Friday, 22 April 2016

Sheffield Five Weirs Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.2 km (4.5 miles), terrain: flat

Sheffield is a bit difficult to run. The city is built on a collection of hills, and the parks aren't terribly big. But if you follow the River Don, you can get a good feel for the area, both urban and rural, along a flat trail. There are factory ruins, new high-rises, stretches of quiet nature, quiet promenades and loud streets. There is definitely variety to be found in this run.
Along the Five Weirs Walk
This route follows the Don River right from the city center, following the Five Weirs Walk out to Meadowhall Shopping Centre, seven kilometers east of town.

NOTE: Weirs are ponds created in a river by building a dam. They are used to power a water-mill.
When you reach the fifth weir at the shopping center, you can take the Yellow-line tram back to town. An alternative is to turn around and run back along the Five Weirs Walk, doubling the length to almost 15 kilometers.

A third way to get back is to continue running clockwise around the shopping center until the trail joins the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal tow path, and return to town that way. The canal parallels the river, to the south, and this return route is just a kilometer longer than turning around and running back along the Five Weirs Walk. Here is a map of the complete "Blue Loop"around both waterways.
Fitzalan Square
So, if you're ready to run the Walk get yourself to the eastern end of High Street, at Fitzalan Square. There, beneath the gaze of King Edward's statue, turn north to run down Haymarket, then Waingate until you cross the Don via the Lady Bridge.
Lady Bridge: cross bridge and turn right
At the other side of the bridge, turn right onto the footpath and begin following the river as it meanders towards the northeast. At the next block you'll see an official "Five Weirs Walk" sign. There are some nice, decorative gateways to the trail, and otherwise there are blue waymarkers pointing towards the Meadowhall Shopping Centre, a huge mall at the end of the walk.

The trail changes sides of the river several times, and there are a few spots where it leaves the river entirely to take you along a few nearby streets.

Right at the beginning of the run, you already get a feeling for the renewal process that this old industrial city is going through. Sheffield was once full of steel mills, most of them lining the river where the Five Weirs Walk now is. For hundreds of years, nobody could get to the riverside, as the solid line of factories blocked access. Then the Walk was created, and people can now experience the river again.

The steel factories started closing their doors in the 1980s, causing huge social problems for the town. Remember the film about hope amid unemployment "The Full Monty"? It was filmed here in Sheffield. But people here have been fairly successful at recreating the city, clearing land, building new homes for businesses and repurposing some of the other buildings in the heart of town. And much of that effort is on display along the Walk.

Right at the beginning of the riverside stretch, you'll run by a couple of new but unoccupied buildings, showing how not every effort reaps immediate rewards.
Cobweb bridge ahead
You'll run past a couple of new hotels on the other side of the river, then come to a wide railroad overpass. As there was no room to put in a footpath under the arched bridge, an ingenious "cobweb" bridge was hung from the archway overhead, which will take you to the other side of the river.

Here you have to leave the river for a block, running east to Furnival Street, then turning left to continue northwards, where the street rejoins the river again (just follow the blue sign towards Meadowhall). You'll soon see the first weir, Walk Mill Weir.
Walk Mill Weir
Factories line this section of the run, some older some newer.

When you come to the little black footbridge across from the Ward factory, at about the 1-kilometer mark, cross it and continue along the left side of the river.

Just before the next railroad bridge, the trail ends and you have to continue straight for two blocks, along Warren Street.

Keep an eye out for the little alley on your right, with the Five Weirs Walk gateway, to get back to the river at the second weir, Burton Weir.
Rejoining the riverside trail here
After a few factories, the riverside starts getting greener, and you'll run by a Sikh temple at around the 2-kilometer mark.

Two bridges later, at East Coast Road, you'll have to change sides of the river again. This next section of the river, with Sanderson's Weir, is especially pretty as you pass the 3-kilometer mark.
A green section of the River Don
When you come to the bridge with the red cross-braces, you'll have to change sides again.

At a little footbridge, the Walk abruptly ends at a chain-link fence across the footpath. It looks like you could easily continue straight, but you aren't allowed. So cross the river again and then follow the steps down to the short one-block section of trail on the right side of the river.

But as soon as you start running on that side, you'll see that the trail is blocked on this side, too. The metallurgical factories are still very much alive around here, and they block the riverfront.
Along Attercliffe Common: turn left after that factory
Now turn left onto Attercliffe Common to run past the big Sheffield Forgemasters factory, then turning left onto Carbrook Stret to get back to the river again, at about the 5-kilometer mark.

Unfortunately, the gate back to the Walk is blocked at the moment, due to rebuilding the dike for flood-control, so for now you have to continue along Carbrook and then turn left on Weedon Street to find the next entrance to the walk.

But we're almost at the end, now. You can see the modern brick Meadowhall mall just across the parking lot at the 6-kilometer mark.
At Meadowhall Shopping Centre
When you get to the final weir, Hadfields Weir, you'll see a green bridge to take you to the combined transport station for bus/tram/trains. Go past the bus stops and take the stairs up to the tram station to grab a Yellow-line tram back to High Street. It only costs a couple of pounds, and you can buy tickets from the conductor.

Or turn around and head the 7-km back to the start!

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