Photo of Friends of the Loxley Valley volunteers clearing old stone slabs

Friends of the Loxley Valley start work to rediscover old stone slab footpath

Volunteers from Friends of the Loxley Valley have started work to “rediscover” historic stone slabs on the public footpath running up Loxley Bank from Rowell Bridge to Stannington.

We’ve cut back brambles and scraped off soil that had accumulated over many years. This had produced a thick layer of turf that was obliterating most of the original stone surface.

Underneath the turf, we were stunned to find the first stretch of the old slabs is still beautifully laid. The slabs are in excellent condition despite years of abandonment and neglect.

We’re not sure whether anybody knows the detailed history of the stones and when they were laid.

Potentially they date back hundreds of years. That’s when local mill owners needed a firm and dry surface to get workers and materials to and from the old water wheels in the valley bottom.

The footpath runs all the way up Loxley Bank, starting at the old packhorse bridge over the river and running through the fields to the Acorn Hill estate.

Bits of the old stone surface can be seen pretty much all the way up where the grass and scrub has not yet grown over it.

First steps to assess the task

Four volunteers from FoLV spent a couple of hours this week at the bottom end of the path to get an idea of how much work would be involved in clearing it.

We started at the top of the steps just above the packhorse bridge, and cleared a thick layer of bramble and scrub that had pushed out over the line of the path.

We then carefully used spades to scrape off the layer of roots and turf that was covering the stones.

Then we brushed and gently scraped the slabs underneath to reveal a 10 yard section of the original path in all its glory.

It’s a seriously impressive part of the Loxley valley heritage: a beautifully crafted four feet wide jigsaw of local stone, laid flat and with immaculately straight edges. Some real Sheffield craftwork went into creating this!

Should we take the project further?

Clearing these stones dovetails with the footpath stewardship work that we’ve agreed with the city council’s public rights of way officer.

Our work focuses mainly on the valley bottom path between Rowell Bridge and Olive Mill, but we’re gradually taking on other tasks when we have the volunteer numbers and the time.

We’d be very interested in the views of FoLV members and other local people on whether clearing the old stone path would be a footpath heritage project worth taking further.

If we’re to press on, we may need to set aside more time, and we may need more volunteers.

But just look at the photos below to see the section of path that we rediscovered in just a few hours this week. This is local heritage and local folk history! Wouldn’t it be a shame if it was to become lost and forgotten forever?

1 comment

Fascinating. Would be very happy to help out with any further work on this old trackway.

Leave a Reply