Inaugural Sheffield Walking Festival undeterred by wind and rain

Ramblers battle the elements in the Moss Valley in Sheffield Walking Festival 2016. From left: Lee Goodison, 50, Judy Gathercole, 70, Karen Turner, 64, Phil Samuels, 60, Bill Kelly, 66, Clare Hill, 40, and Malcolm Hill, 53

Ramblers battle the elements in the Moss Valley in Sheffield Walking Festival 2016. From left: Lee Goodison, 50, Judy Gathercole, 70, Karen Turner, 64, Phil Samuels, 60, Bill Kelly, 66, Clare Hill, 40, and Malcolm Hill, 53

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A forecast warning of ‘very heavy rain and possible thunder’ welcomed the seventh day of the inaugural Sheffield Walking Festival.

But the group of enthusiastic walkers who met at Sheffield Interchange to catch a bus out of the city this morning looked as happy to be there as if the scorching weather from earlier this week had stayed.

Chief navigator Judy Gathercole leads the pack through Troway on the way to Dronfield

Chief navigator Judy Gathercole leads the pack through Troway on the way to Dronfield

As retired civil servant Karen Turner, 64, said: “A bad day of walking is still better than a good day in the office.”

The most striking thing about this group of ramblers, who were aiming to walk 12.5 miles from Troway to Longshaw, was that such varied people had been drawn to the walk.

Bill Kelly, 66, has returned to Sheffield after 40 years living in Australia so that he can look after his 91- and 96-year-old uncles.

He said with the stress of looking after two elderly people and missing his family in Australia, joining one of the festival’s 28 organised walks was “a great way to get away from it all”.

A quiet Friday for the cows of the Moss Valley

A quiet Friday for the cows of the Moss Valley

Clare Hill, 40, and husband Malcolm, 53, started walking to lose weight. They have taken a week off work to do a walk every day of the festival.

Phil Samuels, 60, is planning to walk part of the coast-to-coast challenge which passes through the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and the North York Moors National Park.

“My wife told me to sign up today as a bit of training,” he said.

Judy Gathercole, 70, is today's walk leader from the Sheffield Ramblers walking club, which has around 1000 members. She is also a representative of the Sheffield Walking Forum.

Girl power: (from left) Clare Hill, Judy Gathercole, and Karen Turner enjoy the woodland on the 20th walk out of 28 across the nine-day festival

Girl power: (from left) Clare Hill, Judy Gathercole, and Karen Turner enjoy the woodland on the 20th walk out of 28 across the nine-day festival

Ms Gathercole walked 20 miles for charity 20 years ago, after her husband died of cancer. She joined the Ramblers shortly afterwards and although she regularly goes on holiday with walking friends, she said “there's nowhere better” than Sheffield.

“It has so much lovely countryside.”

The eclectic mix of people meant conversation topics varied enormously. The group talked about handmade guitars, the new HSBC offices in Sheffield, cancer, nuclear power versus wind farms, Australia, the pleasures of relieving oneself in the great outdoors, and the Beatles.

There have been 530 sign ups to the 28 walks which have so far celebrated all sides of the city, from industrial heritage and hidden outdoor art, to family-friendly walks and dramatic moorland routes.

Fields in the Moss Valley

Fields in the Moss Valley

The popularity of the festival suggests it could become an annual event but it will rely on charitable donations to help out with publicity costs such as making posters and leaflets.

Rob Haslam, Festival Coordinator, said: “We are all encouraged by the number of bookings. I set a limit inside my head that anything above 500 would have been a great success.”

Five free walks this weekend are still accepting online sign-ups.

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