Sunday, 15 October 2017

Bradford to Ilkley 14/10/17

15.9 miles, via White Abbey, Girlington, Heaton, High Bank, Cottingley, Bingley, Crossflatts,
 East Morton, Sunny Dale, Upwood, Bradup, High Moor Plantation, Long Ridge End,
  Cragg House and Heber's Ghyll.

It's pretty bizarre to think that after all those miles put down in Bradford during the early season, five months have now elapsed since I last ventured into that city, unless you are counting the trip made over Idle Hill, which I am not, so as the late season now takes hold, it's time to return to make some paths through the north western quarter of the city, the portion that really ought to have been fitted into my schedule by now. So travel out to Interchange, on a day that promises to be potentially warm and sunny with a lot of ominous skies rising to the west, to join the trail after 9.40am, with the city looking like it took a dousing in the hours before we arrived, admittedly later than I'd have liked to get going, so rapid footfalls are made through the main point of convergence in Bradford, down Bridge Street and past City Hall before we can start our fresh route northwards. This is met off Market Street, as Ivegate presents itself as that sort of street that you don't think of when you consider Bradford, steep and cobbled and rising past the oldest Pharmacist in the county and the pub with and enormous Wild Boar on its roof, leading us up to the concrete monstrosity that is the Kirkgate shopping centre. The eye tries to keep attention on the warm-toned stone buildings along Westgate, but there's too much redevelopment in concrete up here, like the Oastler Centre and the tall building on the corner of New John Street, and the shopping parades of the city continue at the roadside until we hit the angle of the B6181 where we can look east to the Congregational chapel and the Bradford Central Mosque. Cross to join the B6144 White Abbey Road, past pubs The New Beehive and The Rose & Crown, as well as St Patrick's RC church and the parkland next to where one of Bradford's original Infirmaries once lived before we push on along an oddly wide stretch of road, lined with council house and terraces, before we hit the rise up Whetley Hill, where the standard of the terraces improves markedly. This leads us to passage over the A6177 ring road, which is almost missable in the scheme of things, continuing to elevate among more terraces that illustrate the rise, growth and decline of the city in a relatively short distance, passing St Chad's church and getting some elevated looks south to Horton Bank as we join another stretch of dual carriageway as Toller Lane presses on through Girlington, among country villas placed before the city's terraces grew around them, and the great risk of autumnal walking is exposed to me, as my new boots have virtually zero traction on wet stone slabs, coated with dead leaf residue.

Ivegate, Bradford's Hidden Cobbled Street.

Bradford Central Mosque and Congregational Church (former).

Through White Abbey and Girlington on Toller Lane.

Leafy Dual Carriageway Toller Lane.

Back in the land of terraces we meet the Lilycroft Road - Duckworth Lane junction, with its crazy traffic calming island, and the terraces beyond give more flavour of what late Victorian suburbia looked like, as Toller Lane hits the boundary of the 19th century city as the semis arrive by the roadside and we transition out of Girlington and into Heaton, and the end of the long rise from the city centre feels like its coming to an end, 100+m gained since we started out. The road shifts downhill decisively past the Hare & Hounds pub, and the feeling comes on that some views into Airedale should arrive to the north, but there are just a few too many suburban roofs to obscure the views towards Baildon Hill and Rombalds Moor, and the best look comes towards Idle Hill off to the east. Change B-Roads without changing trajectory as the B6144 swing west towards Haworth while the B6269 commences as the road to Bingley, as the outer edge of the city comes along much more quickly expected as we meet greenery on both sides of the road, the playing fields of High Park school on one side, and the Express Golf Centre on the other, before the former Hallmark Cards factory looms large on the left side of the road, a sight primed for redevelopment and oddly the second greetings card factory encountered on my travels. Past the Long Lane junction we arrive in the countryside proper as the road slips downhill sharply and we get revelations towards the St Ives estate and the way to come over Rombalds Moor, a viewpoint that deserves more sunshine, like we had when we traversed the High Bank in April, and the way forward sweeps downhill as we commence our entrance into the Aire Valley. Cottingley Cliffe Road porvides a descent that takes us past the very outer edge of the Nab Wood estate, the westernmost extremity of Greater Shipley, and some sunshine finally arrives on the day to light up the view towards Bingley and the woods to its west, whilst the continuing descent brings us past the house cluster at New Brighton, where we can look back up the hillside, some 50m up, that keeps Bradford from spilling over into the Aire valley. Also look to the west where the rolls of Alpine Bradford reveal themselves and the fact that I haven't explored them at all this year, and so plans form to take a trek or twelve that way over the coming weeks, and next season, as views are revealed around to Baildon Hill and a fine country retreat presents itself in the form of Stair Foot farm, multi-storeyed and with a bucolic aspect but otherwise conveniently close to civilisation, with Cottingley village just around the corner.

The Hare & Hounds, Heaton.

The Hallmark Cards Factory (former).

Cottingley Cliffe Road and the outer edge of Nab Wood estate.

Stair Foot farm and the views of Airedale.

This is the West Yorkshire Cottingley that doesn't have a railway station, and is probably most famous for the Cottingley Fairies hoax of 1917-20, where we arrive by the Sun Inn and get an answer to where the heart of the old village might be, as it's not obvious from any contemporary map as it appears to be a mass of suburbia, and it's up here on the hillside removed from the river Aire and the main road up the Aire valley, hidden away up a couple of side streets. Otherwise suburbia inflates the village massively, one of those growths that's strangely removed from any of the surrounding towns and contextually rather inexplicable as it's now massively larger than the original settlement, and only the slightest of views will be taken towards it as we press downhill on Bradford Old Road to the business park on the site of Cottingley Mill, where we can join the B6265 Bradford Road, still the A650 according to my ancient E288. It still feels like a major road as the narrowest of footways leads us down through the shade of trees and below the southern edge of Cottingley's suburbs to meet the other cluster of old houses at Cottingley Bridge, easily mistaken for the old settlement and visited when the Millennium Way was walked, and the road gives us passage over the Aire, looking particularly brown and angry at the moment, as if the Dales have been getting a lot more weather then we have down here in the last few weeks. Onward as we run straight on into Bingley, with initial interest being drawn across the allotments to the forestry on the Cottingley Woods Estate, and then wondering if the semis and terraces down here are well protected from the worst of when the Aire gets angry, as there's not much elevation to be had at the valley floor. We soon run on to the town centre, correctly located on the main road when my mind still might have located it on the bank above the canal, behind the Damart factory, and it's busy with folks out to use the 5Rise shopping centre and the many establishments down the Main Street or to take the kids or dogs out for a stretch in Myrtle Park, and the town gets a face at long last, still under-known and under-visited after six years of walking. A rest spot for lunch is needed, especially as the sun has come out, and we are soon drawn to the section of Old Main Street, which still looks like the oldest part of the town, with the positively Medieval-looking White Horse pub sat on the corner by the Millgate bridge, and the yard of All Saints church is where we will rest, positively basking in the autumnal sunshine, on probably the last weekend when doing that will be possible.

Cottingley Village, hiding behind its Suburbia.

The Brown and Angry River Aire at Cottingley Bridge.

The 5Rise Shopping Centre, Bingley.

Old Main Street, Bingley.

Stay on the B6265 Keighley Road as it's the only viable walking route on this part of the valley floor between the river and the canal, pressing on below the rise that is occupied by Bingley's cemetery and Grammar school, and finding the sole open field to trainspot across before we run into the suburb of Crossflatts, still sat below the looming woods of Hollin Planation on the south bank, and providing a change of style for the day's walk as the city trail ends and the moorland crossing awaits. As you'll have noticed by now, my trail to Ilkley is not going to take the most obvious route, via Shipley, instead we have another northwards track to test out from Crossflatts, where initial footfalls will be exactly the same as last time, over the A650 Airevalley Road and up past the Royal Hotel, but this time carrying on along the main road through the suburbs and on as it loops aroind the old Ryshworth Hall and the much newer Thompson Court residential centre. Pass over Morton Beck and follow Morton Lane uphill past Crossflatts primary school before we depart Greater Bingley by passing over the Leeds & Liverpool canal at Morton Bridge, which I do not recognise at all from the summer of 2012. The afternoon sunshine starts to fade as we to rise away from the Aire, uphill past Cliffe Farm and soon into the suburban spill at the lower edge of East Morton, with the road providing a better ascending surface than either of the other field options, getting only the briefest of views back into the valley before we meet St Luke's church and the Carr Lane corner. Rather than trace the Main Road again, we need a fresh path through this village, and it offers a fascinating knot of back streets to chose from, heading up Elm Crescent to pass below the elevated Laythorpe Terrace, and then on into a chaotic little cluster of cottages and houses that are suggestive of a rural vintage before we touch base with the main road again by the old Co-op store and the former chapel. Green End Road has more terraces, which are of an industrial vintage and would have houses the workers for the three mills that once sat on Morton Beck, now redeveloped or lost to history, leaving this village as being completely fascinating, soon left behind as we head out into the countryside, and the field below the lower edge of Morton Moor. Staying well below the moor we get a look at the Nidd Aqueduct, crossing over Morton Beck, already seen today at Cottingley Bridge, before rise on the lane to Moorlands farm and onto the rough track that rises on above the beck's valley, an impressively deep cleft that frames some former paths to the south rather nicely.

The Royal hotel, Crossflatts.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Morton Bridge.

Elm Crescent and Laythorpe Terrace, East Morton.

The Nidd Aqueduct, over Morton Beck.

Our chosen route leads us into Sunny Dale, one of those hidden valleys that you would have to set out to discover deliberately, following the track that leads up to Sunny Dale reservoir, a modestly scaled body of water that still has a pretty massive dam containing it, looking rather peaceful and idyllic despite the glums skies, all secreted away from the eyes of the wider world and passing over the embankment and listening to roar of the water charging down the run off channel, I can be absolutely certain I've got this particular space all to myself. A stepped path leads us to the top of the plantation on the north bank, and a path that isn't on my map advertises the way to the west, staying in the woods of The Glen and taking a rather sticky and slanted route out to the passage over the northern branch of the catchment at Sweet Well Dike before continuing on through the woods for a distance that feels way longer than it actually is, as woodlands will always diminish your sense of space, carrying on above Bradup Beck on a route that never gets vague but does test the limbs, even before we hit the moorland altitudes. Finally get sight of moors nearing the top, with only the Whetstone gate masts giving an actual sense of location, and the path signage indicates that this is a very new ROW, dated at 2017, and we cross Bradup Beck and meet the waterworks road to set course for the moorlands, actually heading southwest to Upwood Hall farm, before meeting the bridleway that brought the most direct route up from East Morton, leading us onto to Ilkley Road, the sole hard-surfaced passage across Rombalds Moor. We've done this route before of course, but it has to be paced once again to hit the moor, above the beck and Bradup house, currently a building site as the house gets rebuilt from the foundations up and the residents live in caravans, making a remote location feel even more bleak and the passage across High Bradup awaits, where we can pause to water before we head on, happy that someone has been out to mow the grass down to make a barely traceable path much more visible. Hit the high moor at a point in the season where treading the moorland grass is really rather damp, but the going in this first plot is appreciably firmer than expected, rising across open moor for some 70m to get some good views back to the route travelled out from Bradford as a mile or so is tramped in the direction of High Moor plantation, gradually transitioning to heather across the second of the plots traversed, with the air thick with the smell of burned vegetation, which must surely be months old by now as this has not been a hot year at all.

Sunny Dale Reservoir.

The Glen woodlands, Sunny Dale.

Bradup Beck and House, Ilkley Road.

High Bradup and the way to High Moor Plantation.

At about 360m up we meet the High Moor plantation, a privately owned and very active piece of forestry, which still has mature conifers in great quantity stretching off to the south, whilst its northernmost plot has been felled and replanted relatively recently, so only young spruces (or firs?)fill the fields, as if we were moving on through a vast Christmas tree farm. The central portion of the plantation has been completely denuded, and passage has to be made over the log rafts over the boggy and treacherous logging trails, with the depression formed by the branches of Dirk Hill Syke offering a straight line view up to the West Buck Stones on the moorland's central ridge, and downhill over the distant treetops to Earl Crag and Pendle Hill. Rough going underfoot but entirely preferable to tracing a negligible path as we press up to the other side of the plantation, where mature trees endure, with a clear but soft path pressing through before we return to the high plateau on the moors, where the wind starts to bite harder after being secluded in the depression at the woodland's centre. Over the long ridge wall to meet Long Ridge End, close to the western edge of the highest stretch of the moor, pressing forward through the grass and heather to get a view of the vast surroundings of Rombald's Moor before we meet the reveal of up and down Wharfedale, with a bit too much cloud today, but it's the only view of Upper Wharfedale we'll be seeing this year after so many different views we've had of the Lower half. The aim off the moor should lead us to Cragg House but there's 50m to descend to get to the northern edge path, and there are no clearly apparent routes to get there, so it requires a bit of a scramble among the vegetation to get a clear route down to the square plot that the right of way passes through, and from there on the 300m edge, the way down into Wharfedale seems a lot more straightforward. A suddenly steep drop through the exposed rocky edge and then angling downhill through the dying bracken to startle many sheep and lose another 50m over the space of a single field before we can descend the open field behind Cragg House where fear for the safety of your ankles can dissipate and a feeling of being on the home stretch can feel like we are on the home stretch, despite our path apparently taking us in the direction of Addingham. A couple of miles of eastward trekking are in order to get to Ilkley, and being unable to sus out the routes around the farm means it makes sense to follow the familiar and hard path towards Brackenwood and Heber's Ghyll, forgetting that a good surface only goes as far as Hardwick House farm and that it's a trio of soft and declining fields to walk beyond there.

Youth, Maturity, Death and Renewal on High Moor Plantation.

On Long Ridge End, looking towards Upper Wharfedale.

Descending to Cragg House, on a trajectory towards Addingham. 

Field Walking to Ilkley via Brackenwood and Heber's Ghyll.

Finally land on a tarmacked road after two hours off one as we pass the Brackenwood farm houses and press on into the wild woods, pondering if a more interesting descent might have been made by the path down the side of the busy sounding ghyll of Black Beck, but as we are now into the town we can go for a bit of a railway hunt in the last hour, as the MR's Ilkley - Skipton route of 1888 to 1965 hasn't had much attention on my travels. So onwards down through the suburbs on Grove Road and Beverley Rise to Dale View, taking looks to the northern moors and Myddelton Lodge as they are more appealing than the 1980s houses, to find the railway alignment off Victoria Avenue, where an accessible stretch of embankment endures, hidden away behind the houses on Easby Close, clearly visible to the keen eyed when all trace of the route would appear to have been consumed by the town. Beyond Easby Drive the alignment is clearly where the long narrow car park of All Saints school resides, but it's not accessible to the walker so the way to Westville Road has to be made through the close of Victoria Road and down the passage at the back of the terrace on Westville Avenue, and the alignment continues where the Yewbank Close retirement flats have been built. A path leads through them, despite the lack of a right of way, and the site of the Ilkley Viaduct's start point is clearly visible where two much newer houses have been built in the gap between the Victorian houses on Yewbank Terrace, though vegetation blocks the way forward to Bolton Bridge Road, so another detour is due via Chapel Hill. The railway sized void continues by the car park to the local Co-op and past the back of the Ilkley Bowling Club, to only be blocked by the Clarke Foley Centre where the viaduct once ended over Cunliffe Road, and despite the embankment to Brook Street having been dug out, its route is plain, through the town carpark behind the shops on Grove Road. At the town's main drag it's clear which buildings have filled in the gap where the railway bridge used to be, clearly much newer than the Victorian profile of the rest of the street, and having crossed to Railway Street, the bricked exit point from the railway station is clearly visible, above the delivery yard of the M&S Simply Food store. From there it's a long walk down the station's retaining wall to rise to platform level to see the pair of disused platforms that now form Ilkley station's car park, wrapping this long day at last and having reached our destination at 5.10pm, I can ponder how one last season walk will always seem be way over schedule, but that doesn't matter today as our Wharfedale visits end for this year, bathed in in the welcome glow of an autumnal evening's sunshine.

Railway Hunting Finale: Trackbed of the MR Ilkley - Skipton Line
between Victoria Avenue and Easby Close.

Railway Alignment in the All Saints School car park.
Yewbank Close on the old line.

The viaduct end on Yewbank Terrace, where the new houses reside.

Alignment in the Bowling Club car park.

More alignment in the main town car park.

The lost line ends at the western entrance/exit of Ilkley Station.

5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3059 miles
2017 Total: 494 miles
Up Country Total: 2783.4 miles
Solo Total: 2802.7 miles

Next Up: The City, Reservoirs, The Alps, New Villages, an Old Town and Airedale!

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