Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Porter Valley

A view of Sheffield 

I had been aware of various published trails relating to the Porter Valley for some time and although I had seen parts of it – when walking through Endcliffe Park after a trip to Planet Pot with my Spanish students and following a personal visit to the Shepherd Wheel – I had never looked at its geology in any detail.

For my planned second leg of the Sheffield Round Walk, from Ringinglow to Hunters Bar, I had downloaded various pdf files from the Sheffield Area Geology Trust website but, as I briefly reported in Tripadvisor at the time – and in recent posts that briefly describe Whinfell Quarry Garden and the upper Limb Valley – problems with the buses put paid to my plans.

The Saturday bus service to Ringinglow from Sheffield

By the time that I arrived at Ringinglow, near to the head of the Porter Brook, I had already walked several kilometres on an unseasonably warm day in late March and - with my knees not being as good as they used to be – I was very glad that the rest of my walk was now downhill.

The path down to Porter Clough from Ringinglow

After flowing a few hundred metres from its head across a plateau formed by the Rough Rock, the Porter Brook then cuts down into the weak siltstone and mudstone of the underlying Rossendale Formation to form the spectacular Porter Clough – a steep sided ravine that is marked by a distinct V-shape on the geological map.

The footpath down Porter Clough

As seen in the upper reaches of the Limb Valley, several springs emanate from the valley sides and the path in parts was like a muddy stream but, after a few hundred metres of this terrain, there is a change in character – where the Porter Brook encounters the Redmire Flags – and the stream course is confined to a narrow gorge, with a small waterfall exposing this sandstone.

A waterfall

A little bit further downstream where the Porter Brook merges with Mayfield Brook, there is an example of ochreous staining of the stream beds, as seen in Ecclesall Woods, but any desire to search for goniatites in muddy stream banks - which I might have once been encouraged to do as an undergraduate geologist - had long since disappeared and so I stuck to the well beaten track.

Ochreous staining to the stream bed

Downstream from the point where these brooks converge, there is evidence of Sheffield’s industrial history along the banks of the Porter Brook all the way down to Hunters Bar, in the form of dams, weirs, goits and related structures, although Forge Dam and Shepherd Wheel are the only places that have developed into tourist attractions – with a working wheel in the latter.

The weir at Forge Dam

Having finally reached Forge Dam, I had done enough walking for one day and, if I had seen a bus stop nearby, I would have caught the next bus back to town, especially since there was a very long queue at the cafe and I was now in need of something to eat and drink. Instead, after sitting down for 5 minutes, I gritted my teeth and continued my walk down towards Sheffield.

A tributary stream exposes the Rough Rock
It is the industrial archaeology rather than the geology that is most noticeable in the lower section of the Porter Valley and this deserves more attention than I have given it here; however, even without leaving the footpath, exposures of rock in hanging tributary streams, further examples of ochreous staining and the general morphology of the Porter Brook - which possesses the characteristics of a small river here - provide points of educational interest to students of geography at all levels.

The bridge at Hangingwater Road

Judging by the extent of easily accessible and sufficiently extensive rock exposures that I had seen during this leg of the Sheffield Round Walk, albeit truncated by the lack of time, I probably wouldn't lead the Sheffield U3A Geology Group or similar others on a field trip here - based on its strictly geological content.

A monument to Queen Victoria

That said, from start to finish, the walk from Ringinglow to Endcliffe Park provides a great introduction to the natural, industrial and cultural history of Sheffield and I think that everyone would have an enjoyable time here - not least because it finishes with one of the most spectacular Beech trees that you could ever see.

A spectacular Beech tree at the east entrance to Endcliffe Park

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