Thursday, 7 September 2017

Leicester to Loughborough 06/09/17

16.1 miles, via Frog Island, Abbey, Stocking Farm, Leicester North, Mowmacre Hill,
 Thurcaston, Rothley, Swithland, Woodhouse, Quorn, Woodthorpe, & Charnwood Water.

No Late Summer Jollies away this year, as we are instead Down Country to celebrate My Parents' Golden Wedding Anniversary, and after the exertions of the last walking weekend and a frankly harsh four day week, I could be forgiven for not wanting to walk at all when my nine day break comes around, but that would be a foolish choice to make, with 3,000 miles on the immediate horizon, and so we fit in one day to wander at the mid point of the week, tidily accommodated amongst everything else that's going on. I do seem to have spent a lot of my blogging life lamenting the industry and the railways that we have lost over the last half century and more, and so to make a change, we will today take a more positive approach and go in search of the Great Central Railway, both former and preserved, between Leicester and Loughborough, because as of this very week, exciting developments are afoot, and probably demand my immediate attention while I have another landmark to attain in my walking career. To the Town then, bussing it out to give the Parental Taxi another break, starting out, as so many days used to in Leicester, from the Clock Tower at 9.05am, with our long and meandering path setting off down High Street, rapidly away from the shops that haven't even opened yet, to the High Cross, and on to St Nicholas's Church on the far side of the Inner Ring road, a location that seems to always turn up on my city walks regardless of where I'm headed. Detour to Great Central Street to start the railway exploration proper, at the site of Leicester Central station, active from 1899 to 1969, it's still largely intact, probably because it would be too hard to demolish, and we keep on hearing of the redevelopment plans for it, but for now it still hosts light industrial units within and upon, high above street level. Press north to meet the A50 across the canal and Frog Island, still a largely industrial quarter, taking the turn onto Slater Street to catch the sole section of viaduct that endures, standing tall in blue bricks up to the edge of the River Soar, and it hurts my mind to think that there used to be so much more of it, having not been demolished along with its many bridges until 1980, on measure, one of those sights that I'm really glad I didn't witness in person.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Headingley to Frizinghall 28/08/17

9.2 miles, via Kirkstall, Bramley Fall, Whitecotes, Rodley, Calverley, Greengates, Idle,
 Wrose, and Gaisby.

August Bank Holiday Monday rolls around and the long weekend has been pretty decent so far, so there's no reason to believe that it won't continue in a similar vein, and I need to use my bonus day as every other one of this year's has been wasted or under-employed, so we look somewhere that's not as remote as the Wharfe - Nidd bracket and return to Airedale to seek out a viewpoint that hasn't been visited so far, my thoughts having been entirely organised by a pun that has loitered in my mind for a while. 'On the Idle Hill of Summer' is a poem by AE Housman, published in 1896 in the anthology 'A Shropshire Lad', and is a deeply pessimistic verse, filled with an anxiety of a youthful idyll doomed to be consumed by war, an unfortunately prophetic text famously set to music by both George Butterworth and Arthur Somervell, and not the sort of thing you might expect to inspire a stroll in West Yorkshire, but we do have an Idle Hill, north of Bradford, and it makes sense to go up there whilst Summer still reigns in 2017. Away to the start line in Headingley then, breaking out early at 9.05am to keep ahead of the out-going Leeds Festival traffic and the incoming Test Match traffic, and the way west is going to be the same as the last time we came this way, away from the little MR station complex and down Kirkstall Lane, mixing it up by walking down the other side of the road as we pass through the absent heart of Kirkstall village and between superstore and gym to the passage over Kirkstall Road. The buildings on Bridge Road, opposite the shopping centre, always entice my mind, as if I'd ever wanted to run a conference and wedding venue, and we pass over the road by the Bridge Mills and Inn, where I'm still to go drinking after so many years in this city, passing over the Aire and its valley's railway to take the right turn onto the Leeds & Bradford Road, which offers a few fine views over the Kirkstall playing fields and meadows, thick with corn at the moment, across the dale to the Abbey and the wooded hillsides beyond. Altogether this is a much leafier track than I expected, being shaded by trees after passing over the Leeds & Liverpool canal, and it provides a handy reminder of just how easy it is to forget the West Leeds green space, which dominates so much of the Aire valley whilst being so seemingly easy to ignore.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Harrogate to Pateley Bridge 26/08/17

14.9 miles, via the Nidderdale Greenway, Ripley, Bedlam, Burnt Yates, Hartwith Hill,
 Summerbridge, Low Laithe, Wilsill, and Glasshouses.

The last excursion of the High Season comes around already, and I'm already delighted that my plans for August came together so easily, and so we set off with a well-developed scheme to fit in just about as much as possible of Nidderdale before the End of Summer returns us to more local climates, a scheme that immediately gets off to a rocky start thanks to the first train of the day running late enough for me to miss my connection in Leeds, and thus the day does not start in Harrogate until 9.35am. Before we go onwards, I must share the observation that I have damned Harrogate station as possibly the ugliest in the county, but the real truth of the matter is only a quarter of it is truly hideous, as the remainder is either merely mundane, or actually pretty well presented, as the Harrogate Tap occupies the remains of the original NER station that provide a marked contrast to the 1970s Brutalist nightmare that lives on the other end of platform one. So away and northwards, past the Victoria Centre with its many sculptures and the bus station with its overly ornate metalwork, feeling hopeful for a sunny day, and immediately feeling discouraged by the dark and slate-y clouds that drift over the end of Station Parade, taking a turn east to pass under the railway, despite the red route to Nidderdale being to the North-West, as we have a date with Route 67 and the Greenway path to Ripley before we get there, and so we process northwards among the high terraces of Bower Street and Haywyra Street to follow this route burned for the use of cyclists. To get to its official start, we first have to pass alongside the Asda superstore and through its car park, a route designed to make you feel conspicuous, before meeting the Greenway path as it runs through the railway cutting, alongside the contemporary line, which seems like it's twice as wide as it needed to be, possibly to provide access to the former goods yard where the supermarket now stands, getting some surprising green and leafy space as we pass on below the Skipton Road bridge. Slip out to Grove Park Road, where we briefly pass through the town's outer suburbia before passing back over the existing railway to roll up to the site of Dragon Junction, where the NER constructed a spur in 1859 to link the original metals of the Leeds & Thirsk and the York & North Midland railways, which despite passing out of use in 1967, still forms the north-eastern boundary of Harrogate, with suburban Bilton butting up to the path, and the interior of the former railway triangle remaining rural.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Harewood to Ripley 19/08/17

12.6 miles, via Harewood Bank & Bridge, Lane Ends, North Rigton, Briscoe Ridge,
 Beckwithshaw, Pot Bank, Oaker Bank, and Killinghall.

Summer marches on at a pace, and we've already come to the last of the trips that I had planned for the second phase of the High Season's wanderings, and after all those early starts and complicated arrangements to get to get to my jump-off points up Wharfedale, it's good to have a nicely straightforward ride that doesn't require a super-early start, as the #36 can be ridden out to Harewood, and the eastern end of the dramatic stage of the valley of the Wharfe, hopping off at 9.45am. The theme for the day, aside from Wharfe to Nidd for the final time, is model villages, not the miniature kind and a completely unintentional theme that only came after I been drawing more lines on the map, and even with the distance for the day being a modest one and not having a firmly set finish time, I still make no effort to take a tour around John Carr's planned village from the mid 18th century, the Harrogate Road fronts being familiar from my previous visits, but those along Harewood Avenue still remaining unseen as the path for the day leads northwards. So away from the Harewood Arms, the modest and tasteful council estate around Spring Gardens, and the mixed vintage cluster at Bondgate to meet the views of the part of Wharfedale that hasn't been seen in a while, as the A61 picks its path down Harewood Bank, a route I pick for today as it's one I'd rather experience for the first time going down rather than up, and at its top we meet the north westerly wind that has been blowing for a full month now, sure to keep this Saturday's weather  as changeable as all the ones that preceded it. On foot, the curve of the bank seems more harsh than the incline as we sweep westwards around the outer perimeter of Harewood Park, the densely wooded corner that conceals Harewood Castle, the ancient ruin that still seems neglected and forgotten about when it surely ought to be a cherished attraction, and again the views forward suggest angles across Wharfedale that I'd allow myself to forget about in the time spent in its many other corners. Descend to Harewood Bar and sweep north with the A61 as it passes the shed and gazebo manufactory and meet the passage across Harewood Bridge, over the Wharfe and soon to be greeted by the bridge house and the courtyarded apartment complex that used to be a hotel, settling onto a course along the main road that will have us walking against the traffic for more than a mile and testing our progress by counting the editions of the #36 bus that pass us as we go.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Weeton to Brimham Rocks 12/08/17

17.7 miles, via Huby, Almscliff Crag, Briscoe Ridge, Stainburn Forest, Scargill Reservoir,
 Beaver Dyke, Knabs Ridge, Kettlesing Bottom, Cinder Hills, Darley Moke Hill, Hartwith,
  Burtree Hill, Brimham Moor, Brimham Rocks, Hartwith Bank, and Summerbridge.

Last week's trip felt like it came to a bit of an abrupt end, feeling like it ought to have an extra hour or so to it as it dropped us in Summerbridge at the bottom of the hill on which Brimham Rocks stand, not to be seen on that occasion as the walk up Hartwith Bank was not something to be attempted after 13+ miles on the trail, and thus we have a target already set for this weekend, as it would be profoundly foolish to both holiday in Nidderdale and have half a summer of making trails over there without attempting to visit the locality's most famous attraction. So we pick our start line by moving downstream on the Wharfe, and we won't quite be able to see if Brimham Rocks really are accessible directly from West Yorkshire as there is no crossing point on the river between Arthington and Castley, and even if there were it might prove to be just that bit too far to be viable on a single day's trek, especially when the route we have plotted, from Weeton station on the Harrogate line, is going to be close on the year's longest, even with being a mile or so into North Yorkshire already. Rail travel at least gives us the option on an early start for a trail that will absorb most of the day, dropping us off at 8.50am, where the surviving station houses have already been noted, though the period coal yard is something I hadn't noticed before, and we set out onto the A658, through the outer edge of Huby village, where Weeton station is inexplicably located, pacing the edge of the Dudley Hill, Harrogate & Killinghall road past the Almscliff Village hall and on to our rising path up Holly Park, where various vintages of suburbia have landed deep in the Yorkshire countryside. Having gained some altitude we meet the tracks around Holly Hill farm, and sight of our first destination is met as we hit the rising field boundaries that elevate us above Wharfedale and point us in the direction of Almscliff Crag, looming high above, but before we get there we'll have to negotiate a path among the cows, thankfully docile in the field below Crag House, before we can get a firm footing on Crag Lane. Pass on around the low skirt around the Crag, passing Cliff House and Crag farm, to show the Grotstone outcrop really is the only feature of note in these parts, taking views of the rock as it looms high above Wharfedale, and enjoy the evolving views around as we meet the track pioneered in June and leave the Crag behind us we hit Long Lane and find it reveals a completely different aspect on the valley when descended, like that should come as a surprise.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Pool in Wharfedale to Summerbridge 05/08/17

13.2 miles, via Leathley Bridge, Farnley, Lindley Wood reservoir, Norwood Edge,
 Bland Hill, 'Dangerous Corner', RAF Menwith Hill, Darley Head, Dacre, & Dacre Banks.

For my Wharfe to Nidd trails, it makes sense to progressively head downstream with my start points as we aim at a west to east exploration of the terrain of these new lands, and the next place down the river to start out from is obviously Pool in Wharfedale, which seems to be one of those places designed to be as hard as possible to access by public transport, so some thinking has to be done to land the bus changes and avoid an unwanted walk down either of the Pool Banks. Happily, departing the X84 and catching the #967 at the Dyneley Arms proves way easier than expected, and we can descend to the town, hiding below its high embankment, for a start at 9.20am from the Pool Bank Road - Arthington Lane corner below the village fingerpost, illustrating the idea that the name of the village might be a test of whether you are local or not, as the local might call it just 'Pool' whilst the clueless visitor might add 'in Wharfedale' without knowing any better. We press on to the river, away from the White Hart, St Wilfred's church, the Half Moon and away from this place that really has no alternative routes away from the main roads to make our rapid transition into North Yorkshire, over Pool Bridge and the Wharfe and along the side of the A658 to the B6161 corner and move on to Leathley Lane as this trip is again going to be all roads as we seek the easiest routes into Nidderdale. Push west, below the looming mass of the Pool Bank - Caley Park - Otley Chevin hill to the south, looking forward beyond Leathley to the high sides of the Washburn, and back to the wooded lumps of Riffa wood and Rawden hill, past the collection of farms in the low flat fields around the Wharfe riverside before taking the turn north to shadow the low outspill of the Washburn. Switch roads, at Leathley Lodge, which seems to be too small to practically live in, passing over the narrow Leathley bridge to the west side of the Washburn, dodging too much traffic as we go, before settling onto the rising road as it rises around the boundary of Farnley Park, with Hasling Hall farm occupying most of the lands to the south, over seeing the view to Rombalds Moor, and gaining 50m of elevation on the way up the East Lodge gives us some fine views over the Lower Wharfe and Lowest Washburn to Almscliffe Crag and a lot of sun-blessed greenery, bidding it a farewell as the lane hits the park's northern perimeter, but certain it will reappear again when we least expect it.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Otley to Pateley Bridge 29/07/17

15.2 miles, via Newall Carr, Weston Moor, Askwith Moor, Beecroft Woods, Blubberhouses,
 Stonehouse Crossroads, Padside, Braithwaite, Heyshaw Moor, Nought Moor, Bewerley,
  and Bridgehouse Gate.

With phase one of the Summer's walking plans done, having covered all the immediately obvious trails in the Wharfedale - Washburn - Harrogate bracket, it's now time to move on to the second phase and to press on to the north, and to overcome the idea that a great and seemingly insurmountable distance in the mind is actually a lot less than that which is measured on the ground, finally providing an answer to the thought, that has tested me for several years 'Does One simply walk into Nidderdale?'. The only way to find out is by attempting to walk it, and thus four fresh trails are put on the slate to breech the emotional distance between Wharfedale and Nidderdale, and our first plan has us riding out to Otley to set course for the heart of that distant valley, over the moors and dales, getting off the bus at 9.15am with another route to blaze through the town to get over the Wharfe at Otley Bridge. So away we go, under gloomy skies, up Crossgate and over Boroughgate to the long stone terraces of Wesley Street, North Parade and Manor Street, passing the spires of the United Reformed church and former board school, to meet the riverside in the narrow greenspace of Tittybottle Park (no sniggering at the back), noting that the Wharfe seems higher than usual, or at least that bit less placid, before striking north again over that many arched bridge and setting off up Billiams Hill to retrace steps previously made through Newall Carr last year. An ascent does bring on a somewhat differnet feel to the walk, noting the consumed grounds of Newhall Hall this time around, as well as noting the old sign set into local walls, hammering on past the old and new Wharfedale hospitals, still unvisited in all my years working for LTHT and wondering if Otley's suburbia grew to meet the edges of West Yorkshire or if the border was placed where it is to contain it. Countryside arrives with North Yorkshire and all the views come to the west as the bulk of Rombalds Moor rises and reveals itself, as we push on past the Copmanroyd terrace and Clifton's village hall, nowhere near the actual village, and find that Nidderdale's AONB is only 35 minutes out from our start and we could claim an early success in our quest and go home if we were feeling cheeky, but we have a real mission to accomplish as we press on up the hill on the welcome footway to pass the Roebuck inn and to meet Clifton Lane and our sentinel friend, the Clifton Moor mast.