Lymington, parkrunning and fairy doors

25 August

For three whole days after my last Running School session, I could barely walk. On day one, Commando laughed every time I groaned and winced as I tried to get out of the chair. It was slightly better on day two but I still looked like an elderly lady who had lost her walking frame. Yesterday I managed to get up the big hill without stopping, but it was slow, painful progress. Oddly, my Achilles hadn’t hurt at all, throughout this epic DOMS extravaganza, my calves were the problem. Today, apart from a little residual calf tenderness, normal service was more or less resumed and we were off to Lymington for another spot of parkrun tourism.  

Kim wasn’t working this week and she, Rob and Ian, complete with his Rubik’s cube, squeezed into the back of our car for the journey. Our original plan had been to visit Brokenhurst parkrun but Rob had read they were not using the single lap course at Wilverley inclousure but would be running laps at Brokenhurst College. This didn’t sound like fun at all so, at the last minute, we decided on Lymington instead. This proved to be an excellent choice.

Lymington Woodside parkrun  has been running since July 2016. It’s a relatively small event, with an average of just over a hundred runners and is three laps on a mixture of trails, paths and grass. The venue, Woodside Gardens, once surrounded  the Rooke family home. When Colonel Henry Douglas Rooke died, in 1927, he bequeathed the house and extensive gardens to the town. Sadly, the house fell into decline during World War II and was demolished shortly afterwards. The gardens though, are beautifully maintained and much used by local people.

As we entered the park, one of the first things we noticed was a large wooden pavilion guarded by a chubby little Bassett hound. A very welcome sign told me the pavilion was also a cafe and, best of all, it was open. While the others wandered off to check out the start, I went inside to check out the coffee.

Inside the pavilion come cafe I found the Run Director, a very friendly chap, who chatted to me while my coffee was being brewed. The RD, Steve, was very welcoming and interested to hear he had two Southampton parkrun RD’s amongst the tourist runners today, along with a nutcase who was going to try to complete a Rubik’s cube while running. The coffee, when it arrived, was very good, even by my exacting standards.

So, with my coffee in my hand, I went back outside to watch the pre race briefing and the start. By Southampton standards, numbers were low but, for Lymington, the one hundred and seventy runners on the field were a record turnout, thanks in part to our small tourist group and the bank holiday weekend.

Bang on time, they were off and, for once, I even managed to spot Commando and Rob in the crowd.  There was no time or exploring, much as I’d have liked to. Within five minutes the fastest runners, including Ian and his Rubik’s cube, were whizzing past again. Close behind were Rob and Commando, shortly followed by Kim.

After a brief pause, during which I chatted to the barcode scanner (singular), Rob and Commando zoomed past again. Either I’d missed Ian or he’d stopped somewhere to play with his Rubik’s cube. Given how fast he usually runs I thought I’d better not take any chances and head for the finish line.

This turned out to be a good call. The finish funnel was in a gap in the hedge between two fields. Just as I reached it, so did Ian, grinning like a loon and holding the completed Rubik’s cube aloft. Amazingly, he’d not only succeeded at his self imposed challenge but he’d come fourth with a time of 19:20! Unfortunately, impressive as this achievement is, it turns out it’s not a world record. In fact a man called Blair Williamson managed to solve the puzzle no less than two hundred and fifty four times whilst running the Christchurch Marathon in New Zealand in 2017 and get his name into the record books. Ian may well be practicing at this very moment.

A few minutes later Commando and Rob crossed the finish line. Then came Kim. After barcodes were scanned and we’d all marvelled at the board used to sort the finish tokens (at Southampton this is a mammoth task undertaken by a whole team of people) we headed for the cafe.

Inside, along with the enticing smell of freshly brewed coffee, there was a mouthwatering aroma of bacon. If there were awards for post parkrun refreshments, Lymington would be right up at the top of the leaderboard.

Eventually, filled with coffee and bacon sandwiches, we headed back towards the car park. Rather than go back the way we’d come though, Commando wanted to take a detour to show me some of the things he’d passed on his run.

We found a lovely old stone pergola that, at a different time of year might have been smothered with sweetly scented flowers. Even without the flowers it was a splendid sight. At the very end we found a plaque dedicated to Colonel Rooke and the garden’s trustees.

We then followed a path through bowers of greenery and discovered a magical place filled with trees and fairy doors and mushroom seats. Kim and I were enchanted and stopped to peer at all the little doors and windows. Commando, Rob and Ian stood by scratching their heads wondering what all the fuss was about. Commando even asked, “what’s a fairy door?” Then rolled his eyes when I told him.

One really large tree, with extremely gnarly roots, even had a sign saying Town Hall. The base of the tree was hollow and Kim and I both peered inside, half expecting to see a fairy gathering. Sadly, all the fairys were hiding somewhere and we didn’t see a single one.

With some reluctance, we allowed ourselves to be dragged away from the fairy town. The rest of the trail couldn’t possibly compare but we did find a large stone that might have been a sundial and another flowerless pergola. This one was dedicated to Doctor Basil Thornton, founder of the local rotary club.

These lovely gardens are worthy of more extensive exploration, especially the little fairy town, but today, with a quartet of tired parkrunners, it was time to head for home. We all agreed Lymington parkrun was the most friendly and welcoming so far. Without a doubt, we will return.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

2 thoughts on “Lymington, parkrunning and fairy doors”

  1. I couldn’t even do a Rubik’s cube sitting still.
    I’ve seen those little doors here but never knew what they were about. Somebody went to a lot of time and effort!
    Beautiful gardens. That wisteria must be very old!

    1. I can’t do the Rubik’s Cube either. The gardens were lovely. I’d like to see more of them, especially when the wisteria is in boom.

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