Upperthorpe Perimeter Round Walk
Section 3 Club Mill to the Buddhist Centre
Walk downhill on Parkwood Road, then round a wide corner. Here the boundary becomes anarchic and runs streetless straight downhill to the river Don and dives in. It wades downstream to drag itself out at the next bridge like an escaped prisoner, trying to conceal its tracks. The best you can do, confined as you are by high steel palisade security fencing on every side, is to continue down to Hoyland Road on the right, then right down Sandbed Road, past the vanished Hillfoot School, to join the surprisingly unenclosed riverside Club Mill Road.
This sedate descent is through more industrial estate land and business parkage, with occasional second hand car lots and sandwich bars. It all looks ersatz, insubstantial and nomadic, as though it could be packed away and removed in a day like a circus.
Walk left beside the river. There is a weir and a mill goit feeding the site of Club Mill, buried beneath a subsequent works, which is now itself being demolished. In 1795 various sick clubs and friendly societies clubbed together to build a watermill to provide wholesome and inexpensive flour. Before laying the first stone there was a parade through the town with banners and a band. Within a few years the scheme failed.
Towards the end of the road is a recycling plant, with conical heaps of debris. An overhead conveyor belt dribbles a few lumps into the Don. Joining Neepsend Lane once more, pass by the landmark Farfield Inn. To cars passing on Penistone Road it looks in business, sheltering under the gasometer, but it was closed after being flooded in 2007.
Walk across Hillfoot Bridge. We decide that this transpontine part of Upperthorpe we are just leaving is much more interesting than the frozen and populous left bank. Maybe we were intoxicated by gas fumes, but Neepsend is more engaging, a place in flux, deterritorialising and reterritorialising in a constant loop, a smooth space.
Cross Penistone Road, then climb up the steps to Wood Street. Here is a vast half-cylinder building, like a Soviet swimming pool, simply labeled ‘Mecca’.
A central part of a pilgrimage to Mecca is to pass round the granite cube of the Kaaba seven times anticlockwise. Circumambulation happens constantly, except during prayer times when birds and small angels are said to take over.
Over Infirmary Road is a boarded-up crater overflowing with buddleia plants. This is the only unhealed socket of the massive Kelvin flats, built in 1967, demolished in 1995 before the trams came back, and brutalist architecture became worth saving. It made a canyon of this thoroughfare, which now blinks in unaccustomed light.
Look up and glide along the streets in the sky- Edith Walk, Kelvin Walk, Portland Walk and Woolen Walk. Watch out for apports of diseased concrete which materialize and float down soft as polystyrene.
Go uphill on Whitehouse Lane for a moment, then left up Fox Road. On the left is Pennsylvania Green Space, a strip of reclaimed parkland with fruit trees, even mulberry bushes to go round on this cold and frosty morning.
Continue uphill, zigzag up Sherde Road, then straight up Daniel Hill Street. This begins the final long steep climb of this section, taking you onto Fulton Road through Birkendale, along its frontier with Walkley. It is a property ladder. At the bottom low rise social housing, further up Victorian artisan terraces with original features, then younger terraced houses with small front gardens, interesting pubs but triple locked cars, then larger semis, internal viewing recommended, then some detached properties painted in period colours, up and up to new Yorkshire stone clad executive-style homes and flats. Sheltered among these last in an old hilltop church is the Buddhist Centre.
To avoid pressure sores during prolonged meditation on Buddhist retreat it is common to have periods of the Zen-derived walking meditation or kinhin. Participants walk clockwise in a circle, alternating painfully slow steps with periods of loping round.
I could only giggle attempting this, a sign foretelling later problems: Who wants to be enlightened? Who believes in reincarnation? Who can worship devotionally? Time to get off the Noble Path.
After the long ascent of Fulton Road, burst out into the crescent Matlock Road, then left onto the crest of Heavygate Road, which then falls downhill to Howard Road. Go across to Sydney Road, then coast downhill. Imagine a time-lapse film of all the buzzing delivery vans, builders vans and skip lorries pollinating these houses.
The boundary seems to be tiring, and it starts to weave about. But suddenly it charges acrobatically through gardens and even houses like a chased action hero. You have two choices- either to rush after it and risk prosecution, or like the more sensible detective in a buddy movie, circle round the back alleys to pick it up as it re-emerges.
But really there is no drama here, dogs bark in kitchens, pigeons doze on chimneys. The best advice would be to improvise the remaining few blocks of the walk using the looming Upperthorpe flats as your target.
You should now be back at the starting point of Albion Street, at the end of this virtuous and at times vicious circle.
Eddy Dreadnought, 2012