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Couch to 5k: Castle Park is in the running to be Bishop's Stortford's best asset

Indie news editor Sinead Corr has signed up for a Couch to 5k fitness programme in Bishop's Stortford...

Our sixth session and the sun is shining yet again and the birds are singing their hearts out.

The Waytemore Castle mound is once more the focus for our circuits as we build our endurance and edge closer to our Couch to 5k goal. This week, our repetitions are a five-minute run with a three-minute recovery, followed by an eight-minute stretch – our longest yet – with the same recovery and a further five-minute jog.

Caste Park couch to 5k group (55153983)
Caste Park couch to 5k group (55153983)

As we run, I am once again struck by the beauty of Castle Park. As someone born and brought up in Bishop's Stortford, I've been guilty of taking Sworder's Field and Castle Gardens for granted.

But as we've worked our way through the Active East Herts eight-week course with coach Laurence Foote, of FooteSteps Coaching, I've watched winter turn to spring and begun to appreciate the potential of this beautiful open space.

As we jog around the scheduled ancient monument that puts Bishop's Stortford firmly in the flight path of the Norman Conquest, there is a steady stream of dog walkers, other runners and general passers-by strolling in the sunshine. Across the river, others enjoy coffee from the Sworder's Field vendor as children play on the swings.

Bishop's Stortford. Grafitti in Castle Park and Town. Former public toilets, Castle Park. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (55153980)
Bishop's Stortford. Grafitti in Castle Park and Town. Former public toilets, Castle Park. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (55153980)

On the tennis courts next to us, a group practises t'ai chi and I'm increasingly envious of their gentle exercise regime as I start to sweat at the end of our eight-minute rep.

The potential for making the park even more of an asset for everyone in the town is obvious and I'm so glad the town council has said it's determined to realise the Castle Park project.

It is already a hub for health and fitness and a haven for wildlife, but with the investment planned, it can be a real centrepiece for recreation.

Some parks are no-go areas and a creeping problem of graffiti around the Markwell Pavilion shows how quickly a community space can become a hostile environment.

Transformation plans for Castle Park in Bishop's Stortford. (55154005)
Transformation plans for Castle Park in Bishop's Stortford. (55154005)

But the more people feel welcome in the park and use it to its full potential, the safer it will become as any anti-social behaviour is pushed out.

As we near the end of our course with just two sessions left, I'm certainly determined to continue spending time there.

* The Castle Park Couch to 5k started on January 12 and will finish with a group parkrun at Castle Park on Saturday, March 12.

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