This amiable amble through a lush-green South Yorkshire landscape of rolling fields and woods gives you the added opportunity to enjoy the free attractions at Elsecar Heritage Centre at journey’s end.
The heritage centre is based upon the old Elsecar ironworks which closed in the 1850s.
The owner of the ironworks, Earl Fitzwilliam, who lived at nearby Wentworth Woodhouse – the stately home with the longest facade in Britain – then converted the site into workshops which became the industrial hub of his business empire.
Earl Fitzwilliam established engineering workshops, engine sheds, wagon repair sheds, a blacksmith’s forge, joinery shop and saw mill. The workshops remained in the control of the Fitzwilliam family until nationalisation of the coal mines in 1947 when they were purchased by the Coal Board. In 1968, Barnsley Council bought the premises from the Coal Board, renovated them – and the heritage centre followed.
Elsecar’s history from its earliest times was one of farming and agriculture, although records show that coal was first exploited in 1307 from shallow seams near the surface. But all that changed in 1795 when the Industrial Revolution engulfed the community. The catalyst was the opening of Elsecar Colliery, the ironworks and a tar distillery by the Fitzwilliams.
The following year, 1796, the Elsecar branch of the Dearne and Dove Canal was completed to take out the coal and iron and the area’s prosperity soared. Elsecar Colliery closed in 1983 as part of the general decline of the Yorkshire coalfield.
The Fitzwilliam earldom became extinct in 1979 on the death of the 10th earl without issue. His home, Wentworth Woodhouse, is now owned by a charitable concern, the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, which is working to secure the house’s long-term future.
PARKING: From the Leeds area, take the M1 south, exit at Junction 36 and follow the brown signs for Elsecar Heritage Centre. These change to brown signs depicting a train – follow them, turning right along Armroyd Lane to gain the heritage centre. Use the first car park you enter.
ELSECAR AND WENTWORTH
6 ¼ miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S Explorer 287 Sheffield and Barnsley
Exit car park at Elsecar Heritage Centre into road (Elsecar Park golf course opposite), cross the road, turn right along pavement and turn left at fingerpost just before The Market pub. Follow this enclosed path with sports field on right and golf course on left.
On arriving in entry road to Elsecar Park, go straight ahead along right side of brick toilet block and onward by stone wall on your right and with Elsecar Reservoir)opening up to your left. At end of field, go straight ahead through a bower of trees and continue along right edge of field to enter trees to gain a lone stone gate post with yellow arrow and a “B” for the long-distance Barnsley Boundary Walk.
Turn left for 50 yards - until just before a fingerpost for the Timberland Walk - and turn RIGHT into a field, passing twin arrows on gate post. A stout path leads across field and then follows right edge of field. After a couple of hundred yards, ignore path and stile to your right – keep straight on along edge of field.
After about 100 yards, bear right into trees, over stile, and onward through the wood, soon turning right to a stile in a dip (steps). Cross the stile and turn left along field edge to emerge in access track and turn right to a road (Broadcarr Road).
Cross the road, turn left for a few yards and turn right at blue sign for Trans Pennine Trail, soon crossing Sheffield-Barnsley railway. On crossing rail line, do not sweep left, but go straight ahead through a riders’ gate (arrows).
After about 100 yards – don’t overshoot! – turn left over stile (arrows) and go straight across field aiming for pylon to spot a stile on your right just before a culvert. Cross the stile, turn left over footbridge and up steps into Skier’s Spring Wood past metal barrier.
Now stay alert! Count out 30 paces to arrive at a fork – STOP! Turn right to be faced immediately by two paths – take the righthand (stronger) path up through trees. Go over a cross track and straight ahead to strike a stronger track within a few yards and turn left.
At top corner of wood (yellow tape), where path sweeps left, bear right through a low, broken wall into a field and cross it on a good path.
1: Go through hedge into next field and on in same line to field corner (Springwood Farm on right), pass through trees and turn right along a broad track.
Within a few yards, where track joins a tarred entry drive, turn LEFT over stile and then follow hedge on your right. Pass into next field and continue by hedge on your right to emerge in A6135. Cross it, turn right past Park Side Farm Shop and immediately turn left at fingerpost.
At end of this enclosed path, enter Bell Ground Wood and follow the main track through wood with no diversions to arrive – eventually – in a cross path and turn right to arrows within 20 yards. Turn left, soon bearing right with the main track to exit wood after about 200 yards.
Turn left along a dirt access road (Black Lane) with ruined Tankersley Old Hall on your right.
The hall began life as a medieval hunting lodge attached to adjacent Tankersley Park and was enlarged and converted into a home in the late 16th century by the mighty Savile family, Lords of Tankersley from the 14th to 17th centuries when the manor was acquired by Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, of nearby Wentworth Woodhouse.
The hall had fallen into disrepair by the early 18th century and was partially dismantled about 1730, the stone being used in local buildings. Another link to the Earl of Strafford is encountered later in this circuit - his tomb is to be found at Wentworth old church.
Follow Black Lane to its end, passing under railway, to emerge in A6135. Cross with great care and go along Harley Road opposite into Harley. Continue to the Horseshoe pub and turn right along Occupation Road and follow it, past cricket ground, to where it joins Hoodhill Road. Take the path to right of the Hoodhill Road nameplate.
On emerging in a street, turn left, cross to righthand side of road, step on to grass verge and follow hedge on your right to enter a tarred access road. Go straight ahead, past a “Private road” sign, and continue for half mile to where tarred road sweeps left (TPT sign on right).
2: Sweep left with road and follow it up the slope. Go over brow of hill and press on with Wentworth church tower drawing ever closer. The road leads all the way into Wentworth, passing church.
Next are the stark ruins of the 12th-century old church – well worth the short diversion - with its fine tombs of the Wentworth family, former owners of Wentworth Woodhouse (other family members are buried in the churchyard, the site guarded by tall metal railings).
Go straight ahead to enter road and take Barrowfield Lane opposite. After 100 yards, as road sweeps left, turn right at fingerpost along farm access track. Just before farm entrance, sweep left with vehicle track, past a stone building and sheds and metal gantries, and continue to a three-sided fingerpost. Turn left to a gate.
Just before gate, sweep right and follow the strong path – occasional white arrows sprayed on ground, on our visit – to enter a field and go straight up slope on vehicle tracks, aiming to right of two prominent trees.
On gaining hedge line at a gap, turn right along hedge towards a wood (Kings Wood). At top of field (lone gate post with red blob), turn left along hedge with Hoyland on hillside ahead. As you approach a pile of manure (or some such!), go half right across the field (white arrows on ground) to a gate which is visible at edge of Kings Wood.
Enter wood, take left fork and follow main path down through wood to emerge in field with twin power poles to your right. Go straight across field to enter next wood and go straight through it to buildings (Elsecar Heritage Centre), turn left into car park, pass through it into the first car park. Regain your vehicle.