Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.
Pints & Parkruns: Fountains Abbey
World Heritage Parkruns. Is that a thing? If not, it should be. We certainly have contenders, from Durham where views of Cathedral give runners a lift through the final kilometre, to Conwy, a North Wales route in the shadow of the historic castle Then there’s Fountains Abbey, a beautiful course around the ruins of a medieval monastery in the North Yorkshire countryside.
Pints & Parkruns: Hackworth, Shildon
If you’re the type of runner who likes to channel your inner locomotive as you pound the course, Hackworth Parkrun could be the one for you. After all, it’s not every route that includes a stretch of one of the world’s oldest railway lines.
Pints & Parkruns: Tampere
Tampere is a town of unlikely firsts. Back in 1984, it reportedly got Finland’s first ever branch of McDonald’s, some time ahead of the capital, Helsinki. Given the impact of fast food on public health, that might explain why, decades later, this lakeside university town also became home to Finland’s first Parkrun.
Pints & Parkruns: Tychy
I picked a good day to visit Tychy parkrun. It was the 200th edition, so there was a celebration in the air. For a first-timer, especially one who doesn’t speak Polish, that meant a reassuringly large turn-out. There was no danger of getting lost, even though the signposts around the park refer to an earlier version of the parkrun route.
Pints & Parkruns: Durham
Durham is a fitting place to start this not particularly athletic journey. As a young child, devotedly following Olympics and World Championships on TV, I’d sneak into the university sports grounds to trot around the track or fling myself into the long jump pit. In my mind, I was Daley Thompson, and no lack of coordination or ability could shake that belief. Later, Maiden Castle formed the backdrop to school cross country runs, which ended any confidence in my sporting prowess.
Gala Fairydean is one of the most picturesque names in Scotland’s poetic football litany. Yet the Lowland League club’s home at Netherdale, Galashiels, is one of the most divisive structures in the game. Far from evoking the exquisite woodland glade described by Sir Walter Scott (a local lad), this work by Peter Womersley (another local resident, albeit an incomer in a very different age) confronts the visitor with stark concrete geometry. Love it or hate, the main stand at the 3G Arena is a rare and distinctive sight.
Women’s football is increasingly dominated by teams with connections to high-level men’s clubs. The top of England’s Women’s Super League echoes the Premier League summit, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea among the perennial powerhouses. But Durham is different.
Chile's far-flung football outpost
At the very foot of Chile, Punta Arenas is the definition of remote. The town of 130,000 sits on the Magellan strait, opposite Tierra del Fuego. A big part of the local economy is based on providing a starting point for Antarctic expeditions, and it’s barely barely 60km from Cabo Froward, where a cross marks the southernmost point of the American landmass. Beyond lies islands, ice and eventually, the south pole.
Football fortresses: The Stanks
Berwick-upon-Tweed is border territory. As English and Scottish forces battled over this land, the town changed hands 13 times. Today, it’s English, but with a strong Scottish accent: the senior football teams in town compete in competitions north of the border, and in the local dialect its not unusual to hear of a Scottish ‘heed’ meeting a Northumbrian ‘burl’.
Fan-owned football in Newcastle
On Tyneside, Newcastle United’s fans are desperate for a takeover to rid them of hated chairman Mike Ashley. There’s even talk of raising funds to buy a stake in their club. However, far from the Premier League, fan-owned football already exists on Tyneside.