For much of its history, the Sheffield hills and the moors which surround it have acted as barriers for travel and communication. The town has been isolated from the main transport routes. The River Don was navigable only as far as Bawtry, twenty miles to the east.
Despite the difficulties, packhorse trains were used to transport the products of the Sheffield workers out of the town across the high ground. Loaded carts were able to carry goods along the few roads which were passable in good weather.
Bringing water transport into the town centre, the construction of turnpike roads and then the railway links were all late arrivals in Sheffield compared with other places. This was due partly to the natural obstacles around the town but also a result of objections from local landowners. When the various transport systems were eventually developed, they each had a marked effect on the prosperity and population of the town.