Sunday, 29 March 2020

Lockdown: Day 6

So it came to pass that on Tuesday 24th March, the nation officially went into Lockdown because of the Corona Virus outbreak, shutting down the retail sector and effectively sending a huge swathe of the population into enforced self-isolation, largely due to too many people not seeming to appreciate the urgency of the situation, and only taking matters seriously when actually told to do so, I'd guess because too many people think rules do not apply to themselves, only to the sort of people whom they'd believe need social control. That leaves those in the so-called Key Worker sectors to remain in business, those operating the food supply, the distribution and power operators, and naturally the NHS, to massively reduce the amount of social contact in the population in a hope of restricting and arresting the infection rate of COVID-19 as it grows into the largest global health emergency in over a century. Not that any of that has made an immediate difference to myself, as the subsequent week to the announcement has had me Not in Work and already doing my bit for self-isolation and social distancing by staying at home to pay attention to my non-walking related interests and needs, but exercise has to be considered a pressing necessity, just to prevent my brain going numb and my limbs going lazy, and thus a stretching route had to be found locally, keeping as far away from other people as possible while providing enough of a challenge to make it worthwhile for proper exercise. It's thus mildly amazing that an adequate route into the countryside was assembled on my very first effort, picking a path of almost 3 miles in to the east of Morley, starting out at the railway station, and setting off along Valley Road, above the tunnel portal and below the cliffs where the colliery once stood, to pass the site of the borough gasworks and around the Valley Mill site, to land by the footbridge that wasn't in situ in 2013, to take us over the railway and onto the alleged country lane that leads up the hill to the turn to Broad Oaks farm. The farm driveway leads to the fine view over the city of Leeds and then down through the fields to the old footbridge over the railway, which we cross again to meet the woodland trail behind the White Rose Centre, which shifts us southbound onto the right of way that traces the cutting and embankment of the line as it leads us back to the 'new' footbridge, which we cross again to turn the path into a figure-eight route. We then split from the tarmacked path to follow the rough path west up onto Daisy Hill, where suburbia has grown at Morley's eastern fringe around the old mill site and equestrian farm, keeping a suitable distance from the bungalows and semis before we reach the terraces on New Bank Street and slip down the path by the side of the Station Road recreation ground before sealing the loop by returning to the station as the descending road passes Dartmouth Mill.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Rumination: COVID-19

It should come as a surprise to no one that we are now officially on hiatus, as my ninth season of walking is suspended until further notice as measures to restrict the spread of the Corona Virus are being put into place to attempt to reduce the risk of increasing the COVID-19 infection rate, a move that I hoped wouldn't be coming, but the speed of the evolution of events over the last week has ultimately rendered inevitable. It's a huge shame on the personal level, especially as I had just arrived at the start of a 10 day break from work, which I was due to spend Down Country, helping Mum with a heavy dose of Spring cleaning of stuff that got somehow lost in the whirl of events of last year, during which we were scheduled to travel to London to see the Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery and now it looks like doing anything like that will not be possible for a while. We had both acknowledged that a jaunt down to London looked unwise a week ago, but absolute confirmation came with the announcement of the gallery's closure on the 18th, along with advice against all non-essential travel being issued on the 16th, meaning that I won't be travelling anywhere as far away as Leicester for the foreseeable future, and advice for the over 70s to self-isolate being given on the 15th means that Mum is going to be home alone for a while too. As public transport was still running to a regular timetable this weekend, my hope was still to get out on one last walk so that I wouldn't feel like all of Spring was to be lost, slipping out un-noticed on an under-used train to an under-populated corner of the county, burning off a 5 hour circuit before returning to formal social distancing and self isolation back in Morley, but the preceding evening was filled with disturbed and stressed-out sleep, as if my sub-conscious was telling me that the time to stop had already arrived. Thus that is where we are, with me having been told to not think that I know better, staying in while the wider world starts to shit down around us, with the schools having closed down on Friday, the leisure and service sector having had their last night in business on Saturday, and the sporting calendar having shut down more than a week ago, with a restricted public transport schedule to start on Monday 23rd, the next act has to be lockdown, effectively closing down everything except essential services, and then we shall all be into completely unknown territory.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Mirfield to New Pudsey 07/03/20

13.5 miles, via Knowl, Old Bank, Sunny Bank, Roberttown, Liversedge (Knowler Hill & 
 Littletown), Royds Park, Spen Lower, Cleckheaton Spen, Gomersal tunnel, Hunsworth, East 
  Bierley, Tong Street, Holme Wood estate, Tyersal, and Pudsey (Delph End & Owl Cotes Hill).

After the most productive of Walking Februaries, the March of this year is probably not going to be quite as serious as most that have preceded it, not least because we've effectively had one of its weekends lopped off, and having done my press towards Calderdale two weeks back, that teaser of the coming year will still not be picked up on as early season going has us keeping closer to home once again to fill in another trajectory between the railway lines to the Calder Valley and the big city of Bradford, especially as the month's weather is looking aggressively mediocre still. So we ride the rails out to Mirfield again, finally putting this station to good to use after so many years away, alighting at a measure after 9.40am, as the effects of Northern Fail's business ripple onward, setting off to the north again, past the Lidl and Bull Bridge to take a right onto the Huddersfield road this time, noting that this corner of the town is called Eastthorpe, which convinces me that this place is a lot of smaller settlements that coalesced into a larger one, even gaining itself a town hall on the Knowl Road corner in the 19th century, which the Salvation Army occupy much of these days. This will be our path up from the low portion of town, elevating us away among a run of proud run of Victorian terraces with the old Liberal Club among them, with the path of the lost L&NWR Leeds New Lines only visible to those who might know what to see in their absence, before we have Knowl Park arriving to the east, offering no sightlines toward the Parish Church, but revealing considerable altitude gained away from the Calder Valley, before we rise on to the urban village of Knowl, with its own smart shopping parade and nursery in the old Wesleyan chapel. Onwards as the lane twists its merry way past the Zion Chapel in its old Sunday school, and the village Community Centre in the old school on Water Royd Lane, getting beyond the reach of the formerly rural and 19th century stretch of Mirfield as we pass the Savile Arms on the Lee Green corner, with Old Bank Road displaying the last run of town houses and terraces on its way up to the Co-op, where our arrival coincides with the morning's fresh bread delivery. Take a left onto Sunny Bank Road, which gets us back onto a directly northwards run, revealing that Mirfield does indeed have a lot of suburbia at it's northern edge, all of it poorly placed for the railway station, but once past the shops around Chelle's Deli-Cafe, we find ourselves close to the A62 as it bypasses Roberttown, and ahead of the Fountain Inn junction we can look east to contextualize our location, high on the west side of the Spen Valley, looking across the fields to the high points of greater Dewsbury.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Ravensthorpe to Bramley 29/02/20

14.5 miles, via Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury Mills, Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury Moor,  
 Heckmondwike, Westfield, Popely Fields, Gomersal, Swincliffe, Birkenshaw, Tong Street, 
  Pit Hill, Holme, Black Carr wood, The Bank, Tyersal embankment, Greenside tunnel, 
   Pudsey (Windmill Hill, Chapeltown & Lowtown), and Swinnow Moor.

After a few weekends away, we get back on Saturday walking and just as well, as it's the fifth one in February as our Leap Year day makes itself available for the first time during my walking career, and I ought to have an ambitious trip planned for such an auspicious occasion, but the weather projections have proved so wildly inconsistent, I not feeling brave at all, indeed, I'm only getting out because this opportunity won't be repeated until 2048, when I'll be 73 and will probably have run short of walking ambition and available paths. So to Ravensthorpe we ride, departing the station at 10.15am, using the line of the Calder for another jump off, setting off down Ravensthorpe Road again, among the parades of semis and industrial plants, spotting a rare appearance of a 144 Pacer unit in the wild as it passes on the Wakefield line before we touch the corner of Thornhill Lees and find our fresh course northwards for the day, joining Forge Lane by the Filltex factory and spot a bridge to nowhere as we pass over it, which once allowed rail access to the Thornhill Ironworks which once filled the derelict sit to the east. Cross the channel of the C&HN and move to pass under the railway where a mass of metalwork carries the lines overhead, at a remarkable width as we land between the former Thornhill station and junction, moving on towards Dewsbury in the direction of Ratcliffe Mills and Holy Innocents church, before we take a sharp left to cross the Calder with the B6117 via Cleggford Bridge, with the river looking about as high as its capacity allows, and head along Thornhill Road past the imposing bulk of Dewbury Mills. There's rather a lot of suburban growth on this low patch in the loop of the Calder, ahead of the river's runoff channel, which we first met in 2012 and definitely looks like it had floodwaters flowing though it in the last month, which used to be a canal in its original incarnation, and we'll spy its house before passing though the industrial band beyond where we rise to pass under the mainline railway, where TPE's 802 Nova units provide new spotting opportunities, and Fall Lane rises further beyond to land us on the A644 Huddersfield Road by Ravens Lodge house. Cross to ascend Temple Road, between St Paulinus RC school and the Boothroyd Primary academy, arriving on Cemetery Road above the graveyard and mortuary chapels, and just across from Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury's best green space, with trees boldly surrounding its perimeter and the imposing, and eponymous, house dominating its centre, and after a glum looking opening to the trip, as we arrive above the Spen Valley, I allow myself to speculate that we might actually have a nice day on our hands as we continue to press north.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Mirfield to Sowerby Bridge 23/02/20

11.6 miles. via Battyeford, Cooper Bridge, Nun Bank Wood, Clifton Wood, Brighouse, 
 Brookfoot, Freeman's Wood, Cromwell Bottom, Binns, Elland Park Wood, Elland Bridge, 
  Elland Wood, Salterhebble, Copley. Long Wood, and Bolton Brow. 

Another weekend in February brings another Atlantic Storm, and thus walking plans get shuffled to the Sunday, which presents a better sort of day weather-wise, which is fortunate as I need to make an early morning trip to the opticians to collect my new specs, and the day also has My Sister and Nieces making the trip over the Pennines for a visit, as their day had been cleared for a mountain biking event that they really didn't fancy in the windy conditions, so we are instead able to burn the day off with a trip around the town and dinner at Trinity Kitchen while having more of the catch up that we didn't complete at Christmas. A day off is also useful for starting to get used to the vari-focal lens in my new glasses, and the art of learning to focus at three different distances, not that I'll be taking them out for a walking trip the following day, as I need the familiarity of my old specs as we seek to trace a route to the edge of Upper Calderdale, in keeping with the proposed theme for the year, and matching a trajectory from 2012 to test the theory that a difference of a mere half mile from a previous path can reveal the world in a completely new way. So to Mirfield we ride, starting late to allow most of the day's rain pass early on, and giving us a short window before the heat loss of winter starts, so we are wrapped up in thermal and windcheater as we alight at 11.20am, setting our course under the railway and along Station Road up to Bull Bridge, to make our base-tough with the Calder & Hebble Navigation before rising to meet the main road up Calderdale, turning onto the A644 Huddersfield Road at the town's heart and setting off west, past the library, the Co-op and St Paul's church. Past the wholly intact buildings of Fold Head mills, and war memorial in Ings Grove park, we are soon slipping out of this most urbane of villages, with a band of industry filling up the strip of land between the road and the River Calder, in the middle of which we find the remains of the L&NWR's Battyeford viaducts on the Leeds New Lines, with a runs of blue brick arches running up to the roadside, and a string of stone arches sitting by the riverbank, easily the most interesting thing to my eyes at this edge of the town, so naturally this is where the last rain cloud of the day passes over to spoil my photography opportunities. The damp gloom doesn't last though, as the sunshine breaks out as we pass on through Battyeford among its roadside cottages below the rising bank to the north, coming upon the side of the Calder beyond the Pear Tree inn, and it's high and thundering after the overnight rains, looking ominous below Wood Lane bridge and keeping its volume up as we pass the band of playing fields on the low bank, with the river showing the most of its agitation as it runs over the weir by the former West Riding flour mills site.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Halifax to Batley 14/02/20

12.3 miles, via North Bridge, Claremount, Stump Cross, Hipperholme, Lightcliffe, 
 Bailiff Bridge, Hartshead Moor (Top & Side), West End, Cleckheaton, Spen Lower, 
  Spen Upper, Gomersal (Hill Top), Birstall Smithies, Wilton Park, Bankfoot, and The Mill.

Boots #7b are ready to enter service.
The small benefit of a long trip home from the trail is a chance to score some more cheap walking togs, in the most recent case being finding a new pair of intermediate boots for pavement walking, #7b if we're keeping score, a pair of Regatta Samaris located at TK Maxx in Leeds for £40, hopefully a good replacement for pair #6b from Cotton Traders, which really absorbed the abusage over the last two years, and they'll be put to immediate use today, as we head out for a third consecutive day on the trail, starting out early on the rides to Halifax in hope of staying ahead of the next wave of bad weather. So to our start line, for a 9.50am start, emerging from the station and wondering just how long the early sunshine is going to last, setting a course to the east, which isn't the easiest of route once you consider the bowl in which the town centre is located, tracing a route that seems awfully familiar, up the single street with four names past the Woolshops Shopping centre, the Royal Mail depot and the Bus Station, to meet Northgate by the Halifax Vue, which leads us to North Bridge, which spans the gap below, in which Hebble Brook roars away, by the car parks on the old GNR good yard and station sites. Away from the Dean Clough valley, we will follow the flyovers of Burdock way as we press uphill out of town, rising with New Bank road to the side of the A58, above the apartment blocks on Charlestown Road to the footbridge to the north side of the turnpike, below St Thomas's church and school in Claremount, where a fine view panoramic over the town to the south can be gained, even with the gloom gathering so early in the day. The main road to Leeds will be our route for the initial going, rising with Godley Road to pass out of the Hebble valley, under the ornately styled Godley Bridge at the crest and passing into the deep rock cutting beyond, proving that heavily engineered roads did not come with the motorways, not feeling like a road that particularly apt to being walked, despite the footway as it drops away into the lower reaches of Shibden Dale with Halifax's town soon behind us, hardly surprisingly as surely 90% of its reach and suburbia lies to the west of its ancient centre.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Huddersfield to Halifax 13/02/20

8 miles, via Highfields, Edgerton, Prince Royd, Birchencliffe, Ainley Top, Storth, Elland, 
 Elland Wood, Salterhebble, Skircoat, and the Piece Hall.

Thanks to the weather it looks like my schedule isn't going to have much space for recovery time between trips, so it's just a well that I'd only planned a short excursion for today, the sort of distance that's too short to dedicate a whole day to, not that Northern Fail are doing anything to help me along, with their services delaying my arrival into Huddersfield by a quarter hour, showing that they've really given up on their business ahead of being stripped of their franchise at the end of the month. So we alight at 10.25am, with the day's sunshine already retreating from view as we get off to an inauspicious start, finding the favoured route from St George's Square blocked by roadworks, and thus a detour take us along Railway Street and West Gate to pass over the station throat and then set a course along New North Parade, the southernmost stub of the turnpike that has been severed by the Castlegate ring road, and this doesn't present a direct way forward until we've gone under the Trinity Street underpass and emerged by the old town infirmary. Once we've passed St Patrick's RC church, New North Road finally gets us going, with the A629 finally taking us towards Halifax, leading us on among the most attractive sort of early 19th century suburbia, showing up the sort of vintage suburban front that doesn't immediately having you thinking of what Huddersfield looks like, finding the castellated Highfields Centre in its midst across the way from Holy Trinity church, and adjacent to the overstated Congregational chapel and Sunday school, as we press on through Victorian townhouse to the Blacker Road corner. Beyond, things get a whole lot leafier as Edgerton Road settles into a landscape of villas with extensive grounds and gardens along the valley edge on which it runs, taking us past the sole surviving tram stand in the town as the houses retreat away from the roadside and behind their banks of trees, which give the whole of the Halifax road a feeling of being ahistorical as none of what you might expect to see along a major town road appears in suburban Edgerton as we pass our next previous contact point at Daisy Lea Lane. It seems that nearby Lindley must provide the facilities for this part of town, and we don't meet a pub until we encounter the Cavalry Arms at the East Street corner, just across from the Mormon temple, meeting some actual vintage cottages and terraces once we hit the urban hamlet of Prince Royd, where a brewery and a brickworks once brought some industry to this lane, beyond which Huddersfield's outer suburban band can be found as we pass into Birchencliffe.