You could just walk along the railway line from Dore to Grindleford, but most of it would be dark as you’d have to go through Totley Tunnel. Which is probably also illegal. And it certainly wouldn’t be as interesting as the route I took on Saturday. I knew it had been raining during the week (as well as snowing) but I didn’t expect it to be quite as muddy and boggy as it turned out to be.
It’s been some months since I went walking in the hills on my own, having discovered the joys of walking with friends or in a group where I don’t have to worry about finding the way or getting lost. On the occasions I’ve been out on my own, I’ve stuck to places I know well such as Edale, and where there are plenty of people to call on for help if needed. But I was determined to be a bit more adventurous this time and try out some of the routes nearer to Sheffield, so I dug around for some routes and picked one that seemed to be reasonably well-defined. It was still with a little trepidation, however, that I set out on my own. To understand why, have a look at my previous post Visually challenged trekking. Even on the train, I toyed with the idea of staying on a bit longer and getting off at Edale, but the adventurous side of me won through (admittedly after I gave myself a stern talking to) and I steeled myself for another adventure. Given that the journey from Sheffield to Dore takes approximately 7 minutes, this all happened rather fast.
Before I knew it, I was heading out of Dore station and easily found my way into Poynton Wood, where a stiff climb gave me the chance to test my lungs (which sadly didn’t seem to have retained the effects of altitude training on Kilimanjaro by this point). However, some beautiful views at the top allowed me to catch my breath while ostensibly taking photos and trying to put into practice some of the tips I’d learnt on the BaldHiker workshop a couple of weeks previously.
Once out of the wood and along the road, I encountered my first problem when I ran out of road and couldn’t see which way to go to get to the bridge. A couple of passersby were confused until I mentioned I was heading in the direction of the Shepley Spitfire pub, and they soon pointed me in the right direction. About 10 paces later, I saw the footbridge I was supposed to cross. Of course, any normal person would have seen it, but these things are more tricky for me. A further stiff climb ensued, by which time I was getting into my stride, and I soon arrived at Fanshawe with extensive views across the western suburbs of Sheffield and Totley Moss.
I passed the impressive looking Fanshawe Old Hall with its three-storey tithe barn and dovecote, mentioned in my instructions, although I didn’t see any doves. Or any tithes.
After descending the hill, I soon encountered the first of many bogs as I crossed a set of fields. Here I was rather confused by the instructions mentioning sets of octagonal gate posts, and later “an unusual set of gates” which I should pass through. Now I knew my instructions to be around 10 years old, but either I missed these totally, or they’ve since disappeared. I was pretty puzzled, because these were specifically mentioned as having been bought by a farmer when the Owler Bar tollgate was decommissioned in 1880. Every time I saw a gatepost, I inspected it closely but couldn’t see anything that looked octagonal. Weird. Or maybe they were across another field. Who knows?
My next problem was the crossing of a field, where the instructions told me simply to “follow the path across several stiles”. Perhaps because all the fields were complete bogs, it was impossible to see any path. Indeed, at one point, while wending my way precariously over the hillocks that rose out of the mud, I put my foot on one that gave way and sank instantly up to my waist. I didn’t stop to contemplate the fate of being sucked into to a watery grave, but grabbed hold of a nearby rock and heaved myself out as quickly as I could! Luckily I found firmer ground and was able to continue on my way, but it was a slightly scary moment as there wasn’t a soul around to come to my aid! As I descended through more and more mud, following sets of hoofprints which I figured must be the path, I came to a farm and was accosted by a very angry woman who told me in no uncertain terms to get off her land! i apologised profusely, explaining I was a little lost, but she had no sympathy. I didn’t bother telling her I was partially sighted, since I doubted she’d have much sympathy for me walking on my own across her land when I couldn’t seel, but quickly climbed back up the hill and tried a different corner of the field, where this time I found a stile and was back on the real path.
Finally, I reached open moorland, which was (literally) a breath of fresh air after all the bogs. I’m sure in summer this is riddled with walkers and mountain bikers, but I only saw two hardy cyclists (actually, one hardy cyclist and his not-so-hardy partner, whom I soon overtook as she was struggling valiantly against the steep gradient and deep mud). There were, however, a few sheep who seemed to be enjoying the solitude. No doubt they were also laughing at the mad human mud monsters wending their way up the hill.
I could have walked across this stretch of moorland for hours and not been bored (unusual for me), just enjoying the peace, the battle against the elements, and the beautiful and very slightly eerie desolation. Definitely my favourite part of the walk. Luckily it occupied me for a good stretch of time, nevertheless. Finally, the somewhat imposing White Edge Lodge came into view.
More surprising, however, was what suddenly appeared around the corner. I came across the brow of the hill, and below me was a steep drop and a rather stunning display of huge rocks. I hadn’t been expecting this, and the instructions had, oddly, not mentioned it either.
A little further on, I came across a rather strange stick poking up from the ground just above me. Apparently, this is called “Wooden Pole” (I wonder how much thought went into that) and marks an ancient boundary, serving formerly as a waymarker on pack horse routes across the moors. It looked so flimsy I couldn’t believe it had been there that long.
Finally, I descended through another wood and found myself outside the famed Grindlethorpe Station Cafe. Which was actually rather disappointing, as it was chock full of families who clearly had walked no more than 10 yards from their cars. Maybe I just like to feel superior, but I don’t think you deserve a pint of tea and a piece of carrot cake unless you’ve just walked 10 miles through a bog on a damp March Sunday.