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Pints & Parkruns: Fulwell Quarry

Running down memory lane

By Andy PottsPublished 20 days ago 3 min read

The Northeast’s newest parkrun was a trip down memory lane for me. I lived in Sunderland until I was 10, my Dad was heavily involved with the Friends of Sunderland Museums, and at this time of year we would often be away on guided walks. One of my favourites was always a scramble through Fulwell Quarry, seeking out lumps of cannonball rock and finding wild strawberries in the undergrowth, all under the patient gaze of the museum’s enthusiastic archaeologist.

Yet bright as those memories are, they turned out to be singular flashes. Driving back to Fulwell, I realised I had no idea what to expect of the terrain (nor where to park, of which more later). Things are very different now; it’s hard to imagine 250 people turning up to run around a park in the 1980s.

A busy start at Fulwell Quarry's second event.

Saturday was only the second event for Fulwell Quarry, which probably swelled the turn-out. The organisers have an agreement to use the golf centre’s car park, which was perilously close to capacity at 8:45. With a big crowd around the RD, it wasn’t always easy to catch the run briefing: not a huge issue for a regular, but a new event will hopefully attract a good number of parkrun rookies who might need some of that info.

A big turn-out also made for a busy start and a slow first kilometre as the field settled into its rhythm. That’s nothing unusual, but the course at Fulwell is on some narrow paths with little room to overtake (or be overtaken). Instead of focusing on a time, this was a day to enjoy the run and the sense of occasion at a new event. With most runners tackling the course for the first time (and nobody doing the event for more than the second), the atmosphere was subtly different: a sense of excitement and novelty shared by almost all of us.

And there’s plenty to enjoy around the course. The route is mostly trail – some grass, some trail path – with a short stretch of road running. There’s a short climb early on, which brings the course close to a WWI “sound mirror” intended to give early warning of German Zeppelins looking to bomb the docks. You won’t see it while you run, but it’s worth a short walk after the event. After rounding the corner at the top of the climb, there’s a steady downhill between verdant hedges. A hairpin turn leads to another long, steady climb, complete with distant North Sea views leading back to the start for a second lap.

It’s all well organised, with marshals out to guide people to the car parks and plenty of on-course encouragement and guidance. Special mention to the mam-and-son duo, with the lad who carefully offered a “Well done!” to every passing runner on both laps. It might not be long before he’s dragging his mam around the course each week.

This was the first time I’d gone to such a newly established parkrun and I was curious as to how it might differ from a route that is already well set. Despite the bigger turn-out, there were commendably few teething problems. And there was definitely a livelier vibe, with no sense of a routine jog for any runners. Times might get faster if the event settles down to a smaller hardcore of regular runners, but sampling that atmosphere early on was worth more than getting round the course a few seconds quicker.

The Pint

Previous trips to Herrington and Silksworth explored some of Sunderland’s brewing history. A third visit gave a chance to catch up with one of the city’s best pubs, the Dun Cow. It’s a spectacular building, a fine, flamboyant piece of early 20th century architecture that puts the ‘palatial’ into ‘gin palace’. Reinvented for the modern age, it does a handy line in craft beers from the Northeast and beyond, and will see you right for lunch. It’s also in the heart of Sunderland’s cultural quarter, part of the gradual rejuvenation of a city centre that, however battered, isn’t quite done yet.

First visit: May 2024; PB: 27:48 (May 2024)

Thanks for reading. For more Pints & Parkruns, please visit the website


About the Creator

Andy Potts

Community focused sports fan from Northeast England. Tends to root for the little guy. Look out for Talking Northeast, my new project coming soon.

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Comments (2)

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  • Angie the Archivist 📚🪶5 days ago

    Another excellent time… especially given the lack of opportunities to overtake! Fascinating reading about Sound Mirrors and Cannonball rock😃.✅

  • Rachel Deeming20 days ago

    Cannonball rock. That looks so cool. And what a good setting for a run.

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