As we wade through the swirling eddies of claustrophobic Christmas crowds, lost and suffocated, pawing at shop fronts and lusting at the plump bags of others as if trapped in the midst of a zombie Lowry painting, the merits of Swift’s ‘Modest Proposal’ become increasingly convincing:
I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.
Though replacing turkeys with children as our seasonal foodstuff of choice does offer a long term solution to Christmas crowds, here at FreeSheffield we believe that children are the future. So if you can’t beat ’em, run away as fast as possible.
We offer today a choice of alternative expeditions that will give you a breather from Fargate, the Moor and Meadowhall, and should the zombie apocalypse actually commence, a good head start.
Robin Hood’s Stride
A set of gritstone rocks. Bear with us. It’s a peculiarly beautiful hiccup of nature, huge enough to give good views (avoid climbing on frosty days) and covered in several era’s worth of graffiti. The Stride also has historical significance as the site of an early example of ASBO culture in Derbyshire oral legend:
‘Robin Hood’ in the form of a giant, stood astride the rocks, with one foot on each of the pillars, and passed water onto the valley below, where seven maidens upon witnessing this, were all turned to stone.’ *
*Nicked from Westwood and Simpson in ”The Lore of the Land’, who nicked it from David Clarke.
How do I get there without wings?: You can walk to the site either from Cratcliffe Tor or Elton village. Or you can catch the 172 bus from Bakewell to Matlock, via Yougrave and ask the driver where to get off. In my experience it is the eternal dichotomy of our age that no one is as helpful/helpless as a northern bus driver, so hedge your bets with the universe.
A vast if ghoulish playground to explore, made up of queer grassed over shapes and lots of old machinery that we couldn’t identify. Should you be more knowledge driven than we evidently were, there are usually a couple of volunteers in the house who can help.
It’s been around since at least 1739. There’s a really grim story surrounding it that I’ll try to break down for you:
– There was a vein of lead running through several different mines, and competing groups of miners kept digging into each others’ tunnels.
– As a deterrent, they’d often set fires to try to smoke each other out, until ‘in 1833, three Red Soil miners were suffocated to death by a fire lit by the Magpie miners’ (all of this info is courtesy of Peak District View).
– Five Magpie miners were let off for the murders. Naturally, the three widows of the dead blokes cursed the mine.
– Cue a series of deaths, flood, fire and other disasters.
On the 26th of December there’s a guided tour that starts at 10.30am if any of you guys are around. Probably best to get in touch with them first.
How do I get there without dying through hunger, starvation or witch’s curse?: I can’t guarantee you’re not going to turn up without a toad permanently soldered to your elbow because you insulted that old woman; you’re in the country now. But with a little determination you can make it there by foot once you’ve caught the bus to Bakewell (number 214/215 from Ecclesall Road/the interchange). These guys have a detailed account of the walk.
The Nine Ladies
Nine stones on Stanton Moor which are a bit like Stone Henge – no one’s sure how they got there. It’s interesting in that it’s been the site of a big protest against a quarry in recent years. There’s an eco-camp and lots of tree houses, and a social centre of sorts. You’ve missed the winter solstice, but it’s worth an explore, for sure.
How do I get there without following a trail of naked pagans?: Either get the train to Matlock Station and follow the signs, or catch the 214/215 as above. Should take about an hour and a bit. More details ici.
Mayfield Alpaca Farm
The conversation went something like this.
‘Pete, I’m doing a blog on free stuff to do in the country. Any ideas?’
‘Erm. How about the llama farm?’
‘The llama farm? Ok, how do you get to the llama farm?’
‘Walk through Porter Valley park and at some point you find yourself in the peaks. Then it’s pretty much at straight line.’
‘Ok..what do you do there?’
‘Well, if you have an iphone, you stand next to a llama and read llama facts to your friends. Then I went to the pub.’
Apparently it’s an opportunity to stand next to a llama for free. Upon further investigation, this is actually an alpaca farm. Nevertheless, the visitor centre looks to have the potential for hilarity. Did you know that Alpacas make remarkably effective guards for new born lambs and poultry? And that Alpacas are the only animal in the world that come in 22 natural colours? True facts.
Anyway, it’s open every day except Mondays and Tuesday, 10.00-16.00.
What do I do if Pete’s instructions aren’t quite specific enough for me?: Get the 84 from Ecclesall Road and get off at Ringinglow, opposite Norfolk Arms.
Adios, intrepid explorers!