Mark Woodward grew up in Birmingham. He spent a year at the University of Ontario working for a genetics professor before coming to Sheffield University in 1977.
His working life has included being a secondary school music teacher in the UK and Australia, audio producer, education leadership consultant and Ofsted Registered Inspector.
He lives with his partner Sarah and four children at Townfield Head Farm in Stannington where he now runs Green Directions, which provides green conference facilities for businesses and educational visits for schoolchildren and students on climate change and green technology. This year Mark launches green weddings.
I came to Sheffield to study music and politics and went on to gain a degree and further qualifications at both universities. I enjoyed my time studying here and, like so many, I stayed. What a fantastic thing it is for the city to help develop the potential of 60,000 students from around the UK and the world each year.
What an uninspiring place the city centre was when I arrived in 1977 and what a wonderful transformation has taken place over the past 20 years. I particularly like the gateway to the city from the train station, the open spaces in the city centre such as the Peace Gardens and the Millenium Gallery/Winter Garden. The improvement of the inner ring road and Supertram has helped to make traffic flow better and enables people to enjoy walking in the centre without much aggravation from cars.
Loxley and Rivelin Valleys
We are very lucky to live and work in a very beautiful place, on the ridge above the Loxley and Rivelin valleys yet only six miles from the city centre. We can see for miles – across the city and well out into Lincolnshire and the Peak District. With much work to do on the smallholding such as feeding and mucking out the pigs and horses, I am able to appreciate the weather and our environment whatever the season. I also enjoy seeing our wind turbines and solar panels taking advantage of the natural resources of our location to provide our electricity. At the weekend I go running or riding my bike around the roads and tracks, which is a great way of keeping in touch with our neighbours.
Music-making in pubs
My favourite form of music making is improvisation. It is so much fun sitting down with a group of other musicians and seeing what happens what you start to play. In Sheffield you can sing or play in many pubs every night of the week. A particular favourite of mine was the old Harlequin behind the Wicker (before they knocked it down). These days, because of my business, smallholding and family commitments I get out less often but I do enjoy playing my violin at Royal Traditions, the club held at our local pub, The Royal at Dungworth.
Goodwin Sports Centre
Playing football has been a big part of my life in Sheffield. It all started on the pitches at Goodwin in 1977, playing for Tapton Hall of Residence in the university intra-mural football league. On Sunday mornings, Seb Coe and his dad would often be out working on sprints on the edge of the pitches. I still play regularly at Goodwin – injuries permitting. I ruptured a cruciate ligament during a game there in 2006.
Public football pitches
After university I joined Woodthorpe FC in the South Yorkshire Amateur League and then Sheffield Schoolmasters. Schoolmasters lives on for ‘friendly’ football and cricket matches despite leaving the league many years ago. Saturday afternoon league matches were quite an experience on Sheffield’s uniquely exposed pitches. I particularly remember the first game of a season being called off at Castle Dyke after just a few minutes. From the kick-off we contrived to concede a goal kick. Our keeper took the kick and, with both sides watching, the wind caught the ball, blew it back over his head, over the crossbar and back towards the changing rooms about 200 yards away. We went home.
Much criticised, the World Student Games have left a fine sporting legacy for the city. Before Ponds Forge, Don Valley Stadium and the Arena were built, the only stadia for major sporting events were Hillsborough and the Crucible. Since the Games, the city has hosted many fantastic international sporting events at these venues and others developed since, such as the English Institute of Sport and Ice Sheffield. Seeing sports stars in the city has inspired many to become active and achieve great things themselves.
Ponds Forge is my favourite venue. It has to be as at least one of my children is there every day except Sunday. Fred, aged 16, is a junior international diver, Frankee, 15, trampolines and Arthur, six, swims, dives and trampolines. I also dive with the Masters squad.
Industr ial Heritage
At school I took O-level metalwork and really enjoyed learning forging and silversmithing skills. For my examination piece I produced a chalice out of gilding metal which my parents then had silver plated. Coming to Sheffield reconnected me with metalworking. Regularly I returned home from work (my first job was as a music teacher at Aston Comprehensive School) via the Don Valley because I loved to see the drama of steelmaking through gaps in the panels of the works. Our industrial connection today is with Rotary Engineering who have helped us to install our renewable energy systems. Meanwhile on the decorative front, I like to buy presents from the many metal and jewellery workers in the city such as those in the Butcher Works while our own cutlery is, of course, Sheffield made.
I did not like my geography teacher and so dropped the subject at the end of my second year of secondary school. This is a big regret. Because of my interest in the impact of climate change, I am now spending a lot of time trying to make up for a lack of basic geographical knowledge. Happily my eldest son, George, 18, is studying geography with French at Exeter University and helps to steer me in the right direction. Day-to-day pleasure comes from enjoying the city’s urban and rural views.