Discovering the best family walks around ‘The Outdoor City’ of Sheffield
In normal times, ‘going for a walk’ didn’t sound that exciting to the average nine year old.
But how many kids have worked out over the last year that heading to the woods is far less stressful than another eight hours with their fellow householders in front of their phones, TV and laptop screens?
“Just this morning, we spotted a group of deer in the woods, only 10 minutes or so from home,” said Anna Lowe from Move More Sheffield.
“We’ve discovered new paths close to home and new areas to explore. Walking has been an absolute lifesaver during lockdown. With two young kids and two lively dogs, getting outside is absolutely essential.”
The family that walks together copes with the stresses of the pandemic together, say many Outdoor Citizens.
“Walking has always been part of our family's together time,” said Lucy Watkins from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.
Walking gives Lucy, her partner and two young daughters a ‘blank slate’ to discover the local countryside together, she says.
“In my mind when we’re in no-one’s territory, it resets us as a ‘team’ and has helped us feel connected with each other, with nature and with our local area.”
Lucy’s favourite spots have been Stanage, Derwent Edge, the Little Don catchment around Langsett and Wharncliffe and Greno Woods.
Family exploring ideas include imagining the history of old walls, buildings and gate posts, and following moorland streams down off the moors into local reservoirs.
“Sheffield has not got the name 'the Outdoor City' for nothing; there is so much on our doorstep, or at the end of a tram or bus journey,” she said. “Over this last year we discovered we can walk further, we found new paths, linked ancient tunnels, and if you take time to plan, you can enjoy the same routes but in a different light or weather.”
Retired families have also seen their countryside in a new light.
Chris Prescott and wife Margaret have been walking the ‘Bradfield Walkers are Welcome’ routes, and say their favourite goes from Bradfield Church to Rocher Head overlooking Agden reservoir, then up onto the ridge above with views to Boots Folly above Strines before returning to High Bradfield.
“Because we've been limited to our local area during the pandemic we've found we've discovered features of the area we might have overlooked previously,” said Chris. “We’ve concentrated more closely on the changes of the seasons within a small area, as in the different varieties of flowering plants and wildlife that appear at different times of the year.”
GP Jo Maher walks with friends in all weathers, and particularly enjoys the feeling of ‘forest bathing’ at Wyming Brook. “How many other cities have a site of special scientific interest like Wyming Brook within their boundary?” she said.
“And in lockdown 3 I managed to get my 14 year old son out at lunchtime for a quick trip from Redmires to Stanage Pole. It was good for both of us to get a bit of fresh air in the middle of the day.” As an e-bike user, Jo added that decent secure bike and trike parking at hotspots like Redmires is crucial to help more people visit without their cars.
Ted Talbot from the National Trust said his favourite family walks are from their own front door straight out into the Rivelin Valley.
“This is an incredibly special valley to have on our city's doorstep, steeped in industrial heritage as well as working farms, woodlands, wetlands, grasslands and heathlands where local wildlife has reclaimed the valley's old mill ponds and grinding wheels,” he said. “There are so many paths to follow that we can do a route to suit our time, and on a full day out can reach Rivelin Valley rocks or Wyming Brook.”
Psychologists say that the act of walking leads to creative thinking, and stepping along side by side, without distractions, and with less eye contact, often allows families to talk and listen more easily together.
Ted has three students in his household, and says walking through nature helps everyone open up more.
“Humans are nomadic creatures, and there’s something primeval about families walking through landscapes together,” he said. “So it’s not surprising we’re calmer there than in the world of noise and technology.”