A largely off-road trail in South Yorkshire
I first did this bike ride on a glorious evening last summer but, at just nine miles long, it’s well suited to the shorter winter days too. Much of it is off-road on narrow bridleways so you will need a mountain bike or you could always consider the route as a long walk instead.
Start at Denby Dale station. Follow Wood Lane down to the A636. Turn left onto this road and, after a short distance, take the first turning on the right, Norman Road, by the HSBC bank. At the junction at the end of the road turn left along Dearnside Road then right at a t-junction up Miller Hill. Soon afterwards fork left along Hollin Edge. Continue to climb as the road leaves the town. At a junction at Exley Gate carry on and keep right as the road passes Dry Hill to meet a crossroads with the A635 by The Dunkirk Inn. Continue ahead on B6115 into Upper Denby. Bear left at the green after The George pub and bear left again at the church to carry on along Falledge Lane across Low Common towards Penistone.
At the junction with the A629 turn left and then first right down Wellthorne Lane and past The Fountain, a coaching inn parts of which date back to the 17th century. (Other snack spots nearby are a rather plain picnic site or beside the trees a little further round the reservoir). Bear left at the sharp bend in the road and then along the top of the dam. Turn right a t-junction, take the first left and then bear sharp left where a track joins from the right.
A long ascent takes you to the top of Spicer Hill. Here you should pause and breath a sign of relief for you have reached the highest point of the ride, albeit a humble 310 metres. The view is worthy of close examination too. In opposite directions and on the horizon are towers of contrasting usefulness. The Emley TV transmitter pricks the sky like a needle to the north while the folly, Hartcliff Tower, is discernable to the south, though easily mistaken for a farm silo. To the left of the tower is a splendid viaduct spanning the Don and close by, right on the summit, are 13 wind turbines. Their tight-fitting steel doors are submarine-like and, close up, they whir like the rinse-cycle of a washing machine.
All around are reservoirs like giant puddles, most notably Ingbirchworth Reservoir (passed earlier) which was built in the 1860s to provide water to Barnsley after the town’s previous supply, the River Dearne, had become too polluted.
Return the way you came but after 300 metres turn right off the road and onto a signed bridleway which provides a gentle descent. At the bottom pass through a gate and continue uphill along a walled track until you reach Ingbirchworth. Turn right and continue over the bridge to the main road at Cockle Edge, opposite the pub. Turn right onto the A629 and soon turn left onto a signed bridleway.
Follow the blue bridleway signs across the fields through several gates. Eventually, at the B6115 in Upper Denby turn right and then first left down Bank Lane. Continue following this lane as it gets rougher, ignore turnings off to the left and right, and continue down through Hagg Wood on the cobbled pathway. This bridleway meets the A635 in Denby Dale. Turn right and immediately under the rail viaduct and then first left down another Bank Lane. Turn left down Norman Road to retrace your route to the A636 and finally left back to the station.
No trip to Denby Dale is complete without a visit to the world’s largest pie dish. (Find it by turning right onto the A636 rather than left). Sited unassumingly beside the road, the dish is basically an 18-foot long, oblong metal trough that these days is planted with flowers. The pie’s origins can be traced back to 1788 when the first mega-pie was baked to celebrate the short-lived return to sanity of George III. This curious form of celebration is believed to have been facilitated by the existence of large ovens for the local manufacture of earthenware pipes. Other occasions deemed worthy of the pie treatment have included the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, the repeal of the Corn Laws, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and, most recently, the Millennium. The 1964 pie marked four royal births but was also known as the “Darby and Joan pie” to raise funds for a community centre for local pensioners. It is the dish for this pie which is outside Denby Dale Pie Hall today.
Distance: 9 miles.
Getting there: Denby Dale station lies on the Sheffield-Huddersfield line. Alternatively, there is plenty of on-road parking in the village.
Terrain: Some of the bridleways are so narrow they are more like footpaths and there are some steep hills. Likely to be muddy in winter. Much of the route is through woodland and reasonably sheltered.
Map: Pick up a free leaflet in the ‘Bike Rides in Kirklees’ series at local Tourist Information Centres.