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Pints & Parkruns: Wynyard Woodland

A different type of track running

By Andy PottsPublished 12 months ago 3 min read
The start of Wynyard Woodland parkrun, at the old Thorpe Thewles station

Running around the northeast continually turns up routes the lead back to the region’s industrial history. Wynyard Woodland, the latest event on the list, is no exception. For all the sylvan idyll of a tree-lined course, this follows the path of a goods railway that delivered County Durham's coal to the Tees at Stockton.

I’d suffered with this before. After attempting Hackworth parkrun in Shildon I felt cruelly let down. Railway lines are generally supposed to be flat; Hackworth Park decidedly is not. Happily, Wynyard was very much on the level. My Strava gave a respectable 17m of elevation gain, which probably helped me post my second fastest time of the year (the quickest came on an even flatter course in Arbroath).

Could this be a PB course? Quite possibly. It’s fairly flat, it’s an arrow-straight out and back and tree cover means shelter from the wind, in contrast with similar coastal courses. It’s a hard path all the way – not paved to the point where you could call it road racing, but unlikely to demand trail shoes except in the most torrential of downpours.

Under the bridge on the final stretch

However, on my first visit, there was no chance of an especially fast time. A hot, muggy morning gave a traditional English woodland the steamy feel of a tropical rain forest. The sweat was flowing freely right from the start. Even on a less sultry day, that start would still be memorable: this was the first time I’d hopped off the platform of an old railway station to join the run. Thorpe Thewles station, opened on the old Castle Eden Line in 1880 to serve the village on the opposite side of the main road to Stockton, was never exactly thronging with life and closed in 1931, long before Beeching could get his hands on it. However, the station building remains intact and houses the all-important post-Parkrun café (the scones are a big hit). Along the route, runners pass under five bridges. Once familiar with the course, these would likely help to pace a run. First time around, they seemed much further away on the return leg. Back at base, the finish is next to some preserved rolling stock. Running railway enthusiasts would surely enjoy this one.

Railway relics at Wynyard Woodland parkrun

And it’s not just for trainspotters. Wynyard Woodland also boasts extensive walking routes, a celestial sculpture that serves up the heavens in a teaspoon, and even a planetarium and observatory (there are shows every second Friday, so it’s potentially possible to combine parkrun tourism with a glimpse of the heavens). The course itself is part of the longer Castle Eden Walkway, which follows the old railway line north towards the former mines at Wingate and Hutton Henry, passing the tranquil Hurworth Burn reservoir.

The practicalities are fairly easy to manage. Visitors can pick up brown signs for Wynyard Woodlands from the A19 or A177 (be warned, the signs on the A177 can be very overgrown in the summer). There’s a large free car park on site, plus an attractive café right at the start. With the volunteer team delivering the traditional friendly parkrun welcome, it’s great to see Wynyard on our local map.

The pint

When Stockton’s Tees Barrage parkrun was unable to return after Covid, the borough had to wait until April 2023 to get an event of its own. That also means parkrun land can welcome back Three Brothers Brewing, Stockton’s leading purveyor of independent beers. As the name suggests, it’s been a family affair since it was set up in 2016; the affiliated flavoured vodka go under the Two Sisters brand, for those partial to something fruity yet hard-hitting.

Since the start-up, Three Brothers has hit on a winning formula. Personally, I’m a sucker for the Sticky Toffee Pudding Porter and I’m keeping an eye on the special edition barrel aged imperial porter. However, these are very much winter beers. On a hot and sultry midsummer Saturday, the Northern Pale citrus session ale proved a better bet – not least thanks to a little nod to my home parkrun in Durham on the label.

First visit: June 2023. PB: 25:21.

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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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