Residents start battle to re-claim Doncaster beauty spot that became no-go zone

It is a beauty spot that became a no-go zone for many.

Thursday, 5th March 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 6th March 2020, 5:25 pm

But now there is hope that the Crags at Conisbrough and Denaby will be reclaimed by the residents as a place to enjoy where residents can take their families.

There was always something of an element of notoriety for the area – youngsters were told to avoid some parts of the steep hillside which runs between the two villages.

But over the last couple of decades, concerns over crime kept many locals away.

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Maggie Smith and Fenella Brammer, Vice Chair, pictured. Picture: NDFP-22-02-20 FriendsCrags 4-NMSY

Now things could be changing.

Just over a year ago, the Friends of the Crags was set up. Now, the organisation is an officially constituted group, with a list of plans to bring the site back into wide use.

Chairman Tony Sellars is pleased with the support the group has had. He said there had already been closed circuit television cameras installed by the authorities in places to deter criminals. They are also looking to improve lighting.

The group wants to improve the appearance of the area, and has already mapped out walking routes for the public. This year they want to promote those, and address safety as an issue. They plan to run regular inspections of the site and make sure the paths are looked after.

Maureen Barnes, Treasurer and Antonia Swift, with her Guide Dog Page, pictured. Picture: NDFP-22-02-20 FriendsCrags 5-NMSY

They are also trying to get the council to cut back some of the trees, to open up the views across the valley that many remember from their youth.

Tony and wife Carol are both involved in the group.

He said: “When we got involved in this, Carol and I had not been to the crags for 20 years. We walked it, and were shocked by the state it had got into. If you go back 25 years ago, there were seats, but it had all become overgrown. People didn’t feel safe.”

Carol added: “We’ve found what used to be called ‘ladies’ valley’, an area of the crags that had a bad reputation. People were told not to go there. There were immoral things going on there in the old days, but more recently there were concerns about drink and drugs. Initially it was a quarry. Now there are about 30 trees grown over it.”

Tony Sellars, Chairman, Carol Sellars and Alan Brocklehurst, Secretary, pictured. Picture: NDFP-22-02-20 FriendsCrags 2-NMSY

Tony said: “We’re trying to find areas of interest and bring them to the youth of today. For instance there is a historic stone railway dating back to the 1700s. We’d love to put up interpretation boards up about these. There have also been bell pits, and mammoth tusks found.

“We’re also training walk leaders who will take walks round the area. They’ll start at a mile and explain the history and flora and fauna. It is a wonderful place.”

They have involved chilren in the plans. Pupils from Denaby Main Primary Academy have drawn pictures of what they would like to see the crags become.

There are hopes for a picnic area and an open air gym.

Alan Brocklehurst, Secretary, Carol Sellars and Carl Smith, pictured. Picture: NDFP-22-02-20 FriendsCrags 3-NMSY

“We have to give the council some credit,” said Tony. “A few weeks ago they cut back some of the vegetation in areas which have been overgrown for years. The paths have never been in better condition.

“We’re trying to make it more open visually so that people will feel safer and the views are better. Our aim is to get people to use it and feel safe.”

“As a friends group we’re organising a litter pick. We did consider trying to get litter bins every 100 yards, but as a friends group we’d have to get involved in emptying them.”

There is now talk of creating parking spaces to make it easier for people to come and use the crags.

Interest is now starting to spread.

They recently had an inquiry from someone who wanted to run soapbox racing on the crags. While Tony says he thinks there is support for the idea, he believe it may depend on health and safety assessments. But there are records of simlar events taking place 50 years ago.

The Friends of The Crags l-r Maureen Barnes, Treasurer, Alan Brocklehurst, Secretary, Carl Smith, Antonia Swift, Guide Dog Page, Maggie Smith, Carol Sellars, Tony Sellars, Chairman and Fenella Brammer, Vice Chair, pictured. Picture: NDFP-22-02-20 FriendsCrags 1-NMSY

“What I’d really like to do is hold a mass tresspass of the crags,” he said. “It would be to claim it back for the community from the problems it has had in the past.”