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Rivelin Valley (Sheffield)

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A wooded valley now protected by a conservation group is home to a few famous mills: the Hind Wheel and the Rivelin Corn Mill, as well as, plenty of wildlife.

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      07.01.2008 20:02
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      A green wooded valley 5 miles west of Sheffield

      The Rivelin Valley lies approximately 5 miles West of Sheffield City Centre. The Valley is three and a half miles long and follows the course of the River Rivelin, which rises in the Hallam Moors on the edge of the Peak District National Park.

      The River Rivelin is a very fast flowing river that is fed by many smaller tributaries that drain their water from the moorland peat. The fast flowing nature of this River has cut a steep gorge through the hills leaving a deep valley with very steep sides.

      This river has been exploited over the centuries and the many dozens of different water wheels that once cluttered this valley supported in their heyday, over twenty different kinds of Industry. These industries included forges, metal-workings and flour mills. Some of these water wheels and mills were still working commercially right up to the 1950's. Several of these still exist today in various states of condition.

      One of the most famous mills in the Rivelin Valley was known as the Rivelin Corn Mill, which dates from around 1600. Another well known example was the Mousehole Forge at Malin Bridge. This produced anvils that were exported all around the world. This mill is the only one in the valley that is still working today and has been carefully restored by its present owner.

      Although the majority of the mills have now disappeared and the forges no longer exist, the ponds that were created to feed them do still exist and there are literally dozens of these small ponds throughout the valley. Many of these ponds have been cleaned and restored by the Ponds Conservation Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife and Yorkshire Water.

      The typical habitat of the Rivelin Valley is mature woodland in the valley bottom consisting of Oak, Hazel, Beech and Sycamore. In areas where the trees are less dense there are Birch and Larch. Close to the river there are small areas where the trees have been cleared and these have been grazed by Sheep. In these areas the typical vegetation is Heath, with Bilberry and Heather.
      Close to the top of the valley there are two other beautiful valleys with their own bustling streams that flow into the River Rivelin. These are the Wyming Brook and Blackbrook. Where these join the River Rivelin they form a much wider single river that flows into the Rivelin Dams. Further down the valley, at Malin Bridge the River Rivelin is joined by the River Loxley before flowing into the River Don at Hillsborough.

      At first glance you could be mistaken by thinking that this is a completely natural landscape but closer inspection reveals that there is plenty of evidence of man's past. There are two different reservoirs in the Rivelin Valley known as the Rivelin Dams.
      The lower dam was completed in 1848 and is the largest of the two bodies of water with a capacity of 115 million gallons of water. The upper dam was completed in 1852 and has a capacity of 48 million gallons of water. These dams are owned and managed by Yorkshire Water and provide water for Sheffield and the surrounding area.

      The millstone grit that is visible in the form of large boulders throughout the valley has been extensively quarried in places for building material, and the stone from this has been used in many local buildings. There is also plenty of evidence of coppicing. Coppicing was a common practice during Victorian times and involved the cutting back of young shoots from trees to prevent them from growing too tall. During the 19th century these shoots were burnt in special incinerators and turned into charcoal. This charcoal was then used as a fuel to power the forges.

      The Rivelin Valley was a place that was loved by Ebenezer Elliot, who wrote the famous "Corn Law Rhymes" in the early 1800's. There is a large rock by the side of Blackbrook with his name carved on it where he was known to sit and appreciate the beauty of this area.

      The Rivelin Valley can be reached quite easily by public transport. I often catch the number 51 bus from Sheffield City centre to its terminus on Redmires Road. The number 51 bus runs every 10 minutes at peak times and every 20 minutes off peak.
      From Redmires Road the walk to the Rivelin Valley is via Wyimg Brook and eventually brings you out on Manchester Road. From here it is possible to catch several buses back into Sheffield.

      If you are visiting by car then there is a large car park at the top of Wyming Brook. There is also a car park at the dams, and parking is possible in several places along Manchester Road. The lower part of this road is lined with over 700 Lime trees, making it the second longest Lime avenue in Britain.

      The Rivelin Valley is a place that I visit several times every year. For me there is something very magical about the walk through this valley no matter what time of the year it may be. The valley is full of wildlife and there are many uncommon birds that breed here including Dipper, Green and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Crossbill, Goshawk and Hawfinch. It is also one of the last remaining places in this region where the Red Squirrel can still be found.

      One of my childhood memories from here involved an early morning walk through this valley with my parents when Red Squirrels seemed to be everywhere but the highlight came when we reached the bridge onto Manchester Road. As we peered over the edge to see if we could spot any Dippers or an elusive Kingfisher directly below us and only a few metres away was an Otter with three tiny babies.

      Manchester Road follows the route of an Roman Road and there is plenty of this old road that is still visible. There is however another old Roman Road that connects Manchester Road with Redmires Road and it is this that forms the main footpath through the valley. Since the Romans carefully laid large stones along this route the path is of very good quality and can be easily walked on even after bad weather. This footpath does however get quite messy higher up at the top of the valley.

      I think that the Rivelin Valley is a fantastic place and I feel privileged to have it on my doorstep. Two centuries later I know why Ebenezer Elliot was so inspired by this place

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