Sunday, April 27, 2014

Group Walk: A River, A Lock, An Aqueduct, Two Canals, And Two Different Types of Canal Bridge

(Visiting Stainforth, South Bramwith, Braithwaite, and Kirk Bramwith)

This was another of the monthly walks where I'm the walk leader and organiser for the autism group here in Doncaster.

We were lucky with the weather; showers were forecast, but we didn't get any - it was a bit blustery and murky at times, but that was all.

The walk started at Stainforth. Three of us travelled from town on the bus and everyone else, another nine people, drove there in their cars.

We had soon left the built-up area and were walking across the fields, one of them being bright yellow with blossoming rapeseed. At this point the footpath was quite wide; this wouldn't be the case later on though when the path was narrow and the rapeseed higher than me...I've never known it to be so high.

At South Bramwith we could hear the klaxon sounding, the red lights flashing, and the barriers lowering, so we knew that a boat was passing through the swing bridge.

We needed to cross to the other side of the canal, but obviously couldn't until the bridge had swung back into place; so everyone posed for the second group portrait of the day.

It wasn't far until we reached Kirk Bramwith Lock on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. Some of the group stopped to pick up some refreshments at the moored coffee boat, and to use the toilets on board. There's a nice grassy area at the lock where we sat and ate our sandwiches.

It was only a short walk to the River Don Aqueduct; we were lucky to time our visit with a boat going over it; unfortunately I didn't manage to get a decent photograph of the boat.

We continued walking along the towpath of our second canal of the day, the New Junction Canal, until we reached the lift bridge at Braithwaite, where yet again our timing was perfect; we were able to see the bridge being lifted for a barge to pass through.

By now one of the walkers was struggling a bit and so we decided to modify our route, to take the shortest route back to Stainforth, going through the village of Kirk Bramwith and then along the bank of the River Don.

The three of us who had travelled to Stainforth by bus this morning were fortunately offered a lift back into town - this was very welcome indeed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Visit to Elsham Hall Country Park, Lincolnshire

Not really a walk today, but a trip out with Siobhan, my support worker from social services. We did walk a fair bit though because the grounds are quite extensive; there's a trout lake, an arboretum, and a walled a small petting farm and a display of old agricultural implements to look at.

On the way back to Doncaster we stopped at Brigg for toasted teacakes and a pot of tea.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Creswell, Darfoulds, Rhodesia, and Worksop

Until I wrote today's blog I always thought that the place where I travelled to this morning was called 'Cresswell' and pronounced appropriately...I was wrong.

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I was back walking in Derbyshire today, only just though since Creswell Crags lie right on the Nottinghamshire boundary.

When I arrived at Doncaster Interchange at seven o'clock this morning two of the Worksop services were at their stands, just a few steps separating them, and both buses due to be departing soon. Number 22 was scheduled to leave five minutes earlier and it takes a quicker obviously I got on that bus; an easy decision to make.

There isn't a bus station at Worksop. It must be one of the largest towns in the country not to have one; all the services terminate outside the maintenance depot, which conveniently is just round the corner from the main shopping street. My bus arrived on time and the bus for Creswell left just a few minutes later.

I arrived at Creswell at 08:40 and walked through a housing estate to reach the main road, possibly a modern by-pass. I saw a sign pointing to Creswell Crags, the reason for my starting today's walk from Creswell. I've never been to the crags and was looking forward to walking along the gorge, right next to the crags and the caves: I didn't see much at all though because I ended up walking along a road for over half a mile until I reached the Visitor Centre. There must have been a pedestrian entrance to avoid the road somewhere...but I never saw a sign - another comment about poor signage; last week it was Langold Country Park.

Just as I was approaching the Visitor Centre my mobile phone rang; it was my friend Justin asking about if Monday was a bank holiday and if he'd be able to use his bus pass early in the morning. Holding the phone to my ear we were busy discussing bus timetables, whether or not certain facilities might be closed...and Abba songs. I blithely walked up to the front door of the Visitor Centre when someone ran in front of me to block my way. I was informed that the back of the building was on fire, I couldn't see or smell anything though. So, no toilets and no café...not the best of starts.

I was directed down to the crags and soon found an idyllic spot to eat my sandwiches.

I was hungry and was sure I'd be able to get something to eat later on; I'd spotted a garden centre on the map, along my route. It would probably have a café or tearooms.

I doubled back in the direction of the Visitor Centre and noticed that there were four fire engines putting out the fire, three from the Derbyshire brigade, and one from Nottinghamshire.

I soon entered Nottinghamshire and then walked along a private estate road, which was also designated as a bridleway, then continued along the edge of some woodland and got my only view of the towers of Welbeck Abbey in the distance - I'm not sure if the abbey is open to the public, and if it is what's there to do and look at.

Before crossing more farmland I passed two lakes, possibly part of the Welbeck Estate. I reached South Lodge, one of several lodges in the area, and then walked due north through some woods. Since leaving Creswell Crags I had been walking along the Robin Hood Way, now it was just local footpaths and bridleways for the remainder of the walk. There were more ploughed fields to walk along the edges of and then a sharp left turn to reach the A60 road. I crossed the road, it wasn't very busy, and the sightlines were good.

I crossed a meadow and then turned right just before reaching Hodthorpe and struggled a bit walking along a tiresome straight lane for a mile and a half until I reached Darfoulds, where I was hoping that there would be a garden centre with a café...and indeed there was. I headed straight for the café and ordered a toasted teacake and a pot of tea. The fare served up was good and the service okay, if a little slow; I had no reason to complain. The seating area was very pleasant too, a bit like a large conservatory...with a cheerful zonal geranium on every table. The menu was rather limited, and not to my taste at all; too much panini, ciabatta, and baguettes. Apart from my toasted teacake and the cakes, everything seemed to be served with basil.

After leaving the garden centre the next section was along more fields and then a country lane until I reached Rhodesia, which welcomes careful drivers on its canal.

It was easy for me to find the canal at Rhodesia, and all I had to do then was follow it to Worksop. Just before reaching the town centre my phone rang again. This time it was Chris, a friend from the Leeds Adult Asperger's group who I hadn't seen for a couple of months. He wanted to arrange a walk in the Peak District for the 3rd of June. With this date being a Saturday too I'd be able to use my travel pass all day, and so get an early start on the bus to Sheffield. It would be a long and uncomfortable journey to the Peak District though and I wouldn't consider undertaking it if I was on my own, but the chance to see Chris, and possibly someone else from the group too, has made me decide to put up with the inconvenience.

About twenty minutes later I was waiting for the bus at Hardy Street, the bus terminus in Worksop; the number 21 was the first to arrive; it takes a few minutes longer than the 22...but I wasn't going to wait another twenty minutes for the next 22.

I'm finishing today's blog post with a couple of photographs of my local park; I walk through it to get to my house when I get off the bus at my local bus-stop for the services out to Nottinghamshire. It's looking quite beautiful at this time of year.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Langold, Wallingwells, Woodsetts, Cotterhill Woods, and South Carlton

I got off the bus at Langold, at the north end of the village before the bus goes round the housing estates. I walked down the main road, bought something to eat and drink at one of the shops which was open, and then turned off into Langold Country Park. Although the lake is the main feature of the country park it took me quite a bit of time, and walking, to actually find it - there doesn't seem to be any signage.

I walked along the south bank of the lake, and then along the edge of a field (which probably wasn't an official footpath, but plenty of other people had walked this route) until I reached the footpath which I was looking for; going across a recently-ploughed field, which fortunately wasn't too muddy; in fact it was hardly muddy at all.

After crossing the field I reached a small meadow, and then a farm track until I reached the road. I crossed over the road and continued walking in a southerly direction towards Wallingwells, along a well-maintained track. Wallingwells is only a small collection of houses, but the houses are impressive, they're all large detached properties with a lot of land. I even spotted an orchard; several of the locals spotted me too and they all kept their gaze on me until I was out of sight.

I got slightly lost on the next section; I should have turned left, then right, but turned right and then left...but still ended up where I needed to be - in the opposite corner of a large field.

I soon had to cross another ploughed field, and then walked down a track to reach the road at the point where the 'Welcome to Woodsetts' sign is. The next few hundred yards was the only significant climb of the day, maybe 150 foot, taking the path which goes right next to the gardens of some recently built houses. At the top I turned right along an access drive right next to Lindrick Golf Course. There were more large and expensive houses along here, including one called Nirvana, which I'm convinced is the headquarters of some sort of free-love and chocolate cult.

Yes...there is medium-range missile launcher defending the property, fortunately it's not pointing towards Doncaster.

I took one of the paths across the golf course to reach the main A57 road. Signs have been kindly placed in strategic positions to inform you which way you need to look as you walk across a fairway.

I had to wait for a couple of minutes to cross the busy trunk road to reach the rest of the golf course on the other side. I continued walking straight ahead, then turned left through a wooded area...and was soon back at the A57 again. I crossed back over; this time I didn't have to wait as long.

I was still walking through the golf course, which was looking at its best with all the gorse in flower.

I passed through the hamlet of Cotterhill Woods and then walked along field boundaries until I reached the road. After a few hundred yards my footpath was to the left; there wasn't a sign, yet there were two pointing to the footpath going in the opposite direction. Even though the track appeared to be leading to a large farm I had confidence in my mapreading skills and proceeded. When I reached the large farm it looked like it was a stud farm or stables; there were certainly a lot of horses...and picket fences.

It was easy going until just before I reached South Carlton: I had to cross a field of rapeseed and there was so much pollen in the air that I could see it, and taste it. Almost instantly I was sneezing and my eyes were runny; this was the worst my hayfever has been in many years - fortunately it had cleared up by the time I reached Doncaster.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ranskill, Wiseton, Drakeholes, Mattersey, Mattersey Thorpe, Mattersey Grange, and Scrooby

Today was the first local walk I've done since the validity of my ENCTS travel pass was reduced, meaning that I can no longer travel for free on the train to Sheffield in order to reach the Peak District.

I caught the Retford bus; it departs from my local bus-stop and so I didn't have to walk into town. I got off at Station Road, Ranskill; for some reason unknown to me this is the only bus of the day which turns off the main road to serve the stop before reversing and continuing on its journey southwards. It did save me a couple of hundred yards walking through a bland housing estate though.

It was so cold today, more like the middle of winter than the beginning of April; it was quite sunny for long periods though and so decent conditions for photography.

I walked over the level crossing just about a minute before the klaxon sounded, the red lights flashed and the gates were lowered, and so I thought I might as well hang around to photograph the train. Well, what a pathetic effort...this is all I got - I completely missed it.

(This is the East Coast Main Line, and the trains travel very fast...that's my explanation/excuse.)

Beyond the level crossing the metalled surface is replaced by a gravel and limestone chipping surface leading to a small industrial estate; not very attractive to walk along. I soon reached open countryside though and was walking across meadows and along the edges of fields, passing a particular colourful clump of gorse.

At Wildgoose Farm I spotted a Landrover which made me wonder whether I needed to worry about more than just geese;  they can be quite vicious.

I arrived at Idle Valley Country Park next, an extensive area of artificial lakes, which looked like flooded gravel pits to me, but there's no mention as to what they are on the website. For several hundred yards I was basically surrounded by water on all sides, the terrain was very exposed in places and this was the coldest I've felt on a walk in a long time....I did stop to take some photographs though.

For about a mile I then walked across a recently-planted field; the soil was black, it must be very fertile. Just before reaching Clayworth I started  walking along the towpath of the Chesterfield Canal; passing Wiseton before reaching Drakeholes, which I would imagine on a warm summer's day when there are plenty of barges moored there would be quite attractive. I was pondering whether or not to have a pot of tea, or even a meal, at the pub, but I needn't have bothered - it was closed and boarded up. I was approached by a man who asked me if I knew who the owner of a motorcycle parked on the towpath might be; I told him I didn't know and I'd never been there before. He asked me where I was from; when I replied "Doncaster" he appeared to get in quite a state because he seemed not to be able to make up his mind as to whether I was, or should be, a local or not.

I walked along the road towards Mattersey, but took a bit of a diversion along a footpath which meant I had to climb up a hill and then descend back down to the village; in places where it was wooded it was quite reminiscent of some areas in the Peak District, and very unlike Nottinghamshire.

I walked through the village, then along the road to Mattersey Thorpe, and the lane to Mattersey Grange before continuing across the fields to Scrooby; one section was very I was happy!

By now I could hear the noise of the frequent trains again and soon arrived at the pedestrian footpath that crosses the railway. As I approached the gate allowing access to the tracks I could see a southbound train approaching; I managed to photograph this train, and I'm quite pleased with the result.

Before I could reach for the latch to open the gate another train approached, this time travelling northbound; I waited until it was too close and the photograph ended up out of focus.

I arrived at Scrooby with ninety minutes to wait for the next bus back to Doncaster. This wasn't going to be a problem, there's a pub there where I could have a meal - unfortunately, the chef was ill so I had to make do with a pot of tea, a diet Coke or Pepsi, and a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. I was the only customer in the pub; I busied myself by writing notes for this blog post and admiring the large collection of shotgun cartridges on display.

I'd been in the pub for about twenty minutes when the young barmaid arrived and I was entertained by overhearing her and the landlady gossiping about the lovelives of everyone they knew. Is this all that women talk about when they're together?  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Travel Pass Update

Well, it looks like the protests against the restrictions placed on the use of the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme here in South Yorkshire have begun. On Monday, the first day that passes were no longer valid on the trains, a group of over a hundred disabled and elderly passengers got on a train and refused to pay; and it looks like people are actively protesting online...and I've just signed an online petition.

It's not as though a lot of money is involved; the amount that the PTE is saving is only about £300,000 per year  - peanuts really, only about 15p per resident of the county.