After 4-5wks of fairly smooth, tarmac paths, it was time for Ben and I to head to our favourite forest park - Castlewellan - for a bumpier parkrun experience. And what a treat to find Team Kerr, our inspiration for this running journey, also there to give the parkrun a go. We have been round this course a few times and such is our love of the park that we regard this as our 'home' parkrun even though it isn't our closest.
Castlewellan Forest park is a super spot - forest, lake, maze, natural playpark, caravan site, mountain and views of the Mournes - what's not to love! There is lots of parking and toilet facilities just a few minutes walk from the start line - there is a £5 carpark entry fee or £50 for a year which gives you access to all Forestry Service parks. Many runners park in the town just outside the forest park and run in (approx 1km) as their warm up. The run brief and start is just beyond the lakeside carpark and, as with many of the runs, depending on where you are in the pack, with c.200 runners most weeks, it is a bit slow to spread out.
The initial path isn't very wide but is smooth, however once you are through the gate into the forest, you are running over a bumpy and rough surface (branches/twigs, loose stone, some potholes etc) for most of the run. The course is a mostly flat lap of the lake, with an out and back length at the far end of the lake of just under 1/2 mile up a very bumpy, steep climb before turning to run back down the same route and rejoining the lakeside path for the final, flat 1 mile to the finish. The forest paths are fine for our all terrain jogger and for a 7yr who loves the bumps and bouncing about! But this would not be everyone's idea of fun and it is probably not a course that would be suited to road racing jogger or more conventional chair.
The run director and volunteer team is very welcoming (and has invited my feedback previously on whether there is any way they could be even more inclusive) and the other runners are always really friendly and encouraging, especially on the hill!