| Valley where Edward Carpenter, gay rights campaigner and socialist, walked|
|Starting life, Millthorpe Brook tumbles off Flask Edge on the eastern fringe of Totley Moor and then buries itself in a deep-cut valley, travelling in a mile or so from austere grandeur to somewhere lush and secret.|
Tucked away on the edge of Sheffield, Millthorpe still feels remote, even though the suburban tide pushed out by postwar construction ends just over the hill among the housing estates of Totley and Dronfield.
West of Fox Lane, past a familiar ash tree and into the oaks and beeches, I find the bluebells have hung on longer here, threaded with stitchwort and broken up with patches of garlic on the banks of the stream itself.
There is an intangible sense of lost history in this valley: a section of broken wall whose controlling purpose is now forgotten; a vast bank of rhododendrons under Smeekley Woods suggesting a horticultural masterplan run wild.
One Millthorpe ghost in particular is hard to shake, that of Edward Carpenter, early socialist philosopher, pacifist and vegetarian and a courageous gay rights campaigner, who lived just downstream of here, and must have walked this path many hundred times.
Other pioneers on the left largely discounted Carpenter for his mystical views and passion for sandals. Orwell dubbed him an "outer-suburban creeping Jesus". But on a day like today, it is quite difficult to disentangle the dry facts of material inequality from the warmth of the sun or the smell of bluebells and the moist earth.
Scrambling up through Bank Wood, I pause to catch my breath near a huge oak, anchored to steep ground above the brook, a landmark for all the birds getting on with the day's business.
In its shadow, a few feet from where I'm standing, is an old birch and I catch sight of a blue tit, bill crammed with grubs, whirring to a stop near its nest in the trunk. It pauses there, just for a fraction of a second, its black, impassive eye fixed on me, while its mate emerges from the nest on the next grub-run for chicks who must soon be gone.