Though it may be short, this circuit will give you a real kick up the backside.
The hardy South Pennine terrain around Emley is deeply undulating – okay, let’s say it’s quite hilly – and this, combined with the cloying ground of winter, will slow you down to a snail’s pace (it certainly took the bounce out of our step).
The route negotiates a glorious South Yorkshire landscape – in the shadow of the famous TV mast - with outstanding views, good paths and first-rate waymarking. Well worth making the trip south.
Emley is a Saxon settlement of the Dark Ages. It was recorded in Domesday Book of 1086 as King’s land, tenanted by the original Saxon owner of the estate, Godric. In the 12th century, Godric’s descendant as Lord of the Manor, another Godric, granted land to the abbot of far-away Byland Abbey, near Kilburn, and the monks turned the area into a major centre of iron-ore production, exploiting ironstone from shallow bell pits and smelting it locally in primitive furnaces. These medieval workings are still shown on the O/S large-scale map.
Byland Abbey was also responsible for a lucrative woollen trade, the by-product of the large flocks of sheep kept on abbey lands.
In 1253, Emley’s prosperity was further assured when Henry III granted a charter for a weekly market and an annual five-day fair in May to the new estate owners, the Fitzwilliams. The white-painted stump of the market cross is still the centrepiece of the village and Emley Feast is still celebrated in May. In 1516, the Lordship of the Manor descended through marriage to another famous Yorkshire dynasty, the Saviles, with whom it remains to this day.
Iron-ore mining is not the only industry to blight the green surrounds of Emley - coal mining was first recorded in 1357 when several small enterprises opened on the edge of the village and on nearby Emley Moor. The last pit closed in 1985. The twin industries of iron and coal, supplemented by agriculture, expanded the population to a high point of 1,500 by 1840.
However, Emley suffered a setback shortly afterwards when new turnpike roads were constructed some distance away from the village. Previously, the village lay astride the main route into Lancashire.
The loss of its main trading route and the growth of nearby industrial towns gradually turned Emley into a rural backwater.
emley and kirklees way
5¾ miles: Allow 3 – 3½ hours.
Map: O/S Explorer 288 Bradford and Huddersfield
APPROACH and PARKING:
From the Leeds area, take the M1 south to Junction 39 and then the A636 for Denby Dale. Just before Clayton West, slow down and look out keenly for the badly-signposted right turn for Emley. Drive into the centre of village to the white market cross, turn right into Church Street and immediately right again into a free car park next to a hair salon.
From the car park in Church Street, turn left back to the white market cross, cross the road (Upper Lane) and go straight ahead (big sign: The Wentworth). Go down left side of The Wentworth with Emley football ground to your left.
At end of this enclosed path, enter field past a vehicle barrier and cross it slightly left on a good path. Ignore kissing gate on your right for Emley Millennium Green – keep on for a few yards to enter an enclosed path (waymarks) and, at end of this – with a magnificent surprise view opening up over a great swathe of South Yorkshire – enter field and turn LEFT, across front of houses, to a stile.
Cross it and turn right down farm access drive. When drive turns right, go straight ahead to a split in the path at a gate – take the righthand path, over stile, and go across field on obvious path with the Emley Moor TV mast to your right.
* The mast is the tallest freestanding structure in the UK and the highest concrete structure in Europe at 1,080 feet, about the same height as the Eiffel Tower. It replaced a metal tower which collapsed in 1969 in freak weather conditions when it became top heavy with ice.
Cross stile at field bottom and go down next field a quarter left to gain the hedge on your left at a gap (and stile). Go through the gap and turn right along hedge. At bottom of field, cross a stile and go straight on, past horse paddocks, to emerge in vehicle track and turn left.
After about 200 yards, turn left (blue arrows) through a rusty metal gate with stile to its left. Follow the broad track with hedge on your left to a riders’ gate with blue arrow (we had to stride across a tiny stream). Go through the gate and continue with hedge on your left.
At end of this huge field, go through gate and straight ahead along vehicle track (can be muddy!) to pass along the right edge of the huge farm complex at Lady Oak. There is then a fine stone house on your left, Emley Old Hall – immediately turn left (at old farm cart) through riders’ gate with blue arrow.
After 50 yards - when level with the house – turn RIGHT down the field (no path; white domes on your right) to gain a vehicle track and follow it down to a riders’ gate to the right of the farm gate.
1: Turn right along the road (Kiln Lane) for 100 yards and then turn left up farm drive to a high metal gate across the track – bypass it on its left. Continue on the concrete drive to Gillcar Farm. Immediately on entering farmyard, turn left to a gate, stile and fingerpost.
Now go straight ahead, by the wall, past a rubble heap and on by the hedge, over stile, and straight across next field, over stile and onward in the same line over two more stiles with a farm to your left. The second stile has three arrows for three separate circular walks, one of which, the Kirklees Way, we now follow for a couple of miles.
Go straight up the field to an obvious waymarked stile and on to the next one and then straight on to Woodhouse Farm with caravans, staying on left side of fence and then a hedge to pass an old P & O container.
Go past the caravans to spot a stile to your front right – to the right of a green container - just before the farmhouse.
Cross the stile, go straight ahead across front of house and turn left into the road.
Turn right for 20 paces, turn left across the road (footpath sign), cross the stone stile, enter house drive and go straight ahead with the big house (Emley Woodhouse) on your right. Enter the vegetated area ahead and continue past marker post with two yellow discs to a fingerpost.
Descend the banking diagonally left to next marker post, turn left and right round the field corner, to pass the next marker and continue down left edge of field with Emley to your left and Flockton on the hillside ahead.
2: At field bottom, go straight ahead (Kirklees Way arrow), down a slope, over footbridge spanning the Little Dike and on by hedge on your right, over stile and on by wire fence. Continue up right edge of fields towards Flockton to arrive in an unmade lane (Leisure Lane). Cross it half left to a stile with multiple arrows and continue up right edge of field.
Cross the next stile and press on by hedge, descending to cross a slab bridge over the Clough Dike, and then go straight up field to marker post and turn left along the hedge to Furnace Grange Farm (on your left).
Cross a broken stile and go a quarter left over field on a fine path. Now stay alert!
On crossing the next stile, turn LEFT along concrete drive to leave the Kirklees Way.
Within 50 yards, turn right along vehicle track and follow it for a short half mile to emerge in the Emley-Flockton road, turn right for 20 yards and then left at fingerpost and follow the access drive, keeping to the right of all properties.
The access drive becomes an unmade lane, soon sweeping right.
Follow this fine track for half a mile to Upper Crawshaw Farm, sweeping right and left to bypass the farm. On arriving in a cross track, turn left along the first of two vehicle tracks (blue arrow on telegraph pole) and follow this back to Emley.
Climb up a street of houses to the main road and turn left along pavement to the white market cross and the finish.