2011-08-20 53 -1

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Sat 20 Aug 2011 in 53,-1:
53.4892674, -1.7423110

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Another in the Barnsley Pennines, by the upper reaches of the River Porter/Little Don, not far from 2011-08-12 53 -1 (just over a week ago) and very near the area of a school field-trip taken by Monty a little over two decades previously.


Monty to be there...


Depending upon the rest of the day (and, given this is being written at nearly 5AM, it could be an interesting schedule), a mid-to-late afternoon arrival in the area is anticipated. And if I'm being non-specific about the time, I can be equally vague about the route.

One way or another, I'll be driving to the 'vicinity', and just have to decide where to approach this from. It'll probably be easy to park up near the end of Swinden Lane (near Milton Lodge, on the A628), and head down and onto Hordron Road towards the valley and moor. Estimated walking distance: 6km/3.5 miles

I could park up in the Old Manchester Road spur I used the previous Friday (near the A616/A628 island), use the paths to Far Swinden and work out which particular tracks from there. 10km/6 miles of walking, there and back.

For a marginally more adventurous trek, stop at Langsett and up to the Porter/Little Don inflow around the reservoir. That'd be perhaps a dozen miles of foot travel.

It would be even more worthy to head over to Howden Reservoir (except that parking, unlike the actual situation during the 2011-02-19_53 -1 expedition, would have to be at the base of the Upper Derwent Resrvoir) and use the Cut Gate track, but that would mean an estimated 35-40 miles return trip walk. I doubt I'll do that. Apart from anything else, it would also mean a longer car journey, due to how the road network works in and out of Sheffield and its environs.

If anyone else does want to wander along, then perhaps we'll meet anyway, but if you make a note about your plans I might spot them and be able to coincide.


Concluding other business within Sheffield, I finally managed to head off to the hashpoint at about 2PM. Not knowing that there was a Sheffield Wednesday match on, at least until I got there, I went via Hillsborough and past the Owls' football ground. Some sticky traffic, but it could have been worse (especially if trying to get through after the match had ended, rather than at this point well before it must have started).

Going up to Stocksbridge and then along to Langsett (where I had decided to start the walking phase of this journey) I arrived at the Yorkshire Water car park at about 14:40, to find it almost full, but luckily there was at least one space. I had decided to journey up along the north side of the reservoir located at the eponymous village and then stick to the river on the way up, perhaps varying my journey on the way back, but how realistic this was, we would have to see.

Ominously, to the west the clouds looked particularly dark, but as it turned out I never actually got wet from the top down over the next few hours. Heading towards Crookland Wood, above the top of the resrvoirs in-feed, I passed over the stout bridge which I might have approached from the opposite direction had I taken the path to the southern side of the resrvoir, or indeed had I decided to make the much longer trip over Cut Gate from the Upper Derwent Valley.

On the gate leading towards the upper stretches of the Porter/Little Don river was a notice regarding normally open-access moorlands closed for the protection of bird habitats. The hashed-out area encompassed my desired destination, I learnt with trepidation, but thankfully the dates involved meant that the previous restriction period had ended on the Thursday, and the next would not resume until Monday, so I would be well within my rights to not only continue along the public rights of way but yomp along sheep-tracks and even the moorland as and when required.

A popular picnic spot, a number of family groups were ensconsed upon the verdant banks of the river. (I had passed and crossed a number of other families along the path to this point, with children young enough that I wasn't convinced they were going to trek all the way around the reservoir, so this was probably where they were going/had been.) There were a number of spots that had been made trivially crossable by means of ad-hoc stepping stones, and I used one to cross to the north bank, and then a stone-slab bridge across one minor tributary and a log-and-slat bridge to cross a less minor one.

By my reckoning, I had now reached the stretch of the river which a school field trip had brought us to, many years before. Memory fails me, but I suspect it was a combined maths/science/geography trip, the teachers from all these disciplines bringing a number of classes to this area to study whatever interesting features they were keen for us to witness. Waterflow-meters and metre-rules were doubtless part of the equipment, and I recall deftly running up and down the rocky sides of the stream-bed, at least until at one point, over-extending myself, one leap had put me onto the unstable end of a dry-stone wall leading down into the stream-bed and I had caused a minor avalanche. Nobody and nothing hurt, except for a traditional farming boundary and probably my pride given my error was witnessed by some girls I had been inadvertently entertaining with my antics. (No, I wasn't actually showing off, I'm fairly sure that I was just at a loose end and was enjoying the 'sport', just as I would have done had I been alone... still, in hindesight it probably looked like I was trying to impress. Something tells me that I didn't.)

The riverside path was fairly obvious, at first. Shortly, however, it was covered in bracken. As I thrust myself through the verdant vegetation, the path could be plainly felt by my feet (it was a definite rut, and straying off the path was not an issue) and occasionally gaps in the stems and leaves confirmed this, but there was a greater and greater effort required to brush aside the intertwined plant-tops. At one point I executed a pirouette so as to "unwind" some particularly tenacious flora, and then even that tactic failed to work. I had gone perhaps 100 yards up the riverbank, 50 of these through the aforementioned ground-cover, but decided I'd double-back and try the hill-side trail that I had seen heading up towards the enclosures (marked on the map as not open access, as an exception to the rule in this locale, but easily skirtable) which would have at the top end a site labelled "Hordron" on the map.

This path up the hill hit the "sharp end" of an enclosure with its gateway (a non-public trail marked as passing through this, and onwards to this Hordron place) with obvious trails passing along the outsides of both walls splaying out from this point. Taking the lower path, I found myself upon a more navigable path than the riverside one. While its use looked less pronounced, there was generally little in the way of vegetation impeding progress. It was a hill-side path, however, and there were one or two places where I was high up on the edge above the river (ironically, now easily seeing the riverside path, 20-30 metres below). At one point, there was even a choice between limboing under a tree branch, jutting out from the up-hill side, clambering over it, or edging up to the boundary wall and passing this arboreal barrier on the uphill side. I limboed. (Well, not quite, but I decided that passing under it was the best option, however inelegent.)

Shortly, the obvious path ahead moved up to hug the lower boundary wall, and was again bracken-covered, and once more I had to barge through the greenery as the trail (which I was suspecting was primarily used by sheep, who would pass beneath the low canopy as if in a forest) as it headed down back towards the valley below. By the map-marked sheepfold, I was firmly on the riverside, and the path had very obvious human touches, such as stones assisting my crossing of various damper places, and at one point old fence-slats (some with the muddy footprints of hiking boots upon them) laid across a aprticularly boggy area.

As Harden Clough departed to the south (not to be confused with Hordron Clough, which I was still following), the trail had several times traversed breaks along the length of the ancient dry-stone wall, and it was getting all 'vegatative' yet again, and a short distance before the bend in the riverbed (and shortly afterwards the footbridge which would indicate my need to head up onto the southern valley side) I transitioned to the riverbed itself. My old 'skills', slightly tempered by time and the grasping of camera in one hand and OS map in the other, returned with a vengeance and I made the best speed I had for quite a while, striding over and upon the less-submerged stones and drier slabs of angled bedrock.

Reaching a point I could easily regain the bank, the sheep-shorn grass heralded my approach to the vehicular track marked on my map. To the left, the promised footbridge loomed (leading up to Near Cat Clough and a series of grouse-shooting emplacements) and ahead and to my left I could clearly see the "elbow" of track that would travel to this side of Far Cat Clough and which would by my route up the hillside. The track (most likely used, these days, by farmer/gamekeeper quad-bike travel) crossed the stream at a primitive but walkable ford, and still my feet would be kept dry.

With precious few landmarks in this part of the world, save for riverbeds and the unreliable and changable colouring of heather and its flowers, a tree located within Far Cat Clough was a godsend for my zeroing in upon the geohash location.

From the overhead photos, a distinct point in the 'wiggle' in the trail I was now ascending could be seen to be exactly opposite the target point, on a line passing straight past the tree. (A rowan, I believe, but I haven't checked that fact, yet.) Moreover, the target point is exactly twice as far on the other side as the distance from trail to a tree crown's far-edge. Having brung along a tape-measure (largely by accident), I made some ground measurements, to confirm what I had measured with strides, as I had already planned to. (As it was, the stride-measure was no little comfounded by the dip into Far Cat Clough, but my ready-reckoning adjustments pretty much agreed with my more complexly measured distances, and I found myself at what I considered to be the correct distance across from the tree, just needing to get the correct angle.

In this respect, I had planned ahead. My distinct and highly visible blue rucksack (containing little that any of my other bags could handle, but especially useful for carting around the tripod that I was now carrying separately) had been left on the edge of the track (not, itself, particularly visible from this vantage-point) at a quite particular spot, and so I skirted round until it was correctly lined up with the northern edge of the tree.

The overhead images had suggested some possible indeterminate features that might show themselves through the vegetation, and it was gratifying that as I was scouting out a good spot to position the tripod and camera for the self-portrait, I nearly fell down into a wet hole quite clearly visible from the aerial shots but almost invisible from the ground. :)

Photos taken, only the return journey was now required. Given the valley-bottom difficulties, once I had once more crossed the ford I headed back via the road headed towards Upper Hordron, which would eventually lead round the end of Little Moor and become the Hordron Road. A steep start, until cresting the rise, it was a grassy and bracken-free route, and then very much no different from a lot of regular unfenced single-carriageway tracks. With the option to follow Hordren Road around back to Swinden Lane doing executing some switch-backs, across a ford and beyond, when rounding the top end of the non-open enclosures I took to following the wall-hugging route and soon found myself down at the 'pointed' end of this enclosure and back on the track I had originally taken up from the aborted riverside route.

Determined not to merely retrace my original steps, so much, I first of all stuck to a path rising up the slope on the north bank of the river, then when this fell back towards the valley floor switched over to a heretofor unexplored path along the southern bank. Having not yet reached the more popular riversides, it was at this point where some less-reliable stepping stones meant that half of one shoe got a bit dunked as one stone wobbled, slightly dampening the sock (and foot) within. But having had my caution reawakened by this mis-step, no further dampening of feet or spirits occured.

The next most notable sight (apart from some interesting geology, in a small worn and exposed cliff-face) was that of a group of people picniccing where the families had been congregated, upon my initial trip upwards. They had their pets with them. Most on leads, perhaps a couple in pet-carriers. And all these pets were... ferrets. I exchanged pleasantries with one of them who, along with several of the others who were chatting among themselves, had a distinctly german accent. As I reached and cross the bridge, another of their number (obvious from the ferret design upon her t-shirt) had a rather more standard dog on a lead. A puppy, who was straining and whining to go on, but who (I was informed, in a similarly germanic accent) was being taught patience by waiting until it stopped whining, and had to be mildly rebuked for trying to jump up at me... not that I would have minded a bit of puppy-slobber, but I didn't want to spoil the training so I held off conveying any obvious affection towards the pup and continued on my way shortly.

With the lower path along the reservoir's northern shore having been my outward route, I took the more uphill version for my return-trip, with little to report except the unexpected spying of a wheat-field being harvested with an antique-looking harvester. There was also a fleeting hint of rain, but it held off (or blew away) before being anything more than an almost intangible misting. Reaching the car, I returned to Sheffield. Again through Hillsborough, but by now the football match (I've no idea who the away team would have been) had long finished, so no traffic issues.

(Nearly forgot: estimated walking distance, from cursory measurement on the map, is 11.5km, or a tad over 7 miles... driving distance not recorded and probably not really relevent.)






TBA, when I find time. (Standard, Land Geohash/No Batteries... Vague possibility of MNIMB.)