Running in green spaces

By Earth Trust, ft. local runner Eileen Naughton

Green spaces around the UK are popular places to let off steam with a long walk or run, and as contemplative places for yoga, meditation and even forest bathing. With these activities more popular than ever, this week we caught up with one of our regular runners, Eileen. Here she shares what makes running at Earth Trust so special, and what role those exercising have to play in making sure our places are looked after for everyone to enjoy.

If you’re exercising in a green space near you this summer, please stick to the footpaths, leave gates as you find them and take any rubbish such as water bottles or energy gel sachets home with you #LoveItLookAfterIt

When did you first start running in green spaces?

I’ve enjoyed exercising at the Wittenham Clumps, my favourite green space in Oxfordshire, since 2008. I still remember the first evening I went along to a summer training session organised by Didcot Runners. My parents dropped me off and went for a little walk, while I joined in with practice running up hill, downhill safely, and then a cool down. I loved it and couldn’t wait to get back. Even now my favourite exercise is running down the grassy trail to the right of Round Hill!

What is it about the Clumps that continue to draw you back?

I remember hearing about Wittenham Clumps from Rev David Coffey OBE – he talked about it being his faith place. He compared it to an open air Cathedral and I can certainly see why. Who needs stained glass windows when all around are beautiful views of ever-changing countryside colours, well-kept paths and a chorus of birdsong?

Early morning runs with dew on the grass, the sun coming up and a new day beginning. Listening to the birds singing, the view of Days Lock in the distance and so much blue sky and nature all around me.

How does running at the Clumps make a difference to your wellbeing?

I wish I could bottle the energy being outside enjoying green spaces gives me. I train hard and then always go and sit on the bench dedicated to my Mum, Eithne Naughton RIP, over on Castle Hill. Whatever season we’re in, whether it’s freezing cold winds or boiling hot sunshine on my face, I sit and remember the happy times we all had together. It’s the perfect place to remember a wonderful, caring Mum, my best friend.

I work on the busy trauma ward at the John Radcliffe Hospital which means being around patients and nursing so many bad accidents. Coming to Wittenham Clumps is my time to recharge. I often talk to nurses about where I run, and love sharing the joy I get from being outside running or from a walk with my Dad around the Clumps.

We’re asking everyone to look after the green spaces that they love – what kinds of things do you do to help look after green spaces while you’re out running?

The big things for me are sticking to paths, leaving gates as I find them, and picking up or reporting litter. If I see that the bins are full I take a note of the reference number and report it to the council, and if I see rubbish I pick it up and bring it home with me or put it in a bin. Staying on the footpaths not only means protecting the areas around them, but it also keeps you safe if work is being done nearby (to this end, I keep an eye out for tractors, too). I try to be respectful of others using the paths and make sure I give them plenty of room to pass.

You obviously love the Clumps, but what motivates you to play your part in looking after them as well?

How lucky are we to have these green spaces to enjoy? It is essential we all look out for litter to protect wildlife that thrives and make sure everyone is safe and gets to experience beautiful places like Wittenham Clumps. Only this week as I sat and enjoyed time on Mum’s bench after a long run I heard a father talking to his children explaining the importance of not dropping litter.

A huge thank you to Eileen for taking the time to share these very personal green space moments with us. If you love exercising in green spaces, please help look after them by leaving them as you find them. Thank you.