Tuesday 13 August 2013

A Walk On The Wild Side In The Moss Valley

A walk through Eckington Woods into the Moss Valley
When I tell people I like to go walking then the assumption is this involves miles and miles of going up and down hills in the nearby Peak District. Whilst I do enjoy this it isn't a very practical option these days with two children in tow. For easy family walks we tend to seek out the hidden Moss Valley.

The Moss Valley lies within the towns and villages of Mosborough, Eckington, Apperknowle, Dronfield, Coal Aston, Norton, Gleadless and Owlthorpe and yet many people do not know of it existence.
I say hidden because even some of residents of the adjoining towns and villages on the border of North East Derbyshire and South Yorkshire don't know it exists. There are no signs pointing your way to a central point. The main access points are by going down narrow single track lanes from Mosborough and Eckington or from the hamlet of Ford. The way we usually get to it is by walking behind the back of Eckington Church. This part is commonly known as Eckington Wood or Bluebell Wood due to the abundance of bluebells on show in the spring.

Known as Eckington or Bluebell Woods, it also comprises Ince Piece Wood and Ladybank Wood.
Although you do not venture into the complete wilderness there are a few things you need to bear in mind before you set out. Always make sure you have a supply of food and drink. You won't need vast quantities but once into the woods there are no cafés or refreshment stops. Tell someone you are going in case something does happen to you. There is no mobile or internet signal in the woods. Wear suitable footwear as the woods are usually quite muddy all year.

Great for splashing in muddy puddles!
Even for the shortest walks it's a good idea to invest in some good walking boots or shoes. If you're stuck for suggestions check out the range for all the family from Hi-Tec. Proper walking boots or shoes are best are keeping feet dry and moans to a minimum. 

A good pair of walking boots will last years
The first part of the track is fairly smooth but with a few building bricks here and there. This points to some of the industrial heritage that forms the history of the Moss Valley. As you make your way along you'll notice the flat roof of an disused building. This was an air raid shelter for workers in the woods who used to light lanterns during World War 2 to try and fool the enemy to bomb the woods rather than the nearby towns and villages.

The remains of an air raid shelter in the woods
Industrial activities have been going on in the Moss Valley since the 16th century. Part of the woodland is still managed by the Sitwell Estate. The Sitwell ancestral home is still located at nearby Renishaw Hall. Iron-making was once a thriving industry and indeed at one point more nails were made in Eckington than anyway else in the world. Today the area is a mixture of managed woodland and working agricultural land.
Hedge laying on one side and arable farmland on the other
Parts of the area are listed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) making it a haven for wildlife and plants. Over 85 varieties of butterflies have been spotted within the Moss Valley.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). One of many in the Moss Valley
There's also plenty of bounty for its human visitors. In late summer and early autumn trees and bushes are heavy with the weight of elderberries and blackberries.
Nature's larder
The Moss Valley takes it name from the River Moss or the Moss Brook as it is more commonly known. It eventually runs into the River Rother. You can carry walking along the track or for a shorter walk cross the Moss Brook via the wooden or 'Thin' bridge.
The wooden bridge crossing the Moss Brook, also known as the Thin Bridge
On the other side of the bridge the path is much wider and there is a slightly more open feel to the woods. This is due to the fact on this side access is needed as many of the trees are grown for logging purposes.
A wider track is needed to get the logging equipment through
It's on the way back that you'll see the real gem in the Woods' industrial heritage. Rising up from the track is Seldom Seen Engine House. It dates from between 1855 and 1875 but by 1901 after a series of fatal accidents and the financial mis-management of its owner, John Rhodes, it was abandoned. It is thought its name comes from the fact it is hidden and therefore 'seldom seen' in the woods. It also points to tales of a 'seldom seen' ghost! To this day many passers-by describe the site as 'creepy' or 'spooky'! This once housed the winding wheel as part of the engine house for the Plumbley Colliery. The Penny Engine Railway ran from here – it cost a penny to travel on it to what was the main station at Renishaw. 
Seldom Seen Engine House has not been used for over 100 years
After a a look around the Seldom Seen Engine House it's time to head back home for a well deserved slice of cake and a cup of tea and to clean those muddy boots!

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Hi-Tec. All the views, words and photographs are my own.


  1. robinrid2@hotmail.com14 May 2015 at 14:38

    Hi there
    Was in Ladybank Wood the other day & noticed the air raid shelter & decided to look it up as there was no obvious reason for it being there.
    Found your blog (thank you) and wondered how/where you came across the nugget that suggest the shelter was used for the protection of workers who put lanterns out in the wood to draw enemy bombers there instead of Sheff’ etc.
    Thank & all the best

    1. I remember doing quite a bit of research at the time about the buildings in Eckington Woods. On the Sheffield Forum site there is a thread about parts of north Sheffield and north Derbyshire being used as decoy sites for German bombers. This was stop the bombing of the steel works and coal mines. These sites were known as 'Starfish sites' and around the country there were several set up. In the Eckington area it was likely to save the bombing of either Brook House colliery on the Sheffield/Rotherham border or the Beighton coking plant.. Brook House finally closed in the 1980s and was on the site where the Elmwood pub is now.

  2. robinrid2@hotmail.com15 May 2015 at 10:19

    Thank you that - really helpful
    All the best


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