Sunday, 26 June 2016

Harewood to Tadcaster 25/06/16

17.7 miles, via The Fitts, Woodhall Bridge, Lime Kiln Wood, Linton, Wetherby,
 Thorpe Arch, Boston Spa & Newton Kyme.

I could not say I was a happy camper with the rising of this new day, far too much ugliness arriving in this land to have me feeling especially positive, but despite that the walking must continue as it's good for my mental health and it would be folly to waste the first weekend of Summer because I'm feeling miserable, so get out of the house whilst the sun shines, early as can be managed because you know this is going to be a long day. So off the #36 bus in Harewood after 9.20am, far too early to be dropping in on my local friends for a pre-walk brew, and the early portion of the day can be burned retracing steps down the hillside from last weekend, and Fitts Lane offers inviting views to the east as passage is made once again on the Ebor Way, the least loved of all the northern long distance paths. Clear illustration of its lack of popularity is gained once the riverside path is met, with the track to Harewood bridge being tidily trimmed and the path east, along the boundaries of the low fields known as The Fitts, being overgrown with spring vegetation and long grass, so the early going isn't particularly easy. Press on among the riverside plants though, the way just clear enough to not get sketchy, and only drifting a bit too close to the high bank of the Wharfe on a couple of occasions, and it all feels pleasingly remote as it describes a long curve eastwards, with the Harewood bank slowly receding and the hamlet of Netherby on the north bank offering not much sight of habitation, the most obvious signs of life being on the slopes of the Stockton Hill Climb off to the south. I'm nearly an hour into the day when I get sent word from my Harewood friends, mildly astonished at my capacity for an early start, and I'll promise to one day manage a proper drop in, despite passing through the village three times this year, and not having dropped in in 4 years. Carthick Wood provides some tree cover and pushes the path ridiculously close to the high bank too, showing clear signs of crumblage in the wake of the Festive Season floods, and despite its presence on the map, I find it hard to believe that there is a bridleway crossing a viable ford somewhere down there.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Ilkley to Harewood 18/06/16

16.8 miles, via Denton Park, Askwith, Weston Park, Otley, Pool Bridge, Castley & Weeton.

The Spring - Summer transition offers us long days, but cooler than those to come, so it's a fine time to get some long days on the trail, and it's been an age since I gave proper attention to Lower Wharfedale, still missing from my schedule for some reason, and heading out to Ilkley feels like visiting an old friend that I haven't seen in a while, a home from home in 2013 and not seen since, so let's get busy with the bottom half of the Wharfe, it deserves the attention after three years away. Off the train at 9.30am, and the sights of Brook Street and New Brook Street are still familiar, going down the steps to Ilkley Park and setting off along the riverside path, under the bridge and westwards, a direction not previously travelled, with allotments, semis and terraces facing the Wharfe before we slip into wooded seclusion alongside the cemetery. Altogether too short a stretch before we are forced to change sides, over the 1934 chain-link suspension bridge, and to join the many cyclists on the north bank using Denton Road, a riverside lane that hides the water behind a bank of trees and offers few substantial views to the north, but still preferable to attempting the stepping stones crossing (with a huge gap in the middle) or the far too narrow Denton Bridge. Quieter going beyond there but keep away from Denton as the road wanders away from the river and its quite a surprise to shift onto the front lawn of Denton Hall, finally giving us something to see in the north, and Low Park Road provides views south to the bulk of Rombalds Moor and its ever-evolving profile. As the lane becomes West Lane, it rises further away from the valley floor and the welcome sunshine gives more definition to the southern views, as well as teasing the distant Otley Chevin, whilst my feel for the locations of southern Wharfedale seems to be instinctively good, so all the time spent over on that side wasn't wasted. Arrive in the village of Askwith, to find it quite large and strung out along the lane, superbly picturesque and an ideal spot for elevenses if it wasn't for a complete lack of benches, so paces continue on, too early for watering at the Askwith Arms and so downhill again, with the fields to the north suggesting manorial park land that has recently turned to agriculture, and that does seem to be a recurrent theme on this northern side of Wharfedale.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Tadcaster to York 11/06/16

14.1 miles, via The Old Street, Street Houses, Bilbrough Top, Copmanthorpe, Bishopthorpe,
 Middlethorpe Ings & The City Walls.

Nearly miss today's excursion because I was enjoying the sleep of the dead, so it's all a bit of a dash to get myself out of the house and onto the trail, not arriving at my start point until 10.55am, hopping off the Coastliner by St Mary's church having found the most convenient bus stop and avoiding an extra half mile of walking through Tadcaster. So first operation is to get over the Wharfe, not the straightforward task it used to be now that the bridge is out of use, but a footbridge has been constructed a short distance down stream so that the locals can now catch a bus to York or use the local Sainsbury's without needing a long odyssey across half the county. Good to see the bridge in place as the town really does have the feel of being brutally severed from half its populace, and our trail on the Ebor Way, the least loved of all of Yorkshire's paths (so neglected that even I am not interested in doing its complete length) has us heading up Commercial Street through the older part of East Tadcaster and on through to York Road, showing up this part as the more ordinarily residential half of the town, not that some of the breweries' tied houses don't have attractive faces. Press on to the countryside again, to the Toll Bar house and the tangle of roads as the A659 and the A64 merge, and the shortest route to York would be via the latter, but a trail by the dual carriageway would be no fun so the way leads us to Catterton Lane and a green and leafy road walk to pick up the trail along The Old Street, the former Roman road between Calcaria and Eboracum, and you might think it would be easy to find, but it's well hidden away from the field boundaries and deep into a strip of woodland. It's not fun going at all, dense and uncut vegetation stands waist deep and after all the inclement weather of the preceding few days means that I am soon soaked to the skin and walking in waterlogged boots before the first field is cleared, and despite clearer footing beyond, my spirits have sunken horribly, and if there hadn't been a clear dry track to the cluster of farm at Street Houses I might have considered bailing on arrival by the A64.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Leeds to Tadcaster 04/06/16

18.3 miles via Harehills, Gipton, Seacroft, Swarcliffe, Scholes, Barwick in Elmet, Potterton,
 Bramham Park & Bramham.

With June arriving at the table, it feels like the time to start hitting the long trails, and it's completely against my nature to start a walking day at the sort of time that I'd normally be starting work, it makes sense to do this when you have 2 hours worth of East Leeds to get across on the latest trail to York, and so Leeds station is departed at 8.35am, with my legs and brain prepped for a very long tour. Down the steps to Bishopgate Street, where the Scarborough Taps still forms the centrepieces of the city's real pubs quarter, and down below the railway on Swinegate, and we do seem to be hitting the paths already walked rather early in the day for the passage across Lower Briggate, but get to a fresh path to pass up The Calls and High Court, to reach Leeds Minster (still the Parish Church in my mind), and its pair of pubs, the newly arrived Lamb & Flag and the enduring Palace. Footfalls on old paths once again beyond Kirkgate, over the many tracks of the A61 to get to Marsh Lane, to check out the old station remnants of the original Marsh Lane stations (one being the first in the city, and does its gateposts endure by the old goods yard?) before passing beinhd the Kremlin (aka the Dept of Health) before passing under the A64(M). Beyond East Leeds awaits, with Beckett Street leading between the Lincoln Green and Burmantofts estates, and up to St James's Hospital (established on site in 1845 and still growing), and the original Leeds Cemetery, once on the outer edge of the city. A hard though to absorb after the growth of the vast array of terraces on Harehills in the late 19th century, with Stanley Road and Compton Road leading to the passage across Harehills Lane, and it's amazing how early the local wildlife have come out to play, the streets already busy not long after 9am.