This is a heavily industrial corner of South Yorkshire that I knew well as a child and back then it was certainly never pretty. Even the ruins of Conisborough Castle were never enticing enough to stop the car and look around. The river Don was a hideous orange colour. It often foamed and gasped as would any fish that tried to swim in it.
Nowadays though, what a transformation! The river's been cleaned up as has the castle and a water taxi takes visitors to look at the view. There are trees and greenery and an enormous solar canopy. It's early days yet for the Earth Centre and it has an uncertain future but this is a site that deserves better recognition if only for the environmental improvements it's brought about.
There's a lot to be learned here about sustainable technology as applied to buildings, energy, water treatment and gardening. I'd recommend all visitors to take the guided tour though. There's not much information posted around the site and you'd miss out a lot without a knowledgable, friendly someone to show you round. For example, how else would you know that much of the building is made from reclaimed materials - even the paths you walk on are made of ground-up old bricks that would otherwise have been dumped. The main conference hall is half built into the hillside for extra insulation but in any case the solar canopy can provide enough energy for the site and any spare is fed back to the National Grid.
The Trans Pennine Trail runs past the site, providing some exercise for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The Centre is keen to promote outdoors activities and provides facilities for a wide range of things from a climbing wall to croquet. I tried my hand at archery and even managed to hit the target with a few of my arrows.