THE DIARY: Tram-pled under foot

Book author Colin Richards.
Book author Colin Richards.
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THERE’S no lack of leaflets promoting walks around Sheffield – so what’s the unique selling point about a new book of strolls released this month?

Perhaps it’s that all the routes are based around the tram network with each beginning and ending at a stop? Or that it includes a monster 41-mile trek which never leaves the city boundary? Or that it comes with digital codes linking smartphone users to information about the area they’re passing through?

“All of that,” muses author, Colin Richards. “But, also, this isn’t just about showing the city’s nice bits. It takes you to the backside of Sheffield too.”

Ah.

We’ll get to where exactly that is shortly...

For now, welcome to the walking – and straight-talking – world of this 60-year-old Sheffielder born and bred.

He’s just released a delightful compendium of urban, suburban and countryside hikes after research spanning almost 20 years.

In these 13 routes there are hills, thrills and steel mills; highways, byways and waterways. The only thing all the routes have in common is they start and finish at a tram stop for easy access.

“I had the idea for this book the first time I rode the tram in 1994,” says Colin, of Dalewood Avenue, Beauchief. “I loved the network. For starters it feels like you’re on a funfair ride but secondly, it allows you to see so much of the city you wouldn’t normally.

“It passes through so many different areas – geographically, socially and economically. And it made me want to explore them. I started getting off at different stops with a map book and walking round by myself.”

He pauses.

“That sounds a bit sad, doesn’t it?”

It doesn’t. And those explorations lead him by, through or over six rivers, five cemeteries, four parks, two stadia, one quay and one (now none) airport. And he got thinking: everyone should see this.

Then he went to China to teach English.

“Midlife crisis,” says the former BT engineer. “But it was a good one.”

Now he’s returned and spent the last year putting those book plans into action. After a publisher dropped out at the last hour he’s self-published through Bannister.

Among the routes are Meadowhall Interchange circular via Wincobank Hill Fort, Shalesmoor to Hillsborough Park, Woodbourn to Carbrook, and a 22 mile effort which goes from one end of the line at Middlewood to the other at Halfway.

“Not for the faint-hearted,” says Colin.

Neither is the 41-mile Meadowhall and back challenge.

“There’s a lot of ultra runners out there,” says the father-of-two and grandfather-of-three. “I thought they might fancy that.”

And that backside he mentions? He thinks diplomatically for a moment.

“Sheffield is a fantastic city with so many places to explore,” he says at length. “What I mean is this book will take you off the beaten path.”

Good answer, good compendium.

Between The Tracks is available at amazon.co.uk