ROTHER VALLEY: Making a splash for 30th birthday

I was supposed to be trying out the new paddle boards at Rother Valley Country Park, in celebration of its 30th anniversary.

But when I saw a video of other people falling off them I quickly called a halt to that idea.

Helen Johnston with Chris Smith at Rother Valley Country Park G130614-3

Helen Johnston with Chris Smith at Rother Valley Country Park G130614-3

“What’s the easiest, safest thing I can try?” I asked.

A sit-on canoe was the answer.

I had hoped the fact it was pouring with rain would prevent me having to venture out on the lake at all, but water sports assistant Beth Vickers was made of tougher stuff.

She only turned us back to shore when the lightning started.

I’m not confident on, or in, water but for anyone who is, Rother Valley must be hard to beat.

The range of water sports and activities on offer is superb.

Water sports specialist Chris Smith has worked there for 22 years.

He said: “A lot of people living near the park don’t know just what’s on offer here.”

“The water sports centre had just been built when I started. It’s developed a lot over the years, all the trees weren’t here back then, it looked a lot barer.”

He showed me how to operate the double paddle “pretend it’s the throttle of a motorbike as you turn your wrist”.

Chris and his team teach everything from sailing, to windsurfing, to canoeing. School groups and individuals travel from all over to take advantage of their expertise.

And for families there is the fun of paddle boats and water zorbing - running on the water inside a giant plastic ball.

The ten new paddle boards are part of a £26,000 investment made to mark the park’s 30th birthday.

New play park equipment for children has also been bought.

Operations manager for development Joanne Edley, of Killamarsh, said: “We decided to mark our 30th birthday by improving facilities at the park, rather than holding a special anniversary event.”

“Last year we launched our single rowing sculls just after the Olympics and they have been very popular.”

Visitors can use their own water craft on the lake, and there is a facility for storing private boats.

It’s hard to believe looking around this 750-acre park that it was once an open cast mine.

Rother Valley park is on the border of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire and was set up by five neighbouring councils to provide leisure activities for a growing population, and to act as a flood defence.It is now run just by Rotherham council.

The park is also a nature reserve.

“There have been 260 different species of birds recorded here in the past 30 years,” said Joanne.

The park is used by various sporting groups such as Sheffield Jet Ski Club and Sheffield Triathlon Club, and it has hosted various championship events.

*To see how I got on trying out a double canoe, click on the video.