Click here to see preliminary management plan for the site

Click here to see species lists for this site


General Information


Grid Reference



Partial ownership by Corus Engineering Steels


8.9 hectares (1,607m perimeter)


Green Belt


Access freely available through public right of way (No 35). Car park at southern end of site accessed from Station Road.




Contains significant archaeological remains as well as industrial archaeological evidence.

Date Surveyed

13-03-00 (with a subsequent visit on 19-06-00)



Survey information


A complex and large site much affected by industrial activity within the last two centuries.


The site is notable for containing some of the earliest evidence of human activity in the area dating from the Mesolithic times (some 7,000 years BP). The first edition OS Map of 1855 shows the site as part of an area called Gilbert Plantation and was part of the larger complex of Wharncliffe Wood, stretching continuously from Wortley in the north down to Grenoside in the south. The main Manchester-Sheffield-Lincolnshire railway forms the eastern boundary of the site with Station Road on the south (as it does today). The Stocksbridge railway was opened in the late 1870s effectively splitting the site in half. A large tunnel built under the line links these two parts. Railway sidings were added just before the First World War (and removed some fifty years ago).


Varied with land to the west very steeply rising in parts (from the river) to form an outcrop north of the Station Road bridge. The land is more or less level but begins to rise steeply again towards its eastern boundary with the main rail line. Land along the rail line drops away steeply as a deep cutting. The Stocksbridge railway links up with this main line on this eastern boundary. The Stocksbridge line has created a wide cutting through the site. The Stocksbridge line exits from the site in the west along a rail viaduct that goes across the River Don.

Recreation and Use

Dog walkers frequent. There is one location that contains some ramps formed from banking up soil for bmx biking. Motorcycle scramblers, mountain bikers and horse riders frequently use the rights of way towards the upper part of Wharncliffe wood and to the crags. Evidence of a campfire and shelter in the oak and birch woodland was found on the 19-06-00 visit.

Present Management

Very little, apart from some clearance of rights of way and clearance of vegetation to access electricity pylons and lines for maintenance.

Previous studies/surveys

  • The site was included in an initial woodland management survey of non-operational land commissioned by owners Stocksbridge Engineering Steels in 1988. The area covered was split into two compartments (9 & 10) recognising a birch/willow woodland and a mixed oak/birch woodland.  General management proposals were made as part of this study, including measures to increase regeneration and age range of trees by thinning, bracken control, and increase ground flora cover and diversity (this information is held in the SSVUDP office and by Corus Engineering Steels)
  • The area was explored as part of a Sorby Natural History Society field trip to Wharncliffe Heath in July 1995 and recorded beetles including leaf-rolling weevils, Longhorn and ground beetles and butterflies (reported in Sorby Newsletter, September 1995).








Main Plant Communities

Click to see plant communities map



General Description

Characteristic Species

Community A

Mature mixed deciduous woodland (with some standing deadwood)

Quercus petraea, Corylus avellana, Acer pseudoplatanus, Fraxinus excelsior, Rubus fruticosus agg.

Community B

Open birch woodland

Betula sp., Pteridium aquilinum, Rubus fruticosus agg.

Community C


Rubus fruticosus agg., Pteridium aquilinum, Chamerion angustifolium, Betula sp., Holcus mollis

Community D

Oak and/or birch scrub

Quercus sp., Betula sp.

Community E

Bracken stands

Pteridium aquilinum, Rubus fruticosus agg., Hyacinthoides non-scriptus

Community F


Calluna vulgaris, Betula sp., Pteridium aquilinum, Galium saxtile

Community G

Secondary/maturing oak and birch woodland

Quercus petraea, Betula sp., Hyacinthoides non-scriptus, Holcus mollis, Deschampsia flexuosa, Pteridium aquilinum

Community H

Tall herb

Heracleum sphondylium, Epilobium hirsutum, Arrhenatehrium elatius, Dactylis glomerata

Community I

Scrub and tall/low herb by railway line

Hypericum sp., Tussilago farfara, Cirsium sp. Senecio sp., Betula sp., Rubus fruticosus agg., Ulex sp.

Community J

Ex-railway sidings community

Hypericum sp., Senecio sp. Trifolium sp.

Community K

Willow/birch secondary woodland

Eurynchium praelongum, Epilobium sp., Rubus fruticosus agg., Geranium robertianum, Salix sp., Betula sp., Sambucus nigra

Community L

Riverside wet woodland

Acer pseudoplatanus, Pellia epiphylla, Dryopteris dilatata, Saxifraga oppoisitfolia, Geranium robertianum, Geum urbanum, Oxalis acetosella, Hyacinthoides non-scriptus, Ranunculus ficaria, Cardamine sp.

Ecological Interest

The site is a complex, diverse and large one containing mainly woodland variations but also small areas of heathland, tall herb, low herb and grassland, bramble and extensive scrub.

Click to see vegetation map

The site dissected into half by the Stocksbridge railway line. Also within the northern half of the site there is an area once used as railway sidings and originally known as Elephant Sidings, as it was never used and considered to be a 'white elephant'.The lines and sleepers have been completely dismantled and the area is vegetating over slowly. Much of the ground is composed of cinder ash and looks very compacted. However, a varied mosaic of areas containing grasses, mosses, low herbs and ruderals have established (Community J). The ground flora indicates some pockets of acidic soil but with neutral to slightly base areas supporting plants such as bird's-foot trefoil and meadow cranesbill.  Surrounding land has been banked up and on this is a pioneering woodland of mainly willow and birch (Community K).

The part of the site containing the east bank of the River Don provides a luxuriance of vegetation indicative of wet upland woodland (Community L). There is a relatively rich assemblage of bryophytes and ferns found mostly in the northern part and abundant great wood-rush and a patch of remote sedge. Trees aligning the bank are mainly sycamore with the odd alder. The north end also contains the best assemblage of old woodland indicators such as yellow archangel and wood sorrel. Elsewhere along the banks there are a variety of unusual plants including occasional stands of a rare, tall, shade-tolerant garden escape - Tolmeia menziesii  (a member of the Saxifrage family originally from N. America) and pink purslane (another introduction from N. America), common valerian and soapwort. On the slopes above this community (and further downstream) the woodland is less wet with some areas dominated by bramble and bracken. The canopy is higher and contains a wider range of trees (with some possibly of planted origin). Areas of this type of woodland (Community A) are found in the south of the site and elsewhere. 

A more or less secondary mainly dry oak and birch woodland occupies most of the site on both sides of the Stocksbridge rail line (Community G). The canopy and understorey layers are often dense and ground flora mostly impoverished with bracken, wavy hair-grass, creeping soft grass and bramble locally dominant in many places. Bluebell is frequent. Parts of the ground are covered in boulders as well as remains of walls. Some small topographical features such as shallow pits and depressions and a culverted stream are found in the eastern part of the southern part of this woodland. These may be connected with iron stone mining. First edition geological OS Map of the 1850s indicates iron stone mining taking place to the northeast of the site (west of main railway line).

On both sides of the line there are electricity power lines beneath which the vegetation has been cut back at various intervals in the past to facilitate maintenance. These clearings (east of the public right of way) have created woodland rides encouraging the development of, in the southern part, bracken, bramble and young birch scrub communities with some heather and gorse; the ride north of the Stocksbridge line consists of almost exclusively heather and bracken. This particular location has recorded roosting and churring nightjars in past years. These are individual birds visiting from their usual breeding location on nearby Wharncliffe Heath.

Heathland areas (Community F) are of limited range within the site. Apart from the rides, where there is considerable potential to increase heather cover, the only other areas are a) above the rocky outcrop running parallel with the River Don (southeast of site) where heather is losing ground to birch, tall herb and bramble; b) a small area on the north side of the Stocksbridge railway (also under encroachment from birch), and c) a thin, steeply sloping area running along the east part of the site adjacent to the main line and Stocksbridge railway.

Species lists are to be found on the following pages :

Species list - part 1

Species list - part 2








Stocksbridge SRB5 Greenspace Audit undertaken by Jim Flanagan for Sheffield Wildlife Trust - see their Community Action Handbook - full of good ideas for your local site

Back to map of ecological survey sites

Inner Zone

Knoll Top

Outer Zone

Oxley Park

Bracken Moor - playing fields

East Whitwell - open space

Wood Royd

Countryside Zone

Ellen Cliff Wood

Townend Common

Industrial Zone

Dog Lichen Field

Hen Holmes Wood

Little Don - acid heath

Little Don - open space

Exchange Sidings






















Back to map of ecological survey sites

nner Zone

Knoll Top

Outer Zone

Oxley Park

Bracken Moor - playing fields

East Whitwell - open space

Wood Royd

Countryside Zone

Ellen Cliff Wood

Townend Common

Industrial Zone

Dog Lichen Field

Hen Holmes Wood

Little Don - acid heath

Little Don - open space

Exchange Sidings


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