Moors Valley parkrun revisited

25 May 2019

Our normal Saturday usually begins with a quick drive to Southampton Common followed by parkrun. This morning though, a whole group of us were heading for Moors Valley parkrun instead so we had an earlier start than normal. At least we didn’t have any worries about getting lost. This was our third visit, although, for Kim, it would be a first. In fact, Kim was the main reason we’d chosen Moors Valley as she missed out last time due to work.

There were quite a few of us, most proudly wearing green 250 parkrun shirts. Those who haven’t yet reached such a lofty milestone were in their new Hamwic Harriers shirts. We also had a first time parkrunner with us. Sam’s girlfriend, Danielle, had been cajoled into running her first ever 5k. Commando kept prodding me in the hopes I would follow suit. We all know that’s not going to happen but he keeps on trying just the same.

Once all the runners had disappeared over the start line I wandered off towards the finish. It’s a beautiful setting, a large field with picnic benches to sit on, a lovely lake to look at and even a little train that goes round and round the park. The one thing missing was a finish funnel. Unlike Southampton parkrun, where the set up volunteers arrive at around eight o’clock to start getting everything ready, the Moors Valley volunteers just saunter slowly over from the start and set up while everyone is already running. Of course, with an average of just 366 runners, rather than the thousand or so at Southampton, their finish funnel is a much smaller, less complex affair.

The last two times I’ve been here I haven’t gone much further than the finish field. Today I decided to have a little look at the course, or at least the last part of it. Although I knew I’d only have fifteen to twenty minutes before the first runners appeared I walked past the giant dragonfly sculpture on the lake and began to walk the course in reverse. There was a vague worry about being trampled by runners or ending up in the water but I hoped I’d be able to find a good spot to take photos of the runners before that happened.

This part of the course is a fairly narrow path, mostly nice firm tarmac, with the lake on one side and fenced off fields on the other. Thankfully there were narrow grass verges where I thought I could escape the runners if I needed to. At least it wasn’t likely to be quite the mass stampede I’m used to in Southampton.

The views across the lake we stunning, meaning progress was slower than I’d hoped. Every few steps I got a different view of trees, clouds and blue sky reflected in the still, clear water. The wildlife I’d half expected to see was absent but there were lots of lily pads and a few real dragonflies, although none that wanted their photo taken.

While the view over the lake captured most of my attention, the other side of the path was not without its charm. Spikes of foxgloves made me stop yet again and I noticed a narrow, more or less dried up, stream on the far side of a broken wooden fence. This, it turned out, was the Moors River.

Mere trickle it may be but the Moors River is quite unusual. It begins it’s flow somewhere in Cranbourne as the River Crane, runs through Verwood then, just after it passes the northern most lake in Moors Valley Country Park, it changes it’s name to Moors River. It is also the last place in Britain where the orange spotted emerald dragonfly has been seen. If I saw any today though I didn’t realise and they certainly didn’t stay still long enough for photos.

A little further on a saw a small brick bridge. Right next to it was a parkrun marshal. After checking with him that the runners weren’t about to come zooming over the bridge, I realised this might be a hardly place to stand to get photos. A look at my watch told me it wouldn’t be long before the first runners appeared.

Finding the bridge didn’t happen a moment too soon. Seconds after I thought about the first runner appearing, there he was speeding by me. The first of our group, the very speedy Andy, was a little way behind him. He didn’t even notice me, despite all my shouts and cheers.

Adam came next. Even though he was flying so fast his feet barely touched the ground he saw me and gave me a grin and thumbs up.

Helen was next, then John and Rob. If I’d had to guess their finishing order this would have been exactly as predicted. Barring accidents or injuries, I was almost certain Commando would be next.

As soon as I thought about him he seemed to appear, galloping around the corner, thumbs up because he’d spotted me.

Now all the speedy runners had come past I knew things were about to get quite crowded on the path so I decided to make my way back to the start while there was still a chance of getting there. Without all the stops for photos it didn’t take very long. Commando was there waiting for me.

Sam and Danielle were the next of our group to cross the finish line. For a first ever parkrun, Danielle did brilliantly and hardly looked tired at all. Right behind them were Rachel, still recovering from major surgery and run walking, and Kim, who was keeping her company.

Once they’d crossed the line and got their barcodes scanned it was time to head back to our cars. Moors Valley parkrun is a bit of a journey but the venue is so beautiful it’s well worth getting up early for. Maybe next time I’ll actually walk the whole course?

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