My birthday treat-ment

FORGET the champagne and flowers... dental therapist Allison Cowan celebrated her birthday with a visit to her local South Yorkshire sewage works.

Allison had always wondered exactly what went on behind the scenes at Sheffield's giant Blackburn Meadows sewage plant.

So her boss Andrew Cadman arranged for 33-year old Allison, from Crookes, to go on a surprise tour of the works as a special birthday treat.

And Allison, along with a group her friends, enjoyed a party with a difference - a VIP tour of one of the biggest sewage works in Yorkshire.

Dentist Andrew said: "Allison happened to mention a few years ago that she had always wondered what happened at a sewage works, so I thought, 'what a great birthday present'.

"I got in touch with Yorkshire Water and asked them if Allison could go along for a look round as a special treat and I was delighted when they said yes.

"It might sound a bit of a strange thing to have your party at a sewage works but for Allison it was the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition."

Allison said after her trip round the multi-million pound plant: "I was really excited. People might think it was funny wanting to look round a sewage works but as far as I was concerned it was a great experience."

Khylie Stevenson, from Yorkshire Water, said: "Every now and then we take interested people around the works, and we couldn't resist helping Allison to celebrate her birthday in style.

"People really are interested in what happens to the waste that leaves their home. I'm sure that Allison, Andrew and their friends enjoyed it."

Blackburn Meadows is one of most modern sewage works in the country, and is second only in size to Leeds in Yorkshire.

Every day it deals with 360,000 cubic metres of waste from domestic and business customers.

In 1993 Sheffield Council entered into a 99-year lease with Yorkshire Water to turn part of the works into a nature reserve.

It is now recognised as an area of European significance for migrating birds, and supports an active programme of school education visits run by Sheffield Wildlife Trust.