The Hallamshire Forest

Sheffield and Barnsley's
Northern Forest Honeypot Destination

In the north of Sheffield is are a number of woodlands in close proximity to one another covering a huge area, with some woodlands spilling over into the Barnsley Borough. At Sheffield Environmental we believe that this expanse of woodland should be known as a destination in it's own right like Sherwood Forest in North Nottinghamshire, the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and Cheshire's Delamere Forest. This forest area should be given a name of its own that people can associate with South Yorkshire, but not take the name of any particular town, villiage or suburb due to its size.

In 2015 Sheffield began the process of branding itself the Outdoor City, making use of it's close proximity to the Peak District National Park and the percentage of parks and open spaces that are on offer to its residents for recreation. As part of that campaign we believe that the woodlands to the North of Sheffield, which forms a chain from the Peak District in the West to the M1 Motorway in the East and from Middlewood at it's Southern end past the Sheffield/Barnsley boundary (see map below) potentially upto Ingbirchworth at its Northern fringe. As with any forest here are many breaks in the woodland cover due to farms, villiages, roads etc. The core woodlands mainly are located in the Ewden Valley, the Greno Woods Complex and the Chapeltown Woodlands. This woodland core has something of a proud heritage made up of folk tales and provided fuel to power Sheffield's Industrial Revolution.
The M1 cutting through Smithy Wood on the Easternmost flank of the Hallamshire Forest.

Where did the idea come from?

Sheffield Environmental's Lead Campaigner Dave Dickinson has lived in Northern Sheffield for his whole life. As a child he was amazed by the size of Greno Woods, especially when combined with Wharncliffe Woods and other surrounding woodlands. He'd often ask his parents why wasn't it called Greno Forest? Fast Forward to 2008, on a return visit to the Highland Wildlife Park he was talking to Fraser a keeper who he shadowed while volunteering back in 2003. He was concerned about the cull that Pine Martens were facing in Strathspey due to their success in light of their lack of natural competition or predators. Suggesting that they should be reintroduced to England to help deal with the invasive grey squirrels.

It was while looking at a map of the South Yorkshire Forest's masterplan that Dave came up with the idea of the Hallamshire Forest, to unite the woodlands around Northern Sheffield under some kind of partnership. The partnership would allow landowners to work together to create the habitat required for a viable population of pine martens. Unfortunately Dave lacked the conacts or social media platform to get the idea off the ground. That was until 2015 when he started Sheffield Environmental, since then he has been in communication with local politicians, MPs and accademics. Spreading the word of the Hallamshire Forest Project, campaigning on saving Smithy Wood, a key part of this forest and promoting it's folklore through the Hal of Hallamshire characters.
View Up Ewden Valley and to Deepcar from Wharncliffe Crags

A thriving culture of myth an legend

It is often said that folk tales give people a greater sense of attachment to a landscape than it's conservation value, which in part is why Sheffield Environmental has been working to revive some of those folk tales through Hal of Hallamshire & Friends. However there are characters from local folklore that need little or no introduction

Famously Robin Hood or Robin of Loxely came from the southern edge of what is now the Hallamshire Forest area, prior to being expelled from his home to live life as an 'Outlaw' in Sherwood Forest and his eventual death at Kirklees Abbey.
There are countless Ghost Stories talking of the haunting of Stocksbridge Bypass, other places and buildings that have built up a rich tapestry of folk tales.
The Dragon's Den, Wharncliffe Crags

The Hallamshire Forest helped drive Sheffield's industrial revolution

Today we are mainly left with arcaeolocial fragments of the Hallamshire Forest's contribution to Sheffield's industrial revolution although the raw materials that kick started the series of events in the form of the woodland are still there.

From the field systems that can be found in pockets of Greno Woods, to the Bronze age barrows and enclosures that modern technology allows us to pick up via sattelite, through the tree canopy. To the weirs along the Upper River Don, that along with the work of the charcoal burners and wood craftsmen harvested the raw energy of the Hallamshire Forest, which in turn drove the industrial revolution in Sheffield. This allowed our great city to be the place that invented modern game of football and stainless steel.
The Boggard, overlooking Oughtibridge from the Birley Stone

Why Hallamshire Forest?

The first question on most people's lips would be, why don't we call it the Sheffield Forest, it's mainly within Sheffield? With Wharncliffe Wood lying in Barnsley's old Wortley Estate, much of it lies outside Sheffield. Added to this, the Forestry Commission's 118 hectare mainly coniferous estate between Uckfield and and Crowborough in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is already called Sheffield Forest.

As the forest area straggles the Barnsley/Sheffield Boundary it would be unfair on either settlement to name name it Sheffield or Barnsley. If you did, which name would you use first? Many people outside South Yorkshire may be put off by apparently dirty northern industrial towns rather than a beautiful forest that is a haven for wildlife. Sheffield is also a protected brand, that can only for used within Sheffield City Boundary for commercial purposes, as the forest area stretches beyond the city's boarder with Barnsley a different name is required.

We also discounted Wharncliffe as a potential name for the woodland as the former Wharncliffe Estate forms a significant proportion of the Barnsley Borough, which could reignite the Barnsley/Sheffield debate.

Instead Hallamshire, the now defunct name for the old region that is now mainly occupied by the Sheffield Metropolitan Borough, although we don't know the full extent of Hallamshire's boarders making it the ideal candidate for the forest's name. Added to that in an agreement in 1161 between Richard De Louvetot and the monks of St Wandrilles Abbey, based at Ecclesfield Priory that gave them freedom to pasture their flocks of sheep, cattle and pigs within the great wood that covered the valley side to the north of the Birley Stone.

Today the Hallamshire name lives on in Sheffield's Hallamshire Hospital and many businesses have claimed the name Hallam from the world's second oldest football club Hallam FC, who own the world's oldest football ground. Hallam FM operates from its studio in Hillsborough, Sheffield where it serves the people of South Yorkshire. Commuters traveling along the Sheffield to Leeds via Barnsley use the Hallam line which passes through part of the Forest between Chapeltown and Elsecar stations. The use of an antiquitated name is more likely to give a nostalgic feeling to the forest that people will be more inclined to become attached to. Especially as one of the local railways passing through the area and the local commercial radio station carry the Hallam name.
Foxfield Spring Wood

Approximate area

Map taken from OS Maps website.