Community in Focus: Woodseats has a ‘special village like atmosphere’

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When the Woodseats Double Six Youth Club fell into financial difficulty in 2010, an 80-year-old pensioner came down with his birthday money and gave it to them to help it survive.

It might not have been a game changing amount, but the pure generosity and selflessness from the people of Woodseats to keep the historic club going showed the togetherness and spirit evident in the community.

Chantry Arms landlord Chris Storey

Chantry Arms landlord Chris Storey

The club, which has been open since 1966, is part of this ‘village like’ community and provides vital services to young people.

Along with a popular youth club and community spirit, Woodseats is certainly not short of amenities – it has more than most in Sheffield with its four pubs, popular restaurants and scores of independent businesses.

And the area seems to be bucking the trend.

Medium and small scale investments have included Costa coffee moving in, along with a new KFC restaurant and The Abbey pub reopening after a £550,000 revamp.

Richard Hay of Double 6 in Woodseats

Richard Hay of Double 6 in Woodseats

All this and a new library and GP surgery opening in 2017 and you could be forgiven for thinking that everything is rosy in the area.

But traffic concerns are a big issue.

Chesterfield Road, which runs through the heart of the Woodseats, is forever clogged up with cars and buses at peak times. It’s an issue that several Sheffield Council administrations have tried to sort out over many years.

The area has also been hit hard after HSBC bank and Tesco closed their doors which upset many living close by.

Florist Janine Swirles has ran her business on Woodseats for 18 years

Florist Janine Swirles has ran her business on Woodseats for 18 years

Double Six Youth Club development manager Richard Hay knows Woodseats better than most, after moving to the area from Heeley aged 11.

He joined the club as a young lad and, fast forward some 33 years, he now helps run it.

Under his guidance the club has gone from strength to strength and now, in its 50th anniversary year, it welcomes 120 young people through its doors every week and is clear of serious financial worry.

“We were overwhelmed at the support we received at the time,” said Richard.

Chesterfield Road which runs through the heart of Woodseats

Chesterfield Road which runs through the heart of Woodseats

“The club has been entrenched in Woodseats for 50 years now and it’s a big part of the community.

“When we were in some difficulty loads of people pulled together to help us.

“I’ve lived on here for over 30 years and it’s a great place to live and work. The people make it – they’re a great bunch.

“Tesco closing hit the area no doubt. I don’t think footfall along Woodseats is what it was but things change and areas have to adapt.”

Chris Storey became landlord of the Chantry Arms on Chesterfield Road at the age of 21. He has run the pub now for three years and agrees the area has that ‘village atmosphere’.

“What makes Woodseats is the people and the real community spirit that thrives here. It’s my locals and others who live and work here who make it.

The former site of the HSBC branch on Chesterfield Road which closed earlier this month

The former site of the HSBC branch on Chesterfield Road which closed earlier this month

“Woodseats Festival that goes on every year embodies that spirit.

“And everyone around here knows each other and will lend a hand if someone gets in a spot of bother.

“If someone comes into my pub and no-one knows who they are, by the time they are gone everyone will have made them feel welcome.”

But like many others, he said losing HSBC and the Tesco store was a ‘big blow’.

“I couldn’t believe they didn’t keep the Tesco and HSBC open – there was so much pressure and opposition from everyone around here,” Chris added.

“The staff who worked there were ‘one of us’. It was a huge shame.”

Janine Swirles has been a florist for 27 years. As she tidies up shop for the day, with the help of her mum Hazel, she reveals she ‘defected’ from another area of Sheffield to be nearer her Woodseats business that she has run for nearly two decades – and hasn’t regretted it one bit.

“Woodseats is great. It’s got a special community feel to it and we’ve got a loyal customer base,” she said.

“I’ve come to this end of Sheffield because, running a business here, I wanted to live near by and be a part of the community. I think people who shop around here really appreciate that.

“Everyone is so nice and that’s what made me want to move to this side of Sheffield.”

And Janine’s mum Hazel is equally positive about the area’s ‘village atmosphere’.

“Most of the shops on Woodseats are first or second generation – they’ve been here such a long time and they’re entrenched in the area.

“People on here would always lend a hand if you got yourself into a bit of bother – they wouldn’t want to see you in any trouble. You’ve got to have that village atmosphere and in some respect, Woodseats has that.

“Every shop on here that wants to stay on here is fighting to do that.

“The only thing that is your enemy is your massive supermarkets that want to sell everything.”

Sales administrator Angela Gilding has lived in Woodseats for two years after moving from Rotherham. Like many others, she is really impressed with the range of amenities to hand but voiced her displeasure at losing the HSBC branch which closed late last year.

“It’s really handy for all the shops, there’s lots going on with pubs and good restaurants and I think that’s why it’s so popular and the people are ever so lovely.

“But with the number of amenities that Woodseats has got, HSBC closing hit the area hard.

“Along with the Tesco going people were very upset.

“I know a few shops which hit them hard.

“We really could do with the bank coming back but I know that’s extremely unlikely.”

Louise Haigh was elected in 2015 as MP for Sheffield Heeley, and Woodseats runs right through the heart of her constituency.

She said she feels ‘privileged’ to represent such a ‘fantastic area’.

“Woodseats is a fabulous place to live, shop and eat out.

“It has a vibrant high street with many independent shops, cafes, charity organisations and really good places to eat and drink.

“Residents have nearly everything they need on their doorstep and it’s so good to have local independent suppliers like these.

“We’re also really excited about the new library, GP and pharmacy being developed on the site of the old library. In this era of continued government cuts it’s incredible that we’ll get a brand new building and service like this one.”

The Double Six Youth Club on the junction with Chesterfield Road and Scarsdale Road

The Double Six Youth Club on the junction with Chesterfield Road and Scarsdale Road