Sheffield rambling group help walkers discover the countryside via rail and foot
A community group offering guided walks through the South Yorkshire countryside combines rambling and railways to form a relaxing day out.
The irony of driving a fuel guzzling car 20 miles into the countryside, battling with the satnav all the way, to enjoy a revitalising walk before having to getting back into the four wheeled pollutant for the return trip can ruin a weekend ramble.
But the community group, Penistone Line Partnership, offers a greener way of exploring the countryside with a group of other raving ramblers.
The PLP is a volunteer led organisation which offers guided walks in South and West Yorkshire on routes that are reached on the Penistone line.
Stuart Parker, PLP coordinator, said: “These walks are an ideal way of leaving the car behind. It is giving people the opportunity to discover the fun of the countryside.
“It was started to try and promote use of the trains for leisure - they are busy during work days on the commute, this was to increase use of the line on weekends.
"We have several walk leaders who give me a walk they would like to do and I will put up. The walk leaders live anywhere around the route, and they know the area and the paths well.
“Our walks tend to follow public footpaths, they are generally between 8 and 10 miles long. Several of the walks have bus stops along the route so people can opt out if they want to get the bus back.”
While the walks are open to anyone, Stuart says that most of his walkers are aged 50+. Walks are therefore taken at an easy pace with plenty of opportunities to rest. Ramblers should take a packed lunch with them to enjoy at a scenic stop along the route.
The PLP has existed for 25 years and the railway walks have been running for at least 20 years, although they were postponed between March 2020 and September this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The walks recommenced on September 4 with Pennine Panorama, a linear walk via Thurstonland, Thunder Bridge, Upper Cumberworth to finish at Denby Dale.
Stuart added: “People were relieved when it restarted, they had been out in their own little groups in the last year. They are getting confident using the trains again and we are in the fresh air for the walks. I think during lockdown from a rambling point of view people were getting out and discovering footpaths in their own local area. A lot of people were beginning to discover public footpaths literally on their doorstep.
“We are hoping that people will come and seek us out for the first time or people who have been with us before will come back to us and recommence walking.
"We are a friendly bunch. It is a good way to meet others, people who come on their own will soon be accepted into the group and get chatting.”
The number of people at each guided walk varies – there are normally anywhere from a dozen to 30 people at each event.
The Penistone Line, originally known as the the Huddersfield & Sheffield Junction Railway, is a 13.5 mile long stretch of railway constructed in the mid 19th century. It is a scenic route, passing over Denby Dale viaduct and winding through gorgeous countryside on the 15 stops between Sheffield and Huddersfield.
Whilst most of the walks are across rural countryside, some are more urban, circling the outskirts of Sheffield or Chapeltown. Stuart added: “A lot of the territory we ramble is former industrial land so we come across old industrial sites. It is sometimes interesting to hear local walk leaders talk about the history of those sites and the area you are walking in.
“I have been involved in the group for over ten years. I like the mixture of using public transport to access the countryside. I am a member of the ramblers and I prefer using public transport rather than the car - and not everybody has a car.”
At Berry Brow and Brockholes stations, two of the stops on the Penistone line, the PLP have created self guided mindful walk trails. These walks were developed with S2R Support to Recovery, an independent mental health charity. Those who had accessed the charity’s services helped to plan the walks.
The Penistone Line Partnership is one of several similar partnerships that exists around the country that promotes the use of railways.
Whilst the vast majority of the walks start from a stop on the Penistone line, a few take place in the countryside of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, and North Nottinghamshire, although they are all accessible from Sheffield station.
The next walk will be on Saturday October 16, starting and finishing at Denby Dale station, the route will pass through Scissett, Clayton West, Emley Old Hall
Walks take place on the first and third Saturday of the month. All walks are free, but you must pay for your own rail fare. Those interested in joining the walks can find out more here: https://penline.co.uk/guided-walks/.