Voted the best place to live in South Yorkshire, Yorkshire Live took a trip to Sheffield's Stocksbridge to see why the town has been praised so highly, and how locals feel about living there.

With a strong industrial heritage from its links to the steel industry, to being the birthplace of the paragon umbrella - Stocksbridge is a place steeped in history, and its locals were more than ready to shout about it.

According to AllTrails, Stocksbridge is the number one place to live in South Yorkshire , with Sheffield as a whole taking second place and Doncaster following closely behind in third.

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Less than a thirty minute drive away from Sheffield city centre , first up on the visit to Stocksbridge was Fox Valley Shopping Park. With four hours free parking on offer, it had just about everything you need - and a unique appearance which made it feel significantly different from any other retail park.

Despite being home to an endless list of big chain stores from Aldi to Home Bargains, Holland & Barrett and Costa, it managed to retain the character of a small town with unique independent businesses dotted around including a coffee van and florist on wheels. Opened in 2016, the aesthetics of the shopping park reminded me more of designer outlets such as Cheshire Oaks than what you would traditionally expect.

One restaurant and bar on site is shaped like an umbrella, in a nod to the fact that Stocksbridge is the birthplace of the paragon umbrella frame, developed by industrialist Samuel Fox. Inside family run restaurant McGilveray's, umbrellas have been suspended from the ceiling and vintage artwork reflecting the history of the steelworks has also been installed throughout the restaurant.

Another essential part of Stocksbridge’s heritage - its steel industry - is still intact and operating today. In 1847 Samuel Fox came from Bradwell and rented an old cotton mill which had been built in 1794 on the former farming land, which he subsequently developed into what is now the Liberty Steel steelworks. The steelworks employed more than 8,000 people at its height and remains a significant employer in the town.

Similarly to when Yorkshire Live visited Holmfirth , what was great about Stocksbridge was that all of the essential sights were located within a short walk of one another.

From hair salons to estate agents and cafes, a post office, Co-op, woodland walks and parks - it was hard to spot something which could possibly be missing from the Sheffield satellite town.

Further down the high street did look a little sorry for itself with empty and closed shop units, but residents later explained to me that work is underway to regenerate that area of the town.

The Museum and Heritage Centre on Manchester Road was sadly closed during our visit, as it’s only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But just a couple of minutes up the road, Stocksbridge’s Clock Tower and Memorial Gardens offered a stunning view of the town below.

The memorial was initially built in memory of 107 local young people, a nurse, sailors and soldiers, who died in World War I and was later also dedicated to those who lost their lives during World War II.

The memorial gardens being an example, it was hard to walk around without noticing the vast amount of green space within, and surrounding Stocksbridge. One of the main reasons why AllTrails crowned Stocksbridge as the best place to live in South Yorkshire is because of the amount of cycle and walking routes available - including Langsett Reservoir, Oxley Park and popular lookout spot Trigg Point.

Next up, was a coffee pit spot at Samuel’s Kitchen. Rated five out of five and listed as one of the essential things to do when visiting Stocksbridge on Tripadvisor, there were no questions about where to go.

Set on the Hunslet side of Stocksbridge, owner Tracey Martin, who has lived there for the past 20 years explained that once upon a time, no one was interested in living on that side of the valley. “When the steel works reached its height, no one wanted to live on this side because of all of the pollution.

“That’s why all of our houses have blackened stone bricks from all of the smoke.”

The cafe boasted a vast menu - you’d struggle to find something that you didn’t want to eat, and was also adorned with a range of Sheffield and Stocksbridge based memorabilia - including lots of Henderson’s Relish merchandise.

A cappuccino was only £2.40 - a lot cheaper than places in Sheffield city centre where you’ll easily pay at least £3.40 for a small coffee.

It was hard to ignore the sense of community inside the café, as people knew each other on a first name basis and if not, were more than happy to have a friendly chat and introduce themselves.

Over coffee, we chatted further to Tracy and some of the locals about how they feel about living and working in the best place to live in South Yorkshire - some of whom were shocked to hear that Stocksbridge had ranked so highly.

Paul Dove, from Sheffield, said: “Fox Valley has given it a new lease of life.

“It feels like Stocksbridge has become the epicentre for the north of Sheffield - all we need is better weather"

Paul explained how he believes Stocksbridge has improved since Miriam Cates became the MP and started fighting for more funding to be put into the South Yorkshire town. In 2021, she secured a £24.1m deal for the town to help ‘bring Stocksbridge back to life.’

“There’s plenty of lovely cafes to go to and places to shop. Ponti’s, an independent Italian restaurant only has two locations in the whole country - the first in Oxford Square in London and the second at Fox Valley."

“They could have chosen to go anywhere in the UK but they came to Stocksbridge which says a lot about the type of place it is - it’s like they’ve put down an anchor here.”

Tracy added: “It’s a lovely place to live - I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Stocksbridge is full of friendly people with a proud past which has been built with a heart of steel.

“On the edge of the Peaks, Stocksbridge is constantly evolving to bring its green space to the forefront so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful countryside around us.

“Young, families, single, married or old - there is something for us all and being so close to the countryside keeps us forever young and fit, the walks and trails are endless.”

Another local resident, who was rushing to get back to check on his dog after a morning spent shopping in the town, said: “It’s getting better - I’ve lived here since I was seven years old and I’m 44 now.

“There’s loads to do - places to eat and nice little cafes. It’s not like down south where people don’t want to speak to you - everyone is really friendly and willing to have a chat with a stranger. After a couple of times meeting, you find that these people become your friends.”

The locals also offered me an insight into the history of Stocksbridge, Sheffield and wider South Yorkshire as we chatted about the history of its steel works, the Battle of Orgreave and the Hillsborough disaster.

Outside in the cafe’s courtyard, friends Sue Briggs and Kay Middleton had stopped off for a coffee and cake after a walk in Wharncliffe Woods with their dogs Henry and Fergus.

Sue, 54, moved to Stocksbridge from elsewhere in Sheffield seven years ago. “I don’t think I’ll ever move away now,” she said. “Everything you need is right on the doorstep.

“We’ve got Fox Valley which is brilliant, big supermarkets, a post office and a doctors surgery.

“There’s so many brilliant walks nearby and the peak district and motorway are only five minutes away - it’s only a 50 minute drive to Manchester - so it really is ideal for going anywhere you need to get to. It’s a lovely community to live in.”

But locals agree that improvements to transport links between Sheffield centre and Stocksbridge are one of the main things that needs to happen for the town to get the recognition it deserves.

Sue added: “The transport links really need improving. The tram from doesn’t come out here, despite the fact there is a rail line, and they stopped the shuttle bus which used to go from Stocksbridge to Middlewood and vice versa.

“It means some older people aren’t able to get around town. It’s a brilliant place, but it does need better transport links to improve it - especially with all of the new houses which are currently being built.”

Mr Dove added: “In Manchester you can get the tram, all the way from Rochdale to Altrincham - they go so far out of the city centre.

“In Sheffield, the trams don’t even run past Northern General Hospital. More needs to be done so that Stocksbridge can be opened up, and more people are encouraged to visit.”

In November 2023 Sheffield Council leader Councillor Tom Hunt said the council had ‘ambitious plans’ for the city’s tram network: “We want to open up disused rail lines out to Stocksbridge in the north west, and through the south west of Sheffield and Derbyshire, and run tram-trains along these routes so that more people have got a better commute to the city.”

Kay Middleton, 57 who lives in Oughtibridge but visits regularly, explained that the town could also benefit from offering a wider variety of shops: “I think it needs some more shops, especially when it comes to the appeal of Fox Valley. It was great when it first opened but now, unless you like camping or living in a tent, there’s not much in between.

“Some boutique shops would be lovely - to make it a place that really makes you want to come and spend the weekend here.”

After a near two hour stay in Samuel’s Kitchen talking to locals, the town had become a lot busier - maybe in part helped by the fact that on an extremely blustery day, the sun had finally decided to make an appearance.

The ease of access to green space, the variety of shops on offer and the close proximity to the motorway and peak district, make it easy to see why Stocksbridge was voted the best place to live in South Yorkshire . But what really set it apart was its sense of community, and just how friendly the people are.

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