Husbando decided, a couple of weeks ago, that a trip to the Ilkley book fair would be a good idea. My entire experience of Yorkshire is a few trips to York and this scene from a Monty Python film. I may have caught the occasional episode of 'Last of the Summer Wine' but really my knowledge was pretty sketchy. Husbando dangled the website of the Devonshire Arms Hotel in front of me and I was pretty much sold on the idea. The prospect of walking and running appealed to me and there was, of course, the small matter of a bit of parkrun tourism to consider.
We arrived in Ilkley on Thursday at lunchtime. Ilkley is a lovely town, enough big name shops to cover all basic needs but plenty of interesting independent shops too. And the locals were shopping, eating and drinking in the town - it was really thriving. We grabbed some lunch and then I abandoned Husbando at the book fair and returned to the hotel to explore. I went on a walk to recce a run route for that evening - just up to Bolton Priory and back. The scenery was stunning! Our run was eventful! Lots of stopping for photos, and I swear I was fine on the stepping stones until I stopped and turned around. The thunderstorm that followed was amazing! The rain came down in stair rods and we were drenched within seconds. But it was wonderful to have rain after so long without any. We hoped that the temperature would drop a bit - but we were on for another very warm night.
Friday was another scorching day, I spent a pleasant couple of hours in Skipton - another beautiful, bustling town with a castle and canals - before lunch and then headed off for a wee walk up to the top of Beamsley Beacon. I hadn't brought any walking kit with me, because I thought that my broken toe would preclude any walking, but the pull of a visible and achievable peak on the horizon was too much temptation. The heat, more than the terrain, made it quite a tough walk, this combined with a couple of blocked footpaths (barbed wire and bare legs are not a good match) led to a couple of detours on my way up. The views from the top, after scrambling over loose, rocky paths were stunning. I covered 6 miles in 2 hours and didn't see anyone else for the entire time! Utter bliss until, while descending from the Beacon, I suddenly wondered what would happen if fell over.... As it was I didn't fall over, but my poorly toe complained vociferously and I spent most of the evening with my foot on ice!
It rained again on Friday evening, and off and on again all night. We woke up to torrential rain on Saturday. Did we have to parkrun? Of course we did! Off we went to Skipton, spare clothes in a bag in case we needed to change! We were met at the car park by two very friendly and helpful parking marshals. Loads of parking was available, the leisure centre was open so we could use their loos and put our bag of clothes in a locker. Or rather, Husbando did this while I went to the start. As a result he didn't get caught in the biblical downpour but I did! The fact that I had my sunglasses perched on the top of my head looked very optimistic!
I'd heard lots of tales (thanks to the old parkrun show) of 'Yorkshire tough' parkruns - but could not remember whether Skipton fulfilled the necessary criteria! It is 4 and a bit laps of Aireville Park. It is all on tarmac, which was a little slippery in places after the rain, and starts and finishes with an uphill. It has less overall elevation gain than my local (Alice Holt). Each lap had one short, sharp incline followed by a gradual downhill and then a long, gentle uphill - that long, gentle uphill seemed somewhat longer and a little less gentle the fifth time around as I approached the finish! I did manage to pass the tail runner twice - he was the friendly parking marshal I'd met earlier. We had a bit of banter about the relative merits of Geography and Biology... Given the state of my foot I was fairly pleased with my time (27:33) and 65th out of 142 runners. I was also glad of my sunglasses - the sun came out during my second lap!
Skipton parkrun is one of the friendliest parkruns I've visited. We arrived knowing no one, but everyone was chatty and friendly and we enjoyed a nice cup of tea in the leisure centre cafe with some of the parkrunners. It is lovely to run at smaller events. Skipton now is roughly the same size as Basingstoke was when I started parkrunning. I know that all parkruns, big and small, are inclusive but a smallish parkrun seems much more open and easier to navigate as a newbie/tourist. I'll probably get some flack for that comment...
Thank you to all the volunteers today. We had a marshal playing music at one corner which was lovely. All of the volunteers did brilliantly today, standing around in the unaccustomed rain can't have been too much fun! We had such a great time in a beautiful part of the country that we have decided to come back next year.... where we parkrun then has yet to be decided!