Many areas of South Yorkshire escaped the ravages of the coal-mining industry – theirs was an agricultural heritage – and the broad green acres around Badsworth comprise one such area.
Here, the landscape is as pristine as any in North Yorkshire, a true delight for the footslogger.
Picture-postcard Badsworth, with its weathered stone cottages and ancient church of St Mary’s, sits serene and aloof at the heart of a pastoral paradise, yet only a handful of miles away are numerous pit villages, still heavily scarred by their industrial past.
The village can trace its roots back more than 1,000 years to the days when a Saxon warrior, Bade, established his farmstead here – this is Bade’s enclosure. Domesday Book of 1086 records the manor as the property of Ilbert de Lacy, Lord of Pontefract. It also records a Saxon church on the site of the present-day St Mary’s which itself dates back to the earliest days of the Norman occupation.
Although tucked away in a rural backwater, Badsworth lies only four miles south of the ancient fortified town of Pontefract and this proved to be a disadvantage during the Civil War. In 1644, Parliamentarians laying siege to Pontefract Castle over-ran the surrounding countryside. A Royalist member of the congregation at Badsworth removed the church’s stained-glass windows to prevent their destruction by Cromwell’s puritan soldiers.
Sadly, the unfortunate Royalist lost his life in the conflict - and took his hiding place to the grave; Badsworth’s medieval stained glass remains lost to this day.
After the Civil War, the local Parliamentary leader, Sir John Bright, who had secured the surrender of Pontefract Castle, bought Badsworth Hall and its estate, which included the village. In the early 18th century, the hall came into the possession of the Marquess of Rockingham through marriage to the Bright heiress.
John Carr of York carried out substantial improvements for the second marquess in 1780. After that, the hall was let to a series of tenants, the most illustrious being the Earl of Darlington, created 1st Duke of Cleveland in 1833, who used it as the centrepiece of a sporting estate.
The estate and village remained in private hands until 1926 when the estate was broken up and sold off, giving tenants the opportunity to buy their properties. Badsworth Hall itself was in ruins by 1965; it was later demolished and replaced by a house converted from the large stable block .
APPROACH and PARKING: Badsworth can be approached from the Leeds area down the A1 to the Wentbridge turn-off. In the centre of Wentbridge, turn left for Badsworth, go through Thorpe Audlin and park with consideration in the Main Street at Badsworth. At weekends, it is possible to use the car park at the church, but please give preference to Sunday worshippers.
BADSWORTH and ACKWORTH
6 ½ miles. Allow: 3 – 4 hours Map: O/S Explorer 278 Sheffield and Barnsley
For ease of description, the walk starts from the church car park. From the car park, turn right along Main Street and then, as road sweeps right, cross it to a parking area in front of three garages – postbox to your right – and go up a tarred path to right of garages with Forge Cottage on your right.
Exit up steps into road and turn left along pavement for 50 yards and then turn right at fingerpost along a street with detached stone properties and then continue along vehicle track to double gates with kissing gate. Enter field and go straight across on a good path, soon passing a stand of tall trees.
Continue straight across the field to emerge in the A638 Ackworth-Doncaster road. Cross it, turn right and then turn left for Wakefield along Royd Moor Lane and walk single file, facing the traffic, for about 600 yards to cross the Pontefract-Sheffield railway and then press on along pavement and grass verge to a fingerpost on your right,
Take this path and go straight ahead for a few yards to spot arrow by hedge to your front left. Now follow the hedge (hedge on your left) all the way down the fields to its end and turn right (arrow) for 150 yards and then turn left over two footbridges.
Turn right (fingerpost) for 50 yards to the second set of tractor tracks on your left and, here, turn left across the huge field to arrive in farm access track and turn left (fingerpost against hedge) to the A628 Ackworth-Hemsworth road, cross it with care and turn left along pavement to a roundabout.
1: Follow pavement round right side of roundabout and turn first right along the road for Hemsworth for 30 yards only and then turn right at fingerpost for Ackworth and Fitzwilliam Country Park.
Follow the broad vehicle track (the unmade Hoyle Mill Road) past a huge turkey-rearing operation, then sweep left and right along access road. At T-junction of tarred access roads, turn right for Fitzwilliam Country Park and go up the slope, past a bungalow on your left, to an access road on your right with a 3-sided fingerpost at hedge corner.
Leave the access road and take the path going half right over the field (fingerpost: Ackworth). On striking a cross path, turn right and follow the strong path over the fields to Ackworth Moor Top, arriving in a scruffy parking area (sawn-off trees on your left) with bungalows ahead. Do NOT enter the road ahead between bungalows.
Instead, go along left edge of the parking area by the hedge to an old wooden fence along the back of a bungalow and turn left along a hidden path along backs of bungalows with a sports field through hedge on your left. Continue through a grassy stretch (can be boggy) with cricket field and pavilion through trees on your left to strike a good path and bear left along it with cricket field on your left.
On arriving in the A638 Ackworth-Wakefield road with Boot and Shoe pub on your left, cross the road to Bell Lane and the fish shop opposite and walk along Bell Lane to emerge in Hardaker Lane and cross over to the Ackworth Parish Council Community Centre. Go past the front of the community centre and straight ahead along the street (the continuation of Bell Lane).
Go past the Bell Lane Academy and then the Masons Arms to emerge in the A628, cross with care and turn right along pavement, past bus shelter, and turn first left along Mill Lane. Soon, sweep left with Mill Lane – ignore Denton Gardens on right – and press on, past Millgate, never diverting from Mill Lane.
Follow it to end of village, passing sports field on your left and Mill Close on your right, to a fingerpost on your right for Thorpe Audlin, Badsworth and Wentbridge.
2: Turn right along this broad vehicle track. Go past a farm complex (Low Farm), over stile with old barns to your left, and onward to double metal gates with walkers’ gate to their left.
Continue on vehicle tracks with hedge on your right. When hedge finishes after 50 yards, turn right over bridge spanning the tiny River Went and then go half left over the field on a narrow, but well-worn, path with rail viaduct to your front left.
On crossing field, go over footbridge and straight on to Moor House Farm. Go up to the left corner of the large green barns and turn left (fingerpost on barn) along farm track. After about 60 yards, as vehicle track sweeps left, go straight ahead over the grass, past green trailers, to pass under the Pontefract-Sheffield railway and turn right.
Follow the field-edge path to the next tunnel on your right and then go half left for a few yards through a turning area to a low-level fingerpost and take the fine path through – on our visit – an oil-seed rape crop.
On crossing this immense field, go straight on through trees and onward between tall hedgerows and then continue down vehicle track (ignore fingerpost pointing right) to enter Badsworth. Go straight ahead along street, up the slope, to emerge in Main Street.
Turn left, then sweep right, past the church, to regain your vehicle (if parked in church car park, go half left through the church yard).