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Popular Forge Dam set for £300,000 restoration project

Ducks on mill pond at Forge Dam

Restoration works at one of Sheffield’s most popular nature sites will now be progressed after £327,000 was awarded for a heritage and wildlife improvement project at Forge Dam, during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Friends of Porter Valley have spent the last eight years fundraising for the plans, which include desilting the dam, restoring the mill pond and improving the natural wildlife habitat. The group will be donating an astonishing £261,000 towards the work and Sheffield City Council has approved a further £66,000 from Section 106 funding.

The project has been developed by the Friends Group with support from the council’s parks and countryside officers and other local volunteers.

Forge Dam is a popular destination in the Porter Valley and an important part of Sheffield’s industrial heritage.  Over the years deep silt has built up on the dam, which is now a hazard to visitors and significantly reduces its natural beauty.   

Forge Dam continues to grow as a visitor hub and gateway to the wider countryside, with many families having re-discovered it during lockdown or found it for the first time, providing a Peak District experience within walking, cycling or running distance from the city centre. 

The project will also improve the overall wildlife habitat, increasing biodiversity and creating better natural conditions in what is one of Sheffield’s rare wet woodland areas.

In addition to the wildlife and visitor benefits, the removed silt will provide environmental benefits with an estimated 5,000 tonnes of material available for reuse as cover for the closed landfill site at Beighton.

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council said:

“Forge Dam is a great destination which has become all the more popular during lockdown and so I am really delighted that this long anticipated work is finally moving forward.  This is a very exciting project that will make a huge difference for both the people who enjoy visiting Forge Dam, and the natural environment and biodiversity in the area.

“I cannot thank the volunteers and members of Friends of Porter Valley enough for the years of hard work and dedication they committed to raising the money which has made this project possible and I look forward to seeing this important work progressing.”

The first phase will involve assessment of the technical requirements and what can be completed at each stage of the works. The plans include:

  • Restoring Forge Dam to an open body of water of varying depths suited to different kinds of aquatic life
  • Reprofiling the island and banks to add further improved wildlife habitat for birds, invertebrates and potentially water vole (which were recorded at the pond within the last 5 years)
  • An engineered barrier to direct the main flow of the Porter Brook over the spillway, reducing future sediment deposition, making future maintenance manageable and affordable.
  • Removed sediment from the pond to be used as a cover material for a closed local landfill site (currently proposed as Beighton).
  • Resurfacing the footpath around the Dam and creating new interpretation boards explaining the history and wildlife of Forge Dam. 

Ann Le Sage, Chair of the Friends of Porter Valley said:

"Our Friends group's purpose is to protect and improve the landscape and heritage of the Porter and Mayfield valleys and we are proud of our contribution to the restoration of Shepherd Wheel in 2012.  Now it is the turn of the great Forge Dam, Thomas Boulsover's Dam, dating from the 18th century and a hugely popular visitor space.  We are still fundraising to cover the final £30,000 needed to complete its restoration but we will see the start of works before the end of this year."

Phase one, feasibility, is expected to start in the Spring, with a view to work beginning on site in the autumn.

As one of the most popular destinations for families, local people and volunteers are hoping to go even further in improving the Forge Dam area and raise more funds to renovate the playground.

The Friends of the Porter Valley arranged for much needed improvements to the playground in 2018 but are ambitious to create an even better space for local people to enjoy. People can head to their website to make a donation.