First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Kids on bikes came skeltering down the hill at Silverhill Wood Country Park. Young buckthorn with bright orange berries, maples, hawthorn and spruce formed a scrubby forest rich in autumn colours, with fine views opening over rolling green country.
At the summit of the hill we came to a seated figure in bronze, a miner in helmet and pit boots, holding up his Davy lamp and scanning it for signs of gas. It was the only clue that beneath the woodland and the hill itself lay the pit heap of Silverwood Colliery, one of seventy-five Nottinghamshire coal mines now closed but commemorated on a plaque below the statue.
Nottinghamshire County Council has done wonders hereabouts, greening the area’s colliery sites, turning slagheaps into woods and industrial railways into multi-user paths. The hill summit at Silverhill Wood is said to be the highest point in Nottinghamshire at 205 m/673 ft, a claim fiercely contested by several other ‘highest points’ locally. The Country Park added an extra five metres to the top of the pit heap, just to make sure.
Standing beside the bronze miner we saw Lincoln Cathedral’s towers thirty miles away on the eastern skyline, the crooked spire at Chesterfield and the outline of Bolsover Castle to the north, and north-east the slim chimney at Pleasley Pit, our next aiming point on this walk.
At the bottom of the hill we found the Teversal Track, an old railway in a tunnel of large oak, ash and beech, with views out into a landscape of dip and roll. A tremendously tall embankment crossed the tiny wriggling stream called Merril Sick, and the old line came to Pleasley Pit, closed in 1986 and now a country park and mining museum.
Unlike almost every other redundant pit in the area, Pleasley has retained its tall brick engine house, its 130-ft chimney, and its two gaunt headstocks with their winding wheels over the old shafts. As objects of industrial architecture they are stunning; as memorials to hard, productive working lives, extremely poignant.
A right-angle of two old railways led through more gently rolling countryside. The wind stripped lemon-yellow leaves from the trackside hazels and laid them on the path. We landed back at Silverhill Wood aware as never before of the roadways, levels and shafts hidden under these fields and hills.
How hard is it? 8 miles, easy, mostly flat paths and tracks
Start: Silverhill Wood Country Park car park, Silverhill Road, Fackley, Notts NG17 3JL (OS ref SK 470616)
Getting there: Bus 417 (Sutton-in-Ashfield)
Road – M1 Jct 29, A617 to Pleasley; Teversal and Fackley signed from here.
Walk (OS Explorer 269): From side of car park furthest from entrance, follow path. In 100m, left past info board, uphill to miner’s statue (471621). Down steps, left along trail. In nearly 1 mile pass between lakes (477620). Left beside lake to Teversal Track (480617,‘Pleasley 2 miles’). Left for 1¾ miles to T-junction at ‘Pleasley Country Park’ sign (495640). Right to Pleasley Pit museum (499643). Through car park; left along Pit Lane; in 100m, right along Skegby Track (501643). In a little over 2 miles at ‘Skegby Track’ sign, right (494616) onto Link Track (sign). In 1 mile at ‘Silverhill’ sign (479615) keep ahead and fork right on narrow path to road (478616). Dogleg left/right over barrier into Silverhill Wood Country Park. In 400m left at Lakes; left (477620) back to car park.
Lunch: Carnarvon Arms, Fackley Road, NG17 3JA (01623-559676, thecarnarvon.co.uk)
Accommodation: Tap Haus, 219 Leeming Lane North, Mansfield Woodhouse NG19 9EX (01623-625804, taphausmansfield.co.uk)
Pleasley Pit Mining Museum: pleasleypittrust.org.uk