ENVIRONMENT AWARDS: Honours for rail station heroes

JUST six years ago, Dronfield railway station was a mess. The neglected train stop, served by a skeleton rail service of up to five trains a day operating to a bizarre and historical timetable, had led to minimal usage.

Nowadays, the picture could not be more different - and it’s all thanks to the Friends of Dronfield Station.

Sheffield Telegraph Enviroment Awards 2012 at Sheffield Collge ''Friends of Dronfield Station receive the Overall Winner's award from Michael Woodhead

Sheffield Telegraph Enviroment Awards 2012 at Sheffield Collge ''Friends of Dronfield Station receive the Overall Winner's award from Michael Woodhead

The group formed in 2007 in a bid to bring more services on more days from Dronfield by promoting the station and lobbying central government. A group of dedicated volunteers set to work and adopted a motto, ‘Bringing back the trains, the people and the pride’, and that is something they have certainly managed to do.

The hard work of around 200 residents and local councillors has increased the number of users from 10,000 prior to 2008 to 181,000.

And it’s this dedication which led to the group scooping Overall Winner at the Sheffield Telegraph’s annual Environment Awards, sponsored by energy firm E.On.

The ceremony - held at Sheffield City College, Granville Road - honoured the individuals and organisations committed to protecting, preserving and improving environments in Sheffield and surrounding areas.

Host Clare Frisby, presenter of BBC Look North, said: “Sheffield is one of the leading countries in the city for being green. Tonight is about meeting and recognising the innovators and the forward thinkers.”

It was a big night for all of those nominated in the seven award categories, but none more so than double winners Friends of Dronfield Station.

The Community Award and Overall Winner prize were a further cause for celebration in a month which has seen them crowned winner of the national Association of Community Rail Partnerships best station garden competition.

One of the biggest elements of their work is ensuring the station looks attractive, with flowers, plants and even a meadow all looked after by the green-fingered Friends. Visitors and rail passengers from far and wide comment on its beauty. In fact, some people hop on the train for the sole purpose of visiting the station and seeing it in all its glory.

Valerie Slee, a member of the Friends of Dronfield Station, said: “It feels very good to win. All of the work people here are doing is brilliant.

“In the whole group there are around 200 of us. Everyone helps with different things, but there are 25 active members who visit the garden about once or twice a week.”

“We’re absolutely amazed,” added Valerie’s husband and fellow volunteer Roger Slee.