The river from which Sheffield’s name is derived is a curious feature, at one point notable enough to name a city after, now culverted beyond recognition or even legibilty but immortalised as a fountain outside the train station.
However as you travel South from the city centre towards Totely Rise; it’s naturalism and prominence grows, even as the river itself narrows and winds its way back to the source. It reveals itself suprisingly between buildings in magnificent and beautiful spleandour only again to curve away from the road behind old industrial units; acting as both a tour and explanation of Sheffield’s industrial past.
The area of our focus around Norton Hammer, near Heeley is particularly interesting in regards to the river. Walking alongside the river from Archer Road; it runs uninterrupted along natural banks, at this point narrow and stream-like. As the footpath reaches Woodseats Road; splitting to join the road or through an underpass below towards Little London Road the river is forced below us through culverts; as we emerge through the underpass the river is revealed to have been forced under two small buildings almost out of sight.
From here however the river is resurgent; in full view it’s wider and flowing more fiercely but it’s artificial constraints of old mill buildings and retianing walls guide it away from the road. At this point it becomes clear what an active site this is; the old buildings retro-fitted for a range of acitivites and physical pursuites; climbing, gymnastics; boxing, a “play arena”, ju-jitsu, various gyms and more conventional uses as offices and car workshops too.
Just before the footpath disappears and the pedestrian is forced onto the road to pass under the railway line the river reappears. Lined in greenery and in the sunlight, it looks particularly impressive, especially in comparison to the newer and generic buildings past which I’d been walking. Ahead is a building site, new homes, and the river once more is lost.