Tuesday, 20 September 2016

on the edge

Great to get in another hike from the first ever Sheffield Walking Festival.  Last week it was Kinder and on Sunday we ventured onto Wharncliffe Heath guided by members of the Wharncliffe Heathlands Trust.

So much history in this area - before we'd even reached this tunnel where the Trans Pennine Trail crossed our path, we'd already passed an ancient Mesolithic site that was settled over 6.000 years ago!
 The paths threaded gloriously through the trees as we plodded upwards
passing many a picturesque pond - used for local industry back in the day and firefighters more recently.  Loads of beautiful huge dragonflies coming to look at us.
Fungi abounded - this one in particular apparently sends the cows and sheep on Wharncliffe Chase into a happy hallucinogenic state!  The amanita muscaria I think it must have been?
and finally we reach the striking Wharncliffe Crags - seeing in the distance the steelworks at Stocksbridge - once home to the famous Samuel Fox umbrella frame manufacturers!
We also learn another amazing fact - Wharncliffe Crags is where rock climbing as a sport first started!   Lots of Victorians used to flock to the Crags in the summer to take the air, high above the pollution of the Don Valley with its steel mills.
The purple heather is just about coming to an end at this time of year, but the landscape was still stunning.  And hidden amongst this scrub are the remains of the Iron Age quern factories.  I remember in 1996 there was a huge fire on this heath and loads of the ancient querns were visible scattered all across heath.  More about that here.
and we also learn that the path we are walking along, along the top of the Crags, is the one mentioned in the opening paragraph of Ivanhoe!!  Of course I knew about the nearby Conisborough Castle connections, but not about Wharncliffe!
So here you go - the opening lines
"In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered bythe river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest,covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleyswhich lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at thenoble seats of Wentworth, of Warncliffe Park, and aroundRotherham."
and the whole of Chapter 1 to read here if you are keen - where there is more mention of Wharncliffe - Ivanhoe Chapter One
It was hard to drag my eyes away from the rocky edge of the crags and the magnificent views - such a glorious day too.
but now we ventured across the heath and towards Wharncliffe Chase
stopping to feed the small herd of Shetland sheep grazing the land as part of the management of the Heath.
 then homeward bound - back along the Crags
 with a final wistful look across the hills
And the end of another brilliant walk.  Hoping the Sheffield Walking Festival is repeated next year - been a great chance to learn more about our amazing 'ourdoor' city, get some exercise and meet some lovely people.
And there's a really good website here with all the history of Wharncliffe Heath and Crags, Stocksbridge and District History Society Archive if you want to read more.

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