For a city with such a strong association with hills, it’s perhaps worth remembering from time to time the importance of Sheffield’s valleys.
For hundreds of years, valleys where rivers such as the Don and the Sheaf flowed were where industry met nature, the former using the latter to drive the city’s productivity.
Today, much of the heavy industry which once lined the city’s rivers has gone. We are left with a series of beautiful routes and paths follow Sheffield’s waterways, which are still punctuated with fascinating reminders of an industrial past.
Of course, heavy Victorian industry took its toll on the city’s rivers, which for many years suffered from bad pollution in places. But for decades a number of groups have been working tirelessly to clean Sheffield rivers. The result is now being seen, with flora and fauna rapidly returning and settling in the areas.
Following the Porter Brook from Endcliffe Park, there is one of the city’s best examples of its industrial past. A number of dams are visible in the park and down the Porter Valley into Whiteley Woods, where the Shepherd Wheel Workshop offers a perfect glimpse into how water and industry combined. This route also forms part of the Sheffield Round Walk. In the Rivelin Valley, the path which hugs the river is littered with rusting, crumbling shadows of little mesters workshops and water wheels. Meanwhile there are cafes for refreshments and a water park where children can splash about to their heart’s content in the summer months.
The Upper Don Walk, which starts at Oughtibridge and passes through Hillsborough and Wadsley Bridge, also takes in Kelham Island, home to the gigantic Don Engine, which lives in the museum and impressively leaps into action twice a day.
The Five Weirs walk picks up where the Upper Don Walk stops at Lady’s Bridge, continuing along the river five miles towards Meadowhall.