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Marathon training update

It’s been four weeks since I started my marathon training plan, and so far so good. I have managed four runs every week except one, which was for logistical reasons involving Christmas Day.

Interval session round Perivale Park

There are four runs every week. At the moment they go something like this: 1) an easy shortish run, which gradually gets longer but is always at an easy pace; 2) two interval sessions – one with short intervals and one with longer intervals; 3) a long run – getting longer and longer! but usually at an easy pace. That’s the basics. Some weeks there is only one interval session, and some weeks the long run has some faster bits in the middle.

I have managed to set up the interval sessions on my watch. This is actually quite easy but it is so long since I did it that it took me a little while to remember how to add in repeats! It’s great though, because now my watch beeps to tell me when to start going faster, and when the recovery time starts. It also beeps frantically if I am not in my time range!

Christmas Eve run

So far I have managed to time most of my runs to coincide with reasonable weather. Today there was a little shower while I was out, which was nice because then I saw a rainbow. But about half an hour after getting home there was a hailstorm! I felt quite smug.

Rainbow over Elthorne Park today

This afternoon I went shopping for an essential piece of kit for women. While out running today I almost had a disastrous wardrobe malfunction when the zip on my sports bra became disconnected. Luckily I managed to fix it, but the rest of the run I was in nervous anticipation of another technical failure! Good old Marks and Spencer to the rescue, and I now have two new bras, and the old one can be relegated to the recycling 😂. (Sorry if that’s too much information for some people 😉.)

Longest run so far this morning. I managed to keep to the pace too!

The big announcement of this post is that my fundraising page is now LIVE! I am hoping to raise at least £1000 for JDRF – the charity that is dedicated to finding a cure for Type1 diabetes. Please do visit their website by clicking here to find out about all the fantastic work they do.

My fundraising site can be visited by clicking on this link. I appreciate that there are many demands on limited resources. Thank you for every penny and pound you can spare for this great cause.

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Race Report- Ealing Half Marathon 2022

Happy 10th Birthday to the fabulous Ealing Half Marathon! Number one was set up to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics and has run every year since. Every year apart from one – in 2020 no race took place in real life, but there was a virtual run which I undertook on a very cold and wet day in Suffolk. I just re read that post, and oh my it was a very different experience from the one today! For a start it never seems to rain on the last Sunday in September in Ealing! The weather today was perfect for running – sunny, blue skies and not too hot.

Bright and sparky and ready to run!
Waiting at the start we found ourselves a bit too close to the 2 hour pacer for comfort so hung back a bit! All the Xempo pacers were women. Apparently the 2:05 pacer ran a half last week in 1:25 😳

As usual I knew quite a few people taking part, and also lots of the volunteers and supporters along the route. It’s always fun looking out for friends. It’s a while since I ran alongside another person (I mean apart from the crowd) but today my son Jack decided at the very last minute to take part. Later he told me that this was the only the 5th actual run he’s done in two years! So he was basically running on no specific training at all. Crazy. But it was very nice to have the company, and the encouragement. He set his fancy watch with a target of 2 hours and 5 minutes – ambitious. The first half we were on track and I managed the fastest 10km I’ve done for years! But after that the second half began to take its toll on our legs. There’s a point where the route goes quite close to our house – and his – and it is hard to run past that point when your legs are screaming STOP!

Race village atmosphere

But the fantastic support from the crowd, offering jelly babies, water and general cheering really does give you a boost. There is also plenty of music and drums along the way, with the Hanwell Ukelele Group smashing out tunes, and a fab dhol player outside the Sikh temple on Drayton Bridge Road. Click here if you don’t know what a dhol is! There were also some great drummers on the Uxbridge Road which was a great energising sound to hear at mile 12.

Happy – but knackered. We did it though!

As always superb organisation and a huge army of volunteers of all ages from Beavers to seniors made this a fantastic event, enjoyed by everyone.

Jack and I finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Hurray! He wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t done it, and I certainly wouldn’t have done it that quick without him, and his ambitious target! At the end my feet, legs and back were killing me, I’m not going to lie. However, after a long soak in a hot bath and an extremely good Sunday lunch at The Green W7 in Hanwell I am feeling ok, if a little tired.

Shout out to Race Directors Sandra Courtney and Christina O’Hare. As usual you have done an amazing job. And thanks of course to the founder of Ealing Half Marathon Kelvin Walker, without whom this wonderful race would have never existed. If you have never thought about doing a half marathon then start thinking about doing this one next year!

Lovely anniversary medal – and made from wood too for extra save the planet points.
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Running Tales from Ealing: Queen of the Suburbs, the final parks

Thirteen parks and 70.6km (43.8 miles) later I have completed the challenge set by Ealing Half Marathon to run to every corner of the borough!

Today the last two parks were right over in Acton. I thought it would be a lot of running on streets, and I did end up on more pavement than last week running to Northolt. However I still managed to run through several green spaces including Ealing Common and Acton Park.

Acton Park was looking particularly beautiful yesterday.

Trinity Way Open Space is a nice little park with lots of trees and a playground. On my way out I met two runners on their way in. We had a little chat and went on our way. Taking a selfie by the park sign is a dead giveaway that someone else is doing the Challenge!

The next bit was quite slow as I worked out a way along back streets to Acton Green Common. If I had been organised I could have worked out a route and downloaded it to my phone/watch. That would have involved forethought, foresight and a technical skill that I’m not sure I have at my fingertips. It was actually straightforward and went through an area called Bedford Park.

Bedford Park was the first Garden Suburb, housing planned deliberately to maintain a semi rural feel, with green spaces and trees along the residential roads. It is based around the straight Roman road that ran from London to Bath, and was developed after 1875, when the railways increasingly provided fast transport into the city.

The District Line train going towards town

Acton Green Common is all that’s left of a much bigger area of open space. It is the site of the Battle of Turnham Green in 1642, which followed the Battle of Brentford, a major conflict of the English Civil War. The Parliamentarians managed to get together an army of 24,000 to face only 13,000 Royalists. (Guess who won.)

The run back home was a bit more straightforward as I knew where I was going!

Isn’t this topiary hedge wonderful?! I just had stop and take a photo.

While at Acton Green I met the same couple I’d seen earlier in Trinity Way! And I was to meet them yet again back in Ealing, at Haven Green. It turned out they were driving to all the parks on the same day, and running a mile in each one. Great idea! I love the way the challenge inspires people to complete it in many different ways. Some people walk, some run, some bike. Some do it solo, others in groups. Some do all the parks in one go, others take their time and do one or two at a time. One woman went to every park in a day, and walked and skipped in each!

One of my favourite oak trees in Ealing, on the common

And today my week was made when I won a prize from Ealing Half Marathon from posting my Instagram photos from the challenge! I am absolutely thrilled to bits to have won such an amazing prize – or prizes I should say, as there’s a Camelbak (hydration thingy), voucher for Sunday carvery at one my favourite Ealing pubs The Forester, an Ealing half marathon sweatshirt AND a mug! Thank you so much Sandra and Christina at Ealing Half Marathon.

My next proper challenge is an actual real life race down at Walton on Thames in a couple of weeks. I am aiming to run at least a half marathon, but maybe, just maybe, I might run a bit more. I’ll let you know!

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Running Tales from Ealing: Queen of the Suburbs Take 2

Last September I took part in a virtual running challenge organised by Ealing Half Marathon, to run in or to 13 of the lovely parks we have here in the borough of Ealing. It was a lot of fun, visiting new parks as well as those I know well.

It was so popular that it’s being run again in April, with 13 different parks to visit. And this time there’s an option to do 13 parks in your local area if you don’t live in Ealing!

RUN ONE

Perivale Park

I started off on 1st April after work, with one of the nearest parks to me – Perivale Park, which I have run in many many times, and have written about here.

RUN TWO

Beautiful blossom in Hanger Hill Park

Run 2 happened on a bank holiday so I had more time in hand. I worked out a little route that took in four parks/ green spaces. First was Drayton Green, which was purchased by the council in 1866 when the area started to be developed. For centuries it had been farmland. There has been a running track on the green since 1932, and a children’s playground since the 1950’s (hopefully not the same one, haha! Remember the infamous witch’s hat roundabout thing? So dangerous but so fun!).

Next stop Haven Green, right outside Ealing Broadway station which is having a huge makeover for the Elizabeth Line – Crossrail. Haven Green has its roots far back in Anglo Saxon times. It was at the crossroads of some major routes east to west, and north to south. Farmers would drive their cattle and sheep to market in London along the Uxbridge road, resting them on the green, while they went for refreshments at The Feathers Inn. This later became the Townhouse, and is now a bank and apartments.

Then off along the Uxbridge Road just a short way up to Ealing Common, a big open space that is used for all sorts. Nowadays football and dog walking are major activities. In the past cricket was popular, and the pub that is now called the Grange was originally called The Cricketer. It’s used for funfairs and circuses too (in ‘normal times’).

Then I made my way up to Hanger Hill Park, up the infamous Park View Road, which is the first proper hill on the Ealing half marathon route. There are lots of trees here and natural springs that run across some of the paths. There are views from the top across to Wembley and the stadium.

Altogether this run was shorter than I had anticipated – under 10km. Apart from some busy roads in some places it was a nice route.

RUN THREE

More blossom in Elthorne Park

I did run 3 on Easter Day – just a quick local run to Elthorne Park, which I’ve written about here. I saw a few people also running or cycling through the parks and along the canal for the Queen of the Suburbs Challenge! It’s nice to say hi!

RUN FOUR

In Southall Recreation Ground

On Easter Monday I did a longer run along the canal towards Southall to tick off two parks there. Wolf Fields was a bit uninspiring, although I am sure it’s lovely to have that space if you live locally. And maybe I was a bit underwhelmed because it was a very grey and chilly day. Southall Recreation Ground is nice, with a big children’s playground and some beautiful mature trees. And it’s right next to the canal.

RUN FIVE

This beautiful oak is in a field just near Horsenden Hill.

And this weekend I did run 5, which took in three parks in the north/northwest of the borough. I actually went through Perivale Park again, and Northala Fields (which I’ve written about here!) to get to Lime Tree Park. Apparently this was originally a featureless flat space, which lent itself to antisocial behaviour such as joy riding and traveller encampments. But the council, in conjunction with residents and an environmental company, developed the landscape to discourage such activities. It now has undulating grounds, with trees and pond area. There is also a children’s centre at one side. This whole area was developed from farmland in the 1950’s, and I have met many residents who have lived here from that time, moving from crowded and dilapidated housing in places like Notting Hill, Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith after the 2nd world war. It really was the countryside then, with farms and stables.

After this it was a short run to Belvue Park and the lovely ancient St. Mary’s church. This area has a connections to the Iron Age and the Romans, and there are informative signs around the park. (This is why some of my runs take so long – reading the info and taking photos!).

I managed to find my way easily to the canal and ran back towards Perivale and Horsenden Hill. I have often run along this way, but funnily enough I almost always run east to west, not the other way round. Everything looks different going the other way! Even though I was pretty tired by now I just had to go and find the Gruffalo before I headed back home for a second breakfast/brunch!

A selfie with the Gruffalo is compulsory!

I just have two more parks to tick off the list now, and that will most likely happen next weekend. I did make a cake today – but that will wait for a separate post.

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Running Tales from Ealing – Perivale Park

Perivale Park is not far from where I live now, but it used to be practically my back garden for ten years until the mid 1990’s. At that time it was quite boring – a big, flat expanse of mainly playing fields, bordered by a golf course and a bowling green where nobody seemed to play anymore. There was a children’s playground however, so we went there a lot as it was so close.

Feb 2021: This oak tree was the view from my bedroom for ten years!

In the past few years however a transformation has slowly taken place and Perivale Park is much more interesting visually and ecologically. It is also far more accessible, with new footpaths that take you all round the field area. There are wild flower meadows, newly planted tree areas (including an orchard), and ponds. These ponds are man made scrapes designed to hold rainwater, and dry out in the summer. They are shallow, and are ideal in Perivale Park because the area is a flood plain for the River Brent. The ponds help stop the grass fields becoming totally sodden.

April 2019

The unused bowling green has become a lovely mini community allotment area with benches to sit and rest, or admire the industry of others. Next to this area is a newly planted area of trees, a mix of all kinds of specimens including acers, rowan (mountain ash), oak, linden (lime), and tulip trees. I’m not sure, because I can’t find any information about this, but it seems to me that the trees are possibly not in their final positions. They are planted in rows and quite close together. Perhaps they will be moved at some point somewhere else in the park?

Feb 2021: Here are the young trees in what I suspect is a sort of tree nursery.

There is an unusual bench in the park dedicated to the memory of Nicky Hopkins, famous pop/rock pianist , who was born and brought up in Perivale. He played with practically every rock band you can think of including The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks.

Annoyingly I forgot to take a photo today and thought I already had one. But couldn’t find it. So this photo is from the very informative blog of The Friends of Perivale Park.

Sport and fitness is definitely a strong theme of the park. There are pitches for football, rugby and cricket, and tennis courts. There are also new fitness equipment stations at different places in the park, some of which are still not quite ready for use, as work was stopped on the surfaces due to the lockdown. When it’s all open they will be a great addition. At the east aspect of the park, next to the golf clubhouse, is the athletics track, home to the Ealing, Southall and Middlesex Athletics Club. It’s a proper eight lane running track, with throwing facilities, indoor gym and spectator seating. All closed at the moment of course.

Feb 2021: the athletics track – sadly empty at the moment.
March 2020: one of the ‘scrape’ ponds

The park is well used by local people for walking, running, playing sport, cycling and just playing. I have several regular routes I run that take me through Perivale Park. I used to just run straight through it as there really wasn’t much to see. However now I am much more likely to run round it a couple of times – at any time of year the views and wildlife are interesting and always different.

October 2020: another of the ponds; it’s hard to believe this is in London.
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Look back – look forward – here comes 2021!

It’s come around again – the end of the year, and a time to reflect.

This time last year I was celebrating having achieved 12 half marathons (or the equivalent averaged out..) one per month. This year I am amazed that I have in fact done 2 actual real life, real time races! The first was in January, and I was hoping to do it again in 2021 to start the new year as I mean to go on, but it ain’t happening.

I have done quite a lot of running in 2020 even though I haven’t been able to take part in events with other runners as planned. I’m especially disappointed that two trail runs were cancelled, but hey, we all know why that was don’t we?

According to my Garmin stats I’ve run 1,171 km (727.6 miles). I think it’s a bit more than that as there were a few times when either I couldn’t locate my watch or it wasn’t charged! On Strava it’s 1,228 km but that includes a couple of bike rides. Whatever it is it’s quite a lot and I’m happy!

These 2 medals were the only ones for actual races. Both half marathons, one in January and one in August.
Two virtual runs. The first completed in January – 26.2 miles (42km) in January in aid of refugees. And another in June – running 50km in 7 days. That was tough.
Two more virtual runs, organised by the fabulous Phoenix Running. I did a half marathon on the day that would have been the London Marathon in April. And the other one was running every day for 7 days in July, which is not something I would usually do!
Three virtual runs with the truly wonderful Ealing Half marathon crew. I really loved all of these runs especially the parks one (Queen of the Suburbs) when I got to visit new places and wave at fellow participants!
And finally – a virtual Christmas Day run.

So what next for 2021? The two cancelled trail runs with Maverick have been postponed until spring, and we’ll see what happens. But next on the horizon – in fact starting tomorrow – is a whole month of Running Every Day (RED)!! Yes I decided that a week of running every day in the height of summer was not enough, and I must do it for 31 days straight. And for extra punishment 😉 I must do it in the coldest, darkest month. Hahaha, I hear you laughing!

I will be documenting this as an incentive to actually do it. I may not (almost certainly won’t) write a post every day but I will of course take lots of photos and let you know how it’s all going.

In the meantime – Happy New Year to all my lovely readers around the world. May 2021 bring us all peace and health. I shall continue to run and bake, and maybe occasionally post about some of the other things I like doing in my spare time.

Running tales from Ealing – Queen of the Suburbs Challenge

September is usually the month of the Ealing Half Marathon, which takes place on the last Sunday of the month. But of course sadly this year it won’t be happening. At least not in its traditional form.

Starting and finishing in Lammas Park: 2017 Ealing Half Marathon – oh happy days!

However the lovely people who organise the Ealing half marathon have turned their hand to organising a couple of virtual events this month. First: the Queen of the Suburbs Challenge. For this challenge you have to run or walk in or to 13 of the many parks in the borough of Ealing. They have picked parks right across the whole borough from Northolt, to Southall, to Ealing to Acton. One of the best things about living in Ealing are the parks. I love the fact that from my house I can access so many different open spaces within 1km. I have already been to many, but this challenge has introduced me to some that I have never visited, and some that I didn’t even know existed.

It’s a a challenge that’s flexible – as long as you complete it within the month of September. So some people have done all the parks in one go – a run of approximately 20 miles (32km). Others are walking them with their families. My plan evolved – I decided I was definitely not going to attempt all parks in one go. I started with two that were nearby, and then another couple, and then decided that I would try and do them all on consecutive days…

But how do the organisers know that you actually did do the runs? For this challenge we had to upload our Strava data for each run to show that we had been to each place, and on which date. (Strava is an activity tracker with GPS for those that are puzzled.) Another aspect was taking selfies at each park and sharing them on social media. One of the things that I think most people really miss about doing ‘proper’ organised runs is that sense of community, and lots of people being together for a focussed activity. Sharing stories on social media has really helped bring back a little of that feeling. I don’t like taking selfies at the best of times, and I don’t think many people look their best when out running, but hey – I’ll do my bit!

Trees in Montpelier Park. It’s not a large park, but it’s very pretty.

Day One – Thursday

I ran before work to Montpelier Park and Pitshanger Park. It was a beautiful early autumn morning, cool and bright. I’ve been to Pitshanger Park countless times but although I’ve run past Montpelier I’ve never actually been in it. There are many mature trees making it shady and pretty. Pitshanger was lovely as usual, beginning to look quite autumnal.

The first park I visited.

Day Two – Friday

On Friday I ran after work, through the Bunny Park, which is officially called Churchfields Recreation Ground, to Southall Park. I have walked in Southall Park lots of times as it is quite near one of the places I work from sometimes, and is a good place for a lunchtime stroll. However I have never run there before, and my route took me through a new place that I had never heard of – Dormers Wells Moated Manor.

Dormers Wells Moated Manor – not officially on the list, but I would never have known about it if not for the challenge.

Dormers Wells Moated Manor is now a fairly wild space given over to nature. Five hundred years ago there was a manor house complete with moat, and a well was recorded as early as the 13th century.

Day Three – Saturday

On Saturday afternoon I drove over to Acton for the two parks over in the east of the borough. I felt a bit bad driving over there, but I calculated that running there and back would be over nine miles, and to be honest that sounded like a bit too much! North Acton playing fields were new to me, and so I ran right round them. It’s basically what it says on the tin – playing fields. There are some tennis courts, five-a-side football pitches, a large open air gym, and a big children’s playground at the southern end. And then the rest of the space is playing fields. A lovely wide open space in a built up area close to a major road, with some old oak trees and a wildflower meadow space along one edge.

One of the wildflower areas in North Acton playing fields.

Acton Park is more familiar because it’s another space for lunchtime walks when I’m working in Acton. Acton was opened as a public park in 1888, which must make it one of the oldest in Ealing. It has lots of trees, and a very classy mini golf place, which was packed on Saturday. I keep meaning to book to go there – it looks like a lot of fun!

You can see from the map on the sign that Acton Park is quite big. It is a lovely space for a walk. Or a run!

On the way back everyone had to stop at the level crossing to wait for the train to go by. I have been wearing my Ealing Half 2020 t-shirt for all the runs so it’s pretty clear I’m doing the challenge, and next to me was another runner also doing the same thing! We had a chat about which parks we had done already. And just before I got back to the car I managed to persuade a very drunk person lying on the ground to at least get his legs out of the road and onto the pavement – it’s a very different experience going for a run on Saturday afternoon compared to early in the morning!

Day Four – Sunday

Originally this was going to be a classic Sunday long run (15km) taking in four parks on the west and north of the borough. However, by Saturday evening I seemed to have developed a bit of a left glute strain and was almost limping. Yikes! I think this may have been precipitated by some over enthusiastic ‘donkey kicks’ at my outdoor gym class in the morning, and then running in the afternoon. So I decided to slightly change the plan.

The plan still included four parks, but I drove to each one, and ran at least 2km in each. This meant that I covered just under 10km altogether but had a a short break between each section. In fact it was better, because I actually had an opportunity to do proper circuits of the parks, instead of just arriving and leaving.

First was Spikes Bridge Park, which I have never been to before, although I now realise that I have passed it a few times on my runs down the canal. It was very busy considering it was only just past 8 on a Sunday morning. Lots of people walking and running, and a group of young people getting ready for a cricket match. As I was leaving children started arriving for another sporting activity- football maybe? There used to be a running track here, which has been converted to a path, with 5 a side football pitches in the middle. It felt like a friendly park, people smiled and said hello as they went by.

Lovely countryside views at Spikes Bridge Park.

Next was Northala Fields, which I’ve written about before here. It was also very busy, people walking, running, doing a very jolly outdoor exercise class, boxing practice on the top of one of the hills, fishing, cycling. I saw another runner in an Ealing Half 2020 top in front of me, but I couldn’t catch up with him to say Hi! Looking on Instagram later I think there were quite a lot of us out running in the parks on Sunday!

View from the top!
I love that spiral pattern!

The third park was Islip Manor Park, which I’ve never been to before. It’s quite small, only just over 1km all round, but that meant I could do a couple of circuits and have a proper look around. There are mature trees, including a yew walk. Islip Manor has its origins in the 14th century, but the grounds as they are now were laid out in the 19th century, and were opened as public gardens in 1929. As I went round on my second circuit I spotted someone taking a selfie at the park sign – none other than Sandra from Ealing Half Marathon herself! She was doing the rounds on her bike, and said she had already seen lots of people out and about doing the Challenge!

There are still signs of a more formal garden/ park at Islip Manor Park. This group of trees are quite striking.

Finally I went to Ravenor Park in Greenford. I used to live in Greenford, and go to this park fairly regularly. If I’m being totally honest I find it quite a boring park. There is a meadowy bit which is nice in the summer, and a large multi use games area, where people were playing basketball. In the spring there are very pretty displays of flowers. But overall it’s quite uninteresting really. (Sorry to those who love it!)

Maybe if I run more round Ravenor Park I’ll get more inspired by it!

Day Five – Monday

Well, if the challenge began with a cool autumn feel it ended feeling like high summer! For the last run the temperature went up to 29 degrees C. It was so hot! I’m not a fan of running in warm temperatures – give me a cool, crisp morning any time, but once I started thinking that I would do it on consecutive days I felt I just had to get out and run the last three parks.

First was Walpole Park. As it was such a beautiful afternoon the park was busy, and most people were obeying the new Rule of Six, although I did see one group of about twelve…I have written before about the park here, so I won’t go into details in this post.

This photo was taken on 1st April 2019 in Walpole Park.

Next was Lammas Park. This park is the centre of the Ealing Half Marathon. The starting pen forms down the avenue of horse chestnut trees. And the finish line comes after a loop of the west side of the park. It’s not particularly hilly, but after 13 miles the last gentle slope feels like a mountain!

Two years ago in Lammas Park – sub 2 hour half marathon! I don’t think that’s going to be repeated any time soon!

The next and final park was a Blondin Park, which I have written about here. I really like this park, it’s a shame it’s not nearer to where I live. Especially on such a hot day, when I had to run another 4km home. In the end I walked/slowly jogged back, and by the time I got home I was as red as a tomato!

The Final Park! Done!

Total distance covered = 38.4 km/ 23.8 miles. In five days. I’m very happy with that!

This challenge has been a lot of fun. I have really enjoyed having a reason to explore some new places, and re-visit some others that I haven’t been to for a while. I could have spread it out over more days, or not done so much each time, but I am very happy that I’ve finished it now! I can have a bit of rest before part two – running 13.1 miles in the last week of September.

Thank you Ealing Half Marathon for organising such a brilliant challenge – I loved it!

Running tales from Ealing – Blondin Park

Ealing – Queen of the Suburbs – and that means a lot of green spaces and parks. I’ve visited a lot of parks in Ealing on my running travels but until yesterday evening I had not been to Blondin Park. It seemed timely to go there now for two reasons. First, Blondin has a connection with circuses (more later) and last weekend I went to the most wonderful circus ever. The magical Giffords Circus was such a fantastic, fun experience. I would recommend that if you can possibly go – GO! I absolutely loved it. It was funny (the clowns!), thrilling (the acrobats on horseback, the trapeze artists!), beautiful and amazing (Lil Rice on the cyr wheel!). The whole thing was just fab!

The programme cover for Giffords Circus

The second reason is that soon Blondin Park will be hosting the Brentford festival – on Sunday 1st September there will be fun for all the family. A dog show, live music, food and stalls. Sounds like fun, and I will try and get there if I can.

Views of the park

So after work I thought I would do a little exploratory run to check out Blondin Park, and then do a bit of research to find out the story behind the name. The park is bigger than I was expecting (21 acres or 8.5 hectares), and a mix of playing fields and wilder ground, including a nature reserve. There is also a little orchard, although it looked a bit sad, the trees didn’t look in great condition, and the apples were small and rotten. But my internet research discovered that there were orchards and market gardens in this area in the early nineteenth century, and some of the roads nearby are named after apple varieties like Bramley, Julien and Wellington. I have never heard of the last two types, so it’s fascinating to know that those roads are named after apples, linking the area to the past.

Some sort of eating apple. A bit sad looking 😦
Ornate gates at the Boston Manor entrance

Talking of the past – who was Blondin?! He was a Frenchman born in 1824 into a family of circus tight rope walkers and acrobats. (That’s the circus link 😉 )But the circus was too confined a space for his enormous talent for walking along a piece of rope at very great heights so he began a career that lasted until old age travelling the world and balancing precariously along the tightrope. Did you know that that the art of tightrope walking is called funambulism? From two Latin words – funis meaning ‘rope’, and ambulares meaning ‘to walk’. Blondin’s most famous walks were across Niagara Falls in north America. He didn’t just walk across this terrifying waterfall – he did it with his manager on his back, and even stopped to cook and eat an omelette half way. He once stood balanced on top of a chair which was balanced on one leg on the rope! He was a bit of a rebel in other ways too, marrying a second wife in the USA while still married to a woman back in France. He settled in London in the 1860’s, first in St John’s Wood, and then in Ealing where he lived in a house called Niagara House near the current Blondin Park. The house does not exist now, but his name and story lives on in the name of the park, and a couple of the roads leading to it. The park was re-named in 1957 after Blondin, being called Northfields Recreation Ground when it was formed in 1928 after its acquisition by Ealing Council. Blondin is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery and every year in February tightrope fans attend a ceremony to toast the memory of Charles Blondin, born Jean François Gravelet.

These roads both lead into the park. Nearby are the roads named after the apple varieties. A renowned apple grower had extensive orchards in the area.
Blondin crossing Niagara Falls with his manager Henry Colcord on his back
(Image from Wikipedia)

If I lived a bit nearer to Blondin Park I am sure it would feature regularly on my runs, but it is just that bit too far on pavement to get there and back, and I am not a fan of running on pavements, especially along fairly busy roads. Maybe I can incorporate it into another route that’s more park-based. I have enjoyed going there and finding out more about the history of the area and the famous Blondin himself. I hope you have enjoyed reading it!