Wooded Coalfield Farmland

The wooded coalfield farmland landscape character type (LCT) occurs in two locations in the Area: to the east of Grimethorpe in the northern part of the area, and in the south-west of the area, around Hoyland. It is generally associated with the more elevated land.

Location and Context

The wooded coalfield farmland landscape character type (LCT) occurs in two locations in the DVGHP Area: to the east of Grimethorpe in the northern part of the area, and in the south-west of the area, around Hoyland. It is generally associated with the more elevated land.

Key Characteristics

  • Underlying sandstone and shale ‘coal measures’ geology. Rolling landform containing steeper slopes and the areas of highest relief (up to 130m above sea level).
  • Occasional streams (often tree-lined) which flow into the Dearne river system.
  • Extensive tree cover and large woodland blocks, including Wombwell Wood, Howell Wood and West Haigh Wood. Also smaller copses, shelterbelts, mature hedgerows and hedgerow trees.
  • A mixture of arable and pastoral land uses, within fields which are generally smaller and more irregularly shaped than those of the Open Coalfield Farmland.
  • Woodlands, streams, hedgerows and field boundaries provide valuable semi natural habitats.
  • Historic features visible within the landscape include ancient woodlands, commons and fields.
  • Archaeological sites from various periods, often associated with woodland.
  • Settlement generally limited to scattered farms and to 20th Century pit villages such as Grimethorpe. The towns of Hoyland and Wombwell also sit within this LCT.
  • Visual impacts of industrial heritage (mines, tips etc) and of major road corridors which run through and adjacent to this LCT.
  • An historic landscape with a strong sense of time-depth.
  • Influences of the Wentworth Woodhouse Estate to the south of Hoyland.

Historic Landscape Character

The South Yorkshire Historic Environment Characterisation shows a variety of historic landscape patterns within the Wooded Coalfield Farmland. The LCT includes: Assorted enclosure; Agglomerated enclosure; Surveyed enclosure; Planned industrial settlements (Grimethorpe); Early-mid 20th Century private suburbs (Harley)

Perceptual and Special Qualities

This landscape contains many historic features such as woodlands, commons and field boundaries. It has a strong sense of time-depth, and the trees and woodlands also give it a strong texture. They also create an increased sense of enclosure and intimacy over much of the LCT, although there are some long views, especially from higher land. More recent colliery restorations have added to the woodland cover, providing further variation in the landscape. Seasonal changes in vegetation colour ensure that the landscape provides a varied backdrop in views from lower land.

Despite the presence of settlement and transport routes, much of the landscape feels remote and tranquil, particularly in the south. Sites such as Wombwell Wood and West Haigh Wood have a very special sense of detachment from the modern world around them. However, other parts of the Wooded Coalfield Farmland (e.g. around Hoyland) have a strong visual connection between settlement and countryside, and a much more settled character. There are also localised strong influences from former mining, such as Grimethorpe- Park Springs Colliery.

Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites

Despite later mining developments, many historic landscape features remain, including:

  • Archaeological sites including Romano-British settlement (Scheduled Monument), and ancient wood banks in Wombwell Woods, and a medieval enclosure in West Haigh Wood. There is also the site of an old iron works at Smithley.
  • Historic farms and settlements, e.g. Moated site to east of Grimethorpe (Scheduled Monument). Conservation Areas exist at Worsbrough, Darfield and Brierley.
  • Surviving woodland patterns are evidence of ancient assarting (clearance of woodlands to make fields on a piecemeal basis).
  • The largest woodlands are accessible by the public. West Haigh Wood is a Local Nature Reserve and part is Common Land, Howell Wood is a Country Park and Wombwell Wood is a Nature Reserve and also a focus for school and community projects (e.g. the e-wood project).
  • The surviving buildings in the pit villages (housing, pubs, chapels etc) contribute to the heritage and cultural identity of the area.
  • Carlton Main brickworks, near Grimethorpe, geological Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Forces for Change and Threats to the Landscape

  • Past and recent settlement expansion, which is visually intrusive in the landscape, but often has limited physical access to it.
  • Past loss/ damage to woodland through quarrying, mining, tipping, clearance for agriculture etc.
  • Fragmentation of semi-natural habitats by development and roads.
  • Recent loss of settlement distinctiveness as a result of economic decline and insensitive new development.
  • Loss of character of traditional buildings due to replacement of windows, conversion from original use, etc.
  • Pressure for further residential and commercial development.
  • Fly tipping and degradation in the quality of the landscape, particularly around settlements, resulting in a neglected ‘urban fringe’ character.
  • Conversion of agricultural land to pony paddocks around settlements, resulting in fragmentation of the agricultural landscape.
  • Renewable energy sources, e.g. biomass crops and wind turbines.
  • Potential demand of former quarries for landfill.
  • Potential impacts of climate change, e.g. changes in woodland species composition, arable crops, growing seasons etc.