The Danum Trails

Wesley and partner walking through some woods
Wesley and partner walking through some woods
photo credit – Warren Draper

Wesley Grimes explores the Danum Trail, a 70 mile circular walk around Doncaster that’s fallen out of popularity with Ramblers.

I was a very late driver for my age and, with that, walking was always a means of getting from A to B instead of a pastime. When I passed my driving test, the world became my oyster and my pledge that I would continue to walk as much as possible inevitably emerged as ‘pie in the sky’ thinking.

Three years on, with middle age creaking through my knees and my waistline getting larger, I began to feel the consequences of my lazy car driving choices.  I had begun to daydream of long walks and none more so than the Danum Trail, a walk I had completed one part of with my Dad and brother way back in 1995. Compiled by David Ward to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Ramblers it was a 70-mile circular walk split into six parts of different difficulties starting and finishing from the Dome.

Researching it online threw out very little bar a weak GPS route and evidence that a copy of the Danum Trail was on sale on Amazon once upon a time.

I contacted the Ramblers directly who told me the route was defunct due to road and housing builds and had been replaced by the grossly inferior Heron Way.

By pure chance a month later I found a copy of the book online (I won’t disclose the price but it made me weep) and having read the book in bed like a starry eyed child, myself and my partner agreed we would set out to complete it, not knowing whether we could even complete stage one.

So, on a muddy day in February, with packed lunches and flask in tow, we repeated the first stage I had completed 25 years previously from Doncaster to Tickhill taking in areas of Bessacarr, Rossington and Stancil, amazed not only by how well-worn and accessible the paths were but how fascinating the history snippets contained within the book were.

Being pure gluttons for punishment we decided to knock off the next part from Tickhill to Conisbrough the following day, this time contending with wind as well as the aforementioned mud, as we slopped step-by-step through boot aching bog. With the fear of the washing machine choking to death on our mud-caked trousers we pledged to hang fire for the next part in hope of dryer days.

On the 19th of March as the UK delayed it’s way into lockdown we squeezed Conisbrough to Brodsworth in, curbing on Rotherham as we hit Denaby and Mexborough with perfect spring canal walking.

As a confession the next part from Brodsworth to Askern we completed in the depths of lockdown, long before Cummings decided he was above the law. We weighed our consciences and did the same deciding to drive 12 miles to walk instead of setting off from home. This was probably the best walk of the six; we were treated to great weather and walking conditions and with no traffic noise anywhere it felt like we were the only people for miles.

Part five from Askern to Hatfield was the killer. At 14.5 miles and mostly Clay footing it hammered our inexperienced feet and for the first time (and I maintain lockdown will have been a huge factor in this) we found overgrown paths that lacked some real maintenance.

On the 12th July, 25 years and 22 days after the first walk, we completed the Danum trail with none of the foretold issues we were expecting. Cue one self-congratulatory social media post about our achievement, and hoards of people interested in the trail and how they might themselves get a copy of it. 

As obesity, carbon footprint and changes in our way of life under a pandemic have become focus points there has never been a better time for the Ramblers, the Council and anyone with a bit of sway to blow the dust off this hidden treasure. It’s opened my eyes to the history and beauty we have in our local area, given us some perfect dates screen free (save a few GPS checks when we think we’ve taken a wrong turn) as well as fresh air; the perfect tonic for anyone who might feel that they might need a boost to their mental and physical health.

Now I could ramble on for days about the Danum Trail, but I’ll leave that down to you……

Follow Wesley Grimes over on Twitter here.

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