Following many years since avid walkers last trod the routes of Rotherham’s popular walking festival, two local rambling groups have forged an allegiance to bring it back to life.
This October, Rotherham Metro and Dearne Valley Ramblers present the Rotherham and Dearne Walking Festival with free walks for everyone to take part in.
Once organised by Rotherham Council, the original walking festival ran every July from 1999 to 2009, with the exception of 2007 when the floods meant that walks had to be cancelled or rescheduled. Lasting for two weeks and containing around 30 walks, the festival was always hugely attended, attracting around 1,500 keen walkers from all across the UK.
As one of the first places to hold a walking festival of this size, Rotherham put itself firmly on the map over its ten-year prevalence, inspiring other towns and cities to start their own festivals.
With walks that catered to all abilities, the schedule allowed experienced ramblers and novice walkers to get together and experience the Rotherham scenery. Along with short walks for health, and family-friendly routes, the walks also included heartier, challenging treks for those used to rambling.
Unfortunately, the council could no longer sustain the funding for such an event, leading to its eventual cancellation in 2009.
The festival returns
After an eight year hiatus, the idea to revive the festival came from Frank Faries, a retired technical steelwork manager and rambling enthusiast. Frank and his wife Beryl often enjoyed walking as a duo before joining Rotherham Metro Ramblers after retiring in the late 2000s.
Before long, Frank’s dedication to the benefits of walking lead to him becoming the group’s publicity officer. He also volunteered to improve woodlands and footpaths in the area to make walking more enjoyable and accessible for everyone.
Last summer, Frank decided to revitalise the walking festival and, with the backing of both his wife and his fellow Metro Ramblers, planning began.
As one committee member said: “One good Dearne deserves a Rother,” with Metro enlisting the help of the Dearne Valley Ramblers, a fellow active member of the Ramblers – Britain’s only walking charity.
Sadly, Frank Faries passed away suddenly at the end of last year and won’t be here to see his dream achieved. However, his passing made Beryl and his fellow ramblers more determined than ever to turn his vision into a reality.
What’s in store
Now the end is in sight, with the walks set to take place from Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th October. While the calendar of walks may be on a smaller scale than the original festival, with eight walks scheduled over five days, the emphasis as ever is to rekindle an interest in walking and showcase the highlights of our area.
proposed routes, which will cover both Rotherham Metro and Dearne Valley’s home turfs, will be split between the two groups, with the entire event having been planned and coordinated by members, including walk marshalling and leadership.
The event kicks off with two walks through Wentworth; one through the park past Wentworth Woodhouse down to Greasborough with fantastic views, and another which focuses on the history of Wentworth and its many follies.
Day two features spectacular Barnborough, with a peaceful autumn walk along the River Dearne to Denaby Ings and High Melton before taking in the panoramic views at Barnburgh Crags.
As a tribute to Frank, the third day discovering the hidden ponds at Thrybergh and Ravenfield will be dedicated to his memory, with wife Beryl leading the walk, joined by their two sons and Frank’s friends from Aldwarke Mountaineering Group.
Saturday’s line-up boasts a lovely short walk around Ulley Country Park. The second walk that day is the Five Churches Walk through rural South of Rotherham, visiting churches at Wales, Todwick, South Aston, Thorpe Salvin, and Harthill.
And to complete the week, Sunday’s two walks heads back to the Dearne for waterside meandering. There is a gentle walk by the River Dearne and Manvers Lake that have shed their industrial pasts, plus a longer walk from Old Moor through to Darfield and Ardsley along the Dearne Way.
All walks are free to join so why not book one or more in the diary this autumn and help make Frank’s wishes come true.
Full itinerary available from Rotherham Visitor Centre and local libraries plus online at www.ramblers.org.uk/rotherhammetro
Wednesday 11th Oct
Wentworth Stroll 5 miles (Easy)
Meet at Wentworth Church 10am (approx finish 1pm)
Wentworth Monuments 9 miles (moderate)
Meet as above (approx finish 3pm)
Spectacular Barnburgh Autumnal Walk 8 miles (moderate)
Meet at Church Lane car park, Barnburgh 10am (approx finish 2pm)
Thrybergh Reservoir and Ravenfield Ponds 5.5 miles (leisurely)
Meet at Thrybergh Country Park at 10am (approx finish 1pm)
Ulley Circular 6 miles (leisurely)
Meet at Ulley Country Park 10am (approx finish 1pm)
Five Churches Walk 10 miles (moderate)
Meet Harthill village car park 10am (approx finish 3pm)
Broomhill and Waterfront 5 miles (easy)
Meet at Old Moor for coffee at 10am for 11am start (approx finish 1pm)
Darfield, Dearne Valley Way and Ardsley 9 miles (moderate)
Meet as above (approx finish 2.30pm)