Giving Dronfield the run around. Recce of Round Dronfield Walk

Digested read: can now tick the Round Dronfield Walk route off my to-do list.  Hillier than expected, more strenuous than expected, good in parts, with a lot of stiles, some of which were less than stylishly negotiated. 14.5 miles with a surprising 1873 ft of elevation.

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Unabridged version:

Blimey, that was complicated.

I do feel like my life is mainly taken up with running round in pointless circles as it is, so you might think doing a circular walk/run route would be a breeze as I’ve had so much practice. Turns out, it isn’t entirely, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the effort.

Ok, so for the wilfully ignorant out there, there is a Dronfield Round Walk, strictly speaking, it’s re-launch of the Dronfield Rotary 2000 Walk – and now known as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk, but I’m going to call it the Round Dronfield Walk and thereby sow confusion henceforth and potentially in perpetuity.  What we can all agree on though, is that this is a circular countryside walk round (spoiler alert) Dronfield.  A walk promoted and cared for by The Dronfield Hall Barn group. It passes through the hamlet of Summerley and the villages of Coal Aston, Mickley and Holmesfield.  It’s about 14½ miles, and includes 11+ stiles.  Apparently.  Anyways, Smiley Selfie Queen has been on about doing this route for a while, and why not?  Could be interesting.  A chance to find new routes and flex newly found navigational skills.  The problem is, it’s harder than you might think to find the walk route.

You can buy a useful (well, let’s find out) book all about the route for £3, the proceeds for this go to supporting the maintenance and upkeep of the path. You can buy the book at the Dronfield Hall Barn apparently, I don’t know, I just parasitised the one Smiley Selfie Queen brought along.  Mind you, our fates were intertwined, she may have sourced the book, but it was I who would step up to take the navigational lead (I know, desperate times) so it was in here interests to ensure I was properly equipped to do so!

Fair play, the presentation is lovely, and there are photos and descriptors, but… and I consider this a major omission, no actual maps, and no indication of how long each section is.  Also, something of a sense of a treasure map that is fixed at a singular point in time.  Helpful the day it was written, but I can a walker/runner really rely on a direction that suggests you look out for a stile in a holly bush…   It means you are potentially a hostage to fortune if landmarks shift and change as inevitably they do. Stiles may come and go, boundaries shift.  The airstrip will probably stay put, but who knows?  I wasn’t feeling overly confident in the book as sole source of finding our way.

I did find an OS map link for the Dronfield 2000 Rotary walk, and it looks OK, but couldn’t work out how to print it off and also it describes the walk as 11 miles, so that might be a jolly nice walk, to do, but possibly isn’t The Walk we were reckoning on.

os route

In the end, we went for belt and braces.  Smiley Selfie Queen would bring the book, I ordered a bespoke OS  map with Dronfield at its core (yes, you can, I had no idea either ’til a couple of weeks ago, genius gizmo, if an expensive one).  I used a Strava route acquired through Smiley Selfie Queen’s contacts or stalking behaviour, depending on your point of view.  Once we’d identified this mark who’d done the route pretty accurately, I basically tried to transcribe that path onto my OS map.  It might not be massively close to the intended route, who knows, but it did mean even if we deviated from the ‘correct’ path we’d never actually be lost.  It was really hard, and involved prescription glasses, a magnifying class and lots of swearing.

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Also, I realised belatedly that whilst it was ‘logical’ to put Dronfield at the centre of my customised map, this was also the worst possible design for a user-friendly map as it meant I was constantly having to fold and refold and unfold the blooming map.  It was helpful en route certainly, but a pain to use.  Why people voluntarily do orienteering challenges I can’t imagine.  Maps are such a blooming faff!  Much better to be hopelessly slow at running events and so you can just follow the lead of those in front.  I accept this strategy is flawed, as it depends on keeping the other runners in sight, which I can’t always do to be fair, due to lacking the necessary turn of speed to keep visual contact.  However,  for the most part this strategy has served me well. You basically need to follow my advice and other runners’ leads at your own risk.  If you are on the fells in the snow and the last little dot of a runner disappears over the horizon then clearly you may as well just lay down and die, because it’s game over then, if you don’t know where you are.  Just to be clear. Works OK at most parkruns though, so that’s the main thing.

Where was I?  Oh yes, planning a route recce of the Dronfield Round Walk or whatever you choose to call it.

We agreed on provisions and timings.  It is only 14.5 miles, but with faffing and getting lost etc and it being unknown terrain and elevation we could be out for hours.  Interestingly, I found a reference to a guided walk of the route online, and they describe it as ‘strenuous’ and recommended allowing 6 1/2 hours, which seems generous.  Recceing routes is always time-consuming though, so we figured we could be out for a while. We’d meet early, so as not to have to rush.

It’s humbling really.  Only last Sunday, some ultra runners took on the Sheffield Way Relay 47 + miles and also there was a Ladybower 50 (50+ miles). They didn’t only embark on this, they even accomplished these challenges without  having to lie down in a foetal position bleeding from their ears afterwards!.  I know, I would have thought such a fate inevitable.  Yet, I  myself can testify that one of them at least was to be seen cheerily tucking into a pot noodle* barely an hour after the event, when by rights she should have been at the very least lying on the floor in a star shape with a foil blanket carelessly tossed across her.  These people are clearly super-human however, whereas I am not.   Lightweight I may be (not in every sense alas) but even for this 14.5 mile sojourn I would head out prepared.  I would take a fleece and maybe even sandwiches, and a magnifying glass to go with my map, which even with a 4cm to the km scale is still too tiny to make out with my over 50 eyesight.  I’d always thought people were exaggerating when they did that thing in the supermarket of holding jars at arms length squinting, trying to make out ingredients or whatever.  Now I am that person.  It’s hard being me, it really is.

One thing we could agree on was starting point.  Car park behind Coal Aston village hall on the Eckington Road.  Postcode S18 3AX.   This is a recommended place from which to set off.  There is a map of the route there too apparently, and hopefully therefore reasonable signage to get us underway…  The walk was relaunched as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk in March 2018 to some aplomb, so we were hopeful.  Hope over experience hasn’t always served me well, but this time maybe.  It matters not anyway, life should be full of surprises, that is how micro-adventures are made!

So the day dawned, the forecast was fair, but it has been nippy of late and I was taking no chances, so I basically covered up as if for an arctic storm.  Lots of layers.  I drove out to our rendezvous squinting into the sun. Curses, why didn’t I think to bring my sun glasses, I should have anticipated snow blindness if not bright autumn rays.  Oh well, next time.  We planned to meet 8.15 for 8.30 departure.  We did achieve this, but the traffic getting to Coal Aston at that time in the morning was horrendous.  I’d imagined it would be a sleepy little place, but not so, it was heaving, congested even, though easy enough to find the village hall and loads of parking round the back.

So the first thing we did, was get back in a car, and nip back up/down the road to the rather grand route map of where we were heading. It’s important to document these things for posterity.  What a vacuum in the world of JPEGs would there be had we not paused to take this shot?

I know!  Might be that the known universe would have imploded, but fortunately we’ll never know, as we the recceing dream team took the shot so you won’t have to!  Also, it reminded us what the signs were we needed to look out for en route, so that’s good to know:

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Only, they didn’t all look quite like that to be honest, but near enough.

So once my recce partner had finished laughing at my kit, we headed off, trying to use the book. I’m still not wholly convinced by the book. It’s beautifully done, and lovingly put together but the instructions assume some local knowledge.  So the first direction to ‘walk downhill to the allotment site’ makes sense because of the downhill bit, but no sense in that you don’t know where the allotments are until you reach them, and even then you don’t because they weren’t visible from the path we followed, so it was all a bit confusing. Similarly ‘follow way marks through Owler Car Wood’ only make sense if you know where this wood is.  The upshot was I did a lot of squinting at the map to try to marry up the directions, and we did get round OK, but it wasn’t an entirely smooth navigational process.  With the map and the book though, we might have been a bit off piste at times, but we were always ‘lost’ in the right direction, which is a good start.

Anyways, we ended up on a broad open, flat path and set off at a fair old lick.  It is still extraordinary to me how quickly you can be in open countryside once you walk away from the main roads.  This path was really obvious (we were going clockwise by the way) and although sadly some footpath signs had tumbled into the undergrowth, the runes were good.  The marking of the route wasn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the number of lovingly restored stiles, hard landscaping by putting in new steps and extra benches that are clearly part of the relaunch of the route earlier in the year.  Impressive, but also fragile, it was heartening how good the route was in some places, but astonishing how in others already routes were overgrown and signs broken by either accident or design.  The Dronfield Heritage Trust request that users make donations to help with the upkeep of the route. If the mood should take you, you can do that here www.dronfieldhallbarn.org

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So off we trotted.  Incidentally, one important consideration when finding a recce buddy, is not only compatibility in walk/ run/ yomping pace and distance expectations, but also shared communication objectives.  For some this might be companionable silence, and I can like that too, but on this occasion we were to be out for a while.  We both agreed that therefore in planning this recce it had been mutually important to find someone  with whom we’d be able to pass the time with idle chit chat important putting the world to rights conversation and sharing tips on running craft.  We didn’t want a walk where the last 6 hours would be just extended awkward silences as conversation faded away to nothing until we could only hear the noise of each other breathing and only the occasional passing of tumbleweed to break the tension in the air.  I can report that we have yomped out together before, and this situation has never yet arisen.  Rather more likely, is frantic Facebook messaging later of the ‘oh, I forgot to tell you’ variety. Point of information, if you are heading out on this route, choose your companion wisely, it’s potentially a long one first time out if you are stopping and starting to find the way.

Through the fields, over a stile – there were squillions of those today. If you have an i-spy sticker book of styles you are in for a rare treat on this route.  Not gonna lie, the novelty of spotting different styles of stile did fade during the day, but not at this point.  Off to the right, through a hedge and into the woods.

There was a great deal of up and over stiles, and also a lot of in and out of the woods.  Plenty of little footbridges – some of which we were directed to ignore, which seems a little harsh…

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There were lots of arrows, so that was grand, but the lack of clarity about the distance between various landmarks was perplexing.  I felt I had to refer to the map a lot, although interestingly, the book did become more usable in the later sections, whether that’s because I’d got more comfortable with how it was set out, or because it was more accurately described I’m honestly not sure.  The important thing though, is that just half an hour in, and I was way too hot. Way too hot, and also, a bit squinty.  I needed my glasses for map reading purposes but they seemed to just concentrate the suns rays in my eyes like a laser.  Not ideal.  I tried not to moan too much.  It makes me look like a rambling librarian though don’t you think?

I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  I do know, that having to wear glasses for such purposes is a new thing for me.  I used to manage fine without them apart from for working at the computer and watching TV, and I do have a really tiny telly.   I am definitely ageing now.  No wonder I’m slowing down…  The photos are a really good example of task allocation and team work by the way.  Smiley Selfie Queen is in charge of selfie shots, and I was in charge of route finding… albeit often from the rear. In my defence, you can’t walk and map read simultaneously, so I did have to keep stopping to clarify here you were and also Smiley Selfie Queen has 10 youthfulness years on me plus the unfair advantage of actually training and running regularly, so I was always going to be scampering along behind.  It worked.  Don’t knock it.

The first section seemed to take an age, we were constantly trying to get our bearings, and trying to second guess the instructions in the map.  When it says continue through so many fields, what constitutes a field boundary.  I mean, does it have to be an actual hedge line say, or might it be some memory in the earth with a raised ridge of soil.

Although we kept moving, we also were also in these early stages prone to keep stopping to look at features of interest.  The views were pretty good, and quite fun to try to work out where we were.  Plus I kept having vague flashbacks as I had been in these parts before in a different life exploring with a friend and her equine companions.  This explains why I got very excited when I recognised the pig farm next to the wind turbine at one point, and my yomping companion was similarly captivated by the water tower which you can espy pretty clearly for large sections of the route.  Each to their own eh?  And no, I can’t now remember which sections gave which views, you’ll just have to go check it out for yourself and make sure you annotate your route guide for future reference.

Some instructions were very section specific, but quite helpful  That field really did have an awkwardly sloping start, and would indeed be treacherous if wet under foot.  Weather was perfect for us though.

One cause for excitement was the mysterious constructions within the woods, remnants of an industrial past.  We found what looked like a sunken doorway – a portal to a subterranean alternative world perhaps?  Nope, disappointingly, it was just a bridge when viewed from the other side, then again, what better cloak  for a parallel universe than to pass it off as but a little ancient woodland bridge, now devoid of its troll?  Just saying.  Be careful out there people, anomalies and passageways in the space / time continuum are everywhere.  You have been warned.  Selfie Queen was fearless cavorting above, but I didn’t see her volunteering to run through that particular vortex on this outing.  It was noted.  You can sense these things sometimes, even without consciously knowing them…

On reflection, this was quite an eventful section, so maybe that’s why it took us blooming ages to get round.  Emerging from the woods, we had further challenges to overcome. Specifically, cows.  Mean looking bovines, blocking the stile ahead…

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OK, really not mean looking ones at all.  But it is a consideration, small cows grow into big ones, and there is much contradictory advice on what to do.  Some advocate the go large, make yourself as huge and loud as possible to shoo them off, and let your dog loose.   Not sure what you do if you don’t have a dog to loosen – sacrifice your running buddy presumably, so best go out with a few, preferably some slower than yourself (that’s hard for me to achieve) and including some you are willing to return home without.  Also challenging, as most of the runners I know are lovely, and granted, in an ideal world you’d most probably want to keep them all.  Then again, you can’t keep everything or you’ll end up on the UK equivalent of ‘Hoarders’ assuming the film crews can fight their way through the junk mail and stacks of other miscellaneous detritus you’ve piled up in the hall and find a way in…   The point is, cattle do need to be treated with respect.  Other advice is to calmly placate them according to a more recent Trail Runners article.  This Plymouth herald article what to do when cows attack seems sensible too, but then again, who knows what their cattle calming credentials really are?  I do try to avoid them, cows that is, not (knowingly) Plymouth Herald journalists, and with cows and young calves would take a massive detour if necessary.  I actually think the best strategy is be calm, but then if they do charge, that’s when you ‘go large’ and get the hell outta there as best you can.

These few were fairly cute though. Young and unsure.  We had a brief stand off, oh and photo op (obvs)

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Then just slowly walked towards them along the wall line, me acting as a human shield for Selfie Queen (I might die, but at least she would be able to document my final moments) and as we got close they snorted a bit and trotted away from the stile so we could safely pass.  Great team work there, and all involved lived to tell the tale.

Onward.  Through the cow field, ending up on the Troway road, and back to Eckington Road (which really is scarily busy – the speed those cars come past!)  and then more stiles, and hedges and open fields and comedy gates, standing alone and proud, despite the absence of any notable boundary fencing that required their presence as a way through.  We espied weird tape that might have been from a crime scene, or a hang over from some sporting event. You never can quite tell.  And a hidden treasures van.  Bit of feedback for them, your treasure isn’t going to remain hidden for long if you keep advertising its presence.  I wouldn’t rely on it as a landmark if you are retracing our steps though, it might move.  Mind you, I was grateful for the seemingly  unmoving blue van parked up in Bradwell when I did the Dig Deep 30 mile ultra the other month.  Useful landmark for which way to go on the day when 18 miles in my brain was fried.

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We ventured onward, puzzling over the references to the airstrip.  You are told to walk parallel to this at one point, but as we couldn’t see it or fathom what it was doing there.  In fact, when you do reach it, its presence was proclaimed due to the flamboyant disporting of a wind sock.  Turns out, if we’d read the book, we’d know this to be Apperknowle Airfield, which is still used, and was originally used by the English Steel Corporation (later British Steel) for business flights.   Who knew?

This was quite a fun bit, the weather was gorgeous, even though I was far too hot, and trying to fight the urge to complain too much about being overdressed.  You have pretty good views, though we didn’t know to look out for the Chesterfield Crooked spire which was it seems a missed opportunity.   Personally, I also particularly enjoyed the presence of another gate without a border, and also the heavy plant kit provided for marshals in these parts.  Normally at junior parkrun I’ll make do with a high viz, but the addition of machinery like this could well be a game changer in future.

Somehow, really don’t know how, we missed the path beyond the airstrip and ended up joining the minor road at the ‘wrong’ bit, not that it mattered too much, due to my map reading deciphering skills which are now legend.  Not legend enough to stop us going wrong, but legend enough for me to find out where we were instead.  Go me.  The path we should have taken emerges next to a handily located bench which would have been great for sitting in and taking in views and sustenance.  We didn’t really stop as such, but there were quite a few handily located benches and even a few pubs along the way, even if they were mostly shut on a Wednesday morning.

Finally, onto second part of the walk. That’s two out of seven.  Oops, don’t worry, my photographing and attention to detail started to tail off, and I’ll speed up in my account too.

So onward.  Next challenge was fence clambering skills.  The true pros save time by fence vaulting apparently.  We didn’t try this.  Point of information, a true one, is that I learned that one of the relay runners for the Sheffield Way Relay actually went to recce every gate on the 10 mile section to suss how they could most quickly be negotiated and by what means.  Talk about marginal gains!  This is what marks out the elite I suppose. In my world I like to faff about assessing which end opens and give a gate a bit of a shake to see if it will take my weight before attempted to clamber over the hinge end if necessary.  Given our lack of experience in this respect, I think our gate clambering was pretty good.

So then we had horses to contend with.  They came over to say hello.  This was past Summerley Hall which is an astonishing building, built in the 1600’s apparently.  That’s according to the guide-book, I have no way of telling.  There was a footpath sign pointing into a field just beyond this to the left, but no obvious path, and it did feel like we were trespassing although there must be a path.  I wondered if the farm had sent us round away from the official route, it wasn’t difficult to find our way, but I was a bit uncomfortable about whether we should be passing that way.  Our new equine friend was pleased to see us though, though finding us polo-free, didn’t bother to follow us back down to the bottom of the field from whence he’d come.

more stiles – so many stiles:

Amazing gate at the bottom (we didn’t try to clamber over this one).  PMT stables eh?  Not sure of that as a marketing ploy, maybe that’s why the gate is now rusted over.

and then you go under an unexpected railway. Well, it was unexpected for me, I suppose I’ve spoiled the surprise for you now.

You emerge a bit later and cross the road and then, just when you think there can’t possibly be a footpath anywhere around here, you might, if you are a) lucky, b) eagle-eyed and c) in possession of a map and a certain amount of logic, you can deduce you do go through a little side gate into the yard of what looks very much like private property.  It is legit though, the signs say so, so hold your nerve!

This was a bit strange, you go through the yard, in our case, towards the light, which was pretty much blinding at this point.  There were some large silos, which back-lit by the morning sun looked to me like some weird shipwreck, ripped up in a tsunami and dumped unexpectedly inland.  I had to have a sandwich break at this point, not because I was overwhelmed with the beauteous sights, but because I was peckish, and also thirsty, because I’d been sweating buckets from my inappropriately numerous layers of clothing.

My photos might be out of sequence, but I think it was here there was a newly built section of fencing, presumably to give privacy to the houses that are adjacent to the path.  However, this meant the path for Dronfield Round Walk users such as our good selves was narrow and nettly, it is very prone to getting overgrown, and just needs more people to keep walking the path to stop it becoming impassable.  This was the first nettle injury of the morning.  Long leggings most definitely required. At least we didn’t get attacked by hornets and go into anaphylactic shock or anything. That would be a bad day out running indeed.

It seemed a long hike up hill at this point.  The sun was strong and hot and the slope endless.  If you were to do this as a run, once you had familiarised yourself with the route it would be a good training one, quite tough.  I still can’t make my mind up about the route, parts of it were really genuinely lovely, but it lacked the truly spectacular panoramas of say Stanage or Burbage, but that’s probably an unfair comparison.  What it did have though was woods, stiles, interesting fungi and the potential to get lost.

In what I know now to be Monk wood, we could hear the main road, but initially missed the path that would take us to the bridge crossing for the A61.  I realised we were going wrong and we backtracked and found a way through, but not sure what happened there, lapse in concentration (we do know how to talk) or maybe the path we needed to pick up to the left wasn’t all that clear.

Going over the bridge is entertaining, but the best bit, is there is a helter-skelter like descent at the end, the spiral bridge no less, my photos of it aren’t great, but there was a nice one in the guide-book.  Would be fun to run down that full pelt, though we decided to save that excitement for another day!

It is a hard right into the woods at the bottom, and more woodness and stile ness, including the instruction ‘turn half right towards the holly bushes to find a hidden stile’, so many holly bushes – some laden with red berries already, and so many stiles.  You know, stiles can really lose their novelty value after a bit. The route is described somewhere as having 11+ stiles, but it was more like a gazillion +, no idea why 11 is deemed to be the appropriate scale of stiley-ness for a walk.  Below that is presumably ‘fine’, more than that in number tips a walk over into the more challenging territory of 11+ .  This leads to much shuddering and shaking of heads.   It makes it even more impressive that a work team has been out and revamped, replaced or built from scratch all of these in recent months if their appearance is anything to go by.  They may have been obstacles, but they were well maintained ones.  Stiles also meant directional arrows, which are always a boon when out exploring!  🙂 Might have been here somewhere my yomping friend got lacerated by brambles.  There were many about.  She lived to tell the tale, but the scars will endure also.  Vicious stuff brambles, it’s lucky blackberries are nice and make up for it.

Nice views though, and the most enormously high gateway I’ve ever seen, either that or we somehow shrank en route, or maybe they have particularly enormous livestock roaming in these parts.  If that is the case, I’m quite glad we didn’t encounter them, I mean that is some gateway is it not?  Cattle that big I’d not be offering myself up as a human shield, rather offering up my yomping buddy as a human sacrifice. Harsh but true, none of us really know what we would do when it really came down to it, best hope is that we never have to find out.  Don’t let on though, I have few enough people willing to venture out on the trails with me as it is…

I want to pause for a moment to mention about the bench and gate and stile dedications along the route.  You can sponsor any one of these additions to the route for a fee, and it was quite nice reading the placards.  Not only people, but some enterprising or possibly publicity seeking pooches had also got themselves immortalised along the way.  Nice touch.  Hurrah for Bess and Peg and also to Dot and Des Dunkley with their fabulously alliterated names, what a great thing to do.

After section four, comes the imaginatively named fifth part of the walk.

The ‘board walk’ was surrounded on all sides with huge bull rushes which was spectacular and fun, not so much a ‘wet area’ as a full-blown lake in season I’d say.  When you emerge into what I now know to be Cartledge there are some seriously nice houses.  So nice you can’t quite believe they are private dwellings, but I think they must be.  One had a full on box hedge maze in its front garden.  Really lovely, though I wonder if it would actually be a little strange to live somewhere like here.

I’m reading the blurb after the walk, but wish I’d paused a bit more en route now.

I am told that from Holmesfield Church for example – which we just scampered on by – ‘there are extensive views eastwards from here and the nearest high ground is far away across the great plains of Europe, in the Ural Mountains of Russia!’  That is actually quite remarkable and indeed a point of interest.  Does that mean if I’d taken my binoculars with me and really squinted I might have seen Russian Cossack dancing going on somewhere on them there mountains?  I’m pretty sure it must do.  Next time eh.  We couldn’t have had a better day for clear skies and long views though, so can’t promise you’ll see that yourself if you do go to check it out.  Maybe it will be enough to know it’s happening on your sight lines.  Impressive eh?

ural mountains

Holmesfield Park Wood was quite sweet, with lots of signs and a picnic spot and clearly a lot of love and care has gone into making this a good interactive space.  My pictures don’t really do it justice.  It was all pretty quiet as we went through.  We saw hardly anyone all morning now I come to think of it, masses of horses, a few cows, two dog-walkers and that was about it.

Can you guess what comes next dear reader?  Yes!  That’s right!  The sixth part of the walk!  You are on fire now.

From here, the route was much simpler to follow, and it was possible to pretty much rely on the book.  Well once we made it to the golf course it was.  En route to that point though we had to cross a scary road towards Birchitt Farm where one of the signs has been knocked off – farm machinery rather than vandalism I think, but you needed your wits about you to find the turning.   Some friendly ponies, narrow tracks.  A dead magpie.  You don’t often see them dead, I wonder what had happened to it, I hope not poison, it was just odd to see it lying there on a track and not predated.

This section also eventually opened up into much more runnable sections with some great views.  Although there were some exceptions to that.  When we got to the golf course – which seemed a bit incongruous with its manicured greens alongside farm land, there was a narrow tree-lined track which Selfie Queen Smiley remarked would prevent you from ever being found if a stray golf ball came whizzing through the undergrowth and struck you with such force you dropped dead on impact.  This didn’t happen to us today, but consider yourself to have heard the health and safety briefing and been alerted to our very own risk assessment.  We could hear some golfers thwacking away.  Really don’t understand the point of golf, but each to their own eh.

We’d been out for hours now, and it started to get a bit stressful as my Smiley Selfie Queen Buddy was needing to get back, and we’d been out longer than expected.  However,  we still needed to check the route and to be honest I wasn’t really up for a late turn of speed.  We pressed on to the final seventh part of the walk.  We agreed to press on together.

we passed under the requisite two bridges to reach the main road

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this part of the route was something of a shock.  It was really busy with cars going a bit too fast for comfort.  I couldn’t work out where they were heading, as there isn’t really anywhere up the track other than a dead-end.  Oh well, a mystery for another time.

Very nearly back to the start now.  Across a busy road, and pretty much a straight line across some fields various through hedges and ducking down allies until you emerge back on Eckington road where we started.  At this point we said our farewells.  Smiley Selfie Queen sprinted off to get her car and head home, I nipped into the garage for some orange juice and took the official route back, which goes behind the little garden area with the sign we’d photographed at the start and dodges through a mini housing estate for no apparent reason beyond avoiding the busy main road I suppose.  It would be fair to say it was something of an anticlimactic finish.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, my Strava route – of course my watch gave up on me again.  Of course it did.  Not that you missed much in the last little bit, just the dodge through a housing estate for no obvious purpose I was telling you about.  Oh well.

strava route

So that was that.  Walk done.

It’s definitely interesting to have done it because it shows you how everywhere links up and there are some unexpectedly lovely bits along the way.  It would be a good run route if you were training for trail marathons as it has good distance and surprisingly a lot of hills.  You could have paused at any number of pubs or cafes along the way had you wanted to – clearly we were hard-core and self-sufficient so didn’t – though you might want to think about time of day you are out as they won’t necessarily be open.  I’d like to see this path stay clear, and the best way to achieve that is for people to go out and use it – oh, and buy the book guide too, as whatever it’s limitations, it is a way to fund the upkeep of the footpaths.  Some of the work they’ve put in to rebuild steps and put up really strong stiles is very impressive, and will cost money to maintain.  The signage and new stiles, fencing and even laboriously laid steps and little bridges in some areas are an absolute labour of love by the team that put this together.  Virtual high-fives to all of them.  I might be curious enough to go back some time and do it in the other direction, just because, and I expect next time round would be a lot quicker because obviously there would be a lot less faffing.  Probably not ever going to lure me away from the hills and the heather, however, I would cautiously recommend, but keep your wits about you navigationally.  I think honestly, it’s a route that once you’ve done and ‘ticked off’ you might not rush to go back and do again, but if it’s on your doorstep, as it is mine then yep, you should do it.  Keep those footpaths clear and who knows, it may even put you in good stead for future legs of the Sheffield Way Relay, leg 4 in particular… just saying….

In other news, we also saw a rather lovely ladybird, but unfortunately it’s a harlequin one, and they aren’t good news.  I’ve actually reported its presence to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey people, does that make me weirdly geeky, a responsible citizen or a latent entomologist?  I have no idea.  Oh well.  Other shots worthy of inclusion are below:

My conclusion then is ‘good in parts’ with a recommendation for it as a winter option as I think it would be beautiful in the frost and the paths would stay passable, but what do I know.

There you go then, not my most inspired blog post ever, but hopefully you’ll get the gist if you fancy stepping out in Dronfield, and why wouldn’t you.  You can nip in to the myriad of nurseries/ garden centres on the way home should the mood take you if your legs hold up that long.

Oh, and can we have a minute’s applause to the good people who decided to revamp and renew the route, your labours are much appreciated.  I thank you!  Thank you too lovely Dronfield for opening your paths for us to discover your delights.

Happy recceing and running until next time.

🙂

 

*Oh, and by the way, as I like to be helpful, if you are an ultra runner with an interest in pot noodles, or even if you are not an ultra runner but are still interested in pot noodles, add a visit to the instant noodle museum to your bucket list, you’re welcome.

cup noodle museum

That will give the Sulabh International Toilet museum a run for its money.  In fact, they may be yin to each others yan.  Go check it out people, you know you want to!

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Giving Dronfield the run around. Recce of Round Dronfield Walk

  1. David Lumb

    I am the coordinator for ten walk wardens and a Work Party for the Round Walk. All 11 of us thank you for your compliments: we’ve just finished the restoration (apart from one set of steps) so you met it at its best.
    David

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    • Oh wow, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I was so very impressed by the work that has gone in to the restoration. You can tell it’s a labour of love, so many perfect styles and lovely bridges and even new stone paths to get to them at some points. Your efforts are very much appreciated. Footpaths can be fragile things, maintaining them is hard enough, improving them and bringing them back to life as you and your team have is at another level all together. I salute you! Hope to come back and do it all the other way round some time. Thanks again! 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Brill walk for Halloween. Top bird interaction. | Running Scared

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