Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Bluebell Walk

Date: 2nd May 2009
Purpose of trip: Enjoy the bluebells along the Sheffield Round Walk
Getting there: Train to Sheffield Midland. No 88 bus to Hunter's Bar
Travelling companions: None

I've written previously about my connection with Sheffield and what the place means to me. The Sheffield Round Walk takes in many of the city's parks and even touches on the edge of the Peak District. When I lived there before I walked part of the Round Walk on several occasions. In those days, the walk ended in Graves Park or possibly in Gleadless valley and was 10 miles long. I think I only ever did the whole walk in one go on one occasion. Since then, an extra 4 miles has been added to bring the walk full circle. This time I particularly wanted to walk the parts I hadn't done before, so I started at what is usually considered the end of the walk. Last year I walked across town to start the route at Hunter's Bar. This time I took a bus to Hunter's Bar to save time and blisters.

My reverse route took me immediately uphill from Hunter's Bar towards Psalter Lane, which I was familiar with as a student as the art faculty was there. I had a lot of memories of this area from being nanny to a family who lived close by and I was also a bridesmaid at the wedding of Anita and Barrie Bowden at St Andrew's church.

The first park on the walk was Chelsea Park. I'd never been there before, nor even been sure exactly where it was. But it led me out into Brincliffe Edge Wood. I had the vague impression that this was close to a bus route I regularly took to work back in the '80s. I then walked through the streets of Nether Edge to Abbeydale Road where I took a detour to buy an iced lolly.

The area around Little London Road has changed considerably since I left but I was pleased to see not only is Heeley Baths still standing but is still in use.

Close by is the Sheaf Valley Walk with its references to Sheffield's industrial heritage.

I passed under the railway line and then across Chesterfield Road towards Meersbrook Park. We lived quite close to this area in our final two years in Sheffield but I had never been in this park either. When I made it to the top of the hill I was stunned by the views of the city.

I stopped for a few moments, picking out landmarks I was familiar with and noting the new buildings and those still under construction. Breathtaking. I had been looking forward to seeing the Bishop's House in the park and wasn't disappointed.

It was between Meersbrook Park and the woodlands of Gleadless Valley that I got lost. My map wasn't detailed enough to show the name of the road I needed and I consequently walked round in circles for 15 minutes or so. Eventually I found my way into Ashes Wood and ended up making a detour from the walk again because of the poor map. Here I sat on a rough bench for quite a while, enjoying the sunshine, the smell of the bluebells and dancing butterflies. Sensing that I wasn't where I ought to be I dug out my 25 year old town street map but found I'd really come too far to rejoin the walk in the valley so I left the wood for an alternative route to Graves Park.

Graves was a far cry from the quiet of the valley, where I hadn't met another soul. It was full of families enjoying the good weather. I made a stop for refreshments and decided it was time to change into my walking boots. It felt like putting on a fresh pair of feet.

I'd chosen the best time to see the bluebells. Chancet, Park Bank and Ladies Spring Woods were all full of them. Not the invading Spanish bluebells which grow in the town gardens now but real English bluebells with their delicate arches. There were also delicate wood anemones and violets. But I was surprised to still see narcissi when there were already rhododendrons in flower in some places.

Emerging near Dore station, I crossed Abbeydale Road again and went into Ecclesall Woods. This is the woodland I most associate with the bluebells but the route of the walk doesn't seem to pass very close to the areas where most of the bluebells grow.

Next up was Whirlowbrook Park where I stopped for coffee and cake again. I needed to rest my feet and I do love the hall. Again, it features in happy memories of Sheffield, as our friends Barrie and Anita had their wedding reception here.

Heading for Ringinglow via Limb Valley, I managed better this year to avoid the marshes. I cheated actually, following a couple walking ahead of me.

I hadn't set out to walk the complete route. I had a number of opt out points in mind. Places where the walk crossed main roads and bus routes. Ringinglow was the last opt out point. Once I'd set my nose for Porter Clough, I was pretty much committed to finishing the walk. But sadly, the last few miles were less enjoyable in terms of appreciating the woodlands.

Here the route passes Forge Dam, the Shepherd's Wheel and Wire Mill Dam before taking me back to Hunters Bar through Endcliffe Park. I had made the right decision though. This was the part of the walk I was the most familiar with but which had the least impact on me this time. It was early evening by the time I got to Endcliffe. There were crowds there again. Children on the playground, teenagers playing football. I took the most direct route through the park and was lucky enough to get on a bus as soon as I hit Ecclesall Road again. The walk had taken me about 8 hours in total and I was all bluebelled out!

Extra points for:

  1. Improvements to Derby station. Finally looking like it's part of the 21st century, even though restricting arrivals/departures to 2 platforms seemed to cause a ot of delays.
  2. Sheffield Bus drivers. Friendly bunch.

  3. Black tulips at the Bishop's House

  4. Herons along the route

  5. Ramsons everywhere. The leaves are nice in your sandwiches apparently.
  6. Meeting an old colleague, Sally Booker, quite by accident along the route. Sally, you really haven't changed a bit!

Points deducted for:

  1. Lack of toilets on the route

  2. Grafitti on the sculptures on the Sheaf Valley Walk

  3. Eating far too much cake
  4. Not having time to go inside the Bishop's House

  5. Poor signposting around Gleadless valley

  6. Almost getting hit on the head by a golf ball on the edge of Beauchief golf course.
  7. Forgetting to bring spare camera batteries. Mine died just before Ecclesall Woods. Pictures of the walk between there and Endcliffe are courtesy of last year's walk . Yes, I cheated.

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