Skip to content
Home » Ecclesall Woods and the Collier’s Grave Walk

Ecclesall Woods and the Collier’s Grave Walk

A steady woodland walk through Ecclesall Woods returning past the collier’s grave.

A gentle, mainly easy-going walk on clear paths through the deciduous woodland of Ecclesall Woods. At 2 miles in length on gently undulating paths this short but pleasant route makes an ideal steady walk for those seeking a gentle start to getting out walking, or a warm-down stroll for the more intensely active

The route follows around the outskirts of the northern section of Ecclesall Woods in south-west Sheffield, returning past the grave of a local charcoal burner George Yardley who perished in a fire in his collier’s hut during 1786.

Distance: 2.15 Miles (3.5km)
Total Ascent: 240ft / 73m
Time: 1hr

Route Maps & GPX

Ordnance Survey Map & App

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 278 (Sheffield & Barnsley)
Get this route on the OS maps website & app


This route on Komoot

Getting There

Travelling by Car:

The walk starts from the junction of Abbey Lane and Whirlowdale Road – Nearby Postcode S11 9NY. Plentiful roadside parking on Whirlowdale Road, on the section which cuts through the woods, close to the junction

Travelling by Public Transport:

This walk is possibly best started from the Abbey Lane/Cow Lane bus stop (S11 9NB) close to The Rising Sun pub on Abbey Lane, served by the 218 Peakline service to Bakewell, departing from Moorhead stop MH3 in the City Centre of Sheffield.

From the Cow Lane bus stop, walk on the left side of Abbey Lane heading downhill then take the Public Bridleway signposted on your left, just before Abbey Lane curves round to the right. Follow the bridleway, bearing left at a fork to a signposted junction. At that junction turn left to join the route.

Ecclesall Woods from Whirlowdale Road towards Parkhead

From your parking spot on Whirlowdale Road, walk up towards the road junction then turn right onto the public bridleway heading into the woods, at a low step-over bridleway gate with a glass-fronted information board to the right.

Follow this bridleway, soon with the fences of house gardens to your left. Continue to a signposted path crossroads, keeping straight ahead, and almost immediately a second signed junction. Again, keep straight ahead (signposted Public Footpath to Abbey Lane)

If you followed the directions from the bus stop, this is the point at which you have joined the route

Ecclesall Woods Bridleway Towards Parkhead

The footpath begins to descend, curving gently to the right, then back to the left. Continue on this easy to follow and clear main path which continues gently curving in either direction and undulating, until you reach another signed path junction.


Parkhead to Whirlowdale Road Crossing

At this junction, turn right, signposted “Public Footpath to Dobcroft Road”. This path descends gently again along the edge of the wood, with the back gardens of houses visible through the trees to your left.

A stream soon joins from the left then passes under the footpath twice; crossing to the right then back to the left.

Stream Passing Under Ecclesall Woods Footpath

This path continues along to another path crossroads, with the stream now back on your right and wider. Keep straight ahead (signposted Public Bridleway to Whirlowdale Road) then almost immediately, at a fork, take the footpath slight-left.

After the stream passes under the footpath again, under a flat concrete bridge with a metal grating, the path rises briefly then joins garden fences on your left. At the end of the garden fences you arrive at a path T-junction.

Turn right and walk gently uphill to a signed path crossroads. At this crossroads turn left (Public Bridleway to Whirlowdale Road) to gently descend to the road.


Whirlowdale Crossing to the Collier’s Grave

Cross over Whirlowdale Road, keeping straight ahead, now signposted Public Footpath to Abbey Lane. This path, marked as an Easy Going Trail is easy to follow. Keep straight ahead at another signed crossroads, still signposted towards Abbey Lane.

Stay on this clear path ignoring small tracks heading off to your left and right until you reach sight and sound of the road ahead. Just before reaching a wooden bench on the left of the path, turn right onto the narrow track marked with a yellow footpath arrow marker on a waist-height wooden post.

Follow this path, keeping right at the fork, which climbs gently until you reach the fenced and gated off Collier’s Pond, a disused ganister quarry turned into a wildlife pond in modern times.

Colliers Pond in Ecclesall Woods

Turn right at the pond and walk about 100m gently uphill to arrive at the Collier’s Grave. This well preserved headstone and serves as a memorial to the unfortunate charcoal burner George Yardley who burned to death in his hut.

Collier’s Grave Back to Whirlowdale Road

After passing the collier’s grave memorial with a well-preserved headstone, continue uphill to a path t-junction. Turn right to return to Whirlowdale Road.

Cross the road and turn left to head back to the start.

If returning to the bus stop, walk up to the bridleway on your right just before the road junction, turn right and follow the bridleway to the first signed path junction. Turn left, then join Cow Lane back to Abbey Lane near the Rising Sun pub.


George Yardley, Collier of Ecclesall Woods

George Yardley’s story is a poignant reminder of the dangers faced by 18th-century laborers. While his exact life details remain unknown, historical records reveal a tragic end that serves as a monument to this bygone profession.

Yardley worked as a charcoal burner in Ecclesall Woods. Charcoal production was crucial at the time, fueling metalworking furnaces that were vital to the city’s industry, and Ecclesall Woods provided a significant quantity. There were over 300 charcoal hearths in the woods.. However, the process was hazardous. Charcoal burners constructed temporary shelters, or “cabins,” near their kilns to monitor the burning process.

Our knowledge of Yardley comes from the memorial located in the woods. Inscribed on the headstone, dated 1786, is the chilling detail that Yardley “was burnt to death in his Cabbin on this place.” The exact cause of the fire remains a mystery. Perhaps a stray spark ignited the wooden cabin.

George Yardley, Woodcollier, Gravestone Memorial

A legend grew around the unfortunate collier and a cautionary tale about drinking came to the fore. This tale suggests that, with George Yardley unable to leave his duties, the innkeeper of the Rising Sun, together with the others named on the headstone; William Brooke, a salesman, David Glossop, gamekeeper, Thomas Smith, a broom maker, headed down to the woods with a barrel of ale. A fanciful story tells of an evening of merriment after which the four visitors made their ways home. George, inebriated, fell asleep, and a wind change caused the unwatched burning stack to set fire to his hut. There exists no recorded account of that evening to suggest that this is any more than a fanciful tale.

Regardless of the specifics, Yardley’s death serves as a stark reminder of the risks inherent in charcoal production. The Ecclesall Woods memorial, a “Charcoal Burner’s Memorial,” stands as a tribute to him and others who lost their lives in this demanding profession. While Yardley’s life story may be lost to time, his memory lives on in this small piece of Sheffield’s history.