Tuesday, 29 May 2018
11.5 miles, via High Utley, Low Utley, Holden Park, Silsden, Bracken Hill, Skipton Moor
(Millstone Hill, Standard Crag, Vicar's Allotments & Cawder), Horse Close, and New Town.
Return Up Country with 40% of the Leicestershire Round off the slate already, and a slightly less downbeat assessment about the progression of the onset of Parkinson's disease on My Dad, but also bring back a right foot that has suffered unprecedented blistering, and a calf muscle that suffered quite a strain in my attempts to not put pressure on the foot below it, but after three days of relative rest away from the trail, I'm ready to go again once Bank Holiday Monday morning rolls around. So slap on the plasters and the support bandage and get used to the new railway timetable as I start out late-ish for the latter stages of my Spring trails over the hills between the Aire and Wharfe, as this last week has had too many hours walked in the cool and overcast mornings before the day takes a turn for the warmer, so we depart from Keighley station at just before 10.35am, with most of the day's gloomy opening having already passed as we depart for the day on a north-westward track. Pause to admire the MR vintage tilework at the station before heading out and down Bradford Road to cross to Cavendish Street, home to the long shopping parade with the glass canopy down its full length, home to stores that don't quite deserve their setting and altogether a frontage that wouldn't look out of place in Harrogate, and also wonder if the styling of the car park of the Airedale centre is a cheap version of that at the Victoria Gate centre in Leeds, or if it might be the other way around? Meet the Cenotaph gardens and the town's municipal buildings, where a false owl lives in the cupola above the public library, before turning onto Skipton Road and passing the pair of cinemas, the contemporary Picture house and the former Odeon, home to Gala Bingo, before heading out into Keighley's Victorian villa and terrace district, opposite the castellated entrance to Cliffe Castle park and on to the B6265. Instead of following Skipton Road exactly, we'll wander a little to get a bit more landscape interest along the way, dropping down to get some improved views up to the looming Rivock Edge across the valley from the terraces along Arctic Street, and by heading up Green Head Road to pass Keighley University Academy and to get some contextual views up the Aire from the village suburb of High Utley, where St Mark's church is its best feature. Off the main roads we descend to meet Low Utley, with an ancient farm and cottage cluster at its heart, with suburban growth all around, with the cobbled Keelham Lane leading on over the railway, the A629 and behind the town cemetery, and on down to the bottom of the river valley as the road leads us over the Aire via the most obscure of bridges and on into Holden Park, nowadays home to Keighley golf club, where the golfers teeing off pose the most immediate risk to the walker.
Saturday, 26 May 2018
12.7 miles, via Owston (& the Woods), Withcote Hall, Launde Abbey, Ridlington Ridge,
Belton in Rutland, and Allexton.
|Long Distance Trail means selfies!|
#3 at the Stilton Cheese inn, Somerby.
You will know that it's not my nature to walk on consecutive days, but my rescheduling of my walking days has given me opportunity to get in a third day when I'd only intended to walk two, though the Friday weather looking like hot garbage means that I have to get out on Thursday morning, not quite with the lark like the preceding trips, but early enough to tend to the pressure blister that I've developed on my right sole, so padding is applied and we return to High Leicestershire with the feeling that could get painful. So on the my third leg of the Round and the guide's fourth as the parental Taxi drops me off at the Stilton Cheese inn in Somerby at 9.05am with village looking a lot less bright beneath overcast skies and it's off down Manor Lane on a southwards track, with foot injury in tow as we pass the Manor Farm and note the new build houses that perfectly complement their surroundings before we push out into the countryside, fully intent on passing this way again. There's a pretty heavy mist hanging over the eastern county, and once we hit the edge of the high plateau that's home to both Somerby and Burrough, there's not much of a view to see, so the path descends one of the many stream grooves down the hillside, away from another large dairy herd, and on up another landscape rise where there's a staring bench on the field boundary, from where there isn't much of a view in the direction of Tilton on the Hill. Then on, down past plantation that isn't on the map or in the guide book, to meet the stream crossing by a very old sign pointing to the "Leic's Round", and join Newbold Road, which is rising hard surface that takes us uphill towards Owston, which was once home to a monastic foundation, since vanished but living on in the name of The Priory house, next to St Andrews church, with the rest of the small village strung out along the Main Street. Pass the village pump, nicely preserved and on to the cluster of very rustic farmsteads at the bottom, and then on to the farm track that leads on towards Owston Woods, concluding by a large open field with many cows in it, and with the way out not visible, so that doesn't make for the easiest going as I start to feel like I'm going on one leg. I pass through untroubledthough, and the ancient woods spread out ahead, a couple of fields distant, but there's a lot of grass to cover to get there, downhill and uphill with little other landscape context to see aside from Owston Wood Road as we approach.
Friday, 25 May 2018
15 miles, via Thrussington Mill, Hoby, Rotherby (sorta), Frisby on the Wreake, Gaddesby (sorta), Ashby Folville (sorta), Thorpe Satchville, Burrough Hill, and Dalby Hills.
No walking opportunities for Monday or Tuesday, as I'm more useful to aid My Parents on a trip to the hearing aid clinic on one day, and to accompany them to the church lunch club on the other, though the heat and sunshine seem to have retreated once Wednesday comes around, but the cue to get back onto the trail comes once time is freed up again, through the part of the Leicestershire countryside that feels most familiar to me. So my leg #2 starts, aiming at taking in the remainder of the guide's second and all of the third as I strike into the East of the county from Rearsby village, starting out from by the Packhorse bridge of 1711 as the Parental Taxi drops me off at 8.15am, under glum skies with a sharp wind blowing from the northeast, and the path leads us over the bridge, past Manor farm and up to the Church of St Michael & All Angels, and deciding that I'm feeling under-dressed as I sneak the paths from the suburban enclave of Church Leys and down past the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace convent. The waterproof is donned as a windcheater as we meet Station Road, and I'll wander slightly from the Round path to see the still-considerable remains of Rearsby Station, where the Cross-Country services now run over the level crossing without stopping, and only the mildest of trespasses is needed to get back on the right track, meeting the Round path by the foot-crossing for a field walk in the direction of the River Wreake, well away from the large dairy herd in the fields below Thrussington. Hit the riverbank after passing over three plots, finding the channel can look more like a stagnant ditch in places, but find it looking more active as we approach Thrussington Mill, where a canal-style bridge takes us over the channel of the river and the remains of a lock chamber, evidence of the Melton Mowbray Navigation, which canalised the Wreake from 1797 to 1877, noted before we pass the mill itself, firmly in the grip of a makeover to make it more like its neighbour downstream. From the driveway, it's back to field walking, through bouth cultivated fields and rough pasture, heading upstream and not really getting any aspect that would suggest we are at the bottom of a river valley, and also feeling no joy towards the wind as it keeps the early going cool, as we come up to Lodge Farm, and its enclosure of Christmas trees, which I always seem to forget have to be grown anew every year.
|Long Distance Trail means Selfies!|
#2 at Rearsby Packhorse Bridge.
Monday, 21 May 2018
14.7 miles, via Bradgate Park, Woodhouse Eaves, Swithland Reservoir, Mountsorrel,
Cossington, and Ratcliffe College.
Spring Jollies time, and the days of getting away to a fresh trail in the countryside are sadly done, as My Dad is no longer able to travel as he continues to struggle with the onset of Parkinsons Disease, and thus my holiday breaks this year will be spent in The Old Country to lend him some extra company and to be an extra pair of hands and ears around the house for My Mum, a sequence that will finally give me an opportunity to tilt at the Leicestershire Round. Devised by the county's Footpath Association in 1987 and standing at 100 miles long, it will be the longest trail that I have attempted so far, and its circuit is relatively accessible from our base in Humberstone, though the guide's division of the route into ten legs seems a bit modest, so I boldly figure that it can be easily done in seven, and that's the plan that I have in mind as the Parental Taxi drives me out to Newtown Linford for a very early start on Sunday morning, planned as such so that I might be of maximum use to My Parents on my non walking days. Pass through Newton Linford village to get dropped off at just after 8.15am in the Bradgate Park car park, and we are certainly not the earliest starters out here as joggers and folks gathering for the Emergency Services day already crowd the tarmac, and as we have no distinctive route marker to indicate the Round's start line, I'll set out from the main gate to head on into the park itself, along the side of the stream that flow eastwards, in the shadow of tall trees and outcrops of granite. Immediately get entertainment from the herd of juvenile Red Deer, retreating across the track and stream from the main park into the deer enclosure as we march on towards Bradgate house, the home of Lady Jane Grey, and the Earls of Stamford, and notable as one of the oldest all-brick stately homes in the country, now ruined but preserved along with the rest of the park for the people of Leicestershire in 1928, thanks to the generosity of Charles Bennion of British Shoe co. Naturally the route takes us uphill immediately from here, up past Bowling Green Spinney and through the recumbent herds of Fallow Deer to rise to Charnwood Forest's most notable hill, where the Old John Tower sits atop it, not the sort of climb the body wants as the heat of the day comes on already, but it's alway good to be up on this granite top to take in the view around the county from 212m up, even if there's way too much morning haze to see much all that clearly in these conditions.
|Long Distance Trail means Selfies!|
#1 at Bradgate Park, Newtown Linford
Sunday, 13 May 2018
14.2 miles, via Silsden, Cringles, Woofa Bank, Draughton Height, Draughton, Lumb Gill,
Halton East, Halton Height, Heugh Gill, Embsay Crag, Embsay Reservoir, and Embsay.
The Exciting Plan A trailed for this weekend goes onto the reserve list for later in the season, as a Big Day Out in Lancashire with My Sister will have to wait until her attempt at a career change leaves her with a bit more free time, like the Summer, so we instead to resort to Emergency Plan B, and pull out another walk that putters around the edges of the hills around the Aire and the Wharfe, to fit in with the early Spring theme. I'm still not all that inspired to early starts, not getting to Steeton & Silsden station until nearly 10.10am, and have a poke around at the old station's goods yard before we set course to the north, and as the last route from here to Skipton went the long way round, it makes sense to do the same this time, only in the opposite direction, though a track to the north means retracing a lot of steps as the way by the A6034 Keighley Road. So all's familiar as we push over the Aire via Silsden Bridge and past the sports fields in the company of the high points of Airedale, whilst finding new things to ponder, like the identity of Cobbydale, or wondering where Cocking Hill might be, as advertised by the signs on the Blackburn & Addingham turnpike, and noting the Tour de France themed bollards are still in situ 4 years down the line before entering Silsden by the branch of Aldi. Still on familiar pavements as we pace up past the small factories and mixing of old and new houses on the south side of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, before finally starting to make a fresh path past Clog Bridge as we head up the main street through the town, with the parish church of St James looming over the many pubs, and where the village beck forms a rather dramatic waterside garden, complete with weir. Follow Bolton Road as it angles uphill, on a 7% ascent, complete with [!] signage to alert the unwary motorist, rising with the long terraces to think this might be one of the steeper A-roads in these parts, one that certainly offers some fine views as you look back, with Earl Crag seeming to rise over the town from quite a considerable remove. Hitting the Town Head, the road continues to rise at a steady pitch, just enough to get you panting, for a pretty solid mile in the shadow of Nab End, and above Silsden Reservoir before meeting the farm and house cluster at Fishbeck, before continuing the rise to present the company of Airedale's hills and the looming Skipton Moor rather grandly before we shift into the shadow of Cringles Plantation, where a caravan park hides behind it, before meeting the summit at the farm cluster of Cringles where the the road crests over into Wharfedale and an old tower and air shaft are prominent, both apparently inexplicable according to my maps, as we finally leave the A6034's side.
Tuesday, 8 May 2018
9.1 miles, via The Cow & Calf, Burley Woodhead, Burley Moor, Hawksworth Moor,
Faweather Grange, Lane Ends, Compensation Reservoir, Prince of Wales Park,
Gilstead Moor Edge, and Ferncliffe.
Amazingley the hot weather has lasted all the way around to Bank Holiday Monday, ensuring we'll be getting the warmest and brightest May Day weekend in a long time, almost enough to have me regretting not getting further afield, or higher up, whilst temperatures are around 25C and the skies are cloudless, but I set out my plans for the 20 mile circuit of Rombalds Moor, and that's what I'll stick to. The best laid plans to get out early and ahead of the heat came to nothing, not that it would have made that much difference anyway, as we arrive at Ilkley at 10.20am, along with the gathering throng for the Ilkley Carnival, a crowd I'll gladly step away from to strike away from the town on the one major route that I have yet to pace, away from the station and the Town Hall complex and straight up Cowpasture Road. This sets the route at a pretty steady rate uphill, all the way to the Cow & Calf rocks, which loom above the town from so many angles, but without ever getting a straight line view to them on this lane, passing up among the smarter terrace of this town, and past the Craiglands Hotel, one of only a few former Hydropathic (or Spa) establishments still in business in Ilkley. Move into villa territory beyond, and the road takes a kink to cross Cow Close Gill and the descending Backstone Beck, and meet the top suburban edge of Ben Rhydding, and the moorland cattle grid before the view opens up to Ilkley Moor and the Cow & Calf rocks, which have already drawn a holiday crowd and sit with the sun directly behind them, which will be a frustration for all of today's excursion southwards. The Tour de Yorkshire's second stage concluded up here on Friday, and the artwork on the road still endures, bringing some additional colour to the area around the cafe and the pub which share the name of the rocks, and the alert brain remembers to keep looking back with the ascent as the view over Ilkley and to Upper Wharfedale is a good one to watch evolve. Too early for elevenses at the former Highfields Hotel, but the going eases as Hangingstone Road levels off, in the shadow of the rock which names it, though when viewed from the east it looks much more like a perching stone, and we gain a wide verge to walk as the pavement ends, moving to the perimeter of Burley Moor as the eastern view emerges, mostly concealed in a heavy heat haze. Moor Road leads below Stead Crag and over the cleft of Rushey Beck before slipping around Crag House and presenting us with a walled section with far too many blind corners, to keep you alert to the traffic all the way down to Robin Hole, where the reveal of the views up the clough of Coldstone Beck and to Barks Crags are probably the best on this end of the moor.
Sunday, 6 May 2018
11 miles, via Priestthorpe, Greenhill, Micklethwaite, East Morton, Riddlesden, Rivock,
High Moor Plantation, Doubler Stones, Addingham High Moor, Addingham Moorside,
Cragg House, and Netherwood.
I had originally planned to get far away from West Yorkshire for May Day weekend, as the Tour de Yorkshire had seemingly threatened to get in the way of my trail, but it turns out that the cycling is going on far, far away on the Saturday, which allows me to spend much less money on travel as I project a two day circuit around the edges of Rombalds Moor, ideal for a spell that threatens to turn very warm indeed. Arrive at Bingley station at 10.10am, a bit late if we're being honest as the day already feels like it's hitting peak hotness, making my very first departure from it to pass the puzzlingly disused station house and meet Park Road to pass over the railway, the A650 and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, whilst getting a straight line view up the valley past the Damart factory to the high edge of Rombalds Moor that I will be passing over in a couple of hours. The first ascent for the day starts immediately, rising with the road past the industry at the canalside and up through the terraces of old north Bingley, before peeling from the main road as the more recent suburbia of Priestthorpe arrives, following Hall Bank Lane into the former region of Victorian villas that have since been consumed by suburban splurge. From New Mill beck, we meet a leafy path which leads up from a cul-de-sac to the driveway of Gawthorpe Hall, hidden away to the west, before following another up to the recent development around Pinedale and Oakwood Avenue, where a third path delves into the woods, rising behind the back gardens to give suggestions of an imminent Bluebell season before arriving behind Greenhill Hall, where the old driveway still runs through the trees. That's a lot of height gained as we meet Lady Lane, which has me glad that I've decided to put my regular boots back on for all this off road going, much of it to be immediately shed as we set off down Greenhill Lane, through the woods and the farms clinging to this high edge of the Aire's north side, splitting off at Greenhill Gate to join the footpath of Wood Lane that presses northwest in the shadow of the rough hillside that once was a Deer Park. Splendid views across the Aire come with the shady track, across Crossflatts and Sandbeds to the wooded hillside of Hollin Plantation, whilst we get more bluebell carpet to give the feeling of Spring in full force, even though the sunshine suggests the blaze of Summer is here already, as the track detours around Fairlady Farm, and then joins a field that is home to the most docile horses imaginable. This leads us to Carr Lane, and the very top of Micklethwaite, where we can take the windy lane downhill to the High Fold chapel corner and head down Holroyd Mill Lane, past Beck Farm Barn and off down the path to Morton Beck, noting the mill below getting a makeover, which is pretty much the rule for every rural property these days.