Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

A Walk in Words Only

Ken Brockway, Footpath Inspector

This article is from Signpost 62, Spring 2020

The ethos of PNFS is set out in the constitution. I joined hoping to contribute to the aims in exchange for the pleasure I get when out walking. So while I'm happy to spend time inspecting, reporting and researching there are days when I want to get out there and just enjoy the path network.

The forecast was good for a Saturday in January so after all the rain which had made local walks a muddy experience I planned a walk in limestone country. Please don't take offence if I mention a parish with an inspector.

I had been pleased to walk a section of the long abandoned Cromford and High Peak Railway (CHPR) which the Peak District Boundary Walk (PDBW) uses near Errwood Reservoir and had walked or cycled the High Peak and Tissington Trails. So the section around Harpur Hill to Landmanlow beckoned.

While it's difficult to determine which route was the CHPR, remains do show as features on the OS map and some are recorded as footpaths. My earlier recollections of the area were of moonscape and filming of Bond films but it is developing as an industrial estate, transport hub and scrapyards. Not the most inviting of walk locations.

The area is also home to the Health and Safety Executive Laboratory and Sheffield University. Hartington Upper Quarter FP142 follows the line of the CHPR on a high embankment offering views across the HSE site. It also serves as a site road. The many paths across the site are well signed and notices remind walkers to stay on the paths as there are hazards and CCTV is in operation.

Walking along the exposed embankment I snapped a few views on the camera which is nothing special, equal perhaps to using a mobile phone. The site and road appeared deserted on this Saturday but then I noticed a van approaching which drew alongside and the driver spoke to me. "You can't take pictures here". I replied that I was on a public path but he responded that it is a Government site and photography is not allowed. I replied that there are no notices to prohibit this and he countered that this deficiency has been reported to management. Clearly he would not direct my attention to sensitive installations when I indicated I'd seen nothing to warrant the prohibition. My final salvo was to point out that a public notice stating that consent had been sought from High Peak Borough Council for the storage of a hazardous substance, 2.5 tonnes of liquid hydrogen, an invite to nefarious activity if ever there was one. He didn't confiscate my camera or ask that the images be deleted but he clearly had made the journey specifically to confront me as he then turned the van round and returned from whence he had come. I can only assume that my activity had been monitored by the said CCTV.

I continued on my planned walk, avoiding any close inspection of the CHP when the footpath left the route. I'd love to know what the HSE does with 2.5 tonnes of liquid hydrogen but then if I did know I suspect I wouldn't be able to tell you.

Next: Signpost Report

Page title:A Walk in Words Only
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