Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Visit To Brodsworth Hall

My English Heritage membership arrived in the post yesterday and so I thought I'd visit the nearest property today; Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, located only about four miles from Doncaster.

The village has a very limited bus service, so I caught the bus to Marr, a neighbouring village on the main Barnsley road; and then walked down a country lane to Brodsworth - about a mile and a half.

I arrived at the hall just after the gardens opened at ten o'clock and requested a ticket for a tour of the house - this would be at eleven o'clock. The conditions were excellent for photography and so I spent the next forty minutes keeping busy with my camera; never straying from the formal gardens and the croquet lawn near to the house though.

Obviously the gardens aren't at their best at this time of year, but a lot of work had still been undertaken in the beds, borders, and containers; and the maintenance of the topiary.

It was soon time for me to join the queue for the tour of the house, actually advertised as a 'taster tour', just taking in a few ground floor rooms - I'd be able to see the rest of the house later on when the 'freeflow entry' session commenced.

To be honest I wasn't too impressed with the interior of the house; it was that dark that I could hardly see anything. The guide did tell us a couple of funny anecdotes though about the family's dogs regularly shitting on the dining room carpet, the one we were standing on, and a bug infestation underneath the carpets in another room which meant that it would be rather unpleasant walking about barefoot, or in your socks.

The tour only lasted for twenty minutes and when I returned outside the weather was still pleasant and so I explored the rest of the gardens; the fern grotto, the rose garden, the archery range, the pet cemetery...and a lot of statuary.

After yesterday's trek across the Derbyshire snowfields it was a nice change to see some exotic plants associated with much warmer weather.

After about half an hour the weather turned cloudy and the temperature fell by a few degrees, so I popped into the tearooms for a cream tea, far better value than the soup of the day. 

I did a final tour of the gardens, which are quite extensive and feature a lot of steps to climb up and down, and my thigh muscles, not fully recovered from yesterday's exertions, were aching a bit.

At one o'clock I went back inside and spent about thirty minutes wandering around the house; I was mostly interested in the servants' quarters.

Finally, I walked towards the village, but turned down the lane to Pickburn and took the most direct route to the shops at Woodlands and caught the bus back into town. If I wasn't so tired I would have extended my day out by climbing to the top of the landscaped spoilheap of the former Broadsworth Colliery, which is now a very impressive country park.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Calver, Stoney Middleton, Eyam, Highcliffe, Leadmill, and Hathersage.

I was fortunate that I wasn't in a rush to catch my bus at Sheffield this morning. The train almost overshot the platform; a short one carriage train and the longest platform at Sheffield Midland. This meant that I had what seemed to be like a walk of several hundred yards back along the platform...and then when I finally reached the main concourse area, the most convenient doors for accessing the bus station were blocked by an advertising hoarding.

As I was travelling on the bus I noticed that there was still a lot of snow on the ground - especially the higher, more exposed areas. It was fine when I got off the bus at Calver Crossroads though, and I walked along the road to Stoney Middleton. The sun was shining and was just at the right angle to illuminate a particularly attractive cottage as I walked by; if it wasn't for the snow you might think it was in the Mediterranean somewhere.

I then walked over the fields to Eyam, the snow being quite deep in places; I noticed that there were some deep footprints where people must have sunk in up to their knees.

The views along this section are always nice though.

As I entered Eyam I greeted the milkman: he wasn't using a milk float though. (We haven't had our milk delivered in Doncaster for many years.)

I then climbed up towards Highcliffe, passing another Peak District alpaca farm. The higher part of this footpath was quite slippery, and so I put on my ice grippers; which then remained on for most of the rest of the walk. At times later on in the day snowshoes would have been more useful though. 

I passed a couple of gates; easily stepping over one because the snow was deep, but compacted...but nearly tripping up over the next one.

I walked along the road to Highcliffe and then continued  towards Bretton. This road, like all of the roads I walked along today, had been ploughed, but snow was piled very high at the side...much higher than I am tall...and looking quite precarious in places. 

I turned off the road before reaching Bretton and took a track to the right. Farm vehicles had been using this track and so it was easy to walk along, but as soon as I arrived at a point where several footpaths and bridleways met I knew I would have to modify my route: the path that I had intended to use was blocked by three foot of snow. So, I climbed over a stile next to a locked gate and went along another farm track, which then became merely a footpath across fields which were quite deep with snow in places, but just about passable. It was hard work though walking through 18ins deep snow, made slightly easier by using the deep footprints already made by other walkers.

A few minutes later I reached the western edge of Eyam Moor and the snow was even deeper, and after a while I was really struggling - each step was such an effort.  I noticed that the snow on the lee side of the wall next to the footpath wasn't anywhere near as deep and so when I found a spot where the difference between the height of a snowdrift and the top of the wall was at its lowest, I made a beeline for it, and with the combination of a Fosbury Flop inspired jump and a commando-style roll I ended up in a clump of heather on the other side of the wall - just where I wanted to be.

A bit later on I had to negotiate a stretch of undulating snowdrifts, each about twenty foot high; scrambling up to the top and sliding down the other side on my backside.  I reached the bottom of Bretton Clough at Stoke Ford and then followed various paths to Leadmill. The snow was still quite deep in places, and some stretches were icy; but I coped okay, reaching the road at Leadmill unscathed.

I arrived at Hathersage twenty minutes before the bus was due, just as a few snow flurries started falling.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hollow Meadows, Rivelin, Rivelin Valley, Malin Bridge, and Hiillsborough.

A winter wonderland - even though it's meant to be spring. didn't turn out as I planned; not in the least. Nonetheless I still had a great time out in the snow; the deepest snow I've experienced this winter...even though it's now spring. I knew there was a lot of lying snow, even in Doncaster as I set off wearing my ice grippers to walk to the railway station; but I'd checked online and the main roads seemed to be clear. So, I made plans to go walking around the lanes to the north of Hathersage where I hoped the snowy conditions wouldn't be too difficult; I certainly didn't want to be slogging across open country today.

My first change of plan happened when the Hathersage bus didn't turn up: the 273 service did though a few minutes later and so I got on that. I thought I'd get off at Fairholmes and walk along part of the track which goes around Ladybower Reservoir, but the driver informed us that he wasn't going up the valley because of the weather, Plan number three was to get off at the Ladybower Inn and take a low level route to Hathersage and pop into Cintra's Tearooms for something to eat. However, this plan was thwarted too when the bus reached just beyond Rivelin where the road was blocked by a deep snowdrift. Although it hadn't snowed for many hours, and the road had been ploughed and gritted, there was a strong wind which had blown snow from the fields onto the carriageway. Although we were actually out of sight of the blockage, the snow which we could see being lifted was quite spectacular.

After finding out what the problem was, most of us got off the bus. I was the first and jumped straight into some deep snow, almost up to my knees. I decided to walk back down the road towards Sheffield.  Some of the other passengers decided on the same strategy, but at the first opportunity left the road and took a footpath leading down to the Wyming Brook Nature Reserve.

As I was walking I  stopped once or twice to take photographs or have a rummage in my rucksack, and the remaining passenger who was walking along the road caught up with me, and we immediately got talking. I recognised him, he's usually on the early train on a Sunday when I'm travelling on it, and sometimes he ends up on the same bus as me (like today). Prior to today, we've exchanged the odd few words, but nothing more though.

I  found out that he's called Dougie, and, as I expected, is from Doncaster too. We walked together and chatted for about two hours until we went our separate ways at the Rivelin Café. I think I did most of the talking.

I popped into the toilets located at the start of the Rivelin Valley Nature Trail: there was a sign pinned to the door saying that they will be closing on March that's the last time I'll be using those. More facilities lost.

Once we got down into the valley and into the woodland it was a lot more sheltered. The trees were heavy with snow and the millponds and dams were frozen...picture postcard perfect.

Along the way I noticed something I hadn't seen before on previous visits; a piece of artwork depicting a chair, placed on an inaccessible island in the middle of the river.

At the café, myself and Dougie said our goodbyes. He continued walking, but I went into the public toilets to wash my hands and then went into the café hoping to buy a hot meal. I wasn't the only one with this idea though; it was packed and there were no empty seats, so I found a bench down by the millrace, brushed off the snow, and sat down and enjoyed my rice pudding which had stayed quite hot in my flask. I rarely take the flask, but I knew today was going to be chilly. 

It wasn't far then to walk down to Malin Bridge and the shops at Hillsborough. I walked along the main shopping street hoping to find a café that might be open, but with it being a Sunday none was.

I crossed the road and waited for the tram: it wasn't long until it arrived. With it being earlier in the day, it got very busy with people going shopping at Meadowhall, or going skating or bowling, or to the cinema. I was just going home.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Blackwell, Priestcliffe Ditch, Priestcliffe, Brushfield, Sheldon, Ashford-in-the-Water, and Bakewell.

Today's walk didn't get off to a good start. I'd only taken about a dozen strides after getting off the bus at Blackwell Crossroads when I fell over because I was concentrating on zipping up my jacket, and not on where I was putting my feet. Not being able to multi-task is more of a disability than some people might imagine.

I walked along the road and soon reached the strangely-named hamlet of Priestcliffe Ditch, then continued further down the road, and then along a footpath which went along a pretty dale at the bottom of Priestcliffe. I therefore bypassed  most of the village, but I did walk by one old farm building which had dozens of rusty horseshoes incorporated into the stonework: I should think that was done to bring good fortune.

The route I took than briefly climbed up a farm track and then across open fields to the lovely little valley of High Dale. The last time I walked along here I commented that because it was a dry valley it reminded me of the countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds: that wasn't the case today though, since there was a quite substantial brook flowing along the bottom of the valley, right where the footpath is.

At the end of the valley there's a track which leads to Brushfield.  Just before I reached this hamlet a small group of motorcyclists was gathered. Their vehicles were muddy and it was obvious that they'd just ridden along the byway which was the next part of my walk. Two of them appeared to glour at me, so I gloured back, subconsciously making a growling noise. The riders have a legal right  to use any byway in the Peak District, but their vehicles must be road legal at all times. Quite often the number plates on trail bikes are obscured by mud, therefore meaning that the vehicles aren't excellent revenue raising opportunity I think, by imposing on-the-spot fines.

A few hundred yards later I took the path that goes down through the woods to Lees Bottom. I was impressed by the degree of coppicing which had been done, on quite steep and inaccessible slopes.

There was a short stretch of path along the bank of the River Wye, then I crossed the busy A6 road and then went to the toilets located in the parking area. These toilets are composting toilets, and so there's no flush; however, there's no water used at al. The urinals seemed to have some sort of hydrous gel to soak up the urine...and there wasn't a sink.

I only needed to have a pee, but had a quick look inside the cubicle anyhow; however, when I noticed this strange device hanging by a piece of string directly over the urinals I quickly returned to the cubicle. It looked like some sort of long-abandoned hospital drip with some squeezy, oozing stuff at the bottom, then some brown liquid in the middle, and possibly some noxious gas at the top of the bag.

I gave it a poke...but didn't stand underneath it.

As I've already mentioned, there isn't a sink...or a hand drier, only a hand sanitiser dispenser...however, the instructions say 'ensure hands are clean and dry.' My hands were covered in mud; I still used the sanitiser though, but I probably made matters worse by sealing in any bacteria that I had on my skin.

It wasn't long until I reached Deep Dale, nothing out of the ordinary at this time of year, but in the spring and summer it is one of the best locations in the Peak District for enjoying wildflowers.

I then climbed out of Deep Dale and walked across grassy field to Sheldon, then down the path and along the road to Ashford-in-the-Water. I noticed that some new tearooms had opened in Sheldon; the timing wasn't convenient and so I didn't stop...they have been noted for future reference though.

The final stretch of the walk was along the river to Bakewell: I was brave enough to approach quite close to the alpacas that live in one of the fields...they are quite tall, so maybe they are actually llamas.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Matlock, Wensley, Warrencarr, Stanton Lees, Stanton Woodhouse, and Rowsley.

The day started with me knocking over a display of leaflets in the café in the town centre where I usually have a cooked breakfast when I'm walking mid-week, prior to leaving for the railway station to catch the train to Sheffield. If I'm going to have an accident when out on a day's walk, a café is as good a place as anywhere I suppose.

When I reached Matlock I got off the bus at Hall Leys Park to visit the toilets. There are some more public toilets only a couple of hundred yards away at the railway station, but by starting my walk here I was able to take this photo of the fountain.

I walked over the bridge, up the steep road at the side of the station, and through the gate which marks the start of the Limestone Way: it could be better signposted, but it's an impressive sight which greets your eyes - beautiful limestone grassland. The first few yards are quite steep; but you can always stop for a rest and turn around to enjoy the impressive views of the town.

I continued along the Limestone Way for about a mile, all the while the views of the Derwent Valley were opening up as I steadily climbed. I then took the track which leads down to a road, not too much a loss of altitude though...and then continued along the tarmac for about fifteen minutes until I reached the next path, heading in a northerly direction across fields.

At this location I was quite high up and there was still some snow about, and this snowdrift near to a stile looked to be quite deep.

Fortunately I didn't get to find out how deep, because the snow was still frozen so my boots only sank in a couple of inches. It did present me with the opportunity to take an unusual self-portrait though.

The views of the Derwent Valley were still lovely as I approached, then descended into, Wensley Dale; spelled using two words in Derbyshire...unlike the  valley in Yorkshire.

There was then a short climb up a track into the village, where I observed that nearly a quarter of the properties were for sale or to let.

The climb out of Wensley and then the descent into Cambridge Wood were easy enough. Later, as I approached the Enthoven factory/mill I noticed some substantial ruins of an old mine engine house. Like the locations of several other industrial relics in the Peak District it isn't depicted on the Ordnance Survey map.

The hamlet of Warrencarr was next, and then I took the road up the hill to Stanton Lees, followed by a path, but probably not an official public footpath; because, even at this time of year it was very overgrown with moss and rhododendrons ..and a lot of fallen branches, and debris from small landslips.

Today's final photograph is of Stanton Woodhouse, which I captured with the sunlight at just the right angle.

I arrived at Rowsley with a few minutes to spare; the bus arrived about five minutes early though. Maybe the driver thought it was a Sunday, when it should be at Rowsley at that time.

When we got to Baslow Nether End we thought the driver might be confused again. He drove around the green as though he were going to Chesterfield and one of the other passengers sought re-assurance that he was indeed going to Sheffield.

The reason for using the other bus-stop was that two delivery vans were blocking the normal access route: so the bus had to reverse and then continue as normal to Sheffield.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Brough, Hope Station, Aston, Hope Cross, Thornhill, and Bamford.

The guard on the train this morning always calls Meadowhall MeadowHELL. He's obviously not a fan of this particular large out-of-town shopping centre. Personally I reckon that Meadowhall is no worse than any other, and is probably better than most: it certainly has good public transport connections.

I got off the bus at Brough and walked down the lane which leads to Hope Station, crossed over the quite ornate footbridge and continued slightly uphill across fields to reach the western edge of Aston. I then continued climbing, firstly walking along a lane and then track which petered out into a footpath as I reached open moorland.

As I got higher the views were getting better; the first photograph shows the Great Ridge, and the second one Edale valley and Kinder Scout in the distance.

I soon reached Hope Cross, an ancient milepost and boundary marker high on what is, I think, a stretch of Roman road. Here's a link with more details...and photographs.

The next section of the walk was down through the densely wooded plantation: it was very dark inside here. I reached the bottom and then walked along the southern shore of Ladybower Reservoir. The next section was along the Thornhill Trail, the trackbed of the old railway which was used to transport stone for the construction of the dam.

The final part of the walk was across fields towards Bamford Mill, where a crossing of the River Derwent is required, first across a narrow rickety footbridge, and then a series of wobbly stepping stones and sections of duckboard - the river seems to be very wide here, and full of rocks and debris.

It was then only a short walk down the road to the bus-stop. When the bus arrived I did a bit of an experiment and discovered that my travel pass can be scanned upside down; meaning either face down, or with the text upside down. This knowledge has made my life marginally easier.