A network of abandoned pit railway lines that runs through South Yorkshire was 30 years ago turned into a ‘green lung’ enjoyed by thousands of walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
The Trans Pennine Trail travels from Southport on the west coast, across the Pennines to Hornsea on the east coast, a route of 215 miles.
There are also spurs to Kirkburton, Leeds, Chesterfield and York which provides a total of over 370 miles of route available.
Eventually, the Liverpool to Hull leg of the trail will ‘join up’ with the E8 long distance walking route of 2,920 miles which starts on the west coast of Ireland and will eventually reach Istanbul!
The trail is a multi-user, recreational and transport route for walkers and cyclists and, wherever possible, for horse riders and people with disabilities.
The trail also brings together a unique partnership of 27 local authorities across the north of England, working together with a common aim.
Each of the local authorities is responsible forlooking after the stretch of the trail that runs through its area and a central Trans Pennine Trail office is responsible for promoting and brand ing it.
However, South Yorkshire lies at the heart of the route and it’s where the idea was first dreamed up.
The origin of the Trans Pennine Trail goes back to 1986 when the planning department at Barnsley Council was preparing its bid for a derelict land grant from the Department of the Environment.
At that time, following on the heels of the year-long strike, the coal industry in South Yorkshire had been in decline for a number of years and major land reclamation works were already under way.
The trail has a rich industrial history, encompassing canals and mills as well as railways and coal mines.
A spokeswoman for the trail said: “Although the pit heaps had gone, a network of abandoned railway lines remained.
“It was recognised that they presented the potential for major footpaths and cycleways throughout the borough with the possibility of extending them into adjoining authorities.”
In 1987 a feasibility study was commissioned by Barnsley Council and undertaken by Sustrans Ltd of Bristol.
Their brief was to establish the potential of creating a major recreational network based on the disused railway lines in Barnsley but spreading as far as possible across the north of England.
This resulted in the initial network that stretched from York to Liverpool via Selby, Doncaster, Barnsley, Manchester, Warrington and Widnes.
Links to the north via Wakefield and Leeds and south via Sheffield and Chesterfield were also identified.
The spokeswoman said: “By 1989 some 30 local authorities were involved and a further report was commissioned from L & R Leisure PLC of Liverpool with a view to detailing a strategy for action.
“The results and recommendations were presented to the various authorities at a meeting in Barnsley in 1990.
This was the birth of the Trans Pennine Trail we now have today.”
She added: “It provides a wonderful green travel route and also a fantastic opportunity for our visitors and local communities to enjoy the flora and fauna that has now been created with the many nature reserves, SSSI sites and RSPB reserves that have grown alongside the route.”
It was the first long distance multi-user route established in the UK for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, where possible, and more than 70 per cent of the trail is traffic-free.