Burley in Wharfedale, and Ben Rhydding.
I had made a point of saying that I was done with trails above Airedale for this year, but once the late season plotting was done, there was found to be one glaring omission from the paths in Wharfedale, discovering that I had not made a single path of note along the lower edge of the southern bank in any of my seasons so far, and as there still threatens to be sunshine in the air, it's worth getting that down before October's seasonal shift renders the days too short for a long trail. So board the bus for Harewood, at this season's eastern extremity to start the day, getting off the #36 at 9.45am, and suddenly realising that I've left my camera on board, only to have it quickly retrieved and returned by another passenger, who then gets turfed off the service by the driver because he had an open can of lager in his hand, which leaves me pondering the truth in the statement that 'No Good Deed goes Unpunished'. So away, on a rather sour note, taking the path that leads along Church Lane away from the village and into the Harewood Estate, saving up the diagonal path that runs through the woods, close to the castle for another time, a leafy start to the day that leads to the reveal of Wharfedale with a mist hanging over it, and the path to Harewood Bar is met down through the North Park, which will probably provide the only bit of challenging going in the first half of the day. The Red Deer that hide so well on this estate are found to be grazing in the lowest portion of the park, too far away to be happily photographed but present in huge numbers, and it's still one of my dreams that I might one day get a shot of a deer up close before if is inevitably frightened away. Depart the park at the Bar House, unoccupied presently but with substantial flood defences arranged around it, passing through a small door in the large gate to meet the edge of the A659, which will take us all the way to Pool, as if I hadn't had enough of A-Road from last week, largely because the Otley & Tadcaster turnpike really is the only available route in this quarter. The estate perimeter will keep us company for a while as the traffic is faced down on the way over Stank Beck, and the low fields by the Wharfe-side give us a few good views across to the north bank, the to ridge that Kirkby Overblow sits atop, and to the Rougemont Carr woods and this year's constant companion, Almscliff Crag.
|Church Lane and the way into the Harewood Estate.|
|Deer Spotting on the Harewood estate.|
|Almscliff Crag and Rougemont Carr woods.|
The day has brightened as we meet the Weardley Lane junction, and it would be tempting to get away from the main road by passing through Weardley village, but staying on the A659 gives us a better perspective on Rawden Hill, another of those conifer clad lumps that seem to be a feature of this corner of Wharfedale, rising inaccessibly off to the south and keeping us company as we push on along the main road. Cornfields fill the space to the north and the road undulates to make for some very nasty blind corners and summits, and I've frankly had enough of this road after only a mile on it, as we pace on without a verge on either side and with hedges that force us into the carriageway. There has to be a good reason to come this way, and that transpires to be a farm complex called The Nunnery, which has the sort of early 17th century styling that would have me reaching for my Pevsner to check its vintage, and a name that suggests all sorts of historical curiosity, a fascinating thing to encounter before the lane gets twisty again, and approaching Arthington starts to feel like more trouble than it's worth. Remind me to stop planning trails among main roads as this final stretch into the village is no fun at all, with minimal sightlines and un-walkable verges piling up between dense hedges that get the heart in the mouth on a few occasions before we get a clear patch of grass to jump onto at Ingfield farm, and a footway to rescue us at Holt Farm after a solid couple of miles of road tramping. We've met the edge of the Arthington Park estate, and the farm at this end looks in need of some love, whilst the village itself barely qualifies as such, being bizarrely strung out for over a mile, with the cricket field and a small cluster of farm buildings and estate cottages being littered below the parkland, along with the church of St Mary & St Abanoub, the former parish church now in the hands of the Coptic Orthodox order, which makes total sense in this quarter. There's the village hall and a pair of rather neat terraces facing the open fields of Mill Farm that offer something of a view towards Wharfedale viaduct, but Arthington Hall is well concealed behind its trees, which has you thinking that it is most likely to be most visible from the high bank to the south, where I have tramped the path twice without noticing the stately home. Open fields beyond would have you thinking Arthington is done, until another cluster of houses is found around the old chapel in the shadow of the railway line at the bottom of Creskeld Lane, and a conclusion is drawn together that this is a very odd settlement indeed, widely scattered seemingly isolated from contact whilst sitting on a major A-road.
|The Nunnery, Arthington.|
|Estate Houses near Arthington Hall.|
|Estate Terraces, a little further from Arthington Hall.|
Arthington doesn't even end once passage under the Harrogate Line has been made, as the pub sits here, the Wharfedale Inn, a solid mile from most of the rest of the village, but conveniently located for the railway terrace that used to serve the Arthington Junction station, as well as Bramhope Tunnel, and its from here that we ought to start our exploration of the lost NER line to Otley, active from 1865 and bizarrely and unnecessarily culled in 1965. Unfortunately, the triangular junction is at the end of a long cul-de-sac that would probably add too many extra steps onto a day that looks like being close on 16 miles long already, with the trackbed to the west being definitively inaccessible, so footfalls have to continue along the A658 for a while longer, through more open fields to get Norwood Edge and Stainburn forest appearing on the northern horizon before we run on into Pool. I still can't quite gather how Victorian and Edwardian town houses grew in this out of the way corner, or how contemporary development continues to grow the village so that its of a size to need a substantial primary school and community hall, and its super leafy down this end too, which has me expecting that this a place that is super-desirable, if you are lucky enough to be of completely independent means. So that's just about all of Pool seen as we run on to the old village centre and the White Hart - Laughing Stocks junction, where the bench provides a lunch spot before we start on up Pool Bank New Road for the second time in as many weekends, but only travelling as far as the infilled railway bridge this time, taking a moment to drop down to trackbed level and look back towards the junction from the driveway to Fir Hills Farm, right from the point where it says 'This is Private Property. Keep Out!'. Take steps back to meet the path that leads into Willow Court, a close of 1980s suburban houses that has grown on the site of Pool's station, goods yard and the terminus of the quarry tramway, all long lost since redevelopment, but the extent of the site is still visible thanks to the large stone retaining walls that clad its southern edge. The bridge carrying Old Pool Bank Road is still in situ too, a major feature in the garden of the westernmost house, albeit damnably hard to photograph, and the trackbed carries on west through the fields, and despite being clearly visible, this is more that is best not traced as the farms do not appreciate the visitors so a right of way needs to be found, joined about a third of the way up the Bank Road to the A660.
|The Wharfedale Inn and Pool bridge, on the Harrogate Line.|
|Leafy Suburban Pool in Wharfedale.|
|The NER formation to Arthington Junction, Fir Hill farm, Pool.|
|The Railway bridge, Pool Bank New Road.|
|Willow Court and the Railway station retaining walls, Pool.|
Over the wall and press on westwards, much higher over the valley and getting a good look across to Pool Mills and up the Washburn Valley, tracing the old railway line as it crosses the fields, and looking back to the village and the distant viaduct as the path undulates its way onward, feeling hopeful that the Greenway project might one day revive the trackbed for general use. Listen to the sound of Otley Road's traffic on the road above, and enjoy the views as we pass on the edge of the most marginal of fields, hopeful that there won't be any cattle to run from as they graze in the fields below, a hope dashed as the track passes through a hollow where a dozen young cows are sheltering from the breeze, and there's no choice but to wander right among them, and thankfully they are then most docile bovines encountered this year. Through damp ground and across a hard track, we meet the grounds of Caley Hall farms, still very much active and with the paths directed well away from the houses, so a circuitous route might be made, meeting the local ponies, calves, pigs and alpacas along the way, relocating the railway formation as it passes below the driveway coming up from the main road. Cutting a clear path onwards, its frustrating that we have to traverse a couple more fields before we can draw up close to it, and finally get access to it by a broken cattle creep as the formation to the west has been used as aa access track for the neighbouring farms and has gained a semi-permissive path on it, giving us a shady track to walk in the direction of Otley, mostly along a high embankment. It also offers some great fresh perspectives across Wharfedale, to the Crag, naturally and to Farnley Hall, finally revealed in the sunshine, and the scale can be judged by the size of the passages below to the nearby farms, visited up close by the crossing of Holbeck and near Russell farm, and it gets me wondering how it must be pretty difficult to build such an embankment on a relatively steep slope. It's certainly nice to have this old railway line to myself, though I might have hoped to see a few more people exercising their dogs down here as it would really push the case for the greenway project, but it's all super quiet and leafy, with only the noise coming down from the A660 to distract us. We slip into a cutting in the final stretch as the edge of Otley makes itself apparent, as the houseson the descending main road appear, and the path rises above where the tunnel under Leeds Road once passed, now lost forever, as we depart the formation to emerge out onto the traffic island as the start of the Otley Bypass.
|Railway formation, west of Pool.|
|Railway formation at Caley Hall farm.|
|The broken Cattle Creep and the start of the permissive section.|
|Holbeck Cattle Creep.|
|The formation approaches the Leeds Road tunnel (former).|
Following the lost railway by tracing the edge of the Bypass is a non starter, as that's the sort of A road that was planned without the consideration for pedestrian uses, so we start a track around the formation by pacing down Leeds Road for a distance, to get a fine view over the town, bathed in Autumnal sunshine, but we won't be making any further passage through it as we divert up to the footbridge to pass over the A660 bypass road to ponder what we lost 50+ years ago. Meet the cluster of houses around Silver Mill and follow the access road out to East Chevin Road, passing down to join Birdcage Walk, along the southern side of the bypass, as I know there's a large void space where the Station and Goods Yard used to be, but have no idea how practically accessible it is, as instead we'll press on past the Chevin Side Mill conversion and terrace. Stay above the town as the passage down to the station site is met, carrying on below the trees and under the looming presence of the Chevin as we get glimpses of the bypass below, with traffic behaving in a way that does not demand my company, and this rolls us on to West Chevin Road, and there's hope in my mind that the formation past the end of the bypass might be accessible from Clifton Villas, but sadly this lane gets us close but only provides a way into the gardens of these smart houses. So we are forced to detour, around the Inglewood Estate and down to Bradford Road, on to the island at the west end of the bypass and up the well concealed path to meet the formation again, just metres away from Rose Villas but with a thick wall of vegetation in the way. The NER&MR joint line way is clear to the west and permissively used, and forming what might be a new Otley station if the line were to be revived from the Wharfedale Line to Ilkley, and it's another leafy walk with a decent surface that seems to be popular as an exercise route for those who live in the estates of western Otley. Push on west as the views come across towards the moors to the north of the valley, and we get buzzed on multiple occasions by passing jet fighters, eventually slipping into a shroud of greenery that would have us feeling far removed from civilisation, but it's really not far away, merely hidden by the bank of trees. It's a long feeling mile, which is good, feeling like it's coming to an end twice before we meet the three arched bridge passing over, the sole proud structure on the section before we meet the embankment that leads to the Gill Beck - Bradford Road crossing, and it seem that the permissive path never came this far as a slither down the side is necessary to get to the roadside.
|The A660 consumes the NER branch.|
|Birdcage Walk for leafy going away from the main road.|
|The A660 obligates the NER & MR joint line.|
|Otley's permissive path on the railway, future station here, maybe?|
|Grand footpath bridge, to the west of Otley.|
It's a shame this crossing is absent, though it looks a whole lot more visible now Autumn has taken a lot of the leaf cover away from it, and it's only a mildly treacherous walk across the A6038 to get up the steep bank on the other side, where the way west is rather less permissive, but still clearly trammelled often as we move onto an embankment that rides above the Otley golf course, one which still seems to be in a cutting on its southern side. As we move into a real cutting we get some real peace and quiet, as any sense of the world beyond is lost, and the trackbed gets somewhat soft as we move among many small sapling and have to traverse over other fallen trees, and there's a whole bunch of other relics down here too, smashed concrete remnants of what was signalling equipment, I believe. Such is the isolation and cover along this stretch, that the weather changing isn't even notice as we wander on through Milner Wood, eventually gaining a sense of our whereabouts as we meet a graveyard that sits by the A65, slipping down onto the path that leads us out by the southern branch of Milner Wood junction, where the spur down to Menston ran. It's pelting down with rain as we emerge into the open, and dart along the side of Burley & Bradford road as we seek the remaining abutments that formed the eastern edge of the triangular junction that combined the metals of the NER and MR back in the day, and we'll stay with the joint line on into Wharfedale on the northern side, gaining a bit of shelter from the weather below the vegetation on the embankment. The persistent rain has soaked everything though, and all the undergrowth ensures I've gotten we legs by the time we drop down to the Menston Old Road, where the overbridge is missing, rising again for the final portion as we meet the back edge of Burley in Wharfedale's suburbia, along with views across a very grey Wharfedale panorama. The Joint line ends at Burley junction, where the footpath tunnel below indicates the different vintage of the converging lines, and this really is one of those that ought to be revived as Otley deserves having its railway back, but for now it'll be another lost line checked from the list before we wander back to suburbia. Off up Heather Bank and onwards to Prospect Road to meet Burley station, if I'd wanted to bail due to excessive dampness, but it's now dry enough to push the last stretch, to fill in another blank by pressing on Southfield Road, through the village's best suburbs and on through Hall Drive and Greenhow Park to meet some of its least appealing, home to houses which seriously look like they were build out of cereal boxes.
|Bradford Road - Gill Beck bridge, again.|
|Less permissive going through Milner Wood.|
|Milner Wood junction's bridge abutments on the A65.|
|Menston Old Road bridge (former).|
|Burley Junction bridge, showing its two vintages.|
A path leads us to the Sun Lane crossing, where the period crossing house brings some needed vintage to the area, and it's field walking beyond, as well as an uphill push, and my legs aren't ready for that as a lot of road walking and relatively level surfaces have me feeling quite unprepared for a rough field walk that ascends for over 70m, on above Catton Wood and never quite gaining the views that the elevation deserves. Startle sheep and pass on across the fields behind Low House farm, passing over farm tracks that we are thunderously instructed to not use, eventually running on to meet the site of Wharfedale Grange farm, that has recently been extensively redeveloped as a retirement and care community, and that's the second one of those met in as many weeks, and the lanes around here finally give us some grand views, back to the east and over to Denton Hall before we have to start a descent to lose all that altitude recently gained. It's to Ben Rhydding Drive we go, once the driveway to the Hydro and Hotel now lost to time, but also doubling up as a road to numerous late Victorian and Edwardian villas that the well to do built away from the bustle of Ilkley, which has the lane feeling semi-private as we descend on through the sort of suburbia you could never hope to afford, concluding that the 19th century had much more aesthetic taste than the 20th. Roll out through the Spa's old gates, by the Methodist church, where a ride home from Ben Rhydding station could also be used an escape route but it's today's determination to finish in Ilkley so we join Bolling Road to press on, past the parade of shops at the town's eastern extremity and St John's church, both sitting in the shadow of the Cow & Calf Rocks, far above. They loom above the suburbia for quite a way, visible off numerous side streets as the final mile starts to feel like a mile further than I wanted to walk, pushing on as suburbia of many mid 20th century styles coats the roadside, moving on to meet Ilkley's Coronation hospital, still in business as part of Bradford's NHS trust, and then finally finding the footfalls that lead past the Tesco superstore towards the town centre. It's a mild frustration that the view uphill along Cowpasture Road is never quite as good as I think it is, but we have a first opportunity to arrive in Ilkley from the east after so many previous visits, and it's also a first occasion to get the Town Hall and Theatre complex arriving on my schedule before we roll into the station, well behind schedule at 4.25pm, but happy to have blazed a trajectory across Wharfedale that had not been travelled before, a fine finale for this year's exploration of the district.
|Ascending from Sun Lane Crossing, Burley in Wharfedale.|
|Audley Clevedon retirement village, at Wharfedale Grange.|
|Ben Rhydding Drive, with many smart residences.|
|St John's church, Ben Rhydding.|
|Ilkley Town Hall, and theatre.|
5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3036 miles
2017 Total: 471 miles
Up Country Total: 2760.4 miles
Solo Total: 2779.7 miles
Next Up: A three day Sociable weekend, with bonus walking to a new railway station!