Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

A Football Tourist’s Guide to Barnsley – Part One

Barnsley. How could this trip possibly live up to Hartlepool the previous week? I had my work cut out here. I knew I needed to do a deep dive into Barnsley to make this latest adventure into something special. After years of going straight in and out of Barnsley (via the Metrodome) it was time to do this town justice.

I spent all week researching places of interest but my list just didn’t seem that interesting. So I extended my appeal to Twitter, where Barnsley YouTuber Joe – who has clearly never read any of my blogs – recommended a water park and a massage. Nonetheless, I was able to find more to pad out my time in Barnsley and had a full day scheduled.

Blackpool’s match at Barnsley this weekend was postponed on the Thursday because of COVID in the host’s camp. To be honest, this was a blessed relief, with the torture the team have been putting us through in recent weeks. We decided to go ahead with our trip anyway, as we had things booked and had arranged to meet friends. We could have a lovely time with no football at the end to put a dampener on the weekend.

We headed out at 0800 on Friday morning and fuelled up for the journey across the Pennines. I tapped ‘Yorkshire’ into Apple Music and this is what came up.

I don’t know why I don’t listen to more brass band music because it is so joyful and always reminds me of Christmas. This week I have been bemoaning the stupid tradition of taking down of all the Christmas lights on Twelfth Night. Surely January is crying out for lights to brighten up its general grimness?

As we were singing along to the brass version of YMCA, we spotted a sign for the National Coal Mining Museum and I was annoyed with myself for not realising this was here. That is a must-visit for the Football Tourist’s Guide to Huddersfield. It’s in Wakefield but it’s close enough.

Still in Wakefield, we found ourselves pulling into our first port of call a little after its opening time of 1000.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

When starting up the Football Tourist’s Guide, one of the ideas was to visit those touristy places around the UK that we’ve inexcusably never been to (e.g. Hadrian’s Wall, which we visited en route to Carlisle). We want to promote UK tourism because (a) it’s ranging from ‘a bit of a faff’ to ‘impossible’ to go overseas these days; and (b) it’s a nice thing to do to help boost the local economy. So occasionally we will visit places just outside of our football towns because we might as well while we’re in the area. A happy side-effect of this tour is that I am falling in love with my country more and more with every trip (well maybe not Birmingham, where the reverse seemed to be the case).

I wasn’t really sure what to expect here. I’m not particularly an art enthusiast (despite being surprisingly adept at Art History on my OU course) but I was sure I would enjoy this spectacle. And I wasn’t wrong.

Can you see the robin?
This octopus is a mosaic.
One of my faves. A tree made from bathroom furniture.
I loved these Zodiac Heads too.

As you’ll gather from the photos above, the setting is a beautiful spacious park. There is also a lake and surrounding woodland. It’s a stunning place for a walk, interspersed with interesting objects to look at.

But not only that. There was the wonderful wildlife. The tame robin that greeted us on entry was the tip of the iceberg. Crossing a bridge across the lake I spotted a heron.

It was here I got chatting to a local couple – as we marvelled over the huge cygnets frolicking on the lake – and they pointed out that the island on the lake was a huge heronry.

Look at all the nests.

Dear reader, I could have stayed here all day. The sculptures were certainly objects of interest but for me this park was mainly about the wildlife and the natural world. It is simply a beautifully serene place to be. And we had been so fortunate with the weather.

You told me it was 2C, Alexa. I’m overheating in my thermals now.

It took me a while to figure out how to get through this gate (I’m not great with practical stuff, never have been).

I was on the verge of waiting for someone else to approach so I could tailgate before I had a word with myself and figured it out (in an unconventional manner). In my defence, my head was empty from the surrounding serenity…

We were on a tight schedule today and I had allocated us only two hours here. It was nowhere near enough. We really could have stayed all day. We ended up power walking back to the car (uphill!) and were sweltering by the time we got there. If you’re visiting, I would recommend four hours as a minimum. There’s a caff here, too, if you get peckish. We were ravenous (and knackered after two hours walking in the fresh air) and had a lunch reservation to keep down the road. Yes, of course, it was now pub o’clock!

Crown and Anchor

This pub is on the way in to Barnsley in a ‘burb called Barugh Green. I picked this up via the CAMRA Good Beer Guide app which, I have to say, has transformed my pub visits since I downloaded it a couple of months ago. It of course features the pubs in the Good Beer Guide (GBG) itself – but also other pubs that are not in the GBG. You can search by GBG pubs, pubs that serve food, dog-friendly pubs, pubs with accommodation, pubs with real cider and family pubs. Honestly, it’s brilliant. There’s even a little blurb on each pub. It’s how I found the shuffleboard in Swansea and those magnificent roasties and lush gravy in Huddersfield.

In my search for food in Barnsley, the app flagged this GBG pub, which sounded great.

I had cross-referenced the pub menu to check there was something that I could eat within my SlimmingWorld plan and promptly booked a table for 1230.

On arrival at the pub, we had a quick nose round the beer garden before heading in.

Photo doesn’t do it justice but I was very thirsty by this point.

I had left my coat and hat in the car and, now in the warm pub (and seated by the log burner!) I immediately removed my jumper and shirt (stopping short of removing the tee and thermal vest for reasons of common decency). I’d be having words with Alexa about her forecast when I got home.

Here are today’s beers:

True North bought the rights to the Stones Bitter recipe.
Ooh Juice Forsyth – one of my fave crafty beers.

I plumped for a pint of the True North Blonde. I usually have a half with lunch for diet reasons but I was Very Thirsty Indeed.

I might have had another pint after this one too – oops!

I immediately like any pub that welcomes dogs. I don’t know why because I’m a cat person and I was always a bit scared of dogs until I discovered the @nonleaguedogs Twitter account and now I get excited when I see them. Which is a good thing, because I encounter way more dogs than cats in pubs. Indeed, I can’t actually remember the last time I saw a pubcat, which is not a good thing. I suspect it may have been the pubkittens at the Welly back in September 2019 and they’re all grown up now.

Now it was time for lunch. Our friendly host presented us with the main menu, the Veganuary menu and the Specials menu. As I perused the literature, my eyes were drawn to the dessert menu and I instantly wished I hadn’t seen this.

I forced my eyes back to the main menu and I settled on this:

Ham Hock with braised red cabbage and steamed greens.

I subbed in the steamed greens for the listed hand cut chips.

This proved quite a high-maintenance dish, with assistance required to saw through the fat (is it crackling on ham?) to get to the meat that I was allowed to eat. But it was very tasty. Our amiable host said they took it off the menu once and there was so much outrage they reinstated it. I of course couldn’t eat all of that huge hock (the two pints I drank to wash it down probably didn’t help in that regard). When my plate was taken away I was offered a doggy bag, which I refused (we didn’t have access to a fridge). I was then informed of their wastage policy, which meant that my leftovers would be used to feed a family of foxes. That brought me a lot of joy.

As did this wall art:

We know from our recent visit to Sheffield that Hendos is a local product and they’re rightly proud of it. I’m always using this in my chillies. Ooh and on cheese on toast.

The only slightly disappointing thing about this excellent pub was the toilets, which were unremarkable, save for the hand driers, which were so pathetic, I ended up drying my hands on my precious Strait & Narrow tee.

I might as well have blown on my hands.

I (im)patiently waited for the award-winning-pie-munching ladies at the next table to leave so I could take a photo of this excellent picture on the wall over their table.

Aside from being an excellent image, this put me in mind of the delightful steward at Birmingham City, who replied to our request for directions to the away end by saying: ‘well, you just get back on your donkey and fuck off back to Blackpool.’ It would be tomorrow before I would find out the story behind this photograph and it was definitely worth waiting for (indeed, I’m going to make you wait until Part Two, dear reader).

Our host was a mine of information. My favourite Pub Fact was that this pub was built from an old naval ship. And this hot on the heels of our visit onboard HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool, which I’d remarked at the time was like ‘a well-built pub.’

Just as we were finally cooling down and relaxing after our long, hilly, sweaty walk this morning, Lee received an alert on his Smart Watch.

His reaction was not dissimilar to our greeting by the Birmingham City steward.

But sadly it was now time to move on, as an action-packed afternoon of adventures awaited.

Pot House Hamlet

This had popped up on TripAdvisor as one of the top things to do in Barnsley. As I ran Lee through what was coming up, he asked what this place was.

‘Well I’m not really sure but there’s goats.’

‘Oh shall we skip that, then, as we’ve got a lot to do this afternoon.’

‘Er GOATS! I love goats. There’s no way we’re skipping this.’

They love dogs here so I know I’m going to love it.

So, what else was there here? Let me show you.

A nursery.
Donkeys! And there’s us thinking we were getting a weekend off.

This turkey blew my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live turkey in real life before – certainly not a male turkey like this one. He was so majestic but at the same time slightly terrifying and alien-looking. I suggested he might have inspired a Star Trek character, while Lee argued Star Wars. Martin would later put us right by pointing out the resemblance to The Ood from Doctor Who.

I spent ages transfixed by the turkey before remembering what I was actually here for. I was also puzzled by one random turkey that was outside of the turkey pen and just strutting around on its own, seemingly trying to figure out how to get back in. We weren’t sure whether we should offer help – perhaps this turkey was isolating? Also we were now terrified of turkeys.

To the goats!

Look at that face!

I love goats. I want a goat. These little darlings were soft to the touch (obvs I petted them all) and not wiry like the goats at the zoo. I could live here (if it wasn’t for the turkeys).

Shaw Lane Sports Club

Conscious that this is the Football Tourist’s Guide and there wasn’t going to be any actual football on this trip, I thought we’d pay a visit to a club that I’d visited in my Chasetown days. I’d quite forgotten that Shaw Lane AFC went bust in 2018. We visited anyway as I remembered this to be a sporting hub, with a cricket match going on at the time of my last visit. And I can assure you now, dear reader, that there is a lot of football coming up in Part Two of this Football Tourist’s Guide.

All was quiet on our visit here today and all I remembered to photograph was this bowling green.

Just to give you a bit of insight into my head (not too much, because no-one can cope with that) I have taken to using photographs as my main prompts for this blog. It is only rarely these days that I take any notes at all. Indeed, I’m ashamed to say I don’t even know where my writer’s notebook is and, any notes I do take these days, I tap in on Pages on my phone. I would find myself taking copious notes later, though, as Christine recommends a toilet museum in Stoke that we can’t miss when we visit in March.

Whilst I sort of digress, the reason I mention this is because the next photo on my phone is of a toilet. I have no idea where this toilet was (I suspect my mind has blocked this out because of the trauma). But I do remember now why I photographed it as a prompt. It was a terrifying toilet. It flushed while I was sitting on it – transforming into a bidet – and I hadn’t even been that long (I was only having a wee). Sure, it was one of those motion-activated hands-free flushing mechanisms, but I don’t recall waving my arms about while I was on there. Anyway, I suppose this proves the point at the start of the previous paragraph that you don’t want to delve too far into my head…

Dickie Bird Statue

I’ve never understood cricket (I suspect my addictive personality might render this a dangerous sport to get into – also there is too much maths involved). But I do understand this statue is culturally significant – and you might enjoy it – so I couldn’t omit it. Dickie Bird was from Barnsley.

Kes Statue

Anyone who has read ‘A Kestrel For A Knave’ by Barry Hines (who was from Barnsley) or seen the film Kes (set in Barnsley) cannot help but be moved – nay traumatised for life – by the story. I went to see the play at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool around 20 years ago and recall bawling my eyes out even though no kestrel appeared in that adaptation, such is the power of this work.

As I studied this statue of young Billy Casper and Kes, my eyes instinctively welled up. Billy looks so sad, it’s heartbreaking. I was moved more by this than anything I saw in the sculpture park this morning. I guess I could relate to it so much more. I could feel Billy’s heartbreak. I’ve got tears streaming down my face as I’m typing this now.

Do not miss this statue on your next visit to Barnsley.

Market Kitchen

Now this place had also come recommended by Barnsley YouTuber Joe and it did sound brilliant. It’s an indoor canteen-style eating area in the market, surrounded by lots of different street food stalls. We’d seen something similar in Sheffield which had looked particularly enticing, so we made a point of visiting Market Kitchen today.

They didn’t seem keen on Lee filming in here, so my instinct was to head off in search of the next place on my itinerary. Lee was not to be deterred, though. The next thing I knew, the boss lady came marching over and I thought ‘oh-oh – he’s in trouble now.’ My instinct was still to leave.

It turned out this was Alex, the Marketing & Communications Manager for Regeneration & Culture for Barnsley Council. We explained that we were here to promote the delights of Barnsley as part of our Football Tourist Guide series and she exclaimed: ‘oh yes – I saw you were coming!’. Alex was delighted to speak with us on camera and her enthusiasm for Barnsley shone through. We learned about the huge investment into the regeneration of Barnsley, which has already changed dramatically over the past three years. Tomorrow we would learn from another proud local about the new ring road that is being built as part of this project. There are various art trails across the town and I’m hoping to find one when we come to visit for an actual match in the coming weeks.

Before we left, Alex pointed out the COVID memorial statue in the square – one of the first of these in the country. This was another incredibly moving statue.

Retrodome

Today had proven quite physically and emotionally draining – so now it was playtime!

I’ll confess I’d been a little disappointed by the gaming place we’d visited in Sheffield – owing to not understanding how to play many of the games and becoming frustrated (plus we had to wear a mask and it was hot). I was hoping for something better today – and got exactly that! It was just like stepping into one of the arcades I grew up in on Blackpool prom in the 80s and 90s.

As we entered into the bar area, we were warmly welcomed by the gaffer of this family business. I ordered a diet pop because I knew there was much more beer to come later. On another day, I might have been tempted by these, out of curiosity.

We began upstairs with a game of air hockey, which I was trounced at (I’m blaming the two pints at lunchtime).

Take a closer look at the above photo and you might spot a couple of sofas facing the screens on the back wall. What a lovely tough that you can sit on the sofa and game on the tv. This was a proper home from home.

And there were rows and rows of games that I recognised.

Asteroids was a right blast from the past, as I only now remembered having played that as a kid. I was pleased to get the top scores, although admittedly I don’t think anyone else had played it recently.

I spent the most time playing The Addams Family pinball, which was great fun.

The games are all free to play once you have paid for admission (£12 for adults, £6 for children) and this is another place worthy of a lengthy visit. Just don’t get caught out by the opening hours.

Again we were a little pushed for time here, with a table booked for dinner/tea/supper in Sheffield at 1830, so we headed off earlier than we would have liked. First, we needed to check in at the Premier Inn at Sheffield/Barnsley (which I imagine is as annoying for the Barnsley folk as Birmingham/Walsall is to yam yams). Here, we quickly checked in, changed out of those unnecessary thermals and headed out on the next part of our adventure…

Coming up in Part Two:

  • The Stags Head, Sheffield
  • David Ford at The Greystones, Sheffield
  • A Bad Hangover
  • Experience Barnsley Museum & Discovery Centre
  • Barnsley FC

If you’ve enjoyed reading this Football Tourist’s Guide, please do share it with others who might like it too. You can read more of my blogs by touring this website. There’s all sorts of nonsense on here which I hope you’ll enjoy.

It would also be nice to connect with you – you can comment below or find me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @blackpooljane.

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