Saturday, 28 March 2015

Slough Taplow UK Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.9 km (5.5 miles), terrain: one hill, gain 83 meters

NOTE: This route gets pretty muddy after a rain. If you value clean shoes, try something else, like the footpath along the Jubilee River!

Slough has a reputation of being one of the least appealing towns west of London. It's close to Heathrow, meaning a lot of high-tech companies have set up headquarters there, but the town itself seems a bit loud and run down.

If you're staying in town, you might think you're surrounded by a really boring example of urban grunge, but along the west- and south side of town there are some great running routes through fields and villages, and along the Jubilee River.

This run will take you through the extreme west end of town, out in the village of Taplow. If you're without a car, just jump on a 75 bus heading west down Bath Road.

You could get out right at Taplow, at Berry Hill -- just east of the Thames River -- but we'll go a bit farther west and take more scenic, quiet trails through Taplow. So let's start the run in the most appropriate spot, at Maidenhead Bridge. This let's you view the Thames, and its islands and wharves before you get going. And the stone bridge itself is scenic, over 250 years old, with elegant arches spanning the Thames.
Start of the run, at historic Maidenhead Bridge
Now, head east over the bridge and turn left immediately onto Mill Lane, heading north.

You'll run past wharf buildings on the left side. At the last building, as the road curves to the right, turn right onto the public footpath that heads into the fields. It soon crosses the Jubilee River (created to reduce flooding on the Thames, and runs along the whole southern edge of Slough), then the path heads uphill towards Taplow.
Crossing the Jubilee River on the footbridge
After the Jubilee footbridge, the trail heads uphill. You'll see huge, exotic trees dotting the horizon, planted years ago when the area was a manor-house park: there are sequoias, cedars, tulip trees, cypresses, giant oaks...
One of the amazing trees on the hill
The footpath runs into Mill Lane, where you turn right and run a short way to the end of this street.

Now turn left and keep heading uphill along Berry Hill. You are now in the scenic village of Taplow, which we definitely want to tour.

So turn onto the second real street on the right, Rectory Road. In a few blocks, you'll come to the heart of the village, the little village green bordered by all the town's important institutions: the pub, the church, the Village Centre and the school. 
Taplow Village Green
The Oak and Saw pub is a friendly place with a warm fireplace and good food in the evenings. The church has, like any proper English church, made of stone, with lots of character: a solid oak portal at the fence and a little graveyard.
The churchyard portal
Now turn left at the church and start heading north along the little High Street. On the left, the Village Centre is a lively spot in the evenings, where you'll likely hear a mens' chorus singing rousing Gilbert & Sullivan numbers while women do jazz-dancing in the next room.
The crooked house
On the right side, you'll pass a really ancient, crooked half-timbered house.

High Street curves to the right and then ends at Hill Farm Road at the 2-km mark. Turn left and continue running uphill, towards the north past more scenic old houses.
Along Hill Farm Road: typical Taplow
When you leave the village, you have to run along a stretch of Hill Farm Road without a shoulder for a few hundred yards, but there isn't much traffic. I wouldn't recommend this in the dark!

At the first side street to the right, turn there, onto Hunt's Lane. This little road is lined with big homes and fields. Unfortunately, after a good rain, a small lake totally blocks the road, and you have to tip-toe past the thorn-bushes on the left side.
Lake blocking entrance to Hunt's Lane
A few hundred yards later, a second lake often blocks the street again. After this, where the houses end, the paved road also ends and the run continues along a public dirt trail.

Horses also use this trail, so it is pretty torn-up in spots, and it's also pretty muddy and slippery. Prepare to run slowly and to see your shoes amass an ever-thicker coating of mud.
The trail along Hunt's Wood: nice country!
But this muddy trail is beautiful, with Hunt's Wood on the right side and horse pastures along the left. I even saw a few deer next to the trail (I never expected that in Slough!).

After one kilometer, the dirt trail ends at a little paved road, Huntswood Lane.

NOTE: You could turn left here and soon come to the Cliveden (pronounced "Cliffden") estate, an imposing palace throning on a bluff above the Thames River, with a beautiful grounds full of trails. The place was home to dukes, earls, counts and later to the super-rich American Astor family. Now it's owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. Unfortunately, you have to pay over 10 pounds to get onto the grounds, and they close at 5:30 p.m. every day.
Turn right here to enjoy Huntswood Lane lane for a bit, lined by a wooden fence and heading through the woods. It passes a little golf club on the right. Soon, after just a half a kilometer it ends at a loud road, Taplow Common Road, at the 4.5-km mark. Now turn around and follow your way back the same way that you came.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Best Stuttgart Running Routes and Trails

Top 6 Stuttgart Routes
Stuttgart, the hilly capital of Württemberg, is a challenging town for a run. But the old town and the surrounding wooded hills and vineyards provide a variety of great runs of every possible level of difficulty.

The people of this region have a reputation of being the hardest-working and cleverest Germans, and the amount of industry in Stuttgart reflects how prominent local companies have become in the world economy: companies like Daimler-Benz, Porsche, Bosch and Allianz Insurance are all headquartered here. But you'd never know that the city is such an industrial powerhouse when you see how much green land there is in town. You'll definitely find some inspiring runs in this interesting town. Here are the six best spots to put down your running shoes...
Pond in the Schlossgarten
The Best Stuttgart Routes
Schlossgarten: This route takes you from the castle in the old town, past the palace and then out through the long, flat Schlossgarten park, towards the Neckar River. This is the most popular running route in town. Enjoy!
Rosensteinpark: This short loop through a hilltop park connects to the east end of the Schlosspark route.
TV Tower route: This route traces a couple of wooded hills that rise up south of the city center. You can take a tram to the top and then run the green trails past the TV Tower and the Waldau sports center. Nature in the city! 
Along Bärensee
Bärensee: Bärensee is one of a chain of lakes in the woods on the west side of town, behind the university. You can take the S-Bahn train there and then do trail running to your heart's content.
Vineyards route: This route gently climbs Mönchberg hill covered by vineyards in Zuffenhausen, the neighborhood where Porsche is based. Quiet little roads and nice views.
Airport woods: If you are staying out near the Stuttgart Airport, follow the Run & Walk LE trail in Leinfelden, more wooded hillsides, with your choice of 5-, 7- or 11km routes. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Milan Naviglio Grande Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5 km (3.2 miles), terrain: flat

Milano running routes:
Milan Centro Storico old town loop
Milan Navigli canal route 

Milan Navigli Grande
For more running routes see the route list

I already wrote up a route taking you from the city center (Duomo) to the old harbor neighborhood called the Navigli. Here's an extension that takes you further out Naviglio Grande, the main canal linking Milan to the outside world.

The Navigli neighborhood has come into its own, as the coolest area for nightlife in town, and more hotels have opened up there. So if you're staying in the area, here's a simple route following the canal westwards.
Naviglio Grande in the early evening
The Naviglio Grande canal is more than 700 years old, connecting Milan with the Ticino river, 50 kilometers away. It's used for both irrigation and transport, but the last commercial barges to use the canal stopped running in 1979.
Courtyard along the Naviglio
But there is a movement afoot to reanimate the canal and the nearby Darsena harbor, and the city has been renovating the Darsena docks and Naviglio Grande around Porta Ticinese. Leonardo da Vinci invented the technique to flood- and clear the boat locks.

The Naviglio Grande Route
This route overlaps a bit of the Navigli route, starting at Darsena harbor at the beginning of the canal. Another canal, Naviglio Pavese, exits Darsena to the south.
Start of the run. Run along the right side.
Roads line each side of Naviglio Grande as it heads westwards. But the street lining the north side of the canal, Alzaia Naviglio Grande, is the quietest, with much less traffic. The south side road (Ripa di Porta Ticinese) is used by buses and lots of cars, so let's just run out-and-back along the north edge.

Standing there, with the harbor basin of Darsena behind you, and Alzaia Naviglio Grande stretching westwards next to the canal, start running.

The first 700-meter section of the canal is the most scenic, lined by the restaurants and bars that give the Navigli neighborhood its reputation for lively waterside evenings.

You'll run past two little foot-bridges that cross the canal. Then you'll come to a car-and-tram bridge at the 700-meter mark. There is a pedestrian path that goes under the bridge, but that was closed when I ran it last week due to the reconstruction of the canal's side-walls. In fact, the whole next kilometer of the canal was a construction site, with barriers narrowing the street for quite a while.

NOTE: The canal has been emptied of water during the reconstruction!
The canal, missing its water!
After the car bridge, Alzaia Naviglio Grande becomes a popular bicycle trail (but, as I mentioned the first 300 meters are very narrow at the moment.

The neighborhood becomes more industrial here. At about 1.4 kilometers, you'll come to a modern car bridge which passes overhead, followed by a steel railroad bridge. The first of several rowing clubs is located just before the railroad bridge.
Trail narrows along the construction
After the railroad bridge, you'll run past a scenic old church, St. Cristoforo sul Naviglio.

You'll probably notice a lot more runners around this area: it's a fairly popular running trail, due to the athletes from the rowing clubs located just ahead. On nice evenings, (and when there is water in the canal!) you'll pass club boats along the canal.
St. Christoforo during an evening run
In just a couple of blocks, you'll pass the Club Canottieri Olona, then a few blocks later the much bigger Canottieri Milano. This last club owns the whole section of the canal-front until our turn-around spot at the next bridge. Besides rowing, they offer a variety of sports in their various gyms.

You'll see another big freeway overpass ahead of you, with a couple of high-rise buildings to the left, at the 2.5-km mark. This is our turn-around spot. This is where we head back to the harbor. (Of course, there is nothing stopping you from continuing westwards along the same trail. Later, you'll come to some canal-side parkland, at Parco Pozzi, and there are even fields across the canal.)