Is Sheffield's luckiest estate also one of its friendliest?

Stradbroke's locals say they love its green spaces and friendly faces
Stradbroke's locals say they love its green spaces and friendly faces
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Its Post Office must be one of the country's luckiest, having produced two big jackpot winners.

But speak to most people living in Stradbroke, just 15 minutes south-east of Sheffield city centre by car, and they'll tell you there are plenty more reasons they feel blessed to call it home.

Gill MacLaine, Anna Grant and Ann Allen in the garden of the Link community centre in Stradbroke

Gill MacLaine, Anna Grant and Ann Allen in the garden of the Link community centre in Stradbroke

They may still be waiting for their numbers to come up, but the friendly atmosphere, sense of togetherness and bountiful green spaces teeming with wildlife mean that in many ways they have already hit the jackpot.

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It wasn't always like this though, and the recent history of this small but spirited neighbourhood proves the old saying 'the harder I work, the luckier I get'.

Speaking at Link, the thriving community centre she co-founded in a former hair salon on Stradbroke Drive, Helen Eadon tells how about 10 years ago the estate was rocked by an upsurge in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Ellie Eadon outside the Link community centre in Stradbroke

Ellie Eadon outside the Link community centre in Stradbroke

Rather than sit around complaining, residents decided to take matters into their own hands, coming together to discuss how best to restore peace to the streets.

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"Things had started to go downhill a bit so we got together to try to tackle the anti-social behaviour," she said.

"We managed to get cameras installed, which made a big difference, and that showed us what we could achieve as a community.

Ellie Eadon, who co-founded the Link community centre in Stradbroke

Ellie Eadon, who co-founded the Link community centre in Stradbroke

"We opened Link because Stradbroke needed a space where everyone could get together. People had just started to drift apart and we'd lost those connections which made this such a strong community."

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Today, the centre hosts numerous activities, from salsa and tai chi to weekly coffee mornings, as well as providing benefits advice, careers workshops, healthy eating sessions and much more.

The latest project is to transform the garden, which has already been brightened up by a colourful mural, and build a workshop where people can take broken items to get them repaired or learn the skills to do it themselves.

Phil Allen at the pool table

Phil Allen at the pool table

It was all made possible by the generous owners of Stradbroke's Post Office, who bought the old salon and kindly let the community group use it for free until they were able to generate the funds to begin paying rent.

Like most Sheffield estates, Stradbroke is not without its occasional spot of bother but there's a buoyant mood, with new shops opening, local schools on the up and sparkling clean streets which would put much of the city to shame.

The Strad's fortunes mirror those of the neighbourhood it serves.

When Janet Chatwood and her late husband Keith took over three years ago the pub had a bit of an unwanted reputation, she says, but they quickly 'got rid of the rubbish', making it a safe and welcoming place for all.

It has hosted birthday parties, wakes and even a wedding, and last month's Stradfest, held in memory of Keith, proved such a hit that Janet hopes to make the festival an annual affair.

The 63-year-old didn't know Stradbroke well when she arrived at the pub, but has quickly grown to love the estate.

Landlady Janet Chatwood outside The Strad pub in Stradbroke

Landlady Janet Chatwood outside The Strad pub in Stradbroke

"I've lived all over Sheffield and I think this might be my favourite place. The people here are so friendly," she said.

Phil Allen - a member of the pub's snooker team, with a none-too-shabby top break of 103 - echoes her comments.

"I didn't know anyone when I walked in here six years ago but people were so friendly and it was easy to get talking," said the 54-year-old father-of-three, who works as a courier.

He described the area as great for families, especially with the strides made at Outwood Academy City under new leadership after being placed in special measures in its previous guise as City School.

Mr Allen credited the school's new no-nonsense disciplinary drive for its turnaround.

"It used to have an awful reputation but since Outwood took over they've installed discipline and made it a decent school," he said.

"If you turn up late or in the wrong uniform now you're put in detention or sent home, and that's made a big difference."

Ellie Eadon grew up on the estate and says it is a great place to live.

"It's a close-knit community where everyone knows one another and there's a really friendly atmosphere. Every time you walk past someone they smile and wave or say hello," said the 19-year-old, who is studying health and social care at The Sheffield College.

"It has its problems like every other estate but the great thing here is that people work together to fix them."

Ann Allen moved from Darnall to Stradbroke as a young mum and described it as a great place to bring up a family.

"When my children were young they would play together with all the other kids on the streets and in the parks. It's a lovely estate, with plenty going on, and we try to keep it nice and tidy," said the 76-year-old grandmother of five, who worked as a tailor and school cleaner.

Gill MacLaine relocated from the south coast to Stradbroke a few years ago and the 48-year-old, who has been involved in digs across the city, has since completed an archaeology degree at the University of Sheffield.

One of her favourite things about living here is the flourishing wildlife, which she finds more entertaining than evening TV.

"I love the fact it's so green round here. My flat looks onto a communal garden and I enjoy sitting by the window at night listening to the owls and watching the foxes playing tag or getting beaten up by the local cats," she said.

Anna Grant moved to Stradbroke about 20 years ago, looking to make a new start after the death of her husband.

"The first night here I thought what have I done. Not only did I not know anyone here, but the walls in my home were all pink, the ceilings were Artexed and I just couldn't picture myself living here," said the 66-year-old mum-of-three, whose numerous jobs have included working as a carer, a shop assistant and waitress.

"But I quickly got the decorations sorted and I've met so many nice people and it's been great since Link opened because I don't think I've ever been so involved in anything before. I'm so glad I made the move now."

Stradbroke doesn't often make the headlines, but perhaps its biggest claim to fame came during the 1950s when soil from excavations at Sheffield Cathedral was transported to the area.

Children were soon digging up human remains, with one enterprising young soul reportedly starting a makeshift museum and charging people to see his macabre collection.

More recently, Deana Sampson won £5.4 million in 1996 from a National Lottery ticket bought at the Post Office, where a few years later a member of staff working there scooped £250,000.

Ms Sampson, who was struggling to make ends meet before lady luck struck, today runs a property company with her son Ryan.

And despite leaving the estate following her big win, the 56-year-old grandmother was recently back looking for the latest home to add to their portfolio, so she clearly thinks it is a wise investment.

Lottery winner Deana Sampson hugs Balwinder Dhillon, who sold her the 5.4 million winning ticket at Stradbroke Post Office

Lottery winner Deana Sampson hugs Balwinder Dhillon, who sold her the 5.4 million winning ticket at Stradbroke Post Office

Stradbroke has no shortage of green spaces

Stradbroke has no shortage of green spaces

Stradbroke Drive, where new shops have recently opened

Stradbroke Drive, where new shops have recently opened