Romany Woodsman living history exhibition comes to the Dearne Valley

16 May 2017

Visitors to Worsbrough Mill and Country Park will be able to step back in time this month and experience life as a Romany woodsman.

A new living history exhibition to illustrate the Dearne Valley’s Romany heritage will take place at Worsbrough Mill & Country Park in Barnsley from Tuesday 23 May to Thursday 25 May.

Ruff Around the Hedges, a woodland management and outdoor education organisation, received a grant from The Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP) to help run the event - which will see part of the woods transported back to a Romany settlement set in the early Edwardian Era (~1900).

Antony Hill, founder of Worsborough-based Ruff Around the Hedges, will bring to life the way his ancestors lived while working in the woodlands of the Dearne Valley at the turn of the century, demonstrating the traditional ways that Romany people and woodsmen lived and worked.

The exhibit will include cooking over a campfire in front of a bender tent shelter, tethered packhorses and the opportunity to take part in crafts in the woods including basket weaving, peg making by the campfire, traditional fire starting methods and den building.  

Antony will also recount the stories and histories of Romany heritage and share the experiences of his ancestors, including a vivid oral history of Romany people’s culture, their migration out of India to the British Isles, and their superstitious folklore.

Antony said: “My family migrated from the West Midlands northwards to Yorkshire around 1890AD, bringing with them their inherent craftsmanship and knowledge of the natural world. They found work on the land, particularly the management of woodland in the Clayton area of the Dearne Valley.

“Based on census records from 1911, and some oral history, my great grandfather personified the phrase ‘poacher come gamekeeper’, retiring from poaching to not only manage woodlands but rear and care for the game birds and animals in the area for a local landowner. My exhibition brings to life this man’s existence, a culture and my family's history in the Dearne Valley.”

The Romany Woodsman Living History project has been awarded £2,000 through the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership’s (DVLP) Community Grant Scheme, which is supported by National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The scheme provides grants of between £500 and £2000. Other projects awarded grants include a creative writing project with a youth group in Grimethorpe, re-creating Hemingfield Colliery in virtual reality and an outdoor arts project connecting communities with their local green spaces.

All funded projects are required to meet the aims and objectives of the DVLP, which are to protect, preserve and enhance the heritage of the local area, as well as increasing community use and engagement.

Sally Gawthorpe, community officer at the DVLP, said: “After learning about Antony and the stories of his Romany ancestors it’s fantastic to have been able to support this project. The Romany heritage in the Dearne Valley is not widely known so this project perfectly represents its historic culture, heritage and traditions for all to see.

“When assessing applications submitted to our Community Grants Scheme our panel look for community projects which increase awareness and engagement with the environment and heritage of the Dearne Valley. This project is a great example of providing innovative opportunities for people to learn, draw inspiration and get involved in the local environment.”

During the exhibition, morning sessions will run from 10.00am to 12.00pm and afternoon sessions will run from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. Please contact the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP) to reserve your place, either by emailing or by calling 01226 772414.


Notes to editor

Image shows Antony Hill at his camp

Media opportunity: Media are invited to report / broadcast from Worsbrough Mill in Barnsley at 10am on Wednesday 24th May when part of the woods will be transformed into a Romany settlement and people will experience life as a Romany woodsman.

Media contact: Charlotte Goldthorpe at Capital B Media on 01226 766900 or at

The Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP) is a five-year scheme, running until June 2019 focusing on the historic buildings and landscapes of the Dearne Valley, working with the local communities to protect, preserve and enhance the area. The DVLP is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Funded with a grant of almost £1.8m. For more information visit

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery @HLFYandH

The lead partner of the DVLP is Barnsley Council with a partnership that includes Rotherham and Doncaster Councils, the RSPB, Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Garganey Trust and Groundwork South Yorkshire. The DVLP is part of Barnsley Museums & Heritage Services and is based at Elsecar Heritage Centre.

Ruff Around the Hedges is a small family business working in the woodlands of South Yorkshire since 1910.

With a firm belief in traditional techniques, low impact methods and that horses have a role within contemporary woodland management, Ruff Around the Hedges are able to work alongside conventional machinery to achieve satisfactory results for woodland owners. The company and its horses are capable of undertaking timber extraction from first thinning up to final crop.

Antony Hill is a woodsman with over 10 years’ experience plus the handed down knowledge from generations of woodsmen. As a woodsman, he works traditionally as his grandfather once did with only hand tools and horse power. He has gained extensive knowledge of the local natural world and the skills required to live comfortably outdoors.

For more information visit:

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