The Blue Loop
The Blue Loop is a continuous loop of waterways and riverside walkways in the heart of Sheffield, made up of The River Don and Tinsley Canal. It travels for 8 miles from the city centre and flows close by the communities of Burngreave, Attercliffe, Darnall and Tinsley.
The Blue Loop is a brilliant destination for local families; it’s close to home, there’s loads to see and do, and best of all, it’s free!
Why not tackle the whole 8 mile walk? For the less adventurous there are shorter walks too. Alternatively you can cycle along the Five Weirs Walk by the River Don – the walkway is railed and is great for young cyclists.
Feel like getting closer to nature? There’s wildlife a plenty down by the water! Take your camera, get snapping – and don’t forget to upload your photos to our gallery!
Fancy Becoming a Blue Loop Volunteer?
The “Friends of the Blue Loop” is a voluntary group made up of members of the local community. Their volunteer sessions support people in gaining valuable work experience and developing new skills, which enable them to look after the wildlife and habitats of the Blue Loop. No previous experience is necessary, just a willingness to get stuck in. It is also a great way to meet new people, – there is always time for a cup of tea and a chat!
The group works with the RSC and Canal & River Trust to run volunteer sessions on a Wednesday from 10.30am-1.30pm. The location of these varies as the group covers the whole of the Blue Loop, so please contact us for more details.”
Blue Loop Area and History
The Blue Loop joins together the two major waterways in the area: the River Don and the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal.
River Don History
The Blue Loop project connects the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal with the nearby River Don. The Don passes through Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster, amongst other towns in South Yorkshire.
The stretch of the Don that comprises one half of the Blue Loop runs from Lady’s Bridge in the City Centre to Tinsley, near to Meadowhall. In prehistoric times, the river would have been a loose network of meandering channels, pools and marshes; but human habitation brought alterations to the landscape, pushing back the edges of the waters and converting riverside wetlands into fertile meadows.
The Don originally joined the River Trent, but was re-engineered by Cornelius Vermuyden to join the River Ouse in the early seventeenth century. This development greatly aided industrial production through the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries by enabling the passage of coal barges along the Don to the Ouse, and ultimately to the North Sea and the international market. The river was once known as a successful salmon fishery, but industrial pollution followed the growth of the steel mills, and salmon stocks dwindled as the river became contaminated.
Industrial traffic declined following the construction of railroads in the area in the 1870s; however, little money was available for the restoration of the waterways until the late twentieth century. Since the decline of industry in the area and subsequent ecological restoration work (largely undertaken by the Five Weirs Walk Trust), the river has seen a marked recovery in biodiversity, with salmon returning to the Don after a long absence.
By the 1980s, herons, kingfishers, and even red deer had all returned to the banks of the River Don. In recent years, the Don has become best known for its propensity to flood, with the floods of 2007 being only the most recent time that the river has burst its banks. The 2007 floods briefly upset the ecological balance in the area, as well as making it difficult to gain access to certain stretches of the waterways. Access to the waterways has now been almost completely restored—although some areas of the river are still being repaired and redeveloped (near Lady’s Bridge, for instance) or are closed at dusk.
Sheffield and Tinsley canal History
The Sheffield Canal Company was formed in 1815 with the intention of connecting Sheffield industry with the navigable stretches of the River Don north of Tinsley, giving access to the River Ouse and the North Sea. Construction of the canal began in 1816, followed by the opening three years later on 22nd February 1819.
The canal provided a boost to local industry, providing collieries with the means to transport their goods over long distances to reach a wider market. The canal remained somewhat successful throughout the nineteenth century, but faced strong competition following the spread of the rail network throughout the area. In 1848, two years after its arrival, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company took ownership of the canal, and it remained affiliated with the railway through the rest of the nineteenth century.
The canal fell into neglect during the early Twentieth Century, as the First World War placed heavy demands on national resources and labour power. The majority of the boats were commandeered as troop transports on the canals of Flanders. Attempts to revitalise the canal followed the war, but were largely unsuccessful due to a lack of funding.
The Second World War saw the locks at Tinsley Flight damaged in German bombing raids. A plaque nearby records the efforts of the workers who repaired the canal in difficult circumstances. The nationalisation of the canals after World War II brought a small increase in traffic, but even this proved to be temporary. A small amount of trade remained until the 1970s, after which the canal fell into disuse. The canal entered a period of decline as a commercial operation, but was restored and redeveloped as a scenic route in the early 1990s.