Where once King Coal reigned supreme, there is now a green and pleasant land with skylines bereft of unsightly pithead gear.
These days, the area to the south of Wakefield offers a network of paths and bridleways through a deeply-rural hinterland where peace and tranquillity is the order of the day.
At the heart of this burgeoning greenery is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which has become a national – nay, international – attraction. Hundreds wander the grounds every weekend scratching their heads in bewilderment at the strange effigies on display. They must make sense to somebody!
The park was created in 1977 as the country’s first permanent exhibition of outdoor sculptures. It is situated within the extensive Bretton Country Park which was laid out by Capability Brown in the 18th century for the Wentworths, owners of Bretton Hall.
The Wentworths, one of Yorkshire’s great dynasties - the main branch of the family lived at the famed Wentworth Woodhouse, 12 miles to the south-east - acquired the Bretton Estate through marriage to an heiress in 1406 and they and their descendants, the Beaumonts, remained for more than 500 years until the late 1940s when the estate was purchased by the old West Riding County Council.
Sir William Wentworth built Bretton hall in 1720, replacing the original medieval manor house. The hall became a teacher training college until its closure in 2007. Plans are afoot to turn it into a luxury hotel.
The final leg of this offering passes through the Visitor Centre at the Sculpture Park where you can take time out for a welcome coffee and a browse round.
PARKING: From the Leeds area, take the M1 south and leave at Junction 38. Take the A637 for Huddersfield, sweeping right, and then, almost immediately, park in the laybys on your left at Jebb Lane. If full, there is room in Jebb Lane.
THE YORKSHIRE SCULPTURE PARK
8 miles: Allow 3 ½ – 4 ½ hours. Maps: O/S Explorer 278 Sheffield and Barnsley and O/S Explorer 288 Bradford and Huddersfield
Start out along Jebb Lane (footway), soon sweeping sweep left to a property on left side of road and, here, turn right along a dirt road with an old stone barn on your left and house garden on right.
Enter field ahead (Virginia Cottage on right) and go straight across field with a wood (Haigh Greave) a few yards to your left. The path closes with the wall surrounding the wood – turn left with the wall up side of wood. Now spot the gate (with stile to its left) a few yards right of wood.
Cross stile and turn right along field edge to field corner and then turn left up field with Oxley Bank Wood on your right. After a few hundred yards, enter wood at stone gateway to an immediate fork and take the RIGHT (lesser) branch to descend through the wood and stick with the path like glue as it turns right to descend more steeply to leave the trees.
At bottom of slope, at a grassy fork, take left branch and press on with the green path becoming more pronounced. It leads through the edge of Bretton Park, eventually arriving at a bridle gate.
Continue with a sculpture ahead (Dales Stone Stack) and with a ha-ha to your right to gain park gates and turn LEFT up vehicle track (stone stack now on your right). As you walk up the track, look over your shoulder to Bretton Hall (built 1720).
After about 400 yards, cross stile on your right and go over the field slightly left (no path), aiming for the extreme left end of the wood ahead. As you cross the field, a clump of trees appears detached to left of wood – make sure you aim for the left end of this clump of trees to find a stile.
Cross it and go straight down edge of field to a road, turn left for 40 yards and turn right at fingerpost and go straight down field with the Emley Moor TV mast to your right.
The mast is the highest concrete structure in Europe at 1,080 ft., about the same height as the Eiffel Tower. It replaced a metal tower which collapsed in 1969 in freak weather conditions when it became overburdened with ice.
1: At bottom of field, go through hedge line (footbridge) and continue with hedge on your right up to Clayton Hall Farm. Go past right side of farm to arrive in a small parking area at house and exit by vehicle track which opens up to your right. Soon, turn right with the new concrete access track and drop down to sewage works and press on along access road to emerge in the A636.
Take the path opposite and go up field on an old concrete track. Enter next field (arrows) and continue on the broad vehicle track (ignore Kirklees Way). Follow this track all the way, eventually passing through gate (stile to its left) with White Cross Farm on hillside ahead.
Stay with the vehicle track, passing under telegraph wires, up towards the farm, joining hedge on your left. When hedge and track turn left to farm, go straight ahead (old machinery on right), down a dip to a pond and up to a stile. Turn left along vehicle track and follow it out to a road (Ash Lane).
Cross it half left to a fingerpost and go down the field in line of fingerpost – or, better perhaps, turn left and right round field edge – to gain a marker post. Enter field on your left and go half right (as arrow) across field corner to a stile.
Cross it and footbridge over the Little Dike and go up hedge on your right to a steep, high stile at top of field. Climb it and turn right on a good path enclosed between fence and hedge. At end of path, go through new metal gate (water trough) and take the new stile ahead (to right of another new gate).
Cross the stile, put your back against it and go half right to a new gate and stile in wire fence and continue in the same line over next field (sheep trod) to root out a stile in bottom field corner by bushes.
Go down right edge of next field, cross a stile and go slightly right down middle of next field (no path) to a stile visible in bottom fence. Cross it and turn right to a footbridge and a green metal “chicane” stile and then go slightly right across middle of the huge field (no path) to a gate in far corner.
2: Continue by hedge on your right to arrive at a padlocked metal gate with a tiny metal walkers’ gate to its left. Pass through and follow the track towards farm for 30 yards only to a wooden shed on your left (fingerpost leaning against it) and, here, go off left past a silo with barns on your right. Go through gate into farm drive and turn left, past a new detached house, to emerge in Ash Lane.
Turn left and walk single file, facing the traffic, and taking great care on this busy and narrow highway.
On arriving at main road (A636) cross it half left and go along vehicle tracks for 30 yards only to a concrete block on your left and turn left up side of block. Follow this fine path for more than half a mile, eventually past the entrance to a farm on your left, to arrive – have patience! - at log piles at a cross track and fingerpost. Turn right, soon entering the parkland of Bretton Hall.
This fine path leads to the Visitor Centre at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. On arriving in tarred road, go straight ahead down another tarred road, through gates (red sign: No parking in this area).
After about 100 yards, turn left up steps and along terrace. At end of terrace, turn left through hedge and turn right up steps to Visitor Centre and go straight ahead, past cafes, toilets and shops. Time to take a breather!
Exit building and go ahead for 50 yards (car park on left) and turn right, down steps, into the Sculpture Park and go half left on the man-made path (sign for the chapel). Cross over a road and continue down the path with sculptures to your right.
Cross a gravel track – chapel to left – and go straight ahead (Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure on left) to next gravel track at a sheepfold. Turn left. Follow this track to its end and go straight ahead to exit park to right of gatehouse (A637 ahead). Turn right along footway to regain your vehicle.