The best run this side of Castleford

Sledging at Ecclesall: Ian Maxted and son Edward (11)
Sledging at Ecclesall: Ian Maxted and son Edward (11)

SHEFFIELD winter sports season was in full slide ...

Streets, parks and fields were taken over by families and their skis, sledges and plastic bags.

Modern sledges came under scrutiny from winter sportsmen of a certain age at 

“These plastic ones break too easily,” said Ian Maxted. “Plastic is not strong enough to cope with the rough and tumble of Jacob’s Ladder.”

In warmer weather, the steep field between Ringinglow Road and the Porter Brook has a series of steps that appear to lead ascending ramblers up to the heavens – hence the local title.

In the opposite direction, however, and with a covering of snow, Jacob’s Ladder becomes an ideal ski or toboggan slope.

In the past, the Hallamshire Ski Club ran a tow rope up the hill at a cost of 50p for the day. Ringinglow was the base for the club, which started in the 1960s. At the time, notes member Albert Hattersley in his club history: “The early days of skiing in our area was little more than sliding down a snow covered field on two pieces of wood and hoping that you were able to stop or turn before you hit a wall or fence.”

The snow wasn’t quite deep enough at Ringinglow for skis last weekend, but there were a handful of snowboarders, including Karen Niven.

“It’s a good place to come,” she said. “It saves us having to go all the way to Castleford.” (Home to the closest indoor centre).

A variety of descent media were in action at Ringinglow, from the traditional high risk (to riders and climbers in the way) sheet of tarpaulin, to sturdy wooden, to multi-coloured plastic in all shapes and sizes, including discs little bigger than a drinks tray.

“You spin around backwards,” warned one Coal Aston thrill seeker. “I feared for my life!”

Traditionalists noted further disadvantages to plastic sledging: the likelihood of destruction means that after the snow melts, sledge fragments are often left behind on the slope.

Ian Maxted’s wooden sledge was made by his father for his 12th birthday, which inconveniently took place in July. “I had to wait, but there was snow that first Christmas so we came up to Jacob’s Ladder. Of course there was always more snow then.”

David Stevenson had brought his family and friends over the border from North Derbyshire.

“It’s the best sledging site in Sheffield,” said David, who’s been sledging on Jacob’s Ladder since his boyhood. “It’s long and steep and there’s a good run-off,” was his expert assessment, before hurtling down the slope accompanied by his shrieking daughter, Beth, aged 21.

The ledges and rocks on the slope added to the ‘white knuckle’ aspect of the run, said many sledgers. “And the alpaca poo,” said one of the younger Coal Aston sportspeople. “That’s worse than the rocks.”

On his return David proudly showed off the family sledge.

“We call it The German,” he said, “because it’s German-made, it’s 40 years old and you can’t beat it.”

“Sledging is great exercise,” he added. “Then we all go the pub afterwards.”

Steve Hudson from the nearby Norfolk Arms said the pub had been extra busy over the weekend, with more families, and an increased demand for hot drinks over bitter.

“Our staff have had to turn into coffee barristas, and we’ve sold at least six times as much hot chocolate.”

Ian Maxted and sons William and Edward spent much of the day on their sledges, at Ringinglow and down their steep Ecclesall street.

“It’s good to see kids out in the snow rather than sitting at home in front of their TVs or Xboxes,” he said, before insisting his 12-year-old son joined him on another sledge run into the dusk.