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.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Leeds to Harrogate 21/03/15

17.8 miles, via Headingley, Adel, Eccup, Harewood Bridge & Kirkby Overblow.

Spring, and that has me due a new attempt on my distance record, two years on from the old record on the first day of the Dales Way (ignoring the fact that I accidentally topped it last week), and a 9.10am start is due for a long day, departing Leeds station to City Square and keep on with my scheme of finding ways along streets not previously walked, taking in Quebec Street, Park Close Street and Oxford Place on my way to Calverley Street. This takes me past the General Infirmary and onto the University campus via the Willow Terrace entrance, past the hugely expanded sports centre and amongst the 1960s sprawl of split level buildings in glass and concrete, treading familiar old steps up to University Road, and on across St George's field to get a nostalgia kick for thing not seen when I last came this way. Clarendon Road leads me off campus, but the route of the day will keep me in student land for a while, taking the path along Woodhouse Moor and following the Woodhouse Lane - Headingley Lane - Otley Road axis forming the A660, taking on the Otley Run in reverse, a trail walked many times but rarely taking in more than a couple of pubs. All the way to Far Headingley, before peeling off to Weetwood Lane and into leafy suburbia, where the student accommodation is largely hidden from view, and then it's over the A6120, taking Adel Lane around a segment of this city where I could never afford to live. The Norman church of St John the Baptist is a key visiting point, and beyond the countryside awaits, pacing the roads and verges carefully along Eccup Lane for a great distance, in a landscape not seen in two years, rising to meet both the Leeds Country Way and Dales Way link before hitting the top of the Aire - Wharfe watershed, and starting the descent to the Ebor Way path, Rawden Hill and the hamlet of Low Weardley.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Garforth to Selby 14/03/15

17.3 miles, via Micklefield, South Milford and Bishop Wood.

An early start for a long and glum looking day, disembarking at Garforth at 8.45am, and after poking around the station, we set course east, passing through the council houses to finally get a close up look at St Mary's parish church, and we are soon into the unknown once across Ninelands Lane. Green Lane leads to East Garforth station and the only available footbridge across the railway, and once past the bus terminus, it's out of Garforth and onto a field walk shadowing the railway in its rough cutting and the driveway to the Sturton Grange distribution depot. Across the A656 Roman road, and onto a field causeway down to Micklefield, for only the briefest of visits before hitting the farm track that leads up to the bridge across the A1(M), and the changing quality of the soil becomes evident, less red and more chalky, as field track takes us down under the line to York and through the trees to the neat little valley of Newthorpe Beck, as this is a landscape where only small wrinkles make for a dramatic location. Onwards, out of West Yorkshire and into North, through the hamlet of Newthorpe, and along Gorse Lane before taking the shortcut via the foot-crossing over the line to Selby, and then across the fields to Whitecote Lane on a path that has recently been harrowed out of existence. Follow the lane to South Milford, with the distant and familiar trio of Power stations giving the location context, and the village looks both old-timey and commuter-ready, and seems a lot larger than I had expected.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Cross Gates to Wetherby 07/03/15

14.6 miles, via Scholes, Thorner, Bardsey, East Keswick, Collingham and Linton.

March means Serious Business has become a mantra of my walking career, and the late days of winter bring railway walking whilst the cover of foliage has yet to re-emerge, and our trail today will  take in the NER line from Cross Gates to Wetherby, active from 1879 to 1964 and another of those lines that I'm sure would prove useful in this corner of the county that feels just that bit isolated from the rest of it. Start out at 9am, heading down the alleyway that leads to Railway Street, which passes above the site of Cross Gates junction, meeting the formation at Austhorpe lane, but not being able to access it until Manston Lane, the cutting being initially choked with undergrowth but eventually opening up and being clearly well used despite the lack of access rights. The line then rises to an embankment behind the house of Cross Gates, as far as the missing Stanks Bridge, before open formation resumes pulling into the countryside and away from the back of Swarcliffe, another well trodden path without an ROW, eventually crossing Wood lane and getting more overgrown as it slides into Scholes. It's a relief to leave the trackbed at Scholes Lane, rising around the in situ station building, and shadowing the formation along The Approach and Nook Lane and out of this odd suburban village, not being able to rejoin the overgrown line at Stockeld lane, and walking on to the A64 York Road, where a lagoon has replaced the trackbed and so another detour is made around carpet warehouse before heading into the fields.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Outwood to Knottingley 28/02/15

13.2 miles, via Stanley Ferry, Altofts, Normanton, North Featherstone and Pontefract.

Resuming the alternate route to the coast and my trail across Wakefield District, we depart the railway station at 9.00am, passing through these three combined villages of Outwood, Wrenthorpe and Stanley, along the residential streets of Ledger Lane, Bolus Lane and Ouchthorpe Lane before finally finding a field or two to traverse. This leads to a path on a former colliery line, indicating the passage of industry in the area before Normanton Golf course grew on the neighbouring fields, and a trek across and around that eventually leads us to the A642, and the road to Stanley Ferry, Ferry Lane, for my third visit to the marina and another crossing of the River Calder and Aire & Calder navigation. Hitting the rising Birkwood Road, which leads towards Altofts, offers unexpected views across the district and into the nearby city of Wakefield as it goes, and the settlement at the hilltop is much larger and mixed that I had expected, and a lot of it is seen as I make my way to Station Road to cross the railway line between Castleford and Wakefield, passing along the footpath that leads me right past the entrance to Normanton station, before entering the town itself. The Midland railway heritage is clearly visible in the town as I pass along High Street to eventually arrive by All Saints church and to meet a portion of the Wakefield Wheel cycling route, which offers a hard track among the extensive suburbs, before dropping onto a muddy track that shadows Sewerbridge Beck, passing alongside an industrial estate, before heading under the remains of another colliery branch line, crossing the A655 bypass road, and leading onto a field boundary walk over to Havertop Lane.