Monday, 2 July 2012

Frejus Base Nature Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.2 km (3.2 miles), terrain flat

For more running routes, see Route List

Fréjus is a city with two souls: the ancient town crowning the hilltop several kilometers from the coast, and the modern, touristic area between the two. Most tourists, of course, find themselves somewhere near the beach and the large marina. The natural place to run there is along the beach.

But after a few beach runs, you might be ready for something totally different. And the Base Nature park is just the right thing. It occupies the site of an ex French Naval Air Station, that ended operations in 1995 after a long history that began in 1911. Twelve years after the base closed, the park was born on the same site, with all the airport buildings and runways left intact.
Running the perimeter trail in Base Nature
The 135-hectare site borders the beach, west of town. It has been partially redeveloped, and partly turned into a nature preserve. The whole eastern edge of the site is occupied by old airport buildings which now have been re-purposed: a police station, the rescue squad, etc. But further inside the park, a variety of sports fields have been set up: soccer, volleyball, a skateboard park, a BMX park, an indoor swimming pool. Quite a selection.
Map of the park routes near the entrance
In contrast, the west end has largely been turned into a quiet nature preserve. Several parcours trails have been set up as well, We'll follow the longest one, a dirt trail following the perimeter of the park.

The park is only accessible in several spots: at the north- and south-corners along the eastern side, and at the police station, along Rue des Batteries. This route uses the south-east corner, at the beach.

The Base Nature Route
So, if you're ready to head out, let's go!

We'll start at the west mole of Port Fréjus, just to give the run an interesting send-off. The mole is located at the water end of Boulevard de la Mer. Take a look around: the yachts are waiting silently in their slips, and the Mediterranean waves are slamming into the giant rocks on the outside of the mole.
Port Fréjus harbor mole, looking towards Base Nature
Turn southwest and run down the beach two hundred meters, where you'll see the pedestrian entrance to the park begin, directly next to the beach. Just follow the trail southwest, next to the beach.
Trail along the west beach
You'll pass a mustered-out Mirage jet, then some of the old airport buildings along the right side.

Keep running after the paved sidewalk turns into a dirt trail. You'll pass a little lagoon on the right.
The lagoon, looking a bit dried-out in July
Just after the lagoon, turn right to go into the park. After crossing another path, keep following the dirt trail as it curves to the left, around some small trees.
Follow that guy on the bike to stay on the trail!
From now on, just follow this trail as it follows the park perimeter, clockwise.

You'll come to the southern point of the park, where the trail turns northwards, to the right, at one end of the runway. The runway is mainly used by people taking a shortcut to the west end of the beach, and as an in-line skating trail.
Passing the end of the runway
Now run up the west edge of the park. This is the quietest part of the place, where you'll run parallel to a river just to your left.

When you reach the north edge of the park, and turn eastwards, you'll run parallel to a road that you can sometimes hear, as well as an amusement park.
Running along the north side, with old Fréjus in the distance
A kilometer later, at the northernmost point of the park, turn southeast and head back towards the beach.

NOTE: this corner has another pedestrian entrance, and is the one to use if you're staying in the old-town area.

This stretch is paved: the old taxi-ways for the navy base. You'll pass another old French Naval Air Rescue plane, then come to the group of playing fields.
Old French Navy plane
Run past the athletes and continue straight into the parking lot ahead. You'll come back to the trail along the beach, near the Mirage jet.
Running past the sports fields, back towards the beach
Just turn left here and run straight back to the harbor mole.