A green and pleasant land has replaced what was once a coal-ravaged countryside in South Yorkshire.
A proud industry has vanished in a few short years and taken with it its collieries, slag heaps and pit-head gear. All is now serene.
Indeed, the Yorkshire coalfield has returned to the untainted days before the pits were sunk some 200 years ago. Some of the views on this outing are quite spectacular, particularly the one from Woolley Edge to the far-flung horizon of Holme Moss.
Woolley, our starting point, escaped the blight of the coal industry – it has always been an agricultural backwater abutting the parkland surrounding ancient Woolley Hall. The village, neat and smart and awash with picturesque stone cottages, is a place of great antiquity, recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as “King’s land”.
Just beyond its eastern fringe is Woolley Hall, originally owned by the Woodruff family, who arrived in the area in the 14th century and started buying up land in the Woolley and Notton areas in 1377.
The family fell on hard times and sold the hall to their cousins, the Wentworths, a famous Yorkshire dynasty, in 1559. The present hall was built in 1635 in Jacobean style and has seen many alterations.
The most famous Wentworth was Sir Thomas, a favourite of Charles 1, who was created Earl of Strafford, but who then fell foul of his jealous rivals in the political turmoil leading up the Civil War. He was beheaded on a trumped-up charge of treason in 1641.
Woolley Hall was acquired by Wakefield District council in 1947 and, in 1962, it became a residential teacher-training college and, when that closed, the hall became a conference and wedding venue.
APPROACH and PARKING
Woolley can be approached from the Leeds area southwards along the M1, exiting at junction 38. Immediately, turn left (road sign: Woolley and Woolley Edge), through Haigh, and continue up to a crossroads. Turn right for a short half mile and turn first left down Middle Field Lane to Woolley. Turn left past the church and sweep right down High Street. At bottom of High Street, park round The Green
WOOLLEY and SAVIN ROYD WOOD
6 miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S Explorer 278 Sheffield and Barnsley
From The Green, walk back up High Street to where it sweeps left to the church and, here, go straight ahead along Mollyhurst Lane. When the lane finishes, continue along vehicle track. When this finishes, go through gate into field and continue along left edge of field by hedge.
At field end, turn right along fence with High House Farm to your left. Follow fence all the way to emerge in a road (Intake Lane) and take the bridleway opposite, passing through horse paddocks and then through trees to a gate to enter another paddock with what looks like a strange silver phone mast.
When level with mast, go a quarter left across the field corner to a metal gate, passing a wall corner on your right. Go through gate with an old quarry on your right at Woolley Edge. Enter the Crigglestone-Barnsley road, cross it slightly left and go down the road opposite, but first visit the viewpoint at parking area on your left. The distant skyline is Holme Moss.
Shoot down the road with the Emley TV mast ahead. Note: This road is quite busy and something of a racetrack, so walk single file, facing the traffic. Just before the blind and dangerous righthand bend, cross to lefthand side of road and use the grass verge.
Go past a fingerpost on your right for Woolley Low Moor and continue on grass verge and then a footway, past radio mast, until just before the M1 (Woolley Edge Services to your right) and turn LEFT at a fingerpost, stepping over boulders, to enter Savin Royd Wood and immediately passing a ventilation shaft to your left.
You are now following the line of a tunnel on the Wakefield-Barnsley railway and you will soon pass other ventilation shafts.
1: This stout path leads unerringly through the wood, descending steps, to end of wood when the path turns sharp left down steps (arrow) to enter a field. Bear left along field edge to arrive at a broken wall at edge of Savin Royd Wood – turn right up field with wood on your left. At top of field, cross a stile and go straight up left edge of field with a paintball/laser centre in trees to left.
On arriving in access track at paintball centre, turn right (arrow) and follow the track out to a road (Haigh Lane), cross it and turn left along verge for 100 yards to fingerpost and turn right into field and go straight across it to a wood (Jobson Wood).
Enter wood at a stone stile, turn left for 6 yards and then turn right on a good path to enter a clearing at a Scout centre. Just before the buildings, turn right through the tree line down to a hedge and spot the gap in the hedge with marker post.
Go through hedge and straight down field on tractor tracks to arrive in a farm track and take the stile opposite. Cross the field, go over a rickety stile and onward along a green track towards a property (Near Moor Farm). At field end, follow wall on your right along an enclosed path into the property and go straight ahead to exit through a tall ornamental metal gate to left of main gates and turn left along vehicle track, past vehicle barrier.
Follow the good track up the slope to its end at a huge green barn and giant agricultural trailers – keep straight on up the field with hedge on your right to enter a wood. Bear right on a diagonal line up through the wood – this is Woolley Edge – to arrive in road (Woolley Edge Lane) at a memorial marking a tragic road accident.
Turn right along the grass verge, passing the end of Gipsy Lane (if needed, this gives a quick finish back to Woolley). Follow grass verge for half a mile, ignoring a fingerpost on your left after 300 yards and then passing the road end at Woolley Grange (a massive housing estate covering the site of the old Woolley Colliery).
2: Press on to spot fingerposts on either side of the road and turn left, across the road, and go down vehicle track to arrive at a gate across the track (open, on our visit) with “Private property” notice – take the path to left of gate, past a horse barrier.
Go past stables (clay-pigeon shooting takes place here, but only on Saturdays!). At end of this enclosed path, at fingerpost, turn left for Woodhouse Lane alongside a wood (Wheatley Wood).
After 50 yards, ignore path turning right into wood – keep on along edge of wood. At end of wood, turn right through kissing gate and then ignore arrow pointing half left over a crop field because the path has been obliterated.
Instead, go straight ahead down right side of field by wood into field corner and turn left and then, when wall and wood on your right finish, go straight across field on an obvious path aiming for the tower of Woolley church. On crossing crop field, turn right (arrow) down side of hedge to enter Woodhouse Lane and turn left.
At lane end, turn left for 50 yards to a box-top sign cut into a yew tree just before a stone house and turn right along entry vehicle track for 20 paces, turn right over stone stile and walk along right edge of field, picking up a stone wall on your right.
Follow the wall past the first properties to arrive in a wall corner and spot the hidden rickety wooden gate on your right. Go through gate, down a grass track to road on edge of Woolley and turn left to The Green and the finish.