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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.