A little-known public footpath received some overdue TLC on Saturday when volunteers from Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, Friends or Parkwood Springs, Sheffield Litter Pickers and the Upper Don Trail Trust combined forces.
The ancient footpath, which follows a small stream called the Toad Hole Dyke, links Southey Green at the Five Arches on Herries Rd to Wardsend Cemetery, Club Mill Rd and thence to Kelham Island. It has existed since at least Victorian times but had become overgrown and overlooked.
Now it forms part of the emerging Upper Don Trail and also offers the only main road gateways into historic Wardsend Cemetery and the developing Parkwood Springs Country Park.
Plans approved earlier this year by the Council to turn it into a fully accessible cycleway have now been shelved due to insuperable obstacles of buried services, a legacy from the nearby former Neepsend Power Station and Gas Works.
Around 25 volunteers turned out to remove debris and litter and clear encroaching vegetation from the .5 km path. Overgrown steps were cleared and a hidden ‘Dutch Ramp’ for cyclists uncovered. They also installed new temporary direction signage and an interpretive board highlighting the forgotten history of the area.
They were joined by Coun Mike Chaplin of Southey Ward and Hillsborough MP Gill Furness who said ‘Its so encouraging to see so many local people taking action for the natural environment and walking or cycling facilities and enjoying it. Despite living quite close by I wasn’t aware of this route!’
Chair of Friends of Wardsend Howard Bayley commented, ‘This footpath is really important for the Wardsend Cemetery Heritage Park – its one of our main entry points. People really enjoy discovering the unexpected history of this area’
Simon Ogden of Upper Don Trail said ‘ We had hoped this footpath could be upgraded to a fully accessible cycleway and wheelchair route funded by the Council and SUSTRANS but that has proved technically too difficult. So we are now looking at alternative routes for cycling but we still see this as an important link for walkers and as a way from Southey and Birley into Wardsend and Parkwood.’