Inspirational Trails 16: The Scrubs
Written By: SportsShoes
Here, in part sixteen of a series featuring inspirational trails, runner, volunteer coach and charity director, Fiona Eagle, describes how she found freedom and solitude in the most unlikely of places.
For a city, London is afforded with stunning parks for running. From the majestic palaces and lakes of Hyde Park, to the wonderfully manicured gardens in Regents and the wild beauty of Hampstead Heath or Richmond Park, there are some magnificent options to inspire us everyday. Last year saw a rise in those frequenting the parks as people laced up and got outdoors to seek exercise. This was great to see, but also meant you had to work a bit harder to avoid the crowds.
The Scrubs was an area I typically avoided despite only being a mile or two from home. Flanked by a major train depot on one side and a vast HM Prison on the other, it fell victim to unfortunate neighbours. As I often run as a lone female, it was just a bit too quiet. Unless you ran at more popular times for outdoor pursuits (i.e late morning on a sunny Saturday) you would encounter the odd ‘character’ in the vast London green space, but it never offered that ‘safety in numbers’ security that running in a densely populated city tends to. However, during the pandemic, Wormwood Scrubs came into its own. A few more people headed to the 200-acre grasslands but you could definitely still avoid the crowds of many central London parks.
Despite its urban setting, the Scrubs suddenly presented itself to me in a new light. The nature reserve came alive with birdsong (probably helped by the reduction in pollution levels), the vast meadows allowed you to run and be free of daily stresses and constraints. It was a feast for the senses as we moved from wonderfully scented elderflower in late Spring to the abundance of juicy blackberries later in the Summer. With limited concrete paths, as the rain came it turned into a muddy bog which for us urban softies, accustomed to pounding the city pavements all year round, this took some getting used to. But as I embraced it, it brought with it the child-like joy of being covered head to toe in mud (until I am reminded that now I am the one responsible for washing the clothes). For that woodlands forest vibe, you can make a small detour onto the trails through the wooded outskirts. It also presents its own unique quirks you would struggle to find elsewhere in the city. For a brief moment you are terrified that you’re being hunted down as an escapee from HM Wormwood Scrubs by a drone, then you realise it’s actually a designated area for model aircraft flying that attracts visitors from all over the world. However, traffic levels are still relatively low so not too much disturbance for the city runner seeking peace and escapism.
For stunning mountain vistas, and rugged landscapes we need to go elsewhere for sure. But as a reminder we can be inspired on our own doorstep too, we just need to approach it differently.
Fiona is a keen recreational runner, volunteer coach with her local running club and also works as a Programme Director for A Mile in Her Shoes. This is a small charity which helps vulnerable women find their feet through running and other exercise. For more information and to see how you can support the charity, you can visit the website here.
Photos: Credit to Fiona Eagle