Places to see birds

Porter Valley

https://www.fopv.org.uk/

Long-tailed tit perched on branch
Long-tailed tit Photo: RSPB

The Porter Brook rises a short distance north-west of the hamlet of Ringinglow. After plunging down the steep narrow valley of Porter Clough, it enters the gentler terrain of the Mayfield Valley before continuing through Bingham and Endcliffe Parks to reach Hunters Bar. Its last two miles are more urban in character. After passing Sheffield's General Cemetery (see separate entry in this section), the Porter joins the River Sheaf beneath Sheffield railway station. Apparently, the Porter's name is derived from the brownish colour of its waters gained as it passes over iron-ore deposits - giving it a similar colour to porter beer.

Like the River Rivelin (see separate entry in this section), the Porter is ideally suited for providing water power. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the many dams along its route powered as many as nineteen water-wheels - used for milling corn, operating forge-hammers or rolling mills and grinding knives and other blades. Now no longer used for this (with the exception of those that still power Shepherd Wheel museum and Sharrow snuff mill), those dams that still exist add to both the attractiveness and birdlife of the valley.

Although footpaths follow the stream all the way from its source to Hunters Bar, our Group's walks usually start at Forge Dam and head downstream past Wire Mill Dam through a wooded stretch of valley as far as Shepherd's Wheel. It is therefore on this section that this account focuses.

Near Forge Dam there is an active rookery where rooks can be seen nestbuilding from as early as February. Other species that we saw here on our Group's most recent visit (in February 2020) were nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker and ring-necked parakeet with mallard, moorhen and mandarin duck on the dam itself.

The woods downstream from here are rich in birds; species seen in these on our walks have included long-tailed tit, nuthatch, treecreeper, great spotted woodpecker, jay, long-tailed tit, goldcrest, sparrowhawk and buzzard - joined by redwing and fieldfare in winter months. Mallard, moorhen and grey wagtail can be found along the river and grey herons regularly fish in Wire Mill Dam - where mandarin ducks may again be seen.

A little way further downstream, dippers are regularly in residence around the bridge under Hangingwater Road and the dam at Shepherd's Wheel is one of the more reliable places in Sheffield to see kingfisher. Other birds seen on our walks have included pied wagtail, coal tit, goldcrest, song thrush, wren, and both lesser black-backed and black-headed gulls.

Many of these species may also be seen on other stretches of the river. Indeed, grey wagtails may reliably be seen even in the centre of Sheffield, for example where the Porter has been 'opened up' at 'Porter Brook Pocket Park' between Sidney Street, Matilda Street and Shoreham Street.

Forge Dam is at the bottom of Brookhouse Hill close to the Fulwood area. There is free parking here. Fulwood shops can be reached using the 120 bus and it is only a short walk from here to the river. Hunters Bar, at the far end of Endcliffe Park, is on numerous bus routes from the city centre.

Access is generally good with a network of well-maintained and relatively flat paths following the river. The sections through Bingham and Endcliffe Parks are both surfaced and relatively flat. Refreshments can be obtained at Forge Dam Cafe and shops in Fulwood, Nether Green and Hunters Bar. Pubs close to the route include the Rising Sun at Nether Green.