Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fox House, Upper Padley, Grindleford, Leadmill, Shatton, and Bamford Station

My first walk in the Peak District for over a month due to various commitments I had, bad weather and conditions underfoot, and the railway line to Sheffield being closed on Sundays due to engineering work.

Another failed attempt to reach Foolow to have a look at the sinkhole; I had to get off the bus early at Fox House, just about the first opportunity I had. The bus was very crowded and I was wedged in tight and was in a lot of pain; there was very little legroom for me and certainly no space to manoeuvre my knees into a more comfortable position.

As I stood up to get off the bus and make my way to the front, my right knee collapsed...not a good way to start a day's walking.

The views from Fox House are spectacular; this wasn't the direction I was heading today though.

I crossed the road and entered the Longshaw Estate and headed for Padley Gorge. At the head of the gorge there's a roadside parking area; every other time I've passed there there's been one or two ice cream vans, but today there was a hot food vendor. Maybe he paid more to Derbyshire Dales District Council for the licence. 

I thought I might get some good photographs as I walked down through the woodland; the lighting conditions were good and in places it's like being in a fairytale enchanted forest, with gnarled and writhing trees,  [ sometimes creaking as I passed ] moss-covered boulders, a very eerie and ghostly light, and the constant sound of tumbling water. My photography skills weren't up to the task though - I think I'm much better at distant, widescreen, panoramic landscape shots...not the close-up arty stuff.

I was surprised at how busy it was; I know this is a popular area easily reached from Sheffield, but you would think that I'd be able to find a quiet spot for a took me a while though.

I soon reached Upper Padley and the Old Station Café where I tucked in to a massive serving of egg and chips; the chips were piled that high that they kept falling off my plate. I would have ordered a full cooked breakfast, but I'm under doctor's orders to limit my intake of greasy fried food - it's not good for my acid reflux erosive oesophagitis.

It took me twenty five minutes to eat my dinner, without stopping. I then walked down the road to Grindleford and took the footpath that goes across the meadows alongside the river. This was a bit of a gamble on my part; the area is obviously a flood plain and could well have been difficult walking conditions. It was okay though; still a bit muddy and boggy in places, but much better than the conditions underfoot on some of my recent walks, in the Peak District and elsewhere.

There are some lovely views along this section of the walk; the countryside still looking very green.

The last mile or so to the road at Leadmill is easy-going - a track suitable for four-wheel-drive vehicles.

I suspected that for the next part of the walk I would have to take a higher route, staying well away from the river - the last time I was here I had to actually walk in the River Derwent whilst holding on to overhanging trees for balance...other people just use hiking poles though.

I turned left and walked along the road for a few yards and then took the road which leads to Abney. It was a bit of a climb until I reached the first available footpath, leading down to Broadhay Farm. Yet again, some lovely views of the Hope Valley to enjoy.

Just before reaching Broadhay Farm the path leaves the farm track and climbs uphill through woodland. This was probably the most challenging climb of the day and so I stopped for a rest, and a break, at Callow Farm at the top. I was soon joined by another hiker, who I subsequently found out was called Dave and was a volunteer ranger...and had an acid reflux cough just like me - so we had plenty to talk about as we continued walking together for the next two miles.

We parted ways at Shatton Lane End, he was continuing up to the Surprise View car park...still a substantial walk, and I just needed to walk a few hundred yards to the bus turnaround opposite  Bamford Station. I only had to wait ten minutes for the bus...and it was on time. It got delayed at Fox House as thirty five students boarded; I think they'd been on a course at Parson House Outdoor Centre and then had a meal at the pub...they certainly hadn't been hiking, yet they weren't dressed as if they'd just been for a meal and a drink.

The Cleethorpes train arrived at, and departed from, Sheffield Station on time...and arrived on time at Doncaster. Just as I was about to get up as the train was approaching Doncaster, a fat, middle-aged man walked past me with his trousers, and his red underpants around his legs, just above his knees, and getting lower. He was obviously struggling to walk, yet made no attempts to hold up his trousers with his hands. Two teenage girls standing next to me burst into fits of laughter and one tried to take a photo. I tried so hard not to join them in their giggling, I really did - and I wasn't quite as loud. I made no effort to reach for my phone though, it was difficult to get at...and anyway it's only an inexpensive one, and the camera is rubbish. 

By this time my camera was in a rucksack.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Down Inside Sprotbrough Lock

Today was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I didn't want to miss. The lock gates at Sprotbrough Lock are being replaced and today was an open day organised by the Canal and River Trust...with the opportunity to actually climb down to the bottom of the lock.

I met my brother at ten o'clock. This is the first time he's featured on one of my walks for the blog; he's not very well - I think he's got some sort of undiagnosed pathological sociophobia. He still lives at home with our parents, and has very little life at all.

The lock is about 25 ft deep and some temporary scaffolding and steps had been erected so that people could get right down to the bottom. The steps were a bit rickety and I noticed that a few elderly and infirm people decided not to go down them. I was impressed at the size of the lock; I didn't realise it was so deep. The thing that really surprised me though was that thousands of barnacles were stuck to the sides of the lock.

After spending about fifteen minutes down in the lock we explored this part of Sprotbrough for a while.

It was still quite early, but we sat on a bench and ate our sandwiches; it's such a lovely spot here down by the river and canal.

We walked upstream towards Conisbrough, visiting the bird hides at Sprotbrough Flash Nature Reserve and passing close to Conisbrough Viaduct.

Once we'd climbed up from the riverbank we continued walking along old railway tracks to 'Dearne Bridge' where I turned left and walked towards Pastures Lane at Mexborough where I caught the bus back to Doncaster, and my brother turned right and walked up the hill to High Melton to catch his bus back home to Thurnscoe.

I had about twenty minutes to wait for the bus and traffic was moving at no more than walking pace past me because of roadworks. Two very sexy young women must have been bored so they waved at me and wolf-whistled. I didn't know what to do, except wave back...unfortunately I can't whistle. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Some Bad News Affecting Me

As I was travelling on the train to Sheffield last night it was announced that as from April I won't be able to travel for free on the trains within South Yorkshire; my pass would only be valid on buses.

This is really bad news for me because it means that it will be much more difficult for me to reach the Peak District. It takes about 25-35 minutes to travel on the train to Sheffield, plus the bus ride into the Peak District, but travelling on the bus to Sheffield takes 75 minutes and so it makes a day out walking very difficult for me. I'll still be able to reach some parts of the Peak District and adjacent areas by catching the bus to Barnsley, but these aren't my preferred areas to visit, and it's a limited geographical area to explore. 

At the moment my travel pass is also valid for free travel to Leeds and Wakefield on the train. I have a budget for theatre trips allocated to me by Social Services and I regularly travel into West Yorkshire to visit the theatre...and to attend a social group for people with Asperger's syndrome. It costs about £12 to travel to Leeds on the train and I certainly can't afford that, maybe twice or three times a month.

My life has been ruined; unless there's some way for me to reclaim travelling expenses when I go walking or visit the theatre I will end up totally isolated and pretty much social activities will be limited to going on local walks which I can reach on the bus.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Brockadale; North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, and West Yorkshire

Visiting Norton, Kirk Smeaton, Wentbridge, Little Smeaton, and Askern

The railway line to Sheffield is closed for the next few Sundays and so I went on another local walk today. It was a local walk, only being a few miles from Doncaster; even though the route took me into both North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.

I had intended to start the walk at Kirk Smeaton, the most southerly village in North Yorkshire, but the first bus on a Sunday only goes as far as Norton, the last village in South Yorkshire...about a couple of miles short.

I got off the bus as near to Kirk Smeaton as it went and then left Norton by a lane with a very unusual name.

I took a footpath which went at the back of the houses and then parallel to a hedge until I crossed over the River Went into North Yorkshire, using a very narrow footbridge; only as wide as a railway sleeper.

The next section of the walk was along the northern bank of the river, almost to Kirk Smeaton; it was quite muddy in places - but nowhere near as muddy as it was later on down in Brockadale. A few hundred yards before reaching Kirk Smeaton I crossed a road and then the footpath continued through a tunnel underneath a disused railway lin,e and across more muddy fields. Along this section I passed through a couple of 'chain gates' - I've certainly never seen anything like them before. They seem to be a good idea though because they're easy to open, and they close by themselves...even if you forget to put the latch on.

I had to walk along the road for a few minutes before reaching the church at Kirk Smeaton; there's a small village green right next to the church, where I sat on a bench and ate my sandwiches.

The path down to Brockadale was quite steep, but well maintained. The path then continued along the bottom of the valley, passing through riverside meadows and woodland. In the summer months these meadows [there are many more of them on the northern bank] are carpeted with wildflowers and buzzing with flying insects...I like butterflies, and have never been disappointed on previous visits. Of course there were no wildflowers or butterflies today...just a lot of mud; and a rocky escarpment on the other side of the valley.


Brockadale is associated with Robin Hood; he supposedly first met Little John when they both arrived at the bridge over the River Went at the same time and some sort of stand-off ensued.  There's a blue plaque on the bridge in the village explaining more about Robin Hood and his connections to Wentbridge.

I passed under Wenbridge Viaduct; at this point I'd entered West Yorkshire.

I briefly walked along the main road in Wentbridge and soon noticed the footpath sign on the other bank pointing back towards Kirk Smeaton. The path went uphill, past the church, all the way up to the top of the viaduct; a climb of about a hundred foot.

The last time I was here, over ten years ago, I had to cross the busy dual carriage way; and I was terrified. There's now a footpath consisting of over a hundred steps all the way down to the bottom of the valley, a short section of gravel path going underneath the arches of the viaduct, and then over a hundred steps to climb up the other side. 

There was no footpath sign on the other side of the dual carriageway, but I'd seen a cyclist take a particular track a few minutes earlier...and so followed him. I soon got lost though and ended up walking down a couple of farm tracks and then turning back until I located the correct track. I looked closely for his tire tracks...but the bloody surface was well-maintained; limestone chippings I think...certainly no mud to help me. When I want mud there isn't any!

The track sloped down through woodland to some lovely riverside meadows where it looked like there was a camping barn. The path continued through this meadowland for about half a mile, but then it became impassable because of deep, churned mud. I struggled up to the high level path, and enjoyed some lovely views looking back up the valley. The photograph was taken at one of my favourite spots; I've forgotten what the location is called, but on my last visit I'd never seen so many butterflies in one place.

I took the clifftop path to Little Smeaton, walked through the village and along the road back to Norton. I checked the times of the buses on the timetable posted in the bus shelter; it was nearly an hour for the next bus to Doncaster, so I continued walking across an area of land which I think used to be where the coking plant was situated; it wasn't very attractive though.

I arrived at Askern with enough spare time to get something to eat from the shop.