Saturday, July 27, 2013

Goldthorpe, Phoenix Park, Stotfold, Hooton Pagnell, Frickley, Clayton, and Thurnscoe.

A local walk featuring one of the estate villages located on the Yorkshire, or Southern, Magnesian Limestone Ridge.

I grew up, and lived for over twenty years, in a pit village called Thurnscoe situated midway between Barnsley and Doncaster. Although not particularly attractive, Thurnscoe is surrounded by some beautiful countryside and pretty limestone villages, one of which I travelled through on the bus today, and another which I visited on the walk.

I got off the bus at Goldthorpe, only a twenty minute ride from Doncaster, and headed straight for the lane that leads to Phoenix Park, passing the unusual Italianate church.

Today's walk is one of my childhood favourites; I must have walked it dozens of times...not the section up to the top of Phoenix Park though. Phoenix Park didn't exist then - the land was occupied by one of the local coal mines and its massive spoil heap.

I think that the Forestry Commission, or whoever it was at the time, did a wonderful job in reclaiming the toxic, derelict site and making Phoenix Park such a natural-looking country park.  It's a climb of  about two hundred foot to the summit; somewhat lower than when it was a spoilheap, but still affording spectacular, almost 360 degree views. At the bottom of the hill there's a sculpture park, a climbing wall, picnic tables and an 'outdoor art gallery.'

At the start of the climb to the top there's a piece of sculpture, a giant aluminium charm bracelet depicting objects associated with the local mining industry. Photographs of the charm bracelet glistening in the sun have become the unofficial emblem of the village these days.

Here's my effort; the sun was a bit hazy, and probably at the wrong angle.

There are two summits, and it's difficult to know which is higher: one has a toposcope and there's a bench on the other. There are distant views all the way towards the Pennines from this bench, but even better views of the hill-top village of Hickleton in the other direction. Every time I'm up there I curse that the seat's facing the wrong way. My photographs of Hickleton in the background didn't turn out well at all; the lens was pointing directly into the sun.

I opened my chocolate-covered raisins, and the packet ripped, spilling quite a few - the rest all had to be eaten in one go.

It's quite a steep descent down the other side to the road, and then a gentle climb along the lane to the hamlet of Stotfold. The farmhouse wasn't covered in ivy the last time I was here.

I continued climbing up the side of a field, and then through woodland, until I reached the top of the ridge - more extensive views westwards from here.

It was a few more hundred yards until I reached the road, and then Hooton Pagnell...the highlight of the walk. Entering the village from the east, as I did, the first thing you notice are the fairytale turrets of the boundary wall of the Hall. They're not as old as they look; they were built just over a hundred years ago.

Behind the modern gatehouse there's a mediaeval one; you need to go right into the far corner of the adjacent churchyard to see it.

The church is mediaeval too, and pretty...with a nicely carved lychgate.

I then spent about half an hour exploring the village; I could have included a photograph of almost every cottage, garden, and courtyard. Hooton Pagnell really is impressive, and well worth a visit. The village has its own extensive website .

I walked back through the village and took the footpath which goes across the fields to Frickley Park, with a short section of walking along the road at the end.

Frickley has an interesting history; it was quite an important site before it was depopulated due to the Black Death; only a few farmsteads remain now - Frickley Hall is much later. The extensive grounds belonging to the hall are what Frickley Park really is.

It's easy walking in the park along the metalled roads, the conditions underfoot were a bit less comfortable as I approached Clayton. The tracks had recently been improved for vehicles, but the sharp edges of the crushed stone and brick haven't bedded in properly yet.

I turned left, taking the first available footpath to Clayton, and the seats at the war memorial right next to the village pond. The first part of the village that I reached is called 'Teapot Corner.'...I'm not kidding.

A woman was trimming her hedges and she stopped to talk to me. She seemed to think that I wasn't very well. I was sweating a lot and had a very ruddy face, as I always have in this hot, sticky weather. She asked me if I needed a drink of water. I politely declined her offer, telling her I'd only got about another mile and half to go until I'd reach my destination at Thurnscoe. She was very insistent and went to the boot of her car and took out a bottle of water from a multi-pack. I didn't really know how to say 'no' again and so thanked her; taking several large gulps in her presence.

It was a short walk to the seats, where I finished off the water, and then  I walked across the fields back to Thurnscoe to catch the bus.


  1. Sounds like a lovely non-Peak District walk. I'll go there myself before too long. Are you sure the woman trimming the hedge wasn't after sex with you? Clayton women are notoriously randy and many's the innocent milkman, paper boy or rambler who have been ensnared just to satisfy their carnal appetites. Sounds like you had a lucky break my friend.

    1. Well...her husband helped her as she was getting the bottle of water out of the packaging.

      When I was a child living in Thurnscoe there were rumours though.