Outwood Country Park, Radcilffe

MAP

Did I tell you I’ve got a place in the 2010 London Marathon? I’m very excited about it and even looking forward to the many, many miles I will have to run to prepare myself for my first ever attempt at this distance. However, the need for more miles presents me with a dilemma;

To avoid injury (specifically shinjury, in my case) I’d like to try and do as much of my mileage as possible off-road. In any case, I love running on trails and in parks. Beautiful scenery, peace and quiet, challenging terrain making me stronger, what’s not to like?

The problem is, I like to go running straight from my house. Shut my front door and I’m off, no time wasted getting to the park or out into the countryside. So, I need to find running loops that I can do from home without having to head off in the car first, hopefully incorporating some grass and trails. Tricky when you live in an urban area!

Yesterday, I decided to try and run a loop that would take me through Outwood Country Park, which I can access about 10 minutes run from my house. I’ve never been there, but I’ve driven past the entrance on Ringley Road a few times. Finding any information on this park is a bit of a challenge, there’s nothing on Bury Council’s park pages, so I had to try and rely on the paths marked on my 12 year old A-Z and my sense of direction. Googlemap doesn’t recognise it either – on the link above, the park is the empty expanse to the left of Outwood Road. This park is incognito! If you’re looking for it, I suggest using the entrance on Ringley Road, it’s pretty easy to spot.

After 5 – 10 minutes of road running, I found my way into the park, via the entrance off Outwood Road in Radcliffe. Apparently this area was a colliery until 1931 and has in more recent times been turned into parkland. I decided to follow one of the grass paths which soon turned very boggy, but I was quickly rewarded with fantastic views through the trees out over Radcliffe – you’re pretty high up here! The winter morning light hasn’t come out as I would have liked on these photos, but that’s what you get from an out-of -breath runner wielding a mobile phone I’m afraid.

My ability to remember the tracks shown in my ageing A-Z was severely tested by the fact that there were many trails worn across the grass. I found myself at a crossroads like this on several occasions. Hmm..which way to go? I went for straight on, which happily led me towards an unexpected surprise. Either I had found a previously undiscovered set of standing stones, made with shocking precision – or I had stumbled across part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail. Some post run research enables me to confirm that this striking set of stones is a sculpture by Ulrich Ruckriem. It turns out that Outwood is actually a particularly rich spot in terms of art spotting – no less than 3 sculptures are situated here. I’ll have to go back and see if I can find the works by Stefan Gec and Alan Johnston.

On this occasion though, I exited the park at the carpark on Ringley Road and had planned to follow another set of trails on the other side of the road that would allow me to loop back round. Here my plans fell apart. Firstly, I was not helped by the fact that I went down the wrong trail (confirmed by the A-Z when I got back).So much for my photographic memory. I probably could’ve worked back round to where I wanted to go, but was somewhat put off by the fact that the path took me through someone’s farm. I was even more put off by the signs warning of deep excavations and threats to life and limb. I mentioned in my post about running on towpaths, that I sometimes involuntarily picture a reconstruction of my last steps being shown on Crimewatch – it wasn’t long before I turned around and ran back the way I’d come!

Outwood Park was very quiet when I visited, a far cry form it’s industrial roots. This would make a lovely, leisurely walk, exploring the trails and trying to find the artworks – a sculpture treasure hunt!

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