Thursday, 20 July 2017

East Leicestershire Village Circuit #4 19/07/17

15.2 miles, from Humberstone, via Netherhall, Scraptoft, Beeby, Hungarton, Quenby Hall,
 Coplow Hill, Houghton on the Hill, Thurnby & Bushby, and Thurnby Lodge.

We're down country again, for my customary week off work in July, mildly frustrated that my first weekend got scratched from the schedule as my legs really needed a rest, despite having had a couple of days out from my usual routine at the hospital, and so to the Old Country we return, having travelled without a concrete plan, and so when my walking day comes free, we are as close as possible to heading out with a completely improvised plan. A village circuit seems in order, starting from close to home as I think that the Parental taxi deserves a rest, having aleady done a year's worth of driving in May, to give myself plenty of walking time whilst allowing My Parents to do their own thing while My Dad is not in the best of conditions, sadly, so onwards to walking in circles once more, not getting out too early to burn my way around some familiar territory in East Leicestershire, more filling in some un-walked paths than venturing far afield. So we commence in Humberstone, just after 10am, with a 6 hour circuit in mind, commencing from the corner in front of Abbots Road URC, a mile of so distant from my weekly base, starting out north and clockwise, to Hungarton Boulevard, where the Leicester eastern relief road was somehow squeezed between the houses, up to the corner of Netherhall Road, where the Moat Inn still dwells in my mind, despite having been replaced by a suburban branch of McDonalds more than decade ago. Onwards into the Netherhall estate, still showing a fa├žade of many 1950s vintage council houses coated in a layer of off-whitewashing, followed in great quantity up the shopping parade that has a much more singular character and on past the open park with Scraptoft Brook running through it, having gained enough altitude to be able to look back the various tower blocks in Leicester's city centre. Pass the school locally known as Scrappy Valley, which appears to have been half shut down and forgotten about, and roll on to the newer part of the estate, 70s vintage below Hamilton College, and sweeping around the curve of New Romney Crescent, which leads us to the edge of the city, where Scraptoft's Nether Hall farm still endures as an equestrian establishment, and lending its name to the estate below.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Ben Rhydding to Hornbeam Park 08/07/17

16.8 miles, via Denton, Hundwith Beck, Askwith Moor, Washburn Farm, Folly Hall,
 Sword Point, Norwood Edge, Stainburn Forest, Lindley Moor, Moorside Bridge,
  Briscoe Ridge, Brackenthwaite, Lund House Green, Rossett Green, & Oatlands.

Because of rail strikes, I don't have an option other than getting an early start on the day, with services being reduced early in the day and concluding in the late afternoon meaning that I have a pretty specific window to get my trail fitted into, and thus we ride out to Ben Rhydding station, at the smart end on Ilkley, to get going on a 16+ mile day, starting of at 8.55am with the sunshine already in the sky, but the summer heat still being some way off, thankfully. Pass under the railway and down Wheatley Road, quickly getting a revelation of the high northern side of Wharfedale that we will be traversing today as we pace down through the suburban edge of Ilkley to roll out onto the A65 to look back to a beautifully illuminated view of the Cow and Calf rocks up on the high moor edge, crossing the main road to soon be at the side of the Wharfe, which needs to be crossed via Denton bridge, the steel through-arch construction that is almost too narrow to accommodate pedestrian and traffic. We meet Denton Road on the other side, still not offering any more views of the adjacent river than it did last year, and still playing host to the traffic that acts like the A65 is just too slow a road for their tastes, otherwise a calm and shady lane that is Wharfedale cyclists' red route, leading us on to the corner of the Denton Hall estate and the lane that leads up to the village. This is where the day's ascent begins, rising by the perimeter wall and offering some fine views back to the evolving profile of Ilkley and Burley moors, a lot like last week but well-lit today, proving that an occasional early start can get the sun in the best possible angle for your photographic needs, and we've raised about 30m from the river once we meet Denton Village. It's a very small place, hosting only a few cottages by its farmsteads, and not all that many estate houses either, considering the proximity and size of Denton Hall, and we'll approach that down its lane, not getting as far as its gates, but instead taking a closer look at St Helen's church, with its curious octagonal turret, before retracing steps down to the crossroads at the village centre and peeling north on the ascending Smithy Lane. Tracing the boundary of Denton's High park, we ascend much further on the road up to Willow Hill and Yarnett House farms, getting more evolving Wharfedale views as we go, despite them being in a similar vein as last week's, but this time around we'll get much better sight of Beamsley Beacon, Round Hill and Denton Moor on the north side, inviting further exploration before this season is out.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Burley in Wharfedale to Starbeck 01/07/17

14.9 miles, via Askwith, Clifton, Lindley Wood reservoir, Norwood Edge, Stainburn Forest,
 Little Alms Cliff, Moor Park, Beckwithshaw, Harlow Hill, West Park, & The Stray.

Back to the Wharfedale and Washburn bracket we go, our main target for the early summer wanderings, wondering if this part of the world seems incapable of bringing the warm weather in the early going of the day as cloud cover reigns once more on another day that promised unbroken sunshine, dropping ourselves off at Burley in Wharfedale station at 9.25am after some excellent train connection discipline at Leeds. It's about three years since I was last here, out for le Grand Depart of the Tour de France, my sole previous encounter with the town, and the impression gained then is still much the same now, as it's a proud Victorian suburb somehow transported away from the city it ought to be attached to, clearly an expensive place to live judging by the house sizes down Station Road and the style of boutiques to be found on Main Street. It feels like I'm headed out to the A65 bypass once again as previously seen pavements are traversed, all looking a bit less busy this time around, but a new course is forthcoming away from the stone cottages and terraces to find the bridleway that leads under the bypass road to meet Leather Bank, and the way out to the Wharfe crossing. There's more to see down here than you might think, certainly more houses than expected, and past Greenholme Farm, it would be easy to meet the path by the Goit channel to Burley's mills and start heading south again, instead of passing over it to find Burley's famous stepping stones, which I approach with some trepidation seeing as my only other attempt to cross the Wharfe on stones ended in failure, but thankfully these are wider and flatter than those at Drebley, and a passage across below the weir isn't challenging despite the higher level of water after much rain in the last week. Good to see them well used too, but it looks like remedial work might be necessary in the future as the north bank seems to be in retreat, and the case for a proper crossing surely ought to be made, but that can wait for another time, as we pass away from the river, as the brief sunny spell for the crossing ends, hitting the field walk to the north and the pull uphill starts, up through fields full of cattle and sheep, which offer some excellent profiles of the edges of Burley and Ilkley moors as we look back, getting the feeling that the Wharfedale panoramas will be a feature of the early session, rising onwards to meet the bridleway and hard track by a remote cottage, that leads us up to Askwith, already acknowledged as a picturesque corner of North Yorkshire that offers bucolic charm and excellent Wharfedale views in equal measure.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Harrogate Ringway #2 - Knareborough to Pannal 24/06/17

13.7 miles, via Bilton Hall, Nidd Gorge, Bilton, Knox, Jennyfield, Oakdale, Birk Crag,
 RHS Harlow Carr, Beckwith, Lund House Green, & The Warren.

Long Distance Trail
means Selfies!
#2 at Knaresborough.
There's no early start to today's trek as a 4+ pint session from last night has to be slept off, after seeing off another colleague from my department at the hospital, and when we do get to depart from Knaresborough station, we're overdue after the train crew had to deal with a fare-dodger at Harrogate, and because I'm apt to fart around at this station that has already been dubbed the prettiest in the county, not getting underway until after 10.25 am, and the day ahead isn't going to be short. Feel fortunate that's we've got the sunshine out again as the descent down Water Bag Bank is made to rejoin the Harrogate Ringway trail, seeing the facades of Waterside being shown to the best effect, and allowing ourselves a detour to the riverbank to see the early morning row boaters already out and the old bridge carrying the A59 across the Nidd being shown up in a good light. Rise to the main road and over the river, passing The World's End and Mother Shipton's cave before we depart Knaresborough without really having seen enough of it, entering Mackintosh Park and the beginnings of the Nidd Gorge green space, initially following the Beryl Burton cycleway, named for the Seven times World Champion, and local girl, who dominated road and track cycling in the 1960s. We gain a leafy path as the ringway ascends away from the river, denying us any views towards the stately Conygham Hall on the opposite bank, recombining with the cycleway to follow a field boundary uphill, where all the views are found by looking back to see Knaresborough's castle and parish church rising above the riverside foliage. The shady track eventually leads us out to Bilton Hall, also hidden from view and these days forming a retirement and care home, and a country lane leads us onwards, in the direction of Old Bilton (a name that you'll soon notice starts to crop up all around these parts), and the sunshine passes from the morning, and a cool wind blows in to remind you that Summer does not bring guaranteed warm days. A northward shift comes as the path leads us on to the Nidd Gorge proper, following a rough path into the woods, following a line that doesn't seem to correspond with the one on the map, but the destination should be obvious if the descent is continued as the river must be located at the bottom of the valley, carved through the carboniferous and Permian sandstones by post glacial runoff after the last Ice Age.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Harrogate Ringway #1 - Pannal to Knaresborough 17/06/17

6.9 miles, via Fulwith, Hornbeam Park, The Showgrounds, Crimple, Forest Moor & Calcutt.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#1 at Pannal.
2.15pm is a bit late to be starting a Long Distance Trail, it might be my latest start on any walk of any kind, but I'll not be tilting at the full 20 miles today, wouldn't even go for it if starting at 9am on a much cooler day, and as our day is already 11 miles old, it would make sense to get a move on along the Ringway to give Harrogate its circuit during the hottest stretch of the day, and so we're off, through the yard of St Robert of Knaresborough's church and off into the meadows beyond, soon leaving suburban Pannal behind us. We might expect another river walk, along the Crimple, but the trod seems intent on keeping us away from the riverbank, despite where the path might appear to be on the map, and we ought to enjoy these fields while they last, as multiple notices encourage us to resist the spread of suburban growth across these fields as the town seeks to grow further into the green spaces that surround it. We soon run into the woods below the embankment of the A61, but take a north western turn to follow the passage of Stone Rings Beck, taking an uphill and largely shady path that offers sight of the outer suburban edge of Harrogate through the trees, before dropping to pass over the stream and then up into the full bore of suburbia along Stone Rings Lane, wondering where the actual stone rings might have once been. Meet the A61 Leeds road and pass over it, into the district I'll call Fulwith as its name is attached to literally every road in the vicinity, taking Fulwith Mill Road eastwards, through that sort of upscale suburbia that is pleasant enough on the older plots but really looks a bit much on the newer builds, as if expensive modern dwellings aren't naturally tasteful. From there we'll find our sole previous path into Harrogate, following the long ands shaded driveway towards the town, where the best views of Crimple Viaduct can be gained even with a lot more foliage cover on this occasion, splitting off east to pass over the railway and meet the back of the Hornbeam Park business, leisure and educational estate, familiar with its distinctive metal pyramid, and pass in front of the grounds of Crimple House, before heading into the woods again, the path good and clear, and popular, as this town really has done a lot to promote cycling with multi use trails seeming to go off in all directions.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Otley to Pannal 17/06/17

10.9 miles, via Farnley, Lindley Bridge, Braythorn, Stainburn, Almscliffe Crags,
 North Rigton, and Burn Bridge.

Finally, the high season amblings can get underway as attention shifts to the lands north of the Wharfe for most of the summer, and it seems to have taken a long time to get here having first trailed it at the start of May, and having been plotted for 2016 before my attention turned elsewhere, only getting going as the last weekend of Spring arrives, promising to bring a day of unbroken sunshine with it. So naturally there's a mood of disappointment in the air as my arrival in Otley is greeted by overcast skies that seem far too common in Wharfedale, with our course being set from the bus station at 9.15am with a very long day ahead of us, starting off down Mercury Row to reveal more of those ancient side streets that deserve a more detailed explore, and crossing Kirkgate to take a circuit around the Parish church of All Saints as it hasn't had an up close look on my previous visits, and also finding the Bramhope Tunnel monument in the yard, commemorating the 24 men killed during its construction. Then follow the passage that leads across to Westgate to wander on to the riverside through the yard of a presently disused mill complex, arriving on the high bank above the Wharfe below the shade of many trees and starting the eastwards tack to drop down into the Manor Garth gardens, where a hard path is joined, leading us to probably the best spot to get sight of Otley Bridge, stretching long and low across the wide and placid river. Cross over and ender Wharfemeadows Park, forming a garden apron in front of the riverside terrace before we reach the weir which livens the river up a bit, and beyond the play area we move away from the bankside to find the way to the northeast, passing us through the town facing gates of Farnley Hall, before turning away from the parkland and through the suburban enclave of the Riverside Estate to join the B6451 Farnley Lane to push us out of town and on into North Yorkshire. General gloom means the view back to The Chevin and its companions aren't that great, and so we press on , accompanied by the long wall of Farnley Park, longtime seat of the Fawkes family, where no good views are forthcoming until we meet the estate houses and the walled garden, framed by the hills to the south, but the house will remain unseen as we go on, obscured by a thick woodland that keeps on all the way to the north entrance, and thus interest has to come from elsewhere, like the tiny Farnley church, peeking out from across distant fields, and the complex at Home farm, which has had about as impressive residential makeover as any 18th century farmstead in this county.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Crossflatts to Ben Rhydding 11/06/17

5.7 miles, via Micklethwaite, Bingley Moor, Ilkley Moor, and the Cow & Calf.

There's far too much rain on Saturday morning to even consider attempting a 17+ mile trek from Wharfe to Nidd, and after a largely sleep free General Election week, a lie in to start the weekend was certainly welcome, but having lost too many Bank Holiday excursions on this year already, a Sunday morning stroll is a good time to get in the 6 mile jaunt that I 've had planned for the last two in May, without risking burning up too much energy before the next week of work rolls around. So not out all that early, barely qualifying it as a morning stroll at all, alighting at 11.10am, at Crossflatts station deep in the heart of Airedale, below the wooded hills of the St Ives estate to the south and on the western edge of Greater Bingley, where the amazing engineering feat of fitting the A650 Airevalley Road adjacent to the railway was somehow completed, leaving the southbound platform with possibly the longest approach ramp to be found anywhere on the network. Rise to the original Keighley Road to press north, among the flats and low apartment buildings that seem to make up the entirety of this district, with attention immediately drawn to the rising bulk of the higher lands below Rombalds Moor, starting the ascent on Micklethwaite Lane, to meet the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the only path that I've previously walked in this corner, where the Limefield and Airedale mills have both had residential makeovers, whilst maintain completely different characters. Over the swing bridge and past the field with many ducks and geese, rising steadily past the allotments to get views up the valley to Keighley and back to the still unwalked woodlands around Druid's Altar to soon meet the suburban enclave that has grown on the bottom edge of Micklethwaite itself, with the high valley side looming above it, another place to wonder why people might be drawn to living in such an out of the way quarter. The reveal of Micklethwaite proper gives strong indication of its desirability, as it's stone village of incredible quaintness, one that would attract much more attention if it were located in a remoter corner of the county, rather than hidden away in the Aire valley, and it's all very pleasing in the sunshine, looking rather 17th century in places, with a road so steep that it actually has to take a wandering detour at the top, where we get more views coming in the direction of Keighley and East Morton, hiding away in their respective side valleys of the Aire.