Rother Valley Country Park was first suggested in the 1960's as
the areas of Mosborough, Beighton and Sothall began to expand.
In 1972 Sheffield City Council commissioned a full
feasibility study during which the National Coal Boards plan
for extensive opencasting of the area were discussed. Since
the area in question covered parts of Rotherham, Sheffield
and North East Derbyshire a Joint
Committee of the local councils was set up. By
guiding the restoration work following opencasting the
requirements for the areas use as a country park were
Opencasting of the 300ha site began in 1976, and removed a total of 1.7 million tonnes of high quality coal, the last being taken off site in 1981.Throughout this period public consultation on the final shape of the park continued with a Development Options report being published in 1977. Following extensive public consultations a Development Proposal was published in 1978 which shaped the final form of the park.
Restoration following the coal extraction had 3 main objectives:-
1 Create 4 main lakes and open land to provide a wide variety of recreational pursuits, both water and land based.
2 Provide several different habitats for the many different plants and animals that inhabit or migrate through the Rother Valley.
3 Create an efficient flood control system to protect areas of housing and industry downstream.
Following the ending of coal extraction restoration work began in earnest, areas for the lakes lined with a metre thickness of compacted mud stone and filled with clean water pumped in from the Moss Brook 2.5 km away. In total 480 000 trees and shrubs were planted on site and Bedgreave Mill together with its associated farm buildings, was restored to form a centrepiece to the park.
On 27 May 1983 Rother Valley Country Park was officially opened by Mr Derek Barber, chairman of the Countryside Commission. The finance for the project had amounted to £4 million, the Countryside Commission providing £1 million of grant aid, the Sports Council £ 50 000 with the rest being contributed by the councils of the Joint Committee. In the years following the opening of the park visitors have continued to visit in large numbers, now averaging 750 000 people per year. As the site has matured it has become more valuable for wildlife and conservation and further recreation facilities continue to be added.
Bedgreave Mill complex, recently restored when the park opened in 1983 received a new addition in 1988. A craft centre, built to the same dimensions as a barn that had once stood on site was opened. This completely new building was carefully constructed in traditional materials so as to look in keeping with the rest of the courtyard buildings which are over 100 years old. This building provides workshop and retail outlets for up to 4 independent craft businesses, adding to the attractiveness of the park centre.
Watersports had always been central to the theme of Rother Valley Country Park. When the Park opened temporary facilities were provided for changing and equipment hire in portacabins on the lakeside. However, this was only a stopgap solution and a purpose built Watersports Centre finally opened on 28 July 1990.
The first privately funded facility to be developed in Rother Valley was that of a Cable Water Ski system to the south of the Rother Valley Lake which opened in 1990. This system, now operated by sheffieldcablewaterski.com, provides a low cost opportunity to water ski with minimal environmental impact.
The next major development was that of a golf course, again developed by private finance. Although golf facilities had always been planned for the site the cost of construction proved prohibitive. Construction of the course began in 1994 and Rother Valley Golf Centre opened in 1996.
Two short films about Rother Valley are available here. Anyone making a study of the park may be interested in the Student Education Pack now available.
Today Rotherham Borough Council continues to finance, manage and develop the park to provide an regional facility fit for the twenty first century. Further information on the future developments of Rother Valley and the surrounding area can be found here.