Sheffield is a city made up of villages, or so the saying goes. And that certainly seems to be the case with Ecclesfield.
As you walk past its beautiful woodlands, the picturesque 15th century St Mary’s church and the expansive park – busy city life could not seem further away.
Save for a few instances of anti-social behaviour, locals say the area has very few crime problems.
This may be why so many in the area were shocked when the Co-op on Ecclesfield High Street was robbed by a man armed with a machete at around 5.50pm last Sunday.
Detectives said the man forced staff into a rear room at the store, where the safe is kept, and escaped with £3,000.
He was reportedly wearing a blue ski mask or balaclava, a blue hoodie, grey jogging bottoms, and was carrying a Sainsbury’s bag.
Co-op manager David Mansell said staff are receiving ‘the assistance they require’ following the shocking raid.
“It’s very peculiar, it’s just not what you expect in this kind of area,” said David.
“Ecclesfield is a very nice place. We’re very fond of the community here, and are proud of this community.”
Resident Natalie Wilson, aged 27, added: “The area is a friendly place with a real sense of community.
“I’ve never felt unsafe before and wouldn’t expect this kind of thing to ever happen, so it was a bit of a shock.
“The place really is like one big village – in a morning when I go for a run, almost everyone says good morning to me and has a friendly word, which isn’t the case in many areas of Sheffield in my experience.
“The day after the robbery, I was in the Co-op and it was full of locals checking how they were, which I’d expect completely. Everything from the local card shop to the charity shop to our local pub is so friendly and despite the news about the robbery, it really is a friendly place to live and I’m really happy here.”
Ecclesfield councillor Steve Wilson said he has never known anything like this to happen in the area – and insists the area really does still feel like a village, thanks to the friendly and caring way people treat each other.
The 56-year-old said: “Everybody knows everybody, and that doesn’t happen everywhere.
“Ecclesfield did lose some of that community spirit when it joined Sheffield – but for the most part, that community spirit is still strong among most people who live here.
“You’ve got everything you could need here – shops, a supermarket. And if there’s anything you can’t get here, you’ve got Chapeltown just up the road or you’ve got the city centre which is a short drive away.”
Parts of the Ecclesfield parish were annexed to Sheffield Council in 1968, which are now under local authority control. The civil parish includes all of the West Ecclesfield ward and most of the East Ecclesfield ward of Sheffield.
One thing that is clear to see in Ecclesfield is that people are proud of where they live.
For some, that pride inspires them to campaign to conserve the ‘best parts of the village’ through the Ecclesfield Conservation group.
Among the proposed developments the group have objected to are plans for a service station in Ecclesfield, at junction 35 of the M1.
Ecclesfield Conservation group secretary James Percival said: “Most people in Ecclesfield have walked through Smithy Woods – it’s a really nice walk. I’ve enjoyed walking through there with my wife. The thought of it being turned into a motorway service station...
“During the process of objecting to the application we found out that the trees there are part of ancient woodlands, and are some of the last ones in Sheffield.
“Yes, they might replace some of the trees, but that wouldn’t replace the history, which would be lost forever.”
James says the group has also objected to proposals to build a McDonald’s on The Common in Ecclesfield, due to concerns it could lead to an increase in obesity for residents living in the area.
Last year, fracking giant INEOS was granted a permit by the Environment Agency to carry out work at FCC Environment on Starnhill Close in Ecclesfield, – something the group is also campaigning against.
Janet Baines, who has lived in Ecclesfield all of her life, has volunteered in the area’s first charity shop, the Barnsley Animal Rescue Charity shop, since it opened on the High Street last April.
The 63-year-old says the level of generosity people have shown towards the charity shop demonstrates just how caring the community really is.
She said: “People have been really amazing, bringing in so many donations – of really good quality stuff – and people are always giving an extra two pounds or three pounds when they can.”
Fellow volunteer Susannah Marshall said she was shown how caring Ecclesfield is when she fell on hard times.
“I’m not religious, but St Mary’s Church really helped me out when I needed it.
“They gave me food parcels, and really looked after me. I’ve never lived anywhere else, and I think it’s a great place to live. I love all of the green spaces, which are great for me, as a dog walker. It’s a bit expensive – but it’s worth it to have that village feel. Most of my friends from school, who moved away, have come back to raise a family.”