All is now pristine in the deep south of our county following the sad demise of the coal industry; no longer is the skyline blighted by pithead gear and slag heaps – they have been replaced by a green and verdant landscape, reverting to the agricultural heyday of two centuries ago.
This circuit follows a quiet course through backwater countryside – with sparkling views at every turn - before joining the 21st century at Scout Dike Reservoir, one of the most popular visitor attractions in this part of the world, a favourite of anglers and weekend strollers alike.
Upper Denby, our starting point, may bow in size to its near-neightbour Denby Dale, but is is by far the more senior settlement; Denby Dale took shape as a mill town during the Industrial Revolution, but Upper Denby can trace its roots back to the Danish invasion of York in 867AD. The Scandinavian sea rovers spread their tentacles out into Yorkshire, establishing farmsteads and hamlets and Denby – the farmstead of the Danes – dates from this period.
It was styled Denebi in the Domesday Book survey of 1086, the property of the powerful Ilbert de Lacy, Lord of Pontefract, who gave it to a tenant, Elric. The Domesday Book entry refers to a vaccary - a cattle farm – at Denebi (from the Latin vacca, a cow).
The village acquired its first church in 1672, courtesy of the local landowner, Godfrey Bosville, of Gunthwaite Hall, which we pass in the early stages of this walk. Bosville’s church had fallen into serious disrepair by the beginning of the 19th century - it was described as “filthy and ruinous” and was subsequently pulled down and a new church built in 1839 through funds raised locally.
Denby had a rather unusual claim to fame some 300 years ago – it was home to a couple of famous witches, Susanne Hinchliffe and Anne Shillitoe. The community continued to be associated with witchcraft until the last of her ilk, Betty Roberts, died at the beginning of the 1800s.
The village once supported three pubs, but two have been converted into houses and only The George survives, a popular amenity in the heart of the village.
UPPER DENBY and SCOUT DIKE RESERVOIR
7 miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 288 Bradford & Huddersfield
Upper Denby lies a mile south of Denby Dale. Park in the streets in the vicinity of The George in the B6115 in the centre of Upper Denby. From wherever you park, make your way to The George and set out along the B6115 in an easterly direction – towards Denby Dale – passing a bus shelter on your left and South Croft on your right.
Follow pavement out of the village, descending past the Upper Denby nameplate to the railway bridge. Pass under and IMMEDIATELY turn right, up steps, and then follow an enclosed path before descending into a wood and crossing a footbridge.
Go straight ahead, over a beck, and up the slope, over a stile to emerge in field. Go along right edge of field by the trees for about 100 yards to a dead tree with arrow to your front left. Go diagonally across the field in line of arrow and telegraph wires (the “B” is for the Barnsley Boundary Walk).
Enter a vehicle track and press on to arrive in a minor lane and go straight ahead, soon passing the half-timbered barn at Gunthwaite Hall Farm.
The barn was built in 1550 by Godfrey Bosville whose timber-framed manor house, Gunthwaite Hall, built in the same period, lay behind the barn. The massive internal timbers of the barn are held together entirely by wooden pegs. Bosville’s manor house no longer exists – it was demolished and replaced by a stone farmhouse in the 1830s. In 1699, another Godfrey Bosville of Gunthwaite Hall, obtained a market charter for nearby Penistone, beginning the transformation of that community from village to market town.
At end of farm premises, take the vehicle track ahead (fingerpost), ignoring Coach Gate Lane to your left. Soon, ignore fingerpost on your right – continue along the fine track and then, at a faded arrow on wooden gatepost, take the left branch along flagstones. This is a packman’s trod linking Gunthwaite to Penistone and dating from the 16th century.
Follow this path to its end to an information board on your left. Enter road at a junction and go straight ahead – do NOT turn left along Broad Oak Lane. Hidden in the trees to your right is Gunthwaite Dam.
Follow this road, ignoring fingerpost on your left and then a road on your right, to climb a hill past a sign “Prohibited all vehicles over 3 tons.” Flog up the hill (New Road) to spot a fingerpost hidden behind a tree on your right at a stile and gate.
1: Take this path and go a quarter left across the field to a section of fence at the wall and cross two stiles at arrow for the Penistone Boundary Walk. Turn left up edge of field with hedge on your left to gain a marker post at top of field and go half right across field corner to a stile in the wall. Cross it and go straight ahead along the dividing line between fields to enter road and turn right, walking single file, facing the traffic, and using the grass verge when possible.
Go past Cross Lane to the farm ahead (Kidfield House) and turn right along its entry road. Now stay alert! Go past the first barn/shed on your left and immediately – before entering the premises – turn left to a gate with stone stile on its left.
Go up left edge of field, over brow, and descend to a stile to left of a telegraph pole. Continue up right edge of next field. At top of field, turn left for 20 yards to a stile, cross it, enter road and turn right for 150 yards and then, when road sweeps right at ornamental gates, turn left at fingerpost.
Follow this narrow path for a few hundred yards to a path junction. Ignore the stile on your right and ignore the main path sweeping left at fence corner – take the middle path, which is a bit overgrown. After 50 yards, cross a stile and go straight across crop field (on our visit), as per arrow, with a ladder stile popping into view as you crest the field.
Cross the ladder stile and go straight ahead along the vegetated path with wall on your right and follow it to its end to emerge in access drive and turn left. On arriving in the main road (A629), turn right along pavement for about 150 yards and then turn left, across the road, to a slip road and follow it down the slope. At junction with the Penistone road, cross it and turn right along pavement past a pair of semis.
2: Immediately turn left at fingerpost along a fairly-overgrown path to emerge at a waterworks gate on your left and a gate on your right with “Private property” notice.
Dive into the vegetation straight ahead and follow the wire-mesh fence on your left. At end of mesh fence, cross a footbridge and turn right (arrow) along another overgrown path and follow it for a few hundred yards to emerge from the vegetation at a short uphill section with an opening on your right with a green Yorkshire Water permissive path arrow – do not overshoot this path.
Take this path to arrive at Scout Dike Reservoir and turn left along the lake-shore path. After about half a mile, turn right over a footbridge and continue on the fine path to the next footbridge, cross it and, after 10 yards, turn left past the green metal railings of a sewage works.
Press on to climb steps to emerge in the A629, cross it and turn left along pavement into Ingbirchworth. Now look out keenly for a fingerpost on your right next to twin garages with black doors.
Turn right at the fingerpost and then turn left and right round a house garden (shed) and follow the enclosed path, over a stone stile and across a narrow field to a stile to left of gate. Now go a quarter left over the huge field aiming for a large tree and passing under telegraph wires.
As you gradually close with the fence on your left, a fingerpost comes into view at the fence. Cross the stile on gaining the fingerpost and turn right along vehicle track for 60 yards and then turn left along vehicle tracks.
Go through a bridle gate and continue with wall on your right and the Emley Moor TV mast dead ahead. At field end, turn right with the wall, through a gate and descend to cross the Tanyard Brook. Go up the far side and onward along an enclosed path, through two gates close together and then descend into Margaret Wood.
Continue along a walled vehicle track and its continuation and follow it all the way to emerge in a lovely green sward at a house and garden. Go straight ahead to enter road in Upper Denby and turn right to The George. Regain your vehicle.