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Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Monday, 19 July 2010 17:19 UK
Steel Henge: South Yorkshire's newest landmark
Steel Henge, Centenary Riverside in Rotherham,
Steel Henge is made of cast iron ingots within a new nature reserve - part of Rotherham's 15 million flood alleviation scheme

Rotherham's answer to druids and the solstice is made not of stone but - characteristically for this old industrial area - of metal.

Steel Henge, South Yorkshire's newest landmark, is at the centre of Rotherham's £15 million flood alleviation scheme.

It is a 30 metre circle of metal plinths and crossbeams, standing within a newly-created nature reserve.

Steel Henge and the nature reserve, known as Centenary Riverside, are on the site of the old Templeborough steelworks near Magna.

The park is managed by Sheffield Wildlife Trust. Ian McGowan is responsible for its maintenance: "Steel Henge represents the industrial past of the site so that visitors can experience the weights and volumes of metal that were produced here," he explains.

The iron ingots were found on-site. Although the structure is called Steel Henge, the rusty metal plinths and crossbeams are actually formed of 60 tonnes of cast iron ingots. The tall piece of metal in the centre of the circle broke in half when it was lifted; it was originally five and a half metres high and weighed 14 tonnes - double its current size.

Like the original Stone Henge, South Yorkshire's metal cousin is positioned to reflect the solstice. Shadows line up with grooves on the metal.

The boardwalk across the manmade pond is made from recycled plastic
The boardwalk across the manmade pond is made from recycled plastic

The five hectare park is a joint venture between Rotherham Council, the Environment Agency and Sheffield Wildlife Trust who were asked to put environmental and social value into the site.

The park is a floodplain for the River Don, relieving the risk of flooding in nearby Rotherham town centre. The idea is that the site can completely fill with rainwater to protect surrounding urban areas from flooding. The landscape plans were not allowed to affect the functioning of the floodplain so a nature reserve with wildflower meadows, woodlands and ponds was created.

The site was originally a foundry known locally as the Seven Sisters because of the plant's seven chimneys, and deckchair sculptures made from reclaimed railway sleepers symbolise the Seven Sisters.

Recycled plastic boards provide walkways across a manmade pond, and lumps of concrete are from the old steelworks' casting floor.

Brownfield land like this is often used for building work, so Centenary Riverside is a welcome haven for wildlife. The park is alive with wildlife - swans, lapwings, damsel flies and dragon flies, bees on wildflowers, bull-rushes, daisies, scabrous, rosebay willow herb.

Centenary Riverside is now open to the public. When BBC Sheffield visited in July 2010, former steelworkers were enjoying the sunshine there:

"It's a little oasis in the middle of an industrial belt," one of them said. "I've not been down here on the solstice… but we might put it to the test one day!"

Centenary Riverside is part of the £2 billion Rotherham Renaissance programme to regenerate the town centre and bring the riverfront back into use.

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