Parkwood Springs + More Fires : Sun 4th June 23
Million Pounds Park: the really quite big city centre country park at Parkwood Springs, updates on the Burbage (and Agden) blaze + What's On Out There
Morning. Two features this week, an update on moorland fires, and a visit to Parkwood Springs where I found that the idea of turning a series of rubbish dumps into a ‘country park’ for Sheffield looks like it’s really, finally, happening, with or without a ski village.
There’s also a very brief news update, and our usual What’s On Out There section. This week’s Sunday supplement is our What To Look For monthly wildlife post, which I hope will be with you on Sunday night / Monday morning. You see how hard I’m working here. (There’s the subscribe button below.)
A full subscription (for those who’ve read a few posts & like them) costs £4 a month & helps make this publication sustainable. You also get access to the growing archive & special posts 2-3 times a month. Or, a free trial subscription lets you see what it’s all about. Just enter your email below. Thanks!
Our on the spot feature on the Burbage Moor fire last week picked up readers all over the country worried about countryside fire hazards including litter and portable barbecues.
It now looks like previous conservation work may have helped curb the blaze, alongside the heroic actions of the firefighters, farmers and rangers on the dark moor on Tuesday night. I spoke to Danny Udall, manager of several moorlands on the edge of Sheffield for the Eastern Moors Partnership, who told me:
“The swift response from the fire service, assistance from partners and other groups, along with weather conditions and the fact that the fire was in an area where some cotton grass bog restoration has started, all helped to contain the blaze relatively quickly and prevent it from spreading further.”
The fire had extended along a kilometre of moorland from the Ox Stones almost to the climbing edges of the Burbage Valley, where the former plantation site below is fast growing into a new native woodland.
Anyone who’s travelled across Burbage Moor knows how muddy it gets in wet weather, but it seems the restoration of the former shooting moor into a bog with Cotton Grass and Bilberry, as well as heather, may have been a factor in curbing the blaze.
The toil of the firefighters, using hand beaters and water carriers on their backs, was praised by Danny and the city as a whole, especially residents of nearby Ringinglow village, who could have been at risk if the wind was in another direction.
But it seems that reducing the old shooter’s dry heather and grouse duoculture into a more natural wet moorland can help reduce fire spread as well as flood risk.
Burbage Moor still has hot spots in danger of re-ignition, and firefighters and Eastern Moors staff are still working there to stop a new fire breaking out, so steer clear for now, they say.
“Fires like this have devastating effects on wildlife and the landscape,” Danny Udall said. “And it’s a reminder how quickly a fire can start and spread on moorland. If you see a fire dial 999, don’t assume someone else has made the call.”
South Yorkshire Fire Service want to reiterate the hot dry weather advice you might think everyone would have taken in by now.
“We’re asking people to take all their rubbish home with them,” they said, adding that glass bottles were a particular risk. “And we ask people to never have campfires, and to take a picnic, not a BBQ, if they’re visiting moorland.”
Education is the key, say many countryfolk, especially when it’s so easy to buy a warning-free disposable barbecue.
How would a young person who rarely visits the countryside (and doesn’t read the press or fire service social media accounts), know that the Peak District’s soil could be a two metre deep fuel source for their portable chicken cooker?
Danny said everyone can play a part in preventing moorland fires, so maybe we all need to try and spread the word whenever we can.
Yesterday I had a message from reader Roger Butterfield, who’d seen last week’s post.
He and his partner had noticed a thin plume of smoke rising from a road near Agden Reservoir. “Through my binoculars I could see flames rising from the roadside as a blue car drove away. I immediately rang the fire service but the operator said that someone else had already reported the blaze.”
The fire raced up the dry hillside above Agden Side Road in minutes, and by the time three fire engines arrived, it was spreading up the slope and along the roadside in both directions, Roger said, before the firefighters seemed to get it under control about 40 minutes later.
Was the fire caused by a flicked cigarette, another barbecue, or something else? With a bone dry countryside, many fear the Burbage Moor blaze may be the first, but not only, local fire disaster of the season.
Million Pounds Park
The Country Park for Sheffield has been a long time coming. But quietly over the last six months or so, the trails and berms and bumps of a new set of mountain bike tracks have been laid down, along with the long awaited ‘Skyline Trail’ across the top of the city’s Shining Cliff. (As Shirecliffe was known to the Anglo Saxons).
Pounds Park in the city centre is already open, but later this summer, Parkwood Springs is finally going to become the destination its friends wanted it to be when they looked out at the burned out cars and hypodermics in hedges around the decaying ski village fifteen years ago.
“It’s been slow but steady,” says Jon Dallow, the city council woodlands officer who’s chivvied for grants and chatted to locals and made friends with Friends groups for twelve years to bring his vision to life: an urban country park for The Outdoor City, the size of Hyde Park in London (but on a cliff, this being Sheffield).
I took a walk round the new trails with Peter and Louise Bull from the Friends of Parkwood Springs. They told me of the unofficial ‘lone female runner’ test that council officers apply to check whether locals feel a green space is safe.
“I always feel safe here,” says Louise. “And the new paths are nice and wide, they’ve thought about the sight lines so people feel comfortable when they come here. The idea is that walkers and runners and wheelchair users and families with kids and pushchairs will use the Skyline Trail, not just the hard core cyclists.”
Parkwood Springs was one of many places in the north that failed to get one of the government’s latest Levelling Up Fund awards - £11 million in the case of Parkwood’s bid.
But the Parkwood Springs people had other irons in the fire, and received just over £1 million to improve paths and trails and encourage use of the place, from a range of funders including British Cycling and Sport England, Sheffield’s National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine and the city’s Public Health department, who contributed £100,000 pounds to help make the place attractive enough for local people to use the 146 hectare, mile and a half long, site to have fun and improve their health.
So there’ll soon be toilets and a cafe so people can visit for the day, and waymarking so they can find their way around. There’ll be a Parkwood Springs park ranger to encourage schools and local groups to use the site. And by the end of the year (or just after) there’ll be a new two lap Parkwood Springs Saturday morning parkrun up there too.
There’s still a bit of work to be done to finish the Skyline Trail to a decent surface, and a new section of the trail just below the Standish Estate should be opened up this summer, when landfill site owners Valencia finish their work on the route.
We meet a dad from Shirecliffe pushing a trike with a toddler, accompanying three other kids who’ve already found the new mountain bike trails. “It’s great for them to get out somewhere like this,” he says. “I love it. I’ll be bringing my bike now I know about it.”
“It’s about creating a green space that will be useful for thousands of people,” says Peter Bull. “It’s already useful for many people, but there’s so much more that could be done.”
We sit and chat and admire the view from the site that’ll soon be a cafe by the playing fields off Cooks Wood Road, and a lone female runner jogs past.
“In the current economic and public sector climate, it’s so hard to do something like this,” says Jon Dallow to me later.
His conclusion to that statement goes unspoken: the many and varied supporters of Parkwood Springs wanted to turn three old rubbish dumps around a burned out ski village into a huge country park. What’s happened is, being Sheffielders, they’ve just gone out and done it anyway.
(Very) Brief News
Firstly, As I reported recently, the Sheaf Valley Active Travel Route seems to be doing what it said it would: significantly increase walking, cycling, and running on the route.
The council released figures last week showing that 13,517 cycling trips were made under the old Little London Road railway bridge in May, up 32% on the numbers before the concrete block filter went in to make the bridge safely passable by walkers and cyclists.
As cities like Paris, Copenhagen and London (if not yet the rest of Sheffield) have found for travellers wanting to walk and cycle more: build it, and they will come.
Secondly, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust announced an appeal to help the Trust secure the long term future of the 345 acres of Ughill Farm, which they recently purchased with a loan from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
The plan is to help rewild the old farm to benefit Curlews, Lapwings and other rare wading birds, along with other wildlife, as a ‘nature friendly farm’. I aim to have a feature on this soon.
Finally, a few selected events for this week, including Sheffield Environment Weeks.
And please, please if you have events coming up - let me know in the comments below - I can’t include your event unless you tell me about it!
Sun 4th - Woodland Connections tree walk at Ecclesall Woods (£7)
Sun 4th - Sun 11th - Reopening events at Sheffield General Cemetery including grass identification, history tours and kids activities on Sunday
Mon 5th - Crabtree Ponds Volunteer Work Day with Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust
Mon 5th - Women and Girls in the Woods World Environment Day evening female event at Lodge Lane
Mon 5th - Fri 9th - Daily health walks in parks and green spaces from Step Out Sheffield, 10 am start
Tues 6th - Volunteer Work Day (SRWT) at Wyming Brook and Fox Hagg
Weds 7th - Roses and Fossils guided tour of Sheffield Botanical Gardens (£3 donation)
Weds 7th - Exploring Longshaw walk (£5 adults / £3 kids)
Thurs 8th - Nature Tots play and crafts at Longshaw (£5 / child)
Thurs 8th - Walk and Talk at Norfolk Park
Thurs 8th - Walking Tour: 18th & 19th Century Black History of Sheffield (£8)
Friday 9th - Launch of Whirlow Brook Park tree trail
Sat 10th - Wildflower Walk at Carbrook Ravine (£2-£10)
Sat 10th - Creating Greener Gardens course at Sheffield Botanical Gardens (£35)
Thanks for reading. Please forward this Sunday’s post to everyone you think might like it, as I think all Outdoor Citizens ought really to become readers of It’s Looking A Bit Black Over Bill’s Mother’s.
We had a big jump in readers and subscribers last week, (including Chris Packham, it would appear!) and if around 200 of you sign up as full subscribers, It’s Looking A Bit Black Over Bill’s Mother’s will become a sustainable regular publication for The Outdoor City. So thanks again to all of you.
Trial subscriptions are free, or if you’ve been before, £4 a month from at least 200 of you is all I need to keep these posts coming. (There’s no catch, you can cancel any time. And you get a month free if you go annual). Thanks!