Running Free: Where’s the water?

This is not a new running route, you’ll have done this one before (you are keeping up aren’t you?). But it’s a real favourite of mine.

I call it the Otterspool 10k, a rough estimate, but Sarah agrees with me and she’s done enough 10k’s to know. Out of our house on a misty November morning, along Penny Lane, over the railway bridge, round into Ibbotson’s Lane, through Sefton Park and down to the main lake, around the side of that, then leave the park and cross under Aigburth Road through the subway.

Down into Otterspool Park, how it looked in the summer.

Then down into Otterspool Park and one of my favourite bits of running in the whole city. The main path through Otterspool follows what was the course of a river, the Osklesbrook, formed by the confluence of the Upper and Lower Brooks before they were dammed to form the lakes in Greenbank and Sefton Parks around 1870.

And so this feels like running on a river. Old trees hanging down over the banks and the river’s surface covered today by a brown-gold carpet of fallen leaves. Winding around ancient roots, underneath a railway bridge, flowing downstream with the river until it tumbles into the big river, the Mersey, at Otterspool.

Running along the course of the old river, underneath the railway bridge. Most of these leaves are now on the ground.

I reach the front in 25:02 minutes from leaving our house.

The river is misty, but I can see from the shining white bridge of a large ship downstream at Cammell Lairds that the sun is breaking through over Birkenhead.

Along the river. Sprint intervals.

Lovely as the river looks, this 2k or so along the side of it is the only boring bit of this run. So I liven it up with sprint intervals, using the lifebelts along the promenade as my markers. Medium pace to the first one, up a gear to the next, and as fast as my legs can carry me, arms pumping for extra speed to the third. Boring bit soon done I turn into Festival Gardens.

Hardly anyone here. The café in the old bus is open but no customers yet. Running round into the Chinese Garden with its lovely pagodas I finally find a little girl walking along with her Granddad. And as I pass her plaintive little voice asks him ‘Granddad, where’s the water?’

So, it’s still gone.

The main Pagoda, minus water.

Not all the water’s gone, but it’s not great.

This park only opened earlier this year, run by a very small team of staff and mostly gardened by volunteers. And its big thing is water. Well laid out wetlands and a lake and a waterfall by its pagodas. Except the lake’s been leaking away for weeks now and the waterfall’s run dry. An increasingly damp and fading notice explains that this is all down to ‘routine maintenance’ – but it’s starting to look like under investment. Which is a shame. It’s a lovely space, and if those volunteers are putting their time into it for free they deserve better support than this.

‘Routine Maintenance’ – the sorry old sign.

St Michael’s Wood.

I run on.

Out of the Gardens, across into St Michael’s Wood and up to Aigburth Road. Crossing here I notice that today Sefton Park Library is a Polling Station. And I remember it’s the day of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. The only people in this polling station are the two Returns Officers. But I will vote later, whatever it’s for.

Along Lark Lane now, past Greendays, back across Sefton Park, along Greenbank Lane, past Plot 44 and turning into Greenbank Park, crossing Smithdown and a final sprint up the hill to our house. Didn’t quite break the fifty minutes, but 50:21, most of the second half being slightly uphill, is my best 10k yet.

Ready for the day now. I love this run.

The Sunday after I’d done this run was a bright blue day, so I took my camera and gathered some photographs of how the Otterspool section of this run is looking right now, as late autumn shades into early winter. Here they are.

Down into Otterspool Park and one of my favourite bits of running in the whole city.

The main path through Otterspool follows what was the course of a river, the Osklesbrook.

And this feels like running on a river. Old trees hanging down over the banks.

The river’s surface covered today by a brown-gold carpet of fallen leaves.

Past the steep and ancient riverbank…

Winding around ancient roots…

Underneath a railway bridge…

Flowing downstream with the river…

Until it tumbles into the big river, the Mersey, at Otterspool.

After this, Otterspool Promenade would have been too busy for running today. Full of families and bikes and dogs and people fishing. So I sat down and peacefully read my current book, ‘Chavs’ by Owen Jones, about the unfair demonisation of my people, the working class, by Governments and media since the days of Margaret Thatcher. An informed rant. Highly recommended.

6 thoughts on “Running Free: Where’s the water?

  1. jackie

    Ronnie this is a fab post! I live in aigburth vale & love otterspool park & festival gardens. Your running blog is inspiring – & in 50 mins! Good man…will look out for you on my walks. Are you still doing Friday walks? Would like to join you sometime. Thanks x

    Reply
  2. cheethamlibMandy

    The thought of running on a river of leaves would certainly lift the feet. I don’t know about running this distance but what glorious surroundings. I loved the idea of running under the old railway bridge…..but pity the river was made to become a lake…

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Yes, it is glorious. And I would have thought the river must still be flowing somewhere. Although it’s dammed to form Sefton Park lake it must still be running off from there in a culvert somewhere mustn’t it? So why not through Otterspool where it used to flow? I’ll look into it!

      Reply
  3. lindsay53

    What a beautiful run, Ronnie! Such wonderful autumn colours. Nothing beats the colours of an English autumn. As for the book , ‘Chavs’, I read it when it first came out & was utterly absorbed by it. A must read for EVERYONE. Brilliantly & energetically written. This lead me to read the more sociologically & statistically based ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett. With its strap line ‘Why Equality is Better for Everyone’ it is not just a must-read for individuals but should be a ‘must conform to’ for any future governments. Future parliamentary candidates must show evidence of having read either or both before even considering standing for election. End of. x

    Reply

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