I’ve mentioned Norristown Farm Park several times in the past. It’s a county park not too far from my house; I’ve done several orienteering events there, including the Montco Senior Games in 2016 and 2017 and in July, I ran a 5K on its grounds.
But I never spent much time there otherwise. I found the network of roads and trails confusing and I had no idea how to map out a run that would get me back to where I started. Then…my husband changed his office to a nearby location after his accident in December, 2016. He started exploring local parks, the Farm Park being one of them. And guess what: A Boy Scout Eagle Project has resulted in a 5K course all laid out nice and neatly.
Suddenly a trip to the park was necessary, so that I could try this route out.
A bit of history. This park is the former farm attached to the adjacent Norristown State Mental Hospital. In the early days of the hospital (founded in the 1880’s) this land was a working farm that provided food for the patients as well as occupation. It was thought that healthy outdoor work of this type would be beneficial to their recoveries. The farm included crop-growing fields, dairy cows, a dairy, stables, and even a fish hatchery (still in existence).
If you want to know more about Norristown State Hospital, which is now in the end stages of winding down (all that will be left is the forensic unit, meaning people who are in the hospital as part of the judicial/correction systems), you can see my experience in an orienteering event I did this summer on the grounds of the hospital. I will say that every time I go into the park I remember the people who have walked over and worked this land in the past; there is a history that needs to be respected, I feel.
Anyway, today, though, the idea was to try out this route. It’s different from the one I did in the competition in July and covers a lot of the same ground I did in the Senior Games events. The start is at the same place, the pavilion area. I was amazed at how different things look with 8-foot tall corn in the fields:
Here are a couple of places in the park – the same locations at different times of the year. Things change.
Near the park office, May, 2016. I ran through this field on my way down to the finish.
Near the park office, September, 2017. No one can run through this field at this time of year. The closely-spaced corn is quite a barrier.
Pavilion area, May, 2016. Bare field at the top of the picture.
Pavilion area, May, 2017. Bare field at the top of the picture.
Pavilion area, September, 2017. Corn stalks 8 feet high in the background.
My husband and I parked in the pavilion parking lot and set out. We planned to walk the 5K route. Corn all around us.
There are still signs left from when the park was a farm. There are many buildings, bridges, and other structures scattered over the acres.
Our route took us over a freight line crossing through the park.
As I said, there are a lot of buildings on the property, many of them falling into ruin, though some are being restored for other purposes. We saw a small brick and concrete building covered by undergrowth and took a look. I don’t know what its purpose was; I later found it on a 1950’s map when I did some internet searching, but I could not read the blurry print to find out what its function was. I liked the look of it so I took pictures.
We passed along Stony Creek – it runs through much of the park. The Stony Creek Anglers now run the fish hatchery.
We came upon this building. It appears on the 1950’s map I mentioned earlier, as being a stable. We took a look around.
The building and adjacent sheds appear to be used for nothing, really, although some picnic tables are stored in the shed. They look very out-of-place with the architecture and feeling of the buildings. Jarring, in fact.
Details of the stable building:
We saw this wagon back under the shed.
Well, we had to take a better look.
And a closer look at that set of gears.
I also liked the appearance of this door – it’s to a room in the shed.
I would have loved to have been able to see inside the stable. Maybe some other time it will be possible?
We got back on the road. We made our way to the finish of the 5K route, ending up at the pavilion area again.
I now feel I understand more about how the park is laid out, and I will be happy to come here and run on my own. I look forward to seeing how things look here later in the year.