Monday, May 27, 2013

Maltby, Roche Abbey, Laughton en le Morthen, Brookhouse, Carr, and Hooton Levitt.

Another local walk today; this time travelling just over the borough boundary into Rotherham.

I've visited Roche Abbey before, but never actually paid to look close up at the ruins. Now that I'm a member of English Heritage I was able to go through the entrance to explore for a few minutes - it wasn't for long though, there's not that much to see.

The day started with a long wait at the bus station, half an hour longer than expected: the nine o'clock bus didn't turn up. With it being a bank holiday a Sunday service must have been in operation on this route.

I arrived at Maltby at ten o'clock and walked down the steps near to the war memorial and started the walk in the churchyard. I don't think the church is very old, but it was looking rather attractive this morning.

The path I walked along follows Maltby Beck all the way to Roche Abbey, passing through mainly woodland, but also some stretches of open meadow which were carpeted with buttercups, daisies and dandelions.

It only took me about half an hour to reach the abbey. The young woman who was working there went out of her way to tell me that there's not much to see; only one information board...and half a dozen seats. Maybe she hoped I'd buy a guide book. The setting of the ruins is beautiful though, and very peaceful. I found a seat in the sunshine with a good view of the ruins, the main towers in particular, and ate my sandwiches. I then wandered around the site for no more than fifteen minutes, taking photographs: I wasn't happy with any of the results - I've taken much better photographs on previous visits.

Before leaving Roche Abbey I went to the toilets and for a couple of seconds didn't know what I was supposed to do when I saw a strange combination of sinks with a urinal trough.

Fortunately, I soon realised there were some standard urinals around the corner.

Just beyond the ruins there is a six foot high waterfall with some stepping stones near to the drop; I'm glad I didn't have to walk over them.

I then walked through some more woodland and climbed out of the valley to walk along the edge of a field, and then a bit later along the top of a ridge which dropped away fairly steeply to my right....bearing in mind that this is rural Rotherham, and not the Peak District.

After a few more minutes I was walking along the first stretch of road today, into Laughton en le Morthen. I was disappointed to discover that the pub was closed, and there wasn't a shop in the village.

The lane into Brookhouse was steep by any comparison and my calf muscles were feeling it. I just skirted the hamlet of Brookhouse, taking the driveway which leads up to Thurcroft Hall. The path continued uphill, across fields and through a wood before descending down to the road that leads to Carr.

It's a short walk to Hooton Levitt, marred by pylons and overhead powerlines. From Hooton Levitt the route I took went down a steep lane and then across fields, with the buildings of Maltby not coming into view until I'd almost reached the church again.

I walked up to the bus stop, checking the timetable and hoping that I'd only have ten minutes to wait. I was caught out by the reduced frequency of the bank holiday service again though. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Matlock, Winster, Birchover, Congreave, and Rowsley.

I've decided not to include any photos in today's report; not because I didn't take any, or those I took weren't any good, but because this report will be a long one. A lot happened today and I want to to get it typed up as quickly as possible whilst it's still fresh in my mind.

I got off the bus at Matlock, crossed over the bridge and walked along the Derwent Valley Heritage Way along the riverbank. Looking at the map I thought this section of the walk would be quite industrial and uninteresting, but it turned out out to be a pleasant riverside walk, with the bypass and various factories and warehouses well screened.

After about a mile I took a path which cut across a field, going towards Oaker. I didn't enter the village, instead I took a couple of paths leading across grassy fields which were well populated by cows and their calves. Once clear of the cows I turned on my radio for the cricket commentary. I was a few minutes early; however I was concerned that there might not be any cricket to listen to today...and I might have to cancel the day's walking and get home as soon as possible before public transport would be stopped and the whole country closed down. I thought that the queen had died! The programme being broadcast on Radio 4 LW sounded like a eulogy or an obituary for the monarch: I was glad when the voice of the continuity announcer introduced the start of  'Test Match Special.'  Panic over.

I continued across more fields and then along a pleasant valley, Wensley Dale I think, passing just to the south of Wensley and coming out onto the road which leads to Winster. I walked along this road for about a mile until I reached the village, and called in the shop to buy some confectionery.

I left the village by a hard-to-locate footpath which went through the churchyard, and then across a parkland area where a lot of dandelions were growing, joining the Limestone Way for about a mile before turning off for Birchover. Just before reaching this village I explored Rowtor Rocks for a few minutes: I had read that these rocks were quite impressive...well, I wasn't that impressed: there are many more interesting places in other parts of the Peak District.

I called in at one of the two pubs, the Druids' Inn, for a pot of tea and then planned to get something from the shop. I thought that there was a shop in the village the last time I visited Birchover...well, there isn't one there now: maybe there never has been recently, and I was mistaken.

I walked along the village street and took the footpath which leads through the camping site and then up onto Stanton Moor. When I reached the Nine Ladies stone circle it was very busy there; several dozen people were picnicking or playing games with their children or dogs. I felt uncomfortable as I took a couple of photographs: I felt as if somehow I was intruding.

Next I walked through a wood and down across some more grassy fields until I reached the road that leads to Congreave. This road is a steep, narrow, and winding sunken lane with few places to get out of the way of traffic. A rather large four wheel drive vehicle passed me: the driver did have the courtesy to slow right down, but I still needed to breathe in, in order to ensure that the vehicle's wing mirror didn't gouge a  hole in my belly.

It wasn't long until I reached Rowsley and had plenty of time to call in the café at the Peak Village shopping centre. I judged that I didn't have enough time for a cream tea though: however, the bus was fifteen minutes late..

At the stop after I got on, a woman and her teenage daughter who was carrying a large floral pink suitcase, got on. The daughter will feature prominently in the rest of the day's events.

When the bus reached Chatsworth House about eighty passengers boarded; most of them being Chinese students studying at the two universities in Sheffield. This is something that I've often observed; the fact that Chinese people seem to love Chatsworth - I think many of them must visit several times during their stay in the area. Despite the driver doing his best to tell them that they couldn't stand up on the upper deck, several of them did...there wasn't any room for them to stand downstairs.

It was fortunate that only two more passengers got on before we reached Sheffield.

As the bus was struggling up the hill from Grindleford, travelling no quicker than a walking pace at times, the engine started to overheat and smoke was filling the saloon: several people were coughing...and I sucked on a menthol sweet, just in case.  

Back to the mum and her teenage daughter....

The daughter had a very loud voice and I could hear almost everything she was saying. She was sitting right at the front of the bus with her mum and immediately started talking  to the driver, including her mother in the conversation. It was soon obvious to me that she was acting as a matchmaker, trying to set up a date with her mum and the driver, getting them to exchange phone numbers (she seemed to write them down on two pieces of paper.) At times her language was quite risqué when she was hinting at what her mum's preferred sexual activities were. As far as I could work out, the mum and the bus driver were going to meet for a drink at the end of his shift.

The bus reached the top of the hill at Fox House. The stop at Fox House can sometimes get quite busy with hikers and climbers returning to Sheffield; however, there was no room onboard for anyone else today. 

We turned the corner and right there in front of us was a broken down 272 bus with steam or smoke billowing out of its engine; the climb up from Hathersage is a long, steep one too. Our driver stopped and explained the situation to the other driver and his fifty of so irate passengers. Some of them weren't happy and charged towards our bus. The driver jumped back on, and fortunately the bus managed to pull away...I feared a riot if we had broken down too.

As the bus descended down into Sheffield the driver seemed to be concerned about the brakes overheating now. As we drove along Eccleshall Road, people were struggling to get out of their seats and reach the front of the bus in time to get off at their stops. The teenage girl took some initiative and took charge, becoming our 'bus captain' - making sure that the driver didn't drive off too early before everyone who wanted to, had got off. Well done to her, both for this, and for acting as cupid for her mum, she made the world a slightly better place for a an hour or so today.

Although a lot of people had got off the bus before my stop on Paternoster Road, there were still a dozen people standing in the gangway and if I'd tried to get off I think I might have had to charge into them to move them out of the way. So...I stayed sitting down until the bus reached the bus station. The walk back to the railway station isn't a long one...only about a couple of minutes. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Rucksack: My Initial Impressions.

I've been sent this rucksack to review on the blog. I'll start with my initial impressions and then post an update in a few weeks' time when I've used it several times; probably in a variety of weather conditions, knowing the Peak District. 

Here are some photographs that I've taken.

Still Wrapped Up.

View Of The Back

View Of The Front

A Scan Of The Specifications

Well, I've never used a rucksack like this before, and I was initially impressed when I unwrapped it and examined the features; some of which I won't need to use though.

It took me a while to fathom out how to adjust the back support and the various straps, but once I put it on my back it was very comfortable and a good fit; not seeming to restrict my movement at all. Of course it was empty, I'll write about its performance when full of gear in a later post.

The lightweight rigid back support should really come in handy, preventing the material of the rucksack from coming into contact with my back, allowing air to circulate and hopefully prevent me from sweating so much. With it being adjustable I should be able to carry the weight high up near my shoulders and not in a much more uncomfortable, and less efficient, position, lower down my back. The adjustable chest harness provides extra support...and might come in handy for holding my map case securely.

There are additional features which I think would be useful for more determined hikers than me; a hydration reservoir pouch holder, an integrated raincover and walking pole attachments points.

The rucksack looks good, and feels good too...and I'm really looking forward to using it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Great Hucklow, Windmill, Old Dam, Beytonsdale, and Castleton.

The guard on the train this morning announced that we would be ten minutes late leaving Doncaster due to overrunning engineering works. This meant that I'd miss the 272 bus at Sheffield, and so would have to catch a later service, to a different destination. After checking my bus timetables, which were still wet after last week's soaking on the Great Ridge, I decided to catch the 65 and start my walk from Great Hucknall. Fortunately there was plenty of room, and even a table, for me to re-fold my map en route. There was plenty of time at Sheffield Midland Station to visit the toilets and pop into the Sainbury's shop there and buy something extra to eat. All I could find was a packet of Welsh cakes; I've never tried these before, in fact, until today I'd never heard of them. They looked a bit like Derby scones, which I think are delicious (never served as part of a cream tea though). Later in the day I was to find out that they didn't taste that much like Derby scones; they were much lighter and not as buttery...but did contain more currants. There were six in the pack and I ate them all; so I must have enjoyed them.

I got off the bus as planned at Great Hucknall and walked through the village, then along the road and a path that goes parallel to the road, until I reached the hamlet of Windmill. There were some pretty views along this section; spoiled somewhat by the poor visibility though. A few hundred yards beyond Windmill there's a gate which is the access to High Rake. Almost immediately there are the ruins of High Rake Mine, with a detailed information board, and a bench facing northwards to  appreciate the view of  Hucklow Edge over to the east. It was 10:45 by now and so the cricket commentary was just beginning: time for my sandwiches and a rummage in my rucksack for my radio. As I ate my sandwiches and Welsh cakes, England got off to a bad start for the day; they did easily win the test match against New Zealand by mid-afternoon though.

Here's a photograph of part of the information board at High Rake Mine; the part with the largest lettering.

I continued walking along High Rake and then crossed a narrow country lane and took the path that continued in the same direction. I was now walking along, and sometimes in the bottom of, Tideslow Rake. This is a very prominent, and impressive landscape feature, the largest in the Peak District I think. Here are two photographs I took, facing both directions, to try and show how large it is, stretching for over a mile - all dug by hand I should think.

When I was in the bottom of the rake I heard the sound of a loud engine and looked up to see a low-flying light aircraft; a very small one - a very flimsy single-seater.

After reaching the end of Tideslow Rake I walked along the road for a short distance and then took a path across the field, and then a single track lane, to Old Dam. I continued along this lane to reach Beytonsdale, a hamlet I hadn't visited before.

I took another path leading uphill across more fields and then reached the road, right next to Eldon Quarry. Just before reaching the quarry I saw an eviscerated frog on the grass.

I walked along the old quarry road and then along the section of the Limestone Way which leads down Cave Dale into Castleton. 

As I was approaching Castleton the weather rapidly improved, as you can tell  from this picture I took at the bottom end of Cave Dale, only about a hundred yards from Castleton's market place.

The bus was waiting in at the bus station; service number 273 which goes to Sheffield via the Ladybower Reservoir and the Upper Derwent Valley. The journey back to Sheffield was lovely, especially the section when the bus travels the entire length of the reservoir's upper arm to the visitor centre at Fairholmes. The last time I was here I was in a car with two friends from Leeds listening to Wagner on the CD player...and that was even better. 

I had time to get a cup of tea at Sheffield railway station; however I had to stand on the train, struggling with my drink as it slurped about in the plastic cup. I had a bit of an accident as the train turned sharply to the right just beyond Swinton station when what should have been a sip of scolding hot tea ended up inside my nostrils. Strangely, the hot tea didn't seem to drain back out from my nostrils though.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Walk Leader's Training Course

I've just completed my volunteer walk leader's training course, at Sandall Beat Environment Centre, located in the middle of the woods about two and a half miles from my home.

It was a nine o'clock start, but being an early riser I had plenty of time to walk there: because of the location I would still have had probably a mile and a half to walk anyhow if I'd caught the bus.

I walked along the dual carriageway, past the back of the racecourse stands and then along the road which runs right next to the 'Straight Mile', the furlong posts marking the distance as I walked towards the car park. From the car park it was still a fifteen minute walk through the wood to reach the venue.

There were nineteen people on the course, most of them being local government or NHS employees: I think the course was really meant for them and not volunteers such as myself. Most of the content seemed to concentrate on covering your back; doing the correct paperwork, risk assessments, registers, publicity, accident reports and cue cards. These are not my main areas of interest: I wanted to discuss subjects such as the correct procedure when leading a group along roads, how to deal with cows and horses blocking the way, mountain bikers speeding towards you, map reading, and how to correctly report your position to the emergency services. Fortunately there was another volunteer who was also interested in these issues and told me about some suitable courses which are held at Northern College which I'll probably be eligible to attend at no cost.

The session wasn't really what I was hoping for, or expecting, but it wasn't a waste of time; finding out about the more advanced courses in particular was very useful, but additionally all attendees were awarded a certificate, meaning that we are now covered by insurance to lead local walks. 

We also received a training manual...which I haven't read yet though.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Castleton, Mam Tor, and The Great Ridge.

Introducing Simon and Chris to Castleton and The Great Ridge.

Today started off with an interesting intellectual and philosophical challenge or conundrum: certainly something that's had me thinking all day.

I was looking out of the window as the train approached Sheffield Station and noticed the words 'Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared' painted onto a pipeline which spanned the river. A very interesting, and disturbing, idea indeed.

I went walking with Chris and Simon from Leeds today, catching the bus to Bamford Station bus turnaround where I met up with them. We drove in the car, parking up on the abandoned road, as near to Mam Tor as we could. They were both impressed with the pinnacles on the rims of Winnats Pass on our way there.

We walked a few yards along the road and then took the path leading up to Mam Nick and then up the steps to the summit of Mam Tor. The weather wasn't ideal, but we knew what to expect; the forecast was for sunny intervals, showers, and a cold wind...and that's precisely what we got - with a bit of hail and sleet thrown in for good measure too.

We took our time walking along the ridge, frequently stopping to admire the limited views obscured by the murk. Chris tried especially hard when we reached Lose Hill.

We carefully worked our way down to Hope where we sat and ate our sandwiches on a bench next to the car park; it was raining, but not too heavily.

The next section of the walk was along the river to Castleton; stopping for about ten minutes at the location where the path crosses the railway line which leads to Hope Cement Works. The amber lights were flashing, indicating that a train was due. Simon is especially interested in trains and railways, and was hoping to see a freight train go along this rarely used section of track: after waiting for ten minutes though he gave up hope and we continued with our walk; soon arriving at Castleton.

Neither Simon nor Chris had visited Castleton before. Chris soon decided that his wife would love the place with its blue john jewellery shops, gift and craft shops, and cafés; and Simon, thinking it might be a while until he's here again, relished every moment; going in most of the shops, and exploring all of the narrow lanes.

Being wary of the time, we reluctantly left Castleton and walked across the fields towards the abandoned road; caused by the ongoing landslip at the foot of Mam Tor. When we reached Odin Mine we gave Simon the opportunity to cut his walk short and wait for Chris and myself to pick him up in the car. He said that this was one of the most difficult walks he'd been on, and was very tired; but wanted to continue. We didn't have far to go at this point, but parts of the abandoned road are quite steep; and the strong wind was blowing straight in our faces.

It was a short drive into Castleton, where I was dropped off at the bus station: when the bus reached Sheffield it went a different route in the city centre because the vehicle is a different colour. I had to get off at Arundel Gate and walk down the steep hill to reach the railway station.

I had another piece of equipment failure today: my anorak split along the left elbow. I've cut both sleeves down to the elbows now; I don't know if any such garment as a short-sleeved anorak actually exists though.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Grindlow, Bretton, and Hathersage.

The Buxton bus and the Matlock via Chatsworth bus are both timetabled to depart from the same stand at Sheffield Interchange at the same time, the one right next to the sandwich shop; and this is what happens: too many people blocking access because there aren't any seats...or even anywhere for them to queue in an orderly manner. People are already queueing to get food, gathering in groups to go walking or visit Chatsworth House, and many of them don't really know which of the two buses to catch...and then of course, there are the people dragging heavy suitcases who are going down the ramp just to the right to catch the long distance coaches, weaving in and out of the throng like demented rugby players. I think things were a lot better when the Peak District services went from separate, but adjacent stands, right at the other end of the bus station.

Although the number 65 arrived on time it took quite a few minutes for everyone to get on; there was then an additional delay when an unsavoury character tried to sneak upstairs without paying, and the driver had to go and remove him.

I had intended starting today's walk at the hamlet of Windmill, just beyond Great Hucklow, but I got off early because my knees were hurting me. Despite the bus being quite full I did manage to get a seat to myself, but there still wasn't much legroom though. I would have preferred one of the sideways facing seats at the front of the bus, but I don't think this vehicle had any.

I got up and pressed the bell in plenty of time for Grindlow Lane End, the driver stopped the bus almost immediately though. It wasn't exactly where I wanted to be, but I got off anyhow; I told him I'm going walking and so it doesn't really matter.

I walked along the road hoping to find a path across the fields leading to Grindlow but there wasn't one. I turned right down the lane which leads to the village and then looked for the path which I needed. I ended up having to double back though; I missed the path because it wasn't signposted and it looked like it led up a private drive leading to some posh houses.

I continued across some fields, going slightly downhill at first and then quite steeply uphill until I reached a road which I walked along for a few minutes until I arrived at the site of the Silence Mine.

There are quite extensive ruins here, but the site is fenced off - it wouldn't be difficult to climb over though. I didn't bother; I was more concerned with the rain, which was getting quite persistent by this time and so I reached into my rucksack for my lightweight plastic poncho. It did the job in protecting me from the rain, but it was quite difficult to put on...and flapped about a lot. There were some press studs which would have fastened it down better, but I nearly pulled a muscle in my back and almost cricked my neck trying to reach them. In the end I gave up the effort and used a length of string which I keep in my rucksack for emergencies such as holding up my trousers.

I continued walking along this path in an easterly direction until I reached another road, which I followed to the Barrel Inn at Bretton. By the time I reached the pub, the highest in Derbyshire, it had just about stopped raining. It was still quite cold and unpleasant and so I popped inside for a pot of tea and a large slice of freshly-baked cake that was still warm.

I sat as close as I could to the open fire, appreciating the warmth, and taking an interest in the paintings and prints on the wall. All of these were by local artists and were for sale, something which I've observed many times on my visits to pubs, cafés and tearooms in the Peak District. I was also intrigued by some old wooden combined skis and snowshoes which were fixed to the wall only inches from my head; these would have come in handy last month when I was walking through deep snow.

The weather was a lot brighter, and warmer, when I left The Barrel, heading northwards along the lane. I took the second footpath on the left, which heads down into Bretton Clough, but I didn't get far before I had to stop. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my right foot, something like a bee or wasp sting I should think. Obviously a bee or wasp couldn't get inside my boot, but something had. I removed my right boot and took off my sock and carefully felt for an insect, or a thorn maybe; but there was nothing. I examined my foot; there was no obvious sign of a bite or sting, or any rash - it was swollen noticeably though at the base of the little toe, and was quite tender to the touch.

Just to be safe I put my sock on inside out, then my boot (the right way round) and stood up and made a few tentative steps. I was okay; I was still aware of the pain, but it was no more than a mild inconvenience now - as it would be for the rest of the walk. Even now, as I'm typing this, it's still bothering me; the swelling is still there...and it seems harder to the touch now. I wonder what could have done this to me?

I was soon at the bottom of the clough and continued downstrean towards Hathersage, passing a creepy-crawly tree, which, despite the obvious damage, is still alive and thriving.

I arrived at Stoke Ford and took the path which leads uphill towards Offerton Moor. I walked across the access land to reach Offerton Hall and then dropped down to the River Derwent. As I was descending across the fields there were some lovely views up the Hope Valley.

The walk along the riverbank is pleasant and easy and I dawdled as I walked along the  final approach to Hathersage across the fields, knowing that the bus wasn't due for nearly an hour. I had plenty of time to look around the outdoors shops in Hathersage: there are four.