Saturday 3rd May – Earl Sterndale – We arrive in this Peak District village for a weekend of camping. I find the landlord of The Quiet Woman pub on whose land we will camp. “I’ll move the lawnmowers,” he says and goes into the field to remove the flock of sheep and lambs. We set up our tent and head to the pub for beers and pork pies. Goldfinches are singing in the trees above the seats outside. This is a working farming community – tractors pass, trailers with sheep and dogs, the sounds of sheep, chickens and donkeys! Swallows and House Martins swoop low over the roofs whilst a few Swifts are much higher in the sky. Some hens come around from the back of the pub to see what there is to eat, followed by a magnificent cockerel with a bright red comb and wattle, body feathers of every hue of burnished brass, gold and copper and a arching tail of long, green curved feathers. A Mistle Thrush alights on a tree on the village green and rasps. The others in our group trickle in during the afternoon. In the early evening there is an extraordinary range of Indian food, which despite our best efforts, we hardly seem to make a dent in.
Sunday 4th May – Earl Sterndale – It has been a long night! At about 3am a Tawny Owl lets out a loud hoot from the tree beside the tent. A little later one of the donkeys starts heehawing as though it is being castrated. Just as soon as there is the merest glimpse of dawn the cockerels in the chicken house over the wall start up – and do not stop. Dawn is long and damp. By mid-morning those who can sleep through anything have awoken and we have our traditional enormous fry-up breakfast.
Dove River Valley – Despite the threatening weather some of us decide a walk is required. We head up a footpath beside The Quiet Woman which leads up to a saddle on Hitter Hill. The donkeys are standing around looking seemingly innocent of the bellowing in the night. At the top splendid views are to be had in every direction, long green valleys, ragged limestone peaks and farms scattered across the hillsides. From the saddle the path drops down across the steep scarp slope, carved by glaciers and the River Dove. The path is muddy with frequent outcrops of limestone and is very slippery. It has started to rain again. On the hillside, in the grass is a small scattering of purple orchids, Dark-Red Helleborines – I think! Further along the hillside is a large outcrop of limestone with precipitous grassy slopes in between the rocks. The grass is covered with Cowslips. The path crosses a field full of deep holes made by cattle hooves; painful when ones heel slips into one; and joins a track at Underhill Cottage. The old water pump stands by the wall. The track continues past Underhill – a farm. An extension to the farmhouse looks old but the marks in the wall above it shows the line of a previous roof, thus the extension used to stick out at a right-angle to the wall but now extends along the wall as a lean-to.
The track continues along the valley until it meets Green Lane Path which drops down a lush meadow to the River Dove and Beggar’s Bridge. The river is more a large stream bubbling over rocks. The path, now in Staffordshire, continues up the hill and across very boggy fields until it reaches an old barn. There is now a metalled road up the hillside. The road serves the sewage farm nearby. The road leads up to Longnor, entering the village at “Top o’ th’ Edge”. It is now raining steadily and I am soaked inside and out. We get to the Old Cheshire Cheese pub, where I discover my fleece has no wicking properties whatsoever and water is running down my arms and my T-shirt is saturated. On the wall of the pub is a list of landlords and landladies from 1708 and a description of them and their many jobs – often auctioneers and farmers. The village is first recorded in 1227, Langenofer, meaning “long slope”, although there was a settlement hereabouts in Saxon times around 700CE. The village was a thriving market town as it lay on trade routes between London and Buxton,the salt and textiles of Cheshire and the Potteries to the south. The growth of modern transport systems and movement to industrial centres brought about a steady decline so Longnor is now a pleasant and quiet village. The current landlord of the pub is a talented magician who performed card tricks at our table. It is amazing that even though we know it is all about distraction and misdirection, we still cannot see how the tricks are being done. He ended by placing a card between Joy’s hands and claiming to have changed it to another and back again – a bit of a joke until he returned a few minutes later to give Ken a “prize” - Joy’s watch with a leather strap and buckle which he had removed without any of us, including Joy had noticed. We spent longer in the pub than originally intended because it was now raining heavily and the road outside was a small stream! When it subsided, we headed back down the hill and across the river, which had risen noticeably and up Green Lane, round between High Wheeldon and Aldery Cliff back into Earl Sterndale. We manage to eat most of the left-over curries.
Monday 5th May – Earl Sterndale – The night was quieter although before dawn a Curlew keened long and loudly from the hills above. For some reason the sheep seemed restless and were baaing continuously. At dawn, a Blackbird and numerous House Sparrows sang and chattered the dawn chorus to be joined by the cockerels reasonably later in the morning, i.e. past five o’clock. After cooking a kedgeree for breakfast, actually easier than I had thought on the camp stoves, we broke camp and headed back home covered in mud.
Wednesday 7th May – Home – There is a mist beyond the trees at dawn but by breakfast it has burned off and it is a glorious day. The grass has been shooting up like a green fire and needs cutting again. I use the old hovermower as I have stored the big mower away for the seemingly ever delayed move. The noise makes a small golden tan frog moves out of the grass clump under the flowering cherry and heads off across the lawn. Three Swifts, the true bringers of summer, scream overhead and race low across the garden. A Speckled Wood butterfly flits around a patch we have left to run wild. Cherry petals fall like confetti. A Blackbird is singing fitfully, his dawn chorus over now. Blue Tits search the apple trees for bugs. Several tubes stick out of the pond and are just beginning to unroll into lily pads. Behind the pond, the violin-head shaped ferns are also unrolling. The lawn looks just a little better, my hand is blistered and I am hot.
Friday 9th May – Barnsley – Down Summer Lane and across the Town End roundabout, pausing for a moment to remember the great pub, The Wheatsheaf, that was demolished to be replaced by this paean to the motor car. Then up Racecommon Road, but my ankle is becoming a problem. Actually, the ankle is not that painful, but I have obviously over-compensated for it and my achilles tendon, hamstring and hip are all painful. So my planned walk out of town is stymied. Instead I turn into the maze of streets to the east. Clarendon Street ends at the playing fields of the Longcar Road School, which has just been demolished. Willow Street runs off back towards Racecommon Road, just a path leading in front of the terrace of houses. Back down Clarendon Street, where there are archways between blocks of terraces leading to yards behind the houses with a privy in each. Two houses had triple front windows, each window separated by a stone pillar, but in both cases the pillars have been removed and a large double-glazed plastic window inserted – probably far more practical but a shame to have lost the original feature. Turn into Pitt Street West, a strange mixture of small terraced houses, modern club and a tall Victorian terrace. Then comes the graveyard of St Georges Church. The church stood here from 1821 but closed in 1980 and was demolished in 1993. The graves of the Victorian Spencers of Rob Royd are here. So too is a tall monument to the Pitt family. In George Street is a strange half-timbered building, housing St Georges Suite although it is tatty and dirty and has a disused look about it. The Salvation Army have a coffee morning around the back. Down to Peel Square, where there are some quite imposing buildings, although the modern shop frontages do nothing to enhance the image, nor does a ghastly modern block down one side, with one remnant standing with “Builder’s Exchange” high in relief on the stonework.
Into Eldon Street where the Victorian and Edwardian buildings continue, the Eldon Building dated 1910. A faint reminder of an old Barnsley institution is high above Lancaster’s Estate Agents, the “Ring Shop” can still be seen in the paintwork and a scroll further down announces “Established 1898”. The large clock, labelled “The Time” is broken. The late 19th century Civic Hall is undergoing a considerable refurbishment. The frontage looks excellent but for some reason a square lump of what looks like monochrome Tiffany lamp-glass has been stuck on the end of the hall. A bar, The Room, is housed in what looks like an early 20th century civic building. On the corner of Regent Street South is a large block containing a number of shops, with the above floors being designed in ornate limestone with a monogram “WC” on the corner. To the east now is the new Interchange, the less said the better. To the west is the Courthouse, now a pub. There is a considerable wall running down Eldon Street with buttresses at the top end which would have formed part of the long gone Courthouse Station and railway lines. Eldon Street South, once called Wharncliff Cut, is lined with late Victorian terraced housing, many small shops. Towards the bottom are two rows of terraces, Eldon Cottages and Spa Well Cottages. Spa Well Terrace stands by the old school. The spa well stood nearby but has now gone. Round the wall as Eldon Street enters Old Mill Lane. Over the wall is stone walled and bedded stream, although the name stream is being generous, it is little more than a fancy ditch. Over the road to Asda supermarket, standing on the site of the old Star Paper Mills and down to Fleets Dam.
Fleets Dam – The sky is grey but it is warm and quite humid. There are still several Great Crested Grebes on the lake along with a pair of Mallard, three Canada Geese, Grey Herons and the odd Moorhen. Speckled Wood and Orange Tip butterflies flit around the emerging flowers. Only the male Orange Tip has the orange markings on the wings giving the species its name. The plain white females are also present. Stinging Nettles have grown rapidly as also, regrettably has the invasive Japanese Knotweed.
Barnsley Canal – Out from Fleets Dam and over the road to the beginning of the remains of the canal. The recent warm spell has dried out most of the tow-path. I rest a while on the seats at the site of the long demolished canal-keeper’s cottage. The area is full of Ribworth Plantain with their haloes of white flowers. Clumps of brilliant yellow Dandelions brighten the dark green grasses. A Chiffchaff calls loudly and persistently, but there is little other bird song. A Grey Heron flies up the valley. A Green Woodpecker starts yaffling somewhere over near the Loop.
Tuesday 13th May – Notton – A village on the Barnsley-Wakefield border. The name comes from the Old English, hnoc and tun meaning a “wether sheep” and “enclosure” respectively. The land was held by the Saxon Godric pre-Conquest and by Ilbert de Laci after 1066 and in the Domesday Book was recorded as being 6 carucates of land worth 20 shillings. The land passed through numerous hands, eventually passing to the church on reformation, firstly Monk Bretton Priory, then Nostell Priory and finally the Hospital of St Johns of Jerusalem. By Victorian times, the Lord of the Manor were the Wentworths. The village was historically small, a scattering of houses and farmsteads. Although there is a Post Office, the village does nor possess a public house, church or school. It grew in the 20th century mainly as a dormitory village for Barnsley and Wakefield. Across Notton Green to George Lane and east. Oak trees have new, pristine light emerald leaves with thick beards of flowers. Gill Bridge crosses a small stream that used to feed into an area up the valley called “The Ings”. At the bridge George Lane becomes Notton Lane rising up Grimpit Hill, although it was formally known as “Green Gate Hill”. Smawell Lane heads north, my route. Smawell comes from the Old English or maybe Norse, meaning small well or spring. On the 1854 map, the lane is called Smow Lane. Beside the stream is a dense mass of Stinging Nettles. By the roadside, Hogweed leaves are large but no flower head yet. Spanish Bluebells, a blousy and invasive variety are present in clumps. Up the lane, the hedgerow has been flailed leaving raw wounds in the old wood. A Blackcap calls from the trees covering the hillside to the east. Red Campion blooms in the long grass. A large Oak tree, several hundred years old, stands in the hedgerow. A large gall is attached to a twig. Hedge Mustard and Stitchwort flower. A Whitethroat makes short rasping calls as it moves through another Oak seeking food. A large field of green wheat runs down to the where The Ings lay. A Lapwing flies low over the sea of grain. Native Bluebells, far more demure and delicate, grow in the hedgerow bottom here. A pasture rises up the slope; a Mistle Thrush gathers worms from the grass. The verge is covered with Crosswort, bright green leaves with whorls of tiny yellow flowers. Tendrils of Woody Nightshade, or Bittersweet, climb the hedge. The lane turns east. On the corner there is a profusion of bird song – Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Robin. The lane rises to join Bleakley Lane, which is the boundary of Notton and Cold Hiendley. Just up the lane is a bridge over a disused railway line, the LMS West Riding Lines, the Chevet Line. Goldfinches sing in the trees and Swallows sweep low over the road.
Wednesday 14th May – Huddersfield Road, Barnsley – Walking down the road regularly can lead to a “blindness” to the various shrubs and trees that adorn the gardens of both houses and commercial properties. Trees have new, pristine leaves emerging, although a Copper Beech is already infected with a small white moth. Many shrubs are flowering, Lilacs, Hawthorn, Ivy, Forsythia, Rowan and Broom. There is a grove of Bluebells in the Quakers’ graveyard. Click here for a slide show.
Thursday 15th May – Penistone – The Church of St John the Baptist is open, so time for a visit. There was a church on the site from around 900CE, but the current building dates from about 1300. The nave has a fine wooden roof with 33 carved bosses dating from around 1375. Clear clerestory windows were added in the 14th century. There is a mixture of modern and older stained glass. The chancel dates from 1300 with an 18th century extension. The altar stone was found in a wall cavity at St James the Less Church in Midhopestones in the 1970s, having most likely been hidden during the Reformation. One wall of the chancery contains memorials to the West and Fenton families. Sir Thomas West, 1st Baron West of Oakhanger married Joan De La Warr, a descendant of Henry III, in 1384, to become Lord De La Warr. Later members of the family include Thomas West, (born 1557, died 1618) the 3rd Baron in the second creation, also called the 12th Baron, was the Englishman, Delaware giving his name to the bay, river, American Native tribe and State of the USA. He also gave his name to the military academy, West Point. Reginald Sackville, the 7th Earl De La Warr, in the 19th century transformed a small village in Sussex which he named Bexhill-on-Sea. The famous De La Warr Pavilion, a masterpiece of art deco architecture was built in Bexhill in 1935 on the instigation of the 9th Earl. William Fenton married Frances West in the 18th century. On the other wall are impressive marble monuments dated to 1708 and 1714 bearing the crest of the Bosvilles of Gunthwaite.
Sunday 18th May – Cannon Hall – A local history event is being held at this museum near Cawthorne. The event itself proves to be a little disappointing, but we have never visited the museum itself, so it seems an opportune time. As I have recorded before Cannon Hall was built in the early part of the 18th century on the site of an earlier manor house. It was enlarged for John Spencer with additions of wings between 1764-67 by John Carr of York, the county’s most prestigious architect responsible for buildings such as Harewood House, north of Leeds; Constable Burton in Leyburn, North Yorkshire; the old Nottingham racecourse grandstand, the Assembly Rooms, Nottingham; the wonderful Assembly Rooms in Buxton and even the Hospital of San Antonio in Oporto, Portugal. The house was sold to Barnsley Council in 1951 by the last member of the family, Elizabeth. The gardens and park were designed by Richard Woods of Chertsey in the 18th century. It is said that Capability Brown visited the park and whilst admiring it stated he would have done it better! The museum is a mixture of rooms, some set out as the Spencer-Stanhopes would have had them, a substantial display from the William Harvey Collection and displays of pottery and glassware, particularly a fine collection of Moorcroft pottery. The gardens are splendid as the Rhododendrons are in flower – great blowsy blooms in striking colours and just a few more subtle varieties. A Moorhen has well grown chicks on a small pond in the area of the garden called “Fairyland”. Said to have been designed in the late 19th century by Cecily Spencer-Stanhope, the pond is surrounded by flower beds enclosed by stone arches from Silkstone and Cawthorne churches when the were rebuilt at that time.
Monday 19th May – Liverpool – An exhibition Exhibition organised by the Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, USA of “Art in the Age of Steam” brings us to this great north-western city. Liverpool is the European City of Culture for 2008, which makes it odd that the whole place is like a building site. No views can be had without a crane or scaffolding being an eyesore; the streets are chaotic with many being dug up; traffic is continuous and the entry into Liverpool from the M62 is through miles of dereliction. It is a pity as the city is full of magnificent monumental architecture. Of course, there is some brutal concrete monstrosities around but unlike in many northern cities, the older buildings simply overwhelm the modern rubbish, not the other way round. We head from the Albert Dock through the centre, overlooked by St John’s Beacon, a tower topped by a restaurant, once revolving but now seized, standing some 102 metres high, past Lime Street Station – being refurbished, to the Walker. This area of Liverpool is stunning being a group of some of the largest public buildings in England – St George’s Hall outside which stand vast bronzes of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, both on horseback and a long war memorial in bronze. Other imperial monuments adorn the concourse. At the end stands Stebles Fountain and beyond is the Walker Art Gallery. The Age of Steam exhibition is excellent with some classic pieces such as Frith’s “The Railway Station”, many fine French masterpieces from artists such as Pissaro, Manet and Monet, two Hoppers and some exquisite early American photographs. The rest of the gallery is, for me like so many art galleries, simply overwhelming. Many famous pictures hang here, particularly notable is “When Did You Last See Your Father” by Yeames, the Pre-Raphaelite collection and some huge battlescapes, including two depicting “The Death of Nelson”. However, after a while the pictures seem to blur into one another. I think art galleries need to be visited often so that small selections can be viewed each time.
We leave the Walker and head down the hill past two more huge Victorian buildings – the Museum and the Library. Back down into the city shopping centre where here, again, much refurbishment is being undertaken. The streets are small canyon floors passing through the vertical cliffs of stone buildings. There are many fine buildings here, two stand out, one a chocolate and cream layered confection and the other an ornate pile of white and orange tiles topped with chocolate balustrade. Both are unoccupied, which is a worry – I trust there are conservation listings on both. We head out of the shopping centre and through the mass of roadworks to reach the Albert Docks. The Tate has a 20th century exhibition – we are impressed by the early 20th century works, Picasso, Degas, Bonnard, Cézanne and some later pieces, particularly a room of Warhols, but the more abstract stuff goes over our heads. From the Albert Dock we head up to the Anglican Cathedral and sit for a while in the enormous space it provides. The cathedral was designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1902 – he won a competition despite being only 22 years old with no portfolio of buildings and a Roman Catholic! It was started in 1904 and finished in 1978. It is notable that the earlier parts, such as the Lady Chapel are far more ornate and expensively finished than the later sections when the Second World War and the change in how benefactors provided money greatly reduced the available expenditure. We then headed down past China Town to find a pub we used in our last visit nine years ago – The Dispensary. We actually find it quite easily and settle down to a range of Cain’s ales. We finish the evening by going back to China Town and under the famous Chinese Arch. Here we found Chilli Chilli, a restaurant serving the most delicious spicy Szechuan food.
Tuesday 20th May – Crosby – North of Liverpool to this town on the coast of the Irish Sea. A path leads past a large lagoon towards the sea. To the south are the great Mersey Docks, sprawling for miles. But between them and the path are some shallow lagoons which form Seaforth Nature Reserve. I have not visited this site for nearly eleven years. Gulls are gathered on the shingle. Oystercatchers and Shelduck rest on the grass. Terns are extremely noisy as they chase, flying overhead and off around the lagoon. Swifts and House Martins are sweeping low over the grassy sand dunes. We reach the top of the sand dunes above the beach. The tide is out and on the sand, disappearing into the distance is one of the great art installations in the world – Anthony Gormley’s “Another Place”. One hundred cast iron life-sized statues, based on Gormley’s body, stand along three kilometres of sand, the furthest being one kilometre from the top of the beach. Gormley says “The seaside is a good place to do this. Here, time is tested by tide, architecture by the elements, and the prevalence of sky seems to question the Earth’s substance. This sculpture exposes to light and time the nakedness of a particular and peculiar body.” We head back and drive through Crosby and stop for breakfast. Afterwards we end up at the other end of the beach and now the tide is rising so some statues are beginning to disappear under the waves – maybe symbolising human death and rebirth when the tide recedes.
Thursday 22nd May – Home – It has been bright but overcast for the past few days resulting in the daytime temperatures being lower than one would expect and there has been a risk of frost at night. A row of radishes planted last week have sprouted and the little pairs of seed leaves stand out against the dry soil. Lettuces planted at the same time are less evident. I have also put some pots of French and Runner Beans in the greenhouse and some tomato seeds. Mistle Thrushes rarely venture into the garden, preferring to stay at the top of the trees. However, one is in the dead Laburnum tree and this does not please a male Blackbird. However, the Blackbird’s attempts to drive off the thrush are rebuffed and he can only stand and glare impotently. The weed in the ponds is thick enough to allow another Blackbird to stand on it and bathe.
Friday 23rd May – Barnsley Canal – I start the morning by cutting the front hedge, at least the part facing the pavement. This results in a green-bin and seven bin bags full so the rest of the hedge will have to wait. It is a filthy job and after I have cleaned up a bit it is off down Willowbank. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calls as it flies through the trees at the top of Willowbank. Over the railway and onto the open area. Hawthorns – May – is in blossom, a stunning sight looking like it has been snowing. Cow Parsley flowers on tall stalks enhance the white scene. Chiffchaffs are calling from various directions. Down on the canal the reed beds are full of green spears rising above the dull brown remains of last year. A Sedge Warbler is singing down around the Loop. Several rose stems have a bright orange fungal growth on them. By the canal bridge, Whitethroats are singing. A Hawthorn by the bridge is a beautiful red variety. Further along there is a large patch of Comfrey with bright purple bell flowers. The wide slopes below Greenfoot are spotted yellow with a multitude of buttercups. Up the slope a few Cuckoo Flowers have white flowers – they can vary from white through pink to deep purple. Swifts are everywhere, hardly surprising as the air is full of insects. At the top of the slope a pony has a foal which is obviously very young yet seems very large compared to its mother. They watch cautiously before hunger overcomes the foal and it goes to its mother to feed.
Tuesday 27th May – Fleets Dam – A brilliant red, orange, gold and purple northern sky last evening was no shepherd’s delight as this morning is dank and wet. A fine drizzle drifts across Willowbank. House Sparrows chatter in the bushes next to Smithies Lane. A Great Tit squeaking song rotates. Down at the Fleets a Whitethroat twists and spins in the air above a Willow sapling, singing his scratchy song before descending back to his perch, from which he mutters. Swifts glide slowly over the treetops. A few House Martins sweep low over the car park and lake. A female Bullfinch rises from a patch of what looks like Oilseed Rape by the edge of the lake and stands on a low Willow branch cleaning its bill by wiping it one side then the other on the wood. Mistle Thrushes are in tall trees over the River Dearne, obviously excited about something as they flap to and fro through the branches, rasping loudly. A Wren whirrs across the track into the dense verdant undergrowth. Everywhere is green, fresh and vibrant. Several Blackbirds are singing around the area. A duck Mallard with six ducklings moves out into the middle of the lake. A Grey Heron stands on the water conditioner with another on the old staging at the foot of the lake. A large Willow has fallen across the river and has caused a large pile-up of rubbish. A Chiffchaff calls by the Willow carr. The river is low and is confined to the centre lip of the weir. Below another Mallard also has six young which paddle furiously against the fast flow from the weir.
Friday 30th May – Meadowhall - Chapeltown – Meadowhall is a sprawling shopping centre with acres of car parks and two junctions on to the M1 motorway. On the other side of the motorway are the, now iconic cooling towers which are going to be demolished despite protests that they are now part of the landscape. However, the original landscape in virtually unrecognisable. The River Don still flows past the shopping centre, turns south-east for a stretch before meandering back north-eastwards towards Rotherham. It is enclosed in stone, brick and concrete walls throughout this stretch. The banks at the top of the stone are full of typical waste-ground flowers – Common Poppy, Red Campion, Wild Mignonette, one of the yellow Cabbage family, Cuckoo Flower and many others. Up the road towards the motorway junction. A long old rolling mill stands on one side; its corrugated iron roof rusts and colours the pavement below bright orange. The motorway junction probably stands on the site of the Meadow Hall, which stood on Roman Ridge, an Iron Age earthwork. It is interesting to note that Daniel Defoe in his “Tour Through England and Wales”, states, “Here is also the famous bank or trench which some call Devil’s Bank, others Danes Bank; but ‘tis frequent with us to give the honour of such great trenches, which they think was never worth the while for men to dig, to the devil, as if he had more leisure, or that it was less trouble to him than a whole army of men. This bank, ‘tis said, runs five miles in length; in some places ‘tis called Kemp Bank, in others Temple’s Bank.” As noted before, the bank can be discerned above Meadowhall on Wincobank and again towards Wentworth Woodhouse, but nothing remains here.
A concrete underpass leads down to the Blackburn road. Far below, Blackburn Brook runs through a dark and damp woodland. Down the road is The Railway pub and access to the disused railway, now part of the Trans-Pennine Trail. Up onto the trail where there is an abandoned station, Meadowhall and Wincobank railway station, known originally as Meadow Hall. The line as known as the “Blackburn Valley Line”, part of the South Yorkshire Railway, running from Aldham, near Wombwell and joining the Midland railway originally at the Wicker in Sheffield, then after 1864 it went via Woodburn Junction to Sheffield Victoria station. Meadowhall station closed in December 1953 and the line closed in 1987. The whole area is covered with the remnants of heavy industry. Whilst some remains as evidenced by humming generators and sharp hisses from air valves, much of the area is derelict. A detour takes me back to Blackburn. The Royal Oak stands away from the road. Further back towards Meadowhall is The Sportsman, a Gilmour’s (Sheffield brewer, Duncan Gilmour, merged with Tetley’s in 1954) house built in 1919 from what looks like fine Portland stone, although probably more local limestone. Back to the railway path, where beside the path is a mass of Himalayan Balsam and Common Nettles. To the east of the track is Blackburn Brook, to the west the Barnsley-Sheffield railway line, the old Chapeltown Branch of the South Yorkshire Railway and the road into Ecclesfield. Blackbirds and Wrens are singing, then a sudden burst from a Garden Warbler. Swifts sweep across the tree tops. A Grey Wagtail pipes as it bobs along the track. It is very humid. Slowly the vegetation changes, Willowherbs, ferns, Bugle, Burdock and horsetails – the invasive Himalayan Balsam has not spread up here yet. Although there is none to be seen, Wild Garlic is growing close by, its musty scent unmistakeable. There were football and cricket grounds here before the Second World War, no trace now. The woodland was called Woolley Wood.
The track crosses Grange Lane. Another closed station stood where the track from the Grange or Dropping Well Colliery joined the line. The old platform is just discernible. The station opened in 1855 and closed in 1953. The noise of the M1 motorway is quite overwhelming here! Beyond Grange Lane the countryside opens out into fields. The railway tracks move close together. A Chiffchaff calls from woodland over the fields. Elder is beginning to flower as the May goes over. At Butterthwaite the lines diverge and the path ends. A track leads down into a sprawling industrial estate with a road full of holes and large pools of water. Once the site of Brightside Foundry (not the more central Sheffield one). now the area is mainly heavy transport yards and a few factories and offices. Butterthwaite Lane turns into Green Lane and emerges by the old Yorkshire Traction depot in Ecclesfield. Opposite is the Travellers Inn, a very modern public house but mentioned in Pigot’s Directory of 1834. My route goes through Ecclesfield, past a huge Morrisons once the the site of Norfolk Foundry and the Excelsior File Works. Over the road is a rather ornate bridge wall maybe ten feet long over the brook which travels under the road and down between the pavement and the supermarket. Various plants are in flower beside the brook including a beautiful Yellow Iris. It is then up the hill crowned by Ecclesfield School, formerly the Grammar School, and down into Chapeltown. There is little to commend this part of the walk, much traffic and rows of 20th century housing. The Commercial Inn is very welcome with its long row of hand-pumps delivering a wide range of beers, some up to 9% ABV, far too strong for me. A home-made “meat and tattie” pie with chips and mushy peas was served in a gargantuan portion, for just £3.50! A waddle up the road takes me to Chapeltown station, which has been moved down towards the centre of the village, with the abandoned ticket office and platforms slowly decaying. Oddly, the Sheffield bound train is called the “Exmoor Explorer” and is painted with advertisements extolling the virtue of the said area. It can be seen that the “Northern Rail” logo has been recently stuck over another logo, obviously that of a Devon service.