Forget quilling or sculpting in butter, it’s the simple pleasure of running that is the new artform. I’m paraphrasing Terry Howard, Sheffield’s great right to roam champion and one of the surest pillars holding up the people’s republic of South Yorkshire. In his introduction to the republished (by the lush Peakrill Press) Inner City Round Walk Of Sheffield, Terry sets out the assault on your senses that simply walking, or, by extension, running, can bring. Even better when his inner city walk takes in some of the forgotten, haunted, industrial corners of our fine city.
Armed with a copy of Inner City, my mate Adam and I resolve to tackle this run early one Sunday morning, painting the streets trod by Terry and searching for troubled tales of sprites and convicts, gennels of misfortune and English industrial estates. Here’s what we found.
Sheffield Inner City Walk is a delight of a route, but perhaps not for the fainthearted. Distinguished over its 12 (we managed 14) miles by its many hills, and pockmarked by nettles, industrial estates, paths never-imagined and unusual places like Osgathorpe, Crabtree and Grimesthorpe, it traces Sheffield’s industrial heft over the past 200 years.
We start at the Blake, long before it opens (natch) and head towards Kelham. But we eschew the 21st century revamped version for a look at George Barnsley & son, still looking (with a little imagination) as it did in its toolmakers’ heyday and resisting, for now, redevelopment for the VORV crowd. This is when it becomes clear that we won’t be following a tried and tested route. We head up towards Parkwood, but take an unmarked right hand turn that brings Burngreave into focus and helps to make lighter work of the Rutland Road climb. We pass the toll house on Barnsley Road from where prisoners would be marched on foot all the way to Wakefield jail (and after that climb from Neepsend I knew how they felt) and on to Roe Lane and Crabtree Woods, ancient woodland if ever I saw it.
From here, it’s a city painter’s dream as new streets come into sharp focus. Osgathorpe sees a couple of youngsters gazing across one of the walk’s many strking vistas over the city — in fact the way the Sheffield skyline pivots and changes as the run goes on must be one of its highlights.
In Grimesthorpe, we see the fantastic allotments fighting for space amidst the old industrial units (Adam gets the Fall in his head, I plump for the more obscure English Industrial Estate by the Shy Tots) and drop down for a view of the Corner Pin, now separated from buildings on all sides and a last remaining throwback to the time when this hive of industry had a pub on every corner.
This area also provides a chance to curse Terry for his unusual choices of cut-throughs, impenetrable nettles and 10 feet of Japanese knotweed makes the sketchy parts of the Sheffield Round Relay seem like a park run.
Crossing the Parkway and down to Corker Bottoms, the route emerges at the bottom of Wybourn and the Manor, via some unheralded paths and crossings, to the Manor Lodge where Mary Queen of Scots bathed in wine in captivity and Springheeled Jack skipped about as only sprites can on Skye’s Edge and across the city to Arbourthorne.
Art can come in many forms of course, but it is a challenging find in parts of Arbourthorne, complete with its scrawled Eric Bristow tributes and large open spaces. I’m reminded that Andy Cropper, one of Sheffield’s finest artists, is a keen exponent of Terry and has written the introduction to the latest version. Turns out we’re not so much on a run, but plotting canvases in our heads of urban planning and escape. From S4, we moved on to more familiar ground, but not, perhaps, as we’ve experienced it on countless runs in the past. We cut past the Meers Brook, the old boundary between Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and Cat Lane, stopping for a look at the Bishop’s House and a more familiar view of the cit before making our way up to Cherry Tree Lane and its famous residents, and Nether Edge.
I’d never dreamed of going through the Narrow Walk that separates Crookesmoor Road from Northumberland Road, nor knew that it once skirted the edge of the Dam of Misfortune. A name quite appropriate when the University had to rebuild its new journalism HQ recently.
From there, it’s a short yomp back to the Blake (which still isn’t open, natch again). We resolve to come back and maybe, just maybe, stop at a few pubs on route next time.
Reading Terry Howard’s prequel to the latest edition of his book (seek out Peakrill Press on X for more info on where to get hold of one), I’m struck by how much the city changes from day to day, and how much remains. A different day and time would bring a different experience. This run, or walk, offers a space to dream, a fresh take on familiar streets. It offers possibilities and pitfalls, history and heart. Looks like it really is art in motion.