First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A cold wind from the South Yorkshire moors was roaring in the pine trees around Langsett Reservoir. We followed a woodland path along the north shore, watching wind-driven wavelets racing along with slate-grey peaks and silver troughs. On the far side of the water crouched Hingcliff Common and Stanny Common, low hummocks of moorland under a brisk whipping sky.
We crossed the tail of the reservoir over Brookhouse Bridge, a handsome span built at the turn of the 20th century. The stones were rustically dressed, with that meticulous attention to detail that the water boards displayed when they designed the huge reservoirs that supplied the industrial cities of Sheffield and Barnsley. Half a dozen farms were put out of business when Langsett Reservoir flooded their land around 190. Brookhouse Farm was one, an ancient foundation whose rent in the year of the Spanish Armada was rather romantically set at ‘a red rose at Christmas, and a snowball at midsummer.’
It felt as though there might be a midsummer rent to be collected up on the moors today. An icy wind sliced at us and the temperature fell as we trudged south along the old droving track of Cut Gate, its rubbly surface trodden to pale gold by the boots of walkers. It ran between banks of heather and green bilberry shoots where red grouse cackled ‘Go back, go back, g’-back-back-back!’ as they skimmed off low across the moor. Rosettes of cloudberry leaves lay in the heather, shining and leathery.
In the deep clough of Mickleden there were remnants of broken field walls and farm buildings in the velvety turf. We skirted the cleft, looking down on the sinuations of Mickleden Beck. Then we put our backs to the wind and tramped the homeward path across the edge of Stanny Common as a shower pattered on our shoulders and shot silver tracers of rain that smacked into the heather.
Above Langsett Reservoir lay the lonely ruins of North America Farm, the title symbolising uttermost remoteness and isolation to those who named the place. We passed its broken walls and found a path above the water, where beyond the lapping of the waves we could hear the bubble of curlews coming faintly from the moors.
Start: Langsett Barn car park, S36 4GY (OS ref SE 211004)
Getting there: Bus 20A (Barnsley)
Road – car park is signed off A616 in Langsett, between Stocksbridge and New Mill (M1, Jct 35a)
Walk (5 miles, moderate – slippery and rocky in places – OS Explorer OL1. Online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): Through lower wall of car park, down to reservoir wall; right and follow path. At west end of reservoir, left across Brookhouse Bridge (198006). Left through gate and follow clear Cut Gate track south. In ½ a mile keep ahead at arrow post (198000, ‘Kinder Loop’ bridleway). In another mile, left past green sign ‘Langsett and Penistone’ (192987); follow path north-east. In 1 mile, with North America Farm ruins through gate on left, bear right (203997) along track above south side of reservoir. In 650m, through gate (208994); ahead past ‘Langsett At War’ info board along reservoir wall (‘Permissive Path’ arrow) through trees. In ¾ of a mile, left along road (216001), across dam wall. At far end, left (‘Bridleway’) to car park.
Accommodation: Cubley Hall Hotel, Mortimer Rd, Penistone S36 9DF (01226-766086, cubleyhallhotel.co.uk)
The January Man – A Year of Walking Britain by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday, £14.99)