Monday, 21 May 2018

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

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

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

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Steeton to Skipton 12/05/18

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

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

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Ilkley to Bingley 07/05/18

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

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

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Bingley to Ilkley 05/05/18

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

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

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Ben Rhydding to Cononley 28/04/18

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

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

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Otley to Skipton 21/04/18

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

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

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Leeds to Otley 14/04/18

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

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

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Rumination: The Season has Stalled, Again.

The product of of our two days of
creative DIY, and while I'm not normally
one to trumpet my successes, on this
occasion I think I have to say 'Toot Toot!'.
Once again in this frustrating seventh season of walking that is 2018, I find myself unable to get out on the trail, my fourth consecutive weekend that I have failed to get onto the trail in any capacity, which starts to get me fearful that any more delays in this season might result in my will to walk to drain away, a thought that hadn't been entertained at any point in the last four seasons. It's been a frustrating few weeks since my last trail Up Country on 10th March, losing a weekend to grim conditions and illness, before taking another out to be sociable and entertained by other means, and as Spring has been resolute in its unwillingness to appear, allowing us only three nice weekdays since the turn of the seasons, and I find myself in a glum place once again. I ought to talk up the good things that have come from this last month so that I don't wallow too hard, and the first of these has to be the days of woodworking and labour which had Dr G and myself rebuilding the raised vegetable box in  My Parents' garden, a task that had seemed like it might be just a remedial patch-up job when first planned, but turned out to be much more serious once the extent of the rot had been discovered and instead requiring some £60 worth of fresh materials and two days of work. It could probably have been done quicker, but both of us were doing a lot of planning on the fly as we are both skilled in the fine art of bodging, and one of us is much less skilled in the handling of tools than the other, plus we had to deal with some deeply inclement weather which made going underfoot sticky in the extreme, while rain showers had us darting indoors for brews, and bailing early from working on both Good Friday and Saturday afternoons once we decided we had already gotten damp enough. It was the task that I had planned for the Easter weekend, and hopefully it will keep my parents on beans and carrots for a good few more years, but it absorbed the viable walking parts of three days, and while the morning of Easter Sunday was probably the clearest sustained period of the whole week, it was entirely absorbed with shoveling compost and doing dinner prep for all seven members of Family Wren, both of which turned out to require a lot more labouring than I had actually anticipated.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Humberstone to Markfield 28/03/18

12.2 miles, via New Humberstone, Northfields, Latimer ward, Belgrave Road, Abbey Park, 
 Abbey ward,  Gorse Hill, Anstey, Newtown Linford, Field Head, and Hill Hole Quarry.

Despite being a week into it, Spring has definitely not sprung when I'm prepped to get walking again whilst in the Old Country to spend the Easter Week with My Parents, providing company and assistance in exchange for hospitality, deciding that it's wise to get busy on the trail before My Sister and family arrive and I need to borrow Dr G to get to do a rebuild job on the raised vegetable bed in the garden which has suffered with rot and partial collapse in the last season. I look to the west for a change in the county of Leicestershire, feeling that I ought to strike for Charnwood Forest again after abandoning it back in 2013 and not having been back that way since, thinking it wise that I ought to link up to that isolated trail out that way before I envisage a year of visits to do the Leicestershire Round over my next three weeks off work in 2018, as I fear that My Dad's holidaying days are sadly behind him. So we set off to our regular start up point at Abbots Road URC, and strike to the Northwest, over the A563 Hungarton Boulevard in the direction of Humberstone village, feeling that I might be running short of unique routes across the city of Leicester already, on just my third trip, arriving by my Old Schools and Manor House gardens, pushing on along Main Street past St Mary's church and its ancient mud wall, and the enduring shopping parade and the village pub that I've still never visited, the Humberstone. The village is departed by the Grange, the Thatched cottage and the Royal British Legion, and the rain comes on as we pace down through the suburbia that has grown all over the grounds of the former Humberstone Hall, tracing Tennis Court Drive and Greenland Drive to meet the estate perimeter at Humberstone Drive, passing that one house that My Parents had thought about moving into in the 80s before choosing to extend their house instead. Move on to meet the estates of New Humberstone, ranked along Wycombe Road, where Mundella college used to reside, where My Dad was educated in his youth, and did much woodworking in the first decade of my life, all replaced by a medical centre now, while the district looks of a mode entirely consistent with the orange bricks and stucco look of Leicester's estates, not seen elsewhere. Run out onto the Portwey - Tailby Avenue, plotted as part of the original outer ring road, but never completed between the A47 and A607, though it still sees a lot of traffic as it leads us to the lower edge of the Northfields estate, where the child-shaped bollards on Hastings Road, outside Merrydale Junior School, seem to have been designed to haunt your darkest nightmares.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Rumination: Winter's Long Twitching Tail

28/02 Morley Station creates its own Snow Trap.
As we finally reach the leading edge of Spring, It's a good time to let out a small revelation, confessing publically the fact that I actually enjoy Winter weather, at least when it has the decency to arrive in the cold and dark days of December and January, the corner of the year that it can linger on in without you getting the feeling that the season isn't turning around quickly enough. What I don't like is when the worst of the Winter weeks appear to have passed, allowing the walking season to get underway and for the mind to fill with the anticipation of Spring, and then the long twitching tail of Winter weather lashes again and again to make everyday life miserable and to test the patience as you try to keep body and mind inspired when the reality of Spring being just around the corner seems to be doubtful. This where we sit right about now, having endured the bout of snow that came with The Beast from The East, which fell and lingered from 28th February through to the 4th March, which arrived too late to trap me on a work related sojourn to Seacroft Hospital, but gave me a couple of distinctly challenging trips into work, with the fierce wind from the east making Morley station even colder than normal, and frozen train units at Huddersfield causing some alarming delays to the ride to Leeds. That turned out to be a cold snap that at least managed to be short enough to not disrupt the walking day, with the wind settling down and the ice being soft enough to walk on securely and not cause difficulties, the rapid thaw off on the Sunday returning us to some semblance of normality quickly, and for all the chill and disruption that came along, we pushed through because we are hardy types nowadays.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Headingley to Garforth 10/03/18

13 miles, via Beckett Park, Meanwood, Stainbeck, Chapel Allerton, Gledhow, Oakwood,
 Hollin Park, Gipton, Wykebeck, Halton, Whitkirk, Colton, Swillington Common,
  and West Garforth.

The 'Beast from the East' passes, having lingered well into last Sunday, and it might be reasonable to assume that the weather is taking a more seasonal turn as March progresses, only to get a Thursday morning blast of Snowmageddon which throws everything out of kilter again, so bets are off once the weekend rolls around as to what sort of climate we might be getting, and damp and overcast looks like the projection, so the weather eye has to be tuned to help us avoid the worst of it. So a late start is due as we plot another track across the city from west to east, jumping off the train at Headingley after 10.35am to pick a different path across North and East Leeds, dropping down the steps to pass under the railway  and join the path that rises up through the allotments towards the high towers of the Queenswood estate, passing the Kirkstall Educational Cricket club before crossing Queenswood Drive and wandering on among the semis. The way forward is well concealed, hidden away at the top of Foxcroft Mount, where a passage between the council houses leads us to the lowest periphery of Beckett Park, which is home both public parkland and university campus, giving its name to the former Metropolitan Uni, and through the upper edge of Batcliffe Woods, another forest remnant that has endured in the expanding city. We are lead onto St Anne's Road, where the smartly upscale semis of the 1930s grew above the terraces in the main village, and where studentland never quite got a strong hold, running down to the so-called Dynasty corner, named after the infamous Chinese restaurant at the centre of the shopping parade, and above the main drag on Otley Road, where the Arndale centre is in the grip of a major renovation. Pass over to Grove Lane and Shaw lane, where the houses and terraces get larger and stonier as we move into the smartly Victorian hinterland between Headingley and Meanwood, where the merchants of their day started the trend for out of town living, in houses that are poorly located and too big for the modern world, resulting in their development of flats and retirement homes. Monk Bridge Road twists downhill past the ends of the brick terraces that signal our arrival in Meanwood, dropping us at the bottom of the valley and over the beck before we rise again, to meet Meanwood Road, between the Wesleyan chapel and the site of the infamous Beckett's Arms public house, since redeveloped as flats and having me wondering if every road corner in these part deserves to be dubbed 'Infamous'?

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Woodlesford to Headingley 03/03/18

11.5 miles, via Rothwell Haigh, Belle Isle, Middleton Park, Cross Flatts Park, Beggars Hill,
 Elland Road, Low Fields, Green Side, Upper Wortley, Whingate, Upper Armley,
  Wyther Park, Houghley Gill, Kirkstall Bridge, and Kirkstall.

And then the weather happened. A relatively bright and warm February comes to a sudden end as three of the harshest days of cold weather arrive across the country, the worst since the icy blast of March 2013, and the snow and persistent easterly winds are enough to challenge even the hardiest of souls, making travelling to work complicated and work itself improbably hard as our hospital department's air recirculators pump fresh air in from out of doors, ensuring that its fleecy jacket temperatures even deep inside the building. Despite the tests to the mental and physical fortitude that the cold snap brings, the early walking season of 2018 is not going to go on hiatus, as we have landed on my Six Year walking anniversary, and my first opportunity to head out on 3rd March since I started out in 2012 and that's not a date to be missed, though I won't be going anywhere near Gargrave, Malham or Settle to celebrate the distance I have travelled since, as that sort of terrain can wait for the summer and the sort of days when there isn't standing snow in the fields and impacted ice on the pavements. So an extra layer of insulation will be needed as we go out into a sub-zero climate, and there's even a rail strike to contend with, but that doesn't put any cramps on my travelling plans, though I do have the train to virtually myself as we ride out to Woodlesford to complete my trek around Leeds by getting my fill of the southern and western quarters, disembarking at 10.10am, with a tight schedule planned, and so my best snow legs are on as we start off westwards to meet this village that has been lost in a mass of suburbia. It's been described previously on a far nicer day than this, and so the soundest path on the pavements is found to pass All Saint's church, the Two Pointers, and the village green before we delve deep into the suburbia, which continues to expand to fill the fields next to the old colliery sites and welding it firmly to the districts of Oulton and John O'Gaunts. Meet the colliery estate and the passage over the A639 Leeds Road, and take some slippery steps to meet Haigh Lane and the way into Greater Rothwell, finding another old path to cross as the alignment of the E&WYU railway is met as Haigh Road crosses Styebank Lane, and that's going to be a major feature of the day as we've had a lot longitudinal burned across South Leeds, but very few latitudinal ones, so checking them off should keep the mind entertained, as we wander on past more suburbia and the snowclad, and super-atmospheric, Rothwell cemetery.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Headingley to Woodlesford 24/02/18

10.6 miles, via Meanwood, Miles Hill, Potternewton, Harehills, Osmandthorpe,
 Halton West, Skelton Moor, Newsam Green, and Leventhorpe.

The Specs that saw Everything so far
get retired after 11+ years service.
Before we get going again, we have to announce another early season retirement as my other constant companion of the last decade gets replaced, the specs that I got in 2006 finally get an update, and the eyes that have literally seen everything I have over my walking career get renewed, not because my sight is suffering, more that the time has come for something new. So the small and wiry pair that were definitively the best glasses I have ever worn get retired, replaced by the nearest equivalent that I could find in Specsavers as current styles of chunky and plasticy are certainly not my thing, and not costing me a whole lot of coins either, and if the new ones do me right for 11+ years, I'll certainly be a happy camper. And so we move on, due for more Crosstown Traffic in the City of Leeds, as there have been so many trails radiating out from the centre and not enough going from side to side, and so we set out with a two-day circular route in mind, to get in much of North and East Leeds along the way of leg #1, disembarking at Headingly station at 10.40am, starting late and hopeful that the winter sunshine will offset the low temperature and persistent easterly wind, with the day warming through a bit as we go. So eastwards we head, from this charmingly domestic station in the suburbs, past the railway cottages and setting course along Kirkstall Lane for the village centre, among the suburban spread, but noting the large Victorian houses of Oakfield and St Ann's Tower that stand on either side of the railway line and the Queenswood Drive junction before we run into the terraces that student land is still just about clinging onto. The looming mass of Headingley stadium, home of Yorkshire CCC and not enough England Test matches, appears on the horizon, looking much larger now that the Carnegie pavilion rises above the Len Hutton gates, and it's telling that my detachment from cricket is so bad that the last time I came here was in the days when Twenty20 was a fun diversion rather than a scourge on the modern game.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Cottingley to Leeds 17/02/18

10.8 miles, via Beeston, Middleton, Belle Isle, Hunslet, Knostrop, and Richmond Hill.

As is happens, there were no options for new trails to be burned in Lancs when I spent last weekend with My Sister, largely due to the weather being persistently unpleasant, and with her having a lot of work to do thanks to her change of career path, but I do come away with plans for three days of walks for future visits, and also with a new cookbook, all about the art of sandwiches. Thus February is already on at a pace when we rejoin the trails in the city of Leeds, and not forcing ourselves out to an early start as we look to a trail across South Leeds, largely due to the fact that we need to start once the worst of the weather has passed, and that I have to run an early morning errand in Morley before we can even consider getting going. So it's only a short ride away to get to the start line at Cottingley station, for a 10.55am start, conveniently placed between the Cottingley Hall estate and Churwell by the footbridge that predated it and surely ensured its location when new in 1988, which we pass over to make acquaintance with the council estate, a resolutely 1970s low rise and pitched roofed affair on this side, entered by the primary school on Dulverton Grove. The distinctive pair of towers rise at its centre, overshadowing the small commercial centre, once home to a pub known to locals the Sphinx due to its pyramidal roof, which houses barely any business nowadays, and we pass to the other side of this small hillside to find the way down, past the church and the somewhat browner houses to Cottingley Drive, once the driveway to the Cottingley Hall farm that named the estate. Drop out onto the A6110 Ring Road and cross over by the Sulzer works and the Drysalters pub, passing the brand new Kia dealership and turning right to hit the steep Crows Nest Road, which ascends sharply as the other back road up onto Beeston's hill, passing over the railway line to Wakefield and Doncaster and the buildings of Crows Nest farm, still looking rural on the edge of the city. The height gain gives us some looks back to the way travelled from Cottingley, and to the hills inhabited by Churwell and Morley, and we can find that contemporary development can fill any available patch of land, as new builds cling onto this hillside, left behind as we ascend to emerge between the Whistlestop Inn and the Beeston primary school and hit Town Street by the turning circle of the bus route terminus, where a fine view to the north can be found, through the greyness.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Kirkstall Forge to Arthington & Bramhope 07/02/18

9.1 miles, via Horsforth Woodside, Horsforth, Cookridge, Breary Marsh, Bramhope,
 Creskeld Hall, Arthington Viaduct, & Arthington Junction.

New Boots! Pair #6b.
Season #7 launches whilst I'm in the midst of an 11 day break from work, taking time out to visit My Parents for a long weekend, and to go see My Sister to catch up on last year, and to also to get this thing started again as we lapse out of the Dark Season, especially as I have new pair of lightweight boots to road test, acquired from Cotton Traders at Batley Mill for not a whole lot of coins, when I wasn't even looking for any, hopefully durable enough to survive me pounding them around the city, whilst my regulars can be reserved for the country trails. So away as Winter sunshine beats down on a Wednesday morning, not starting too early as it's freakishly cold, hopeful that the window of clear skies will last long enough, a familiar risk at this time of year, and so we disembark at Kirkstall Forge at 10.40am, with a trail ready in my mind, plotted as the alternate finale between Aire and Wharfe for 2017, so we shouldn't need maps for this trip. The Kirkstall Forge development still amounts to no more than a single office building, two car parks and a lot of cleared post industrial land, but to seems the first building task was to secure the banks of the River Aire, which bisects the site, to insure the future riverside development doesn't get inundated, and the channel is crossed to follow the new access road up to the A65 Abbey Road, emerging where it crosses Oil Mill Beck. The passage down the wooded clough to the north is the route we will follow, for the third time, by a different route as Hawksworth Road brings suburban living to a ribbon of plots along side the beck and the looming banks of primordial trees, a familiar sight around these parts of Horsforth Woodside, and we soon have risen to meet the Bridge Inn and the mill conversion at the bottom of Butcher Hill, along with the feeling that some points in this city will always be a locus of convergence, where trails from all different directions will meet, cross and disperse. 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Out of the Dark Season & Onwards!

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70
is my new toy for 2018!
Another Dark Season is traversed, as Imbolc passes and Superbowl weekend arrives, and I mark this by taking an 11 day break from work in order to visit both My Parents and My Sister & her family, and to get the 2018 walking season underway, grateful that the days have finally lengthened so that the perpetual night can recede away for another nine months. Not gonna lie, this has been another tough one, as despite promises to have two months of sociability, I have mostly hibernated, only getting out for the seasonal festivities, and not even getting that much rest as I did as little as possible. Altogether a quarter-year to forget, with 43 feeling like the age when middle aged feelings started to outweigh those of lingering youth, but one not without its positives, the festive portion having been entirely acceptable as a social venture, and it got me gifts that finally allow me to get my new toy up and running, with memory cards, batteries and a new carry case for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70 camera coming my way courtesy of My Sister so that my old Fuji Finepix E-900 can finally be retired. It feels like a really snazzy camera on first impressions, but it's probably a price range equivalent a decade or so newer, but having a memory capacity for 5,000 pictures, with the smallest possible memory card, and the ability to do HD video and image retouching makes it feel so much better, but I worry is it as sturdy as the old one, as it feels like it won't survive as many trips to the ground as the old one did. Still, it's something new to adapt to as another season of out of doors exploits comes around, my seventh, and it starts to feel like this might be the make or break season for me, as like many great TV series' or the concept of marriage, seven years feels like as far as you can go before you run the risk of things starting to feel stale and repetitious, or having routine and ennui starting to overtake your life.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

The Conclusions of 2017

Wrapping 2017 at Baildon station.
Well, we all made it to 2018, which honestly surprises me after the unfolding stupidity of 2017 is considered, not a worse year than 2016, strangely, but certainly much stupider; much, much stupider. But we are not here to lament geopolitics and all that nonsense, but to instead mark the turn of another year and look back on my sixth walking season and to ponder once again the thought, what did we learn in 2017? Mainly, the reflection point is Despite the stresses, the Season was a success, as most of my walking plans came together for once, and most of the targets set back in February were achieved, despite the loss of impetus in both May and September, and the obvious lack of a Summer holiday to fit in another long distance trail. Setting my sights towards Bradford and Nidderdale turned out to be excellent choices, as both provided illuminations to the local walking territory that had not been expected, as finding a whole previously unseen city on your virtual doorstep provides so many new things to see without having to travel too far, whilst the next valley up from West Yorkshire proved to be a fine location for a break away and much closer than I'd thought it might be when summer's adventuring came around. The relatively tight focus of the year meant that I might not have ventured as afield as I might have planned, but keeping close to the territories around the city of Bradford and in the lands between the Wharfe  and the Nidd meant that a great deal of familiarity of previously alien lands was gained, and I honestly feel all the better for that. So we might have not travelled out over the Bronte Moors or up the higher reaches of Airedale, but in all a lot was gained in this tight focus, unlike the usual problems of not taking time out for rest, and failing to find any time to be sociable on my trails, indeed, I did the entire year solo, which ought to feel like an achievement, until you consider that I didn't get over to tramp in Lancashire with My Sister for a second consecutive year, or to get out with any of my walking friends, which I haven't done in any capacity since 2014 (!), a failure that I seem to lament every year.