Explore High and Low Bradfield, South Yorkshire
Twin villages have become a haven for city dwellers from Sheffield in search of tranquility and breathtaking scenery<br/>Words and photographs by Bill Hearld
They have their ups and downs in Bradfield. For one thing, the place is split into two settlements – High Bradfield and Low Bradfield – one at the top of a hill (altitude 850ft) the other way down in a valley. They also have distinctly seasonal personas; as one local put it: ‘In winter, you hardly see a soul. In summer, you can’t move for visitors.’
We were chatting in the Postcard Caf� and Stores, the only shop-cum-caf� in either Bradfield. And, as I am finding more and more in the Republic of South Yorkshire, the natives are among the friendliest people on earth. High and Low Bradfield are six miles north-west of Sheffield, stone built and set in striking farmland just inside the Peak District National Park. The vistas are breathtaking.
Low Bradfield, which was largely destroyed in the 1850s when it was the first village in the path of the Great Sheffield Flood, has the facilities – the village store, cricket field, newly-built village hall, tennis courts, parish council headquarters, car park and, a rarity these days, public toilets.
High Bradfield, dominated by the Grade One listed, 15th century Church of St Nicholas, has the edge for beauty if you have a head for heights. It is under half a mile from Low Bradfield but that is up a very steep, winding, Himalayan-style road which is not for weak-hearted hikers. By car it is a drive in second gear but the views from atop are worth the effort.
Beside the church and standing sentinel over the large graveyard, is an attractive multi-angular building with church windows. This was The Watch House. It was built in 1745 to prevent body snatching in the days of Burke and Hare and is the only surviving watch house in Yorkshire. Oh, and High Bradfield has the distinction of having its own brewery. Dairy farmer and home-brew enthusiast John Gill was struggling with the price of milk, so he decided to diversify. Five years ago he and his son converted a barn complex at their Watt House Farm, hired an award-winning head brewer and set up Bradfield Brewery. Last Christmas Eve, it celebrated with its thousandth brew.
The micro-brewery now produces 25,000 pints of beer in a range of distinctive cask-conditioned real ales which are sold all over the country but particularly in the North. John reckons the secret of their success is due largely to the crystal-clear Peak District water from their own borehole on the farm. ‘Farmers have to diversify these days,’ said John. He was lucky. He turned his hobby into a business and is doing quite well, thank you very much.
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Back down in Low Bradfield and away from the rarefied atmosphere of its little twin sister, we are still ensconced in the Postcard Caf�, which is also the post office. I have just missed the Tuesday Knitters, a group of ladies who gather in the caf� every Tuesday morning to chat, drink tea or coffee, knit – and chat some more.
Postmaster and owner of the caf�/store is incomer Steve Dennis who encourages the use of the place as a social centre and enjoys a natter as much as the rest. He serves and sells mainly local produce in the store, including home-made cakes and even home-made scented soaps produced nearby. He does photocopying for villagers, takes in dry cleaning, rents out the quaint little cottage next door as a holiday home and has a book exchange in the caf� – ‘bring one in, take one out,’ he says.
In summer, the twin villages are a haven for the city dwellers of Sheffield who flock there for the beautiful scenery, the up-hill, down-dale walks and the quaintness of the Bradfields.
That’s when the last surviving pub in each village comes into its own. Anglers and sailing enthusiasts also call in from the nearby reservoirs. Fiercely competitive cricket matches in Low Bradfield often attract up to 700 spectators and it is then that the locals feel a little claustrophobic. Though Bradfield Parish, with an area of 53 square miles, is one of the biggest parishes in England, the villages of High and Low Bradfield each have a population of only a few hundred.
Dairy and sheep farming still dominate the area, supplying much of the milk for Sheffield and beyond. Some residents travel to Sheffield or Rotherham to work, some have their own home-based businesses and many are retired. They live there because they want to – for the tranquillity and beauty of the villages.
Where are they: High and Low Bradfield are six miles north-west of Sheffield and just west of the A6102. They are about 10 miles from M1 junction 36. From Monday to Saturday, hourly buses run between the two villages and Sheffield Hillsborough Interchange.
Where to park: There is free on-street parking in both villages (but please respect the residents) and there is a free, council-owned car park at Low Bradfield close to the village hall and public toilets.
What to do: The area is popular with hikers and there are plenty of set walks, including the five-mile Bradfield-Holdworth Circular. Admire the stone-built beauty and history of these small hamlets or just take in the spectacular vistas. Summer cricket matches in Low Bradfield attract hundreds of spectators.