When I moved to Barnsley six years ago, I found it quite a culture shock from Nottingham. Nottingham is a great city with a wealth of restaurants, places to visit and an abundance of cultural heritage. My deepest concern was that there was no John Lewis! However, the people in Barnsley with their unbridled bonhomie and candour, soon made me feel at home. When you tell anyone that you live in Barnsley, they always look at you with pity and perhaps some puzzlement, as I do not speak with a Yorkshire accent. Yet, after having lived here for a while, there really are some beautiful places to visit and they have enabled me to feel at home here.
One such place is Pot House Hamlet in Silkstone. It is just off the A628 and is situated on the site of a former industrial site dating back to the seventeeth century. I love this place. We first visited about five years ago. We had recently moved into a new build and I was desperate to create a garden. The land we had for our garden was merely a mass of builders’ rubble on heavy clay soil. I had hardly any experience of gardening and so I googled ‘garden centres’ to find somewhere where I could seek advice locally. The garden centre is in fact a proper plant nursery; Horsfields Nursery, and I soon learnt that this makes all the difference.
I was about to buy a huge variety of plants so that I could put them in the ground and just hope they would take. However, the staff at the nursery were so helpful, that they told me that what I needed to concentrate on, was improving the soil. They gave me great advice and so for the first year we concentrated solely on the soil. One of the reasons that my garden is now thriving is because of the excellent advice they gave me. Sadly, I do not have a greenhouse. Yet Horsfields nursery produces a wide range of plants so that I can continually add to my garden. We visit the nursery regularly but the site of Pot House Hamlet has expanded and it is now a great place to visit. I think it makes for a great day out and we took our daughter there last week.
There is quite a bit of history surrounding the site. Silkstone is mentioned in the Doomsday book before Barnsley existed. In the seventeeth century it was the site of a glassworks established by John Pilmeny. The remains of the glassworks was excavated by English Heritage in 2003 and is now a Sheduled Ancient Monument.
There was also a pottery here in the eighteenth century as well as a mill and a farm. The farm was run by Henry Wallace Horsfield and his son Tom continued the farming tradition. Tom went on to breed roses and win awards. It is his daughter, Emma who now runs the nursery.
Many of the old buildings have recently been renovated and they now house a range of small businesses including the nursery, a boutique, a beauty spa, a dog grooming parlour and shop, a delicatessen, a cake and chocolate shop and a wonderful tea room.
My favourite is undoubtedly the Nursery. They sell a wealth of plants, gifts, greetings cards and gardening tools. Everything from ceramic owls and sheep to different types of soil, tools and pots. I absolutely love it there. The staff are incredibly helpful and knowledgable. I always take visiting friends here and they frequently leave with a car rammed full of plants.
The Potting Shed Café now adjoins the mill. The building won the Gold Millennium Design Award for Barnsley and it is easy to see why. It is a clever juxtaposition of the old and the new. It looks out onto the stream where you can see ducks and their ducklings, as you sip your tea.
The tea room sells a range of beverages and cakes. It is a beautiful place to sit in and relax. There is a small terrace outside too.
We opted for a coffee and walnut cake and a scone.
The only problem is that all the cakes look so delicious that it is hard to make a choice.
Once you have had chance to look around at all the shops and sampled a taste of Yorkshire in the Potting Shed cafe, then it is time for the real ‘piece de resistance’ and the reason why my daughter loves visiting; the free animal petting farm. Yes it is FREE and well worth a visit. You can see pygmy goats, alpacas, donkeys, rare breed sheep, fancy breeds of chickens, ducks and more. You can get up and close to all the animals and get some great photos too. There are feeding stations where you can buy 50p worth of food to feed the animals as well as a clever hand washing station too.
Here’s Jonny. He likes to give the animals human names such as Dave and Colin and he calls this one Simon le Bon as he looks a bit like a New Romantic!
The Petting Farm is such an excellent idea as the animals are so friendly and it makes children develop confidence in approaching animals.
Next time you are passing through Barnsley then why not call in? You really will not regret it. If you are local to the area then do give it a visit. It’s a very reasonable day out for the family and the children will want to come back time after time.
Pot House Hamlet
From the M1 motorway exit at junction 37. Follow the A628 to Manchester for approximately two miles. Follow the brown tourist signs for Pot House Hamlet which will take you right into Silkstone village. Pot House Hamlet is at the bottom of the hill on the left just below Silkstone Church.