Healey farm which has been in existence since 1335 lies nearby, to the west. (Watch out for the new Open Spaces sign on the lamp post before the entrance to the Meadow and Wood, scan the QR code to bring you onto the website and find out more!!)
Both the Wood and the Meadow share a common boundary and lie to the west of Hawthorne Way. Access can be obtained from Shelley Park through a field gate at the top of Hawthorne Way and from two points on Box Ings Lane. One from the Penistone Road end and the other from the Huddersfield Road end near Kirkburton church. Both of these routes pass through Healey Greave Wood before entering the Meadow.
Both the Meadow and the Wood were part of a larger plot of land acquired by a major property developer for the development of Shelley Park. The gateway at the top of Hawthorne Way led to the builder’s fenced compound in a prominent position at the top of the hill. So prominent, in fact that it could clearly be seen from the top of Holme Moss!
At the completion of the building programme, towards the end of the last century, the developer cleared away the compound and sought to dispose of the land surplus to building requirements, and it was accepted by Kirklees Council as an open space to be enjoyed by the general public. Several Trusts existed for the management of woodland and meadows at the time. Kirklees Council approached the Meadowlands Trust and they were pleased to accept their brief for the maintenance of both the Wood and the Meadow.
The Meadowlands Trust agreed to work with Shelley Conservation Group to maintain and improve both sites. Sadly this did not work out!
The principal director embezzled the Trust’s money for his own personal use, was convicted and jailed. Persistent failure to submit accounts resulted in the title of the land passing to the Crown. Years passed, the area remained fenced off denying public access. The Meadow was grazed for a season and mowed in another. Shelley Conservation Group, under pressure from local residents persuaded our local MP at the time, Mary Creagh to take up the matter of access. She put the case to the Crown that this was supposed to be public open space. The Crown, in turn, put it back to Kirklees Council, who agreed to lease the land at a peppercorn rent for a period of 999 years under several conditions, the main one being that it should remain open land for the enjoyment of the general public with no future development. This occurred in 2008 and prompted the newspaper headline “People power brings meadow back to Shelley.”
The compound fence was finally taken down and access to the whole of the Meadow was achieved with direct access to The Wood.
One of the first tasks for the Conservation Group was to have the bales of hay removed which had remained for years at the bottom of the Meadow. Kirklees Council came to the rescue with a tractor and trailer on a very wet day they moved the bales all right but left deep furrows in the damp soil. The Countryside Officer explained that this was not a bad thing as the seed bank had been disturbed and predicted that wherever there were furrows; the plant yellow rattle would grow and its horizontal growth would suppress the growth of tall grasses and give smaller plants a chance to grow and prosper and this is exactly what happened. This was just the start of improving the biodiversity of the Meadow. Later, wild flowers were planted and native trees provided by the Woodland Trust. The Conservation Group were given bare rooted whips (short saplings) in late winter and they had to be planted quickly. On the appointed morning, the ground was frozen but they were planted nevertheless and the majority survived and now provide a safe crossing point for small birds from the gardens on Shelley Park to Healey Greave Wood. Kirkburton Parish Council provided fruit trees for a community orchard in each of the villages in the Parish. They were planted on the upper slopes of the Meadow and consist of apple, pear, cherry, plum, greengage, and damson. The fruits are there for anybody to pick.
The grass on the Meadow can grow very tall making it difficult to access. In late summer each year, Kirklees Council mow the grass, creating wide tracks following the same pattern year on year for easy access for walkers. By doing so, low growing flowers have emerged like marsh orchids, which otherwise would not be seen. Rabbits, foxes, deer and badgers have been spotted by walkers.
The spot where the builder’s compound stood is the highest point of the Meadow. It could be described as an acclivity. Historians have described Shelley as being situated on an “acclivity” which means an “upwards slope” from the Latin “acclivitas”. This is highly appropriate, for the village of Shelley since it seems that no matter in which direction you travel, it’s up a slope! From this point there is a wonderful view of the surrounding woods, fields, and villages, with Holme Moss and West Nab in the background.
Looking down on the footpath to the point near to where it enters the wood is a guide stoop.
Built of stone in the 18th century at a crossroads or junction guide stoops pointed in the direction of villages along the route and gave an approximate distance in miles. There is one at the junction of Far Bank with Huddersfield Road by the Village Hall. They are all now “listed buildings”. However, the one in the Meadow is a facsimile and was erected in 2012 to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The East Peak Initiative Partnership obtained money from the European Union to kick start their theme, “Bringing rural projects to life”. In co-operation with EPIP, “Denby Dale walkers are Welcome”, and Kirkburton Parish Council a series of 10 illustrated walks, one for each of the 10 Village is the parish were published to promote tourism. Field styles along each walk were repaired and guide stoops, one for each village were erected using locally donated stone and the skills of a local sculptor. The contribution made by Shelley Community Association is acknowledged on the stone in the Meadow with the initials SCA and the iconic view of the old Co-op at the top of Near Bank is delicately sculpted on one of the faces. All the routes and leaflets can be downloaded from the website: www.kirkburtonparishwalks.co.uk. They provide an interesting, historical background to local walks.
After heavy snow there is an excellent sledge run from the top of the Meadow towards Kirkburton
This is a rare piece of ancient woodland, which means it existed before the year 1600, evidenced by the mix of trees and wild flowers such as bluebells, wood anemones, and wood sorrel. Another indication of its age is that some of the trees have been coppiced as part of woodland management. Wooden stems are cut off just above ground level, opening up the tree canopy to let the sunshine in. This gives other trees a chance to compete for light. The cut stems were used for fencing and fuel. In recent years, a line of trees was felled because they were interfering with overhead power lines. With the tree canopy removed, sunlight reached the ground and the following spring there was an abundance of bluebells.
There is evidence of mining at the top of the Wood in the form of depressions and compacted heaps of soil which are now well used by youngsters on bikes. It could have been mining for iron ore as it was mined across the valley in Myers Wood in similar strata In the Middle Ages. On the other hand, it could have been coal that was extracted.
Healey Greave Wood is bounded on the west side by Box Ings Lane which runs from Penistone Road to Kirkburton churchyard. What’s in a name? It has been suggested that it was so called because box trees grew along it but there are none now. Another theory is that a landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton, an ale house that stood near Kirkburton Church cemetery had the nickname “Box”. A more likely theory is that it took its name from the fact that the Lane was an old coffin route.
In the old days burials had to take place in consecrated ground. Kirkburton was the only Village in the area with a churchyard and so, people had to carry coffins there from all directions. The route to Kirkburton from Shepley went along this lane. This was before Shelley Emmanuel church was built in 1868. “Ings” is an old English word meaning “land near water”, a “hill” and “a narrow path” or “passage”. They all fit except the first meaning!
The Trans Pennine Trail is a long distance surfaced path for walkers, cyclists and in parts horse riders. It runs from Hornsea on the east coast to Southport on the Irish Sea, routes for the Trans Pennine Trail can be downloaded from www.transpenninetrail.org.uk. A spur runs from Millhouse Green near Penistone into Kirklees terminating at Kirkburton by the churchyard. Here, at its northern end, was Box Ings colliery owned by Seth Senior, brewer of Shepley. In the same location was the Shoulder of Mutton ale house. I wonder whether there was any connection! Both were demolished at the start of the 20th century so that the graveyard could be extended.
On its way from Kirkburton to Millhouse Green the Trans Pennine Trail Spur goes through the middle of several villages but although it passes through stretches of rural Shelley, the nearest it gets to the middle is along Box Ings lane accessed from the top of Hawthorne Way. Again, the East Pennine Initiative Partnership played a key part in forging this link and improving its surface.
So, cyclists and walkers with access to this long distance trail on your door step, the world is your oyster!
Written by Malcolm MacDonald