Monday, 21 May 2018

Leicestershire Round #1 - Newtown Linford to Rearsby 20/05/18

14.7 miles, via Bradgate Park, Woodhouse Eaves, Swithland Reservoir, Mountsorrel, 
 Cossington, and Ratcliffe College.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#1 at Bradgate Park, Newtown Linford
Spring Jollies time, and the days of getting away to a fresh trail in the countryside are sadly done, as My Dad is no longer able to travel as he continues to struggle with the onset of Parkinsons Disease, and thus my holiday breaks this year will be spent in The Old Country to lend him some extra company and to be an extra pair of hands and ears around the house for My Mum, a sequence that will finally give me an opportunity to tilt at the Leicestershire Round. Devised by the county's Footpath Association in 1987 and standing at 100 miles long, it will be the longest trail that I have attempted so far, and its circuit is relatively accessible from our base in Humberstone, though the guide's division of the route into nine legs seems a bit modest, so I boldly figure that it can be easily done in seven, and that's the plan that I have in mind as the Parental Taxi drives me out to Newtown Linford for a very early start on Sunday morning, planned as such so that I might be of maximum use to My Parents on my non walking days. Pass through Newton Linford village to get dropped off at just after 8.15am in the Bradgate Park car park, and we are certainly not the earliest starters out here as joggers and folks gathering for the Emergency Services day already crowd the tarmac, and as we have no distinctive route marker to indicate the Round's start line, I'll set out from the main gate to head on into the park itself, along the side of the stream that flow eastwards, in the shadow of tall trees and outcrops of granite. Immediately get entertainment from the herd of juvenile Red Deer, retreating across the track and stream from the main park into the deer enclosure as we march on towards Bradgate house, the home of Lady Jane Grey, and the Earls of Stamford, and notable as one of the oldest all-brick stately homes in the country, now ruined but preserved along with the rest of the park for the people of Leicestershire in 1928, thanks to the generosity of Charles Bennion of British Shoe co. Naturally the route takes us uphill immediately from here, up past Bowling Green Spinney and through the recumbent herds of Fallow Deer to rise to Charnwood Forest's most notable hill, where the Old John Tower sits atop it, not the sort of climb the body wants as the heat of the day comes on already, but it's alway good to be up on this granite top to take in the view around the county from 212m up, even if there's way too much morning haze to see much all that clearly in these conditions.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Steeton to Skipton 12/05/18

14.2 miles, via Silsden, Cringles, Woofa Bank, Draughton Height, Draughton, Lumb Gill, 
 Halton East, Halton Height, Heugh Gill, Embsay Crag, Embsay Reservoir, and Embsay.

The Exciting Plan A trailed for this weekend goes onto the reserve list for later in the season, as a Big Day Out in Lancashire with My Sister will have to wait until her attempt at a career change leaves her with a bit more free time, like the Summer, so we instead to resort to Emergency Plan B, and pull out another walk that putters around the edges of the hills around the Aire and the Wharfe, to fit in with the early Spring theme. I'm still not all that inspired to early starts, not getting to Steeton & Silsden station until nearly 10.10am, and have a poke around at the old station's goods yard before we set course to the north, and as the last route from here to Skipton went the long way round, it makes sense to do the same this time, only in the opposite direction, though a track to the north means retracing a lot of steps as the way by the A6034 Keighley Road. So all's familiar as we push over the Aire via Silsden Bridge and past the sports fields in the company of the high points of Airedale, whilst finding new things to ponder, like the identity of Cobbydale, or wondering where Cocking Hill might be, as advertised by the signs on the Blackburn & Addingham turnpike, and noting the Tour de France themed bollards are still in situ 4 years down the line before entering Silsden by the branch of Aldi. Still on familiar pavements as we pace up past the small factories and mixing of old and new houses on the south side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, before finally starting to make a fresh path past Clog Bridge as we head up the main street through the town, with the parish church of St James looming over the many pubs, and where the village beck forms a rather dramatic waterside garden, complete with weir. Follow Bolton Road as it angles uphill, on a 7% ascent, complete with [!] signage to alert the unwary motorist, rising with the long terraces to think this might be one of the steeper A-roads in these parts, one that certainly offers some fine views as you look back, with Earl Crag seeming to rise over the town from quite a considerable remove. Hitting the Town Head, the road continues to rise at a steady pitch, just enough to get you panting, for a pretty solid mile in the shadow of Nab End, and above Silsden Reservoir before meeting the farm and house cluster at Fishbeck, before continuing the rise to present the company of Airedale's hills and the looming Skipton Moor rather grandly before we shift into the shadow of Cringles Plantation, where a caravan park hides behind it, before meeting the summit at the farm cluster of Cringles where the the road crests over into Wharfedale and an old tower and air shaft are prominent, both apparently inexplicable according to my maps, as we finally leave the A6034's side.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Ilkley to Bingley 07/05/18

9.1 miles, via The Cow & Calf, Burley Woodhead, Burley Moor, Hawksworth Moor, 
 Faweather Grange, Lane Ends, Compensation Reservoir, Prince of Wales Park, 
  Gilstead Moor Edge, and Ferncliffe.

Amazingley the hot weather has lasted all the way around to Bank Holiday Monday, ensuring we'll be getting the warmest and brightest May Day weekend in a long time, almost enough to have me regretting not getting further afield, or higher up,  whilst temperatures are around 25C and the skies are cloudless, but I set out my plans for the 20 mile circuit of Rombalds Moor, and that's what I'll stick to. The best laid plans to get out early and ahead of the heat came to nothing, not that it would have made that much difference anyway, as we arrive at Ilkley at 10.20am, along with the gathering throng for the Ilkley Carnival, a crowd I'll gladly step away from to strike away from the town on the one major route that I have yet to pace, away from the station and the Town Hall complex and straight up Cowpasture Road. This sets the route at a pretty steady rate uphill, all the way to the Cow & Calf rocks, which loom above the town from so many angles, but without ever getting a straight line view to them on this lane, passing up among the smarter terrace of this town, and past the Craiglands Hotel, one of only a few former Hydropathic (or Spa) establishments still in business in Ilkley. Move into villa territory beyond, and the road takes a kink to cross Cow Close Gill and the descending Backstone Beck, and meet the top suburban edge of Ben Rhydding, and the moorland cattle grid before the view opens up to Ilkley Moor and the Cow & Calf rocks, which have already drawn a holiday crowd and sit with the sun directly behind them, which will be a frustration for all of today's excursion southwards. The Tour de Yorkshire's second stage concluded up here on Friday, and the artwork on the road still endures, bringing some additional colour to the area around the cafe and the pub which share the name of the rocks, and the alert brain remembers to keep looking back with the ascent as the view over Ilkley and to Upper Wharfedale is a good one to watch evolve. Too early for elevenses at the former Highfields Hotel, but the going eases as Hangingstone Road levels off, in the shadow of the rock which names it, though when viewed from the east it looks much more like a perching stone, and we gain a wide verge to walk as the pavement ends, moving to the perimeter of Burley Moor as the eastern view emerges, mostly concealed in a heavy heat haze. Moor Road leads below Stead Crag and over the cleft of Rushey Beck before slipping around Crag House and presenting us with a walled section with far too many blind corners, to keep you alert to the traffic all the way down to Robin Hole, where the reveal of the views up the clough of Coldstone Beck and to Barks Crags are probably the best on this end of the moor.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Bingley to Ilkley 05/05/18

11 miles, via Priestthorpe, Greenhill, Micklethwaite, East Morton, Riddlesden, Rivock, 
 High Moor Plantation, Doubler Stones, Addingham High Moor, Addingham Moorside, 
  Cragg House, and Netherwood.

I had originally planned to get far away from West Yorkshire for May Day weekend, as the Tour de Yorkshire had seemingly threatened to get in the way of my trail, but it turns out that the cycling is going on far, far away on the Saturday, which allows me to spend much less money on travel as I project a two day circuit around the edges of Rombalds Moor, ideal for a spell that threatens to turn very warm indeed. Arrive at Bingley station at 10.10am, a bit late if we're being honest as the day already feels like it's hitting peak hotness, making my very first departure from it to pass the puzzlingly disused station house and meet Park Road to pass over the railway, the A650 and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, whilst getting a straight line view up the valley past the Damart factory to the high edge of Rombalds Moor that I will be passing over in a couple of hours. The first ascent for the day starts immediately, rising with the road past the industry at the canalside and up through the terraces of old north Bingley, before peeling from the main road as the more recent suburbia of Priestthorpe arrives, following Hall Bank Lane into the former region of Victorian villas that have since been consumed by suburban splurge. From New Mill beck, we meet a leafy path which leads up from a cul-de-sac to the driveway of Gawthorpe Hall, hidden away to the west, before following another up to the recent development around Pinedale and Oakwood Avenue, where a third path delves into the woods, rising behind the back gardens to give suggestions of an imminent Bluebell season before arriving behind Greenhill Hall, where the old driveway still runs through the trees. That's a lot of height gained as we meet Lady Lane, which has me glad that I've decided to put my regular boots back on for all this off road going, much of it to be immediately shed as we set off down Greenhill Lane, through the woods and the farms clinging to this high edge of the Aire's north side, splitting off at Greenhill Gate to join the footpath of Wood Lane that presses northwest in the shadow of the rough hillside that once was a Deer Park. Splendid views across the Aire come with the shady track, across Crossflatts and Sandbeds to the wooded hillside of Hollin Plantation, whilst we get more bluebell carpet to give the feeling of Spring in full force, even though the sunshine suggests the blaze of Summer is here already, as the track detours around Fairlady Farm, and then joins a field that is home to the most docile horses imaginable. This leads us to Carr Lane, and the very top of Micklethwaite, where we can take the windy lane downhill to the High Fold chapel corner and head down Holroyd Mill Lane, past Beck Farm Barn and off down the path to Morton Beck, noting the mill below getting a makeover, which is pretty much the rule for every rural property these days.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Ben Rhydding to Cononley 28/04/18

10.3 miles, via Ilkley, The Dales Way, Small Banks, Addingham Middle Moor, Brown Bank, 
 Silsden, Kildwick Grange, and Farnhill.

It was a works outing on Friday night, with 13 of us sitting down for dinner (somewhat ominously) at Red Hot Buffet to get in multiple plates of All-You-Can-Eat, on one of those occasions that thankfully didn't see my drinking exploits stretching long into the evening, so that a hangover doesn't have to be worried about as the following morning rolls around, though I am still feeling the bloat some 14 hours later as I get up to face my next trail. It's also about time that I sought out a new station, as there haven't been any this year so far, so ride out to Wharfedale to pick out a track to Airedale, a minor theme for this portion of the season, while the weather takes a turn that has it looking a lot more like late April than it did last week, alighting at Ben Rhydding station at almost 10.05am. The track naturally takes us westwards, down Wheatley Lane and under the railway bridge, along the narrow footway to take the turn onto Valley Drive, where the definitively not posh quarter of Ilkley resides, the north east portion being where the modest semis and council houses reside, away from the upscale living in the other three quarters, probably still expensive in the scheme of things, but certainly the only part of town I could afford to retire to. I've made a lot of the views of the looming edge of Rombalds Moor above the town on previous trails, so stick to the south side of the road so a view or two might be picked out towards Denton Moor and Round Hill rising above Middleton on the north bank, above the rooftops of suburban Ilkley. Pass an incongruous section of dual carriageway at the heart of the estate, and over Backstone Beck at its western edge before we join Little Lane and follow it into a landscape of blackened terraces and light industrial buildings which fill all the space below Leeds Road, met by the cinema and crossed over to pass between the school, the conservatory outlet and lawnmower supplier on Wharfe View Road, before arriving at the Riverside Gardens by the Ilkley Playhouse. Descend to the path by the Wharfe and pass below the New Brook Street bridge, and along the length of the popular parkland to meet the Old Bridge, and the Dales Way seat, still obscured by the wares of the local nursery, and join the long route to Bowness for a second time as I fear that obvious fresh routes through Ilkley are starting to run a bit thin. Thus we'll have a bit of a nostalgic trek down the riverside in the shadow of Myddelton Lodge before meeting the driveway to the Ilkley Lawn Tennis & Squash club, where many legs appear to be flailing around in the upstairs picture windows, as part of a keep fit class, I'd assume.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Otley to Skipton 21/04/18

16.3 miles, via Burley in Wharfedale, Manor Park, Ben Rhydding, Ilkley, Addingham, 
 Chelker Reservoir, and Draughton.

Spring has finally sprung now that we are a month into it, with three days bringing all the heat that we have been denied for the preceding weeks, giving the odd experience of being able to complain about it being both too cold and too hot within the space of three days, and as we now need to start hitting the long days on the trail. it's slightly frustrating to not be able to get out to Otley on the X85 for a start earlier than 10am. I had caught the earlier edition of the X84, to aim for a 9.30am drop off, but that ride got no further than the University's Parkinson building as the driver suspended the service as the vehicle issued to him had a driving position that was aggravating his bad back, and he was unprepared to do a 2 hour drive in it to Skipton, which is a new one on me and thus my 6+ hour plus walk risks keeping me out through the hottest part of an already hot day. Away from Otley bus stand then, returning to Bondgate and head around to the corner by All Saints and up Kirkgate, where the Saturday market is already in full swing and several stores appear to still be trading on a model not much seen since the 1970s, passing the Clock Tower and crossing to Beech Hill and Westgate by the Black Horse and my particular favourite parade of shops in this town. Set course for Ilkley Road, passing the Cross Pipes, the blue ceramic terrace and the back of Waitrose to meet the Fleece and that impressive terrace of three-storeyed townhouses that start the bypassed section of the old road, and the stature of the houses diminish as we push out of town, before we run into the Otley Mills complex, in various states of usage after 200 years, where Wharfebank Mill remains employed, while another is boarded up and a third demolished to start the development of a new business park. Join the stub end of Ilkley Road as the A660 bypass roars by behind a shroud of trees, running into a rather musty atmosphere coming from fires lit in what appears to be a shanty town on the western edge of Otley, not something you'd expect to find as the path runs us up to our first contact with the bank of the Wharfe and pushes us out to the side of the main road, which will accompany us for most of today's trip. Thankfully a footway is going to be provided for much of it as we hang by the riverside as far as Mickle Ing bridge and switch to the southern side as we roll on past Maple Grange farm and the sewage works in the bow of the river, observing the traffic to see if anything interesting passes by, as well as watching the aeroplanes overhead flying in to land at Leeds Bradford airport, all of which seem to be operated by Ryanair or Flybe.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Leeds to Otley 14/04/18

12.2 miles, via Woodhouse Square, Woodhouse Moor, Hyde Park, Headingley, Far Headingley,
 West Park/Weetwood, Lawnswood, Golden Acre Park, Bramhope, and Caley Crags.

Back on the trail Up Country, at long last, hopefully putting the frustrations of the past month behind me, and casting all the missed walking plans onto the reserve list for later in the year, filling myself with the intent to put wandering around Leeds behind me, and to set course for this year's planned stomping grounds for the High Season, and so we choose to head away from the city bound for Wharfedale and Upper Airedale. Starting out from Leeds station at 10.05am, and heading to the north west, it seems wise to pick myself a fresh route of unwalked roads, noting that Spring is still unsprung as we move past the redeveloping Majestic theatre and along Wellington Street to turn to King Street to get the terracotta bright redness of the Hotel Metropole contrasting against the modernistic weirdness of the Bank of England's inverted ziggurat. Take a left onto the back street of York Place, where Victorian textile warehouses sit alongside Georgian townhouses, along with the former Horse & Carriage repository and many encroaching office buildings, where the Purple Door still endures against all good sense, switching onto Queen Street to see the office buildings that were unfinished when I last passed this way. This leads to a walk around the former Police HQ on Grace Street, and finding the footbridge over the A58(M) below the Westgate Island, leading us to Park Lane and the college that no longer shares its name, and taking our turn northwards to Hanover Way, and around the Joseph's Well building, where hospital business hasn't taken me in the longest time, to meet Woodhouse Square with its proud Georgian terrace around the Swarthmore centre facing the green with its statue of Sir Peter Fairbairn, the 19th century engineer and Mayor of Leeds. Rise with Clarendon Road, where upscale suburban living away from the city was first tested in the Victorian age, and where every other house seems to have an association to a period worthy, and there's a lot of Jacobean and Gothic accents on the villas as we head uphill, before we meet the Classical accents that make Fairbairn House, now owned by the University, quite so distinctive. Despite having been to UoL, this isn't a road I ever walked much so the routes down into the campus don't hold much immediate resonance for me, and things only looks familiar as we run up the Old Grammar School on the corner of Moorland Road, and my red route to campus down University Road, diagonally opposite Henry Price Flats, my very first address in this city.