October: tea-towel raves and woodland walks

At the start of October, my working life was getting busier. At the beginning of the month, the Oxfam stewards gathered for the post-season briefing in the Forest of Dean. It was also time to say goodbye to John Picken, one of the Oxfam Stewarding managers. He’s starting a new, freelance career, and to celebrate, one of the volunteers had made him a very rude, but beautifully decorated cake. The attention to detail was quite astounding. Look away if you’re easily offended (by cake!)

A very rude cake for a man with a very dirty mind!

A very rude cake for a man with a very dirty mind!

After our top secret debriefing, we tried out the bouncy castle, played silly card games, such as Cards Against Humanity, and the evening culminated in a rave to Music from the Jilted Generation by the Prodigy played on an i-pod, with everyone waving fluorescent dusters around. I think you had to be there, but it was definitely fun!

A tea-towel rave!

A tea-towel rave!

In mid-October, I made a very brave move, and got a tattoo! I’ve already got a small one, but I decided it was time to make a personal “statement of intent”. I booked an appointment at Q Tattoo, one of the best tattoo studios in Sheffield. I felt a bit nervous, but it was something I’d wanted to do for years. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt too much, and I enjoyed watching it take shape. Over my right shoulder is the line “Libraries Gave Us Power“: the opening line from the Manic Street Preachers’ song ‘A Design for Life’, and a statement about my belief in knowledge and education. The peacock design is the logo of Peacock books, the former Young Adult imprint of Penguin Books, special to me because of some of my favourite books, such as ‘I Capture the Castle‘ by Dodie Smith, published by Peacock.

Anyway, here it is!

Me with my tattoo!

Me with my tattoo!

On the 18th October, I led a really exciting event as part of the Off the Shelf festival of words in Sheffield. I organised the Rivelin Story Walk, a walk with families through the Rivelin Valley. The Rivelin is now a haven for wildlife, but in the nineteenth century, it was full of forges and mills using the fast-flowing water.

Luckily the weather stayed dry and very warm for the time of year, and the autumn colours were glowing. This was a walk designed to stimulate children’s imaginations, so the ruined mills became goblin palaces, and the remains of mill ponds were deadly enchanted swamps. We found fairy caves, magical trees, and the children loved exploring. A couple of children got a bit wet at the stepping stones, but everyone enjoyed the walk, and returning to the cafe for huge chocolate buns and writing about and drawing the things they had seen and imagined. It was great fun, and I’d love to do something like that again!

The children were very sensible when it came to wildlife – one little boy squealed a bit when a bulbous garden spider abseiled down from a tall tree and stopped right in front of his face, but then we all stood around and watched the spider at it climbed back up its web again. At the end of our walk, we found an amazing Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar on a bench, and everyone just looked at it in awe!

In half term, I and a group of friends had a great night on the folk train to Edale. It was a bit of a crush to get onto the train, as the folk train seems really popular these days, but we had a great time.

On Halloween, we didn’t have a particularly spooky time! I went to Clumber Park with my friends Kirsty and Katy, and Katy’s two dogs. It was a wonderfully warm autumn day – we were in t-shirts once we’d started walking, and there was lots of wonderful colour on the turning leaves. The only downside was getting slightly lost – hey, it was an adventure! And also, we started our walk later than planned because I was waiting for what seemed like forever for my chip butty in the National Trust cafe! I also found out that a beagle doesn’t make a particularly effective guidedog when I shut my eyes and let little Agatha lead me along when we were in sight of the car. I thought she knew where she was going, but it turned out that she didn’t! I don’t know where she was going, but both dogs had a great time.

I got back in time to hollow out my pumpkin, make some soup and settle in to watch ParaNorman, a great spooky animated film!

 

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Blimey, I’ve got some catching up to do! What have I been up to?

Hello! I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog for several months. I’ve been really busy – teaching courses for Derbyshire County Council, and also editing and publishing several books for clients.

I have been blogging though – I’ve been updating my Newholme Dales Tales blog every week with poems and pieces of writing created in my sessions with older patients in hospitals in Bakewell, Buxton, and now Chesterfield too. I love doing creative writing work with the patients and helping them to tell their stories and be creative – and it seems to be paying off. In the summer, the Dales Tales poetry anthology was published, and in the New Year, I’m due to do more workshops and sessions in hospitals and Age UK Centres.

Crafting Christmas cards at Newholme Hospital

Crafting Christmas cards at Newholme Hospital

I’ve also been teaching a story sacks course with parents in Staveley, which resulted in course participants writing their own books for Halloween and Christmas, and I’m teaching Functional Skills English in Chesterfield, which I’m really enjoying.

Amazing Minion puppets and storysack created by a learner in Staveley!

Amazing Minion puppets and storysack created by a learner in Staveley!

I ran a Story Walk as part of the Off the Shelf festival of words in Sheffield. I led two family walks through the beautiful Rivelin Valley, and we discovered goblin castles, fairy caves and mysterious beasts. The children came back to the Rivelin Park cafe to write their stories and enjoy huge chocolate buns, while the parents had a cup of coffee and a nice sit down! It was a beautiful day in October, when the autumn colours were at their best.

The Rivelin Story Walk in October

The Rivelin Story Walk in October

As an editor, and a “self-publishing enabler”, it’s great to announce that some of the books I have worked on have now been unleashed on the world, and I’m very proud of them.

Joe Blow by Joe Ashton

Joe Blow by Joe Ashton

Former veteran Labour MP, Joe Ashton, has now published his memoir Joe Blow, which is available in the Sheffield Star shop: York Street, Sheffield, S1 1PU, which you can also order by calling 0114 2521299. Extracts from the book has also been serialised in the Sheffield Star and there are due to be more of them over Christmas. You can read the first one here.

The Woodhead Diaries

The Woodhead Diaries

Barnsley folk music legend Dave Cherry has been enjoying a big success with his novel The Woodhead Diaries, a historical murder mystery featuring the real life story of the construction of the Woodhead railway tunnel through the Pennines in Victorian times, and the 1950s detective who pieces together the mystery of the bodies which turn up during the construction of the third railway tunnel.

Legends and Rebels of the Football World

Legends and Rebels of the Football World

Football coach and former international football player, Norm Parkin, has also published his book, Legends and Rebels of the Football World. The book is Norm’s journey to meet and interview some of the biggest and most notorious football heroes of the twentieth century, and all the profits will go to the Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund.

Joan Lee is 91 years old, almost 92, and she’s as sharp and bright as she ever was while she was working as one of Sheffield’s most long-serving pub landladies! She’s now a publishing powerhouse, as not only has she published her memoirs, with fascinating stories from the Sheffield blitz and pubs from the East End of Sheffield to posh Dronfield. Behind Bars has proved to be very popular. Now Joan has published Gammon and Pineapple, a novella with a new twist on romance!

Cover design version 2

And as well as the Dales Tales poetry anthology, I’ve also published the first collection of poetry by Darren Howes. Poems from A Room Beyond Awareness is spiritual, thought-provoking and also humorous – an exploration of a path into Buddhism.

I’ve also had some time to have fun – which I’ll update you on in my next few blog posts. Then I’ll continue as I mean to go on, with shorter, but more regular posts! I’ve been working so hard to publish my clients’ writing that I’ve neglected my own writing a little bit, and hopefully I’ll do something about that too.

The power of a solo walk – the Porter Valley

In need of fresh air and thinking time…

I’ve been feeling a little out of sorts. I think it’s the change in the seasons, and my natural anxiety in the process of  changing careers and becoming self employed. Some things have been going brilliantly well – my writing workshop for Off the Shelf has filled up, due to my own hard work, and I’m in the middle of another freelance editing project. But some things start well and then take more time than expected to get off the ground. I always think I can do more than I can in one day – and the task of writing my second novel has been languishing behind more exciting tasks such as cleaning the bathroom!

I’m making lots of links with people to build my business, developing new ideas, and learning new skills all the time. But I know I could be doing more, working harder or smarter. There are lots of “shoulds” in life, aren’t there? Sometimes these days, I surprise myself with my own confidence; sometimes I’m cursing myself for the smallest mistake. I’m aiming to be on the look out for every opportunity: concentrating on keeping my life afloat and moving forwards in the right direction.

So on Sunday, I decided to go for a walk. My other half didn’t want to come, but it was such a lovely warm day, I had to make the most of it. And if it’s a choice between doing something I really want to do on my own, or not doing it at all, I’ll go for the solo option. And a solo walk is always an adventure. When I start walking from the house and find myself in the Bolehills and the Rivelin Valley, there are so many paths to take that I just choose them on a whim, not knowing where I’m going to end up, but knowing where I am from the contours of the land, the ramshackle allotments, the incongruous tower blocks of Stannington, and the swift river flowing through the bottom of the valley. These walks can be quite magical and unpredictable.

The Queen Victoria Jubilee Monument - a good spot for reading

The Queen Victoria Jubilee Monument – a good spot for reading

This Sunday, I decided on one of the other famous valley walks in Sheffield, the Porter Valley. This walk starts in Endcliffe Park, a popular park in Hunters Bar (immortalised by the Arctic Monkeys on their first album) with a large playing field, duck ponds and a cafe abounding with “yummy mummies” of this upmarket area of Sheffield. it’s also a favourite student area, and I parked on Ranby Road, a terraced street running down to the park, where I lived in my second year at university, catching up with my reading list by Queen Victoria’s jubilee memorial.

A heron! On the busiest pond in Sheffield.

A heron! On the busiest pond in Sheffield.

The park was busy with footballers, picnickers, kids and cute dogs. As I walked past the first pond, I had my first surprise. The pond is usually a bit boring, rather silted up, with the world’s fattest mallards bobbing around on the surface, staring disdainfully at the sliced white bread being thrown at them. They prefer ciabatta, daarling. But there in the trees, in full view of everyone, was a heron. A mother and daughter pointed it out, and soon, crowds had gathered to point and take photographs. Herons are quite common, really, but there’s still something special about them, scruffily elegant and mysterious.

I moved on, enjoying the vivid autumn colours and entertained by the antics of dogs who seemed determined to jump into the stream. Taking a few quieter paths, I saw a charming little grey wagtail, catching flies and bobbing around.

Steps made out of grindstones at Shepherd Wheel

Steps made out of grindstones at Shepherd Wheel

The Shepherd Wheel Mill was working today. Each pond on the Porter Valley used to be a millpond – powering water-powered grinding wheels for sharpening cutlery and tools. Shepherd Wheel is the only grinding mill- on any of Sheffield’s rivers, in existence, and it’s been restored over the last few years, with a working water wheel and the grinder’s wheels inside. The place bores my other half rigid, but I like it. it’s an important part of Sheffield’s history, and I find the noise of the wheels turning, and the water in the wheel, quite relaxing. It’s picturesque, dating back to the 1500s. In its heyday, it would have been a noisy, dangerous, dusty place to work – the whole valley would have been very industrial.  In the restored millpond, a lady was encouraging her Labrador to swim to fetch a ball – he was having a wonderful time.

A shaft of sunlight in the woods

A shaft of sunlight in the woods

Soon after the mill, a road crosses the path, and on the other side, it’s more wooded. There were still a fair amount of people taking a Sunday stroll or bike ride, but woodland and birdsong were taking over. There are some wonderful old, gnarled trees, and it really started to smell like autumn; of damp earth and fungi. I took atmospheric photographs of sunlight through the dappled leaf canopy.

Never mind the bullocks!

Never mind the bullocks!

Eventually, I ended up at Forge Dam, with its round pond, now rather silted up, and legendary cafe, recently refurbished. I had an excellent chip butty for lunch and sat outside in the Sunshine, amused by the rather posh clientèle, and large dogs causing chaos. I was going to end my walk here, but I decided that I was up for an adventure. I fancied a walk to the llama and alpaca farm – yes, you heard correctly, in Ringinglow, After Forge Dam, the path runs through the Mayfield Valley. This is definitely the countryside, there are fields on either side of the path, picturesque farms, and the high-rise buildings of the city look very distant. I passed a field of curious bullocks.

Just around the corner, the path to the village of Ringinglow climbs steeply uphill through a field. Once I walked up here and the field was full of cows with large pointed horns, but I was lucky this time – there was just a group of children launching themselves down the hill, loving the feeling of being out of control. It was a hard slog up the hill, but the view was worth it, miles of green valley, with the landmarks of Sheffield clear but tiny on the horizon. At the top, I exchanged out of breath pleasantries with a family visiting the Alpaca farm. As I walked into the village, I could see the long-necked animals in their fields, but I didn’t feel like paying to walk around the fields on the other side of the fence – after all, I’d already seen them!

Porter Clough

Porter Clough

Instead, I walked on until I reached Porter Clough, the very top of the Porter Valley walk, on the edge of the Peak District, where the stream is little more than a trickle from the moors. The steep-sided valley is covered in ancient woodland. I managed to avoid the rain of acorns falling in the woods. Although it was still t-shirt weather, the leaves were steadily twirling down.  I took the higher paths on the way back, to vary the route, and picked up my pace, and it wasn’t long before I was on Ranby Road again.

A solo walk is a great way to clear your mind and allow your thoughts to settle. I also find it good for creativity. Walking alone always makes me want to write poetry – and occasionally, I do. That’s why a familiar route on a reliable path is good, as no map-reading is required and you’re not going to get stuck in boggy bits when you’re not concentrating! One of my other favourite solo walks in Sheffield is around Damflask reservoir, near Bradfield village. It can be managed in just over an hour and it’s good if you just want to get away from it all for a while!

Safety first though! If you are going walking on your own, you might want to stick to tried-and-tested routes at first, where there will be other walkers. If you’re using a map to plan your route, make sure it’s manageable in the time you have. Wear sensible footwear! Bring a waterproof jacket, water, an OS map if you need it, a snack, or enough money to buy one. Bring your mobile phone, although a reception isn’t always guaranteed in mountainous regions! And always tell someone where you’re going and roughly when you expect to come home (not that I do all of these things all the time!) When you do get home, you’ll definitely be feeling better than when you set off!

Things this blog is about…