Through a Tunnel in to Thurgoland (Day 72) June 8th
By Steph Bradley 8th June 2010
What a day! It has rained continuously from sometime in the night and I find myself in the heart of “Last of the Summer Wine” country! Fortunately I have sought refuge in the lovely White Heart (yes, really!) and am treating myself with asparagus risotto and chocolate brownies. This is such an unexpected thing to find; half an hour ago I thought I was going to have to revert to the typical local fare of cheese and onion on white, or meat pie, neither of which are easily digestible for me and for a moment I spare a thought for my local food rule, before giving into a need to look after my well being first.
I left Wortley Hall late morning after finally catching up with my blog and tramped across the village back to the Transpennine Trail, which very fortunately for me is along the bed of the old disused railway. The rain has not let up and my feet have not forgotten the challenge of soggy footpaths! I greet the railway path like an old friend and ally; some of my easiest walks have been along disused railways and this one proves to be no exception.
It does have its unique feature though; a long tunnel, lit by different shades of yellow and orange lights, but a long dark tunnel nonetheless; not the place for anyone suffering from claustrophobia that’s for sure. It takes about five minutes of very focused determined walking to get through it and I can feel my escaping from cattle grit kicking in; I will not be beaten back by my own fear! I can just about still see a tiny piece of green light from where I entered when the glimmer of light from the other side begins to shine.
I think, as I walk, about those disturbing futuristic films with their unnatural humanmade environments that make you glad you are still in your own living room and not out there where anything might happen. This 28 cm thick concrete tunnel, replacing the older stone hewn one, has nothing of the proud achievement of our cathedrals, nor our cosy thatched cottages about it, and everything of a soulless heartless industrial wasteland that feels nothing, yields nothing, stands emotionless in the landscape; no interaction, no softening, no ivy has yet dared creep its tendrils around the edges, only the brash youth have dared to come here and left their mark in the form of graffiti “porn” they declare and “f**k off” showing the direction their thoughts had been headed, and drawings of phantoms give a hint to what they were really feeling beneath the facade of hardness.
Out the other side I pass through Thurgoland, and soon come to the signs that welcome the walker to Oxbridge and read about the lanes that crisscross over this part of our country; the old drovers’ lanes that run west to east across the land, Salters Lane along which the folk of Cheshire used to travel taking salt to the port in Hull, and the Packhorse Lane where goods used to be transported from Derbyshire in to the West Ridings and back.
The track runs parallel a while until it reaches Penistone (once Penge stone that possibly meant wealth or affluence), enticingly described as a charming market town. Well, I have heard poetic licence used in many ways but to describe Penistone as charming is going a little too far, I fear. Its highlight is certainly its sense of its roots; The 12th century St John the Baptist’s church boasts a series of memorial stones to bear witness to its history from its Saxon cross, to its mention in the Domesday book, to its being granted a market charter, the establishment of a grammar school, and the last event of note in the 1800s…the first steel works to be built in the vicinity.
The town could have appeal, it has a nicely shaped centre where the Thursday market must be held, but the 3 central pubs are a wasteland of the lone male drinker each with their very own, with appropriate “poor me” expression. No food to be found apart from in the tiny caf which I would describe as a transport caf if there were any customers for it to warrant the name, with a menu of egg and chips, burger and chips, meat pie and chips, and cheese with everything sandwiches. The shops are those of a small semi rural town; familiar even in the north east of Brazil; electrical goods, clothes shops, two small supermarkets, a newsagent; I feel a familiar heaviness; this was the north I had escaped from many years ago, sure there was more to life than this.
As I have walked in along the track I meet two large lorries and a small steamroller with their accompanying workers; this is the wild north so there are no health and safety signs, in fact no warning signs of any description at all that major work is taking place on the track. Of course along with this is a certain freedom; the track is not closed to the public and I am waved past to continue my walk. As I pass the steamroller operator…
“Tha’ll have to get some proper shoooes”
with a trace of “lass” following the utterance, in the air but not spoken; have I passed the age of it not being quite respectable to address me in this way, I wonder? I am transported back years to my childhood in Lancashire; the northern dialect; carrying with it still the remnants of our olde Englishe in the thine’s and the thou’s. It is quite comforting in a way; through the rain and the swiftly muddying track a trace of concern expressed in brusque Northern fashion.
I feel even more heartened in this rainy midway- through- a- long- journey day when I discover the pub has wireless and I can check my e mails; greetings come from Mike Payne (hoping I’m not sliding about too much in my flip flops) and Iain Dimmock from Nottingham, Charlene Collinson in Forest Row, pictures and an article of my lovely visit to Derby from William Barron, a mention from Rob and Helen in the monthly round up of transition news on transition culture http://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2010-06-08/june-round-what%E2%80%99s-happening-out-world-transition , and yesterday a text from Sarah in the New Forest to show me that though I walk alone right now in the northern wastelands I am not alone in my transition adventure.
I am slightly concerned in that my lovely trusted second hand windows mobile phone has stopped working; the battery has given up the ghost and I have no prevision of a town big enough to stock a replacement for a couple of days– amazing how one becomes accustomed to the constant companion of an instant connection to one’s contacts. I feel a little lost; yet 3 months ago I led a life that was mobile free…
Tonight I am expected at Town Head, an eco hamlet with its own wind turbine and solar power, just outside of Dunford Bridge, just at the end of the railway track…