South Yorkshire Times October 25, 1969
Changing Face of Don and Dearne
October by the Rivers Don and Dearne … the good, the bad and and the Ugly. Autumn In South Yorkshire, patch worked black and gold.
Black for the region’s heart of coal, which means money, which has defeated much of its object in bringing about the ruination of our valleys, mindlessly despoiling handsome countryside in its own pursuit.
But gold, for the times when man is not so mad, and the places where nature lends a hand to make this a pleasant place in which to live.
We asked some time ago in these columns: “How green is our valley?” The answer was “not very, not now.”
But there is the other side to the coin, as always, as we set out to prove, discovering and re discovering the good, the not so bad, and the not so ugly. Seek and ye shall find. We sought … and we found . . first at Conisbrough. Put aside the great sprawl of factory built homes, and it’s still a fine village, progressing thoughtfully.
The centre, not yet complete, is being opened up piecemeal. But it has a brightness about it, repeated in nearby flats at Wellgate. This has the look of the best of the Sheffield housing schemes, but with a backcloth the city can hardly match — the castle, a pale, dreamy, honey-coloured finger of stone.
Across the valley, indelibly scarred by Cadeby pit, Old Sprotborough, High Melton and Cadeby Village, picturesque, a stone’s throw-and-a-bit from the spoil heaps.
On to Barnburgh and there is the contrast. Here’s a village trying hard to remain a vil, lage, but somehow overgrowing itself. Not all the new housing fits and there seems no central plan, no guiding hand, but it’s still an oasis, pretty in parts.
That central theme is lacking throughout the area.
Goldthorpe, Thurnscoe, Bolton ambushed by the 20th century, now beginning to fight back. The old people in Highgate’s Saltersbrook residential development must find it a happy place to pass their days.
There’s some nice lively design here, but why no trees? No need to make a lawn a desert.
Plenty of trees down the road, where Nicholas Lane, Thurnscoe, almost by accident, begins to look at one point like a seaside boulevard. Greenery, turning brown and red, and a wide sweep of highway catch you unawares.
Rawmarsh may have been lucky to have the space for its much vaunted Manor Farm Estate, shouldering Fitzwilliam’s countryside. But given the opportunity the planners have presented their flock with homes, not hovels.
That there should then be bleatings of complaint at rents seems, at the very least, ungrateful and short-sighted.
The town’s new central development is a brave effort. Not pretty, but honest in conception, and quoted more than once, as an example to tardy neighbours.
Wath too is getting on with the job of coping with the density of housing, but managing very well, despite the doubtful privilege of Europe’s biggest, and therefore among the dirtiest, coal preparation plants. Fair
Mexborough … at the moment scrappy and sagging in the centre under the massive weight of road building. The shopping centre is a busy, throbbing heart, with great potential. The narrowness of its High Street could be fashionably treated, but even now is a happy place to shop.
The Relief Road will provide something of a face lift, and the town has some excellent housing on its newer estates.
The scheme for levelling and grassing land off Doncaster Road deserves a mention. The scene is much pleasanter to the eye now. It could be repeated throughout the area to rid us of barren dereliction.
What Mexborough needs, what the whole kit and kaboodle needs, is for people to look, to think, and to care. Not just the civic leaders .. but you and me.