I have lived in Sutton Coldfield for around seven years now. In that time I have gone running in Sutton Park more times than I can remember. I’m doing some very swift arithmetic as I type and if I was being conservative, I’d say I’ve averaged a run in the park once a week during that time, so that’s roughly 350 times. If you’ve done anything that many times you ought to know a thing or two about it.
At 2,400 acres, Sutton Park is pretty big, and in fact is one of the largest urban parks in Europe. There are many wonderful things about it, but the first that springs to mind is how accessible it is. There are several entrances, or ‘gates’, to the park, which means its sphere of accessibility radiates in all directions and attracts runners, cyclists and dog-walkers from across north Birmingham and beyond.
Sutton Park is also a runner’s paradise. It has so many options. I’m going to share a 5k and a 10k route with you here. As an aside, I generally measure my distances in miles, but going metric is quite in vogue, so let’s run with it.
5k from Town Gate
Town Gate is the one just off the Sutton Coldfield High Street. There is plenty of parking in Sutton Coldfield itself and, unless it is one of the hottest days of the year (if so, why are you running?), there is plenty of parking upon entry to the park.
From the car park near the Visitor Centre run up to, and past, the first cattle grid, then immediately fork right. This takes you up a slight incline before a descent to a flat path. You’ll pass Keeper’s Pool on your right then head up a slow steady incline towards the Jamboree Stone, which is bang central in the park and acts as a kind of cross roads for all routes. From there take an acute left turn and head down the second side of the triangle for around 1.5kms on a wide road. Just before Powell’s pool ahead of you on the left, it is time to take a 90 degree left turn, past the metal gate and on to a narrower path. A few yards ahead follow the path to the right which is like a tunnel with the trees encroaching overhead from either side and the light glimmering at the other end. Carry on, passing Wyndley Pool on your right, then follow the path around to the left where the Visitor Centre and car park will once again come into view, and you’ll run right up to the point where you started, just after the cattle grid.
This is a fairly gentle 5km run. Not entirely flat, but not so hilly that you’ll be too out of breath. Only a short stretch of it has any cars on it, and even then it is on a wide road where drivers are generally cautious. It also introduces you to the Jamboree Stone to which I would advise you then return to another time and set off in a different direction to do some exploring!
10k from The Bracebridge
The Bracebridge restaurant lies just on the banks of Bracebridge pool, a lovely large pond a couple of kilometres in from the Four Oaks gate. There is plenty of parking and it’s a good place to start and finish, and grab some refreshments afterwards.
From the Bracebridge, run back to the main lane leading from Four Oaks gate and turn right. You will pass a cattle grid and then follow the road as it inclines slightly, watching out for drivers who themselves will be watching out for potholes! You’ll turn in to a car park on your right and jog to, and past, the Blackroot Bistro (another good place to start and finish this run), down the steps towards Blackroot Pool. From there turn left and follow the road gently downhill towards Town Gate. From there, turn right, away from the Town Gate entrance, up past the cattle grid and take the road on your left, with the Visitor Centre also on your left. You will pop out from the path on to a road with Powell’s Pool just ahead of you on your left. Take a 90 degree right turn and follow the incline, watching out for cars in either direction (there is a trail-type path running alongside it to the right, but the cars do go slowly). You’ll come across a crossroads of sorts, with a gravelly car-park to the left. Run through the car-park and out the other side. Keep going, running past Longmoor Pool on your right, and you’ll reach Banner’s Gate on the east side of the park which is where the Park Run starts.
Turn right at the Banner’s Gate car park and enjoy the traily run for just over a kilometre until you reach a poorly defined grassy crossroads. You’ll know when you’re there as there is a short cut pointing 45 degrees to the right before the crossroads which you should take and then carry on along a well-defined, if slightly narrow path. Soon you will see a scraggy, rock-ridden and very steep hill in front of you. Brace yourself, mind your ankles, and go for it. Your quads will be screaming at you at the top for a few seconds, but no pain no gain! At the top keep going straight and you’ll pop out at the big Jamboree Stone intersection. From here, turn left where you’ll be heading towards the Streetly Gate. Then after 300 meters or so, run to the end of the uneven car-park on your right, then turn right and run through to the field where you’ll have a wide expanse of grass to your left, and some trees and gorse bushes immediately to your right. Keep things this way and head towards the forest in-front of you. Upon entry you’ll have two paths to choose from, you need to take the left path. It will suddenly become very dark, and could be a bit boggy. There are tree roots and stones strewn across the path, so keep your eyes peeled, go easy on your pace, and mind your ankles. You will wind down to bridge over the train track. Go through the two gates over the bridge, then turn right and you’ll find yourself emerging on the footpath right in front of the Bracebridge where I rarely resist the temptation for some form of refreshment after completing this run!
This is a part path, part trail run, so be mindful of the how the weather has been before you do it, as it can get a bit boggy off-road.
I do both of these routes either standalone, or as part of longer runs in and around the park, and I never get bored of the views. You can forget that you’re in Sutton Coldfield, or even close to one of the biggest cities in the UK, and just enjoy the craggy, grassy and undulating greenscape which always seems to offer something new each time I’m there.
If anyone wants to do either of these runs with me, just drop me a line!
Equally, if anyone does actually follow these routes as described, I’d be very interested to hear your feedback but please don’t complain if the distances aren’t exact; like my piano playing, close enough is good enough and it’s the taking part that counts!