It’s best foot forward on  vital £1m-a-year route

Spring is here on the Five Weirs Walk. The 4.7 mile walking, running and cycle route brings more than £1 million a year to the city, says Simon Geller, local voluntary liaison officer for the Sustrans ‘walking, wheeling and cycling’ charity.
Simon Geller with Sustrans Route 6 signs in the Porter ValleySimon Geller with Sustrans Route 6 signs in the Porter Valley
Simon Geller with Sustrans Route 6 signs in the Porter Valley

The 5WW (as it’s known) is part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network and the Transpennine Trail (TPT) between Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull, Leeds and Chesterfield. (TPT officers came up with the £1m figure based on tourist income from the many people travelling the trail on foot or by bike.

The route was originally pieced together by volunteers who liked the idea of helping their city reclaim a riverside that had been ignored for decades thanks to years of pollution and heavy industry.

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As river pollution decreased in the last 1980s thanks to a new drainage system and tighter environmental regulations, the volunteers fundraised and negotiated with landowners and the council for over twenty years until the picturesque pathway along the lower Don was opened up from the city centre to Meadowhall.

Simon Geller talking to cyclists before a ride up the Trans Pennine TrailSimon Geller talking to cyclists before a ride up the Trans Pennine Trail
Simon Geller talking to cyclists before a ride up the Trans Pennine Trail

“The benefits of riverside routes such as this are huge, including active travel, mental and physical wellbeing, fishing, kayaking, enjoyment and recording of nature, flood defence, river maintenance, pollution, bird spotting and education,” said Simon Ogden, one of the original 5WW volunteers and now convener of Sheffield Waterways Strategy Group.

Simon Geller praises the local Blue Loop agency who keep their eyes on the 5WW and tidy it up, allowing Sustrans volunteers to concentrate on the 20 or so miles of other Sustrans trails in the area. But over the last few years he says he’s been mystified by the regular appearance of broken glass on part of the route.

The glass led to punctures for cyclists and wheelchair users, and dog walkers were now avoiding the beautiful Salmon Pastures section of the trail where kingfishers, herons, butterflies and dragonflies can be seen.

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The Sustrans charity has now offered to resurface two sections of the 5WW, including Salmon Pastures and the Sanderson's Weir section, with a grant of up to £50,000, says Simon Geller.

Sustrans volunteers working on the Trans Pennine TrailSustrans volunteers working on the Trans Pennine Trail
Sustrans volunteers working on the Trans Pennine Trail

New operators of the glass recycling facility adjoining the trail, Sibelco, say they’re taking the glass issue seriously.

Their local operations director, Glynn Roberts, pointed out that no site permit had been breached, and the firm has built buffer walls to prevent glass straying onto the trail, has restructured its glass storage, and carries out a daily check and clean of the path.

His offer to discuss the issue is welcomed by Sustrans and the Waterways Strategy Group, who say they’ll be getting in touch soon, not least since the resurfacing work along that section could take place this year.

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But there’s also a problem further along the route, where the path has been closed since the 2019 floods, which badly damaged a section of the pathway between Attercliffe and East Coast Roads.

Five Weirs Walk damage from the 2019 floodsFive Weirs Walk damage from the 2019 floods
Five Weirs Walk damage from the 2019 floods

Simon Ogden said: “Many users and supporters of the 5WW, as well as local councillors, have been pressing the Council for action to carry out urgent repairs to this well-loved section. The failure to do this promptly, as happened after the much greater 2007 floods, has resulted in much more damage being sustained over the years of delay.”

Despite a £1million+ repair quote from Amey, he believes the route could be restored much more cheaply.

“We welcome the recent involvement of the Council’s Parks and Woodlands Service who have offered to look at possible ways forward with us and look forward to a more positive and collaborative discussion bringing in other partners,” he said, adding he and the volunteers are keen to work with any businesses along the 5WW to help keep the route working for travel and leisure.

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“The 5WW is a transport route, an important corridor for wildlife, and an opportunity for people to visit important sites of local history,” said Simon Geller, adding it would be a real tragedy if a route of such value to the city was left to deteriorate.

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