Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bradford to Horsforth 25/02/17

8.7 miles, via Bolton, Eccleshill, Greengates, Calverley, & Horsforth Vale.

We can be glad that the worst of Storm Doris's weather has passed by the time the weekend comes around, but there will still be glumness in the air as Saturday commences, though the worst of the rain will have passed by the time the day starts at Bradford Interchange once again, and thus the day will not be spent dodging the rain showers. So on our way at 10.10am, feeling that as we now have the basic geography of the city in our minds, it's time to start filling in the details, and thus we leave going the other way along Bridge Street and down Vicar Lane to note that the name of the lost station lives on in the identity of the entertainment complex adjacent to it, known as the Leisure Exchange. Cross Leeds Road and meet the new and old faces of the city on Well Street, where the proud Victorian warehouses that survived the 1960s remodelling still stand facing the Broadway centre, which has finally been developed to fill in the Forster Square hole that feels like it endured for more than a decade. Not a shopping centre to really excite the senses, but a huge improvement over what went before, and even though the square itself has now vanished beneath M&S, the statue of W.E. himself still stands outside the old GPO, now the Kala Sangam South Asian arts centre, giving us a pretty handy coverage of most of Bradford's recent histories in a single location. Hit the ascending Bolton Road away from the city centre, between factories redeveloped as flats and a casino, and the remnants of a residential district long lost on the way up to the A650 Shipley Airedale Road, the dual carriageway that must be crossed to meet the long rise into Eastern Bradford. It gets leafy and greenish pretty quickly as we go, offering some good views across the valley, and the rocks outcrop on the eastern roadside, by the sadly disused Prospect of Bradford public house, and it's hard to believe that this road used to be residential along its full length. Views keep coming as the rise continues, pulling away from the valley edge and meeting the long terrace that curves along the roadside up to the Gurdwara in the old Methodist chapel, and then a rightwards sweep takes us the boundary of Peel Park, and above the path previously seen on Queen's Road before we meet and cross it by the Bolton public house, which might be the second one located on this very road (which would make a certain amount of sense as this is at least the third Bolton that I have so far encountered in the north country, and I know there are more to come as well).

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Bradford to Thornton 18/02/17

8.8 miles, via St Dunstan's, Manchester Road, Horton Park, Great Horton, Paradise Green,
 Clayton & the Queensbury Triangle.

The first of two lost railway walks around Bradford for this season starts from the Interchange bus station, because that is the easiest way to travel in that direction from Morley, departing onto Bridge street after 10.10am, on a quest to find the third arm of the GNR's Queensbury lines, fully operational from 1878 to 1955, and now almost completely vanished from view since final closure in 1963. Before we get to that, though, we need to take another look at the site of Exchange Station, the joint station built by the GNR and L&YR, and closed in 1972, its 10 platforms and double barrel-vaulted glass roof replaced by the hugely unimpressive Interchange station in its approach cutting to the south. The station apron still exists, platform level accessible from Drake Street and Wakefield Road, but the combined courts building obscures any sense of scale to the site, that can only be gained from Vicar Lane, looking across the car park towards Bridge Street (where the titular bridge is no more) and the Great Victoria Hotel, it's just one of those sites that stimulates my imagination so much. Move on, as there are miles to put down, heading south beyond Croft Street, along Edward Street and Fitzwilliam Street above the contemporary railway and through the industrial doughnut that seems to surround Bradford's city centre, enjoying the winter sunshine as we move down to Mill Lane, by the pub with the car on the roof, taking a look down to the railway bridge and the signal box that stand by what must have been the entrance to St Dunstan's station, now completely vanished, where the GNR's lines to Leeds and Queensbury diverged. It's an odd sort of site, one that's hard to understand in the modern industrial landscape, and a second view comes from Bolling Road above the bridge over the third arm of the GNR's triangle to connect the two lines (but not to the L&YR line to Halifax), and a third perspective comes from Ripley Street, as access road to the St Dunstan's business park illustrates just how well the closed lines have been landscaped out of existence, and a will to trespass and a keen eye is needed to spot the infilled remains of the bridge and tunnel where the Queensbury line dove beneath the railway and the road.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Bradford Circular 10/02/17

10.3 miles, from Dudley Hill, via the A6177 Ring Road (& Bierley, Staygate, Southfield,
 Great Horton, Lidget Green, Girlington, Manningham, Queens Road, Undercliffe,
  Bradford Moor, Laisterdyke & Cutler Heights).

I often joke with Leeds folk about how little they seem to know of Bradford, how they will only travel there for a specific reason, finding that it's never somewhere that they would pass through casually, but the truth is I know very little of the city either, unfamiliar with most of it geography and history, even after 5 years of walking in West Yorkshire. Compare the fact that my Leeds Circular trail crossed 19 different routes through that City, when today's trip around Bradford will cross over only two, with more than three quarters of the City being completely virgin territory to me, so it's fortunate that we have the A6177 ring road to guide us on a 9+ mile circuit, on much older roads than you'd expect around the suburban periphery of the city. Start out from the A650 at Dudley Hill after 10.20am, and it would have been earlier if the #427 bus hadn't done a dawdling act, and the quickest route to the A6177 is along Rook Lane, which quickly illustrates the main aesthetic problem I have with Bradford, all that well-weathered stonework that composes 90+% of the architecture of the city just looks so grey, a particularly unwelcoming appearance under the dull skies which seem to permanently hang in this quarter. Soon enough we are upon Rooley Lane to join the clockwise path of the Ring Road, keen to get to the inside track of the dual carriageway that might offer elevated views towards the city, and soon we are across by the ASDA store opposite St John's Bierley, and we are on familiar territory so soon, above Bowling Cemetery and pressing onwards past the YBS groups offices and the old New Hall farm on the opposite side, looking ripe for a makeover. Soon catch a distant sight of the Sport Centre that the uneducated eye could mistake for the more modest Odsal stadium, and then land at the top of the M606 at Staithgate Roundabout, where a vista open up to show just how high above the city we are, which ought to shed any failure to remember that Bradford lives in a valley with many hills around it. The dual carriageway continues, past the Cedar Court hotel and into the more outer suburban lands around Mayo Avenue, which also has a branch of Matalan and Morrisons, Bradford's greatest gift to British Commerce, and then we tangle up with the A641 Manchester Road, the red route into the city from the motorway and the southwest, where making a foot crossing is very confusing and needlessly difficult.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Leeds Circular 08/02/17

10.4 miles, from Burley Park, via Hyde Park, Woodhouse, Buslingthorpe, Sheepscar, Harehills, East End Park, Cross Green, Hunslet, Beeston, Holbeck, New Wortley & Armley.

So Season 6 gets underway, whilst I'm not in work for the week and under skies that suggest the weather forecasts are kinda approximate at the moment, and it seems odd that it has taken me so many years to conceive and plot a circular walk around the City of Leeds, suggestive that only after blazing so many trails across the urban landscape do I now feel confident enough to visit so many of its Victorian - Edwardian suburbs in one go. Thus we start out from Burley Park station, on the Harrogate line, my station of choice for most of the 11 years from 1996 to 2007, to make a circuit of the city, hopeful for a good tempo to relax the legs and to keep ahead of the drizzle and penetrating cold, setting off after 10am behind the Co-op an striking up Cardigan Road past Our Lady of Lourdes church and the many large houses that were far too good and too big for student land. Strike along Victoria Road, marking the boundary between the upscale 19th century suburbia towards Headingley and the lower scale terraces of Hyde Park, and in this corner you do wonder if the exodus of students to apartment land will free up some of this district for proper living once again, because this is a fate it surely didn't deserve. It seems that the Leeds Girls School has gone from its old sire, getting some midscale urban redevelopment in its place, with only its oldest building remaining and in dire need of a makeover, and then its up to Hyde Park Corner and its pair of churches and awful pub, to make a way over the A660 and into the sketchier corner of student land in Woodhouse, always looking like the slightly forgotten corner of the University Quarter, where enough actual residents have remained to keep the prominent school active among its terraces. The aspect changes as we slip down Melville Road past later residential developments and into the industrial mix in the Meanwood Valley, where the enduring woods will not be enjoyed as we cross Meanwood Road by The Primrose and head over Meanwood Beck and up Buslingthorpe Lane, which along with its mill are the only notable features of this quasi district, where a good view towards the city would come on a clearer day, and it still seems to have actual industry up here too, as well as more traffic than the narrow and twisty lane really needs.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Out of the Dark Season & Onwards!

A New Walking Bag from Mountain Warehouse for 2017,
replacing My Faithful Regatta Servant of 15 years!
Another Superbowl weekend comes and goes, and that's the sign that the Dark Season has passed and it's possible to start looking forward to the useful months of 2017, when you can feel daylight on your face in the mornings and evenings, and the grinding misery of endless night finally passes. Yeah, you might have gathered that this has been a tough one, the hardest to traverse in more than a decade, as my disposition towards the world has had little reason to improve over the last three months, and work has been tiring me out in ways that have not been previously experienced, so the first week off since Christmas is a good time to relax a bit and to start to plan for the coming year. I note that this season that I hate the most seems to neatly coincide with the Gaelic calendar, falling as it does between the festivals of Samhain and Imbolc, which make me realise that the awful drag across the depths of Autumn - Winter is not something that is in any way unique to me, or to the modern age either, as our Pagan ancestors had noticed it as well! Still, it's time to get the gear out of the cupboard and to look forwards again, and the last stretches for my ancient Regatta bag are due to come around in the early going, as I used my off season trip to Mountain Warehouse in Batley, as well as one of many accumulated vouchers, to get myself a new rucksack, good to go once we hit the countryside paths in the Spring, and replacing the one that has done me 15 years of sterling service. I'd been hopeful that I might get one for Christmas, but the rather exacting lists of demands that came with my request proved troublesome so it came as a bit of a surprise to find one that fitted the bill so easily, checking off the list of features required; 35 litre capacity, chest and waist straps, double compartments and waterproof covering, and costing only £35 too.