Volunteers at the wheel generate national acclaim

Shepherd Wheel opening: FoPV volunteer Maggie Marsh shows the water wheel to  Ella Yates (10) and brother Finlay (9)
Shepherd Wheel opening: FoPV volunteer Maggie Marsh shows the water wheel to Ella Yates (10) and brother Finlay (9)

Volunteers behind the reopening of Shepherd Wheel as a working water-powered grinding workshop in the Porter Valley are in the running for a national heritage award.

The Friends of the Porter Valley pulled together a £500,000 funding package to add to a £500,000 lottery grant for the restoration of the waterwheels and buildings and they are now staffing the attraction at weekends. Visitors numbers are exceeding expectations, with 30,000 over 12 months.

The community group has been shortlisted for the English Heritage Angel Awards in London on October 21, to be hosted by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“We are absolutely over the moon,” said Ann Le Sage, who chairs the Friends. “It was a very complicated project, and we worked very closely with the council and Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust.”

Shepherd Wheel dates from the 1500s and is a reminder of how the steel and cutlery industries took root on Sheffield’s rivers. It was once kept operational as an industrial museum by the council, but it needed the volunteers to get it up and running again, overseeing the reconstruction of the wheel and desilting and repairing the millpond in the bottom off Bingham Park, between Rustlings Road and Hangingwater Road.

“You can now see the way our ancestors lived and laboured,” said Ann.

Voting for the awards is by of members of English Heritage and the Daily Telegraph.

Now the Friends have turned their attention to improving Forge Dam, further along the valley.

They need at least £250,000 to desilt the dam, and have so far raised £35,000 from public donations. Grant applications are in the pipeline.