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.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bakewell, Rowsley, Stanton Woodhouse, Stanton Lees, Warren Carr, Darley Bridge, and Darley Dale.

It was a lot cloudier and cooler today than I expected; much better conditions for walking though than when it's hot and sunny.

There are always plenty of interesting and beautiful floral displays and shop signs to photograph at Bakewell.

After going to the toilets and popping into a shop I started my walk by crossing over the bridge and taking the footpath that goes next to the showground and then through riverside meadows towards Haddon Hall. Before reaching the road at Haddon Hall I turned uphill and walked up through woodland and across fields, and later using forestry tracks, I arrived at Rowsley.

Near to Rowsley there has been a lot of tree felling and the re-planting of saplings. To me it looks like they are planted too close together though; maybe they might be thinned out in a few years' time.

My intention was to pick up the Derwent Valley Heritage Way here and walk down to Darley Dale on the left bank of the river. Although clearly marked on my map, I couldn't find this route at all: coming back on the bus I didn't notice any footpath signs leading down to the river either. The path must have been diverted and I must have a quite old map. 

[On closer inspection of both my paper copy and several online versions, it looks like the path down to Northwood along the river doesn't actually exist  yet, just a proposal to establish one along this section - that's no bloody use to me though.]

I didn't want to walk along the road for over a mile and so decided to use the paths at the other side of the river, which I've used before. I walked past Caudwell's Mill and decided to have a look around since I've not visited the place before. I didn't think there was much to see there; the guided tour around the working mill might have been interesting, but I chose to spend my money in the café: the pot of tea was good value for £1.50.

There's a well-surfaced road all the way to Stanton Woodhouse and then a path across fields and alongside the edge of a wood. I reached the road that leads down to Stanton Lees; unfortunately, apart from one short stretch,  I'd be walking on tarmac for the rest of the walk.

I increased my pace as I was walking along the roads, hoping to catch the 2:50 bus at Darley Dale, passing Warren Carr and Darley Bridge.

At Darley Bridge I took the footpath which is the direct route to the main road and the bus stop, across a field which always seems to have an electric fence positioned at a different location every time I'm there. Fortunately getting by the electric fence never poses a problem. It consists of only one electrified wire strung at a height of just under two foot above the ground, allowing any reasonably fit and active person the opportunity of either jumping or even stepping over it, or simply rolling beneath the wire. I chose the later.

The bus passed me just as I was approaching the bus stop. It stopped to let someone get off, but the driver didn't wait for me...although it was obvious that I was running for the bus. The next bus to Sheffield was a ninety minute wait: I wasn't going to wait that long though, the Bakewell bus came twenty minutes later, and the timing meant that if I hurried up at Bakewell I'd be able to get off and run round the corner to catch the Sheffield Bus from Rutland Square. [The buses from Matlock and Derby use the stop on Matlock Road.]

I was first off the bus at Bakewell, was able to cross the road using the pedestrian crossing without having to wait...and then had to frantically weave in and out of shoppers, shopping trolleys, parked mobility scooters, prams, pushchairs and a dense forest of street furniture...and on one occasion had to simultaneously jump over a dog whilst ducking my head to make sure I didn't hit a low hanging basket of petunias.  

After intentionally bouncing off two slow-moving cars as I crossed the next road I then crashed into the railings outside the bank and arrived at the back of the queue for the Sheffield bus, just as the first people were boarding.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Elsecar, Street, Wentworth, and Kimberworth Park

A walk today that's not really local, but it's not that near to the Peak District either.

I caught one of the frequent trains from Doncaster to Meadowhall and then the hourly Leeds stopping train, and got off at Elsecar.

I walked down the quite steep road and arrived at Elsecar Heritage Centre at just after nine thirty. The site was open [it's free admission] and I was able to visit the toilets and have good look round and take plenty of photos, but most of the shops and cafés didn't open until 10:00 or 10:30. I've been here several times before; my favourite thing to do is wander round and linger in the antiques centre...I never buy anything though.

I love the old tin advertising  boards that are attached to the outside of the building.

I walked over to the nearby Newcomen Beam Engine but didn't bother to take my camera out of its case because the building was covered in scaffolding; it's good news that it's being repaired though.

There are several follies in the Wentworth area and the footpath to the first of these starts off going along the boundary wall of the Heritage Centre, then up through woodland and across fields. The views are far reaching; I could see the Aire Valley power stations and the wind farm at Penistone. Occasionally I looked down too, and noticed some very pretty wildflowers which I'm sure I haven't seen before.

I got no warning of my approach to the Needle's Eye, it's situated in a clearing some way back from the path; you could easily miss it if you didn't know it was there.

It wasn't far until the path reached the road; I crossed it and took the country lane almost directly opposite, which leads to the hamlet of Street. Once past the houses the lane is no more than a track. At this point, if you know what you're looking for, you can just make out the second folly of the day, Hoober Stand

The summit of the hill where the Stand is located is quite dense woodland, but only a few yards away, in the clear, I was able to enjoy some lovely views.

I then descended across a field and returned to Street and took a footpath which led me to the road, which I needed to walk along for a few hundred yards before reaching Wentworth. I explored the village for a few minutes, popping into the shop to get something to drink, and banging my head both going in and coming out, on the lintel above the door.

I spent a bit of time photographing the church.

Next stop was the garden centre, which is lovely place to visit with the family; all I required today though was a mug of tea from the café.

The entrance to Wentworth Park is only a few hundred yards away and after only a short walk I arrived at the magnificent stables block; so magnificent that some people supposedly mistake this for the actual country house which is the reason for the park. (The red lawnmower in the picture is the size of a small tractor.)

Wentworth Woodhouse is truly awe inspiring; it's the largest private house in Europe...and it's massive. Unfortunately it's not open to the public. It's in a rather bad state of disrepair, so I couldn't get up close for any photographs even if I wanted to. Close up shots wouldn't do it justice though; in order to capture all of the frontage in a shot I had to stand a long way away.

Wentworth Park is actually a deer park, or a 'gun park' as it says on all of the signs. Just beyond the house, in a fenced off area though, there are two more follies, a temple and a shrine [I think]. In a wooded area quite a distance from the house I caught sight of the animals, unusually in a mixed herd with cows - I'm sure there's a mother-in-law joke hidden in that line somewhere.

I don't know what type of deer they are, but they do seem to be different to the ones I saw at Northern College last month, which also has a deer park in the grounds.

The park gently slopes downhill; at the bottom of the hill there are a couple of nice lakes. By now the map that I'd printed from the internet was no use to me because it didn't cover this area. I was confident that, irrespective of whichever path I took, I'd arrive at a location where I could catch a bus back to Rotherham.

I think I ended up at Kimberworth Park, but before getting there I was able to see the last two Wentworth FolliesKeppel's Column, and the Rockingham Mausoleum on the skyline.

I didn't have long to wait for the bus into Rotherham, where I did a bit of shopping and had a meal in a pub. The pub had an unusual name, and seemed to have a problem as to where it really is, as you can see from the till receipt.

Friday, July 12, 2013

King Sterndale, Tunstead Quarry, and Miller's Dale

Today has been a bit of a reconnaissance mission for a possible future walk with Chris and Simon from Leeds. They're both interested in railways, and there's certainly a lot of railway structures to look at in this area.

On Eccleshall Road a rather aggressive, and possibly drunk, or mentally ill, man got on the bus with two large dogs that he was struggling to control. He was soon arguing with the other passengers, myself included. I told him in a polite, yet firm manner that if he couldn't control the dogs, he should leave the bus. He threatened me, but nothing happened.  I think I felt a bit sorry for him; he looked like an unemployed Jimmie Savile impersonator.

I got off the bus at the stop on the main road for King Sterndale, but crossed the road and walked in the other direction, up a track, leading towards Pictor Hall and Tim Lodge.

I continued walking westwards, then north-westwards until I was quite near to an industrial estate on the outskirts of Buxton. I then turned to the right and headed straight for Tunstead Quarry. The photograph was taken just a couple of hundred yards before I reached the quarry; it is so well screened from this direction that you don't actually see it until you are there. The raised ground in the photograph is a berm, directly behind it is the quarry and its workings...and they're massive.

The footpath took me right through the quarry, passing by much of the equipment at very close range...I think they do guided tours. One piece of equipment drew my attention; I think it's so that tanker drivers can climb on top of their vehicles to inspect them before they go out onto the roads.

After passing through the quarry workings there are a couple of rickety footbridges which cross over two parallel railway lines. I saw of couple of shunters in operation: in the photograph it's hard to tell which way the shunter's travelling.

All along the footpath through the quarry, and areas where the quarry previously operated, there are numerous concrete blasting shelters. These were constructed for the safety of the quarrymen, not to protect modern hikers. There are signs explaining the warning sirens [and red flags too I think] when blasting occurs, but all the shelters are open and easily accessible if you're a bit nervous I suppose. I don't think the footpath needs to be even temporarily closed at any time though.

It's a steep zig-zagging climb out of the bottom of the valley where the quarry and the railway lines are, then an easy walk along shallow grassy valleys and farm tracks to reach the road just to the south of Wormhill, then there's a path which seems to go diagonally across someone's lawn; the woman who lived there was hanging out her washing and acknowledged my presence there. I did divert by a few yards though, not wanting to get tangled up in her laundry.

This path continued across fields and then joined the road which leads down to Miller's Dale, where I bought an ice cream at the old station building on the Monsal Trail. 

I walked down into the village and caught the bus on the main road, passing under two bridges and the two famous railway viaducts at Miller's Dale. I caught the 66 Chesterfield bus; the Sheffield bus was waiting for us at Tideswell, as it always does at this time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Conisbrough, Sprotbrough, Hexthorpe, and Balby.

Another local walk today, taking advantage of my English Heritage membership to visit Conisbrough Castle - I didn't stay long though; there isn't much to see. It's a good location for taking some photographs though.

There are plenty of buses to Conisbrough from Doncaster, every ten minutes or so, and it's only a fifteen minute journey. The castle opens at ten o'clock, and so I didn't need to leave the house until 09:15.

I arrived at Conisbrough a few minutes before the castle was due to open and so popped into a shop to get a bottle of something to drink, and then made my way to the churchyard to photograph the church.

By the time I reached the castle it was open; I was told by the woman who works in the information centre that a large school party was due in a few minutes, so I decided to get a move on and headed straight for the keep and climbed the 123 steps to the top.

I only spent a few minutes up there, and just as I was coming down the final few steps I noticed some of the children, with their teacher, heading in my direction.

I waited for most of the children to be out of sight inside the keep before wandering around the grounds to take some more photographs; some of the children are still in this shot though.

Naturally, the castle is at the top of a hill; at the bottom of the hill there's a small wooded area called 'Mill Piece' with some obvious ruins of a mill. I was hoping that a footpath would lead off from this area down into the Don Gorge. If one does, I didn't find it and so did a short circular walk, ending up back where I started. I didn't have a map; I was relying on my sketchy local knowledge and decided that the only way to get where I wanted to be was to walk along the busy road for a few minutes.

I arrived down by the river after several failed attempts to locate a path: it was an obvious path though - a bridleway actually, which gradually went downhill through woodland. I passed underneath Conisbrough Viaduct, which always looks imposing to me when close up, and soon ended up in Steetley Quarry; one of Doncaster's hidden gems. Quite often busy with mountain bikers the quarry has been abandoned for many years and is quite safe and accessible. I was alone in the quarry today though; a rare treat. I could enjoy the unique environment and atmosphere; in my mind I was in the French Foreign Legion, on one of the Star Wars planets, or being ambushed by trolls in 'Lord of the Rings.' The quarry has an otherwordly, desert-like appearance; steep sided limestone hillocks created by the quarrying process have been sculpted, polished, and eroded by  tyres over many years into weird, giant tooth-like formations.

I don't think my photographs do the site justice and adequately convey the magic of the place; unfortunately there don't seem to be that many others online either.

The last time I was here I was at the top of the cliff, today I actually entered the bottom of the quarry. I assumed there would be an easy way out; but because of the adjacent railway line there wasn't. I had to climb out; every route was a steep scramble up loose ground with nothing to hold on to...a situation I rarely find myself in when hiking in the Peak District.

After reaching the path at the top of the quarry face I continued for a few minutes and then rested right at the water's edge to observe a boat travelling upstream.

Sprotbrough is about a mile further on; I crossed over the river and ordered a pot of tea at the Boat Inn. The barmaid said I must be mad drinking hot tea outside in the beer garden, in the mid-day sun. I wasn't alone in my madness though; a few seconds later the other barmaid took an order which included several pots of tea for a group of cyclists who'd just arrived.

My mobile phone rang; it was my friend Justin. I thought I'd try and make him a bit jealous by telling him what a lovely day I was having, and what a lovely spot the Boat Inn at Sprotbrough is. I failed miserably; he'd just enjoyed an expensive meal at a pub in the town centre.

I re-traced my steps and crossed back over the bridge to continue walking on the right bank of the river to Hexthorpe. I arrived at the park just as the council workmen were watering the flowers, spoiling any photo-opportunities, and so didn't linger. I walked down the street towards the main road, where I caught one of the frequent buses for the short journey back into town.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fox House, Upper Padley, Grindleford, Froggatt, Calver, Bubnell, and Baslow.

It's been really hot and sunny all day and I wanted an easy walk today, one without much climbing, featuring a lot of shade, and regular opportunities for refreshment stops.

The bus broke down at Fox House after the climb up from Sheffield; a seized up gearbox the driver reckoned. Rather than just sit on the bus and wait I decided to get off and start my walk from here; I had only intended to travel to the Millstone pub anyway - just about a mile and a half down the road.

It wasn't the gearbox; I noticed the bus fifteen minutes later as it was travelling past the Surprise View car park on its way to Hathersage...the engine had just overheated, as is often the case on this route.

I walked through the woods and across a stretch of open moorland to reach Surprise View and then descended towards the old quarry: some climbers had camped overnight to make sure that they got their places on the rockface. 

Just beyond this point there is the densest birch woodland I have ever come across; I wonder if it's natural, or was planted to restore the land after quarrying had finished.

I soon found what I think was the inclined plane of the old quarry railway and walked down the slope, eventually arriving at the houses at Upper Padley, and then Grindleford Railway Station, where I had a full English breakfast and a mug of first of three refreshment stops today.

It's not far to walk down the road into Grindleford. I saw my third tandem of the day as I'd just come up onto the main road from the station, and a bit closer to the village I stopped to take a photograph of some animals in a field. They were quite far away, and lying down, so it was difficult to judge their sizes. They were either llamas or alpacas though; animals which seem to be everywhere in the Peak District.

I walked along the footpath to Froggatt which is designated as part of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way; plenty of shady woodland along this section. There are some lovely views here; especially if you stop and look behind you.

A short stretch of road into Calver was next, where I popped into the cafe for a mug of tea, and then crossed the road to get two bottles of bitter lemon from the garage shop...I need fuel too.

I continued along the Derwent Valley Heritage Way; greedily gulping down the bitter lemon. I was struggling a bit in the heat, I don't think I was in any danger of being dehydrated, but I was very thirsty. I'd had a bit of a head cold earlier in the week and so wasn't feeling a hundred percent well.

I had about twenty minutes to wait for the bus at Baslow church; I started on the second bottle of bitter lemon and finished it on the bus. My tally for the day was two litres of bitter lemon, one litre of Pepsi Max, two cans of Diet Tango, and two mugs of tea.

I spotted my fourth tandem of the day just before the bus arrived.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Timetable For Service 218

This is bad news I'm afraid. At the end of July, service number 214 from Sheffield to Matlock via Chatsworth House is being withdrawn and only partially replaced by an extended 218 service which will now also serve Chatsworth House and Matlock.

This means that there will be a reduction of nearly fifty percent in the number of buses that go to Fox House, and there will now be very few buses travelling between Fox House and Baslow: this covers a lot of good walking country.

I also don't think that having the same bus go to both Chatsworth and Bakewell is a good idea; it might get very crowded.