Sunday, 11 March 2018

Headingley to Garforth 10/03/18

13 miles, via Beckett Park, Meanwood, Stainbeck, Chapel Allerton, Gledhow, Oakwood,
 Hollin Park, Gipton, Wykebeck, Halton, Whitkirk, Colton, Swillington Common,
  and West Garforth.

The 'Beast from the East' passes, having lingered well into last Sunday, and it might be reasonable to assume that the weather is taking a more seasonal turn as March progresses, only to get a Thursday morning blast of Snowmageddon which throws everything out of kilter again, so bets are off once the weekend rolls around as to what sort of climate we might be getting, and damp and overcast looks like the projection, so the weather eye has to be tuned to help us avoid the worst of it. So a late start is due as we plot another track across the city from west to east, jumping off the train at Headingley after 10.35am to pick a different path across North and East Leeds, dropping down the steps to pass under the railway  and join the path that rises up through the allotments towards the high towers of the Queenswood estate, passing the Kirkstall Educational Cricket club before crossing Queenswood Drive and wandering on among the semis. The way forward is well concealed, hidden away at the top of Foxcroft Mount, where a passage between the council houses leads us to the lowest periphery of Beckett Park, which is home both public parkland and university campus, giving its name to the former Metropolitan Uni, and through the upper edge of Batcliffe Woods, another forest remnant that has endured in the expanding city. We are lead onto St Anne's Road, where the smartly upscale semis of the 1930s grew above the terraces in the main village, and where studentland never quite got a strong hold, running down to the so-called Dynasty corner, named after the infamous Chinese restaurant at the centre of the shopping parade, and above the main drag on Otley Road, where the Arndale centre is in the grip of a major renovation. Pass over to Grove Lane and Shaw lane, where the houses and terraces get larger and stonier as we move into the smartly Victorian hinterland between Headingley and Meanwood, where the merchants of their day started the trend for out of town living, in houses that are poorly located and too big for the modern world, resulting in their development of flats and retirement homes. Monk Bridge Road twists downhill past the ends of the brick terraces that signal our arrival in Meanwood, dropping us at the bottom of the valley and over the beck before we rise again, to meet Meanwood Road, between the Wesleyan chapel and the site of the infamous Beckett's Arms public house, since redeveloped as flats and having me wondering if every road corner in these part deserves to be dubbed 'Infamous'?

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Woodlesford to Headingley 03/03/18

11.5 miles, via Rothwell Haigh, Belle Isle, Middleton Park, Cross Flatts Park, Beggars Hill,
 Elland Road, Low Fields, Green Side, Upper Wortley, Whingate, Upper Armley,
  Wyther Park, Houghley Gill, Kirkstall Bridge, and Kirkstall.

And then the weather happened. A relatively bright and warm February comes to a sudden end as three of the harshest days of cold weather arrive across the country, the worst since the icy blast of March 2013, and the snow and persistent easterly winds are enough to challenge even the hardiest of souls, making travelling to work complicated and work itself improbably hard as our hospital department's air recirculators pump fresh air in from out of doors, ensuring that its fleecy jacket temperatures even deep inside the building. Despite the tests to the mental and physical fortitude that the cold snap brings, the early walking season of 2018 is not going to go on hiatus, as we have landed on my Six Year walking anniversary, and my first opportunity to head out on 3rd March since I started out in 2012 and that's not a date to be missed, though I won't be going anywhere near Gargrave, Malham or Settle to celebrate the distance I have travelled since, as that sort of terrain can wait for the summer and the sort of days when there isn't standing snow in the fields and impacted ice on the pavements. So an extra layer of insulation will be needed as we go out into a sub-zero climate, and there's even a rail strike to contend with, but that doesn't put any cramps on my travelling plans, though I do have the train to virtually myself as we ride out to Woodlesford to complete my trek around Leeds by getting my fill of the southern and western quarters, disembarking at 10.10am, with a tight schedule planned, and so my best snow legs are on as we start off westwards to meet this village that has been lost in a mass of suburbia. It's been described previously on a far nicer day than this, and so the soundest path on the pavements is found to pass All Saint's church, the Two Pointers, and the village green before we delve deep into the suburbia, which continues to expand to fill the fields next to the old colliery sites and welding it firmly to the districts of Oulton and John O'Gaunts. Meet the colliery estate and the passage over the A639 Leeds Road, and take some slippery steps to meet Haigh Lane and the way into Greater Rothwell, finding another old path to cross as the alignment of the E&WYU railway is met as Haigh Road crosses Styebank Lane, and that's going to be a major feature of the day as we've had a lot longitudinal burned across South Leeds, but very few latitudinal ones, so checking them off should keep the mind entertained, as we wander on past more suburbia and the snowclad, and super-atmospheric, Rothwell cemetery.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Headingley to Woodlesford 24/02/18

10.6 miles, via Meanwood, Miles Hill, Potternewton, Harehills, Osmandthorpe,
 Halton West, Skelton Moor, Newsam Green, and Leventhorpe.

The Specs that saw Everything so far
get retired after 11+ years service.
Before we get going again, we have to announce another early season retirement as my other constant companion of the last decade gets replaced, the specs that I got in 2006 finally get an update, and the eyes that have literally seen everything I have over my walking career get renewed, not because my sight is suffering, more that the time has come for something new. So the small and wiry pair that were definitively the best glasses I have ever worn get retired, replaced by the nearest equivalent that I could find in Specsavers as current styles of chunky and plasticy are certainly not my thing, and not costing me a whole lot of coins either, and if the new ones do me right for 11+ years, I'll certainly be a happy camper. And so we move on, due for more Crosstown Traffic in the City of Leeds, as there have been so many trails radiating out from the centre and not enough going from side to side, and so we set out with a two-day circular route in mind, to get in much of North and East Leeds along the way of leg #1, disembarking at Headingly station at 10.40am, starting late and hopeful that the winter sunshine will offset the low temperature and persistent easterly wind, with the day warming through a bit as we go. So eastwards we head, from this charmingly domestic station in the suburbs, past the railway cottages and setting course along Kirkstall Lane for the village centre, among the suburban spread, but noting the large Victorian houses of Oakfield and St Ann's Tower that stand on either side of the railway line and the Queenswood Drive junction before we run into the terraces that student land is still just about clinging onto. The looming mass of Headingley stadium, home of Yorkshire CCC and not enough England Test matches, appears on the horizon, looking much larger now that the Carnegie pavilion rises above the Len Hutton gates, and it's telling that my detachment from cricket is so bad that the last time I came here was in the days when Twenty20 was a fun diversion rather than a scourge on the modern game.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Cottingley to Leeds 17/02/18

10.8 miles, via Beeston, Middleton, Belle Isle, Hunslet, Knostrop, and Richmond Hill.

As is happens, there were no options for new trails to be burned in Lancs when I spent last weekend with My Sister, largely due to the weather being persistently unpleasant, and with her having a lot of work to do thanks to her change of career path, but I do come away with plans for three days of walks for future visits, and also with a new cookbook, all about the art of sandwiches. Thus February is already on at a pace when we rejoin the trails in the city of Leeds, and not forcing ourselves out to an early start as we look to a trail across South Leeds, largely due to the fact that we need to start once the worst of the weather has passed, and that I have to run an early morning errand in Morley before we can even consider getting going. So it's only a short ride away to get to the start line at Cottingley station, for a 10.55am start, conveniently placed between the Cottingley Hall estate and Churwell by the footbridge that predated it and surely ensured its location when new in 1988, which we pass over to make acquaintance with the council estate, a resolutely 1970s low rise and pitched roofed affair on this side, entered by the primary school on Dulverton Grove. The distinctive pair of towers rise at its centre, overshadowing the small commercial centre, once home to a pub known to locals the Sphinx due to its pyramidal roof, which houses barely any business nowadays, and we pass to the other side of this small hillside to find the way down, past the church and the somewhat browner houses to Cottingley Drive, once the driveway to the Cottingley Hall farm that named the estate. Drop out onto the A6110 Ring Road and cross over by the Sulzer works and the Drysalters pub, passing the brand new Kia dealership and turning right to hit the steep Crows Nest Road, which ascends sharply as the other back road up onto Beeston's hill, passing over the railway line to Wakefield and Doncaster and the buildings of Crows Nest farm, still looking rural on the edge of the city. The height gain gives us some looks back to the way travelled from Cottingley, and to the hills inhabited by Churwell and Morley, and we can find that contemporary development can fill any available patch of land, as new builds cling onto this hillside, left behind as we ascend to emerge between the Whistlestop Inn and the Beeston primary school and hit Town Street by the turning circle of the bus route terminus, where a fine view to the north can be found, through the greyness.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Kirkstall Forge to Arthington & Bramhope 07/02/18

9.1 miles, via Horsforth Woodside, Horsforth, Cookridge, Breary Marsh, Bramhope,
 Creskeld Hall, Arthington Viaduct, & Arthington Junction.

New Boots! Pair #6b.
Season #7 launches whilst I'm in the midst of an 11 day break from work, taking time out to visit My Parents for a long weekend, and to go see My Sister to catch up on last year, and to also to get this thing started again as we lapse out of the Dark Season, especially as I have new pair of lightweight boots to road test, acquired from Cotton Traders at Batley Mill for not a whole lot of coins, when I wasn't even looking for any, hopefully durable enough to survive me pounding them around the city, whilst my regulars can be reserved for the country trails. So away as Winter sunshine beats down on a Wednesday morning, not starting too early as it's freakishly cold, hopeful that the window of clear skies will last long enough, a familiar risk at this time of year, and so we disembark at Kirkstall Forge at 10.40am, with a trail ready in my mind, plotted as the alternate finale between Aire and Wharfe for 2017, so we shouldn't need maps for this trip. The Kirkstall Forge development still amounts to no more than a single office building, two car parks and a lot of cleared post industrial land, but to seems the first building task was to secure the banks of the River Aire, which bisects the site, to insure the future riverside development doesn't get inundated, and the channel is crossed to follow the new access road up to the A65 Abbey Road, emerging where it crosses Oil Mill Beck. The passage down the wooded clough to the north is the route we will follow, for the third time, by a different route as Hawksworth Road brings suburban living to a ribbon of plots along side the beck and the looming banks of primordial trees, a familiar sight around these parts of Horsforth Woodside, and we soon have risen to meet the Bridge Inn and the mill conversion at the bottom of Butcher Hill, along with the feeling that some points in this city will always be a locus of convergence, where trails from all different directions will meet, cross and disperse. 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Out of the Dark Season & Onwards!

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70
is my new toy for 2018!
Another Dark Season is traversed, as Imbolc passes and Superbowl weekend arrives, and I mark this by taking an 11 day break from work in order to visit both My Parents and My Sister & her family, and to get the 2018 walking season underway, grateful that the days have finally lengthened so that the perpetual night can recede away for another nine months. Not gonna lie, this has been another tough one, as despite promises to have two months of sociability, I have mostly hibernated, only getting out for the seasonal festivities, and not even getting that much rest as I did as little as possible. Altogether a quarter-year to forget, with 43 feeling like the age when middle aged feelings started to outweigh those of lingering youth, but one not without its positives, the festive portion having been entirely acceptable as a social venture, and it got me gifts that finally allow me to get my new toy up and running, with memory cards, batteries and a new carry case for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70 camera coming my way courtesy of My Sister so that my old Fuji Finepix E-900 can finally be retired. It feels like a really snazzy camera on first impressions, but it's probably a price range equivalent a decade or so newer, but having a memory capacity for 5,000 pictures, with the smallest possible memory card, and the ability to do HD video and image retouching makes it feel so much better, but I worry is it as sturdy as the old one, as it feels like it won't survive as many trips to the ground as the old one did. Still, it's something new to adapt to as another season of out of doors exploits comes around, my seventh, and it starts to feel like this might be the make or break season for me, as like many great TV series' or the concept of marriage, seven years feels like as far as you can go before you run the risk of things starting to feel stale and repetitious, or having routine and ennui starting to overtake your life.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Conclusions of 2017

Wrapping 2017 at Baildon station.
Well, we all made it to 2018, which honestly surprises me after the unfolding stupidity of 2017 is considered, not a worse year than 2016, strangely, but certainly much stupider; much, much stupider. But we are not here to lament geopolitics and all that nonsense, but to instead mark the turn of another year and look back on my sixth walking season and to ponder once again the thought, what did we learn in 2017? Mainly, the reflection point is Despite the stresses, the Season was a success, as most of my walking plans came together for once, and most of the targets set back in February were achieved, despite the loss of impetus in both May and September, and the obvious lack of a Summer holiday to fit in another long distance trail. Setting my sights towards Bradford and Nidderdale turned out to be excellent choices, as both provided illuminations to the local walking territory that had not been expected, as finding a whole previously unseen city on your virtual doorstep provides so many new things to see without having to travel too far, whilst the next valley up from West Yorkshire proved to be a fine location for a break away and much closer than I'd thought it might be when summer's adventuring came around. The relatively tight focus of the year meant that I might not have ventured as afield as I might have planned, but keeping close to the territories around the city of Bradford and in the lands between the Wharfe  and the Nidd meant that a great deal of familiarity of previously alien lands was gained, and I honestly feel all the better for that. So we might have not travelled out over the Bronte Moors or up the higher reaches of Airedale, but in all a lot was gained in this tight focus, unlike the usual problems of not taking time out for rest, and failing to find any time to be sociable on my trails, indeed, I did the entire year solo, which ought to feel like an achievement, until you consider that I didn't get over to tramp in Lancashire with My Sister for a second consecutive year, or to get out with any of my walking friends, which I haven't done in any capacity since 2014 (!), a failure that I seem to lament every year.