Greenham common on the old runway tarmac, approximately 600m South West of the control tower. Runners will head North for 300m, before turning right onto the hardpack gravelled path until the 1km mark, when they will take a left turn off the main path and through the trees. As you come out of the trees you follow the path to the left, around the pond areas to the half way point just before passing the Athletics Track. Once past the track you will take a right continuing on the main path away from an entrance to the common, please stay on the main path and do not cut this corner. You continue on this path, staying left at the next junction, then continuing to follow the path over a slight rise, passing 4km at the bottom of the second rise. With 30 metres to go you will take a right turn back onto the runway and through the finish funnel. [ course | Newbury parkrun ]
This is a marvellous scenic parkrun especially in the Spring, as was evident on our visit, when the gorse bushes are out in bloom. The terrain was surprisingly undulating in places, for a former airfield, although certainly nothing as severe as “Sheffield-flat”. Our post-parkrun café of choice was to be found in the Control Tower block: a short stroll from the finish funnel across to the north side of the common. A place to refuel after the run, whilst reflecting on lives lost in defence of democracy and world peace.
And finally, a nod to this parkrunner – showing deference on St George’s Day (well- any excuse for fancy dress) to the patron Saint of England and, so it seems, a few other countries too)
Really enjoyed this parkrun. We chose this one because it promised to be a little different, in its own way, and in that respect we were not disappointed. Oh, and I also got an “N” for my name badge challenge, but that was just a lucky co-incidence 😉
And one further Oh…and humble brag: I managed to finish in 28:58, further to last week @Severn Bridge parkrun, this is now my fastest parkrun time this year to date.