CHRISTMAS pudding and mulled wine - what an irresistable combination for a race.

The place was Battle in East Sussex, some five miles from Hastings and the site where William, the Duke of Normandy, defeated King Harold II in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings.

Now the town is centred around the Abbey, founded to commemorate this historic event which saw the Frenchman crowned William I, and which was dedicated in 1095.

But that's not all the history. A few miles outside of Battle lies Ashburnham Place.

Set in idyllic grounds extending over 220 acres, it is now used as a Christian conference and prayer centre.

But the grounds were designed and constructed in the mid-18th century by Lancelot Capability' Brown who laid out the three large lakes which encircle the house, and he also built the Orangery, which is home to a number of interesting and unusual plants, as well as the oldest camellias in the country

The whole area looked spectacular on a frosty December morning with the lake frozen over.

The area is rich in wildlife and part of it has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the valuable flora and fauna.

That didn't stop organisers from hosting a five-mile multi-terrain race around the stately home grounds.

More than 200 runners and joggers lined up on a crisp Saturday morning for the two-lap race.

There was a children's race beforehand and we enthusiastically applauded all the finishers, before setting out ourselves on a tough, little course, with a nasty long hill midway through each of the two laps.

I started off suicidally with a 6min 26sec first mile.

A friend of mine, Paul Hammond, who is a team-mate at Stubbington Green Runners, caught me up by the first mile as we stepped off the tarmac and into woodland where it was muddy and treacherous.

Paul, in fact, chose to walk up the tricky uphill stretches, but soon zoomed past me on the flatter sections.

It soon warmed up and felt a little overdressed with a thermal top and a running vest on top. The race had a lovely downhill stretch towards the main house at Ashburnham Place, and then it was onto the second lap.

Paul and I played a bit of ying-ing and yang-ing on the uphill stretches, but he finished a good half a minute ahead of me at the end. The course was 4.75-miles long on my Garmin and it took me 36min 48sec for 36th place.

A wonderful setting for a Christmas fun, a lovely atmosphere, and a nice, gentle run-out.