AT one time there was so much water that visitors could take to rowing boats. These days much of Forge Dam, one of the most popular spots in Sheffield’s Porter Valley, is silted up and overgrown with trees.
Now the future of the dam – and the area around it – is under the microscope, with local people, and the many others who use the valley, being asked for their views.
“This is a park for whole of Sheffield, not just for S10,” said Ann Le Sage, who chairs the Friends of the Porter Valley, which chipped in £1,000 towards the cost of a consultants’ report.
Most of the money – £20,000 – has come from the council’s South West Community Assembly and the result is a raft of ideas that are now the basis for public consultation.
Some visitors may want to keep the dam as it is, complete with a naturally growing island which attracts wildlife, but for most the initial reaction is to dredge it “to get rid of the filthy sludge so that people can look at clean water sitting on a decent row of benches facing south”, said Ann.
The question is being asked whether some of the trees surrounding the dam, near Fulwood, should be cut down so that the green spaces could be opened up “and people could see a beautiful lake in a green valley, as it used to be, not surrounded by inappropriate trees”.
Consideration is also being given to opening up the area in front of Forge Dam café, using water features to link the playground with the river and creating better disabled access to the dam.
“The proposals are very much based on the ideas visitors put forward before Christmas. Now is the moment to look at some landscape projections and specific texts about possible solutions to the dreadful condition of the dam, the use of the green space for visitors, the long-term design of the playground and some new water features linking visually to the river.
“We know from past participation in the Friends’ organised events that at least 30% of park visitors come from well outside the immediate area so we want this to be a Sheffield-wide consultation. The Forge Dam area is hugely popular and thousands of visitors signed up to the petition in the café last year demanding that there should at last be investment in improvements to this rather run-down Sheffield park.”
The Friends have been working with council parks and countryside officers and the South West Assembly and an options appraisal has been drawn up by Breeze Landscape Architects and Jeremy Benn Associates.
They are being displayed in the café from today (Thursday) until Tuesday. Breeze representatives will be in the café tomorrow (Friday) from noon to 3pm and on Saturday from 10am to 3pm.
The café reopened at the end of last year after an £80,000 repair and refurbishment programme to offer a long-term future to one of the attractions on the Round Walk. Ann added: “The Friends and council have already made some minor improvements, such as sprucing up the playground, doing litter picks and repairing benches, but more radical revitalisation is clearly needed.”
Once a way forward is determined, the emphasis will switch to the cost at a time when the council is cutting back in many areas, including parks and countryside.
But the volunteers are undeterred, prepared to do what they can themselves, and they will be in the café area to repair benches on Sunday morning.
lThe Friends of the Porter Valley are spearheading the restoration of the Shepherd Wheel at the bottom of Bingham Park as a working museum. They hope the wheel and machinery will be restored and open to the public by the autumn.