Cliffe Wood is located between Old Mill and Cundy Cross, about 1.5 kilometres east of the centre of Barnsley. It lies on the north side of the River Dearne and forms the northern part of Dearne Valley Park, a Local Nature Reserve. The car park for Dearne Valley Park is close to the wood, and the area is also very well served by public transport. Access to the site is generally straightforward, including in places, for those with pushchairs or wheelchairs. Cliffe Wood has been a popular venue for environmental education work for many years and this will continue to develop.
Particularly in view of its location so near to the centre of Barnsley, the site is a very attractive one, having a mixture of ancient Oak/Birch woodland; a mixed plantation area developed in the 1980's; and an area of wet, Willow dominated woodland; as well as areas of open grassland and scrub. Along the lower edge of the site is an area of small lakes and parkland along the River Dearne.
The majority of the woodland on the site is dominated by Oak and Birch, together with smaller amounts of Ash, Hawthorn, Hazel, Elder, Holly and Field Maple. The trees are often heavily stunted, largely as a result of the acidic soils but also in places due to the ad hoc coppicing received during various miners' strikes. In fact the history of the woodland goes back much further than this and can be linked back to the Cluniac and Benedictine monks who inhabited Monk Bretton priory in the 12th century. Timber from the wood has been extensively used in the local industries of coal mining and iron ore production.
The variety of habitats associated with the site supports a large number of birds and other animals. The plantation area in the west of the site provides a home for mammals such as Wood Mouse and Bank Vole and the pools and small lakes close to the southern edge of the wood contain a variety of fish. The River Dearne, at one time one of the most polluted rivers in the region, now supports Brown Trout.
Under the Fuelling a Revolution programme, a programme of woodland restoration and access improvement work is taking place to restore the woodland to its former glory and to maximise its potential as a recreational and educational resource. Selective felling of trees will be used to open up areas of closed tree canopy and allow light to reach the woodland floor in order to encourage the growth of woodland wildflowers and young trees, particularly of native species typical of ancient semi-natural woodlands, such as Sessile Oak, Birch, Ash, Wild Cherry, Rowan, Alder, Crack Willow, Hazel and Hawthorn. The footpath network and wheelchair access will be maintained and improved and in order to raise awareness of the history and natural history, recreational potential and management of the site, a programme of educational and interpretative events is being run.