Barnsley Canal – Wilthorpe

Barnsley Canal Credit Carys Hutton

Barnsley Canal – Wilthorpe

Barnsley Canal at Wilthorpe is the gateway into the Upper Dearne Valley. Industrial history and wildlife coexist in this extensive wetland habitat.


Smithies Lane,
South Yorkshire
S71 1RD

OS Map Reference

A static map of Barnsley Canal – Wilthorpe

Know before you go

11 hectares

Entry fee


Parking information

Small car park on right opposite Barnsley College Smithies annex.

Grazing animals

None on the reserve. Occasionally horses may be on the canal path.

Walking trails

Network of footpaths throughout the reserve. Many additional footpaths can be found in the immediate area. There is a continuous footpath to follow from Barnsley Canal to the east across Smithies Lane, through the area known as “the Fleets” into the western end of Dearne Valley Country Park where you are reacquainted with another stretch of the Barnsley Canal which still contains water.


Take the footpath alongside the canal. This connects into a wider footpath network across the reserve.


Under effective control

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March to September


A sinuous site comprising the course of the now-defunct Barnsley Canal gives great views over the wild, Upper Dearne Valley, its cut-off meanders and sprawling reedbeds, a mile from Barnsley town centre.

Barnsley Canal finally succumbed to mining subsidence and was closed in 1953. It now comprises of some stretches of open water with silted swamp areas and reedbeds.

To the south of the site, accessed via Smithies Lane from the car park, is an open semi-improved grassland where exquisite bee orchids can be found in summer.

The hedge to the north of the canal is the longest stretch of continuous hedge in Barnsley. It provides foraging for flocks of tits including willow tits, thrushes and bullfinches.

From the car park walking west, the canal bed is at first dry, with crack willow growing in the bed. This soon gives way to a wetter marsh before opening up into open water.

Continuing down the footpath, past the old footbridge across the canal on the left, the open water provides ideal habitat for amphibians including great crested newts. The water plants are interesting and include the only population of frogbit in the Barnsley area.

Self-set trees along the banks shade out the open water and plant communities of the canal and pose a threat to the integrity of the canal walls. We are sensitively removing these saplings and creating a better open canopy in this pioneer woodland for willow tits to colonise.

Yorkshire wildlife Trust manage the park in partnership with Barnsley Council for the benefit of local people and wildlife.

Seasonal highlights

  • Spring: Birds - Willow tit; Grasshopper warbler; Great crested newt
  • Summer: Plants; Frogbit; Field scabious; Yellow flag iris; Birds - Reed bunting
  • Autumn: Birds - Mallard; Teal; Gadwall; Green woodpecker
  • Winter: Birds - Water rail; Bullfinch; Kingfisher; Great spotted woodpecker


Public transport
Buses from Barnsley Interchange to Honeywell - Athersley South stop near the site.

By car
From M1 take A628 to Barnsley Centre. Take A61 north to Smithies, take Smithies Lane on left at traffic lights. Pass fishing pond on rihgt, after 200m park in small car park on right opposite Barnsley College Smithies annex.