Section 2 Pennsylvania to Parkwood Karting
Walk expectantly down Albert Terrace Road to cross Infirmary Road. Left here, and then detour right down Gilpin Street where the boundary casts a block of burned out sandwich shops out of Upperthorpe. Right takes us back to Albert Terrace Road, past blue industrial units born again as evangelical churches. They are also sublet as student exam halls.
A multinational white dove flies in through a skylight as the students sit their business exams, with an olive branch in its mouth. This corporate holy spirit flies in clockwise circles around the ceiling. The invigilators convulse on the floor and speak in tongues. All the students score 95%, but fail.
Carefully cross the arterial Penistone Road, then walk east to find Rutland Street on the left. Pass the first of many industrial estates, ignoring the DIY superstore opposite, which changes hands over and over.
Just before Rutland Bridge is a beautiful old steel works building, recycled as offices, and hence currently deserted. It has fine broad windows over the river, and the repeated logo of a Samuel Osborn’s works, white hands grasping for lily-white hearts. Cross the Don, which is squeezed here by reeds and willows. If this is the stenosis, the infarct must be the downstream industrial and gastro-pub heritage area to the right.
As you reach Neepsend Lane, this is probably the outer edge of the red light district, marginalized from the city centre into ever more deserted industrial spots. At this time of day it’s difficult to tell. But what is evident as you go left along the Lane is that there are remnants of working industry scattered around here, some of them metallic.
Pass the derelict frontage of the old Stones Brewery, up to the corner of Bardwell Road, which bears its Soviet-style office building. Conscientious vandals have smashed every deco window on the stair landing, right up to the top floor.
Veer right up Bardwell Road, past the indoor skateboarding room, where my son went before he grew too tall. Pass commissioned, and therefore neutered, graffiti murals. Here we first notice a pervading smell of gas, bad enough to stop my companion smoking.
Follow a dreadlocked man up to the railway bridge (MAC/124).
The boundary of Upperthorpe goes along the railway line, presenting an access problem. One solution might be to adjourn and traverse this section by train, but only one train now uses this line, daily taking steel between Stocksbridge and Rotherham. We decide to follow the outer edge off the boundary just beyond the line, but outside Upperthorpe.
To take this option, go under the bridge, turn left off the road that continues up the bumpy hill to the ski village, on to Wallace Road. This street was the lowermost part of the former Parkwood Springs Estate, built originally by the railway company that owned this once busy line, for its engine drivers, and other employees. It was demolished in 1978 to make way for a council landfill site.
After a short while the road disappears into a travellers’ camp, caravans blocking any progress along to the next two bridges. Fearing guard dogs, my companion having been bitten the previous week in the Mayfield Valley, we retrace our steps clockwise now, back down to Neepsend Lane. Where Wallace Road becomes the muddy entrance to the camp is where George Orwell stayed with a family while visiting Sheffield in the 1930s, and he described the area in his classic The Road to Wigan Pier.
In retreating we are too scared of the ‘other’ on the hill. But also reversing our circumnavigation, even temporarily, is like going against the grain, from counterclockwise to clockwise. But then an anticlockwise cog will drive a connecting neighbour clockwise, which would then pass on its motion to further cogs anticlockwise, onwards and outwards reversing direction each time, in successive and multiplying revolutions and counter-revolutions, a sort of neutralising machine.
Going west further along Neepsend Lane we pass feverish earth moving. Fences decked with toxic warning signs can’t conceal the bulldozers and diggers moving hardcore and steaming soil, and the gas smell reaches a crescendo. They are demolishing the site of Orwell’s gas works. A vast site, it even contained a power station with cooling towers at one time. To follow us go right, up Parkwood Road. Juggernauts rumble up here with topsoil, followed, like a pilot fish, by a little street scrubbing wagon trying in vain to mop up the mud.
Halfway up, climb a flight of steps which leads to a footbridge back over the railway. This is the site of Neepsend Station, closed in 1940. Part of its rocky cutting was carved into the shape of a fairy castle, but this has now vanished. Take the footpath beyond the bridge up the hill, but then branch off to the left, along a path over the scrubby hillside. This should emerge at bridge MAC/126, and you have reached the farthest point of Upperthorpe. Just over the bridge, rejoin Parkwood Road before it leads up the hill to the landfill site. Here is the clockwise go-kart circuit, lined with tyres.
Eddy Dreadnought, 2012