“Sheffield Greenway is quite incredible,” says Rob Haslam.
“A 111 mile route, 90 per cent of which is off-road, meandering in the shape of a flower’s petals through the city’s leafiest suburbs and never straying more than seven miles from the city centre.”
Rob knows the route better than most; in fact it’s he who identified it, and even named it, writing ‘Sheffield Greenway Review: a 100 mile walk in and around the city’ which was published in 2015.
Since moving to the city over 20 years ago, to work as a bio-medical scientist at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital, Rob has spent much of his leisure time walking in it’s greenest districts.
“Did you know that 61 per cent of Sheffield is greenspace?” he asks.
“It has so many large and beautiful parks, acres of ancient woodland, five scenic river valleys, a canal and numerous wild open spaces. It is also a journey of discovery, packed in all direction with visible history and stunning views.”
The Greenway follows five roughly equidistant loops - south, west, north, east, and into the neighbouring countryside of Rotherham - seeking out the best the leafiest and greenest the city has to offer.
Rob says: “The route begins at Sheffield Railway Station, heading south through Gleadless Valley, then looping west through Loxley and Rivelin Valleys, up north through Ecclesfield and Chapeltown, then to Rotherham, and finally finishing east in Shirebrook Valley and Shirecliffe.
“The entire route can be done on foot, mostly on natural or improved paths through countryside, and is accessed using buses and other public transport. I really wanted to encourage the people of Sheffield to leave their cars behind and get out to explore the natural beauty all around them on foot, while also making use of the public transport.”
Rob’s Sheffield Greenway guide breaks the mammoth walk down into five smaller 20-mile routes, which can then also be broken down further, depending on how far and through what area of the city the walker wishes to go.
“There’s a travel planner at the beginning of each chapter,” explains the 67-year-old, who is a member of Sheffield Ramblers, and coordinates walks for Sheffield Walking Festival, and has developed a number of walks for use by local community groups and primary schools.
“So you decide what part of the walk you’re going to do, and there are buses listed for each area, along with recommendations for pubs and cafes to visit, and even the local history of things of interest, that you’ll see along the way.
“I’ve always enjoyed being able to link a place, and the things I’ve seen there, to their history. So, for example, those walking through Graves Park or going over Wincobank Hill can find out more about their history while they’re right in the middle of it.”
Rob, who lives in Aston, says walking has always played a huge part in his leisure time, first in the Peak District, and later in Sheffield once he began exploring. He also frequently goes on walking holidays, to Wales and beyond to Europe, then around New Zealand, South Africa and America.
“I’ve walked all over the world,” he says simply.
“I enjoy the exercise, but I also believe there’s nothing quite like walking for your mental health.”
In fact Rob spent five years - from 2005 to 2010 - working for ‘Get Walking Keep Walking,’ a scheme that was originally delivered as part of the Travel Actively consortium, to give two million people the opportunity to be more active. It was funded by the Big Lottery Fund and supported by local authorities in each area.
“I worked with people who struggled with depression and anxiety, and I’ve seen the difference that escaping and getting out and walking in nature can make,” Rob says of the scheme, which has since been discontinued.
“We have a superb resource quite literally on our doorstep in the Greenway - whether you walk it for two miles or 22.
“Of course this is still a city centre, so traffic noice is never too far away, and there may be a little more litter than I’d like on the footpaths as they leave the main roads, but once you’ve gone 150 yards, it’s just as beautiful a place as any.
“How many places in this country can you step out your own front door, or grab a quick bus, and spend the day walking without hardly crossing a road. It’s wonderful.”
But there is one thing that Rob - who has also written ‘Walking South Yorkshire,’ and ‘White Peak Way’ - would really like to see happen.
“I’d love to see Sheffield Greenway signposted,” he says.
“At the minute, it’s something more people are starting to learn more about and make use of, and I’m grateful for that, but what’s really needed is the proper signposting so that people can find or stumble upon the route by chance and be on their way.
“I’d love dog walkers to happen upon it, and follow it for a while, then make a note of the signage and decide to come back another day, and tackle another part.
“The problem is, it’s a major project. It would cost about £30,000 to get everything signposted, so I’ve no hope of doing unless we can get a local business to invest. I think it would benefit a lot of people; i certainly benefits me every time I head out to walk any part of it.”
Sheffield Greenway Review: a 100 mile walk in and around the city is available on Amazon and from Waterstones Sheffield.