Each and every unplanned walk can develop into a mini expedition
“I leave the front door, stand at the gate and think: ‘Where shall I go to day?’”
Terry Howard, after half a century of campaigning for access to the countryside around Sheffield, says Sheffielders should follow his example by taking the local exercise directive as an opportunity to explore their Outdoor City. “What I have seen and found is quite astonishing from just my front door,” says Terry, who lives in Crosspool. “The remnants of large gardens made by Sheffield industrialists who had their massive houses built around Ranmoor. Remnant ancient woodland and ancient trees. The sources, routes and tunnels of local streams. Old walls telling the story of old coal mine workings and quarries, or with their tops decorated with broken grind stones, steel crucibles and ‘crozzle’. Holy wells, and ancient roads, such as the ‘Racker Way’ which pass through the area. Each and every unplanned walk can develop into a mini expedition.”Sue Bearden, who writes local walking guides, says she’s been keen on discovering what’s on her own doorstep since long before the pandemic. “I live in Heeley and we are blessed with extensive woodland stretching out across the Moss Valley: I can walk all the way to Chesterfield through lovely countryside,” she says. But during lockdown she’s been exploring some ‘fascinating nooks and crannies’ of south-east Sheffield.“I especially like to walk over to The Manor, taking in Heeley Green community garden, Black Bank, Norfolk Park, City Road Cemetery, Arbourthorne Pond or Buck Wood and returning home via Hang Bank Wood.”
And there’s plenty to explore at the Manor itself, she says. “From the castle ruins, with its gorgeous lavender maze, downhill to the Rhubarb Shed Café, there are wonderful wild flowers through spring and summer, and some animal sculptures to remind us of the land’s agricultural past.
“The other side of the cemetery is Manor Fields, with wild flowers, and a network of little streams and ponds, which is a delight to walk through. I’ve even seen a woman collecting watercress from one of the streams. It’s great to see a place so well used and loved.”Howard Bayley explores the Porter Valley from his home in Greystones, with his dog, Ben.“Unsurprisingly there has been a big increase in the number of people walking over the past year so I've enjoyed getting off the beaten track and exploring the many footpaths which cross fields and streams in the Porter and Mayfield Valleys,” he says.
“It's been lovely to see the changes through the year from the spring flowers and sunny summer days through the stunning colours of Autumn to the beauty and silence of the recent winter snow. There's a wide variety of birdlife to look out for and it's always a magical experience to watch a kingfisher catching fish on one of the old millponds.”As a member of Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, Howard is keen that all Sheffielders have the chance to safely explore their local parks and countryside on foot. He says:“I'm very conscious that safe places to walk aren't equally distributed across the city and while there has rightly been a lot of talk about cycling infrastructure recently, I would like to see the same consideration given to ensuring safe access for all to good quality footpaths and nature.”
Deborah Beck, from Sheffield University’s Grantham Centre, is a supporter of the Wadsley and Loxley Commoners, who look after her local green space.
“I love Loxley and Wadsley Commons because there are so many different paths - I have never done exactly the same route twice,” she says.She adds that walking with a friend has been essential to her mental health. “It’s a chance to catch up and forget about worries.”Deborah has made plenty of new discoveries about the wildlife and history of the commons, but there’s more. Recent research has confirmed the views of poets, artists and writers that walking outdoors boosts creative thinking.
“I would love to see roe deer up there one day. At the moment I am trying to locate the demolished 'Cave House' and the 'Sword in the Stone' on the Commons,” she says.
“Keep exploring, there’s lots out there to be rediscovered,” adds Terry.