Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Six Churches Walk - A ten mile circular from Wath-upon-Dearne

This is a walk I did last week, sans Sybil as her arthritis has been playing up lately. The route comes from a leaflet I picked up in Rotherham Visitor Centre a while back. It begins at Wath All Saints church, which was closed by the time I arrived, but after a brief look at the outside of the building I joined a footpath over a nearby field to arrive in Brampton Bierlow.

Wath-upon-Dearne All Saints
The weather was glorious and the wildflowers were waist-high and thriving. Several species of butterfly were enjoying the sun while it shone, but all too soon I was leaving the field and turning onto a rather busy road. The second church, West Melton United Reformed, was almost directly ahead; a plain, white building that didn't look like your typical church. This one was also closed so after taking a quick photo I moved on towards the next one, which was only a few hundred yards further up the road.

Red Admiral

West Melton United Reformed Church
Brampton Bierlow Christ Church, unlike the previous one, was more traditional-looking and I ventured into the grounds and took the opportunity to have a quick rest on a bench while taking in my surroundings. An outstanding view had opened up towards one of my destinations for the day, Hoober Stand. It is easy to get bogged down in the urban areas of Rotherham and to forget about the amazing countryside we have on our doorstep. It also made me aware of how far away Hoober seemed to be and that, despite having seen three of the six churches already, there were still plenty of miles to be covered. So after a quick drink I re-joined the pavement and continued on my way. 

Brampton Bierlow Christ Church

View towards Hoober Stand

The next few miles were a rather punishing slog along a country lane towards Elsecar. I was quite grateful that I hadn't brought Sybil as she is a nightmare on the lead and neither of us would have enjoyed being tethered to each other for this part.

On the Trans Pennine Trail
Eventually the slog ended and turned a corner to see a rather unusual sight: a train reversing along a track over the footpath. I waited until it had passed and carried on to join the Trans Pennine Trail. This was a rather lovely section alongside an old canal, regularly visited by volunteers who kept the area clean and unspoiled for others to enjoy.

This part of the walk alone made up for the previous couple of miles. A family of ducks swam by, clearly hoping I would throw some food their way. I resisted their cute little faces and enjoyed the cool shade of the towpath as I strode on towards the village. Soon it was time to leave the trail and veer right into Elsecar; a beautiful place with some rather lovely little cottages.

Reform Row cottages

Reform Row cottages
The next church was soon within sight. Elsecar Holy Trinity was set well back from the road with several stone angels watching over the bodies of the deceased. Again this church was closed, as it was now late afternoon, so after a quick walk around the grounds I carried on towards Elsecar Heritage Centre for a refreshment break.
Elsecar Holy Trinity Church

Elsecar Heritage Centre
This was my first visit to the centre and I was somewhat pleasantly surprised at the natural beauty of the buildings. I guess I was expecting several grubby engines and a fume-coated museum, but instead my interest was piqued by craft and antique shops. I resolved to come back for a proper look the following week. After a decent rest I headed on towards Wentworth and the last two churches of the day.
Moving away from Elsecar, I took a footpath leading back out into open countryside. A huge field merged into King's Wood, which was where the directions got a little confusing. The route was fairly old and it seemed that time or vandals had removed the wooden marker arrows from the trail, but luckily I had walked this way before and carried on up through the wood to be rewarded with a view of Wentworth on the horizon.
Wentworth Old Holy Trinity Church

Wentworth Old Holy Trinity Church
A nice downhill stroll between two hedges brought me out into the village. Here there were two churches practically side by side; one of them almost a ruin now as the village is served by the newer, larger church nearby. Interestingly, the old church was open and I went inside to have a nosey.
Wentworth Old Holy Trinity
The interior was small yet full of incredible stone figures. Several information boards were dotted around, mainly about the Churches Conservation Trust that was looking after the building. Soon it was time to move on to the last church of the walk, Wentworth Holy Trinity, just across the track.

Wentworth Holy Trinity

This church was also open and I had the whole place to myself. The interior was very impressive, with several stained glass windows depicting scenes of the deer park and nature at her best. An image of the wildlife that can be seen around the village caught my eye. Mad March hares were boxing in a field and pheasants were bursting from the grass, no doubt waiting until they were almost underfoot before revealing themselves.
Wentworth Holy Trinity

Wentworth Deer Park

Wentworth Holy Trinity

Wentworth Holy Trinity
I'm not sure if it was due to the delightful stained glass, or the general openness of the large church, but this was the first church I'd felt somewhat comfortable being in for a long time. Losing my mum three years ago had made me feel very bitter towards religion of any sort, yet this building felt non-judgemental. I guess having the church to myself helped as well.
Hoober Stand
The route continued through the village of Wentworth before turning off over several fields and heading towards Hoober Stand. I've been here a few times before with Sybil so enjoyed the feeling of being on familiar turf before leaving the woods and starting a punishing descent back to Wath on narrow, country lanes. It had turned 7pm before I reached my start point of Wath All Saints; at this point the church felt like an old friend and I was ready for home.
Wath All Saints sundial

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A stroll through Scholes and Wentworth

Yesterday's walk was one I've done many times, yet one I will never get tired of repeating. We started just outside the village of Scholes and walked up the main street, admiring the gorgeous houses and giving a quick fuss to the horses as we passed. Before long, we reached the entrance to Scholes Coppice and Sybil made the most of her freedom by promptly finding a squirrel to chase.

Keppel's Column
An immediate right turn saw us heading up onto Keppel's Field, with the Column dominating from the top right-hand corner. Sybil was truly enjoying the walk now; the field was unusually busy for a weekday, with plenty of other dogs for her to annoy. We skirted around the cattle enclosure and re-entered Scholes Coppice, passing the Iron Age Fort of Caesar's Camp.

Sybil at Caesar's Camp

Bumping into an old friend
It was here we saw my niece and her Labrador, Meg. Meg went crazy, jumping up at me and trying to eat my camera, as I hadn't seen her for a while and she had obviously missed me. Sybil came up and had a quick sniff and fuss then disappeared again, back to terrorizing the local squirrels. We parted ways and carried on towards Wentworth via the Greasbrough Dams, crossing over a field with ridiculously heavy clay soil that stuck to my boots and slowed progress considerably.

Taking half the field with me

Greasbrough Dams
After shaking the worst of the mud off, we finally reached the dams. At the estate road we turned left, heading towards Wentworth Woodhouse which had recently been in the news for being awarded a substantial amount of cash for it's renovation. Curiously, a collection of vehicles were parked outside the stately home. Getting closer, I noticed that one of the trucks had "TV and Film Make Up" written on the side; obviously something was being filmed here. But what? And more importantly, was this my chance to shine by sneaking onto camera and getting my fifteen minutes of fame?

A gentleman working for the company informed us that a drama called King Charles III was being filmed and would be broadcast on the TV next year. The conversation proved to be very interesting, as he also told us other programmes that had used Wentworth Woodhouse as a filming location, such as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Wentworth Woodhouse, TV star
Thanking him, we moved on and had a brief look at the old stables behind the house. Sadly, no horses are still around to call this their home, so we moved on and came out into Wentworth village. It was at this point I managed to twist my ankle badly, making the rest of the walk a rather painful effort; being a hardy Northerner, however, I was able to grin and bear it.

View from the stable gates

The old stables

The stable gates

The stable gates
Passing Wentworth Garden Centre, we then crossed a large field that took us back down towards Scholes. Keppel's Column appeared on the horizon, empathising how far I had walked; which made me feel slightly better considering how tender my ankle was feeling.

One of the many follies in the area

Morley Pond
Even Sybil was tiring by now, and mindful of her arthritic hips we made it a steady walk back to the car. Two injured, tired, yet totally relaxed and happy creatures finally made it home and spent the res of the evening having a well-deserved cuddle and resting up for the next adventure.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Oh Deer. A bracing walk along White Edge.

Thursday was the first time in a long while that I have managed to get out for a decent walk by myself. With my own mental health suffering as of late and Sybil recently being diagnosed with arthritis in her hips, we've been limited to short local walks and allotment duties. But having heard about the red deer lurking in the Peak District near the Longshaw Estate, I was determined to go and see them.

Padley Gorge
The train to Sheffield was delayed and as a result Sybil and I ended up sandwiched between a suited businessman and an equally posh lady in a black skirt and expensive blouse. After years of taking Sybil on public transport, I've discovered that the other passengers will react to her in one of two ways: they will smile as she wags her tail and forces them to make eye contact with her, eventually resulting in them fussing her for the duration of the journey. Or they will scowl and do their best to ignore her as she inches closer and closer to them, intent on winning them over yet failing miserably. Our travelling companions on this train unfortunately fell into the latter group and pointedly brushed their clothes down as Sybil got too close to them. I would get her to sit in front of my legs only for the train to lurch sideways each time, unsettling her and making her stand up again. Our suited friends eyed her warily, frowning at the dog hairs drifting through the carriage ready to land on their designer clothes. Our discomfort finally ended as we pulled into Sheffield station where Sybil was just as keen to leave the train as I was.

Padley Gorge's glorious Autumn colours
The next train in our journey was waiting for us to board and Sybil dragged me along the platform, eager to get the travelling over and get to a place she could finally be off-lead. This time, we had a block of four seats to ourselves and indeed most of the carriage, as no doubt most people were too sensible to spend such a cold day out in the hills when rain was forecast. I settled in my seat, pulling Sybil out of the way when a lady with a bike got on. This time, Sybil's magic worked and she was soon getting her much-needed attention from the woman while we chatted and soon found we had quite a lot in common. It seemed we both used walking as a type of therapy to improve our mental health. She told me how exercise and being outdoors helps to lift her mood while I mentioned how my anxiety can make it incredibly difficult to get out of the house sometimes, and how important Sybil was to me in that respect. By the time the train reached our station, Sybil was practically sitting on the woman's knee and I hastily removed my weapon of mass affection and we all left the train together, parting ways at the Grindleford Café and wishing each other luck for our respective walks.


Our route took us up through Padley Gorge, an amazingly beautiful woodland with living moss on every rock and the autumn colours offering a scene unrivalled by any television screen or mobile phone display. We've walked through this wood many times, but never at the height of this season so it was especially wonderful to see. All too soon the view opened up towards Carl Wark and Higger Tor and we headed over towards the Longshaw Estate.

Carl Wark and Higger Tor

Longshaw pond
It was at this point that I realised I'd forgotten something important: my camera battery. I'd charged it the night before, but in a moment of unexplainable stupidity I'd neglected to put it back in the camera. So I had a rather useless camera body now taking up space in my backpack and only my phone camera to take pictures with. I wouldn't be too upset; only, my phone camera is rubbish at taking decent photos using the zoom, and the main purpose of this walk was to see the deer which would obviously be some distance away. I consoled myself by indulging in a hot chocolate at the Longshaw tearoom before continuing the journey toward the busy A road at the beginning of White Edge Moor.

Everything the light touches...
Carefully crossing the road, we joined a track that quickly became rough and uneven. It didn't faze Sybil though; she bounded along in front as easily as if she was half-mountain goat rather than half-collie. We followed the Edge to the left, enjoying the fantastic views of the Dark Peak - the green hills in the distance contrasting nicely with the bracken-clad slopes immediately below us. It wasn't long before I spotted my first deer on the horizon: an impressive-looking stag with several hinds. I was ecstatic, and happily shared my binoculars with a passing dog-walker whilst Sybil attempted to play nicely with his spaniel. I decided to carry on to the trig point after another group of hikers told me there were more deer further along the Edge; and sure enough after a decent stretch of walking, more stags appeared to my left, even closer this time. I tried my best to get a photo of them, and managed these very blurry ones after placing my phone camera up to my binoculars and using the extra "zoom" the best I could.

First stag

A young stag with his own little harem
Eating my lunch whilst sitting so close to these majestic beasts was easily one of the highlights of my life. I finished my sandwiches just as the weather started closing in, so with my hood firmly up and hands in pockets, I whistled to Sybil and we started back the way we had come.

At the trig point

Companion Stones
Walking back was a difficult slog in the wind and rain, especially with this being my first challenging hike in a long time. Running only on banana sandwiches, it was a relief to finally reach the tearoom again and I treated myself to another hot chocolate, mainly to warm my hands up, and a flapjack which of course I shared with my loyal walking companion. Although not so loyal on the way back through Padley Gorge, where she decided she would join two gentlemen in front rather than stick to the snail's pace I was setting.

Thankfully the train journey home was uneventful, as we missed the main rush hour and worn-out Sybil was more interested in curling up under my seat than seeking out new friends. A hot bath and warm food were calling me, along with my friend Adam when I managed to get signal on my phone. "Do you fancy coming to a bonfire tonight?"

Oh deer.