Friday, 12 August 2011

Nottingham Sights Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length: 7.2 km (4.5 miles)

NOTE: I was there the week of the August 2011 riots, where a police station and a university building were firebombed, among other incidents, but it didn't stop my evening runs, or the inevitable pub crawls later on!
Less than happy hour: pub with smashed window during the riots
NOTE: for more Nottingham routes, see Route List.

If you find yourself in Nottingham, as I did last week during the riots, you might be wondering what there is to see as a runner. This is a route that takes you by a variety of scenic stuff, on a loop through the south side of town, along the River Trent.

There is a lot to see here: some of the old town, the castle, an ancient inn, caves, the Nottingham Canal with its revived waterfront, the park-lined River Trent, hanging bridges, the stadium, and the Beeston Canal with its locks and towpath. You can't beat the variety, so off we go!
Nottingham's Old Market and Exchange Building
We'll start in the heart of town, at the old market square, at the foot of the impressive Exchange building. This is the largest town square in the UK. Turn your back to the Exchange with its dome, and run southwest, past the fountains up Friar Lane to the castle. In just a couple of blocks you'll find yourself at the castle's stone gates.
The castle gates
You might want to peep through the gates to the castle itself, which is really a big palace, from the Dukes of Newcastle. Now it's used as an art museum, after being burned down in 1831 by angry mobs rioting about the dismal housing situation for the poor. Many of them lived in squalid, dark, dank caves dug into the sandstone rock hill beneath Nottingham.

Turn left on Castle Road to run downhill along the castle walls looming above on the clifftops.

You'll see Robin Hood's statue on the right, who hid-out in nearby Nottingham Forest. He's still aiming his arrow at the castle wall.
Robin Hood takes aim
Further down the street, you run past the "Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem" pub, which claims to be England's oldest inn. It is indeed old and impressive, and you should definitely stop in later on. It butts agains the cliffs, and there are man-made caves going into the rock for many of the inn's rooms, where earlier the beer was brewed. It's truly unique.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
NOTE: There are two other pubs in town that claim to be "Nottingham's oldest", which are also worth visiting. The "Bell Inn" is a very traditional pub with live jazz music, just off the market square. And "Ye Olde Salutation Inn" is a rock-oriented pub with a gothic crowd of regulars and live rock- and blues acts. It's the friendliest pub that I visited in town. An old guy with a basket full of seafood makes the rounds of the pubs each night, if you don't feel like the normal pub food.

To the left of the Olde Trip pub you can see some of the old cave entrances in the bottom of the cliff. Nottingham's earlier Gaelic name meant "Place of Caves", and people worked and lived in them until the 1920s.
Caves next to the Olde Trip
Castle Road ends at Canal Road, where you turn left and run to the next corner. At the corner (Wilford Road), turn right and run just 100 meters to where it bridges the Nottingham Canal. Cross the canal and turn left to run eastwards on the canal's south bank.
Towpath along Nottingham Canal
The warehouses along this stretch have been converted into attractive waterside pubs and offices, nice spots to eat outside in good weather. Run along the towpath, to the next roadbridge, where you run up the ramp to Carrington Street, and turn right.
Nottingham Train Station
You will run past the red-stone train station on the left side. Just past the station, turn diagonally to the right and run along Sheriff's Way until the next traffic light. At the traffic light, cross Meadow's Way and continue straight, taking the tree-lined sidewalk, the "Queen's Walk", into the park, straight ahead, as Sheriff's Way curves off to the left.
Queen's Walk
Now you just follow the path all the way to the River Trent. It goes through a tunnel under Robin Hood Way.
At the River Trent
At the river, turn left and run along the paved path next to the water, through the embankment park. The river will curve to the left, and the path goes under a Victorian-era pedestrian bridge.
The hanging bridge
Now run past the war memorial, and continue running along the water and under the big car-bridge at London Road. The path continues for a few hundred meters, with the Nottingham Forest football stadium across the river.
Nottingham Forest Stadium: The pre-game interview discussed the likelihood of rioting fans
The path ends where the Beeston Canal meets the river, with an old lock on the canal. Cross the canal and turn left to run along the towpath northwards on the east bank of the canal.
Beeston Canal locks
You can follow it all the way back into town, going under old stone bridges along the way. The loud street along the other bank of the canal is London Road.
Towpath along the Beeston Canal
The towpath ends at a basin back in the city. The canal turns left at the basin, where it joins up with the Nottingham Canal. You follow the towpath as it curves upwards to the right and crosses over the canal, then follow it downwards as it changes sides and now lines the south side of the Nottingham Canal.

This is the same canal that we ran along before, with the restored warehouses. We are now heading back to that same spot. There are some streets that cross over the canal back into the town center, but they all go around or through the very unscenic Broad Marsh Shopping Centre. This is definitely one of the most depressing places to shop that I have ever seen, only rivaling the Mall in Luton for putting you off of ever entering a store again.

Run back to the same Wilford Road bridge where we earlier started running along this canal, at the Navigation pub, just past the Magistrate's Court. Turn right and run the one block to the intersection at Canal Road. But this time, keep running straight, up Maiden Marian Way, past Ye Olde Salutation pub.

At Friar Lane, turn right and run back the one block to the market square again. Now you've earned your evening ales at the Olde Trip, the Bell and/or the Salutation!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Düsseldorf, Rhine Harbor Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length: 9 km (5.6 miles), terrain flat

Düsseldorf Running Routes:
Gerresheim hills  
Both Sides of the Rhine  
Rhine Harbor Route  
Stadtwald forrest run  

See the other running routes here

NOTE: This was another drizzly evening. What a wet summer this year.

Like a lot of cities, Düsseldorf has recently re-purposed its old harbor as a place for offices and clubs. The new "MedienHafen" (Media Harbor) has been graced by flamboyant architecture: leaning, asymetrical buildings being climbed by weird water-creatures, mixed-in with modernistic glass offices.

Together with a new marina, sleek bridges, a golf course, the new state government quarter (the Nordrhein-Westpfalen state parliament building and other provincial ministries) and then the TV tower, the whole ensemble gives the city's southern waterfront a whole new feel.

The Media Harbor with marina
But only the front part of the harbor, nearest the city, has been refurbished. The back half of the harbor is still in action, as industrial as ever, with container barges and a big power plant.

Together, it all makes an interesting mix and a good waterfront run. So why not give it a try?

We'll start the run near the TV tower, at the foot of the Rheinknie bridge, just south of the Düsseldorf Altstadt (old town). The waterfront promenade from the Altstadt goes right under the bridge towards the round parliament building (Landtag) and TV tower.

Run past Landtag, over the bridge and to the right...
Run past the parliament's atrium with its lit-up fountains and into the park next to the TV tower. Straight ahead, you'll see the path going up to the pedestrian bridge to the right.

Cross the bridge, with a great view of the new Media Harbour to your left. Run atop the dike that surrounds the harbor area, with grasslands and little beaches down along the river to the right.

NOTE: You can also run along the dirt path next to the beaches, if you prefer the more natural surroundings.

Rhine meadows and beaches
The path atop the dike is smooth enough for inline-skaters, and there is normally a steady stream of pedestrians, inliners, bicyclists and joggers heading in both directions.

You will soon come to the public golf course built out in the grass where the river takes a turn to the left. On the left side, you will be running by the industrial harbor, passing the docks and then the big electrical power plant.

Golfers at the driving range
After the golf course, the grass becomes pasture for sheep and goats. I had to stop to watch them as they gathered under a big shade-tree. It was like having a bit of the Serengeti right on the Rhine.

Serengeti on the Rhine
The path heads under a railroad bridge and then on to the car bridge in the distance, the Cardinal Frings Bridge. We'll turn back just before that bridge.

Near the turn-around point, you'll see some red-brick walls protecting some rowing clubs at the village of Hamm, now part of Düsseldorf itself. The path cuts down closer to the water here, and goes over a street ends at the water, an old ferry landing. Just past the landing, the path goes past Hamm's little beach and then rises to the top of the dike.

The jogging trail at Hamm
Right here, where the path hits a street, turn left and take the little marked footpath back along the top of the dike to the ferry landing. Turn right on the street, Fährstraße.

Run the one block to the little chapel on the right side, then turn left and head out on Hammer Dorfstraße. The neighborhood here feels a bit like Holland, with greenhouses out behind every house.

Fährstraße in Hamm: turn left at the chapel
After awhile, you'll come to a white stone church, the St. Blasius Kirche. Turn left just before the church on Opfergasse, and run through the little courtyard behind the church. You will find yourself on a little footpath going out into some fields, with the railway acting as a wall behind them.

The path then turns right and goes by the end-station for the Hamm tram-line. At the station, you'll see a tunnel that goes under the railway. Run through the tunnel, then turn right on the street on the other side, Fringsstraße. This street borders the harbor from the back side.

Turn right here onto Holzstraße
When you get to the corner with the gas-station, follow Holzstraße as it turns right, and just keep following the street all the way back to the Media Harbor.

You'll recognize the Media Harbor when you get there, where the buildings and sidewalks suddenly look modern and up-scale. When you get to the red-and-glass building on the right side, run left into the Media Harbor, to the right side of the black-glass building. If you like architecture, you'll love this next section.

Back in the MedienHafen
You will see several colorful buildings straight ahead, with the quays to the right. You'll go by the new Marriott Hotel, then run by the building covered with the strange frogmen. Take the pedestrian bridge over the quay to the right at the coolly elegant Hyatt Hotel.

The whole neighborhood looks like a modern-art collection, fitting Düsseldorf's reputation as the center of Germany's post-war art scene. But the area lacks the lively venues of some other harbor developments, like Sydney's Darling Harbour. There are just a few restaurants and clubs dotting the landscape, and in the evenings it's pretty empty of people. Too bad!

You'll cross the water, then turn left to run straight back past the most interesting, asymetrical buildings. My favorite is the mirrored, wavy-surfaced building. Just run straight towards the TV tower. At the tower, curve to the left back to the parliament again to reach your starting point at the Rheinknie bridge.
Last part of the run past the TV tower