Now this plan worked out pretty well at first. A glance at the A-Z allowed me to reach California Way (yes, ironic isn't it) without any trouble and here I stumbled across a link path alongside the Bourn Brook (which handily explains the name of a popular student area next to the university). A little muddier than expected this was but a taster! In the quiet and almost deserted country park, could never happen in London, I headed gently uphill and almost due east towards the M5 - its distinct rumble being audible from over a mile away! Before this though I had to travel up the aptly named Watery Lane and past the urban farm; definitely one for the kids:
Then, on the Illey Way proper, I crossed the M5 and stumbled into the real countryside. For some reason there are hardly any roads in this area, the views over the neighbouring hills are often inspiring and even the motorway is barely intrusive. All was not well in this Garden of Eden though. Oh no. Very soon I began to think that trail shoes might have been a good idea, then I started to wish fervently that I had brought them with me until finally I began to wonder if I'd ever get out alive! With not a soul to be seen I headed down through the woods, past some llamas and ever on towards Illey Pastures. Until, just like that, the track became truly impassable without waders and that was my signal to turn around:
Returning home is always easier than the outbound journey and in this case gravity was my friend as I ran along the tumbling stream. For interest's sake I thought that I'd try a few diversions off of the main path once back in the park but here's the thing; all of the tracks from the main east-west spine seem to head out to housing estates! So no luck there. Instead I stumbled across a brand new path that followed the Bourn Brook out of the park and on towards Selly Oak. Not needing to be asked twice I took the chance and followed it until the nicely hard-packed surface terminated abruptly with a ragged edge; a victim of budget cuts maybe? Still I didn't mind:
It was starting to rain with a purpose and so I legged it back to Harborne central at a decent pace; with eleven or so miles of running in the bag along some novel trails I had nothing to complain about. Even the moment when I wound up in the middle of a waterlogged field in the sure knowledge that trench foot was an option wasn't enough to dent my enthusiasm. Well not so much!
Distance: 11.6 milesTime: 1h 48m 08s