How notorious Doncaster no-go area was transformed into Doncaster beauty spot transformed into new beauty spot

It was notorious for antisocial behaviour.

Friday, 28th September 2018, 09:18 am
Updated Friday, 28th September 2018, 08:22 am
Pictured celebrating 10 years of the Friends of Martinwells Lake are Margaret Adamson, Mo Tennison, Phil Cole and Mo Cantrell. Picture: David Kessen

Burned out cars were seen as a common occurrence, and for many, what was then known as the Brick Ponds, in Edlington, was a no-go area.

But some residents in the former pit village refused to accept that situation. And 10-years ago, a band of volunteers grouped together to try to change things.

Pictured celebrating 10 years of the Friends of Martinwells Lake are Margaret Adamson, Mo Tennison, Phil Cole and Mo Cantrell. Picture: David Kessen

The result was Friends of Martinwells Lake.

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And 10 years on, they have transformed the land into a local beauty spot which is used by families, runners and dog walkers every day.

The anniversary has just been marked with a community party there, with a free barbecue dishing our hot dogs, burgers, and smoothies.

It is a far cry to the most notorious incident near the site, a horrific attack in 2009 on two boys aged 10 and 11 in Edlington in a case which shocked the nation.

Brothers Andy Chapman and Geoff Chapman, are volunteers with Friends of Martinwells Lake, in Edlington. Picture: David Kessen

And those volunteers who stepped in to start the transformation and remain committed to the site to this day are proud of their achievements.

Margaret Adamson, an Edlington resident herself, is one of those who has been involved from the start. .She remembers originally being contacted by the then Doncaster Council neighbourhood manager, Trevor Heptinstall, who was keen to get a bunch of people together to change things.

Trevor retired six years ago, but still comes down to work on the site as a volunteer.

Margaret, who is now chairman of the group, remembers well how things were in the old days.

Celebrating 10 years of the Friends of Martinwells Lake are: Margaret Adamson, Ian Warhurst, Trevor Heptinstall, Phil Cole, Andy Chapman, Mo Cantrill and Maureen Tennison. Picture: David Kessen

'There were burned out cars, drug dens '“ all sorts of antisocial behaviour . People were too frightened to come here. It was overgrown, and there was no path.

'But we came down and had a look. We started to come here in our spare time to change things.

'We started to move some of the rubble, and the burned out cars. There was a lot of flytipping that had been done '“ ripped out kitchens, everything.

'We found more burned out cars hidden among the trees. Some of them had been there for years and had pretty much rotted away.

Marking 10 years of Friends of Martinwells Lake. Back row: Glyn Jones, Geoff Chapman, PCSO Ian Warhurst, Mo Cantrill and Phil Cole; front row: Trevor Heptinstall, Andy Chapman, Margaret Adamson and Margaret Tennison. Picture: David Kessen

'We got a committee together and by 2010 we had a constitution as the friends group.

'Everything took time, but we tackled it a little bit at a time, and just nibbled away at everything. It feels like it took umpteen years, but no one thought iwt would be a quick job.

'We did it whenever we could, mostly at weekends, and nowadays we come down for a clean up once a month if required.'

The burned out cars were in such poor condition that they could be torn apart by the volunteers. Much of their interior had been either burned away or looted.

The drugs dens were filled in with new foliage. They have not returned. Now, the area is usually full of people enjoying the facilities for healthier reasons.

Around four years after they first started, the volunteers started to apply for funds to improve the site.

Gradually, seats were introduced, outdoor gym equipment was installed and even fishing pegs were built.

A path was created all around the lake, which was created by a former brick factory.

A local quarry, Sibelco, provided huge piece of stone, which were laid down to block cars. Local housebuilder Keepmoat was approached for some gravel to build a car park. The company build the car park themselves for the community.

Community Payback provided labour through offenders who were carrying out community service.

Security cameras were installed, and there has been little sign of new vandalism.

But, as Maureen says, nature does not stop, and there is a constant need to cut back grass and hedges.

MP Caroline Flint and her husband, Phil Cole, have also taken part in the clear-up over the years.

Now it is attracting community events in a few few could have imagined 10 years ago. It has seen pond dipping events, teddy bears' picnics, and event a Santa dash.

Another of those early volunteers was Mo Cantrill. Mo lives near to the site.

'I used to walk my dog round here,' she said. 'But it got to the stage that I didn't feel safe. I used to see Trevor Heptinstall and ask him if there was anything that could be done to sort it out. I later saw a notice in a shop window asking for people to join the Friends of Martinwells Lake. I wanted it to be safe, so I joined. .

'I feel really proud that we did what we did, and to see that now people can come here to walk their dogs again. As far as I'm concerned it's mission accomplished. People now come here with their families.'

Edlington brothers Andy and Geoff Chapman have been part of the group for several years.

Andy is a friend of Mo, and found out about its work through her. The 56-year-old warehouse operative  said: 'The first time I came I was hooked. I've been doing it for nine years now.

'I'm really proud of what we've achieved with a lot of support from the public.'

Geoff, aged 68, a maintenance worker at a GP practice, got involved through his brother, who suggested he came along. He said: 'I used to fish at the old pond years ago. When I heard about what Andy was doing, I wanted to come too.'

Grandparents David and Angela Bratby, from Balby, are regular visitors Martinwells Lake, with their grandchildren Charlie Groves, aged eight, and Holly Groves, aged five.

The couple were brought up in Edlington and are delighted with the transformation the volunteers have created.

Angela said: 'I think it's wonderful what has been done here. We often Charlie and Holly to Sandall Beat, but they love coming down here now, too.

'It is great place for them to come and play.'

David agreed.

He said: 'We like to walk round the lake. It has changed a lot '“ I remember when it was still a brickyard. I would like to see a bigger area to play, and more picnic tables, but that would only be because of its own success.

'We lived in Edlington for 40 years, and it has seen good times and bad times here '“ this is certainly good times again.'