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Frosty Fairways

The frosty fairways of the West Herts Golf Club

For a year or so in the late 1980s, I was living near Colchester in the UK and commuting most days to a business park near Watford, a little north of London.  My route, along the A12 and the M25, London's orbital motorway, became very busy during peak hour and I developed the habit of leaving home around 5:30am and driving to our small office, before setting out on my morning run shortly before 7:00am.

Whippendell Woods

I soon found a 10km circuit that remains one of my favourite morning runs, and I still love to run it whenever I get back to the UK these days.  I christened it "Frosty Fairways" because there were many clear crisp winter mornings on which I would leave my footprints, the first of the day, on the frost-covered fairways of the West Herts Golf Club that formed part of the route.

Bluebells in Merlin's Wood

The run started within the exceptionally mundane precincts of the stereotypical Croxley Green Business Park, but after a kilometre or so, entered woods on the western edge of the magnificent Cassiobury Park.  From there it followed a narrow tarred path northwards through woods and beside the gentle and shallow Gade River before crossing the narrow Grand Union Canal and climbing onto the elevated fairways of the golf course.  By this time I would be warmed up and often enjoyed bounding along the mown grass, up and down small rises, skirting bunkers and greens.

Across the wheatfield

Then came a totally different experience as I entered the often gloomy, and sometimes misty, ancient Whippendell Wood, running along undulating foot and bridle trails past atmospheric oak, beech and ash trees for several kilometres before crossing a lane and traversing Merlin's Wood whose floor would be carpeted with bluebells in the spring.  Exiting the Wood, my route crossed a wheat field on a public right-of-way, before rejoining the fairways of the golf course after a short steep lung-busting climb.

The Grand Union Canal

From the other side of the golf course I used a narrow country lane to reach the Grand Union Canal and then turned southwards along the towpath past quaint cottages, moored long-boats and a small marina back to the Business Park.  If I was feeling good, I would often fly along this section and particularly enjoyed passing under a main road invariably clogged with commuters.  I did not envy them one bit.

My exercise today consisted of a 6km walk from Terrigal while my fellow Trotters ran the Muzza's Run course, another of my favourites.  I did envy them.