Trace the history of a South Yorkshire colliery, canal and railway in this walk across a region where post-industrial peace now reigns

Great British Life: Rabbit Ings topograph with coke works tower Rabbit Ings topograph with coke works tower (Image: Paul Kirkwood)

1. Leave car park through A-frame. At t-junction turn left and, in 200m, double-back right. Fork left to summit topograph. Turn right and descend to bench at which bear right and down to crossroads marked by boulder. Turn right to t-junction with information board then left. After 15m turn left onto Sandybridge Lane.

2. At the end turn right along road into Shafton. After Singing Man pub bear left onto Redthorne Way. At end of green take second left turn down Ash Mount. At the end of the lane continue ahead on footpath with hedge on left. Pass through metal kissing gate and under pylon wires. Bear right across field, go over stile and turn left then immediately bear right onto track. Pass under road bridge and after 100m as approaching next (disused railway) bridge fork left off path and up to track.

Great British Life: Sustrans milepost on Trans Pennine TrailSustrans milepost on Trans Pennine Trail (Image: Paul Kirkwood)

3. Turn left onto track. Just before gate bear right onto path to pass through A-frame and reach Church Lane. Turn right onto lane. Take care as the road is narrow and busy. At crossroads with B6428 continue ahead. After 200m at junction continue ahead across field, following footpath sign to Ryhill. At far side of field turn left signed to Church Lane passing alongside a travellers' site at the end.

Great British Life: Barnsley Canal along the walking route. Barnsley Canal along the walking route. (Image: Paul Kirkwood)

4. Turn right and soon left onto Navvy Lane. Cross bridges over canal and railway then turn left onto Trans Pennine Trail signed to South Royston, passing over canal. The path then threads between the railway on your left and canal on your right. After a mile emerge from the canal at a road and turn left. Pass under railway bridge and after 100m turn right back to car park.


Great British Life: Snowdrops at St Peters Church, FelkirkSnowdrops at St Peters Church, Felkirk (Image: Paul Kirkwood)

Industrial history lesson

The end of coal mining in South Yorkshire cast a dark shadow over the region but, standing on the summit of Rabbit Ings on a winter's day of Alpine sunshine the future looks bright.

The Ings is a 76-hectare nature reserve that opened in 2011 on the site of the Monckton Main colliery and later Royston Drift mine and the associated spoil heap. Crowning the ings is a topograph that indicates the dates and distances of mines. There's something gravestone-like about the stone plinth in the same way that the stark remains of the coke works tower just visible on the horizon could almost be a church. Mining was so central to the purpose, unity and lives of local communities it took on a seemingly religious importance.

St Peter's Church in Felkirk beckons you as you head north along the route of the old Dearne Valley Junction railway and is a good spot for a rest although it requires a minor diversion.

The return leg of the walk follows the towpath of the disused Barnsley Canal that forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail. Opened in 1799 the waterway was built to transport coal to the River Calder and beyond and corn for local mills in the other direction. Subsidence from coal mining contributed to the canal's demise and it closed in 1953. Breach, roach and pike all live in the canal these days and can be seen chasing insects to the surface of the water.

Eat here

Great British Life: Park Restaurant. Park Restaurant. (Image: Paul Kirkwood)

The Park Restaurant and Grill, Walton. Upmarket restaurant operated by Waterton Park golf club in garden setting. Serves Sunday lunch only 12-5pm. Beef, pork and chicken as well as pie of the day, mushroom wellington, nut roast, duck and fish.

Great British Life: New Inn. New Inn. (Image: Paul Kirkwood)

The New Inn, Walton. Quirkily furnished, characterful pub with beer garden. Sandwiches about £9, small plates £7 and mains £16. Vegan and gluten free also available. Food served daily from noon to 9pm.

Note: Walton is six miles north of Rabbit Ings.


Start/finish: Rabbit Ings, Royston. S71 4BB, grid ref SE 376 177.

Time/distance: 3 hours/8.9km.

Accessibility: Short climb to summit of Rabbit Ings but otherwise flat, easy walking.

Maps: OS Landranger 111 Sheffield & Doncaster. OS Explorer 278 Sheffield & Barnsley.

Parking: Rabbit Ings car park (free).

Map link: