Tuesday 15 April was a fine spring day, and so I decided to visit the former school playing fields at Whiteley Woods, and then follow the old cross-country running course up and down the Mayfield Valley. In true K.E.S. style I went by bus to Bents Green and walked down Trap Lane. At first I didn’t see the way down the hill as houses had been built, but eventually I saw the PUBLIC FOOTPATH sign at the top of the steep descent to the stream. The late Hector T.R. Twyford or “Twiff” used to call this the “precipice” and from the road it does indeed look as if there is a sheer drop. Descending through the wood and crossing the stream on the stepping stones I reached what is now grazing land but was once the Whiteley Woods playing fields. I tried to find the site of the long-demolished pavilion but there is no trace of it, only a piece of level ground covered in brambles. I think that "Wag" Waghorn will be turning in his grave - that pavilion was his pride and joy, especially his own enclave at the back, where he dispensed drinks at a penny or two a time, took charge of valuables which he kept in a locked drawer and administered First Aid to those who needed it. In fact only two or three level areas where cricket pitches had been give a clue as to the land’s former use as playing fields. The venerable oak tree so inconvenient for laying out pitches is still there, as are also some other mature trees around the edges.
Going down the road to Wire Mill Dam I began to follow the old cross-country course - devised by the games master John “Josh” Hemming, who could see almost the whole of it from his house in School Green Lane. Fishermen were much in evidence around Wire Mill Dam, and I saw the monument to Thomas Boulsover, whose 18th century mill had been nearby and who perfected the method of plating copper with silver to make “Sheffield Plate”. The path then follows the Porter Brook to Forge Dam. Instead of rowing boats there are now more fishermen, so the fishing must be good hereabouts.
From Forge Dam I followed the path by the brook as far as the cross-country course went, to the bridge over Clough Lane. I had quite forgotten the little waterfall near the Mark Lane bridge. As it was mid-day by now, I almost climbed Jacob’s Ladder (an alternative cross-country course) to Ringinglow for a pub lunch at the Norfolk Arms, but thought better of it as it was a warm day, it’s a steep climb, I’m thirty-odd years older and two stones heavier. So I took the sharp right turn to the bog, which is not so hard to cross nowadays as Sheffield City Council have provided raised paths over the wettest bits - a pity really… Then it was past Old May House Farm (nice to see it is still a farm) and down the hill to the Workhouse Green cottages where an “old dear” used to complain about boys running on her clean patio in their muddy plimsolls (I think they call them trainers nowadays…). The former Mayfield primary school is now an environmental studies centre; turning right here I went down Mayfield Road – and then took a wrong turning (well, it’s been a long time). The path took me the wrong way to School Green Lane, but in fact this might have been a good thing, as when I tried to follow the correct path I found that a stile had been blocked with barbed wire - apparently illegally, as a sign states clearly PUBLIC FOOTPATH - PLEASE KEEP TO THE WAYMARKED PATH. Well, I tried…
From here the course led down through the “Festival Woodlands” - an attractive area of parkland laid out to commemorate the Festival of Britain in 1951. Being interested in natural history, I noticed the wide variety of birds and wild flowers - and also the squirrels. I saw a dozen or more, so there must have been a population explosion since the 1960s.
Then it was back down the Porter Clough to Wire Mill Dam and Whiteley Woods – an enjoyable couple of hours spent reminiscing and enjoying the fine spring weather in a lovely part of Sheffield.
A view of the pavilion in 1962, with
Dr Bernard Knowles and the U13 cricket team
(and some white railings in the background, perhaps bordering the 'precipice')
A Masters Soccer XI in 1966, with Mr Waghorn, the groundsman