See this post for details of why I’m walking sixty miles to raise money for the Sheffield Environmental Movement
The first ten miles are done! This was a wonderful walk, a great example of how easy it is to get from a busy part of Sheffield right out into the countryside, completely on foot. A small group of us started from Endcliffe Park, posing for a photo under the remarkable weeping beech that is apparently Jarvis Cocker’s favourite tree. From there we walked up the Porter Valley, alongside an extremely full Porter Brook. Thank goodness for a break in the torrential rain of last week!
If I’m honest, I’d been a bit anxious about how the walk would go, who would turn up and whether they’d have anything to talk about. Of course I shouldn’t have worried. Although none of my friends who came along had met each other before, there was a really friendly, open and relaxed atmosphere. I’m so grateful to Mark Hutchinson, a trustee of the Sheffield Environmental Movement for joining us for most of the walk and for telling us about some of the early days of the monthly walking group that is one of SEM’s core activities.
From the Porter Valley, we walked along Fulwood Lane and stopped at the Mayfield Alpacas for a takeaway coffee and some birthday cake (I’ve realised these walks are a great excuse for multiple birthday cakes – five more still to go!)
Then we crossed over to the top of the Limb Valley, cutting through a field close to where it is believed there was once a Roman road. That brought to mind the play Black Men Walking by Testament, which was inspired by the SEM walking group. The play makes a reference to the black Roman emperor Septimus Severus, who was born in Libya but died in York after an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Scotland. There’s a great bit where one of the characters, Thomas, says: ‘After Septimus’ death, his son made Eboracum – York – capital of the North of England. So really, if you think about it, it was an African that put the York in Yorkshire.’
After winding our way down through the Limb Valley, alongside the Limb Brook, which once formed part of the boundary between Yorkshire and Derbyshire, we crossed to a field on the edge of Ecclesall Woods, where we spotted a magnificent ash. It was a poignant contrast with the ash tree across the lane at the back of our flat that is slowly withering as a result of ash dieback, and is due to be felled any day now.
In the same field as the ash, Sue showed us a hornbeam she had planted three years ago as part of the celebrations to mark the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest.
We stopped for lunch at the Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre, and then had a short spell of road walking before getting to the top of Bingham Park and picking up the path alongside the Porter Brook again.
At breakfast the next day I came across this quotation from the Scottish mountaineer WH Murray: ‘In short withdrawals from the world there is to be had unfailing refreshment.’
I found it in Roger Deakin’s Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, and it had been sent to Deakin by the writer Robert Macfarlane. It seemed to sum up this walk. First because what I experienced there was itself a deeply refreshing ’short withdrawal from the world’, despite being on the edge of one of Britain’s major cities. But also because the way these words of Murray’s had passed through other people on their roundabout route to my breakfast table mirrored the glimpse I had yesterday of how gently and creatively ideas can weave between a group of people who have no agenda other than to celebrate the quiet and uncomplicated pleasure of walking together in the countryside.
Walk 1 summary
Route: From Endcliffe Park up the Porter Valley, along Fulwood Lane, down the Limb Valley, across to Ecclesall Woods and back to Endcliffe Park via Trap Lane and Whiteley Woods.
Distance: 10 miles (approx)
Walkers: Mark, Jane, Julia, Sue, Julian and Jo
Cake: chocolate courgette