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Follow the brown signs

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Mills and extremely painful country walks

As much as the Peaks are beautiful and full of things to do I thought I better branch out and head for Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire borders area. I’ve got quite a few brown sign types done now so I actually (shock horror) did some research into what there was to do around the area. I first headed for a wildlife park but in my eagerness I arrived like a right keeno an hour before opening time so had to sacrifice that one and head off on the rest of my brown signed day.

Brown signs were originally piloted in the UK in the early ’80s and introduced in Nottinghamshire and Kent to see whether they were practical and popular with tourists and attraction owners. Kent got signs with symbols and text but Nottinghamshire got signs with just text, no symbols. Annoyingly then a massive number of brown signed attractions around didn’t have symbols, which threw a spanner in my works a bit. I’m a brown sign purist and when it comes to sticking to rules I don’t think there should be any short cuts. My rules state that I have to visit at least one of every type of brown sign symbol. Sherwood Forest should technically have a symbol for a nature reserve or a country park, but unfortunately it didn’t, so can I tick country park or nature reserve off the list? My mind’s telling me no, but my body (my body) is telling me yeeeaaaaeessss. Anyway, I went along and walked around a pretty good exhibition about Robin Hood and his merry men with all the funny life-like dummies needed to shoot an exhibition from boring to engaging in an instant, just by the addition of just one cheesy element.

I started to embark on a 40 minute walk around the forest where you get to see the famous hundreds of years old Major Oak tree. But after about 5 minutes I started getting in trouble. How I actually made it there and back to my car I really don’t know, because my knee (which I’ve moaned about a few times now I know) was SERIOUSLY hurting. I began dragging it behind me Quasimodo-style in order to put as little pressure on it as possible and keep bending to a minimum. All the time I knew I should be resting it and that my ceaseless walking was only making it worse.

After somehow making it back to my car I knew I had to find some sort of attraction which didn’t involve any movement of my knee, which rules out quite a few round there, if not to say most. Then I saw a brown sign with a watermill symbol, I haven’t got a watermill yet (I’m talking like I’m sticker collecting for heaven’s sake) so I followed those signs to Rufford. Unfortunately for me Rufford isn’t actually a working watermill, it is now converted into a tea room and little shops and is on grounds making it more like a country park. As much as Rufford didn’t technically tick off any symbols I couldn’t resist a walk around, and to my joy I happened upon a ruined abbey in there too, and I love them. There was also a little lake with ducks and the like, a pleasant place to drag one’s leg around for an hour or so.
I loved the gargoyles…

Especially this one…
After Rufford park/lake/mill/abbey I was desperate to get at least one more proper brown sign symbol ticked off so started driving in the direction of a castle when I happened upon this sign.


What I didn’t need now was another walking based activity, but these particular symbols aren’t everywhere (this one denotes a walk in a coniferous forest and another similar one denotes a walk in a deciduous forest), so not to go to this one seemed stupid, sod’s law says I’d never see this again and kick myself (in the bad knee) for not going when I had the chance. So I dutifully turned in. Its a Forestry Commission forest and had all sorts of violent activities available for the visitor to engage in, like Go Ape, cycling and of course, WALKS. On a normal day I would have happily engaged in everything they had to offer, but there was no way with my knee in it’s current state (hot and extremely swollen) it was to be. So I limped about 3 meters from my car and took some photos for you to enjoy, and for me to pretend that I actually walked there.

Enough was seriously enough so I headed back to Sheffield the long way round through Derbyshire and stopped a lot to enjoy the views.
Then, to my sweet sweet relief and joy I found another mill, sadly without a generic symbol though. It used to be a normal watermill but was changed by industrial revolution geniuses into a mill that ran on water turbine power which made it a lot more powerful and efficient than a regular watermill, so it didn’t have a water wheel. It didn’t matter to me by this point though and Caudwell Mill turned out to be another one of those understated brilliant attractions. I bought a ticket and made my way up through the mill, through dangerously close, loud and fast moving machinery which was grinding grain to make flour which was sold in the little shop downstairs.
I loved it, there was no one else there and I took the chance to chat to the miller about milling. Let’s face it opportunities like that don’t come around very often do they? He told me all about sluice gates and other such exciting things. I don’t quite know what I was expecting to happen when the sluice that had been closed and damming the river all day would be like when it was opened, but I did get quite a shock when gallons and gallons of water all burst forth towards me as it opened. So my surprised “ooooohhhhh!!” reaction was clearly an overreaction and made me look like a bit of a watermill novice, which to be fair I am. Bad luck.
Then I headed back to Sheffield, exhausted. I was supposed to be moving on today but with my days taken up with all my attraction visiting I don’t really feel like I’ve had time to even sit down and think and plan, let alone have a chat with my mum. So today is a day of rest, for the body (my knee) and soul. I will however be planning where to go next, time to be heading south now I think, so if you’re reading this and you live south of Sheffield then please be prepared for a call from me saying I’m heading your way. Appreciated, thanks.