The Royal Geographical Society praises the historical importance of Grimethorpe


A former West Yorkshire mining village is chosen for a new geographical exploration project.

Grimethorpe, which once had one of the most productive coal mines in Britain, has a new claim to fame. It has been named by the Royal Geographical Society as one of the most interesting and diverse places to explore in the country.

The accolade comes as part of a project called Discovering Britain which aims to explain the stories behind the UK’s built and natural landscapes through a series of self-led geographical walks.

The walk looks at the stories of Grimethorpe in the days before, during and after the coal industry took over the village. Walkers will discover the former industrial sites and new factories, fields and woods, residential streets and community institutions.

It tells the story of the ‘golden pulley pit’ that was Grimethorpe Colliery and how it was one of the most productive coal mines in Britain, bringing a million tons to the surface each year. Its ‘black gold’ fuelled power stations, factories, steam trains, home fires and even the boilers of Buckingham Palace.

The closure of the colliery led to unemployment, poverty and despair,’ says Dr Rita Gardner, director of RGS (now partnered with the Institute of British Geographers-IBG). ‘Yet through resilience and regeneration funds, the town’s physical environment has improved, new roads and houses have been built which has attracted investors and created jobs, rebuilding the community’s hope.

‘This walk tells the story from local people’s perspectives reflecting on the past and sharing their thoughts on the future. We hope that people across the UK will explore the fabulously diverse geography and history that is on all our doorsteps. Grimethorpe has both these in abundance.’

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Michael Palin, television explorer and immediate past president of the society, adds: ‘All too often we forget that travel doesn’t have to include trains and boats and planes. As Discovering Britain shows, some of the world’s most varied, spectacular and accessible landscape is only a strong pair of boots away. Discovering Britain brings our country to life, beneath your feet.’

The walk around Grimethorpe - ‘Memories and Futures’ - is a self-guided walk that starts and ends at the Acorn Centre, High Street. It is five and a half miles long and family friendly. Go to It’s free to download and you’ll find a map and audio commentary to accompany you on your journey.


The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is the professional body for geography.

It was formed in 1830 and works to advance geography. The society does this by supporting and promoting geography in school, at university, in fieldwork and expeditions and by engaging public audiences through talks, discussions, exhibitions and online.

The society’s large geographical collection of maps, images and manuscripts is also open to the public.

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