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Pints & Parkruns: Hackworth, Shildon

Heritage and hills in the cradle of the railways

By Andy PottsPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Parkrunners on track at Hackworth. Photo courtesy of Hackworth Parkrun FB.

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.

But in Shildon, home of celebrated engineer Timothy Hackworth (who lends his name to the park, the run, the local school and much else besides) this is par for the course. Hailed as the oldest railway town in the world, it was transformed from a rural hamlet into an industrial powerhouse of the early 19th century when it became the engineering hub of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

This Parkrun route, therefore, offers a direct line into history. It starts and finishes on part of the former Surtees Branch Line, a privately operated track that connected Shildon Lodge Colliery with the mainline. Innocently, I assumed that railway lines tend to be flat and was cruelly deceived. This is one of those inclines that starts off gently enough but, fourth time around, can turn into a real slog to the finish line. Unlike nearby Blackhill, there’s no gentle downhill to the end and, as a result, an impressively strong finish is a forlorn hope for a plodder like me.

A decorative detail continues the rail theme.

Before we get to any of that, though, there are three laps of the park to tackle. The course turns away from the old railway to zig zag through the children’s play area before emerging into the main body of the park and climbing to its highest point next to Central Parade. The drinking fountain is decorated with pictures of the Royal George, one of Hackworth’s pioneering locomotives; on the third circuit, many runners are puffing away like the Little Engine that Could. From here there’s a mercifully long descent around the edge of the park, switching from path to grass and circling a playing field before returning to the start point. After three goes around this, it’s back on track for the last time, right the way up the hill to the finish.

Hackworth Parkrun doesn’t attract the numbers seen elsewhere in the region (where the likes of Durham often get more than 300 runners, Hackworth tends to be closer to 75). In some respects, that’s a bonus: even on a first visit, it’s easy to feel part of the community. And, while this probably isn’t a PB course, the hills make a this run testing without it ever feeling unattainable.

The pint

Hackworth Park draws heavily on Shildon’s rail heritage ... and so does the local microbrewery. George Samuel’s award-winning beers are available from a tap room in a former British Rail canteen near the Mason’s Arms, a pub that makes claims to be the world’s first railway station after Locomotion No. 1 puffed into action at the head of the opening service on the Stockton & Darlington almost 200 years ago. That’s all very much part of the history circuit now; Shildon’s historic carriage works is long gone, the site now home to an impressive museum.

Brewing remains vibrant, though, with George Samuel – the name is derived from the sons of head brewer Andrew Ferriman – rated as one of the best in the region. The branding draws heavily on County Durham’s industrial heritage: the award-winning porter is named after the ‘Harvey’ coal seam, in a nod to Ferriman’s family history, new brews added to the range after moving to Shildon include Locomotion pale ale and the autumnal Leaves on the Line bitter.

The Canteen Bar & Kitchen does lunches from midday; beers can also be ordered online from the brewery’s website.

First run: Aug. 2021; PB 25:10.

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

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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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    Andy PottsWritten by Andy Potts

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