Monday, 12 March 2012

What lies beneath

I have a fascination with the rivers of Sheffield. They have played a tremendous part in the city's industrial history and today provide a breath of fresh air and habitat for wildlife in the very heart of the city. The river Sheaf has held particular fascination for me as it flows into the city, but then just disappears. So I set about trying to find out what happens to it - and ended up discovering an amazing fact.

The river is very pretty and little more than a stream up near Millhouses Park, but as it enters the city, you can see that its path is not natural and the walls of the Victorian factories that sprung up around it forms its banks. The river falls 400 feet from around the Millhouses area and this drop enabled its power to be harnessed to provide water power for several industries.
In the late 1800's someone had the bright idea of building Sheffield Midland Railway Station where the river made a huge dam that was used for providing water for nearby Ponds Forge. And so the river needed to be re routed.

They decided to re route it underneath the city. No mean feat! At Granville Square the Sheaf disappears into a cage and into its subterranean world. The cage catches debris that is washed down stream and has a sensor attached to it that alerts the river authorities if the level starts to rise. The river heads off underground down Sheaf Street and past the railway station.
Ignore this - I couldn't get rid of it!
Just before the railway station, the Porter Brook joins it. This also comes through a culvert to join the Sheaf. Whilst this is barely a trickle most of the time, in 2007 it looked like THIS.
The station has its own water features above ground these days. Not many of the passengers flowing through, realise what lies beneath!
We followed the path of the underground river. It surfaces near the very modern buildings that have sprung up near the old works of the ancient Ponds Forge. Today's workforce sadly cooped up in soulless call centres.
I have no idea why the river is open here - my best guess would be for access I suppose for maintenance etc

It soon goes back underground and underneath the Sports Centre at Ponds Forge. An old gateway has been maintained from one of the Steel works that were here many many years ago.
As we head down towards Blonk Street, we notice residents sunning themselves on the balconies of the new apartments that have sprung up by the river
The Sheaf joins the river Don at this point (the Sheaf is on the right). This ends its underground journey, but
if you look down here where the railway station is, now you know what lies beneath, but
I bet you didn't expect it to look like THIS!!!! Its called the Megatron Drain and searching the internet I found that groups of enthusiasts explore and photograph these subterranean worlds - meaning that I don't have to. So take a look at the what lies beneath - and when you visit our city, you will know that you are walking above the Megatron Drain.

Make sure you take a look at the links as I am certainly not going down there to photograph it! The photos on the last link remind me very much of scenes from Phantom of the Opera! xx


Patricia said...

Thankyou for that Diane, your running commentary was excellent and gave us an insight into what lies beneath as well as on top of the river - something we don't often think about. I am interested in some of London's lost and forgotten underground rivers and find it fascinating.

Louise said...

It is a bit phantom like isn't it! If I tell Dave about this he'll want to go under Sheffield and join the enthusiasts exploring and taking photos!

Mad about Craft said...

Well! I never!! I never knew that was under Sheffield. I know quite a lot about the river Sheaf as I lived on that side of Sheffield.

two bones and a bagle said...

I did know a bit about the river. I wish i had listened to my Dad more now as he knew alsorts of facts about his beloved City.

Incidentally there was an interesting programme on Radio 4 today about cremation which featured a few people from Sheffield and from other regions. A chap from Leicester was talking about Hindu customs and how in Leicester there is a boat you can hire to take ashes out to scatter into the river and the river takes your ashes to the sea and you end up all over the world. It was fascinating. Have a listen. That's the one for me! On that jolly note I am going to go and write my blog post. Today I have been doing the best house work ever. Have a look!

Lisa said...

Oh I love this post, just so interesting. If I ever get to go to Sheffield it'll be by train and so I'll be very aware of all that flows beneath! Those shots of the drains are amazing. The apartment block is a bit different, like that one.
Like your new profile pic too.
And am very honoured to be considered a fellow Womble!
Lisa x

Jan said...

This has been a fascinating post. I love the way that the old and new blend in our city centres! Jx

Young at Heart said...

wow....what a journey!!

Kathy said...

Wow ... that's fascinating. I agree, those photos are very phantom. It's amazing what goes on under our feet, while we walk above, oblivious!
I don't know of any similar rivers running through Liverpool, although I'm willing to be corrected. Our mighty Mersey doesn't flow through the city, the city is built on it's bank.
You must come one day!

Blueberry Heart said...

What a great post!! I looked at that underground sewer link and it was so impressive - such a momentous feat of engineering, but like you say, I wudnae go there either!! Can I just say, you should really be on the telly or at least producing a documentary series of yer own!!
lotsa love, BH x

Rowan said...

Fascinating post Diane, I had no idea that the Sheaf went underground. I love that old gateway at Ponds Forge.
I think the fungus in your New Mills post is a Scarlet Elf Cap. Isn't that a great name? :)

Jackie said...

that's so interesting Diane, and the photos of what lies beneath are amazing. It's made me think about the river Fleet in London, which flows under the City into the Thames...I'll look up what happens to that too. x

Lyn said...

even rivers don't stop the building! Rochdale has a similar river running under roads and buildings too.

Nic B said...

Soulless call centres...hmmm...those were the days!

Rosie said...

Fascinating post, Diane, thanks for the links:)

Michelle said...

There's a similar group of Urban Explorers who frequent the tunnels and other unusual spaces of Leeds, their photos are always fascinating.

I know exactly what you mean about The Phantom - there's an area known as The Dark Arches which runs under Leeds Train Station. You stand on the bridge peering into the arches as the river thunders by underneath - ever since I was little it's always reminded me of The Phantom of The Opera. I used to imagine that perhaps some strange, lonely character actually lived under there!

Jo said...

Amazing, that's so fascinating.

Victoria said...

This was so interesting to read. Great blog post! x

Carol said...

Amazing, who would have thought?
Carol xx