Rural surprises in the heart of industrial South Yorkshire.
Minimum time 2h00
Distance 9 miles (14.5km)
Suggested map OS Explorer 278 Sheffield & Barnsley
Start/finish Worsbrough Country Park car park; grid ref: SE 352033
Trails/tracks old railway tracks and short surfaced tracks through country park; alternative return on lanes
Landscape reservoir and valley with mix of farmland and woodland
Public toilets at Worsbrough Mill
Tourist information Barnsley, tel 01226 206757
Bike hire Biketyke, Barnsley, www.biketyke.co.uk
Recommended pub Button Mill Inn, Barnsley
Notes Some steep climbs and descents on return through lanes
© Automobile Association 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
Leave the M1 at junction 36 and follow the A61 towards Barnsley. The Worsbrough Country Park car park is on the left as the road descends into the valley of the River Dove.
1 From the corner of the car park furthest from the road, a path leads via a ramp to a lane. Follow this right and down, then bear right before the museum and down past the Field Study Centre. Go over a couple of small bridges then turn left, with a sign to the Trans Pennine Trail. Follow the narrow track, rising quite steeply, keep straight ahead on tarmac, and finally go up alongside a gate to the railway track and turn left.
2 There's a short tree-lined section then it opens out, with views over the reservoir on the left. On the other side a short track and the crossing of a lane give access to Wigfield Open Farm and its cafıı. Follow the rail track to a barrier. Go straight across the lane to the continuation of the track, alongside a small car park.
3 The surroundings are now pleasantly rural, but your ears tell you that the M1 is not far off. High on the left beyond the motorway is the impressive faııade of Wentworth Castle. After a slightly narrower section, negotiate more barriers at the crossing of a narrow tarmac lane - or you can take the mountain bikers' route over humps. Soon after this you come out on to the iron bridge over the M1. High parapets, embellished with fine graffiti art, conceal the motorway from view. And very quickly, depending on wind direction, the noise fades.
4 Continue along the narrow trail through young woods, the trees meeting overhead in places. After crossing a sandy track, with more barriers, there's an open area, with masses of ragwort, picnic tables, and regular glimpses of open fields. The track now begins to climb discernibly, and an elevated section takes you through more mature woods. Just before a bridge, with a road below, watch for a sign showing a cyclist, a pedestrian and a British Rail symbol. (It's possible to continue a little further but soon the line is blocked, before it enters the Silkstone tunnel. The Trans Pennine Trail continues from this point by the 'up and over path'.)
5 Either turn back along the rail track or follow the sign down a ramp to a lane and turn left. Descend past Nabs Wood (Woodland Trust) on the right, make a short climb, and swing left at the top of the rise, enjoying the more open views. Drop down again, go over the bridge and then climb once more. It soon eases off. Pass some fine, recently restored timber-framed buildings at Falthwaite Grange, keep left at a small junction, and then a slight dip leads all too quickly into a very steep but not too long climb past Bagger Wood and into the village of Hood Green. At a T-junction where the road levels off, turn left.
6 At the far end of the village there's another short steep rise. Keep left at a junction. Continue through woodland with steep slopes dropping to the left, then descend quite steeply, into the village of Stainborough. As the road begins to level out there's a crossroads. (The alternative pub, the Strafford Arms, is a short way up to the right here.) Turn left and descend some more. Swing left by the entrance to Strafford Industrial Park then immediately fork right on to a rough track. This gets very rough on the final rise before rejoining the old railway at a Trans Pennine Trail sign. Turn right here to head back to the start.
Wentworth Castle is conspicuous soon after Point 3. Those doing the return through the lanes will pass much closer to it, but see little of the castle itself. They will, however, see some of the associated estate buildings. The present castle is largely the result of a massive programme of works in the early 18th century, instigated by Sir Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. He originally expected to inherit the estate at Wentworth Woodhouse, a few miles away, but it went to a cousin instead. Much of the motivation for all the grand works around Wentworth Castle seems to have been a burning desire to outshine his cousin's property. The castle is now home to the Northern College for Residential Adult Education. It is a Grade I listed building, but is probably less important than the surrounding gardens and parkland. These contain a fine iron conservatory and mock Gothic castle, which gained greater public prominence during the first (2003) series of the BBC2 programme Restoration, ultimately achieving third place in the final. The gardens are open to the public at limited times, mostly on weekend afternoons.
This ride starts on the edge of Barnsley, and crosses the M1, so you might not expect to find peace and quiet, but the surroundings are almost entirely rural. It makes for a gentle ride, ideal for younger children, especially with the country park and open farm near the start. The more ambitious can take on the return through the lanes, which doesn't add much to the distance but does include a steep climb and descent.