7 December 2019


There's a nice fellow who lives across the road from us. He is also into country walking. He's two or three years older than me and his name is Alan. He's a widower.

Yesterday I rode into the city centre with Alan on a number 82 bus. We compared recent walking experiences and reflected on our favourite pastime.

The conversation confirmed what I already surmised about him. His experience of walking and indeed his attitude to rambling is in several ways radically different from mine.

For example, whereas I prefer solitary walking with no one to please but myself, Alan never walks alone. He plods along with a walking group or a couple of friends. I think he finds the very  idea of solo walking rather odd.

Here's another difference. Alan always has a haversack on his back when walking in the country. Amongst other things it always contains a whistle, a torch, a flask of hot tea, sandwiches, Kendal mintcake, fruit and possibly a raincoat - just in case. He also uses walking poles. In contrast I prefer to travel light - with no bag - just my camera and a map sheet. This changes if I am going on a particularly long walk or if it is an unusually hot or cold day. Then I might take a bottle of water, an apple and a banana, maybe a woolly hat in wintertime.

On the bus I said to Alan, "You are a sensible walker but I am foolhardy!" He seemed shocked to learn of my devil-may-care casualness and didn't appear to get it when I pointed out that our local walking territory was not  The Himalayas or The Sahara Desert. 

He was further shocked when I told him that I have never owned a mobile phone. To him it is an essential aid when rambling in The Peak District with his companions. He can use it like a beacon to alert emergency services or he can use it as a tracking device - mapping his walks. I said I didn't need that kind of thing and that I had walked hundreds of miles without such a gadget.

Dismounting at the same bus stop in the city centre, I suspect that Alan strolled away shaking his head about the carefree lunatic he had just travelled with. We are not the same but I wonder if for one fragment of a moment did he wonder about my carefree attitude to walking? If we were rock climbers I would be into free climbing while he would have a helmet, safety ropes, carabinas, a support team and no chance whatsoever of falling.

That is not to say that I am right and Alan is wrong but doing it his way would not sit well with me. No it would not sit well at all. What kind of life is it if you are forever battening down the hatches just in case danger calls? 

5 December 2019


The River Porter (Porter Brook) approaching Forge Dam

I wrote a poem today - about a little river that I know well. It begins its journey in the spongy sphagnum moss and peaty terrain of Ringinglow Moor before spilling into steep-sided Porter Clough.

Then it heads past Forge Dam Cafe - once a working forge - before flowing through ancient woods to Endcliffe Park. That is surely Sheffield's most loved park and every Easter there is a plastic duck race there for charity - along The Porter Brook.

Every Wednesday when I walk to work at the Oxfam shop, I look over the park railings to observe the Porter before it flows into a Victorian tunnel under Ecclesall Road. Though its journey is quite short it has never dried up these forty summers past.

With two miles to go until it joins forces with The River Sheaf my little river passes along arrow straight high-walled sections and through dark and slimy culverts. It would be possible to walk it in wading boots though I have never done that.

The two rivers meet beneath Sheffield Midland Railway Station - hidden from view - before they continue - soon meeting the much larger River Don by Blonk Street Bridge.

Porter Brook

Sucking  sphagnum
On Ringinglow moortop
Along hidden capillaries
Water  slowly syphoned
Leeching  hummocks
Where ovines graze
And red grouse cackle.

Puddling  now
At yon  clough top
Under stone arches swelling
Over rock steps tumbling
Surging down the valley’s “V”
Incised through ancient history
Drawn onward to a distant sea

Past old Forge Dam
Burbling into suburbia
Where mill wheels spun
Grinding knife and scythe
Under mighty beech and lime
Then  scurrying into shadows dark
Cast by trees in Endcliffe Park.

Deeper into the city
Subterraneously contained
In stygian culverts, under roads
That brook of hidden secrets flows
Approaching engine grumble grows
At Platform 5 - while  yards beneath
Is where The Porter meets The Sheaf.

4 December 2019


North Lees Hall (1594)
November was a dreadful month up here in the north of England. Grey rain drummed down from charcoal coloured skies as brown rivers overflowed. We were trapped inside like November's prisoners though we were innocent of any crime.

In contrast, the first four days of December have been gaudy and bright. We have been  drawn out of our houses by sharp sunshine and a whole box of colours. As I look out of my window right now, the sky is the colour of blue sapphires, reaching up above the houses with not a cloud in sight.
Stanage Edge and a wall... See how the bracken has turned brown
Yesterday, I walked again. Not far away. West of Stanage Edge. A very familiar walk. I was mostly doing it for the exercise and simply just to be outside in the light. You never know - as December progresses the gloom may well return. No matter what the weather, it will be particularly gloomy on the twelfth if  Conniving, Lying, Ugly, Brow-Beating, Dodging, Twisting, Insulting, Narcissistic Johnson wins the election with his motley crew of like-minded twerps and sycophants.
Overstones Farm
Who could vote for that over-privileged mob? It makes my blood boil. I would rather have L.B.Johnson than B.S.Johnson and the first one is long dead I know.

Calm down Yorkshire Pudding! Calm Down Lad! You'll have a seizure if you are not careful.
Another view of North Lees Hall
And so let me illustrate this blogpost with soothing images of yesterday when "all my troubles seemed so far away". I took several pictures of North Lees Hall which Charlotte Bronte visited with another clergyman's daughter in the 1840's. It is said that it then became the model for Thornfield Hall in her most famous novel - "Jane Eyre".

By the way, that was not Charlotte Bronte on the horse.
Horsey Lady on Sheepwash Lane

3 December 2019


Normally I walk alone. I'm referring to country rambles. I plod at my own pace with my own thoughts, alert to the world around me - without distraction. There are no discussions, no pauses to agree the way forward.

However, on Sunday morning I walked with my old friend Tony. He had driven over from The East Riding of Yorkshire to ramble in sunshine on the first day of December. We headed to Bradfield - to the north west of Sheffield where farmland meets moorland. Surprisingly, he had never been there before so it was a delight to introduce him to this lovely corner of The Peak District.
St Nicholas's Church, High Bradfield
We left Clint by the cricket ground in Low Bradfield and set off towards Agden Reservoir. Five miles later we were back in the lower village ordering hot teas and snacks in the small post office-cum-cafe before driving back into the city.

It had been a delightful walk and there was  conversation too - some of it about Tony's forthcoming marriage. It's his second marriage and early in the new year I will be his best man for the second time. 
I have known that fellow for forty years. There is no pretence nor point scoring in our fellowship. It's all so easy and so comfortable. We have shared secrets with each other that we have never shared with any other person.

Sometimes it's good to walk with someone else.

2 December 2019


Just up the road from us there's a former community pub that has now reinvented itself as an upmarket bar restaurant. It has retained the original name - "The Prince of Wales" but is very different from how it used to be.

Since the conversion - around five years ago - I have avoided visiting this hostelry. It was as if the developers had stolen away one of our local pubs without even asking if that would be okay.

However, on Friday I had to step over the pub's threshold once again. The visit was obligatory because Shirley and I had been invited to a special birthday celebration in "The Prince of Wales". The birthday girl was the mother of the young man who recently killed himself so inevitably  the evening had the character of a wake. We were saying goodbye to him.

We arrived at 6pm and left at 11.30pm. The next day I felt awful. It was the first hangover I have had in many years and I did not like it. It reminded me of my student days when I frequently drank like a fish and woke up feeling like a dog.

Costwise, this evening of over-indulgence would have been bad enough if it happened in an ordinary pub but in "The Prince of Wales" it was almost ridiculous.

Early in the evening, Shirley sent me to the bar to buy a bottle of wine. As I was waiting to be served I spotted a bottle of New Zealand savignon blanc in the glass fronted cold cupboard behind the bar.

I said to the young barman that I would have it and he he keyed it in on the till before looking up at me and saying, "That will be £42!" £42? £42! £42 is currently $54US or $80AUS. Though shocked to the core, I regathered my composure and ended the transaction asking what other bottles of sauvignon blanc were available. I ended up paying half the price for a similar bottle which was still exorbitant but not capable of causing very sudden heart failure.

I looked around the rest of the clientelle. They were so different from ordinary pubgoers. They smelled of affluence. Their clothes had the look of money and style just like the women's hair-dos and the men's wristwatches. Out in the car park there were Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar cars. Clint would not have fitted in so it was fortunate that we had walked up to "The Prince".

If I never go in that establishment again I will be very happy. Nonetheless, when all is said and done, we were there on Friday night to support a couple we have known for over thirty years in a time of  enormous grief and desolation. I guess that in the great scheme of things it did not really matter that the wine cost £42 a bottle for that was  merely another feature of the pain that coloured the night.

1 December 2019


On Friday, I walked along two edges - Curbar Edge and Froggatt Edge. They are millstone grit escarpments that overlook the valley of The River Derwent - a twelve minute drive from Pudding Palace.
Above you can see two photographers standing on a rocky outcrop. They are probably talking about photographic techniques or possibly the meaning of life. Behind them - on the horizon - there's the telecommunications mast that sits on Sir William Hill above Grindleford.

Below you can see part of the Bronze Age stone circle on Froggatt Edge. It is around four thousand years old and though not as imposing nor as important as Stonehenge would once have been, it still speaks powerfully of past times and of the people who populated these islands long ago.
All of the millstone edges near Sheffield are popular with the rock climbing fraternity. It is not a pastime that has ever appealed to me personally though it is easy to admire the courage, patience and sheer ability shown by the sport's adherents. They cling like insects to rock faces, raising themselves upward - reliant upon personal strengths - both mental and physical. This young man was on Curbar Edge with his bare-footed companion above - holding the safety rope.

Above, a finger-like outcrop points the way to infinity and beyond and below the two photographers are continuing their wide-ranging discussion. The agenda has moved on to Brexit now so a tandem leap from the edge is anticipated at any moment..."Geronimo!"

29 November 2019


I got round to reading "How To Live Vegan". It was written by the so-called Bosh! Boys - my son Ian and his friend Henry Firth. They wrote it at the behest of their publisher - Harper Collins who realised that there was a place for such a lifestyle manual in a changing world where more and more people are considering moving to plant-based diets - recognising the huge detrimental impact that meat dairy and egg consumption are having upon our planet.

But please don't think that "How To Live Vegan" is preachy, adding to climate crisis tales of gloom and doom. No way. It is an upbeat, friendly and honest guide to adopting a vegan lifestyle in this modern world. It is easy to read and practical too.

It considers such matters as the clothes we wear, cosmetics, eating out, dealing with cynics and sceptics, shopping in supermarkets, travel, meal planning and best practice in the kitchen. The underlying messages are that it is good to be alive, it's good to aspire to live better lives and it's good to adopt a plant-based diet.

From the word go - Ian has always said that the number one reason he turned vegan was through watching the 2014 documentary "Cowspiracy" by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. This film is referred to in "How To Live Vegan" and so just the other night I finally watched it. It is available in Netflix but here's a YouTube link to the official trailer.

I had imagined that "Cowspiracy" would be about intensive farming methods and mistreatment of farm animals but it wasn't that at all. It was about the massive harm that animal industries are doing to our planet and how the startling connected statistics have so often been  swept conveniently under political carpets in a weird conspiracy of silence.

"How To Live Vegan" contains three hundred pages of positive, straightforward assistance. It tells us that it is okay to approach veganism in the way that best suits you and that no one can be 100% vegan. There will be slip-ups and contradictions along the way. Ian and Henry twice refer to the British Vegan Society's definition of veganism:-

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is 
possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty 
to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

The emphasis is upon the terms "possible" and "practicable" -  riders sensibly embraced in this handbook.

The third Bosh! recipe book - "Bosh! Healthy Vegan" will be available in Britain from Boxing Day and in the USA on January 28th.

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