Woodgate Valley

As another Saturdays rolls around, it’s that time of week known as parkrun.

To get my training mileage of eighteen miles in, I planned on dropping the car in Digbeth, Birmingham then walking out to Woodgate Valley; doing the parkrun then walk back to the car.

The mileages added up but then I heard on the news that this Saturday was Pride weekend and the parts of the city that I would be walking through would be a mass of rainbow flags when I was due to return to the car so I had devised a slightly different ending – more later.

I arrived and parked the car at work in Digbeth a tad before half six, started the watch and made my way into the city centre.

The main roads into the city are either closed or have been diverted due to the bloody HS2 but I managed to get around and found myself staring up at the funkily clad Selfridges building as I made my way to the markets which were just getting ready for the day ahead.

I passed what used to be the wholesale market (now relocated in Witton) and noticed a number of large marques that had been erected ready for the Pride concert planned for the evening.

I purposely made my along Hurst Street, the heart of the Pride celebrations, and noticed hordes of hi-vis jacketed people getting everything ready.

Lots of the shops were sporting rainbows, even the National Trust’s Back to backs were joining in.

The top of Hurst Street and around the corner onto Smallbrook Queensway showed the aftermath of at the previous night’s festivities – empty chip packets, fried chicken containers and the splatter of over-indulgence decorated the pavement.

I was planning on going straight up Lea Bank to join the canal at Five ways but I was still a little ahead of schedule so walked up to the Mailbox to join the cut there.

Outside the Mailbox stood a giant anglepoise lamp standing four and a half metres high.

This is positioned at what used to be the main entrance to Birmingham’s Main Sorting Office where I spent time during my apprenticeship with the Post Office many moons ago.

A flight of stairs took me up to a basin of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal just along from the famous Gas Street Basin.

I crossed to the other side the canal and headed out of town, passing the iconic Cube and on past Five Ways railway station.

From Five Ways, the canal and railway run in parallel for a few miles but I was only going to follow the pair for a couple; as far as Birmingham University.

To get that far, I had to pass through the ninety six metre long Edgbaston Tunnel.

This tunnel is blessed with a wide towpath. Years ago, when I was working over this side of town, I would often use this tunnel but I don’t remember it being this wide – I’m sure it used to be just wide enough for one person, especially with the restricted headroom.

Checking on the old internet, later, I discovered that it had, indeed, been widened – doubled even, in 2018.

Emerging from the tunnel, the next point of interest was the bridge over to part of Birmingham University campus, looking very idyllic in the early morning light.

After a couple of miles of canal-side strolling, next to University station, I climbed the steps up from the canal and made my way past the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, through the houses and out onto Harbourne Lane which runs between Selly Oak and, you guessed it, Harbourne.

Crossing over, I soon found the Bourne Brook Walkway which I would follow to Woodgate Valley Country Park.

The walkway forms a pleasant green corridor through Harbourne and California.

After crossing the final road, West Boulevard, I was on what would be, in a hour’s time, the parkrun course.

I followed the track for a mile or so until I reached a point where I estimated I needed to turn left.

A path made it’s way up an incline between fields containing a number of horses. At the top of the hill, a grassy field opened up where I spied the pink hi-vis jackets of parkrun volunteers.

Although the helpers were in abundance, I couldn’t see any signs for the start so a quick look at the parkrun website revealed that the start was actually at the foot of the hill I’d just climbed. The hill would need to be ascended later, towards the end of the event !

Back at the bottom of the hill, a few others were milling around.

“Is this the start?” I asked one woman.
“I’m not sure”, she replied, “It’s my first time here!”

Helpful.

Shortly after someone else turned up and asked the same question.
“Probably!” was the best answer we could come up with.

Eventually, someone, who was a regular, turned up and confirmed our suspicions. As nine o’clock approached more people appeared so that there were around one hundred and fifty there come kick-off.

Almost at the last minute, I decided to go for a fast time so positioned myself mid-pack and waited for the off.

The Rice Director shouted, “GO!”, I pressed START on my watch and we were off.

The path is quite narrow so there was a bit of a squeeze at first but the throng thinned out soon enough.

My first mile, out to West Boulevard was done in 11:46.

After the turnaround, I started to pick off a few runners.
I’d spy someone a little ahead then walk that bit faster to catch and pass them.

Mile two was polished off in 11:42.

The final mile, and a bit, was a little slower as I had the hill to contend with but still managed mile three in 11:48 in a total time of 35:17.

With only a tenth of a mile to go, I went as fast as I could looking for a possible PB.

I crossed the line and stopped my watch. 36:05 it read. A new PB 😃

After going through scanning, I took a few minutes to get my breath back then reset the watch for the walk back.

The route back was much the same as coming until I got to Five Ways. To avoid the Pride celebrations, I continued down to Highgate then cut though greasy industrial streets to Digbeth and the car.

Just after getting back to the car, I received the parkrun results SMS and email confirming my time as 36:05.

Later in the day, I got an email from Strava telling me that I was 2nd on a segment of the parkrun which they call Horsey Hill. Second? Beating loads of runners.

I amaze myself some days !

I was all done by twelve, clocking up another nineteen miles.

TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   19 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   1511 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   -511 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   767 miles

Tomorrow is an easy day of only four miles – dog walks then next week is officially TAPER in readiness for the forthcoming Rowbothans Round Rotherham on the 9th October.