Saturday, 21 September 2013

Cuerden Valley parkrun

A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of running the relatively new Cuerden Valley parkrun, situated a little south-west of Preston, Lancashire and very close to the M6 / M65 junction.

It had the feeling of another recent addition to the parkrun family, Kingsbury Water parkrun, in that it's in a rural setting, not too far from civilisation! Kingsbury Water parkrun is relatively flat, but Cuerden Valley does not make that mistake, opting for a tough, hilly and really enjoyable route on mixed terrain. It'll definitely be one for trail shoes as the weather gets wetter. Garmin Connect reckoned on a total ascent of 89m over the 5km but I wouldn't be surprised if this is a conservative estimate, with this elevation profile (from 49m to 80m):

Lowest elevation 49m, highest 80m, total ascent 89m.

You can see my run at Garmin Connect and read Cuerden Valley parkrun's route description at their site - essentially, there's a run in, followed by two figure of eights and an uphill struggle to the finish line, which isn't quite where the start line was.

However, I wanted to show you the route as it's a really pretty one! A few days after the I ran it therefore, I went back, camera in hand. Without the excellent marshals around, it was harder to find my way around, but I got it right in the end.

Come with me, then, on a journey through time and space. Or around Cuerden Valley's beautiful parkrun. The distances I've given are very approximate and please note you can see larger versions of all the images by clicking on them.

You can skip between each section following the nav links you'll see every so often:

Part 1 - The Bit Where You Don't Run Uphill (~200m)

The route starts on an excellent path and soon snakes down a steep hill to a junction where you'll be turning left.

The route begins vaguely on the straight, but not too narrow

It's only a hundred metres or so before you snake down a fairly steep hill,
coming to cross in the path where you'll want to turn left.

Part 2 - The First Loop (~1km)

You have now entered the first loop which begins in earnest with a steep climb, soon flattening off somewhat, but continuing upward more gently for a little way.

There's a short flat section before you attack the first uphill stretch

The hill bears left and flattens off a little as it carries on to the right

With the toughest part of that climb out of the way, the path opens up...

and it's well worth glancing round you as you run,
you're surrounded by beautiful, Lancashire countryside!

Take a left fork in the path and follow it as it bears further left

Take a right turn and almost immediately follow the path to the left

You'll be passing a pond to your right...

so don't miss another opportunity for some fleeting sight seeing

With heavy duty climbing out of the way for now, you'll head into the woods
with a distinct change in terrain. This is where your trail shoes will come in handy!

I hope you get as good a day as I had when I walked the route
to take these photos, the sunshine really highlights the beauty of
the place and there's something special about dappled sunlight
on the woodland floor.

As you take a right out of the woods, you'll head back towards the fork
(where you took a left a little way back). You'll be turning left, possibly
into the path of oncoming parkrunners, so do take care here.

On parkrun days this little junction is well marked and on
the second half of this loop you'll need to take this left turn.

You'll head back into the woods...

following the path which takes you generally rightwards,...

emerging near the top of the first hill you climbed,
taking the left fork when you get to the bottom.

Cross the bridge into the uncharted territory that is the Second Loop.

Part 3 - The Second Loop (~1.3km)

The second loop is a little longer than the first but has a similar mix of terrain and elevation with a nice flat section, towards the end of the loop, where the route follows the river.

The second loop begins on the flat, but just as the first loop did, it soon
diverges from flatness! You need to keep left, heading up into the trees.

Another stiff climb reaches a plateau with a another sight seeing opportunity
to your left. After the little picnic area on your left, you'll need to turn right.

As I've said before, do take opportuinities to have a look round,
as Cuerden Valley is really pretty!

After the right turn, you're into the woods again. Just keep to the path

You'll soon drop down to a bridge that you'll cross, probably in single file!

I do like a nice bridge!

Keep on the path for a spell of ascent and then descent

You'll come to a T in the path where you'll be heading right.
Have a glance to the left though. Scenery awaits.

Soon enough, you'll be out in the open again and enjoying the
gentlest part of the route as the path follows the river for 500m or so.

Keep to the path, you can't miss it!

Keep to the left at the fork as you approach the bridge..

and cross it once more. You're back on charted territory.

Part 4 - or Part 1, The Return of the Hill

Part 4 repeats the first loop in full but with more dread as you face the hills before you. Just remember you've been up them before and all will be well. Is that helpful? If not, remember the view you might get from the top!

Part 5 (~1km)

Part 5 repeats most of the second loop, up until the 4.5km mark, approximately, where it's all change!

Part 6 (~500m)

Part 6 starts part way round your second lap of loop 2. You'll be presented with an escape route with about 500m to the finish line. Remember though that most of the last section is uphill and I think this is the longest climb of the run, so keep something back for the finish!

You may have spotted this junction part way round the second loop
when you ran round it for the first time. On your second run round,
take this left, over a different bridge.

I do like a nice bridge :-)

You're really on the home straight now
with just the small matter of a hill to climb!

The path takes you through this gulley...

which gradually opens out...

and the path widens, just in time for the...

...wait for it...

The finish line, straight ahead of you!
Your work here is done.
You've done it.
You're there.
More or less.
You're assured of a great welcome at the finish line.

Well done!!

So, that's that. I hope you enjoyed a tour around Cuerden Valley parkrun. I urge you to get there if you can.

Copyright and licensing note

I've licensed all of these images under a Creative Commons license, details below. Essentially, you're welcome to use any of these images, unaltered, for non-commercial purposes if you credit me. Contact me on facebook if you have any questions.
Creative Commons Licence
'Photos of Cuerden Valley parkrun' by Matthew Shepherd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Great description of a great course, it is a little undulating isn't it :)

    1. Yes, but really enjoyable. I can't wait to have another go!

  2. Good work. Reminds me a bit of my home course at Falkirk. We lack any really narrow bridges though (do have a similar stone one) and have a loch instead of a river.


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