Challenge Anneka: A look back at the show's transformation of Heeley City Farm in Sheffield

With Challenge Anneka set for a return to our TV screens, we take a look back at the star’s transformation of Sheffield's Heeley City Farm in 1992.

Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:36 pm

The popular TV show Challenge Anneka will be returning this year on Channel 5 with a brand new series.

The show, which has seven series so far, is a British reality TV programme starred in and hosted by Anneka Rice, who travels the world to complete community challenges in a short timeframe, usually in aid of a charitable cause.

In 1992, Sheffield featured in episode one of series four of the show, where the challenge was a transformation of Heeley City Farm.

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Anneka Rice taking part in Challenge Anneka at Heeley City Farm on the 23rd April 1992.

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In a race against the clock, Anneka had just three days to persuade local people to help out with the transformation and donate items that could be used to rebuild parts of the farm which was integral to the community.

Their efforts included work on a dairy, a pig house, a stable and a pond, among other refurbishments.

With the transformation underway, Anneka herself dashed around the whole of South Yorkshire asking farmers to donate animals in her quest to track down new animals and attractions for the farm.

Heeley City Farm before the Challenge Anneka crew arrived.

On how the collaboration with the show began, the CEO of Heeley City Farm at the time, John Le Corney, said he initially thought it was a prank by his friends.

"I was sitting at my desk one afternoon and the telephone rang and someone said we are from the Challenge Anneka team and we are thinking of doing a makeover of Heeley City Farm,” he said.

"I thought it was just one of my mates phoning up for a joke, and it took them quite a long time to persuade me that, yes, this was real.

"What actually happened is one of the young girls at Heeley City Farm, Nicola, was very into horse riding and we had a horrible old shed that the horses lived in – she wrote a letter (to the Challenge Anneka crew) on a little scrap of paper and in capitals she wrote: ‘Dear Anneka, we’ve got two nice horses and we are very worried that the shed they live in is going to fall down’."

Anneka Rice taking part in Challenge Anneka at Heeley City Farm on the 23rd April 1992

John was then asked if the farm had any plans for rebuilding, and the transformation of the farm was planned from there.

Due to the hasty nature of the challenge, not everything Anneka wanted to achieve proved successful, but on the whole, John says the show was ‘great’ for the farm.

"The whole performance lasted three days I think, and they were building almost 24 hours a day with floodlights and all sorts,” added John. "It was all quite dramatic.

Anneka Rice and her crew arrive for filming at Heeley City Farm.

"The word of mouth went around the community that they were going to do this so there were big crowds of local people trying to get a glimpse of Anneka Rice.

"It all worked out really well. They usually got around 12 million people watching the show – it really put us on the map nationally.”

Most of the projects remain at the farm today, such as the pig sties, the stables and the pond – showing the positive difference the Challenge Anneka show made to the popular community farm.