Yesterday saw 193 people taking part in the inaugural Beckenham Place parkrun in SE London. Andy Bond from Dulwich Runners set the opening men's course record in 17:34, with his club mate Selma Benattia establishing the women's record of 19:51.
The two lap figure of eight course is pretty flat (certainly no hills), much of it on grass and the remainder on gravel. On the long lap it's certainly a relief to turn back at the furthest point and begin the run towards home, just under half a mile along the path by the River Ravensbourne, concealed among the trees. Yesterday the grass was still frosted over at the start after a cold night, so it was a little slippery. It was beginning to get muddy in places by the end, so you might want to consider trail shoes over the winter if you are really chasing a fast time.
My main tip would be to take notice of the course directions before you get there. I know parts of Beckenham Place Park very well, with Assembly League races finishing by the mansion. I rocked up at the car park there thinking I would be bound to see some sign of the parkrun but couldn't see any trace at all. I bumped into a couple of similarly confused visitors in town from Perth and we headed off on a long run to try and find the start. The parkrun actually starts at the Summerhouse playing fields on the other side of the railway at the East of the park. You are best coming to it from the Ravensbourne Avenue entrance, and by public transport to Ravensbourne station. There is car parking at the Old Bromley Road entrance to the park, which while not quite as near is on the right side of the railway line.
Facilities are limited at present. You can leave a bag on the grass at the start (at your own risk as per usual at parkrun), and I believe that the only public toilets are back at the old mansion/cafe/ex-golf club HQ.
This is a good addition to the SE London parkrun circuit and should take some pressure off Bromley parkrun a couple of miles away, which regularly attracts more than 600 runners. There is a strong athletics infrastructure in the area with Beckenham Running Club based not far away (though of course if you're more in the Lewisham direction, come on down to Kent AC!) .
I will be returning to the park next month when the South of the Thames senior cross country race takes places there - though on a different, and much hillier course.
Thanks as always to all the volunteers, and for Lewisham Council in supporting the parkrun getting started.
see also: Athletics in Beckenham 1881