Walk: Worsbrough Mill Country Park (Owl Walk)

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Sculpture at Worsbrough Mill (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

After a busy, tiring 2-gig weekend, we woke on Sunday (eventually) to a bright and sunny afternoon. The poet woke with a “bit of a throat”, but he still wanted to try and fit in a weekly walk. So we plumped for somewhere nice and local, and somewhere we both already know quite well – he as a fisherman, me as a walker.

Worsbrough Mill Museum and Country Park is about 10 minutes from our house. It’s a local nature reserve and covers approximately 240+ acres. The working water mill grinds flour using UK-sourced organic grains. Every so often they run living history events where the staff and volunteers dress up in period dress and have demonstrations.

There are 3 colour-coded walks around the country park: the fox walk is a 2km-walk suitable for wheelchair and pushchair access; the badger walk is a 3½km walk following the reservoir; and the owl walk is a 5km-walk that looks at some of the local industry surrounding the park. The Trans Pennine Trail also crosses the paths.

In olden days, I would have gone for the shorter, 2km-walk. But as we managed over 4 miles last week at Clumber Park, we thought the 5km-walk would be the best bet. But, again, it was very muddy off the main path, and so when we got there, the boots and gaiters went on again.

It was a few degrees milder than last week and we didn’t need additional waterproofs.

The owl walk, the 5km-walk, runs parallel with the reservoir path for short periods, but as we also wanted to see the water and the anglers, we opted to start next to the water. This is a narrow path, though, so other people with other dogs coming in the opposite direction can cause problems. But below the path the anglers can fish relatively undisturbed. We watched one bring in a fish he’d caught too, and it was a fair size.

At the end of the reservoir path we rejoined the public path and climbed over a stile into the surrounding woods. The stile was one the dog could easily walk under, but very big dogs may need to climb over or have the big gate opened for them.

Only a few yards in is the entrance to an old quarry workings, now silted up and overgrown. Another few yards along and the path splits, with what was once the old tramway climbing up the hillside.

We continued on along the fairly level path, but where it does climb up hill gently (and it really does, which makes a change), we could have taken a diversion over to the Old Rockley Hall, which might have added a bit more distance to the walk. But we stayed with the walk and rejoined the path around the reservoir on the other side.

The last part of the owl walk avoids the dam head and instead runs along another parallel path. But again, this was very muddy and very busy, so we walked along the dam head instead.

At the mill we bought 4 bags of flour: white flour; wholemeal flour; malted flour; and sour dough flour. We were given a loyalty card, which is stamped every time you make a visit and buy some flour. When you have 8 stamps, you get a free bag of flour! As we had a white loaf baking at home, while we were out, I’m sure this flour will be used very quickly.

The owl walk is a nice, easy walk. It warns of being muddy in wet weather, and it was quite muddy. But it wasn’t really impassable, and it’s very level most of the way around. Only a handful were also on this walk, and some of those only joined it in places.

Parking currently costs £3 for the day and entrance to the mill is free. We think Worsbrough Mill Museum and Country Park is very good value with more than sufficient facilities and the opportunity to join longer walks or visit other local places of interest. I’ve even parked up at Locke Park before now, and walked down to the country park. But long distance walkers on the TPT can build it into a longer walk too.

We were there for an hour and a half, we walked for 2.34 miles, and we burned around 360 calories.

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Walk: Clumber Park

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Bridge over Clumber Lake (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

New Year’s Day dawned bright and relatively clear and we wanted to kick off our new “regular walking regime” with an actual walk. But where to go?

We wanted somewhere a bit flat (because we’re just starting). We wanted somewhere near water (because we both like water). We wanted somewhere the poet could have a go on his new “spotting scope” (because it was his new Christmas toy and he wanted to play with it). We wanted a National Trust property (because we’ve paid for it). And we wanted somewhere fairly close-by (because we didn’t want to spend the limited daylight hours at this time of year driving and only an hour of daylight walking).

So where to go?

Our choices included Nostell Priory (but we weren’t sure what would be open), Calke Abbey (but that might be better visited on our way back from Birmingham one day), and Clumber Park (but we’ve been there before – lots of times). We settled for Clumber Park for the flatness, because we know there’s birdlife, and we knew it would be empty … And anyway, as there’s a path all the way round, I wouldn’t even need my walking boots …

Ho ho ho – how wrong were we on those last 2 counts?

So we packed our picnic, packed the car, and headed off. Within 45 minutes we were there.

And it was PACKED.

And very, very MUDDY.

We had to go through 2 different checks to get in on our membership cards and then drove around for a while, in the regular car park, looking for a space. And we found one that was just being vacated.

Clumber Park has lots of facilities for visitors, including bicycle hire (and power cycles), gift shops, nature trails, things for kids to do, several cafeterias, a church, a walled garden – I love the walled garden but (a) the dog isn’t allowed, and (b) it was closed on this visit. The dog, however, is allowed everywhere in the grounds SO LONG AS HE’S KEPT ON A LEAD … there were a number of other dog owners there who really need to know that this applies to them as well.

(Mini rant alert) If there are other people about, especially children, or other dogs, or livestock, or signs that request it, we always keep our dog on a lead. He’s not vicious, but he is playful. Very playful. Quite excitable. And a nuisance. So when other dogs come up to him that aren’t on leads to sniff at him, he may think they’re coming to play and he goes into play mode. But if that’s not what they want, they can go into snap mode – and that causes our dog to go into snap mode too. He also has a massive BARK. And then it risks getting nasty. OUR DOG IS KEPT ON A LEAD FOR A REASON. Please respect that when you see other dog walkers around. And please, please, PLEASE respect the signs. They really do apply to you too. Those who don’t keep their dogs under control risk having dogs banned from that attraction for ever – and that really isn’t fair on those of us who do keep them under control. (End of mini rant)

So anyway, we headed off across the lawn to the lakeside and started our walk. By this time I had put my walking boots on … and my gaiters, as it really was very wet and muddy underfoot, with path-wide puddles up to the ankles in some places. It was incredibly busy and we tried to keep to the grassed and wooded parts, where we saw a rhododendron coming to life after the autumn hibernation and a white squirrel. There were grey squirrels playing too, but the white one was quite a treat.

The poet took pictures of the ducks, the geese, the swans, the other waterfowl. He took pictures of the surroundings. He took pictures of us.

About halfway around, just over the first bridge, there was an ice cream van and a snack bar. We’d left the picnic in the car but I needed some sugar to get me back there. So we both had mince pies, I had an ice cream, and we shared a bottle of Coca Cola. The dog was far too excited to have anything, especially as all of these hundreds of people were obviously there just to see him! (And in fact, some of them were!)

I checked MapMyWalk and we’d done just under 2 miles, so that didn’t feel very good.

We walked a bit further to where the poet could set up his telescope, and we stayed a while to see what he could see through that. We met a labradoodle and a jackshit (a cross between a jack russell and a shiatsu!). The lab was yampy, the jack was very sweet – and quite quiet for a jack.

By the time we got back to the car we were ready for our picnic. The weather had stayed dry and we’d walked more than 4 miles, but the dog was filthy and needed a good rub down before being allowed back in the car. He had a big, long drink, helped us with our picnic, and then fell asleep.

The walk was nice and flat, if muddy underfoot. It’s further than we’ve walked just lately but it was doable. We were both stiff when we got out of the car at home 45 minutes later, and I was quite achey the following morning (so was the poet, but his was gigor mortis). But it was a nice, easy walk to start with and had plenty to see and do on the way around.

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