Parkwood Springboard

Parkwood Springs including the former Ski Village
Parkwood Springs including the former Ski Village

IT has one of the best views across Sheffield - but Parkwood Springs does not automatically spring to mind as one of the city’s key attractions.

And the decline of the Ski Village has hardly enhanced its reputation.

Yet something is stirring on the hillside that drops from Shirecliffe towards the River Don and Penistone Road.

Proposals are emerging for the long term future of Parkwood Springs as a country park - with the unique selling point of it being so close to a city centre.

The vision is a combination of open countryside and attractions for outdoor sports enthusiasts.

Despite the loss of the Ski Village, the ball has started rolling with the launch of a mountain bike trail, which has proved an immediate success.

The trail has been devised by the council with the help of Sheffield-based world mountain bike champion Steve Peat.

One of the hopes is that with the backing of Steve, who is already involved in a successful annual event in Greno Woods, Parkwood Springs can acquire a national, or even international, reputation for mountain biking.

Although there are no firm plans at the moment, other leisure activities will be examined.

Already a schools cross country competition has been staged on the hillside.

Perhaps an adventure playground could be developed, or how about a home for extreme sports such as paragliding?

There remains the question of the site of the Ski Village, which has been blighted by arson attacks and vandalism.

The freehold is held by the council, but the lease remains with the village owners, who say the artificial slopes are not viable.

The council’s strategy envisages some form of unspecified paid-for leisure attraction on the site - one to complement its natural surroundings.

A cafe, bar, shop, perhaps a hotel, are also being mooted for parts of Parkwood Springs as a way of generating income at a time when the authority is making clear it does not have the money itself.

There are no easy solutions, but both the council and the voluntary group, the Friends of Parkwood Springs, believe the time is right to start moving, partly because a large tranche of land will be restored to public use with the closure of Viridor’s landfill site in 2018.

It’s a huge site - a two mile slice of the Upper Don Valley that was cleared of a cluster of terraced houses in the 1970s, which began the switch towards leisure and recreation.

“Initially the thinking is to look at the Ski Village, which we think has the potential to be a focus for paid leisure facilities, but with active public uses around it,” said the council’s director of planning, David Caulfield.

“In the next six to nine months, at a technical level, we are going to do a series of studies to look at the access to Parkwood Springs and how much it would cost to open it up.

“We think there is a real opportunity. The challenge is to keep the vision bold, but making sure it involves the local community. We think this can be commercially viable.”

Council cabinet member for environment and transport Leigh Bramall said: “It is about building on Sheffield’s natural strengths and using them in a commercial way to create a major visitor attraction.”

Neill Schofield, who chairs the Friends of Parkwood Springs, whose 100 members help with guided walks, work days and litter picking, said there was “dramatic potential, and we are moving in the right direction”.

More people were visiting Parkwood Springs, especially for the mountain bike trail.

“But it’s still a secret to most people in Sheffield. There is a sadness about the Ski Village because it could have been part of the future.

“We aim to get the landfill site restored and we need the access once it is safe. We have the prospect of a country park stretching about two miles along the valley.

“The opportunity for country activities of this scale so near the city centre is absolutely fantastic.”