Monday, 28 December 2015

The Aire's Fury 28/12/15

A Stroll along the Aire from Whitehall Road to the Royal Armouries.

As anyone should be aware, on Boxing Day 2015, rain in the wake of Atlantic storm Eva brought flooding to many parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, causing record peak flow on many rivers and causing at least six major rivers to burst their banks to bring devastation and misery in their wakes. I managed to personally avoid the worst of the weather, having been celebrating Christmas with My Parents in Leicester but on return to the North Country it made sense to put on my boots and do something useful, though personal involvement in the clean up operations was probably beyond my scope. Travelling to aid my friends in Mytholmroyd was out of the question with the town centre still underwater, and heading out to Kirkstall was improbable due to the flooding of the A65, and so I had to limit myself to where was straightforwardly accessible, and that would be the banks of the Aire through the city of Leeds. Even two days after the rain had passed the river was still elevated and full of fury, providing a handy reminder that when nature chooses, all of the will and engineering of humanity can do little to contain it, and the implacable natural forces unleashed will do their thing with little regard for what has been put in their way.


Upstream from Whitehall Road bridge, the Aire may have dropped from its peak but it still
rides well above its usual level and roars with a fury that you wouldn't normally hear.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Rumination: The End... For Now

The 2015 season reaches its end.
And then, the Rain came. Another walking year thus draws to a close, ultimately undone by precipitation, and whilst this has been a year that has been generally warm, there has been quite a lot of wetness in amongst, I feel I have been fortunate in having avoided most of it, only four days over the entire nine month season have been affected, and only one unduly. So when the rain does come, and coming on pretty hard on as of 7 o'clock this morning, the immediate instinct is to roll back into the warmth of my bed and call time on the season, the weather projection of heavy rainfall until at least 1pm has my enthusiasm dropping to absolute minimum. It doesn't honestly matter that the sun has returned brightly as we write now, a soaking at the start of an autumnal day would dampen any joy that a stretch of exercise might have otherwise engendered.

That's the season done, then, I've managed to keep dry for so much of it, and have no desire to take a three hour dousing on the trail between Outwood and Micklefield, and unlike 2013, when I hoped that the year might offer me another day past my regular stopping time, this year all targets have been met and exceeded, and then some, with me feeling no loss at all at missing out on the last day. 600+ miles on the 2015 season is quite enough, and virtually every day since the high days of Summer has had me struggling to get my enthusiasm stoked up, but every day has had me getting going eventually, and that's been the motto for the year really, 'Just Keep Going', as sage a piece of advice that I could offer to myself, and to anyone else for that matter. This walking season has been a lot of fun, but my focus can now shift elsewhere, as once past my 41st birthday, I'll be off down country to see My Parents, to see what help I can offer now that My Dad has been shifted from the Stroke Unit and into the care of Rehab Medicine. Initial indications suggest that his physical rehab is coming on well, and if 'Just Keep Going' is a motto that has served me well, I hope it might be one that serves the whole family well in the coming days, weeks and months.

Next Up: What have we learned in 2015?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Glasshoughton to Cross Gates 31/10/15

11.4 miles, via Cutsyke, Whitwood, Mickletown, RSPB St Aiden's, Swillington, Colton
 & Austhorpe.

Back up country for the last couple of weeks of the season, feeling secure to be here as news from Leicester had been mixed, with the result of my Dad's MRI scan showing the possibility of him having a brain tumour, but the team at the Infirmary deciding to put him into the process for discharge to the Rehabilitation unit. Anxiety inducing news for sure, but the lack of urgency at their end is enough reason to feel that things may not be immediately serious. So I return to my familiar haunts, with the walkable season fading fast, with a plan to stitch the two halves of my walking season together, attaching the late season lands of Wakefield district to the early season territory to the east of Leeds.

Today brings me to yet another fresh station to check off the WY Metro list, starting out from Glasshoughton, between Castleford and Pontefract at 9.25am, early enough to get ahead of the crowds who alight here to visit Xscape and the Junction 32 retail park, many of whom would probably be unaware that this was a colliery site only three decades ago. My ancient E289 shows none of the developments that have grown since then, but the eye can still be drawn to the dark soils of the spoil tips to the south of the railway line, and there's a post industrial feel to all the rough land along the side of Thunderhead Ridge (yes, that is the road's name), and the big clue to this site's use is the considerable colliery memorial sculpture located on the A639 island, reminding the visitors of the industry which endured here from 1869 to 1986. Pass onwards, along the main road between the local branches of Wakefield College and Asda, and downhill to the railway crossing at Cutsyke, with intention to walk the greenway that has recently developed on the L&Y Cutsyke - Methley line, previously seen from above but now accessible, once I've found my way to it via the terraces on Granville Street. Despite having been open only 16 months, it's already looking pretty much settled in with the vegetation having covered much of the recently turned earth, and foliage obscuring most of the sight lines in the early going, but things get more interesting once the deep cutting below the Lumley Street bridge is met, the access ramps being almost as impressive feats of engineering of the cut of the railway itself. Pass on to the Barnsdale Road bridge, a much more modest structure, and soon enough the path ends, less than a mile on behind the edges of Castleford, but a nice start to a track that should grow to meet the Methley Joint Lines, at least once someone finds a bridge to replace the missing one at Whitwood Junction, hidden away but still accessible beyond the trees. So back to the roads, following the A639 through the estates at Whitwood Mere, and to the edge of the Calder, a location I have already seen many times, but this is the first time I will actually make my way across the river.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The East Leicestershire Village Circuit, v.2.0 23/10/15

14 miles, via Scraptoft, Houghton on the Hill, Gaulby, King's Norton, Little Stretton, 
  Stretton Magna, Stoughton & Thurnby.

Down country again for an emergency visit to Leicestershire as My Dad is in hospital after a fall and My Mum is need of some moral support after a minor incident a couple of weeks back has evolved into something more serious, with a diagnosis of him having a Subdural Haematoma, and currently being in the care of the LRI's stroke services, awaiting an MRI scan to check the extent of his brain injury. Thankfully he's mostly still there, but looking extremely tired and responding like a his battery has run almost flat, and My Mum is demonstrating all the qualities of a trooper as the scenarios shift almost daily with the hopes and fears that come with them. The whole family is down for a long weekend, so My Dad can have some company daily and I can not feel to bad when I feel the need to get out of the house to get my head clear, and the first Leicestershire walk that I had plotted for 2016 can go down on the Friday, which looks like the best available day whilst I'm down here, and my tilt at 2000 miles before I'm 41 and 600 miles before the end of 2015 can be completed whilst among family and in the lands of my birth. If nothing else, it will give me some extra good news to report to My Dad when visiting him over the weekend.

So, the second tour of the villages of East Leicestershire kicks off at 9.30am, My Mum dropping me off at the top of Scraptoft Lane, just along from All Saints church and a mile or so from the family pile, setting course eastwards along Covert Lane, which has been a road to nowhere for as long as anyone can remember, but now has started to gain traffic thanks to the redevelopment of Scraptoft campus, and now it's lane popular with those doing jogging as exercise. I push on, beyond the old Polytechnic's sports grounds and make my way to the bridleway that departs on a southward path through Square Spinney, setting off with great purpose before reaching the fields and disappearing from view, leaving us with hedges to follow down to the very obvious railway remnant stretching across the landscape. Heading eastwards on a rising gradient is the alignment of the GNR branch from Leicester Belgrave Road to Marefield Junction, operational from 1882 to 1964, and hosting a few relics on the half mile that is now a farm access track, namely an overbridge that carries the bridleway, an aqueduct carrying Willow Brook over the cutting close to its source, and most impressively the west portal of Thurnby Tunnel. Despite being sealed and partly infilled, a hole cut in its plating means it is accessible but I don't have the torch with me that I hopefully took to Barndale and Crigglestone, so what's left of its 516 yards will have to go unexplored, odd to think that such a significant structure could have gone unvisited in all my years in Leicestershire. Return to the fields in the direction of New Ingarsby farm, and the easiest path to continue my circuit in the direction of the A47 is up the farm driveway, which has no PROW, I'm guessing, but it gives me the best access to the paths that head into Houghton on the Hill from the south, its continued expansion convincing me that this village is still a growing satellite beyond the city of Leicester. Main Street still has most of the village's old face along it, and I had never really acknowledged its elevation as a settlement, but the fact that the spire of  St Catherine's church is possibly the only distinctive man made landmark on the local horizon suggests the 160m of its location must be considerable.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Abbey Village to Rivington Park 18/10/15

7.8 miles, via Brinscall, White Coppice, Anglezarke & Lead Mines Clough.

There's always an option for a bonus day when visiting My Sister's family, so whilst I'm still not persuasive enough to get the girls out walking today, preferring a trip to MOSI with Dr G, a bit of car relay can get us out to Abbey Village, the odd linear village that grew alongside the A675 Bolton Road, a start point for a stroll of many sections before a late lunch and my ride homewards. Drop off outside the Hare & Hounds pub at 11.20am, at the bottom of the village, pacing the way among the terraces at the roadside and past the mill that drew the village here in the first place, to start a railway walk that hadn't quite aligned itself to fit onto my Coastal trek, the remains of the Lancashire Union Railway (L&Y / L&NWR joint) line from Blackburn to Chorley, active from 1869 to 1966, have become a linear park running through to Withnell and Brinscall. It's a leafy and nature filled route which immediately gets My Sister's approval, one which she hadn't known about previously and now provides a much more level cycling route than the one available on the roads, with a few pretty impressive bridges along its length, an obvious station house at its top and a parkland with fishing lake near its end, a really good use for a resource that could have lain fallow otherwise. Pass the C2C route again as we meet Brinscall, having once again passed close to Withnell without entering it, and this might be the smallest place in the country to have its own swimming baths. Dick Lane shadows the railway line to the bridge on the lane to Brinscall Hall, before footpaths almost drop us onto the alignment before we peel away to head towards the woods on the moorland fringe and the path that accompanies the goit channel that links the reservoirs at Roddlesworth and Anglezarke. Another leafy walk on the western bank, along a track badly represented on the map and oddly developed as a good bridleway surface but with cycling thunderously forbidden from it, and as for the goit, I've no idea at all if the water still flows functionally in it, as it is, it's a good way to get down to White Coppice and to observe to moorland edge as we pass. Change sides by the cricket field, moving onto a slightly more undulating course on the eastern bank as the rough upland looms larger, and it seem the cyclists are pretty keen to ignore the ban along here, we pace along discussing this odd section of moorland, as is ends so abruptly on the edge of the coastal plain, with neither of us having quite enough geological nous to theorise coherently.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Egerton to Darwen 17/10/15

10.3 miles, via Cheetham Close, Entwistle Reservoir, Darwen Moor & Sunnyhurst Wood.

So back to the West Pennines, with the intent to get in the conclusion to my Summer break, even though the temperatures and skies of the high season have retreated into the past, and I travel with an uncertain heart, believing that I should be down in Leicester after my Dad suffered a fall last weekend, with him now being admitted to hospital for observation and assessment. My Mum is entirely content for me to have this pre-planned weekend away though, so off we go to enjoy some fresh miles with My Sister, just the two of us on this occasion as Dr G and the girls are off doing cyclocross, which appeals to them much more than wandering, and I couldn't really blame them as the skies hang heavy. Away from Egerton at 10.40 am by the United Reformed church to strike a different path up to Cox Green Road, and once we hit the path to New Butterworth's farm, you could be forgiven for thinking we might be cutting a path towards Ramsbottom again. No, we are taking a sharp turn left as the moorland walk starts to get serious, heading up to the top of Cheetham Close, the hill which divides the Eagley and Bradshaw brooks and provides some rather sticky going as a fresh panorama is presented, another perspective gained on this corner of Lancashire. Only a 329m top, but worth it, before the muddy and slightly puzzling descent sends us down in the direction of Green Arms Road and the path in the direction of Entwistle reservoir, soon back into familiar territory as we hit the level path on the southern side. It's as about as different as it could be from the last time I came this way though, the water level being right up to path in February '14 but many feet below us on this occasion, indicating that 2015 might not have been as wet as we thought it was.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Streethouse to Barnsley 10/10/15

13.9 miles, via Sharlston Common, New Crofton, Havercroft, Shafton, Cudworth, Lundwood, Stairfoot & Oakwell.

Another misty morning ands another ride out to the awkwardly located Wakefield - Pontefract line, but a change over at Kirkgate station at least give me plenty of time to take in the revival work that has gone on there over the last few years, quite a transformation for the better, I must say, to think that I was calling for its demolition in 2012. Anyway to Streethouse at 9.40am, another new station, and another settlement in the heart of the district's coal country and another one to be barely seen below the fog, but impressions suggest it's pretty modestly sized, parked between the old Snydale and Sharlston Main collieries. The day is set for a railway walk, but once again we find ourselves along way from the start line, so course is set into the fog, down Whinney Lane and out across the contemporary rails, not far from the old platforms of Sharlston station, and a field boundary keeps us on track in the direction of Sharlston Common, with its houses arrayed along the A645 and opposite the memorial winding wheel, with The Green providing the road across the excessively wild common land. The survival of this and the old village to the south seem remarkable, when so much of the surrounding land had been scoured by mining over the last two centuries, and these days it looks as pleasant a country retreat as any, West Lane leading us on the A638 and the bypassed hamlet of Windmill Hill (maybe?). Field walk beyond, still in heavy mist, but the way over to New Crofton is nicely clear but the village seems to have been growing eastwards since my map was published, and a building site has obscured the way forwards for a stretch, demanding the use of a detour that was thankfully laid out for us. I couldn't say this new development appeals to me much, the older houses on Santingley Lane appealing to my taste rather more, and another trip is made in the vicinity of Crofton without meeting the village centre, passing out to the south alongside the track thankfully laid out next to the lane which eventually leads us to the day's railway walking.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Featherstone to Moorthorpe 03/10/15

16.8 miles, via High Ackworth, Ackworth Moor Top, Fitzwilliam Country Park, Kinsley, Hemsworth, Upton, Wrangbrook, North & South Elmsall.

Finally back to Saturday walking, and this is one of those trails with a distance that I wouldn't want to approach without having a rest day in hand, and it has to get cleared off my slate asap because the days are going to start abbreviating soon enough as Autumn closes in. Even so, an early start isn't really obtainable when you pick Featherstone as your start point, isolated on the Wakey - Ponte line, but another one to tick off the list as I start out around 9.45am, the trip down Station Lane and Pontefract Road confirming my impression of the town as low-rise, surprisingly extensive and resolutely post industrial. That hasn't stopped new development cropping up on the field next to the path I cut last year, opposite The Junction, and in the early going the pubs are the most interesting features along the roadside, but suburbia emerges, after a fashion along Ackworth Road, in the entertainingly named district of Purston Jaglin, the parklands offing some much needed space and greenery. Strike out into the fields by following the coach road which once accessed Ackworth Park, and the ascending track gives a good view north to the familiar landscape horizon around Pontefract before dropping out on the A628, opposite the distinctive water tower, below which the Ackworth Plague Stone still stands, a rare 17th century relic. Push on down Pontefract road, beside the plush dwellings on the edge of Ackworth Park, past one of the eccentric milestones on the edge of High Ackworth and into the village that looks like is has been pretty upscale for a few centuries, complete with charity hospital and the parish church of St Cuthbert. Press on down to middle (?) Ackworth, with its large Georgian school, established by the Quakers and finally abandon the turnpike to Barnsley on the edge of Ackworth Moor Top, slipping down Mill Lane to go in search of a railway walk that has been a long time coming.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Fitzwilliam to Horbury 27/09/15

12.7 miles via Havercroft, Ryhill, Royston Junction, Newmillerdam Country Park, Hall Green, Crigglestone, Great Cliff & Addingford.

A glum Saturday almost scuppers the revival of my walking season, but it's essential to get back in the saddle before the season starts to get away from me, and so a Sunday morning stroll has to be brought on, once I've found out where in the county is actually straightforwardly accessible, and it looks like I'm starting to get out of practice with heading out on the first day of the weekend, having not seen one in the whole of September, and my last being 22nd August. Once underway, it's quickly apparent that Summer has gone in the weeks since I last walked, heavy fog have settled over all of West Yorkshire, and an early 9.15am start from Fitzwilliam station, in the middle of an unexplored corner of the district, shows up a lot of mist that mostly prevents me from getting much of an impression of the town once away from the colliery terraces and the country park on the site of Hemsworth colliery. So away from Wakefield road and along the footpath to the bungalows on Farm Road and soon into the countryside, first past Ings Farm, and on via a field walk to Carr Farm, with hedges to follow to prevent me getting lost, and than it's a long field walk to head in the direction of Havercroft, with decent signage and trods to follow to keep me on my way. Only on the last field to I have no path to follow, and at the point where I think I might have got disorientated, I spot the way into Havercroft's estates and I avoid walking round and round in the one field, and so onwards to road surfaces again. Cow Lane has us on a familiar track once again, and there's not much happening in and around these many council houses as the heavy fog settles among them, and so I figure that there will have to be another time to see this village's best face, pressing on past the Millennium Park to seek the footpath that draws me toward Ryhill. Immediately the day gains atmosphere as the tolling bell of the parish church rings through the mist, and Ryhill reveals a rather older face than its neighbour, and I seek the footpath through the equestrian fields to meet the railway walk, an hour into the day, and rise up onto the permissive path that has developed on embankment of the MS&LR's Barnsley Coal Line of 1885, a section I should have approached a few weeks back but somehow missed, following it down to the site of Ryhill station, where I am disappointed to be unable to find any of the platform remnants that are claimed to endure beneath the undergrowth.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Rumination: To Coast, and Coast.

After a holiday, a break is usually necessary, a sad clichĂ© that any time out from work leaves you tired enough to need another holiday, and after completing the major plank of my walking plans for the year, some rest, self imposed or otherwise, is a good idea before the final quarter of the season goes down. As it happens, there proved to be no scope for a fourth day of walking as my holidays came to an end, the third rest day being used for a trip to Fleetwood Freeport for some useful retail therapy, and then for a drive back down the Blackpool promenade without actually stopping, surely the best way to experience that town. The only stroll of note coming as I wandered up to the viewpoint at the top of Mellor Moor, 200+m above the Ribble Valley, and only half a mile distant from Finch Cottage, to examine the remains of the Royal Observer Corps bunker and to take in the panorama that encompasses the entirety of the county of Lancashire. With the West Pennines to the south, the Forest of Bowland to the north, inland towards Pendle and Rossendale and the coastal plains spread to the west, clearly this a county to explore further, though my next pair of holidays are already planned for 2016-17, and the Ribble Way might have to wait until 2018 at the earliest. The Saturday than brought the poor weather that we had dared to anticipate for the whole week on the other side of the Pennines, so no opportunity for a dash out with My Sister could be found between the rain showers, and anyways, my nieces had a cycle ride to do in the morning and a school fete to attend in the afternoon, so sociable brews were to be had in Egerton instead. The plotted walks will have to wait for another time then, and there's still plenty of future time to fit in the railway walk between Ramsbottom and Accrington, the Leeds & Liverpool canal between Wheelton and Wigan, or the railway and moorland fringe paths on the edge of the West Pennines. So altogether a triumphant holiday, getting in plenty of sights around Lancashire, a county which all of the family could use to spend more time exploring, not least because My Parents still haven't managed to visit Rivington Park in more than a decade of travelling this way.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Leyland to Southport 10/09/15

17.6 miles, via Moss Side, Bretherton, Sollom, Mere Brow & Long Meanygate.

Second rest day, has a lot more rest than the first, the only trip out going to Whalley Abbey in the afternoon before lethargy takes hold, and we retreat back to Finch Cottage so I can chill out before the final push comes on, hoping the mileage to come is not going to psych me out. Fortunately, the coming day is of a completely different profile to those that preceded it, just like the last day to the North Sea coast, level going and heavily drained agricultural land, though this quarter of Lancashire lacks a distinctive name and identity like Holderness. Anyway, back to Leyland by the Parental Taxi, resuming my walk from the railway station carpark, starting out at 9.30am and giving myself a 7 hour window for the long day ahead, passing over the West Coast Mainline and down to the town centre, along Chapel Brow and Hough Lane, and having seen the smarter parts of town yesterday, we now pass through the more ordinary quarters, and they are to be expected in a place that it synonymous with the motor industry, its name still attached to vans and buses worldwide, and at the bottom of Thurston lane we find the British Commercial Vehicle museum in its natural home. Press on westwards, Towngate and Lancastergate suggesting that they ought to be the oldest part of the town, but aren't despite being host to the civic centre of South Ribble district, and we lead out of the town past the duelling Seven Stars pubs on the Leyland Lane - Fox Lane corner and on out over the River Lostock, which is surely a completely different channel from the one I encountered yesterday. Dunkirk Lane crosses the bypass and the remains of surely the oldest building in town in the Dunkirk Hall pub, and on into the suburb of Moss Side, and altogether more pleasant corner than its namesake in Manchester, all 80s suburbs with a couple of old building hidden in among. Thence we are out into the countryside, following the B5248 as it kinks its way through the fields, and even with the amount of traffic on it, it's preferable to anymore field walking, as we are deep into the harvesting and harrowing season. Pass over the Preston - Ormskirk Line, and the bridge provides the most challenging rise of the day, as we are soon below the 15m contour and among some remarkably flat lands, the long straights of the road giving me plenty of cues to dive out of the way of traffic before we finally find a footway at Four Lane Ends, and after observing the Ribble Valley as being the hotbed for Lancastrian cycling, this quarter is revealed to be the place for the Senior riders.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Haslingden to Leyland 08/09/15

18.5 miles, via Haslingden Grane, Pickup Bank, Hoddlesden, Darwen, Sunnyhurst Wood, Roddlesworth Reservoirs, Withnell, Brinscall, Wheelton & Whittle-Le-Woods.

First rest day of my jollies features catching the Tour of Britain cycle race, and the Roman remains in Ribchester, as well as me feeling deeply tired after Sunday's excursion, but I'm going to have myself prepped for a big day as the plan for Tuesday is one of those routes in which I might well have over-reached myself, such is my desire to cross Lancashire in only three days of walking. Inspire my parents to get me out early and down the A680 for a start at the main crossroads in Haslingden at 9.20am, departing down Warner Street and Grane Road, immediately noticing that we are going downhill, a good start when you know there's a lot of uphill to come, passing below the A56 and the former L&Y line that ran up the valley between Ramsbottom and Accrington. Grane Road continues, rising into the Valley of Haslingden Grane, past cemetery and the Holden Arms, where I break off from the road to meet the path over the dam of Holden Wood Reservoir, following the path up towards Tenements farm and then rising over the rough grass to the elevated path which will lead us up the valleys side. A decent surface and clear waymarking of the Rossendale Way means easy going as we rise above Ogden Reservoir, with the steep slopes up to Musbury Heights off to our south, and sight of the windfarm on Oswaldtwistle Moor to the north, continuing above Calf Hey Reservoir which seems to be a popular spot for joggers and dog walkers. Slip into the woods and traverse a couple of stream crossing before getting a confusing moment as we start to rise up the valley head as the path has been moved from its location on my map. The clear route is the correct one though, leading through stickiness at a clough crossing and around some romantically ruined farmsteads before a grassy rise takes us up to Edgerton Moss and the remnants of quarrying, where I manage to completely lose the correct path.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Todmorden to Haslingden 06/09/15

My Faithful Companion of 5+ years,
Dead but not yet Buried.
Late Summer Jollies come around at last, and I might have started with a eulogy for my green walking hat, my near constant companion over the last four years of rambling, badly damaged in the laundry after having finally gotten too disgusting to wear, but it's still coming with me despite two severely frayed seams and significant shrinkage, it deserves to see both coasts in 2015, as well as my tilt for 2,000 miles before I'm 41. So load up with My Parents, and spend Saturday heading over the top to Lancashire, and making a surprisingly short trip to Finch Cottage, Primrose Hill, near Mellor high on the edge of the Ribble Valley, conveniently placed for three of my drop off points on the trail to the Irish Sea coast, but not really well placed for the start. Fortunately, a ride can easily be obtained back to Calderdale from Blackburn, thanks to the reinstatement of the Todmorden West Curve and the atlternative route to Manchester Victoria, so my folks don't need to have a long early morning odyssey back to Yorkshire before I can get going again.

11.4 miles, via Todmorden Moor, Bacup, Rossendale & Rawtenstall.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Moorthorpe to Pontefract 30/08/15

13.6 miles, via South Kirkby Colliery, Upton, Badsworth, Low Ackworth, East Hardwick, Darrington & Baghill.

August Bank Holiday weekend comes around, but only one day of walking can come from it as I really needed the lie-in on Saturday morning, and the Monday drops from the schedule because the weather looks like utter garbage, again, so the Sunday is the only good day of the weekend, with the restricted transportation options spoiling my original plan, but a small amount of tinkering means it's virtually walkable in reverse. So early trains ahoy for a ride out to Moorthorpe, the other station on the other line in the South Kirkby - South Elmsall conurbation, and it's a 9.25am start once I've gotten away from the confusing mess of ramps and footbridges, heading west along Barnsley Road to the Carr Lane corner and find lot more late 20th century suburbia in the vicinity than I had expected, having anticipated many more colliery terraces in the lands which surrounded the South Kirkby site. Graze the edge of the main sit by the landscaped tip, and meet the path that leads beneath both of the railway lines again, taking care to stay on the correct surface this time, and the ongoing route north will spend a most of its distance shadowing the latter of these lines, and calling it by its original name of the Swinton & Knottingley Joint Railway makes a lot more sense than its contemporary name of the 'Dearne Valley Line'. What I thought would be a walk along a field track turns out to be a long trek through a lot more landscaped colliery workings, making the South Kirkby site easily as extensive as the one at Frickley, and it's a popular track with the dog walkers too, a large green space to keep Upton separate from South Elmsall and Kirkby. The arrival by the A6201, post-dating my map, forces me into a bit of guessing to pick the right path into Upton, and once past the old house by the former Hull & Barnsley railway, this coal town reveals itself to be almost entirely suburbia in this quarter, the only notable old buildings be the rough stone Old Shop on the High Street corner, and the farmhouse on Field Lane at the crest of Beacon Hill. The notable feature, visible for miles, is the water tower, concrete and funnel shaped, but an extra trip over toward it seems unnecessary as it hides behind the houses for most of the trip through the village, only showing up well once the walk down the other side of the hill starts. By that point however, attention goes forwards to the vista to the north, Badsworth looking picturesque among the harvesting fields, and Pontefract on its hillsides appearing off in the distance, giving the deceptive impression of us already being close to the day's end.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Normanton to Barnsley 22/08/15

14.4 miles, via Goose Hill, Crofton, Anglers Country Park, Cold Hiendley, Royston Junction, Athersley & the Dearne Valley.

Three years on from making my initial discoveries of the lost railways of West Yorkshire, by brain has finally started to make sense of the confused tangle of lines that developed across the Wakefield and South Yorkshire boundary, and with the 2015 season in its final third, it's time to start putting them down before the days start getting short again. Not that I'm managing to get going at speed, hopping off the train at Normanton station at 10am, hoping that the early mornings rains have had a chance to pass, and making the long way off the station by the hugely long footbridge, away from the ridiculously large single platform that had been intended as the major junction of George Hudson's railway empire in the 1840s. There's not a lot of vintage buildings to be found in the immediate vicinity, but I note that the new apartments on Railway Terrace at least attempt to ape the style of the original station buildings, and I soon meet my track out of town, along Wakefield Road, with mostly council flats for company, though the Roman Catholic church of St John the Baptist and the primitive Methodist Chapel both have a style to attract attention. Goosehill Road has a ginnel at its end to lead me into the countryside, sending me on a field walk to the private road leading to the Welbeck reclamation and recycling site which is gradually filling up the opencast pits which once mined coal along the banks of the Calder, and I'm coming this way to get a look at the site of Goose Hill Junction, and I'm sure that they won't mind me trespassing on the old industrial tracks to get there. I've talked about the old North Midland Mainline before, (1840-1985 for those keeping track) and tracing the section from Goose Hill to Oakenshaw is a trek which cannot be done a track level as it is so thoroughly overgrown, and so a path needs to follow paths that shadow it, passing over the bridges at Goose Hill, and shadowing it on the footpath from Cross Hills farm to Warmfield Road, where a peer from the high bridge will reveal that a lagoon has developed at track level, large enough to go boating on. Shadow again down to the A655, where trees obscure any view down into the cutting, and the main road's footway is paced down to the cluster of buildings at the edge of Heath Common before field walking to an old footbridge over the formation, where the only decent look down to the trackbed can be obtained. Odd that it could be so overgrown after having been closed only 30 years, and that Wakefield MDC hasn't been able to gain access to it, I'd imagine that this is one line that might be on the future slate for revival as an international heavy freight line.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Wakefield to South Elmsall 15/08/15

15.9 miles, via Belle Vue, Heath Common, Sharlston, Foulby, Nostell Colliery, Fitzwilliam, Brackenhill, Hemsworth & South Kirkby Colliery.

Having gotten 75 miles of the Wakefield Way under my feet, I start to feel like I have seen most of what that that district has to offer, but a look at the map will show things up very differently, lots of blank spaces that would have me thinking 'I will go there!', a la Joseph Conrad, and so a trail to the southeast is planned from the city to the remotest corner, which experience shows isn't that remote at all. Hop off the train at Wakefield Westgate at 9.25am, and make steps down Mulberry Way, the station having retreated from its namesake road, and the last time I wandered up Westgate was in 1999 on a works leaving do, and it hasn't changed much since then, a once proud mix of banks and mid-sized department stores that is now entirely made up of clubs and bars, the lack of revellers does render it prettier of course. Find a fresh route down to the Calder by detouring through the Ridings shopping centre, finding that the pedestrian way does not shadow the old rout of Southgate, and emerge to continue south on George Street and Thornhill Street through a district that seems like it slipped through time to meet Ings Lane and pass under the railway bridges before crossing the Calder on the Doncaster Road bridge, passing the Hepworth and the Waterfront developments, to continue along the A638 through the terraces of Belle Vue, a district best known as the home of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, the Rugby League team so good they nick-named them twice. Pass under the Wakey - Ponte line, and across the old course of the Barnsley Canal, to finding our path into the relatively unknown, joining the A655 as it rises over Heath Common, the extensive patch of wild ground that has endured so close to the city, offering some good views back as it rises, before breaking off by the pub and farmsteads at the top of Hell Lane (really), and along stretch of road walking follows. The immediate point of interest is the bridge over the North Midland mainline, the section completely withdrawn from use in the 1980a and over grown with trees in less than 30 years, and the continuing lane does not live up to its name either, giving us cool and shady sections to enjoy with minimal interruptions from traffic as it rises to the fields outside New Sharlston, once home to Sharlston Main colliery, only recently wiped from the map, and now home to a group of terrace just a bit too far removed from Sharlston common, with half a winding wheel displayed by the roadside to illustrate the passage of heavy industry from this landscape.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Halifax to Todmorden 08/08/15

14.1 miles, via Savile Park, Sowerby Bridge, Sowerby, Boulder Clough, Mytholmroyd, Erringden Grange, Eastwood & Cross Stone.

A weekend drops out because of the challenges of Summer working, but now we have another bright day for the trail to the Irish Sea, maybe the most benign weather I have ever encountered in Calderdale, and let's face it, it's been a while since I ventured into this quarter on foot, nearly two years since my high moor explorations and even longer since I started walking it laterally, so 9.25am in the sunshine is our start time, and this is gonna be a long one as the district knows how to bring the challenges even when not venturing to moorland altitude. Setting out along Church Street and Prescott Street has Halifax bringing me more surprises in its styling, the warehouses still standing proud in the Hebble valley, and building such as the County courts and the swimming pool suggesting an enduring civic pride that I might not have expected, and my route of choice along Savile Road is a long parade of proud Victorian town houses and apartment buildings, many falling into the compass of the Calderdale Royal Infirmary these days. Altogether, I've probably picked the best and prettiest axis through this town, and it continues as our path swings down through the terraces that border onto Savile Park, the town's major open space, sitting above the river valley after the first uphill drag of the day and filling up for the local carnival as we pass. My trail leads to the A646 crossing an into the woods around a forgotten graveyard to get an up close look at Wainhouse Tower, the 84m tall tower/folly/chimney of 1874 that is a standard candle for these parts and on that I have never encountered up close, worth a look to see just how eccentric the late Victorian industrialists could be. Descents then follow, with views into Calderdale from Wakefield Gate, slipping among the terraces on Upper Washer Lane and then steep drop down to the A6026 follows Washer lane as I ponder exactly where the break between Halifax and Sowerby Bridge might actually be. Canal Road crosses me over both Canal and Calder, naturally, with leafiness and industry enduring at the riverside along Holme Lane, which brings me up on the railway station, almost unexpectedly, and slip beneath it via that deceptively heighted bridge. Station Road is the familiar corner of the town for me, and it is soon departed as the roads diverge on their different tracks to the south, with us taking Sowerby New Road for a long steady ascent out of the town, soon rising above Calderdale for some fine views west towards Luddenden Dean and Midgeley Moor, whilst suburban growth sits on the upper side of the road, providing an aspect worth purchasing.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Morley to Halifax 25/07/15

13.5 miles, via Gildersome Street, Birstall, Gomersal, Drub, Hunsworth, White Chapel, Scholes, Wyke, Norwood Green, Hipperholme & Shibden.

Despite trail the idea of a trek to the Irish Sea coast at the very start of the season, it has taken quite a while for it to actually come into my plans for the year, with the decision not being made until after the completion of the Wakefield Way, when it should have dropped immediately into my plans on the seafront at Hornsea. So two months on from meeting the North Sea coast, the trail leads in the opposite direction, a bright day coming on as I blaze my second trail in the direction of Halifax, using a completely fresh route to boot, starting out from Queen Street at 9.05am, and cutting west through the Windsor Court shopping parade and Morrisons car park to Corporation Street, and departing the town via the council estate on Wynyard Drive and up Bruntcliffe Road past the cemetery and the secondary school. Off the A643 at the crossroads and onto a familiar track along the A650, past the industrial estate and checking out the few old remnants of the hamlet Gildersome Street that have endured since most of it was obliterated by the construction of Junction 27 of the M62, an intersection so large it takes 10 minutes to traverse it as I follow the A62 to Birstall Retail park. Onwards onto Kirklees after shadowing the regularly taken route to Ikea and Toys R Us, following the roadside through more industrial estates, passing below the abutment of the L&NWR bridge of the former Birstall station on the New Leeds Line, but missing the crossing that I made the last time I came this way, eventually meeting the A643 again, and passing the offices of the solicitors who handled my flat purchase all those years ago before rolling into Birstall town square. This village makes the most notable claim on Joseph Priestley, 18th century natural philosopher and Christian radical, it being the town of his birth with his statute watching the comings and goings in the surrounding streets, all very nicely laid out and appreciated before I press on down Low Lane, to take a detour along Kirkgate and around St Peter's parish church before re-joining the main road again. Hit the long haul up Church Lane, and its a rise I should have seen coming because there are many wrinkles in this landscape, rising out of this valley and on towards Gomersal up on the ridge, a village that I'm still not entirely sure has an actual centre but along the A651 has a prime trio of interesting buildings, the Jacobean Pollard hall, the Red House museum and the Neo-Classical public hall, but seriously, where are the shops?

Friday, 24 July 2015

Rutland Water 23/07/15

15 miles, from Manton via the Perimeter Cycle Path.

It seem like an age since I did a single reservoir walk, indeed it was nearly three years ago, and I'd have thought I'd have gotten out to Scar House or the Washburn valley by now, but here we are, needing a trail that doesn't need a huge amount of way finding. So onwards to Rutland Water, the neighbouring (and tiny!) county's most defining feature, the reservoir constructed in 1976 to supply East Anglia, over 4 miles square, the largest in the country by area, offering a long and short perimeter walk, and I'll be taking the short one, avoiding the Hambleton peninsula, which seems like a cop out until you consider that 25 miles is a long way past my walking limit at present. Start out from the Horse and Jockey in Manton, dropped off by My parents at 10.15am, a little later than I'd have liked, so early steps are hurriedly made along Cemetery Road to meet the Manton Sounding Bridge, carrying Leicester- Peterborough railway over the A6003, to pace the roadside, passing over the inlet of the River Gwash and getting a few slight views of Manton Bay before meeting the off-road path proper. Head eastwards with plenty of vegetation preventing views, and just where the waterside starts to come close, it becomes apparent that the has path been moved northwards, skirting the woods and moving inland around areas of newly developed managed wetlands, something planned to satisfy the twitchers, but causing disappointment for those that had hoped to walk near the shore. Arriving at the nature reserve at Egleton, it seems that the close path is only accessible to employees of Anglia water, and so a detour through the scenic little village is necessary instead, pretty but further still from the shore as we move along Church Road and along the edge of more managed wetland developments, as if the reservoir hadn't attracted the birdlife that had been hoped for it. Meet the nobly tree-lined road to Hambleton, but take a left to not add many extra miles to the day, moving on to meet the edge of the A606 for a long trek east paralleling it, the sight of Burley on the Hill House providing a distraction from the traffic, and after an hour of water-free viewing we finally get a view of the reservoir again, looking over Burley Reach towards the Hambleton peninsula but we don't get away from the main road until the path enters the water company's grounds at Lodge Inlet.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The East Leicestershire Village Circuit 19/07/15

18.3 miles, via Humberstone, Barkby, Queniborough, Gaddesby, Ashby Folville, Barsby, 
 South Croxton, Hungarton, Keyham & Scraptoft.

Down to Leicestershire for a week, to get away from the stresses of work and the celebrate My Dad's birthday, 74 and counting, and whilst staying with My Parents for some unwinding, it makes sense not rest on my laurels and to venture into the Old Country once again, and my tour of two years ago took me in search of the lost villages in the east of the county, so this time around it makes sense to go looking at the ones that are still there.

An early start then, setting out from the family pile at 9.05am, with the first port of call being Humberstone village, a mile or so distant, where I was schooled and one of only two villages to have been consumed by the City of Leicester, a centre that doesn't have a great deal to suggest much history before the 20th century to the casual eye, but the church of St Mary has medieval fragments hidden by aggressive Victorian restoration, and there's a single thatched cottage and section of cob wall present too, and the Humberstone Grange hides behind high walls concealing its ancientness. The Old Humberstone conservation area has done much to preserve its antiquity, and a trip down memory lane continues as I press out of the village down Main Street and Gipsy Lane, past the Tithe barn and up Thurmaston Lane on the way past Manor Farm. The A563 ring road severs that track and what was once all fields has no become the Hamilton estate, grown in the last two decades but providing green corridors for those who find late 20th residential developments objectionable, and also a cycling circuit and a lake to give the area a useful lung, which is quite surprising to me. Passage north turns out to be clearer than I'd expected, good surfaces leading to Barkby Thorpe lane, and then striking out to a field track through peas and wheat, getting good views across the city and over to Charnwood forest. Press on a good pace to arrive in Barkby, a village with brutal corners and a forge that is still active, with the spired church of St Mary looming over it in the local style of ironstone and ashlar, then onwards past the cricket ground, and 'the dangerous trees', and up Barkby Holt Lane to find the path that hits the field boundaries on the long walk in the direction of Queniborough. Initially easy going among wheat and oats, then slightly more challenging through fields of calves and drying rapeseed, but the spire of the parish church offers sight of our destination before the passage through equestrian fields provides the most puzzlement of the day. Old Queniborough is gorgeous, not to be confused with the newer settlement to the west, a riot of thatch and 18th century farmsteads, with its pair of hostelries providing a very short pub crawl, and the church being atypically built of red sandstone with its spire being clearly a later addition, dedicated to St Mary, as if no one in this county had the slightest shred of imagination.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Wakefield Way #6 - South Elmsall to Wintersett 11/07/15

14.8 miles, via Frickley Colliery, Howell Wood, Hemsworth Bypass, South Hiendley,
  Havercroft & Anglers Country Park

Self at South Elmsall
Hoping to beat the heat on the last leg of the Way, we make for our earliest start yet on this particular trail, and a train ride out to South Elmsall allows an earlier departure, in the remotest corner of the county, than any of my bus trips closer to home, departing the station at 8.50am, an unreasonably early time and, whadda'ya know, the heat has already got here before me. Station Road leads me down alongside the railway line to Doncaster, all the way out to the Waterworks, hopefully the last on that I'll be seeing on my travels, and a field walk then follows, meeting the Hull & Barnsley Railway's South Yorkshire Extension line again, this time providing a nice long section of trackbed to walk, along the embankment and under the shade of trees to the site of Moorhouse station, with house still extent, and then along the chord line which provided access to the site of Frickley Colliery. Operational from 1905 to 1993 and large enough to have three railway companies serving it in its heyday, its spoil heaps still loom above even after two decades of extensive landscaping and surely worthy of an explore on another occasion, but my Way for the day leads to a field boundary walk along its southern perimeter, eventually meeting a hard surfaced road that leads under the Dearne Valley line south of Moorthorpe station, and onto a rough path along the edge of more spoil heaps, suddenly feeling wary among the plant life after having found out how aggressively awful Giant Hogweed can be. Broad Lane is met for long road walk among the fields south of South Kirkby (unlike South Elmsall, it doesn't seem to have a Northern companion), eventually leading to the Bird Lane bridleway, from which a permissive path leads across the fields to Howell Wood, one of those tracks that you have to accept exists because there is nothing on the ground to indicate its location. The Howell Wood country park offers more welcome shade, the paths hanging close to its northern perimeter along the beckside and leading to the fishing lake and ice house (serving where, one wonders?), meeting the other people out to enjoy the facility as I make my way to the car park and exit beneath the thick canopy of Yew Trees.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Wakefield Way #5 - Pontefract to South Elmsall 04/07/15

13.4 miles, via Carleton, East Hardwick, Thorpe Audlin, Walton Wood & Wrangbrook.

Self at Pontefract Bus Station
The trick for today is choosing a start time with the hope of getting in behind the rain that had hammered down through the night and ahead of the hot weather that was due in the late afternoon, and fitting 5 hours of walking in between the two turned out to be impossible. So the late option was taken, in the hope that the dampness and mist would clear early in the day, hopping off the bus at Pontefract Bus Station at 10.15am, a faint hiss of rain falling as I pace down the glummer half of Horse Fair, to meet Micklegate and Castle Garth, and noticing that Pontefract Castle has been shorn of many trees, giving the motte a better profile and me the worry that all those roots might have been holding it together. Onwards along North Baileygate, past All Saints parish church, ruined in the civil war and revived with a smaller church with the ruins and then to the A645 Bondgate, joining my path from February out of town to Sowgate Lane and convinced that gloomy weather seems to lodge in this quarter. The path moves away from continuing to Ferrybridge Power station, hiding in the gloom, raking a right turn by Pear Tree Farm and down the field boundary to pass beneath the inaccurately named Dearne Valley line, and out down the track to the A645 again, finding the grassy lane by the terrace opposite and heading south down Lower Taithes Lane, another country track that seems to have no contemporary use and is so overgrown that the night's rainfall has soaked the long grass so thoroughly that I have a completely saturated lower half once half way along it. Drier going on the latter half, gradually rising to Street Furlong lane, and the outer edge of Pontefract that my OS map calls Eastbourne, and another green track invites continued progress south, but the heartening feelings come on with much less undergrown beneath the feet and the morning's mist starting to burn off, the disappointment coming with the realisation that the initial miles of the day have merely been taking us on a long circuit around Pontefract.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Wakefield Way #4 - Lofthouse Hill to Pontefract 27/06/15

15 miles, via Bottom Boat, Stanley Ferry, the Aire & Calder Navigation path, & Castleford.

Self at Lofthouse Hill
First walk of Summer and back on my planned walking schedule, with it actually looking like Summer out there, so the jillet finally gets an outing as an early start is due, taking the now rather-too-familiar jaunt out via Wakefield Bus station to hop off the #110 at the hurry up for a start from the side of the A61 at 9.25am, with the houses and farmsteads of Lofthouse Hill soon left behind as the farm track sets us on a course towards the distant shape of Ferrybridge power station. The heat soon comes on, as I pass between the rhubarb fields, paralleling the M62 as paces are made over to Lee Moor Road, showing up a lot more colourfully than the last time I came this way, before branching off at Fenton Road, among Stanley's outlying houses, before striking off on the field boundaries down towards the A642, with a grand lower Calder vista opening out as we go. Plenty of the coming miles are retracing paths that I have pounded over the last few years, and I had another fancy detour in mind before I realised that an excursion via Newmarket Colliery and Methley Junction would stray too far into leeds district, so I stick to the route as written, passing down into Bottom Boat, across the path of the Methley Joint lines and hitting the riverside path that now forms part of the walker's route of the Trans Pennine Trail, once occupied by the Leeds Country Way. A fresh path is met beyond Stanley waterworks, leading down through polythene covered fields and across a farmyard to meet the Nagger lines and the path down to Stanley Ferry, and this seems to be one of those corners where walking route will always be converging, and steps are made around the Fayre & Square to find my way to Ramsden's Bridge and the elevated way over the Aire & Calder Navigation.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Wakefield Way #3 - Horbury Bridge to Lofthouse Hill (amended) 20/06/15

9.9 miles, via Healey, South Ossett, Gawthorpe, Kirkhamgate & Carr Gate.

My half term report only needs to be brief as we hit the top of the year, with my cumulative mileage total having far surpassed my expectations, and only two days having been lost from the schedule, most recently last weekend having come off the back of a horrible head cold to be greeted by an extremely grey day. So only my mid-season trip to High Cup with FOSCL is lost from the 2015 schedule, and I return to the Wakefield Way for leg #3, a week later than planned, riding the #232 bus out to Horbury Bridge for a 10.25am start on another short day, with less than happy weather in the air.

Self at Horbury Bridge
I know it's an official trail, and should be walked as written, but the first 3+ miles of the day are covering paths I have already trodden, on the Calder & Hebble navigation, the Kirklees Way and the Dewsbury-Ossett greenway, and as I'm at such proximity to another couple of things which interest me, I'm going to allow myself a small measure of editorialising. Set out north across the Calder then, instead of hitting the tow path, passing through Horbury Bridge village, striking out on the rising Storrs Hill Road towards the plateau which Horbury and Ossett sit upon, and pausing to take a look at the site of Healey Mills Goods yard, initially opened in 1920 and massively expanded as a hump marshalling yard in 1960, but now only home to a burgeoning forest among the rails since its closure in 1987. It's relic to be admired from many angles as I follow the perimeter path making the westwards track, past the old motive power depot, towards Healey itself, the industrial hamlet which supported a trio of mills at it height, and still sustains industry and the home of Ossett Brewery nowadays, thus keeping the Brewer's Pride pub in business. Meet the official Wakefield Way route, and the Kirklees Way trespassing on its neighbour's turf, as the path loops around the Healey Old Mills site, but I'm soon doing my own thing again, hitting the rising path away from the Calder, and getting the good views that really show that properly hilly Calderdale stretches further to the east than you would credit it, with the field walk eventually leading me up to the Runtlings housing development, on the southern edge of Ossett.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Wakefield Way #2 - Bretton Park to Horbury Bridge 06/06/15

9.8 miles, via Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bank Wood, New Hall, Overton and Middlestown.

Self at Bretton Park
I don't feel like I've had my A-Game on all week prior to this weekend, so I'm glad I've only got a short section of the trail to do right now, not requiring an early start but I still don't get onto the trail until 10.50am, thanks to horrible connections at Wakefield Bus Station and a slo-ow ride out to Bretton Park on the #96. So almost elevenses time already once we get going, entering the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the path that shadow the edge of the River Dearne channel to the north of the Bretton Lakes, and a fearsome wind comes on, just to add another degree of difficulty to the day when I feel like I'm running at only 90% already, and the fields offer more sheep than sculpture, and my philistinism kicks in as Henry Moore is one of those artists whose works really fail to engage me. The track follows the lawn in front of Bretton Hall, down to the bottom corner of the park, where the 123454321 sculpture in breezeblocks and one of Anthony Gormley's figures high atop a tree are the most engaging works to be seen, and the northward cue of the path takes me around the YSP's perimeter offering views to the west last seen when on the Kirklees Way last year. At the top lane, our path joins the track across the northern pastures of Bretton park, with the wind kicking in hard as it ascends, but the views across the Dearne Valley compensate, and I'm struck that despite knowing that Wakefield and Kirklees district share a border, I did not expect them to have so much in common at this particular corner.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Wakefield Way #1 - Wintersett to Bretton Park 30/05/15

14.8 miles, via Haw Park, Walton Common, Newmillerdam, Notton & Woolley.

Official trails means Selfies!
at Anglers Country Park
Still May, eh? This is the month that just keeps giving, and a good cue is given to start on the next scheme for 2015, using the top of the year (already!) for the fifth and final of the West Yorkshire circular trails, the Wakefield Way, and it has to go down this year as it's been on my last three to-do lists. Time to get familiar with the district's buses on the course of this trail, riding out to the hamlet of Wintersett on the #196 for a start after 9.30am, not the most auspicious of start points but a half mile short of the official start at Anglers Country park, and that's not an extra mile along Haw Park Lane that I can be certain of walking twice. Fresh Spring weather will be the order of the day as the lane is taken between the ACP and Wintersett reservoir, heading into Haw Park woods, for nice broad woodland tracks for most of the way until a very sketchy route directs us to the towpath of the Barnsley canal, eventually. Not always keen on retracing old paths, but I'll make an exception for this one, as Walton Park cutting might be my favourite place in the county (no, really), and that send us onto Sike Lane and to Rose farm before hitting the field boundaries on Walton Common, passing over the old North Midland mainline and along the lane so named to the descending path through the barley down to the beck crossing and then uphill through fields of rapeseed to the microwave mast on Gallows Hill.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Leeds to Wakefield 25/05/15

11.3 miles, via Clarence Dock, Rothwell, Stanley and Pinder's Fields.

Back to the West Riding after my jollies, and time for a change of focus after spending most of the first four months of the season in the lands to the north-east of Leeds, it's now time to head into the heart of Wakefield district for the height of the walking year, and using Bank Holiday Monday to cut a new trail between those two cities seems a good way to start. It's a modest distance, so we don't need an early start, departing Leeds station via the New Station Street entrance at 10.35am, taking the steps down to the passage along the side of the railway arches to Lower Briggate, mostly for the sake of variety, before hitting Call Lane to make for the Centenary footbridge (not sure which one it celebrates) over the River Aire to Brewery Wharfe. It's longer a virtual ghost town, last decade's residential developments having now filled up, but it lacks the neighbouring Tetley Brewery these days, and the trip through early 21st century city living continues as I cross Crown Point Road to walk through the Clarence Dock development, which sits well around the old canal wharf but fails to stimulate the senses as it seems to have been constructed in the same shade of grey as the sky. Student living now sits at the top of Clarence Road in the form of Liberty Dock, but light industry and post-industrial wastelands soon take over this outer edge of Hunslet, dominating the landscape from the A61 South Accommodation Road flyover and down Atkinson Street and National Road, all looking like its waiting for development of some kind to come this way.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Beverley to Kingston upon Hull 22/05/15

11.6 miles, via Beverley Beck and the River Hull.

Having not had to drop any days from my schedule on my Trail to the Coast has left me with a day free for a bonus walk, and it makes sense to make for the East Riding's other coast, and to the big city too, not least because a red route presents itself to guide me through this flat landscape. So get an early start from Beverley station at 9.15am, and I'll allow myself a few moments to admire the canopy roof, signal box and station house before moving away down Armstrong Way, and on to Flemingate, where the former industrial sites are getting redeveloped into a new shopping centre, which suggests that this town is in definitely in good health. This leads me to Beckside, now free of the road works that had blighted it all week (finally allowing view of the statue of a dock worker), and beyond lies Beverley Beck, the tidal channel which brought to outside word to the town for many centuries, canalised in 1802 and fuelling the relative industrial boom of the town in that period. Once even boatbuilding took place along this riverside, but now all the signs of industry have passed, the beck forming a starting point for leisure boating and the warehouse and dock buildings having gone to be replaced by apartments and a mid range waterside redevelopment, 'like Bruges' according to my Mother, but all feeling a bit airless and inert to me. Push on along recently developed path on the north side, under the A1174 relief road and into the countryside, thankfully on the other side of the beck from the anglers but having to negotiate the narrow road between boatyard and council depot, leading on to the crossing of the Beverley & Barmston drain, and passing across the flood lock at the small marina at the beck's end.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Beverley to Hornsea 20/05/15

16.7 miles, via Hull Bridge, Leven, Catwick & Sigglesthorne.

Only my fourth night away of my jollies, and already I'm on the last leg of my Trail to the Coast, which seemed like a serious undertaking when conceived during the winter, but now the sea lies only a few miles away across the flatlands of Holderness (or maybe not, that district might be to the south of my trail for today). A 9.35am start is due at Beverley station, but before the trail turns east, a large section of this town centre ought to be examined, taking my path down Trinity Lane, past the Masonic lodge, and to the bottom of Eastgate for a walk around the Minster Yard, taking a look at the outsize parish church which shows the town's medieval significance, before making my way up Highgate, and past the Wednesday Market Place, still setting out its stalls as we pass. Up the main drag of Butcher Row and Toll Gavel, showing the Georgian face of Beverley's second prosperous phase, passing the Saturday Market Place, and on to the other pair of Medieval relics, St Mary's church, which would be a proud parish church in any other town, and the 15th century brick Toll Bar, still with a main road running through its narrow entrance. Historical touring done, it's time to make for Norwood road, finally setting course for the coast and closing my loop around the town, crossing my previous path and following the passage of the A1035 over the railway and among the outer suburbs to cross the relief road and make my way along the shared use track alongside Beverley Meadows, which still functions as the town's common land. Break off the main road at Hull Bridge, taking the old road alignment to the original site of the crossing of the River Hull, replaced in 1976 after two centuries of use, and we turn to the bankside by the Crown & Anchor, rising onto the flood embankment and passing away for the noise of the roads to enjoy a leisurely, and long, walk at the riverside with fields for company and the town slowly receding from view.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Market Weighton to Beverley 18/05/15

12.2 miles, via Kiplingcotes and Cherry Burton (The Hudson Way)

It's raining, but the fortitude of the hardened walker has me setting out regardless (and wondering when that became the norm), with My Parents dropping me off at Market Hill in Market Weighton for a 10am start, and after a brief tour past the Londesborough Arms and All Saints church, the path is set to the site of the old railway station, where four lines of the NER once converged and now nothing at all remains. The ongoing route to Beverley does endure however, once the 1865 NER line, and in use for 100 years exactly, now forming the multi use Hudson Way, named after George, the infamous railway entrepreneur, MP and criminal, even though this line was constructed long after his fall from favour. Once away from prosaic redevelopment of Aspen Close and its public park, we have a rail trail to follow for most of the day's trekking, immediately setting off into the shade of trees, ideal for keeping the worst of the rain off, and rising gently along Goodmanham Wold, the change of scenery becoming immediately apparent when we meet the Red Lane overbridge. Even a gentle rise feels challenging after 20 miles of level walking, and so note is regularly taken down to Mill Beck and up to the rising Wolds as we pass the natural spring at St Helen's Well and cross over the Wolds Way at the missing underbridge on Goodmanham Dale Road. Tree cover passes, replaced by dense hedges, not offering any view at all of the route previously travelled, but rising hills of rough grass immediately shows up the Wolds profile, feeling like moorland even though we are nowhere near even the 100m contour, and the going distance becomes hard to perceive through this terrain, my inability to check my map because of the rain not helping matters any. Exposed chalk in the Kiplingcotes quarry nature reserve puts some more of the landscape character on display before lamenting the loss of the Southwold farm underbridge and not being able to get any kind of profile on the towering bridge over Goodmanhan Dale Road, but disappointments are put aside once we meet the site of Kiplingcotes station. The planning of the line took so long because of the stalling of the landowners at Dalton Park, only agreeing to its construction after accepting the offer of having their own private station, and thus this halt in the middle of nowhere came into being, still with all station buildings and fixtures, goods shed and signal box intact, a small scenario that really deserves a better day for photography.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Selby to Market Weighton 16/05/15

21.3 miles, via New Barlby, Osgodby, Cliffe Common, North Duffield, Bubwith (& the Rail Trail), Foggathorpe, Holme-on-Spalding-Moor & Shiptonthorpe.

Spring Jollies are upon us, and the latter half of the Trail to the Coast awaits, three days across the virgin territory of the East Riding of Yorkshire and no need to have My Parents driving me out to my start point as I can do that from home and only have to rely on them once I am deep into the lands of no railways. A long day awaits, so a very early start comes calling, off the train in Selby just before 9am and down to the river front to slip across the Ouse and into the remaining Riding that has so far gone unexplored, early footfalls carrying me along the A19 through New Barlby, past its assortment of tall factories and flour mills, and avoid a verge walk along the Barlby bypass by entering the bottom corner of the village and slipping across Barlby Meadows to the A19 and the former alignment of the ECML. A field walk leads over to Osgodby, and the side of the A63, offering a welcome footway as we are lead down to my target for the day, the 1848 Y&NMR Selby to Market Weighton line, forming an almost completely straight route across the flattest sort of terrain, before closure in 1954. The alignment is far from completely intact, of course, so we can enjoy less than a mile of formation, maintained as a nature and wildlife reserve by the local parish councils, before running out at Cliffe Common, were the intersecting county lanes all present the original crossing houses, still in use but all showing later extensions that make you wonder why the residents didn't just seek a larger house. This remote corner of level fields also had a station, which gives you a picture of mid 19th century economics, but the formation beyond isn't easily traceable, so no path is made toward Menthorpe Gate and the insurmountable problem of the river Derwent, instead having to take the verge walk along Lowmoor Road northwards, through many arable fields and past the business park that occupies the home of the former Whitemoor Colliery (once part of the famous and extensive Selby Coalfield).

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Micklefield to Boston Spa 09/05/15

15.7 miles, via Lotherton Hall, Aberford, Becca Park, Bramham Park, Bramham, & Clifford.

It's nice to gate late notice of passable weather on a day that was looking like it was going to be a washout, and just as well, as I've got one last blank to fill in on my map before my Spring Jollies and a change of focus to lands to the south. So break it out at Micklefield station at 9.10am and start tracking northwards along the Great North Road, to soon detour away from the bulk of the village and to greet the dog walkers on the track over to the crossing on the A1(M), following the driveway to the dog kennels up the hill before striking along the farm track, encountering a wind that feels deeply autumnal. Around the site of some mysterious construction work in the fields and onto the perimeter of Weets Wood and Scott's Wood, which drops the wind from my ears, thankfully. Follow the passage through Ringhay Wood, for moist going and a bluebell carpet, then hitting the field boundary again to meet the Lotherton Hall Estate, which gives you the feeling that you might be trespassing even though the whole estate is owned by Leeds City council. The garden path leads right up to this Victorian - Edwardian pile, and its Norman chapel, before dropping me by the stables block and onto the lane out of the grounds which no traffic uses. Move along Lotherton Lane to meet the track that runs adjacent to The Rein, an ancient embankment that runs for a mile at the very edge of the county, before taking Stocking Lane back to the main road and under the A1(M) and to the edge of Aberford, taking a fresh path around the back of many large gardens to roll up by a swollen Cock Beck, and passing over the footbridge to find the bridleway along Becca Lane. More ancient embankment are hidden in Becca Banks wood, above the beck, seen vaguely before entering the Becca Park Estate, where the tracks keep you well away from the 18th century (and private) house, pushing you onto the farm tracks as the rain briefly comes on before pushing you all the way out to the A64. The main road is avoided thanks to a convenient hard track that covers two of the three fields over to Mandrill Lane, another bridleway that is very damp, and takes you to the perimeter of Bramham Park estate, and I'll not be crossing that today as three country houses in one day would be greedy.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Knottingley to Church Fenton 04/05/15

13.6 miles, via Ferrybridge, Byram, Burton Salmon, Hillam, Monk Fryston, South Milford,
 Sherburn-in-Elmet & Little Fenton.

Drinks with work on Friday night, followed by two well deserved lie-ins, and the long May Day weekend still allows me the opportunity for a day's walking, and as the best walking month of the year is upon us, it's time to close the triangle on the lands walked to the north and east of Leeds. So a start is made from Knottingley at 9.35am, noting with that The Railway hotel has closed down since I was last here, and cross the A645 to make my way down Ferrybridge Road, still uncertain where these towns are really one or not, descending past the council and industrial estates, to meet the River Aire crossing via the 1804 bridge, and passing under the A162 bridge on both banks. The field walk over to Byram crosses the ings that were the site of the Battle of Ferrybridge, a skirmish that occurred in the hours preceding the Battle of Towton, where Lancastrian forces were unsuccessful in preventing the Yorkists from forcing their way north, a small fragment of interest that would not be otherwise noted, as looking back at the looming power station occupies most of your attention. Passing onto Sutton Lane has you concluding that the posh parts of Knottingley and Ferrybridge are actually in Byram and Brotherton, despite being in a different county, and the only available route north is to follow the side of the A162, as the extensive Byram Park offers no rights of way. Eventually turn into Burton Salmon, a picturesque village that passes all too quickly before the flatlands are entered, pacing my way along Burton Common Lane, providing a vista that is as good an horizontal horizon can provide. Slip north via Bywater Wood, and over to Hillam Lane, to enter another village that really trumpets its gorgeousness, and a pause for elevenses in the square is the least Hillam deserves. Press on along Lumby Hill and Water Lane, as the village merges seamlessly into Monk Fryston, which isn't quite as lovely, but across the A63 it does have Monk Fryston Hall, and it's worth taking a short trip up the driveway for a closer look before getting back on track.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Leeds to Wetherby 25/04/15

16 miles, via Harehills, Roundhay Park, Shadwell, Scarcroft, Bardsey & Collingham.

Time to blaze a fresh trail across the city of Leeds, and even when only a short distance into the season, the destinations are starting to repeat themselves, so set course for Wetherby for third time, departing Leeds station at 9.05am, through the Aire Street Entrance and heading in the apparently wrong direction so I might make my way, via Park Place and Park Square, to the western end of the city centre so that I might traverse Westgate, the Headrow and Eastgate all in one go, a lot of familiar Leeds sights thus checked off the list in one easy stroll. Depart the city centre under New York Road and out via Mabgate, the still faintly industrial and utterly forgotten ancient route out of the city to the north east, now twice surpassed. Follow the rising route below the Lincoln Green towers, along the pleasantly named but rather glum Cherry Row and Dolly Lane, around the back of St James's hospital and hitting the A58 Roundhay Road alongside the Bayswater terraces. Again the route northwards proves to be an uphill slog that I had forgotten to expect, taking in many large terraces and side streets of Harehills before passing the shopping parade at Harehills corner and possibly the most famous road junction in the city at Fforde Green corner. Meeting the edge of Gledhow, and the edge of Gipton Woods gives the going a more suburban character before going full on posh at the Oakwood shopping parade, then joining the perimeter of Roundhay Park, followed along Park Lane and West Avenue before descending down to the boathouse cafĂ©, and joining the throng as I make my trail around the western edge of Waterloo Lake. Enter Great Heads wood, and enjoy the relative peace and quiet as the beck is followed to the edge of the park, departing across the A6120 ring Road, and out across the fields on path that has the look of a burgeoning cycle track over to Shadwell. The bridleway is followed from Brandon Royd farm to Hall farm, everything in the immediate area having some relation to Brandon, taking the quiet lanes to join Tarn Lane to carefully pace the verge against the unexpected traffic, to find that my chosen path around Scarcroft is blocked as Syke Lane is getting resurfaced.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Egerton to Chorley 18/04/15

12 miles, via Belmont, Spitlers Edge, Great Hill, White Coppice & Knowley.

Time for a jaunt to the other side of the Pennines to see My Sister and her family, and travelling without a plan for where we might travel in the West Pennines, so it's always a refreshing idea to set out without a clear destination, on a route improvised as we go. Dr G will be taking care of my nieces needs for the morning, so My Sister and I can set out at 9.25am, departing Egerton by a familiar path, heading out to the track up Longworth Clough, previously traced in late summer 2012, and showing a different face this time around. I'd favoured a trip over the more elevated paths to Belmont, but too much road walking on dubiously narrow and poorly sighted lanes has that track nixed, instead travlling along the beck, past the gradually diminishing former paper mill, and up to the farm tracks that lead over to the A675 Belmont Road. Not heading up onto Winter Hill today, where I'd thought about attacking some of the lateral paths on the Rivington side, instead pushing along the main road into Belmont, one of those villages that clings to the last bit of cultivatable land on the moorland edge, whilst showing signs of Victorian prosperity via its ridiculously over-sized parish church. Moorland walking follows, and I think all of this years High Moors wandering will go on in the West Pennines, following the rough track up Sharples Higher End, crossing the 300m contour without to much effort thanks to the gentle rise of the terrain, my legs not feeling punished after so much action in Yorkshire's low lands. From the Rivington Road junction, trackless walking starts in earnest, rising to Horden Pasture on the access land, and even though no recognised right of way sits here, it's clearly a well used trail, though the bogginess isn't welcome above Anshaw Clough, but rewards are the views that emerge across the yellowed grass as we rise to Spitlers Edge. A paved path comes into use as we descend to cross Redmonds Edge, which makes crossing the higher reaches of Anglezarke Moor a whole lot less challenging, and the final rise of our walk leads to Great Hill, which hides its 381m elevation well from this angle, but reveals much as it is crowned.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Knottingley to Selby 11/04/15

14.8 miles, via Beal, Chapel Haddlesey and the Selby Canal path.

Set course for the alternate trail to the coast, disembarking at Knottingley at 9.35am, and choosing my path eastwards carefully so as not to retrace steps through the town, as traced last year, so make for Headlands Lane, crossing the railway at the throat of Knottingley MPD, and turning onto Spawd Bone Lane, shadowing the line and still not giving me a handle on this puzzling of town. Over the level crossing at Womersley Lane, and follow the footpath across rough ground to the Springfields estate, meeting the A645 Weelands Road, to make my way out of this town of glassworks, council estates and hidden farmsteads, crossing the Goole line of the Aire & Calder navigation, and making for Dole Bank Junction, meeting the original alignment of the A&C and setting my sights to Selby. Canal shortly ends at Dole Bank Lock, where the lock-keepers house just call out to be loved, and whilst the rights of way along the flatlands of the Aire seem to suggest routes across the fields, the paths on the ground steer you carefully onto the flood embankment to give you the easiest possible going. Flat lands don't offer the best protection from the wind unfortunately, so pacing comes on to keep the warmth in as attention drifts towards Kellingley Colliery, one of the last pair of deep mines in the county, whilst more distantly eyes fix on Eggborough power station, whose changing perspective will keep us amused during all our time on the Aire banks. Also worthy of note is the flood management schemes, ideal to be inundated and contained when the Aire gets swollen, which it hasn't done in the last 7 years or so. Detour into Beal via the farm track when the path gets too busy with sheep, passing by the Jenny Wren and the Kings Arms pubs to get to see Beal bridge, a rare crossing point, and finding my way back to path by Beal Lock and weir, the lock house here is still occupied. Plough on along the bank, as it winds its way along, cutting one corner when to loops get silly, looking over to Birkin and Kellington churches on the horizon, whilst seeing Eggborough Power station gradually coming closer, and despite some welcome evidence of boating, I'm disappointed that there's none of the advertised water-skiing going on along the straights.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Pontefract to Garforth 06/04/15

12.3 miles via Fryston, Fairburn, Ledsham, Ledston & Kippax.

Easter Monday turns out to be a glorious day, which is why the weather forecasters suggested dark clouds for the duration and I'm dressed in anticipation of wintery conditions as I continue my quest to visit every railway station in West Yorkshire as I disembark at Pontefract Tanshelf station at 9.50am. North, and around the perimeter of Pontefract colliery we head, once again, seeing how redevelopment is starting to nibble on the site, moving onto Skinner Lane, crossing the railway line into Monkhill and seeing new roads have been cut across the spoil tip, following on the perimeter fence next to the housing estate of at least three vintages, before following the bridleway that hugs the site edge, evidence of a much older route consumed by industry. This surprise greenery leads up Ridgeley hill and then sharply down to Spittal Hardwick Lane, which leads under the M62, soon branching off on the bridleway to Fairy Hill Farm, and on into the bottom end of the Townville estate, on the eastern edge of Castleford. Urban walking continues beyond Sheepwalk Lane, through the Fryston Estate, mostly along Kendal Drive and Watling Road, confirming my belief that anywhere can look good in nice weather, but not finding any suggestion of whether Fryston Park is accessible or not. Paths lead me out into the fields and next to the Castleford - Burton Salmon line, dropping down to the side of the River Aire, and then ascending the steps that are bolted to the side of the railway viaduct, once having provided access to the various collieries for Castleford's miners. From the north bank, we are momentarily on familiar territory before heading on up the path between the lakes of Fairburn Ings nature reserve, passing on into the village, and soon out again through Caudle Hill wood to be greeted with a fantastic view the whole way across West Yorkshire, all the way to Emley Moor, Holme Moss and the Calderdale fringe, a wholly unexpected viewpoint at only 40m elevation.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Tadcaster to Pannal 04/04/15

15.2 miles, via Thorpe Arch, Wetherby & Spofforth.

Resuming the trail on the 1848-1964 Church Fenton to Harrogate line, we start out from Tadcaster at 9.50am, and start of along the north bank of the Wharfe, so the first couple of miles of this railway walk will actually be river walking, as the extent formation to the south is fragmented with the river proving to be an insurmountable barrier. Beyond Mill Lane we can get one railway relic in though, the 1849 viaduct built for a projected line to York, which was never completed and hasn't had a proper use since, and then the trail strikes on along the riverbank until the grounds of Healaugh Manor get in the way and Wighill Lane has to be paced as far as the site of the abandoned village of Easdike. Return down to the riverside to skirt the edge of many fields, with the Wharfe at my left, sometimes below the crumbling banks and sometimes hidden behind the flood embankments and piles of accumulated driftwood, this couple of miles eventually past the sewage farm, bringing us back to the railway alignment, and the Thorpe Arch Viaduct, a sad looking mix of tone and steel, which must surely be crying out for redemption as every river crossing in these parts must be considered valuable. Rise onto the formation for a short while before slipping across the rough ground at the back of the Thorpe Arch Trading Estate, descending to the perimeter road to join the Wetherby Railway path, another triumph for Sustrans which we will accompany for the middle part of the day. Cyclepath and bridleway shadow the alignment to the site of Thorpe arch station, where the goods shed is still visible in the station house's garden, before descending to track level through a mile of stone lined cutting, know as Dave's Mile, dedicated to one of Sustran's most committed members, and it is a lovely bit of preservation work. Pass the keepers cottages at the Walton Road crossing, continuing along the alignment as it parallels the edge of Wetherby Racecourse, before passing under the A1 (M) and A168 and moving along Freemans Way and down a short ginnel before the alignment comes to an abrupt halt at the missing bridge on York Road.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Church Fenton to Tadcaster 30/03/15

8.5 miles, via Saxton, Towton & Stutton.

A bonus day of being NIW, so a short walk is in order to get in another railway walk, and a battlefield, trailed last year on my visit to Sandal. A late start, has me disembarking at Church Fenton station at 11am, a crazily scaled station of five platforms in the middle of nowhere, where four lines once converged, with the 1848 Y&NM/NER line towards Harrogate being the one to trace today, though it's early going has been ploughed into the fields since its 1964 closure, so an alternative path needs to be taken. This leads from Sandwath lane and across the fields to the bridleway that skirts around Scarthingwell Golf course, along the driveway to the A162 and on into the village of Saxton, another improbably lovely settlement on the high edge of the West Yorkshire fringe, swinging north to pace Cotchers Lane to meet the B6217, where in the surrounding fields on 29th March 1461, the first phase of the Wars of the Roses played out at the Battle of Towton. It was here that the Yorkist Armies of Edward IV defeated the Lancastrian forces of Henry VI, in a confrontation claimed the crown of England for the house of York and which chroniclers recorded as having claimed 28,000 lives, and if that figure seems high, investigations have revealed a battle that was noted for its extent and ferocity, even by Medieval standards. A battlefield trail runs from Dacre's Cross at the battle lines and around the fields above Cock Beck and the so-called Bloody Meadow, where the river was supposedly so choked with the bodies of the routed Lancastrians that the Wharfe ran red with blood for days. The interpretative boards are useful and informative, whilst the arable fields lend it an altogether bleak feel, on a windswept hilltop on the verge of the Vale of York, and it baffles me that this is one of those significant battles in English history that no one seems to know about.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Glen Parva to Desford 27/03/15

14 miles, via the Great Central Way and Leicester & Swannington paths.

My second Old Country walk takes me railway walking, to trace two historic routes which have slipped into history, starting with the last mainline to be built in the 19th century, the already lamented Great Central (1899-1969), which now carries a multi use trail from Glen Parva to the city of Leicester, straightforwardly joined from the estate on Needham Avenue, where I am dropped off at 9.30am. The straight and wide formation runs almost arrow straight along the Soar valley and by Aylestone meadows, allowing for easy progress as it forms embankments and cuttings at the edge of the fold plain, with open space to the west and the backs of Lutterworth Road's estates to the east and it's a familiar sort of landscape, already encountered from the canal below last year. A detour or two from the trackbed is in order, to get views of the substantial underbridges at Marsden Lane and Braunstone Lane East, as well as to get a look at the ancient Medieval packhorse bridge across the flood plain, one which I'd have difficulty visiting otherwise. The surprise feature is the four arched viaduct over the River Biam, a minor branch of the Soar, and it's a gorgeous structure that had failed to gain my attention in all my years as a Leicester lad, and beyond here the path winds around the formation, sat atop the unfilled cuttings and scooting around the various overbridges at the back of Rowley Fields. The city is met full on beyond the Leicester - Burton line, the terraces of Westcotes forming a rampart to one side, whilst the flat lands of Bede Island have been rapidly consumed by contemporary development, and I'm sad that the long overbridge on Upperton Road has gone, but at least two GCR buildings have endured as shops, and the bridges over the Old Soar have remained at the throat of the old Leicester goods yard. Folks in the student accommodation and users of Bede Park would find it hard to believe that piles of locomotives and carriages used to cover this site some 25+ years ago when Vic Berry's scrapyard occupied this site, and another relic to mourn is the bowstring bridge over Western Boulevard, demolished within the last decade, with the path hopefully leading up onto the remaining elevated formation with nowhere further to go.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Kilby Bridge to Market Harborough 25/03/15

16.8 miles, via the Grand Union Canal path

My week off at the end of the fiscal year brings me down country, for a week of my parents' hospitality, and for getting in a couple of walks, starting with a trail down the towpath of the former Leicestershire & Northamptonshire Union Canal, now the part of the Grand Union, starting out from where I last left off, at Kilby Bridge, dropped off for a 9.25am start at the Navigation inn. Under the A5199 bridge and the outer edge of the conurbation of Leicester is soon far behind us, setting out by the waterside, with the canal taking great care to not go too close to any villages and leading us deep into the rolling fields of the county, the site of Kilby village being only slightly visible at Turnover Locks, and Newton Harcourt hiding behind trees around Wain Bridge. The railway to London keeps me closer company for a lot of the early going, showing plenty of traffic, whilst the best early views come across the valley of the Sence, showing up the abandoned village of Wistow, where only the parish church has endured. The last group of the eleven lock since our start, around Kibworth bridge, brings us to the summit pound, which will be followed for the remainder of the day, gaining brief sight of Fleckney, before a collapsed bank forces us onto a field walk on the approach to Saddington Tunnel, constructed as this one rise fell in the way of maintaining the canal level at 105m elevation. Follow the path over the top of the tunnel, lacking a path through its half mile length, and rejoining the path as slips between Saddington, Kibworth Beauchamp, and Smeeton Westerby, passing over one impressively scaled embankment as it maintains its level. Milepost counting and admiring the view to distant Church Langton sustains us on the walk to Debdale marina, where construction of the canal stalled in 1797, in the middle of nowhere, and now forms a considerable home for many narrowboats, very few of which seem to be out boating today.