Winter Walk around Elsecar- Stephen Dugdale writes;

On Saturday 13 January 2018, seven brave souls from all corners of Yorkshire gathered at Elsecar Heritage Centre for the eagerly-anticipated 2018 YTI Winter Ramble. Chris Thompson had kindly agreed to lead the walk and did not disappoint with a seven mile hike that was not too taxing but challenging enough to get the blood racing and burn off any festive excesses.

As with Matty Young’s 2017 walk near Ribblehead (my very first YTI social and almost 12 months ago to the day), the weather stayed dry but cold throughout although we swapped the fitting Yorkshire Dales snow for clinging mud. The first climb up a hill behind Elsecar village made it quite tricky to remain vertical, but much handholding and rib-tickling puns from young Kerry kept everyone upright. Having negotiated this climb, we were rewarded with some fine panoramic views of South Yorkshire and beyond, as well as a folly called the “Needle’s Eye” near Wentworth village. This unique 45 foot high pyramid-like arch was built by Earl Fitzwilliam as the result of a bet in which he claimed he could drive his horse and carriage through the eye of a needle (as you do). This provided chance for some amusing photos and localization (!), made funnier by a toy camel produced by Chris.

The pyramid theme continued with a visit to another unique folly known as Hoober Stand where we enjoyed a quick rest. The 100 foot monument was built between 1747 and 1748 to commemorate the defeat of the Jacobite uprising of 1745. It contains 155 stairs inside, but thankfully it the door was locked. Depending on your viewpoint, the hexagonal lantern atop the Stand makes it look like the building is about to topple over, but we were assured this is merely an optical illusion. The Stand also contained the following plaque with some cringeworthy English which, as translators and proof readers (or aspiring in my case), we were obliged to correct:

“This pyramidall building was erected by his Majestys most dutiful subject Thomas Marquess of Rockingham in grateful respect to the preserver of our religious laws and libertys King George the Second who, by the blessing of God having subdued a most unnatural rebellion in Britain anno 1746 maintains the balance of power and settles a just and honourable peace in Europe 1748.”

Both these follies were fairly weather-beaten but contained elegant graffiti from past centuries where scallies of the day had clearly put great effort in using hammers and picks to carve out their tags.

After a wander past Wentworth Woodhouse, thought to be the largest privately-owned house in Europe and twice the size of Buckingham Palace, we were tempted to pop in for Lady Grey and cucumber sandwiches and play hide-and-seek throughout the five miles of corridors and 365 rooms. The house was sold for £7m in 2017 which would take a fair bit of translation to earn that. However, we were restricted to picnic outside and then visited a forge in nearby Wentworth Village. Most of the houses in the Village are painted dark green which reflects their National Trust status.

After exploring the graveyard and ruins of a church in Wentworth and its slightly less interesting modern counterpart, we negotiated some more mud and arrived back at the Heritage Centre where there was time to visit an old pumping station and mini railway used to transport coal. The Heritage Centre is well worth a visit and free. After a spur-of-the-moment Gujarati lesson by Chris prompted by a unique sign for sale, we repaired to a posh tea room for some reviving tea and cake to reflect upon a delightful saunter and discuss the difference between colons and semi-colons and enjoy some more one liners from Kerry.

Many thanks once again go to Chris for a memorable day, and also to the other members who welcomed me to the walk. It topped off a special weekend following my MA graduation at Sheffield University the day before.