It all started one afternoon in 1995 on a weekend in the summer after my first year at uni, when I had an urge just to get out and run - so I did just that, and could not believe how hard it felt and how rewarding afterwards when I had been running for over an hour for the first time in my life.
Growing up on the edge of Hawley Woods living first on the south and then the north sides, I spent a large chunk of my childhood playing in there, building camps, finding and collecting spent ordnance… Oh yes, its an army training area for Gibraltar Barracks where they send the new recruits to the Royal Engineers! As a result I know my way around these woods like the back of my hand and have watched it change over the years. Originally part of the south end of the woods served as a base for the Canadian Army during WWII and what was the parade ground was used for army HGV driver training long after their barracks had been demolished… The UK HQ of Sun Microsystems is now on this site!
I have not run on this particular figure of 8 route of 2 laps taking in the main part of the woods since 1998! so I was looking forward to revisiting it, although I had decided to incorporate towards the end of my run a bit more hill-work into it by revisiting a chunk of the route I had run on the XT Duathlon when I raced there a couple of years ago.
Parking by the Memorial Hall and a quick change out of my work clothes into my running gear, I set-out into the cold autumn morning air armed with my camera and faithfully retraced my steps from years ago.
|Up on to the airfield.|
|Looking in to the trees.|
|First glimpse of the lake.|
|Looking back across at the Hard.|
|A splash of green amongst the browns, golds, oranges and yellows.|
Circling the lake in the opposite direction as I arrived at Hawley Hard I took a diversion left from the road on to the XT trail I ran and headed over the sandy tracks up in to the woods again to pay a visit to the old railway bridge.
|The railway bridge.|
|Across the top of the bridge.|
|Looking down at the trail leading to the bridge.|
|Where to next?|
Running along the track that ran across the top of the bridge I returned to the airfield before detouring round to the bottom of the hill to jog up the fiendish hill. Once I was on a morning run when I looked like this:
only wearing running gear, and approaching the hill I saw for the second time on the run a bunch of new recruits out on one of their first PT runs with their instructors yelling at them to pick-up the pace and keep running in orderly lines of 2 equally spaced apart. The recruit's faces were nearly as red as the shirts they were wearing; collectively puffing and wheezing as they attempted to get up the hill as I easily caught and jogged past them. Seeing this their PTI's were less than impressed with their charges, one of them yelling at them about how useless they were as I had just run past them with ease having been running for longer and I looked like a 'fucking girl'!
Another time around on part of the hill and it was back across the airfield and to the car-park concluding my trip down memory lane… I'm pretty sure I'll be returning, only next time running across the heathland to the north as well to increase the mileage.