Perfect combination of top city links and countryside charm
It's a growing village with a family feel on Sheffield's outskirts, and it is looking to adopt '“ a phone box.
When BT announced plans to get rid of the traditional red box at the heart of Oughtibridge, locals leapt into action.
They banded together to explore the possibility of adopting the public call box on the corner of Church Street for use as anything from a tiny library to the home for a life-saving defibrillator.
Its fate remains up in the air, but the tale exemplifies the close-knit community here and the pride they take in their impressively manicured surroundings.
Sitting on the slopes of the Don valley, around five miles north-west of Sheffield’s core, Oughtibridge combines countryside charm with city connections.
Bradfield Parish councillor Miriam Cates, who is among those seeking to preserve the phone box, believes the village represents the best of both worlds.
“You have the benefits of living close to a big city, with its jobs, retail and leisure facilities, but also a rural feel and a strong community,” she says.
“Everyone uses the same park, the same school and the same shops, which is very unifying. People really look out for each other and I think there’s a stronger mix across the demographics than you get in the city centre.”
The good bus, tram and road links make the village a popular choice for commuters, while Oughtibridge Primary School – which is rated ‘excellent’ by Ofsted and topped the school league tables in Sheffield last year – is a major draw for young families.
The variety of walks, cycling and horse-riding routes on your doorstep also add to the area’s appeal, with outdoor attractions ranging from trans-pennine treks to BMX trails in Wharncliffe Woods.
It is also the base for Sheffield Canoe Club, and many people take to the water each Sunday morning.
A common refrain from people in Oughtibridge is that ‘once you’ve lived here, you never leave’.
Martin Morton, walking with his daughter Frankie Arundel and young grandson Eddie through Coronation Park, is, along with his mother, one of four generations from the same family living in the village.
“We like the open spaces here. This is a beautiful park and there’s the riverside walk and lots of other routes to explore,” he says.
Even for outsiders, it appears to be a welcoming place, with none of the League of Gentlemen style insularity and antipathy towards newcomers sometimes associated with small villages.
Samantha Coventry, who hails from New Zealand, moved here with her TV director husband Richard and when the village post office shifted up the hill she snapped up the opportunity to convert the building into the florists Fantail.
“The support I’ve had since opening the shop in November has been overwhelming,” says Samantha, who is a finalist in the Hitched UK Wedding Awards.
“It’s a lovely village with such a nice cosy feel. On the street where I live, the children all play outside together in the summer.”
It’s typical of the locals’ easy-going nature that they’re even willing to forgive clumsy mispronunciation of their village’s name, patiently explaining it’s said ‘oot - E - bridge’.
When the Tour de France rolled through Oughtibridge in 2014 and cycling’s elite tackled the notorious Jawbone Hill, presenters struggled to wrap their tongues around the village’s moniker.
“The funniest thing was how not a single presenter got it right,” says Rebecca Beecroft, bar manager at The Cock Inn, where a yellow bike attached to the wall is a reminder of le Tour’s fleeting visit.
The Cock – named after the hefty cock horses which pulled wagons, and not the bird, as many assume – is very much a family affair.
Rebecca’s mum Claire took over as landlady there four years ago, and Rebecca, her sister and both their boyfriends work there.
“Oughtibridge is a lovely place to live. Everybody’s got a dog. The pub’s usually full to the brim with them and people are always dog-sitting for each other,” she says.
For many in the village the centre of life is the War Memorial Sports Club beside the river, where a new pavilion recently replaced the one washed away in the 2007 floods.
The ground hosts four football teams, including a ladies’ side which reached the third qualifying round of the Women’s FA Cup last season, beating local rivals Sheffield Wednesday Ladies en route.
It is also home to many of the events which punctuate the village’s busy social calendar, like the summer gala and fireworks display.
Oughtibridge has the kind of atmosphere city dwellers might be forgiven for thinking no longer exists outside nostalgic Sunday night TV dramas, but it is not a world preserved in formaldehyde.
There has been much development here in recent years, and last August outline planning permission was granted for up to 320 homes on the site of the old paper mill.
The development will undoubtedly have a huge impact on a village where the population was just over 3,500 at the time of the 2011 Census, and it is unsurprisingly one of the main talking points.
While most of those I speak to recognise the need for new housing, especially for the young people I am told are being priced out of the area, they say it must come with the money for new infrastructure.
Oughtibridge Primary School’s success has already made it one of Sheffield’s most oversubscribed, says Coun Cates, and others speak anxiously of the strain so many new inhabitants will place on GP services and roads in the area.
What Oughtred – who lived in a cottage by the river during the 12th century and records suggest lent his name to the settlement, originally known as Oughty’s Bridge – would make of the village’s changing face is anyone’s guess.
But such is Oughtibridge’s warm and friendly nature, there is little doubt that were he to return nine centuries later he would quickly find himself welcomed back into the fold.