The disused railway land on Straight Lane, Goldthorpe, was once a ‘health hazard’ where passers-by could regularly see fly-tipped sofas, piles of rubbish and wildlife of the less desirable variety.
But the area once referred to as the ‘black hole of Goldthorpe’ has been transformed by a two-year scheme spearheaded by the Railway Embankment Group - a committed group of local volunteers, schools, community groups and wildlife enthusiasts.
“When it was as it was, I could imagine this, I could see where everything would go,” said project leader and Dearne Area Council manager Claire Dawson.
“But it’s such a transformation it’s hard to remember what it used to look like. It’s been a couple of years hard graft and we’ve moved tons of rubbish off the site - every bit worth it.
“It was a fly-infested health hazard and now it’s a beautiful space that local groups can use, children can come and use it as an educational aid.
“Even people who haven’t been able to get down themselves have got involved. We’ve had local residents who have donated trees to be planted.
“We’ve hopefully cracked it, it’s now about keeping it and getting more groups in for the years ahead.”
The project received funding from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP), section 106 funding, Barnsley Bond, Tesco, Big Local, Network Rail and the Dearne Area Council, with volunteer groups and local services or schools assigned an area of the cuttings to use and maintain.
Claire added that more groups would be approached to become keyholders to the site, which now features an orchard, picnic area, weather station and even a small waterfall.
Story boards line the paths for children to read, and as you enter the gardens a memorial to Paul and Darren Holmes, two boys who were killed during the 1984 miners’ strike while collecting coal, is one of the first things you see.
John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, called the area a ‘tranquil green space in the heart of the Dearne’.
“It’s a long time coming,” said John.
“Opening this new community park is a red-letter day for the Dearne and a huge tribute to the commitment of dozens of local people who’ve done the graft to transform the old railway embankment in Goldthorpe.
“So many people have lent a hand and backed the project. It’s a stand-out achievement in this time of government funding cuts which shows the solidarity and strong community there’s always been over the decades in Goldthorpe.”
Barnsley Council chief executive Sarah Norman said: “Talk about turning a negative into a positive. It’s an imaginative solution to what was a terrible problem.
“It shows what you can do with the involvement of the community and everybody coming together.
“It’s a model for other places looking to do the same.
“We all get really upset about fly-tipping, and it is a huge problem, but it’s nice to see something turning it around.”
PC Amy Mellor from Barnsley South East’s neighbourhood policing team said: “It’s brilliant they’ve had different agency input from groups such as Barnsley Recovery Steps, who help a lot of people.
“We hope the community can get some use out of it.”
Julie Turner, of the Salvation Army, said: “It’s such a great asset for the community.
“Who would’ve thought an area plagued by fly-tipping would become a perfect haven for the community and wildlife.
“Unless you come down you can’t appreciate it. Looking over the wall doesn’t do it justice.
“I encourage people to come down when it’s open and see what the community’s been up to.”