Sheffield, final week

Posted on: 20 Sep 2016

I had such a lovely run this evening (Monday) - really enjoyed it. The temperature dropped about 15° over the weekend, and the cooler conditions suit me so much better. Definite feeling of autumn now. But meanwhile...........


Still July.......... still Sheffield.......... one more week to go.

To my delight, my brother seemed to have taken to this walking malarkey somewhat - at any rate, the suggestion for the next one was his: along the Peak Forest Canal from Whaley Bridge to Bugsworth Basin, to include a pub lunch. He'd planned it on Google Earth, looked up all the historical information to play tour guide (he's actually very good at this), and had even planned an interesting route in the car to get there, taking in lots of scenic minor roads. Alas, Little Rusty Heap had other ideas, breaking down spectacularly on the busy road between Peak Forest and Sparrowpit. S. managed to pull in by a gateway, and he and J. spent some time crawling about assessing the problem, while lorries thundered past inches away. It turned out to be a broken exhaust. Tried phoning the RAC, but neither S's phone nor J's could get a connection. (The garage man apparently grinned on hearing this, and said that road is notorious for this problem.) Finally, S. found a piece of nylon rope looped over the gate, serving no visible purpose, and appropriated it to tie up the exhaust. With this low-tech solution, he nervously coaxed his ailing car home at a steady 25mph. It was horrendously noisy, and seemed to take forever. Castleton was swarming with schoolkids with clipboards, all laughing and pointing as we trundled slowly past, making an unholy racket. Far more interesting than whatever project they were occupied with, apparently. We did eventually make it back safely (and not totally deaf)......... but so much for S's carefully planned walk, alas.

The next one (we're now up to Tuesday 12th July) was a 'real' (non-urban) walk, taking in the moors and edges west of Sheffield. Bus from Crosspool to Moscar Lodge. 2 others also got off here; one immediately strode off into the distance, the other began faffing with his rucksack, so we slotted ourselves into the middle and set off up the moorland path. After so much rain, it was exceedingly boggy! - the whole moor was like a giant sponge. Our boots - cheap trekking shoes bought in a sale some years ago, and kept in Sheffield to save having to bring any with us from Switzerland - were not particularly good in this respect, involving us in a lot of tussock hopping as we tried to pick our way through the mud and water. Faffing man presently overtook us in his Very Serious Walking Boots, so then we felt okay about dawdling, view-admiring, and photo-taking. (Quite a dull day, actually - but at least not raining.)




The path took us up to High Neb (macabre detail: my father once found the badly decomposed body of a man here, who was never identified, and was buried in a nameless grave in Hathersage), and on to Stanage Edge, the best-known of all the local gritstone 'edges'. Quite a few climbers to be seen. The path, now a wider track, bore away from the edge and over to Stanedge (sic - this has always puzzled me) Pole. Apparently it was renewed earlier this year - though I'm sure it used to be taller. A couple more photos here,

then I had what was definitely not one of my better ideas: to cut back over to the edge via a path which is okay in dry weather........... which this was not! As it disappeared into a sea of sphagnum moss, cotton grass, and ankle-ricking tussocks of coarse grass concealing pools of water, I increasingly regretted trusting my recollections of a much drier summer. Serious sense of humour failure! Eventually, dry feet and trouser legs being definitively a thing of the past, I gave up trying to find the best way (there wasn't one) and just marched through whatever lay ahead of me. Back on the comparative dryness of the path along the edge, we squelched some way along it towards Burbage. Our effort was not entirely in vain, however, as we rescued a huge, hairy caterpillar (the second of 3) from certain death by trampling. Turning round again, we walked back along the edge to its junction with a proper path (though even this was a quagmire), returned to the Pole, and continued along the Long Causeway to Redmires. Round the reservoir; this path also quite boggy today. I was reminded of the time, many years ago, when I made the mistake of going out with the Dark Peak Fell Runners (a very hardcore bunch) on one of their evening runs. They were out of my league, I just couldn't keep up. All but one of them hared off into the distance, leaving him to get me safely back. Unfortunately he got lost and led us both into a deep bog full of iron stained water. My shoes and socks never recovered. Even my feet were orange for a week. Though they were very friendly to me at the pub afterwards ("See you next week!"), I never dared go back! From the end of the reservoir, just the final stretch along the conduit, sights set now on a well-earned beer at the Three Merry Lads. A dog walker just ahead of us diverted into the woods to the left; thinking this was a short cut over to the road, we followed. This was our second mistake of the day; it soon became apparent that she had no more clue where she was going than we had. Moreover it was very boggy here too, the narrow paths inches deep in mud, and hemmed in by impenetrable brambles. We overtook the dog walker, who had stopped and was staring disconsolately at a particularly extensive expanse of mud, and didn't see her again. So near and yet so far! - on we rambled, just trying to find a way out, like some hideous fairy tale. Is that the witch's house in the distance? - oh no, it's the Sportsman, the other pub (the one where I eventually adjourned with the fell runners.) Emerging finally into the car park there, we climbed over the chain link fence, where I managed to tweak a muscle in my leg, and hot-footed it back up the road to our hostelry of choice. Too late: closed! This was a major disappointment, as I was really looking forward to that beer, and a visit to the Three Merry Lads has become something of a tradition on our visits to Sheffield. Back again to the Sportsman, hoping to find a welcome there............. Nope, also closed. Nothing else for it then, the short trek along the road to the bus terminus, and head for home. Getting off the bus at Crosspool, we did call in at the Crosspool Tavern, since it was open(!), but the wish had lost its impetus, somehow.

But it was not altogether abandoned........... The next afternoon, we went to visit my 97 year old aunt, who lives at Lodge Moor, which is just about at the top of the world. Since we were car-less, we walked there; we could have got a bus, but it was S's idea to go on foot. It was mine, however, to extend the walk afterwards to........... yes, the Three Merry Lads. I thought S. would pour cold water on this suggestion, but no, he was up for it. I think he found it further than he remembered, but we got there eventually, and enjoyed the anticipated beer, sitting inside the marquee on the terrace. (We did try sitting outside, but it was too windy- our crisps were getting blown away!) I assumed we would get the bus back, but - again at S's suggestion - we walked all the way home. A hilly there-and-back of some 12 kms, and at a good pace. He surprises me sometimes.

He did so again, the following Saturday, by accompanying me to parkrun - to spectate, at least, if not to participate. I actually wish I could get him involved - he's become such a hermit, he has no social life at all, and I think it would be a good way for him to get out and meet people. (And it's free! - another important criterion when you have very little money.) I've told him it doesn't necessarily involve running - lots of people walk it. Or he could volunteer. "And stand there in the pouring rain every week?" he said scathingly. I assured him it's not a permanent weekly commitment - you just volunteer when you want to. (And it doesn't ALWAYS rain!) So far, my persuasive efforts have fallen on stony ground, but I haven't given up yet. Coming to spectate is a start, at least, given his opinion of runners (mad, masochistic, or both.) No J. this time - he'd already gone back to Switzerland. No Lucy either - she was being a parkrun tourist at Bushy Park. The route back to normal this week, and slightly less people. (And not raining. Dull, warm, and steamy.) Positioning myself a little more assertively in the line-up this time, I got off to a better start, and was confident I could improve on the previous week's effort. Which I did, though only by about half a minute (29:23. 303 of 495; 82 of 188 women; 2nd of 11 in age category.) I had to run on feel, as my Garmin stopped working after 5 minutes, so I had no indication of pace or time - it was okay, though. Managed a sprint finish at the end again, overtaking a boy, and then a man in a '50' tee shirt. Another woman evidently did the same, as she was just behind me at the finish; spotting my Garmin, she asked me our time, so I had to explain apologetically that for once I didn't know. The usual photographer was back, but unfortunately did not manage to catch me in a single photo. The cafe queue was long this week, so we decided to skip the tea and scone ( a bit regretfully on my part, since I will now have to wait another year before I can enjoy one again!) and headed for home and our fish and chips. I do feel Hallam parkrun has got a bit too big for its own good. For me, it's really the only viable one I can get to (we did try Hillsborough once, but it's much further, and we got seriously lost on the way there, and almost missed the start), but I wish some of the people with transport would favour one of Sheffield's other 4 parkrun venues. Perhaps it's loyalty that keeps them coming to this one, the first and oldest. Or its position, central to where most of the running community probably lives. It has got very crowded, though - more than double the size it used to be when I first went.

The next morning (Sunday 17th July), it was a lovely day, so I was out with S. again, on a walk I'd found in a local free magazine. Driving to Low Bradfield (the car being semi-mended - just waiting for a minor spare part to arrive from Ireland to complete the repair), we parked by the village cricket pitch, and walked round Agden reservoir. A very pleasant walk, despite losing our way at one point and having to climb over a fence at the end of a very brackeny path right by the water. The description in the magazine may have been a little exaggerated ('The scent of the pines is intoxicating.......... you could imagine yourself in any of the great European forests..........'), but it really was very enjoyable, even S. agreed, as well as some very happy dogs we met. It was supposed to be 5 kms, but came out at only 4.27 kms; my joking suggestion of a couple of rounds of the cricket pitch to make up the shortfall met a withering reaction, however!

Two days later, it was me heading back to Switzerland. S drove me to Manchester airport. We always take the scenic route via Castleton, Goyt Valley, and the interestingly named Pott Shrigley, and generally stop on the way for (thermos) tea and a biscuit to make it more of an outing. This time, we stopped at Whaley Bridge and actually did some of the canal walk S. had planned. There wasn't time to do all of it, let alone include the pub lunch, but I got my history lesson on Benjamin Outram, his engineering work on the canal, and saw the house where he used to live. (It has a little blue plaque on it now.) Maybe we can do the full version another time. It quite gladdened my heart to see him taking to walking like this, and I think he was feeling the benefits too. It's disappointing (but not unexpected) that it hasn't lasted - he's just not inspired to go out on his own. It was a nice companionable end to my time in England, though, and I was half sorry to leave and half looking forward to getting back to Luzern.

Which is where the next chapter begins...........

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