The continuing wanderings and musings of Morley's Walking Man, transplanted Midlander and author of the 1,000 Miles Before I'm 40 Odyssey; still finding fresh trails and new perspectives around the West Riding of Yorkshire and Beyond. Continuing to seek the revelations of History and Geography in the landscape and now on the long road to 5,000 Miles before he turns 50, with more pictures and, hopefully, a lot fewer words.
13.7 miles, via Bilton Hall, Nidd Gorge, Bilton, Knox, Jennyfield, Oakdale, Birk Crag, RHS Harlow Carr, Beckwith, Lund House Green, & The Warren.
Long Distance Trail
#2 at Knaresborough.
There's no early start to today's trek as a 4+ pint session from last night has to be slept off, after seeing off another colleague from my department at the hospital, and when we do get to depart from Knaresborough station, we're overdue after the train crew had to deal with a fare-dodger at Harrogate, and because I'm apt to fart around at this station that has already been dubbed the prettiest in the county, not getting underway until after 10.25 am, and the day ahead isn't going to be short. Feel fortunate that's we've got the sunshine out again as the descent down Water Bag Bank is made to rejoin the Harrogate Ringway trail, seeing the facades of Waterside being shown to the best effect, and allowing ourselves a detour to the riverbank to see the early morning row boaters already out and the old bridge carrying the A59 across the Nidd being shown up in a good light. Rise to the main road and over the river, passing The World's End and Mother Shipton's cave before we depart Knaresborough without really having seen enough of it, entering Mackintosh Park and the beginnings of the Nidd Gorge green space, initially following the Beryl Burton cycleway, named for the Seven times World Champion, and local girl, who dominated road and track cycling in the 1960s. We gain a leafy path as the ringway ascends away from the river, denying us any views towards the stately Conygham Hall on the opposite bank, recombining with the cycleway to follow a field boundary uphill, where all the views are found by looking back to see Knaresborough's castle and parish church rising above the riverside foliage. The shady track eventually leads us out to Bilton Hall, also hidden from view and these days forming a retirement and care home, and a country lane leads us onwards, in the direction of Old Bilton (a name that you'll soon notice starts to crop up all around these parts), and the sunshine passes from the morning, and a cool wind blows in to remind you that Summer does not bring guaranteed warm days. A northward shift comes as the path leads us on to the Nidd Gorge proper, following a rough path into the woods, following a line that doesn't seem to correspond with the one on the map, but the destination should be obvious if the descent is continued as the river must be located at the bottom of the valley, carved through the carboniferous and Permian sandstones by post glacial runoff after the last Ice Age.
6.9 miles, via Fulwith, Hornbeam Park, The Showgrounds, Crimple, Forest Moor & Calcutt.
Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#1 at Pannal.
2.15pm is a bit late to be starting a Long Distance Trail, it might be my latest start on any walk of any kind, but I'll not be tilting at the full 20 miles today, wouldn't even go for it if starting at 9am on a much cooler day, and as our day is already 11 miles old, it would make sense to get a move on along the Ringway to give Harrogate its circuit during the hottest stretch of the day, and so we're off, through the yard of St Robert of Knaresborough's church and off into the meadows beyond, soon leaving suburban Pannal behind us. We might expect another river walk, along the Crimple, but the trod seems intent on keeping us away from the riverbank, despite where the path might appear to be on the map, and we ought to enjoy these fields while they last, as multiple notices encourage us to resist the spread of suburban growth across these fields as the town seeks to grow further into the green spaces that surround it. We soon run into the woods below the embankment of the A61, but take a north western turn to follow the passage of Stone Rings Beck, taking an uphill and largely shady path that offers sight of the outer suburban edge of Harrogate through the trees, before dropping to pass over the stream and then up into the full bore of suburbia along Stone Rings Lane, wondering where the actual stone rings might have once been. Meet the A61 Leeds road and pass over it, into the district I'll call Fulwith as its name is attached to literally every road in the vicinity, taking Fulwith Mill Road eastwards, through that sort of upscale suburbia that is pleasant enough on the older plots but really looks a bit much on the newer builds, as if expensive modern dwellings aren't naturally tasteful. From there we'll find our sole previous path into Harrogate, following the long ands shaded driveway towards the town, where the best views of Crimple Viaduct can be gained even with a lot more foliage cover on this occasion, splitting off east to pass over the railway and meet the back of the Hornbeam Park business, leisure and educational estate, familiar with its distinctive metal pyramid, and pass in front of the grounds of Crimple House, before heading into the woods again, the path good and clear, and popular, as this town really has done a lot to promote cycling with multi use trails seeming to go off in all directions.
10.9 miles, via Farnley, Lindley Bridge, Braythorn, Stainburn, Almscliffe Crags, North Rigton, and Burn Bridge.
Finally, the high season amblings can get underway as attention shifts to the lands north of the Wharfe for most of the summer, and it seems to have taken a long time to get here having first trailed it at the start of May, and having been plotted for 2016 before my attention turned elsewhere, only getting going as the last weekend of Spring arrives, promising to bring a day of unbroken sunshine with it. So naturally there's a mood of disappointment in the air as my arrival in Otley is greeted by overcast skies that seem far too common in Wharfedale, with our course being set from the bus station at 9.15am with a very long day ahead of us, starting off down Mercury Row to reveal more of those ancient side streets that deserve a more detailed explore, and crossing Kirkgate to take a circuit around the Parish church of All Saints as it hasn't had an up close look on my previous visits, and also finding the Bramhope Tunnel monument in the yard, commemorating the 24 men killed during its construction. Then follow the passage that leads across to Westgate to wander on to the riverside through the yard of a presently disused mill complex, arriving on the high bank above the Wharfe below the shade of many trees and starting the eastwards tack to drop down into the Manor Garth gardens, where a hard path is joined, leading us to probably the best spot to get sight of Otley Bridge, stretching long and low across the wide and placid river. Cross over and ender Wharfemeadows Park, forming a garden apron in front of the riverside terrace before we reach the weir which livens the river up a bit, and beyond the play area we move away from the bankside to find the way to the northeast, passing us through the town facing gates of Farnley Hall, before turning away from the parkland and through the suburban enclave of the Riverside Estate to join the B6451 Farnley Lane to push us out of town and on into North Yorkshire. General gloom means the view back to The Chevin and its companions aren't that great, and so we press on , accompanied by the long wall of Farnley Park, longtime seat of the Fawkes family, where no good views are forthcoming until we meet the estate houses and the walled garden, framed by the hills to the south, but the house will remain unseen as we go on, obscured by a thick woodland that keeps on all the way to the north entrance, and thus interest has to come from elsewhere, like the tiny Farnley church, peeking out from across distant fields, and the complex at Home farm, which has had about as impressive residential makeover as any 18th century farmstead in this county.
5.7 miles, via Micklethwaite, Bingley Moor, Ilkley Moor, and the Cow & Calf.
There's far too much rain on Saturday morning to even consider attempting a 17+ mile trek from Wharfe to Nidd, and after a largely sleep free General Election week, a lie in to start the weekend was certainly welcome, but having lost too many Bank Holiday excursions on this year already, a Sunday morning stroll is a good time to get in the 6 mile jaunt that I 've had planned for the last two in May, without risking burning up too much energy before the next week of work rolls around. So not out all that early, barely qualifying it as a morning stroll at all, alighting at 11.10am, at Crossflatts station deep in the heart of Airedale, below the wooded hills of the St Ives estate to the south and on the western edge of Greater Bingley, where the amazing engineering feat of fitting the A650 Airevalley Road adjacent to the railway was somehow completed, leaving the southbound platform with possibly the longest approach ramp to be found anywhere on the network. Rise to the original Keighley Road to press north, among the flats and low apartment buildings that seem to make up the entirety of this district, with attention immediately drawn to the rising bulk of the higher lands below Rombalds Moor, starting the ascent on Micklethwaite Lane, to meet the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the only path that I've previously walked in this corner, where the Limefield and Airedale mills have both had residential makeovers, whilst maintain completely different characters. Over the swing bridge and past the field with many ducks and geese, rising steadily past the allotments to get views up the valley to Keighley and back to the still unwalked woodlands around Druid's Altar to soon meet the suburban enclave that has grown on the bottom edge of Micklethwaite itself, with the high valley side looming above it, another place to wonder why people might be drawn to living in such an out of the way quarter. The reveal of Micklethwaite proper gives strong indication of its desirability, as it's stone village of incredible quaintness, one that would attract much more attention if it were located in a remoter corner of the county, rather than hidden away in the Aire valley, and it's all very pleasing in the sunshine, looking rather 17th century in places, with a road so steep that it actually has to take a wandering detour at the top, where we get more views coming in the direction of Keighley and East Morton, hiding away in their respective side valleys of the Aire.
14 miles, via Silsden, Holden Bank, Rivock moor, West Morton, East Morton, Graincliffe reservoir, Weecher reservoir, Reva reservoir, Menston, and Ellar Ghyll.
No Spring Bank Holiday wanderings were forthcoming as a three day weekend of rest after my holidays seemed like a much better option, and the weather was pretty awful on the day as well, and so after a short week back in work, the body isn't feeling hugely enthusiastic at getting an early start on so we don't get to the high trail down Airedale until after 10.05am, alighting at Steeton & Silsden station with my OL21 in hand, setting off on this side of the map for the first time since 2013. It's looking altogether sunnier than it did when I was out on the Millennium Way back then, and as usual, the path north has to take us along the A6034, over the A629 Aire Valley road, and over the Aire itself, where the bollards on Silsden Bridge are still painted in Tour de France colours, and the wander across the low fields up to the town is made more interesting by enjoying the panorama created by the valley. Looking to the north west we see where the river vanishes apparently among the high hills and to the northeast where we will be heading, looking to the high points of Rombalds Moor, with Nab End and Rivock Edge standing high above, bisected by the wooded clough of Holden Beck. Onwards to Silsden then, past the sports clubs, the industrial estate and the branch of Aldi to hit the rising lane as it enters among the old mills and stone cottages to pass over the Leeds & Liverpool canal, where the scenarios in both directions are still excellent, with the Main Street inviting a first visit beyond, but our path is to lead east today, so we swing right to Clog Bridge, over Silsden Beck (which passes under the canal) and onto Holden Road where the canalside mills are both industrial and residentially made over. A picture of Silsden's growth is then gained as we push on and up, passing long stone terraces, stone semis and all sorts of later suburbia scattered among as we ascend to the edge of the town, passing Springbank house and the cemetery, and even though the intention is to follow the road to the high edge above the valley, if a path is available to take us away from a lane that is really too narrow and twisty to accommodate both walkers and traffic, we'll take it. Two such come along in the early going, one away from the substation, and another through the fields towards Howden Park farm, where we mustn't get too tangled up among the herding sheep, and despite this feeling like an unfamiliar landscape, there are two former paths to cross as we go, so those 4 years between visits has clearly been long enough to make this all feel fresh again.