Staying at the Historic Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa.

August 2020.

This was the first time that I have stayed in a hotel since the COVID lockdown. My holiday to the USA had been cancelled and whilst I did not want to take a holiday in the UK, I decided to take a weekend trip to Lincolnshire and stay in a hotel that has been on my radar for a while, the Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa.

I love Woodhall Spa, the quaint little village has some wonderful history, from being a Victorian spa town to the military and aviation history through the two World Wars.

History of the Petwood

The Petwood was originally built as a private home for wealthy heiress, Baroness Grace van Eckhardstein. She had received a large sum of money from her father’s will and decided to build a country retreat in her favourite woods or “pet wood” as she called it.

Her home was built in a Tudor style, complete with a hand-carved oak staircase that visitors can still admire today. Grace was a divorcee, but married for a second time to a politician called Sir Archibald Weigall in 1910.

The Petwood has seen its fair share of celebrities over the years. Grace and her husband would entertain politicians, aristocrats, sporting stars and those of music hall fame. King George VI and Prince Charles have also stayed at the Petwood.

Like many other large homes, Petwood was requisitioned for use in WWI where it served as a military convalescence hospital. During WWII the hotel was home to the  617 Dambusters Squadron from 1942.

A Review of my Stay

I love to travel and stay in all different types of hotels and motels. The Petwood is definitely what I would call a more traditional hotel. The hotel gets 3 AA stars, which I would say is about right. However, I felt like they maybe and try to promote themselves as a luxury hotel. Indeed, you are staying in a former country retreat in a beautiful area. However, the hotel just felt like it was missing something.

I booked through ebookers and paid only £59 for the room. I had £39 in Bonus + and also found a 10% promo code online. Prices are normally about £100 per night, but always look around before booking. I use Trivago and Hotels Combined to search for the best prive. Also, be sure to use Quidco. If you have not already signed up, below is my link. Also, I have found a site called Honey recently. It scans the internet for discount codes. I was sceptical at first but i’ve found it to be awesome. My honey link is below also.

https://www.quidco.com/raf/1335181/

joinhoney.com/ref/w7z2d81

The hotel has implemented a one way system and requires guests to wear a mask inside the hotel communal areas. Obviously when you are in the restaurant and bar, this is not a requirement. I did notice that many of the members of staff did not have masks on though. I understand that it must be awful to work wearing a mask, but at the same time, there is a reason as to why everyone should be wearing them in public places.

I booked a standard double room. The room was nice and clean, as was the bathroom. There was not much of a view though, the room overlooked bins and what I think is the service area as it was very noisy late at night. I like to sleep with the window open and I was woken by banging, I had to get out of bed to close the window. Also, there was only instant coffee. This is something that I always find bizarre in English hotels. I travel a lot in America, and even in the cheapest motels you get some sort of filter coffee. Yes, America do have more of a coffee culture, but that has now migrated to the UK and so I always wonder why hotels continue to leave only instant rubbish in the rooms.

Food

I had wanted to eat at the Tea House in the Woods. However, I think that I underestimated how busy Woodhall Spa was going to be and it was fully booked. For convenience, we ate in the hotel restaurant. The food was nice, definitely not gourmet, it was more of a traditional menu, nevertheless, it was reasonably priced and good. The service was also excellent.

We also had breakfast in the hotel, it costs £15 pp and you get tea/coffee/juice and then something from the cold and hot options. If you just want a coffee and a yogurt, the breakfast isn’t worth it. However, if you get a full English, coffee, juice and a pastry, then its worth it.

On check out, the reception did try and charge me an extra £30, which was incorrect. Make sure you always check your bill and work out your charges as hotels do make mistakes.

For a more in depth look at the hotel and gardens, be sure to watch my video below :).

Thanks for reading.

Monk Bretton Priory

August 2020

Monk Bretton has been closed since March due to COVID. Although it is a free site, sadly in the past, the ruin has been damaged by vandals and so the site can not remain open at all times. Despite the site being free entry, the gates get locked every day at 3pm and re-open at 10am.

It is unfortunate that Monk Bretton does not get the same protection as other English Heritage sites. Roche Abbey is similar in size and yet that is a staffed site. During my visit I witnessed an incredibly ignorant individual who was climbing up the ruin (I have made a video with a little more information and a picture of said individual below). As Monk Bretton is un-staffed, English Heritage rely on people using common sense and being respectful, clearly they cannot rely on this. I do think they need more signs that say ‘DO NOT CLIMB ON THE RUIN’. If this fails, I personally think that the gates should remain locked and only opened maybe once a month when it can be staffed.

From what I can gather, the volunteers of this site take care of it, rather than English Heritage that don’t seem to care much. The gatekeepers are volunteers, which makes it more upsetting when you see litter, graffiti and idiots climbing the ruins.

Monk Bretton was founded in about 1154, by a local landowner called Adam Fitzswaine. The priory served as a daughter house to the rich Cluniac priory at Pontefract. After 50 years of disagreements, Monk Bretton seceded from Cluniac Order in 1281 and became a Benedictine house.

The priory was quite substantial as it owned properties across South Yorkshire, with rights over five parish churches. It is also said that Monk Bretton worked coal and ironstone in the Barnsley area. After Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, Monk Bretton was closed and materials from the priory were used elsewhere.

The priory passed into the ownership of the Blithman family and then in 1589 the estate was bought by William Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. He converted the west range of the cloister into a country house for his son Henry.

Today, the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and now in the care of English Heritage/ volunteers.

Thanks for reading.

Roche Abbey Ruins.

August 7th 2020.

Roche Abbey was founded in 1147 and housed Cistercian Monks. (The Order of Cistercians are a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that branched off from the Benedictines and follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. Also called ‘white monks’ due to their light colour robes).

At its peak in around 1175, there were approximately 50 monks, 100 lay brothers and servants. Roche Abbey was suppressed in 1538 when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

Today the site is managed by English Heritage. Entry is £5 for adults and £4.50 for concessions. As of August 2020, you must book online before visiting, this also includes EH members.

There is only one interpretation board on site. When staff scan your ticket, they ask if you want to buy a guide book for £4.50. I think this is a little bit wrong, I understand that the extra money goes towards the upkeep of the site. However, some more boards would be nice, rather than trying to get people to buy the book.

Thanks for reading.

The one interpretation board on site.
The Gatehouse
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Crash Site of the Boeing RB-29A [F13-A] Superfortress 44-61999 “Over Exposed”.

This has been on my list of places to visit for a while. It was a sunny Sunday morning and so I decided to take the 40 minute drive to the Snake Pass to finally go and have a look.

There are two parking spots off the Snake Pass. I parked at the Doctors Gate but the more direct walking route is accessed from a little further along the Snake, towards Manchester.

There were quite a few other walkers out, due to the poor visibility, I missed the turn off from the main footpath to head towards toe crash site. It isn’t signposted, but I believe the pile of stones along the footpath is where you are meant to turn off.

On the 3rd of November in 1948, the United States Air Force Boeing RB-29A Superfortress 44-61999 set off from RAF Scampton and was heading to the United States Air Force Base at Burtonwood near Warrington.

Visibility was poor and the crew thought that they had been flying long enough to have crossed the hills and so they started to descend. The plane hit the ground, setting on fire and killing all 13 crew members on board.

Below are a series of pictures and a short video of my visit.

Thanks for reading.

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South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum, Doncaster.

https://www.southyorkshireaircraftmuseum.org.uk/

Amongst many other sectors, the heritage sector, especially small independent museums have suffered greatly due to COVID, so it is nice to be able to try and support as many as possible now they are re-opening.

The South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum is quite hidden away at the back of the popular Lakeside area of Doncaster. The buildings once formed part of RAF Doncaster, which the museum took over when they were vacated by Yorkshire Water.

There is loads to see and some great displays. They don’t just have aircraft, they also have lots of other history on the military.

It is definitely worth a visit. Parking is free, there is plenty of space for social distancing and they have put one way systems in place.

Below are a few pictures from my visit. Thanks for reading.

Hawker BAE
Westland Seaking HAS.6 XV677
A few aircraft on display outside.
Hangar displays
Hangar displays
Wartime Store

As of 2020, admissions were:

Adult £6.50

Children (5-16) £3

Senior Citizen £5.50

Family £15

Charcoal Burner’s Memorial in Ecclesall Woods.

Ecclesall Woods are one of my favourite jogging routes. One day I decided to take a different path through the woods, that I thought may be a little quieter. To my surprise, I came across a Colliers Pond and headstone. I did not have any prior knowledge about the woods so when I got home, I did a little research.

Ecclesall woods are thousands of years old, dated by Human traces in the form of Neolithic rock art. During the 14th century, the woods were a deer park owned by Sir Ralph de Ecclesall.

From 1600 until the early 1800s, the woods were used to source charcoal to supply Sheffield’s growing industries. Charcoal was used for smelting iron and coal was for smelting lead.

Grade II Listed Headstone.

The headstone reads “In memory of George Yardley, Wood Collier. He was burnt to death in his Cabbin on this place Octr. 11th 1786. William Brookes, Salesman; David Glossop, Gamekeeper; Thos. Smith, Besom maker; Sampn. Brookshaw, Innkeeper.” According to Historic England, the monument is unusual in that it records not only the occupation of the deceased, but those of the subscribers to his memorial.

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The point on the map shows the approximate location of the pond and monument.

Sources:

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1271384

Elsecar Heritage Centre

Whilst reading Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty by Catherine Bailey it occurred to me that I had not visited Elsecar Heritage Centre since I was a kid. I could only vaguely remember what it was like and so decided to take a trip over one sunny Friday afternoon.

As it was Friday, I assumed that it would be quiet. When I arrived, however, I was greeted by two almost full car parks. I can only imagine how busy it gets on a weekend. When I entered the heritage centre however, it was not overly busy. I assume most of the cars were people walking the Trans Pennine Trail.

Elsecar is a great example of a multi-use heritage site. It has a combination of shops, restaurants, a railway and visitor centre, all contained within the refurbished industrial buildings.

Elseacr was built by the 4th Earl of Fitzwilliam of the nearby Wentworth Estate. I do highly recommencement the book Black Diamonds if you are interested in finding out more about Wentworth, the Fitzwilliams and coal mining in the area.

The colliery at Elsecar was sunk in 1975. Ironstone was also mined nearby. A Beam Engine was built in order to extract water from the mine to allow deeper exploration. The Engine ran from 1795 to 1923, when it was replaced with electric pumps.

The workshops were built in 1850. After the nationalisation of the coal mines, the coal board took over the workshops in 1947. As the need for coal reduced and the pits were closed, there was also no requirement for the workshops and Beam Engine. The Department of Environment listed most of the buildings in 1986, as they were seen to be of special architectural or historic interest. In 1988 the Newcomen Beam Engine House and the workshops were purchased bu Barnsley Council who restored the buildings.

I also have a YouTube channel, I would really appreciate if you could like my video and subscribe to my channel 🙂

Read More

www.elsecar-heritage.com

www.wentworthwoodhouse.co.uk

Boot’s Folly, Sheffield.

Hello, welcome to my blog.

I grew up not too far away from Boot’s Folly (also known as Strines Tower or Sugworth Tower). The tower was built in 1927 by Charles Boot of the construction company Henry Boot & Sons. Charles Boot resided at the nearby Sugworth Hall, a Grade II Listed country house. The hall was up for sale recently for £1.5 million pounds.

There are a few theories as to why the tower was built. One theory was that, Charles Boot constructed it so that he could see his wife’s grave in Bradfield churchyard across the valley. However, multiple sources state that the tower was built as a job-creation scheme for workers from Sugworth Hall during the depression.

The folly stands at 315 meters high and was constructed from leftover stone used to build the nearby Bents House. Today the structure is Grade II Listed. There used to be a wooden staircase inside the tower, but that was allegedly removed in the 1970s, after a cow got stuck at the top.

Thanks for reading. Please also watch my video below for a look inside the tower.

Sources and further reading:

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1203769

The Remains of Britain’s Largest Prisoner of War Camp.

Lodge Moor, Sheffield, July 05 2020.

Hi, welcome to my blog if you are new here. If you are returning, welcome back.

This location has been on my to visit list for a while, but I never knew much history about it until I started doing research for this post. It is another one of the forgotten historically important places of Sheffield, that the council choose not to acknowledge.

There isn’t much left of the camp, as you can see from the pictures below, it is very overgrown and only foundations remain. The former camp is located in some public woodland off Redmires Road in Lodge Moor. The woodland gets a lot of foot traffic from walkers, runners and cyclists. If you did not know what these ruins were beforehand, there is no way of knowing as there is absolutely no interpretation or memorials on the site.

According to the book, Sheffield’s Great War and Beyond: 1916-1918 by Peter Warr, Redmires was initially used to accommodate the Sheffield City Battalion (Sheffield PALS), I believe from December 1914 until May of 1915. After this it was used for the the Royal Engineers until 1918. In 1918, it was opened as a prisoner of war camp, housing German prisoners until 1919. Peter also notes that the camp was used in 1920 by parties of school children, this would make sense as on some old maps the area near the camp is labelled “Redmires Special School”.

Sometime between 1918 and 1919, Hitlers chosen successor, Karl Dönitz was held at Redmires. When Dönitz was released from the camp and returned to Germany, he was made commander of the German U-boats, before becoming head of the German Navy. Eventually succeeding Hitler to become president of the German Reich.

The camp was also used in the Second World War, firstly for Italian prisoners, who were put to work on local farms and then after D-Day, it was used to house Germans. It is said that the camp housed between 10,000 to 12,000 inmates at its peak.

In 2019, archaeology students from the University of Sheffield excavated the site. Their report can be found here.

The former Lodge Moor hospital next to the camp, now apartments was once used as a fever isolation hospital. From what I have read online, during the First World War, there was an air landing strip next to the camp that was used to defend Sheffield against Zeppelin raids. However it was only used until 1916. In his book, Redmires – Tales From the Ridge, Keith Baker notes that the airfield was ceased due to protests that it would disturb patients at the hospital.

During the Victorian times, there was also a racecourse near to the site. However it was not in operation long, possibly due to it’s remote location from the city centre.

If you have anymore information, or anything I have written is incorrect, please leave me a note in the comments as some of the information that I have read has been contradictory.

If you intend to visit, there is parking on the road or there is a car park next to the recreation ground just past the Sportsman pub. Just be careful If you are walking, running, cycling or riding a horse, it seems to be a place frequented by quad bikers and off road motorcyclists.

Thank you for reading. Watch my video below for a more in depth look.

This is the only sign that references the camp.
Sheffield’s only Prisoner of War camp, once known as “Redmires” or the Lodge Moor Camp.

Sources and further reading:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-48869080

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/lodge-moor-pow-camp-ruins

https://darkyorkshire.wordpress.com/tag/redmires/

Sheffield’s Great War and Beyond: 1916-1918 by Peter Warr

Hitler’s Hangmen: The Secret German Plot to Kill Churchill December 1944 by Brian Lett

Thurgoland Tunnels

Barnsley, England, July 5th 2020.

After doing some searching online for unusual free things in my area, I came across the Thurgoland Tunnels.

The 924ft long tunnels are located along the Trans Pennine Trail, a walking/ cycling path which runs along the old Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester railway line. The line opened in 1845 but closed in 1983.

Only one of the two tunnels is open, the other is blocked off. If you clap your hands or make sound whilst in the tunnel, you will hear an unusual reverberating sound due to the acoustics in the tunnel.

If you intend just to visit the tunnel, I would suggest parking under the bridge on Cote Lane if you travel by car. The entrance to the trail is marked and is located at the side of the bridge.

The tunnels are along the Upper Don Trail
The tunnels are along the Upper Don Trail
The second tunnel
The second tunnel