Today is quite a difficult day to categorise; perhaps diverse would be the best description. I leave Ruth and Ben’s home in the district of Sharrow and head off to Jo Brierley’s house for the promised and looked forward to massage. If you are ever in Meersbrook you must look her up (email@example.com); for good earthy company, authenticity of communication, and the best massage I have yet experienced. Jo uses her knowledge of aromatherapy in the blends she uses in the oil; for me she chooses an ayurvedic blend; rosemary and oregano, and soon the sharply pungent tones fill the air and I relax under Jo’s capable hands.
“Squeal if it hurts”
But I can tell the pain is good pain; the tight muscles in my calves are delighted at the workover and we discover knots in my neck I didn’t know existed. I sink into deep relaxation and when we leave Jo’s house city centre bound I delight in flexing my newly supple muscles; I feel like one of those bendy toys, like the pink panther key fob we keep in the transition office! We reach the “heart of the city”, as the signpost proclaims, via Sheffield’s heath food and crystal shops and I purchase Montezuma chocolate for my journey.
Once in the centre I hear of the regeneration programme; it is quite radical; half the buildings have been recently demolished and a new Sheffield is planned. The city was blitzed in the war and has many of those hastily thrown up post war monstrosities so common in our cities. Yet again on this journey a reminder of the lasting effects of that terrible time which tore the heart out of our major settlements. New Sheffield will retain its old buildings and any half decent of the modern era, but the soulless flat rooved functional sort will be razed to the ground in a fit of a new broom sweeps clean. I see the work in progress; one side of the main thoroughfare is panelled off and illustrated with brightly coloured information and pictures about the city’s history; I learn, and see, that Sheffield is a market town as well as a cathedral city, at one point in history it had no less than 7 markets!
Jo and I continue to wend our way up towards the cathedral and as we walk past market stalls trying in vain to make out what the new quotes say on the backs of the new benches we come across a very incongruous sight; two native Americans in full ceremonial dress; feathers of all description adorning their garb stand sounding to a backing tape of their traditional music. As is often the case with such spectacles the costumes are fantastic and make up for the rather spiritless canned music. I always think it is rather a shame the artists don’t sing themselves.
I thank Jo for her many gifts; the massage, the rucksack adjustments, for acting as my local guide, and we part company, me to catch a tram, the first for years, to take me out of Sheffield. This has been recommended to me as being by far the best way to get out of the NW of the city, and I am quite excited by my trip and to see the old form of transport reinstated. I was in Lisbon some 15 years ago last time I was transported in this way.
I alight several minutes later from the spotlessly clean tram with its gentle polite conductor in a place called Middlewood and am almost instantly in the midst of uncomfortable feeling council flat accommodation and young boys hanging around outside corner shops and down alleys; much as young boys of a certain age and background always have. I am soon past them and walking past parkland; a glimpse of elderly couples playing bowls, and a whole heap of edge of town trees with that slightly jaded air. I walk on pavements alongside the main road and after a mile or two come to Oughtibridge where I bear left over the Don which I have been accompanying out of the city.
I join the TransPennine Way and walk the rest of the day through the Wharncliffe woods. I am not at all sure these qualify for woods, thought there are patches of oak and native flowers adorning the edges, the majority of trees are pine and the woods have that dark rather dank feel. The path however is clearly signposted and well kept and relatively straight and flat. I can let my mind wander and find myself planning the sort of house I want to live in when I have finished this project. It has been interesting watching my thoughts as I walk this journey; almost as if I am walking the gypsy out of me and making room for the householder who will make jam, keep ducks, and entertain many guests. It is a strange and yet curiously pleasant process.
I reach Wortley and phone the B&B where I half thought I’d stay tonight. I am feeling in need of an easy day’s walk and a talk-free evening. No room at the inn but space at Wortley Hall. It is a little more expensive and I decide I deserve it. I walk past the stone houses, the bleak looking church, and up an impressive looking driveway to check in. The village must have at one time been the workers’ cottages for the estate of the Wortley family. I read in the hotel literature of Lady Mary Wortley who was a bit if a rebel and ran off with Edward Wortley, marrying into the family only to later divorce him some 20 years later and head off to Italy where she discovered the small pox vaccine being used in the 1770s and brought it back to England before inoculations were accepted practice.
Wortley, I learn, means field where vegetables are grown. I wonder what the soil is here; what I can see of the current gardens seems to consist of a lot of non-native coniferous trees which keep them quite free of sunlight. I look forward to a time when we have all remembered what our local soil is good for and are growing things that nourish us and their environment.