Steve Franks was born in Chesterfield but brought up in the village of Clowne and was happy to lead five of us in this area for our November walk.
We settled down to eat our sandwiches on the old platform of the Clowne & Barlborough Station, only 40 yards from Clowne South Station.
We set off down Clowne Greenway, the old track bed of the Clowne branch of the Midland Railway. The long, wide path strewn with autumnal leaves led through steep sided cuttings to a black, iron bridge which straddled a stream. A second bridge of the same design spanned a road below, the Creswell to Elmton main road.
We turned right to descend 33 wooden steps into a housing estate and within minutes we were on a minor road and through a gate announcing we were in the Markland Grips, a nature reserve and area of conservation, managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
This is a territory of steep valley sides and exposed rock faces. Several tree species grow here together with many woodland wildflowers, found mainly in the summer months.
Shortly we arrived at what was once a former railway viaduct which used to have six equal stone arches. It was built in 1896 to carry freight especially coal but was used as a relief and diversionary route for Sheffield – Lincoln traffic and for Great Central Main Line. The viaduct, which had needed extensive strengthening for some time, due to the effects of mining subsidence, was reinforced but eventually was buried under spoil to turn it into an embankment and a concrete tunnel built in its place. Once the railway stopped being used the embankment was taken down, exposing the old bridge before it was finally demolished, only the concrete tunnel remains which is what we walked through.
We returned to Clowne along the old track bed of the Great Central Main Line, running parallel to the Clowne Greenway we walked down earlier.
Leaving the line, we walked past the former Clowne Rectory before joining the main shopping street. A modern building housing Aldi, a Pharmacy and Ashgate Coffee was once the site of the Clowne Co-operative store where Steve’s grandfather worked as a warehouseman in the 1960’s/70’s.
Steve and his sister would stay with his grandparents for a week during the summer holidays and he remembers steam trains passing through the cutting at the side of their house behind the store. They also collected bottle tops as the warehouse of “Davenports Beer at Home” was situated next to the Co-op.
Nearby used to be Rattue’s toyshop, now “No.4”, a licensed coffee shop. Steve remembers spending his pocket money here on an Airfix kit of “H.M.S. Victory” priced at £1. 1s.
The wistfulness of times past – we all experience it.
The next walk on Sunday 5th December will be led by Bob Cable starting from Somersall Park. If anyone wishes to join us you will be most welcome, just bring a packed lunch and wear suitable clothing. We meet at the church gates at 12 noon.