dimarts, 2 d’octubre de 2012

Passejada per l'historia de South Yorkshire / A walk through the history of SYorks


Avui intentarem explicar una bona passejada que podeu fer – si aneu 1000 km cap al nord, al comtat de Yorkshire! Dic “intentar” perquè això farem de memòria i amb el mínim ajut del Google. El començament serà als aparcaments del Elsecar Heritage Centre, just detras del pub el Market Inn, on podríem acabar la ruta amb una bona pinta. Aquest Centre és un intent de trobar una utilitat als antics edificis de les mines de carbó d’Elsecar, i aportar algo de diners i feina a aquell poble, al qual se’l va treure el seu motiu de ser als anys 80 quan van tancar la mina. Com podeu veure, la ruta és una bona excusa per a conèixer algo de l’historia d’aquest lloc. Fa un segle hi havia uns 100.000 persones treballant a les mines de South Yorkshire, fa 50 anys uns 50.000, i ara potser uns 5. Sis dels meus 7 oncles hi van treballar i diversos cosins, alguns van morir massa jovens i un va morir en un accident als 20 anys. Ara molta gent d’aquí estan a l’atur o han hagut de marxar. Gairebé tots els pobles del South Yorkshire tenien una o més mines de carbó i si no treballaves, depenies dels treballadors indirectament. Tot això va acabar quan Thatcher les va tancar, sense res a canvi.

Detras del aparcament veurem un camí que puja cap a un bosc (Kings Wood). Anem-hi. Passem el bosc i sortirem a uns camps enormes de blat. Per sort a Anglaterra hi ha molts de camins públics i aquí n’hi ha un que creu el camp. Desprès, un altre camp, fins que arribem a dalt d’un turo, sempre direcció sud/sud-est. A dalt de tot el camí continua, ara entre uns camps de blat a l’esquerra i un bosquet (Lee Wood) a la dreta. Passat uns 20 minuts, trobarem una clariana a ma dreta. I veurem això!

Aquest “monument” és de fet un folly, en anglès, aquests edificis sense gaire sentit ni utilitat que construïen abans els rics als seus terrenys. I amb això tenim el segon punt d’història del dia. Tot aquesta zona abans pertanyia al Earl of Fitzwilliam. Les mines, les cases, les granjes, tots els pobles dels voltants hi pertanyien. Ara no, però quan l’últim hereu de la família va adonar-se que ja no era una situació sostenible, va crear una fundació per tenir cura de tot, una entitat que vigili per a que la gent pugui continuar treballant en les petites industries o empreses ques’han muntat, i per a que un estil de vida i una estètica de poble tradicional no es perdis. Evidentment no abarca tant com abans, però si tot un poble, Wentworth, on totes les cases son de llogar, de la fundació, i les granjes i empreses.
Bé, aquest monument es diu Needle’s Eye (l’Ull de l’agulla) ja que es diu que el Earl ho va fer construir per guanyar una aposta – va apostar que ell podria conduir els seus cavalls per l’ull d’una agulla ...

Continuem pel camí i d’aquí 5 minuts sortim a la carretera. La creuem i seguim per un estret camí asfaltat (Station Lane) que ens porta a un grapat de 4 o 5 cases, amb cabina vermella de telèfons si no l’han tret;)
Davant nostre, veurem un altre bosc a l’esquerra i un monument que en sobresurt. Entrem el bosc i podem arribar-hi. No està obert per pujar normalment però és un altre folly, és diu Hoobers’ Stand i si tenim la sort de poder pujar dalt de tot, hi ha unes vistes espectaculars.

OK, tornem pel camí d’asfalt fins la carretera i baixem cap a l’esquerra. Sortirem a una carretera nacional però amb una bona vorera. Seguim-la 5 minuts, i veurem l’entrada a Wentworth Park a l’esquerra. Entrem-hi. Ja estem en els terrenys del parc, on els Earls tenen la seva residencia, Wentworth Woodhouse, encara que el parc sempre ha estat obert al públic. Abans els miners hi celebraven quantitat de festes, i ara la gent a l’atur hi passeja. El parc és preciós i al mig trobarem aquesta casa !

Té la fatxada més llarga d’Europa – és una casa poc coneguda però tots els experts diuen que té poc a envejar als palaus i mansions més famosos com fins i tot el palau de Buckingham. Encara que el parc és públic, la casa en si és privat. La fundació de Fitzwilliam no va poder seguir pagant els costos del seu manteniment i ara ho han comprat una gent, que sembla que la volen obrir per poder visitar i tornar a donar una mica de vida a aquesta zona.
Si continuem pel parc, veurem una manada de cérvols (que pertanyen a la reina Isabel!), i al final del camí, arribarem a uns llacs. Aquí jo pegaria mitja volta, i tornaria a pujar i sortir del parc. Seguim la carretera cap a l’esquerra 200m i entrem el poble de Wentworth. 
Si agafem el primer carrer a l’esquerra podem entrar el Centre de Jardineria que ha aprofitat una part dels jardins de la mansió. És un petit “poble” amb activitats pels petits, tea-rooms, restaurant, gelats fet a ma, carn produït al poble etc –perfecte per a dinar! I si entrem els jardins antics que han conservat, podem veure el ossera que tenien els Fitzwilliam !

Sortim del Garden Centre i entrem el poble. Bàsicament és un únic carrer ple de cases molt paregudes entre si, ja que totes pertanyen a la fundació. Hi ha dos pubs tradicionals que valen la pena visitar! I en un carrer secundari podem visitar les esglésies, una de “nova”, i una antiga on estan enterrats els Earls of Fitzwilliam.

Bé, continuem atravessant el poble, fins una carretera a la dreta senyalitzat Elsecar i Hoyland. Anem-hi i després de 5 minuts veurem un camí públic a ma dreta que tornarà a creuar camps i boscos fins arribar a l’aparcament original. Sense parar, potser el camí dura uns 2 o 3 hores, però evidentment s’ha de gaudir del dia i fer-ho durar aprofitant els photo-opportunities i llocs per beure i menjar!
Davant de l’aparcament podem trobar el parc públic d’Elsecar, amb un gran bandstand on podem sentir musica en directa si és un diumenge d’estiu, i on poden passejar els jubilats i aturats dia si dia també.

Passem de llarg el Market Inn de moment i entrem al Heritage Centre (centre de patrimoni històric). 

Hi trobarem lavabos on potser ja tenim ganes d’anar, segons quantes pintes hem begut, i un centre de visitants on t’explicaran que hi ha. Bàsicament a tots els petits edificis antics de la mina, hi ha botigues i tallers artesanals que intenten donar sortida a la gent d’aquest poble. D’iniciatives n’hi ha, però de diners de gastar, pocs. També un petit tram de via de ferrocarril on uns voluntaris han restaurat un tren de vapor. Alguns dies funciona. És un lloc interessant per a visitar per l’historia que hi ha, i a la vegada trist pels mateixos motius ...

Com a punt principal de la visita, val la pena visitar la maquina de vapor que usaven antiguament per bombejar l’aigua de les mines. És del tipus de Newcomen (un Newcomen steam engine), i és l’únic que queda en peu en el seu lloc de funcionament original a tota Anglaterra. Alguns dies de l’any uns voluntaris ho obren i fan una visita guiada. Valdria la pena abans de planificar la ruta, posar-nos en contacte amb el Visitor Centre per saber quins dies/hores ho obren.

Bé, encara que jo he fet aquesta ruta milers de vegades, l’idea d’escriure l’apunt m’ha vingut al cap llegint aquest llibre, Black Diamonds, que explica l’historia fascinant de la família Fitzwilliam i la casa Wentworth Woodhouse, i de pas l’historia social i industrial de South Yorkshire.

La musica, la típica musica de les bandes de vent dels miners al bandstand d’Elsecar ....
...................
 
Inspired by an amazing book I’ve just read, Black Diamonds,  I’ve decided to post on one of my favourite walks in South Yorkshire – basically as it’s one I can do from “home” (i.e. my parents’ home), but also as it is beautiful, peaceful and educational etc. Enough struggling for adjectives and let’s get to it ...
One possible starting point (it’s a circular route) would be the Elsecar HeritageCentre car park behind the Market Inn at the bottom of Elsecar. The Heritage Centre is basically an attempt to give some use to the old pit workshops and buildings left behind after the pits were closed down, while offering the local community a chance to get back on its feet after Mrs Thatcher so determinedly destroyed their lives back in the ‘80s. Anyway, more later when we come back here at the walk’s end. 

From the car park, head up a lane/path between the car park and the centre. You should be heading roughly south-east (I say, roughly, as I’m currently sitting 1000 km away writing this from memory) uphill. You soon enter Kings Wood, and have to stay left going up the hill, as opposed to veering right along other paths. After a short while, the path comes out into a corn (or wheat?) field and goes straight across it, still climbing. Another stile and another field and keep going up until eventually the fields “move”, and you have field to the left and wood to the right (Lee Wood for those of you with the sense to have packed an OS map). After another few minutes (maybe 20 from the car park), you will see a clearing on the right with this little beauty!

It’s one of Earl Fitzwilliam’s follies. The Fitzwilliams used to own everything you can see around here - villages, mines, farms, the lot. As you can see, apart from the views, this walk offers a good insight into the history of this area; mines, Earls, the rich and the workers, and this is why I insist on reading Black Diamonds before setting out. This particular folly is called Needle’s Eye and the story goes that Fitzwilliam built it so as to win a bet that he could drive his horse and carriage through the eye of a needle. Anyway, the woods are private, as are the lands hereabouts, and most of the village we are about to enter (Wentworth) – owned by Wentworth Estates, set up when the last generations of Fitzwilliams realised their situation was unsustainable and set up this entity to take over the running of this area as a private concern. A wise decision which has enabled this village to retain its character and many local people to work or set up their own businesses. So, the wood is private land but there’s nothing to say we can’t wander up to the folly to sit down and have a snack – and enjoy the views in both directions.

Afterwards, continue along the path till it comes out on a road. More or less straight across, you will see a country lane (Station Lane) continuing in the same direction as the path. Along here you will pass a small hamlet, farms, fields, and come up to small wood on your left. You should be able to see another monument sticking out of the wood. Walk up the path towards it. Known as Hoober Stand, the views from the top are incredible – but it’s only open on odd days (usually Sunday afternoons in summer) so it might be worth finding out when, before doing this walk – or doing it twice!

Having visited Hoober Stand and checked out its history on your smartphone internet, walk back through the wood, and along the lane to the road you crossed earlier. Turn left and walk down this road until you come out onto the main Wentworth-Rotherham road. There are wide verges to walk on.

 Turn right and walk towards the village of Wentworth. In no time you will see the main gate into the grounds of Wentworth Woodhouse on your left. Cross and enter (ice cream van sometimes available!). You can walk through the grounds, admiring the buildings of the Woodhouse on your right, and eventually you will get this view.

The Woodhouse itself – residence of the Fitzwilliams until halfway through the 20th century when they handed it over to the local council who opened a further education college, before eventually selling it. It now belongs to a family who hope to restore it to its former glory and open it to the public. As you can see, the front of the building is amazing, the longest in Europe and many “experts” say this house is a hidden treasure of England with nothing to envy of other more well-known stately homes. It has been closed to the public but tours are slowly becoming available (ask me for how), and as you can imagine, the interior is amazing.

Once you’ve taken a couple of photos, follow the path downwards to the bottom of the park, as far as a couple of lakes, passing along the way a herd of deer – property of Queen Elizabeth II.
Turn round and walk back up and out of the park. Follow the road left for two minutes and you enter the village. But just before that, at the war memorial, turn left, 200 yards up this road, and into the Wentworth Garden Centre, wherein you can enjoy homemade ice-cream, a cuppa, or a full blown meal in its recently enlarged tea-room. Plus you must pay the 70p to enter the Walled Gardens! Originally belonging to the Woodhouse, they are amazing and include a bear pit (with no bear at present)!

Back to the village. The main road goes straight through and is worth following to see how beautifully kept the houses and cottages are, as well as visiting two great pubs – The Rockingham Arms (my personal fave) and The George and Dragon (worth visiting too!). However, you should also allow time to follow the tree-lined path which runs parallel (behind the row of houses), and which you can get onto opposite the garden centre exit. It’s a nice walk up to the churches – the “new” one and the old one where we can see the graves of the Fitzwilliam dynasty.

As you reach the end of the village, turn right down the road to Hoyland/Elsecar. 5 minutes later you see a wood-yard on your right with a public footpath to the side. This path will take you through woods and over fields back down to the car park you started out from. Depending on how many pubs you visit, how much you eat in the garden centre and how long you stop and stare at some of the sights, the circular walk could have taken between 2.5 hours and a full day!
There are actually two car parks, connected, and they lead into the Heritage Centre, but maybe first you’d like to cross the road and visit Elsecar Park and its bandstand (summer  Sunday afternoons often feature music).

The Heritage Centre is a fascinating place for many reasons. To breathe the history in these buildings, and to see what it meant to this area (and others nearby) to lose all their industry at the stroke of a pen. There is a Visitor Centre which may be a good place to start out, after a quick visit to the loos if you’ve followed my advice so far on cuppas and beer.

 The buildings themselves are under-used and under-visited but show a desire by many people to set themselves up in business or share their initiatives with others. Many art and craft places, a cool printing place, traditional sweet shop, children’s indoor playhouse (avoid!!) etc. Down at the bottom of the pit yards, the old steam railway is gradually being restored by volunteers and may be working the day you visit. Ask at the Visitor Centre for the Newcomen Engine, a steam-operated engine for pumping water out of the mines, it is the only one of its kind still in its original location. I have never been inside, but apparently there are also the odd guided tours nowadays if you ask about them. 

And that’s all folks, unless you fancy another quick pint in the Market Inn – if you’re not driving.

If you know anything about the mining industry, or if you’ve read the Black Diamonds book beforehand, this walk is full of history. The contrast between the luxury and wealth of the Fitzwilliams, and the lifestyle and conditions of the miners is clearly on show – but also the connections between them as the Earls were “good” rich folk, those philanthropist ones who really seemed to care for “their” workers. Please read the book before passing judgement!
And now back to Elsecar bandstand ...

12 comentaris:

  1. PS some photos are mine, some "borrowed".
    PPS inspired by the Black Diamonds book, but also by other famous Yorkshire walking bloggers such as Mr Yorkshire Pudding or Mr Arctic Fox (with the Cs in the right place).

    ResponElimina
  2. Hi Brian! Thanks for this description. One day before too long I shall certainly follow in your footsteps. Do they still have the old bottle "museum" at Elsecar? I have to take issue with this advice - "check out its history on your smartphone internet". What bloody smartphone? I haven't even got a dumbphone or a reasonablyintelligentphone, let alone a flaming smartphone! P.S. So pleased I didn't have to read the Catalan version!

    ResponElimina
  3. Thanks for the visit and comment - I think the bottle museum is no longer there, a pity as I loved it. But there are plenty of craft shops and other things to see in hidden corners of the place, the printing press is great, and if the steam train volunteers are there it's sometimes possible to get tea and a bun on the train, for fund raising (an alternative walk is to go eastwards from the pit yards, along the canal/railway -the walk gets to Morrison's and McDonald's at the Cortonwood shopping centre!! and the idea is one day to have the steam train running that far if they get the money!)

    Ha ha, the smartphone reference was tongue in cheek as I haven't got one either, but everytime we go walking with friends , they all stop every 5 minutes to "post" photos on their facebook etc. Words fail me too. Any half-decent walker should of course read up on their route before starting out, and then enjoy it for what it is, without the desire to tell half the world there and then just what a good time you are having.

    You'll regret not practising your Catalan - it will soon be all the fashion as Independence is only another Barça/Madrid match away! Watch this space ..... have a great (walking?) weekend.

    ResponElimina
  4. By the way, after being off bounds to the public for most of its history, the new owners of the Woodhouse (short of a few bob to restore the building), have just started offering guided tours. They need to be booked, by phoning this number; 01226 351161.
    There's already quite a list of people, and the tour costs 10 pounds a head.

    ResponElimina
  5. Brian - Are your parents still in the land of the living? On my walk in your domain I shall call in on them for a cup of tea and a cream puff and they can tell me all about the naughty things you got up to when you were a wee scamp.

    ResponElimina
  6. Yep, alive and kicking, both retired and nothing they like better than a cuppa or a walk! If you're serious (hard to tell from 1000km away), drop us a mail at briansilvia@hotmail.com and I'll pass on their address.
    Likewise, if we ever cross the border into Sheffield on our bi-annual trips over, we'll get in touch!

    ResponElimina
  7. I was kinda kiddin' but I'm not kiddin' when I say that I'd be happy to meet up with you for a chat and a pint when you are back in the land of the living but NOT in a "Blind Date" kinda way! Best wishes, Pudding of Yorkshire

    ResponElimina
  8. Thanks. Make mine an 'alf, I'll be driving. And a couple of orange squashes for the kids ....
    bit snowed under at the moment, metaphorically, but thanks to this post, I ended up chatting with a friend about the Miners' strike and lo and behold a brief post will also be written, when I get the time.

    ResponElimina
  9. Have you been over to my blog yet? There's a post in your honour. Hope you don't mind the mischievous humour...
    Phew! When you mentioned the 'alf I was a bit worried but then you mentioned the kids so that put my mind at rest!

    ResponElimina
  10. Good one - got it (the witty comment)!
    and good post! Thanks for that! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    ResponElimina
  11. And now I have bought "Black Diamonds" from Amazon - half price plus free delivery. Not sure when I'll get round to reading it as I'm on another book just now but looking forward to "Black Diamonds" anyway. Thanks for the tip.

    ResponElimina
  12. You're welcome, you've made a wise decision ... but, one more book from Amazon, one more nail in Sheffield's bookshops' coffins! Seriously, I do 95% of my book and music shoppìng from Amazon, love it!!
    The book is the "couldn't make this up if they tried" kind of story, beating most soap operas hands down, and does offer another outlook on the Rich vs Workers struggle. Being from Hoyland, I've always been a bit of an Up with the Workers, Comrades, type of guy, even joining the Labour Party for 6 months - bad decision that. Or a good one, as it opened my eyes ... Anyway, to cut a long story short, it turns out that the Fitzwilliam's were a bit "soft" compared to most stuck-up arrogant rich slave-drivers ....which explains what my uncle always used to tell me. He'd worked on the open cast mines there in the 40s and 50s and said that South Yorkshire miners were against it and tried to convince the Labour gvt to not dig up the park and gardens.

    ResponElimina