Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Running at Forest of Marston Vale

Okay, this has to be the most awful, cheesiest photo on this blog.  Nevertheless it was kind of a passer-by to quickly do this for me.  And don't let the naff photography put you off reading further about a lovely place to run.

Sometimes I visit our office in Huntingdon, in Cambridgeshire, so the most practical route is using the A421 which passes this lovely site.  I have run there a couple of times now and absolutely loved the different scenery to run through.  Please just think of me at work, slaving over a hot keyboard making sure the tax payer's money is being used properly to keep you all safe and sound.  As you might know my job is stressful sometimes but even when it isn't, I still enjoy a great run.

So having mentally planned a run, I took my running gear with me to the office and then changed before I left.  This was much to the amusement of some colleagues who only ever see me in office clothes, never mind my legs, knees and fine middle age figure in my running gear.  The drive from Huntingdon down the A1 was fine, as was turning at the notorious Black Cat roundabout (which amazingly was running fine) when the rain really got going on the last occasion.

Forest Centre, Marston Mortaine
The Forest Centre is in Bedfordshire at the village of Marston Mortaine.  It is easy to travel to on the A421 which runs just under Bedford in an east to west direction and it connects the A1 (Black Cat roundabout) to the M1 (junction 13).

It is, I think, a regenerated area.  Once this vast area was a key in the brick making industry and now described as:
Creation of the Forest of Marston Vale is the largest environmental regeneration project in Bedfordshire, covering 61 square miles between Milton Keynes and Bedford. 
This is ‘forest’ in a traditional sense; a patchwork of woodland and green space, mixed with farmland, villages and industry. It’s about using trees and woodlands to create a living, vibrant and dynamic area in which people want to live, work and enjoy their leisure time.
The actual Forest Centre is in a flat area with a visitor centre in the middle.  There's two lakes either side with lovely trails taking you around the edge of the lakes, with a couple of diversions here and there.  The first time I went there for a run (above cheesy photo) I ran around the edge and it was between 4 and 5 miles of perfect trails, with glimpses of the lakes.  There are a few other routes which you can take to avoid any boredom and the paths are, for the most part, grit and absolutely perfect for running on.  For 99% of the time it is plenty wide enough to run side-by-side.  Also for Strava fans, there's a few segments dotted around.

Out of hours
The general public can enjoy open access to the Forest Centre at any time.  I did just that by leaving my car at the entrance.  Just as well really as I was setting off for my run, a Ranger came along and locked the gate.  He helpfully confirmed it was okay for me to run around the tracks, even though the visitor centre was closed for the evening.

I prefer running routes which are circular, compared to "out and back" as it always feels more of a journey.  It is virtually impossible to get lost at the Forest Centre and it was nice seeing, on both occasions, a few other people jogging, cycling and walking their dogs.  By the way, I am going to blog about a few encounters with dogs and their owners another time - apologies in advance as I anticipate I will be posting a very cross article.

So there you are, a perfect place to run at any time and it certainly looks as if it is well used.

The Forest of Marston Vale
Elliptigo test impromtu rest ride

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