Open Coalfields Farmland

The open coalfields farmland is the most extensive of the landscape character types (LCTs) in the DVLP Area, covering land in the in the north, centre and south.

Location and Context

The open coalfields farmland is the most extensive of the landscape character types (LCTs) in the DVLP Area, covering land in the in the north, centre and south.

Key Characteristics

  • Undulating landform on sandstone and shale geology, creating gently sloping valley sides and rounded ridges.
  • Generally occurs on land of medium height, between approx. 30m and 80m above sea level.
  • Few watercourses or areas of open water, although some meandering streams flow into the Dearne system.
  • Trees and woodland generally limited to field boundaries, small woodland blocks (e.g. Wath Wood) and woodland planted on landscaped spoil tips.
  • Productive agricultural land, predominantly in arable use.
  • Fields generally relatively large and regular in shape, reflecting the historic prevalence of common open-field farming in this area.
  • Hedgerow field boundaries often trimmed or gappy, but occasionally higher and sometimes with hedgerow trees. Stone walls occur in some parts of this LCT.
  • Former mines, and restored spoil tips, with angular topography and recent planting are a distinctive feature of the landscape.
  • A few nucleated historic rural settlements such as Old Denaby and Adwick- Upon-Dearne, and some surviving historic farm buildings.
  • Extensive 20th Century development associated with pit villages (e.g. Cudworth, Thurnscoe) built on high land and very prominent in the landscape, often forming skyline features.
  • Distinctive built heritage of pit villages including housing, schools, institutes and chapels.
  • Views of major roads add a dynamic element to the landscape.
  • Visually-prominent lines of pylons.

Historic Landscape Character

The South Yorkshire Historic Environment Characterisation shows a variety of historic landscape patterns within the Open Coalfield Farmland. The LCT includes: Surveyed enclosure; Agglomerated enclosure; nucleated rural settlements; Early-mid 20th Century private suburbs (Harlington); Industrial settlements planned industrial settlements; late 20th Century replanned centres (Goldthorpe); Extractive; Post-industrial

Perceptual and Special Qualities

This is an open landscape, with a sense of space and long views. It also provides the setting for many of the Lowland Valley Floor landscapes. Despite its exposed feel, this is a well-settled landscape, and settlements are an important component of views and of its sense of place. This is particularly noticeable in the northern and western parts of the LCT, which have views towards Barnsley. There are also strong visual connections from settlements out into the Open Coalfield Farmland. There are contrasts between natural and man-made landscape elements (between natural and planted woodland, for example, and between shallow natural slopes and steeper spoil tips) which add to the interest and complexity of the landscape. The sites of former collieries and their associated spoil tips (e.g. Cudworth Common, Houghton Main, Darfield Main) are prominent and distinctive features in the landscape.

Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites

  • Roman Ridge’ earthwork (Scheduled Monument) to the south of Swinton.
  • Grimethorpe Hall – a Listed 17th Century building in a derelict condition.
  • The site of Swinton Racecourse (marked as ‘Training Ground’ on 1840 maps).
  • Maurice Dobson Museum and Heritage Centre in nearby Darfield.
  • Site of Rockingham Pottery works south of Swinton, with surviving kiln (Scheduled Monument).
  • Historic farms, agricultural buildings and undeveloped rural villages e.g. Old Denaby, Billingley (Conservation Area) and Adwick- Upon-Dearne.
  • The surviving buildings in the pit villages (housing, pubs, chapels etc) parks and sports grounds contribute to the heritage and cultural identity of the area.
  • Disused railway lines (some used as trails).
  • Grave of 19th century reformist and poet Ebenezer Elliot in nearby Darfield Churchyard.
  • Restored industrial sites and spoil tips with recreational access (e.g. Phoenix Park)
  • Heavy anti- aircraft gun site at Bolton-Upon- Dearne (Scheduled Monument) which provided defence against airborne attacks on the South Yorkshire coalfields and industry. Its position in a shallow east-facing valley gave good views of approaching German bombers – though it was never used. It is currently in a poor state of repair with no official public access.
  • Local Nature reserve adjacent to urban centres at Creighton Woods (Swinton), and accessible woodland at Wath Wood.

Forces for Change and Threats to the Landscape

  • Past increased intensity of arable farming, resulting in hedgerow loss, fragmentation of habitats and reduced biodiversity.
  • Past settlement expansion, which created abrupt settlement edges and an awkward relationship between settlements and countryside. Although there are strong visual connections between settlements and countryside, physical access is limited.
  • Large scale structures affecting views e.g. commercial buildings in valley floors.
  • Visual impacts of renewable energy schemes (e.g. biomass crops, wind turbines).
  • Recent loss of settlement distinctiveness as a result of economic decline and insensitive new development.
  • Neglect of historic built features (e.g. Grimethorpe Hall and anti-aircraft gun site at Bolton-Upon-Dearne) and agricultural buildings.
  • Pressure for further residential and commercial development (including linear development) causing isolation and marginalisation of farmland, and loss of open character.
  • Fly tipping and degradation in the quality of the landscape, particularly around settlements, resulting in a neglected ‘urban fringe’ character.
  • Potential impacts of climate change, e.g. flooding, changes in crops, changes in woodland species composition.
  • Agri-environmental grant schemes for land management are a positive force for change.