Sunday, May 31, 2015

Group Walk: Hathersage

A short walk with the autism group today; measured at 5.6 miles by one of the members who had a GPS app on his phone...finishing off in the tea garden at Cintra's - one of my favourite spots in the Peak District. This was the first time that the group had gone walking in the Peak District, and for one or two people it was their first time ever in the Peak District - certainly stiles and cattle grids were something of a novelty for them.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

West Stockwith, Misterton, and Everton

A walk in north Nottinghamshire with my brother today; he's recently been diagnosed with autism, memory loss, and confusion, and so, like myself, he's entitled to a pass for free travel on public transport.

I waited for the bus, the number 98 to Gainsborough, at my local bus-stop: it's actually three bus shelters right next to each other, each one served by different routes...and it can be quite confusing. When I arrived there was an elderly couple in quite a distressed state and after a few minutes they approached me. They wanted to travel to the Asda supermarket, only a mile down the road; every bus that serves these stops goes there, but the couple didn't know from which of the three stops any approaching bus would be stopping at; their eyesight wasn't very good and the buses were zooming past before they'd had the chance to work out where they needed to be standing. Instead of being bold and formulating a strategy, they were nervous and ditherers - they told me three buses had already passed without stopping. soon as I saw a bus approaching I decided to make sure it stopped for them - my bus departs from the middle of the three bus-stops and so I wouldn't have far to move to either of the other two if required. I was fortunate that the bus was kept waiting at the traffic lights only a few yards before the stops...and it was the first vehicle in the queue. I'm a mission-, or task-orientated person; it's one of the defining features of my Asperger's syndrome and I immediately assessed the situation and I knew that this bus would be stopping today...come what may. Because the vehicle was stationary the driver could easily see me, and he'd be pulling away from the traffic lights at a slow speed anyhow and so I stepped out into the road, put my arm out and prevented the bus from passing. It still required quite a bit of shouting and gesticulating for me to get the couple to understand the situation and actually get on the bus. I considered this to be my good deed for the day; I don't think the bus driver did though, and the couple were too timid and confused to really understand what was happening. It wasn't going to be my only good deed today though.

My brother was already on the bus when I boarded, he'd got on at the bus station and he told me that the driver had warned passengers travelling all the way to Gainsborough that there would be long delays and a detour of over twenty miles because the bridge over the River Trent just before Gainsborough, was closed...fortunately this wouldn't affect us - the buses were keeping to timetable by having passengers for Gainsborough change buses near to the bridge.

We got off the bus to start our walk at West Stockwith, the place where the River Trent, River Idle, and the Chesterfield Canal all meet. 

There's quite a lot to see here; a large tidal river, another river, a tidal sluice gate, a lock, and a marina - we found a sunny spot on the grassy levee and sat down to eat our sandwiches, before spending half an hour exploring the immediate area. Before setting off I opened my rucksack and took out my map, on seeing me do this the lead rider of a group of about a dozen bikers, real bikers with impressive machines with a lot of chrome, brass studs, and leather upholstery, stopped and pulled over and asked me for directions how to cross over the river. I couldn't show him on my map because it was only a sheet I'd printed off online covering the immediate area. I told him that the nearest crossing was at Keadby on the Scunthorpe road, [I'd forgotten about the M180 motorway bridge a few miles closer - I think]. I suggested that they continue riding northwards, staying as close to the river as possible so as to not get lost in the maze of narrow, winding country roads, using the river levees as a means of navigation...they are easily spotted in this flat, low-lying countryside.

After our time spent in the village we started our walk, heading westwards along the canal towpath. After only about a mile or so we reached Misterton, and my brother decided to bail out and catch the next bus back to Doncaster, saying he didn't feel very well. I think he was feeling very uncomfortable about the things I'd been telling him about his diagnosis, and the likely consequences for him - a few home truths about what would now expected of him so that he can drastically improve his basic lifeskills, his language skills, communication skills, and build up a social and support network so that he might be capable of living independently when our parents are no longer around - at the moment he's still living at home with our parents and barely functioning as a human being: by my observations he's anhedonic, totally passive, and asexual - and very vulnerable, in all sorts of ways. 

So; for most of the walk I was on my own - nothing unusual that for me. I continued along the canal until I turned off, taking a footpath across fields just before Drakeholes, to reach the pretty village of Everton. I had planned to finish the walk at Bawtry, but it was getting quite late in the afternoon, and as I passed a bus-stop I noticed that a bus going to Bawtry was due in fifteen minutes. I took the opportunity to have a quick look around Everton before returning to the bus-stop. I waited for twenty minutes, until fifteen minutes after it was due, but the bus didn't show up. I knew the returning 98 bus was due at 16:40 from a different bus-stop on the main road. So I walked down and caught that bus - it took me all the way to Doncaster. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kelstedge, Tansley, Lumsdale, and Bentley Bridge

I woke up this morning with a painful twinge in my lower back, obviously restricting my movement. Maybe I must have pulled a muscle last night clapping too enthusiastically at the ballet. Northern Ballet's first visit to the new theatre in Doncaster was amazing and was well appreciated, and enjoyed, by a full house. I must admit that I enjoy ballet even more than walking.

Today's walk was therefore an easy one, mainly along country lanes and across fields.

I got off the bus at Kelstedge and walked down the hill towards Ashover, taking the first footpath on my left; being careful not to approach too close to the village and going to areas where my map coverage ends.

The weather forecast was for it to be a bit murky in the morning, but brighten up by mid-afternoon; the first part was correct but the second wasn't - it stayed murky all day, spoiling many good opportunities for taking photographs.

The countryside at the start of the walk was quite pretty though and I think these two pictures are okay.

The most difficult part of these section was when I'd arrived down in the bottom of a valley and had to cross the infant River Amber; I could use the stepping stones, or the 'Tarzan' rope swing. I chose the former; they were actually very easy...the steep climb up steps cut into the hillside through woodland which followed was more difficult.

At the top I was walking along the edges of fields, across grassland, and occasionally through more wooded areas, but most of the time I had extensive views to my left of Ashover and the Amber Valley...with Ogston Reservoir in the distance.

Just before I reached the road which leads to Tansley I had to cross a field with cows in it. I'm always wary when I'm near to cows because they can get quite aggressive at times; these animals just seemed to be puzzled - they were keeping their gazes on me though.

A few minutes later I arrived at a crossroads and noticed signs advertising two garden centres, one of which was in the direction I was going. There was an ice cream van parked there and so I bought an orange juice lolly and sat on a comfortable grass verge to enjoy it.

Not long after I'd stood up and started walking again I came to Scotland Nurseries and Garden Centre [and Café] and popped in for a cream tea at the café.

Not much further along the road there was another garden centre, the third in a very small area.

I walked through Tansley, through the centre of the village and then the track which leads to Lumsdale, past some very pretty countryside.

Lumsdale is an amazing place, somewhere I have been looking forward to visiting for a long time. The entire valley is a series of linked mills, all ruined now of course, and weirs and waterfalls. Despite being spoiled for me by the poor lighting conditions, a very flat and uninspiring light not suited to photography at all, and it being busy with several dozen people I was still not disappointed with my visit at all. I would have spent longer there if I could have explored on my own.

I took a lot of photographs and some have turned out not to be too bad; I've had to convert some to black and white and adjust the contrast and brightness though.

In my dreams I reckon that Lumsdale would be an excellent location for a future Indiana Jones film, with its extensive overgrown ruins, steep and twisty steps, inaccessible caves, rocky overhangs, narrow precipices, noisy and powerful waterfalls and deep splashpools, shear-drop weirs, picturesque ponds...and potential danger round every corner. I had the tune and the lyrics to the chorus of the 1990s pop song, 'Dr. Jones' by Aqua bouncing about in my head as I was enjoying myself here.

I'm actually quite an Aqua fan; I was early on in their career, seeing something much more profound than the mere bubblegum pop tunes and the corny comedy videos that they served up at the time. They've moved on a lot now, still performing live regularly. Lene, the female lead singer is really very sexy and now performs in the style of a hardcore bondage porno rock diva.  

During the journey home on the bus and the train more of my favourite Aqua tunes were in my head, 'I'm A Barbie Girl,' 'Cartoon Heroes.' 'All Around The World'...and....wait for it...'F*ck Me Like A Robot.'

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sprotbrough Flash Nature Reserve

Another short local walk with my support worker; to Sprotbrough Flash Nature Reserve and along the river bank.

We went to some of the higher and more remote parts of the reserve...and got a bit lost, having to scramble down a steep slope to get back down to the main footpath.


When we returned to the car we noticed that there were four boats tied up at the public moorings, all of them with women's names; I could only capture three of them in a photograph.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Visit To Mansfield And Welbeck Abbey

The weather didn't brighten up until mid-afternoon so I went in the car with Siobhan, my support worker, to Mansfield; somewhere I'd not visited in over twenty years. We went in the museum and looked round the charity shops - I bought a couple of shirts for only £2 each.

As forecast, the weather improved during the afternoon and so we called at Welbeck Abbey on the way back to Doncaster. The abbey isn't open to the public, but there's a large garden centre, a farm shop, a café, and an art gallery.

The art gallery is a lovely building, part original and part a re-build by the look of it. There wasn't much on display, mainly modern pieces of jewellery and pottery. We were able to touch some of the exhibits; I particularly liked the feel, weight, texture, and balance of a metallic 'feeling ring' - a term I've never come across before.

I turned round a corner and walked along a corridor and was confronted by a door that wasn't a door at all; I don't know if this was an exhibit, or not....I had to take a photograph though.

The farm shop was quite large; I bought a couple of rabbit pies.

We had a look round the garden centre and craft shops; we could have taken longer but wanted time to linger in the conservatory area of the café where we ate our cream teas.

Not a walk at all; but I like to be active on a day out and so must have covered at least a couple of miles...maybe more.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Clod Hall Crossroads, Robin Hood, Freebirch, Linacre Reservoirs, and Chesterfield

The weather was generally nice and bright today, but spoilt by a cold wind - something's that's happened a lot recently. I got off the bus at Clod Hall Crossroads, two miles north of Baslow and in the middle of nowhere on the main road that crosses Big Moor. I looked at my watch to check the time and it had taken me just over an hour since the train left Doncaster - not all my connections on public transport are this good. I walked along the road that leads to the footpath to Wellington's Monument...where the Highland cattle were waiting for me- they love posing for the camera and seem to know where to stand and what positions to take for the best results.

I then took the path that leads down through the woods to the main road and then back up the other side of the valley, and then gently down to the 'Robin Hood' pub; it wasn't due to open for another forty minutes when I got there and so my plans for a pot of tea had to be abandoned.  Along this section of the walk I was fascinated by a tree that looked like a giant marine/reptilian/insectoid mutant alien.

The next section of the walk was a stretch of about a mile and a half along the road to the hamlet of Freebirch; I don't like walking along roads, but sometimes it can't be avoided. At Freebirch navigation became a lot more difficult since I was no longer within the boundary of the Peak District National Park and the signposting of footpaths wasn't always as clear as it needed to be, especially in this area where there are a lot of criss-crossing footpaths. 

Just beyond Birley Farm the view towards Linacre Reservoirs was stunning; totally unexpected and unlike anything else I've seen in the Peak District. The view reminded me of some of the photographs of the Blue Mountains in Australia, near to where my sister lives.

The approach to the Linacre Reservoirs is very pleasant, along a verdant valley and then through woodland carpeted with flowering bluebells and wild garlic at this time of year; I could obviously smell the garlic, but I thought I might have just whiffed a bit of the scent of the bluebells...although I'm not sure if bluebells have a scent though.

Beyond the reservoirs I walked through more woodland, across fields and through a park and along some streets until I reached Chesterfield Town Centre. I had planned to finish at the church and take a photograph of the 'Crooked Spire' but as I was passing the bus station I noticed that the Sheffield bus was waiting at the stand.  I scanned my pass as usual as I got on, but as I was taking my seat another passenger said he had noticed that my blue plastic wallet which was given to me when my pass was first issued over five years ago is falling apart and is held together with yellow insulating tape. He gave me a new one, one of several which he had in his hand. I noticed that, like my old one, it was a blue South Yorkshire PTE one, yet Chesterfield is in Derbyshire, so he couldn't have picked them up at the information centre at the bus station....very strange; I thanked him and he went to the back of the bus.

At the railway station at Sheffield I nearly got on the wrong train, the Saturday only infrequent service to Cleethorpes via Retford...not the much more frequent train that goes to Cleethorpes via Doncaster. It was fortunate that the guard was standing on the platform explaining the situation to people; it's rather unfortunate that the wrong train departs at 16:01 and the right train departs at 16:10...from the same platform.

I'm glad I got on the correct train though, a group of women wearing very revealing clothing got on and had been standing next to me on the platform. A couple of them were wearing fascinators - maybe there's a race meeting at Town Moor.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sandall Beat Wood and South Moor Wood

Another short walk with my support worker today; it's better than just sitting in the house or the garden. We travelled just over a mile in the car to Sandall Beat Wood and extended the walk to take in parts of South Moor Wood, an area that is mainly the grassed over former spoilheap of Markham Main Colliery at Armthorpe.

There were thousands of tadpoles in the ponds.

We climbed up to the summit of the landscaped spoilheap, it's not that high, maybe a hundred foot, but there are all round views in almost every direction.

The gorse was past it best by now, but the broom was in full blossom.

Not a bad walk at all...and it's only a couple of miles from the town centre.

On the way back to the carpark I spotted a couple of grey squirrels; they were too quick for me to get a photograph. The frozen lobster that I bought for a fiver at Lidl on the way home was a lot slower though.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Yorkshire Farming Museum

I've just got back from a visit with Siobhan, one of my support workers, to the Yorkshire Farming Museum at Murton to the east of York. We both found the place to be quite disappointing; the concessionary admission price is £5.50 and we spent barely an hour there. There are a few tractors and old pieces of farm machinery, some in not very good condition...and all of them poorly displayed. I was particularly disappointed not to see any tractors or combined harvesters which were made at Doncaster by Massey Ferguson, and then later International Harvesters, for many years.

There were some static displays inside a couple of buildings, a small petting farm and a wildlife trail...oh, and a dovecote which had been removed from a nearby stately home and re-built brick by brick. There is also a re-created Iron Age village and a Roman fort which were out of bounds today due to a school visit - and for some unknown reason to do with the children an air-raid siren kept going off. The Derwent Valley Light Railway is also based there, but only operates at weekends.

On the way back we called at one of our favourite haunts, the Farm Café at Womersley. It was quite close to closing time and so the choice of cakes was limited. We chose the jam tarts, and a pot of tea. We thought the tarts weren't anything special, certainly compared to some of the other cakes we've eaten here - hung up on the wall in the toilet is a humorous sign though. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ladybower Reservoir With Chris From Leeds

I woke up this morning feeling a bit rough; I had a headache caused by my stiff neck, and earache caused by a sinus infection. This happens quite regularly and so I knew that a couple of ibuprofen tablets would clear up the pain within half an hour.Whilst I was at it I also swallowed my other daily tablets, ranitidine for my acid reflux problem and two magnesium oxide tablets for the calf muscle cramp and spasms which I suffer from...and the two tablets to prevent the diarrhoea that the magnesium oxide tablets sometimes cause.

By 07:30 I was ready to start getting dressed, packing my rucksack, and grabbing a bit of something to eat.

As usual I met Chris at Fox House, from where we drove to Fearfall Wood in the Upper Derwent Valley. The photograph was taken from the grassy area just next to the car parking area.

We walked down to the water's edge and walked along the footpath for about half a mile before climbing up to the road and taking the footpath up through the woods, and then the path which eventually comes out on the Snake Path road. 

We crossed over the road and walked down the path and over the pretty bridge. I'm not sure which river flows beneath it, I think it's the Ashop, but it also could be the Alport; the two rivers meet a few hundred yards upstream.

We took the first footpath on the left and soon reached a canalised section of water which was very fast flowing...and eerily silent. As we continued along this path the river gradually got wider until it became the western arm of the reservoir. At one point we both nearly accidentally trod on a very well-camouflaged toad which was sitting in the middle of the track and in no hurry to go anywhere; that's why I could get a good close-up photograph.

There are some lovely views, with seats positioned at the best locations.

The rest of the route consisted of walking along the top of the dam wall, the footpath that goes past the toilets and car park at Heatherdene, alongside the reservoir and across the two viaducts.

Chris gave me a lift to the bus-stop at Bamford, where I only had twenty minutes to wait for the bus. When the bus had reached the bottom of Eccleshall Road in Sheffield a rather scruffy and dishevelled young man who had been sitting in the upper deck got off the bus. He had a very unusual hair-do which briefly got entangled up with one of the overhead hand grips; I'm describing it now as a 'Rasta-doughnut' style, but some other hikers on the bus were convinced that he had a cowpat precariously balanced on the top of his head.

I walked straight onto the waiting Bridlington train at the station; it left on time - but there were no lights working in the carriage.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Bentley Community Woodland

A short walk today with Marshall, my support worker, around Bentley Community Woodland, a landscaped area which used to be a colliery and its spoilheap, only a couple of miles north of Doncaster town centre. It was a good opportunity for me to discuss a couple of issues that are currently on my mind, my brother's recent diagnosis of autism  and my Freedom of Information request about my own personal care plan.

Like the rest of these similar local sites there are some interesting features to look at, the photographs show a seat partially made from spanners and a piece of sculpture on the summit made out of the remains of the drill bits from the coal cutting machine.

We sat and ate our sandwiches [sausage rolls actually] down by the lake.

We were able to watch the ducks and the trains going by on the East Coast Main Line - from the summit we were able to spot trains on the Leeds Spur railway line too

There were a few wildflowers in bloom, mainly dandelions and daisies, but there were also gorse and broom flowering as well.