Sunday, 4 March 2018

Woodlesford to Headingley 03/03/18

11.5 miles, via Rothwell Haigh, Belle Isle, Middleton Park, Cross Flatts Park, Beggars Hill,
 Elland Road, Low Fields, Green Side, Upper Wortley, Whingate, Upper Armley,
  Wyther Park, Houghley Gill, Kirkstall Bridge, and Kirkstall.

And then the weather happened. A relatively bright and warm February comes to a sudden end as three of the harshest days of cold weather arrive across the country, the worst since the icy blast of March 2013, and the snow and persistent easterly winds are enough to challenge even the hardiest of souls, making travelling to work complicated and work itself improbably hard as our hospital department's air recirculators pump fresh air in from out of doors, ensuring that its fleecy jacket temperatures even deep inside the building. Despite the tests to the mental and physical fortitude that the cold snap brings, the early walking season of 2018 is not going to go on hiatus, as we have landed on my Six Year walking anniversary, and my first opportunity to head out on 3rd March since I started out in 2012 and that's not a date to be missed, though I won't be going anywhere near Gargrave, Malham or Settle to celebrate the distance I have travelled since, as that sort of terrain can wait for the summer and the sort of days when there isn't standing snow in the fields and impacted ice on the pavements. So an extra layer of insulation will be needed as we go out into a sub-zero climate, and there's even a rail strike to contend with, but that doesn't put any cramps on my travelling plans, though I do have the train to virtually myself as we ride out to Woodlesford to complete my trek around Leeds by getting my fill of the southern and western quarters, disembarking at 10.10am, with a tight schedule planned, and so my best snow legs are on as we start off westwards to meet this village that has been lost in a mass of suburbia. It's been described previously on a far nicer day than this, and so the soundest path on the pavements is found to pass All Saint's church, the Two Pointers, and the village green before we delve deep into the suburbia, which continues to expand to fill the fields next to the old colliery sites and welding it firmly to the districts of Oulton and John O'Gaunts. Meet the colliery estate and the passage over the A639 Leeds Road, and take some slippery steps to meet Haigh Lane and the way into Greater Rothwell, finding another old path to cross as the alignment of the E&WYU railway is met as Haigh Road crosses Styebank Lane, and that's going to be a major feature of the day as we've had a lot longitudinal burned across South Leeds, but very few latitudinal ones, so checking them off should keep the mind entertained, as we wander on past more suburbia and the snowclad, and super-atmospheric, Rothwell cemetery.

Oakdene (nursery), and All Saints church, Woodlesford.

Slippery Going across the A639, Leeds Road.

Despite several trails in this quarter, I feel that we are yet to meet the heart of Rothwell proper, and will continue to avoid it today as we meet the terraces that grew to form the previously separate settlement of Rothwell Haigh, surely developed to service the local collieries, and remover from the main village by a distance down Wood Lane, which we meet to head west and note that old pubs turning into day nurseries definitely seems to be a thing, in the modern landscape. Approach and old trail as we run up close to the former workhouse and latter day asylum that has been extensively redeveloped residentially over the last few years, running on to pass over the incline that ran from the Rothwell Haigh pits down to the rail yard at Stourton, which is much ,more visible in this wintry landscape and we can then hit our first timing point by meeting the A61, and still get no reason for why a whale's jawbone greets visitors to Rothwell. Join Wakefield Road to head up the passage over the M1, and we've got quite an elevation up here, but the views to the city are lost in a foggy haze, so we see no further than the Arla plant before we split off to meet the field walk that will lead us over to the passage over the M621, a wild mass of tussocky grass that has a conveniently obvious snow lined groove across it, leading to our second motorway crossing and on into the spread of Belle Isle. We actually have a green passage, or rather a white one, that has endured along an old right of way that has endured to keep the developments separate on either side of the Belle Isle ring road, giving a needed lung to the suburban spread, which is eventually joined as we run onto the end of Orion Walk to meet some horrible underfoot conditions as we run on to meet the edge of the Estate at Middleton Road. Despite having a straight run on Windmill Road to take us across the estate westwards, it would be foolish to not see Belle Isle's most distinctive feature, located a short way away via Windmill Approach and beyond the church of St John and St Barnabas, and that would be Belle Isle Circus, where the main road across the estate forms a huge circle to render its landscape of council houses just that bit more distinctive. Not sure if the locals are too thrilled about having this traveller takin an interest in their habitat, but its a worthy diversion, soon left behind as we trot onto Winrose Drive to find an estate  landscape that lacks added drama, and so the local traffic will have to bring that instead as we rejoin our planned route and set course for Middleton Park.

Haigh Road, Rothwell Haigh.

The Rothwell Whale Jawbone.

Field Walking to the M621 crossing.

Walking through Belle Isle's Green(!)space.

Belle Isle Circus.

It's looking a bit different from that bright Spring day that I passed this way in 2014, as I pick out a route downhill to meet the railhead of the contemporary and preserved Middleton Railway, and see few people out to enjoy the prime sledging slopes that reside on the former workings of the Middleton collieries, and only a few hardy dog walkers are to be met as we make only the briefest acquaintances with the park as the tree lined lane up to the Middleton Grove entrance is followed. Meet the South Leeds stadium and the John Charles Centre for Sport, and move on through the Parkside Industrial estate, replacing the landscape that once had farms, coal workings and the GNR Hunslet Goods branch running through it, meeting only a few athletic types on the fall and rise on the way up to the A653 Dewsbury Road. Still making good time as the second timing point is passed, crossing over by the Dewsbury Road social club, and making tracks into Cross Flatts Park, laid out at the city's edge in the 1890s and still a needed greenspace for the citizens of Beeston, all looking snowbound today of course, but providing some well used sledging slopes on the rise to the higher end of the district, and someone's been igloo building here too. When I spent six unfulfilling and unemployed months living in Beeston in 1998, I used to burn the odd afternoon taking a stroll around this park, which might be the first time I did walking for its own sake under my own influence, so that's a nice bit of history to recall as we pass the courts and greens at the top of the park, and realise that Park Run that a friend does here, is much more challenging than your average circuit. Hit Beeston Road and pass on alongside Holbeck cemetery, also looking aces under the snow cover, and by the block of the Noster Terrace, which the gable ends of which are a prominent sight from many parts of the city, which we pass below as we meet the path at the top of Beggar's Hill, also notable as a sledging site today, and one which offers fine views of the panorama of South West Leeds. From here we can look to high points around, but the main focus will be Elland Road stadium, rising high above the neighbouring houses and acting as a magnet for the steeply descending path, which takes us down to Hoxton Mount and Wesley Road, crossing the main road to join the path of Lowfield Lane, in the shadow of the main stand, where the Billy Bremner statue still attracts the tribute, while the one of Don Revie seems almost forgotten about, tucked away by the Centenary Pavilion.

The Middleton Railway terminus, and South Leeds Stadium.

Cross Flatts park, Beeston, with Igloo!
The scene of my earliest walking exploits?

Holbeck Cemetery, Beeston.

Elland Road, from Beggars Hill.

Even when memorialised, Don Revie seems underappreciated. 

I suspect it's all a bit busier down here on game day, but with Leeds playing away, the throng of fans is absent as we pass under the M621 via the white, yellow and blue underpass to leave the football world behind and pace on through the industrial district of Lowfields, where only the Jump Inc trampoline park seems to be doing any business today, catering to those with indoors tastes, as we run out to meet the A62 Gelderd Road, squarely between the two railway bridges. A path leads us up and under the contemporary line between Leeds and Doncaster, where two bridges carry only on line, and then meet passage around and over the line since lost from Farnley & Wortley junction to the Holbeck Viaduct, the L&NWR's formation since filled in by car park and factory yard but still clearly visible to these eyes, left in our wake as checkpoint three is hit ahead of schedule on the A58 Whitehall Road. Peek at the footbridge over the former railway yards by the Huddersfield & Manchester lines before taking the passage over it by the Dragon Inn, and taking note of the former Farnley & Wortley station before we start the press on into the suburban spread of Wortley itself, and it's hard to tell where all its divisions lie, as I'm pretty that the rising Dixon Lane is too far east to be in Lower Wortley. So trying to pick pout where we are becomes a challenge as any evidence of vintage is sought among the many semis, again taking time to find the less icy side of the road, finding an ancient sort of corner around Green Side, and the church of St John the Evangelist. Over the Green Hill Road junction we run into Upper Wortley proper, and the extensive clearance and replacement of the terraces in the 1960s has left us with a rather undistinguished district with too many unpretty low rises, with only the Golden Fleece inn and the old police station providing any immediate interest while the eye is naturally drawn to the distant tower of St Bart's Armley. Meet the crossing of Tong Road, rather suddenly, and the rising passage of Whingate leads us on past the colourful Commercial Inn and the terraces of outer Armley, passing over the wide bridge across the railway's metals to Bradford and on past the shadow of the former school buildings (I assume) that dominate the skyline above the terraces around Charlie Cake Park. Pass the end of Armley Town Street before Hill Top Road indicates we ought to have met the top of the West Leeds and Upper Armley hillside, not getting any notable views in either direction before we meet the Traveller's Rest inn at the summit.

The lost Holbeck Viaduct branch, between A62 and A58.

Ascending the steep and icy Dixon Lane.

The Golden Fleece, Upper Wortley.

The Old School, Whingate.

The Traveller's Rest, and Green Hill house, Upper Armley.

Steep and slippery going, as the suburbia resumes down Green Hill Road, meeting another former workhouse, Bramley Union's, which is now occupied by St Mary's hospital, a unit still very much in operation, and located to the picturesque Armley Cemetery, again ripe with atmosphere beneath the fall of snow, once to be found well beyond the edge of the 19th century city. Pressing on to meet the Church of the Venerable Bede, and the only point in the day when I need to check my map to confirm that I do have to go down the snowbound passage aside it to cross over the A647 Stanningley Road, taking my life in my hands as the fourth and final timing point is met, early again. Push downhill, past the edge of the Wyther Park as Houghley Road leads us into a leafy corner around the RC church and school of Christ the King, before abruptly ending and sending us into a presently in-green and in-leafy passage down Houghley Gill, a landscape groove that has clearly survived the growth of Bramley's estates and suburbs, to form another natural lung that all districts should have. Descending carefully through the snow, I'm reminded of a drunk walk that I did this way back to Burley in 2002, from a friend's house in the Musgraves, which ought to stand as another of my formative walking experiences, fondly recalled as we negotiate our way along icy pavements through the Raynvilles at the western edge of Greater Bramley. Meet Wyther Road, to pass over the icebound Leeds & Liverpool Canal, and take a detour into the industrial park around the site of the former MR Kirkstall station, to meet the railway's Goods shed that is still extant, and home to a used Jaguar dealership, before joining the tangle of familiar tangle of paths at Kirkstall Bridge, seen here before as the sole passage over the River Aire and the railway, where the Brewery flats, the Bridge Inn and the retail park don't need any more description. From the A65 Kirkstall Road, we do need to take a detour, past Abbey Mills and up Norman Street (past where other friends once lived in the Vesper terraces), so a sneak can be made from Morris Lane and into the yard of St Stephen's Kirkstall, as this is one of those churches that can only be seen when the trees surrounding it have been stripped of all their leaf cover. From there we meet the Vicarage terraces and the outer edge of Student land, where Station Parade does not lead to the station, and the concluding steps have to be made via the edge of Kirkstall Lane to roll up at Headingley station at 2.35pm, rising to the platform having crossed 18 previous trails and achieving my circuit in the allotted time, whilst also beating the onset of chills and celebrating NO FALLS on my first snow and ice walking day since April 2013!

St Mary's hospital (former Bramley Union Workhouse),
and Armley cemetery.

Houghley Gill, a secret green(!)space hidden in Bramley.

Wyther Road and the icebound Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

The former MR Goods Shed, Kirkstall Bridge.

St Stephen's, Kirkstall, only visible in Winter!

5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3150.5 miles 
2018 Total: 42 miles
Up Country Total: 2874.9 miles
Solo Total: 2894.2 miles

Next Up: Back in the City again, as Spring approaches. Maybe?

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