Ashton Court parkrun, 18th March 2023

One of the disadvantages of having family spread around the country may be that you don’t get to see them as often as you would like, but one of the advantages is the chance to sample a new parkrun when you do get to visit! So a visit to Gill’s cousin and his family in Bristol meant that we could sample the delights of Ashton Court parkrun.

And Ashton Court parkrun really is a delight as it is set in beautiful parkland on the outskirts of the city with fantastic views over Bristol and surrounding countryside. Unfortunately our hosts, Steve and Pippa, were unable to join us at 9am on the Saturday – Steve had to work and Pippa was taking the kids swimming – but they spent the night before filling us with tales of the “hardest parkrun in the country” and the big hill at Ashton Court whilst simultaneously trying to fill us with wine! So Gill and I jogged the 3.5 miles to the start with some trepidation.

The overnight rain had given way to a lovely, warm spring morning and we found the start line in reasonable time, though we had missed the first-timers briefing. However the course didn’t need much by way of description as it is an out and back route on a mix of good tarmac and gravel paths. The catch is that the “out” is a continual climb for 2.5K with over 100m of ascent – basically a steady slog with only a couple of sections that could be classed as steep. The climb meant that the 425 runners were well spread out by the top of the hill. Then you turn around and let gravity carry you back the way that you came – negative splits guaranteed! (Those of you who ran the first course at Gibside will have the general idea, though Gibside’s climbs were steeper, as they are at Chopwell Woods).

The back of the mansion that is Ashton Court is now a nice cafe with plenty of outside tables, excellent coffee (10% discount for parkrunners) and the biggest pain-aux-raisins that I have ever seen in my life. Perfect for a re-fuel before a look around the park and a walk/jog back.

As for most parkruns, the volunteers were friendly and supportive. Most of them had been provided by a local GP practice which is one of a number of “parkrun practices” in the country. One of volunteers has compiled what must be the most comprehensive parkrun report ever – see here. Gill and I get a mention, and they even managed to correctly identify me in a photograph:

I don’t recall telling anybody that we were from Newcastle nor meeting them at junior parkrun the next day, but we must have been recognised. I am impressed!

If you are in the Bristol area, then I would highly recommend Ashton Court for your parkrun fix. It even has the bonus of being a relatively rare “A”!

Tom Tinsley -