Having a passion for travel and a strong desire to take every opportunity available to us, we were over the moon to have qualified to represent Australia at the 2019 Triathlon World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. In reality, that meant we could start planning a trip to Europe, that of course, had to involve a visit to Cirencester.
Our connection with Cirencester began in April 2018 when Simon King came to Bathurst, 200km west of Sydney in country Australia. We are the Event Directors for Bathurst parkrun and it was that role that facilitated us being put in contact with Simon, who had been involved in setting up Cirencester parkrun on the RAU grounds. From the day that Simon arrived in Bathurst we all quickly realised that the parkrun connection was just the tip of common ground, and our friendship grew from there. We had day trips to go running in the Blue Mountains, running laps of Mount Panorama (Simon still owes me a Mount Half Marathon – 3 laps!), dinners, coffees, and of course, the radio live broadcast with Nicky Price and BBC Radio Gloucestershire. Throughout his visit, we threw around ideas and plans to build upon the Bathurst Cirencester Friendship.
When it came time for us to visit Cirencester in late August 2019, we couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming reception. Being the parkrun obsessives that we are, we had overnighted in Singapore in order to do a parkrun there, before flying into Heathrow early on Sunday morning. Hiring a car, we drove the long way (via Silverstone!) to Cirencester, arriving around lunchtime. We were met by the lovely Claire in the grounds of The Mansion, and after some familiarisation and chatter, we were joined by Lord Bathurst himself. We admit to serious trepidation in meeting someone of such high standing in the English aristocracy. We had discussed this first meeting at length, but we Australians have little experience in these matters, and so were certainly entering unknown territory. However, Lord Bathurst was marvellous. We were very much put at ease, had a great chat, and he even offered to carry a bag as he showed us our quarters for our visit.
Soon we were introduced to the equally friendly and really down to earth Lady Bathurst. What marvellous hosts for our visit. Later that day, we joined Lord and Lady Bathurst for a short walk to the Phoenix Festival, where pints of local ales were being sampled, local bands were playing, and kids were running amok in the Abbey Grounds, next to St John the Baptist Church, built after the Abbey in the 1100s.
After a jet lagged night, we enjoyed a lovely run through Cirencester park, the grounds of The Mansion, exploring the sights and sounds of a working estate nestled in a huge forested area. A tour of The Mansion and its extensive grounds, a visit to the oldest polo grounds in the UK, and a wander through the historic centre of Cirencester filled our day to overflowing.
Nicki Price of BBC fame took us under her wing to show us the surrounding countryside with a visit to Tetbury and the National Arboretum. A brilliant day out thoroughly soaking up the history, and perhaps an ale or two.
Doing some of our final training for the World Championships in the oldest public pool, heated by a natural spring, was a highlight, although swimming in lane 8 was a challenge in one direction as that is where the warm water entered, and the current was strong!
We had a great time, far too short a visit, and certainly a place to return to sooner rather than later. Lovely people, a magic location, and a definite sense of a connection between our colonial Bathurst and Lord and Lady Bathurst’s home of Cirencester.
We headed to Switzerland where we enjoyed a few days before competing in the World Triathlon Championships. We squeezed in a parkrun nearby in France, visited Stephen’s eldest son who was competing in the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, a 180k running race from Chamonix through Switzerland, France, and Italy around Mt Blanc, a week in Paris, and finally a couple of days in London where we were surprised by Simon coming across from Cirencester to run yet another parkrun with us. Our first leg home was 17 hours direct from London to Perth, where we both have family, then 5 hours back to Sydney, and finally a 3 hour drive to Bathurst. Home again, but already planning our next trip and visit!