In weather far more favourable than the post Eunice conditions this weekend, we were delighted to take the Sheffield writer David Bocking on a tour of the Upper Don.
Bathed in glorious sunshine (remember that), we took Bocking by bike to Oughtibridge, integral to our 22km vision for an off road trail from Sheffield to Stocksbridge… and beyond.
The Upper Don Trail aims to create an attractive and accessible riverside trail for walkers, cyclists and anyone else using their own steam. The Trail route follows the Don river from the site of the old Sheffield castle all the way out to Langsett, where trailgoers can continue across the Pennines or further out into the Peak District.
As Howard Bayley of Wardsend Cemetery says,
“It’s about levelling up within the city.”
Where he lives, in south west Sheffield, there are any number of well maintained pathways for people to walk and think and enjoy the Outdoor City, Howard explained. But not so much in the north, he said.
Howard, from the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery was taking a stroll on one of the completed sections of the 21.5 km Upper Don Trail with colleagues from the Upper Don Trail Trust, David Holmes and Simon Ogden.
“If you create an accessible, well surfaced space along a beautiful riverside, people are drawn to it,” said David. “As we’ve seen today in the space of about twenty minutes.”
Along the way, the trail will connect people in the north Sheffield communities established along the river.
A few weeks ago, the trail was debated in parliament thanks to local Hillsborough and Brightside MP Gill Furniss (fellow trailside MP Miriam Cates from Stocksbridge is also a trail supporter).
The Nature Recovery Minister, Rebecca Pow, said her department would work with the Trust and Sheffield Council to help find the remaining funding to complete the trail. She added: “I very much welcome the ambitions of the Upper Don Trail and recognise that its objectives align completely with the government.”
Simon (who helped complete the Five Weirs Walk along the lower Don years ago) points out that after several years’ work by volunteers from the Trust, the national trail-building charity Sustrans, and many officers from Barnsley, Stocksbridge, Bradfield parish and Sheffield councils, the Upper Don Trail already has 19km (nearly 12 miles) of its length either agreed and funded, or already in place.
The final sections, between Hillsborough and Kelham Island, include negotiating the convoluted roadways between Wardsend Cemetery at Owlerton and Clay Wheels Lane by the big Sainsbury’s at Wadsley Bridge, and sprucing up and resurfacing an existing right of way along Club Mill Road, alongside some stunning stretches of the Don above Neepsend.
Funding for some trail improvement work near Club Mill Road has been offered by the Sustrans charity and the Trust continues to speak with the council to establish its support.
As Simon says: “There’s only just over 2km left. So let’s not drop the baton on the last lap.”