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Category Archives: Leeds Walks
This week has started to show promise that the snow may have finally retreated and some warmer weather might just be around the corner! Such times, (much like the sprouting of bluebells and the arrival of swallows,) are typically marked by overzealous Fathers reaching for a pair of shorts and optimistic shops filling their shelves with BBQ kits.
The excitement got to us too though and we headed up to Chevin Forest Park, Otley for a beautiful evening walk. The light was gorgeous and the woodland bursting with bird song. We caught sight of two courting nuthatches which was a particular highlight; but the sunset really stole the show!
Sounding like something out of a good Indiana Jones movie (when Harrison Ford was the young one)… A hunt for the ‘Swastika Stone‘ on Ilkley moor seemed like the perfect Sunday adventure for a couple of lazy morning ramblers.
The Swastika stone is thought to be either Bronze age (like many other stones found in the area) or Iron Age and there’s some ambiguity over the stone’s meaning too, although in a number of ancient civilizations similar designs are thought to relate to the sun. The stone is located a relatively short walk west of White Wells Spa Cottage, which has had accessible baths since 1703, was instrumental in giving Ilkley its Spa town status and has reported visits from the likes of Charles Darwin. The stones are such a short walk from here (a couple of miles I’d guess), we decided to extend our walk. I say ‘stones’ because there are in fact two Swastika stones. One is a Victorian replica which actually helps pick out the pattern of the considerably fainter original sat just behind.
Our walk continued past the stones, past Panorama Reservoir and onto Hardwick House farm, where I got momentarily obsessed with some very photogenic sheep! From the farm we walked down until we reached the River Wharfe where we followed the Dales Way back into Ilkley town centre. Nature on the walk included numerous encounters with curlews and red grouse, which seem to occur on many of our Yorkshire walks, and we also caught sight of a tree creeper.
We finished the day at the Cow and Calf Hotel with an enjoyable pint of Leeds Pale Ale but before making our ascent to the watering hole we stopped off to refuel. The Vintage Tea Room on Wells Road is an original, friendly and very well done tea room with irresistible homemade cakes and a list of speciality teas longer than my photography equipment wish list (which is larger than a News International legal bill!). A cream tea for two was just what was needed to make the final steps on our Ilkley walk!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll know just how dangerous ‘popping out’ for a coffee is. My most recent coffee excursion led to a browse around Waterstone’s (or Waterstones as I believe they are re-branding themselves). Anyway this ‘browse’ led to the purchase of £30 worth of OS maps and a rather cool book on Yorkshire Dales walks. No wonder I got an espresso maker for my birthday!
The following morning I woke up like it was Christmas, all excited about doing a new walk in the Dales from our new book, using my new OS map. Caroline was more like the parent at Christmas, who would like just five more minutes in bed and wishes the kids would go and quietly entertain themselves with their new pressies. Anyway a quick wash, a round of toast that barely touches the sides and we were off! Or so we thought. It seemed the car didn’t share our enthusiasm for the Yorkshire Dales, so 10 minutes into our journey we had to turn back and book the car in for a check up.
Luckily due to my premature, or arguably immature, overexcitement it was still relatively early. Remembering that we had been given an AA Walks Around Leeds and West Yorkshire book for Christmas we started hunting through the walk cards looking for a walk that was relatively accessible on public transport. We found one that started and finished at Burley in Wharfedale train station.
The walk begins on Hag Farm Lane leading up to and through the farm, over some fields that offer the residing sheep lush panoramas and on through a variety of gates that remind you that you still haven’t burnt off as many of those festive calories as you would have liked.
The highlight of the walk is Burley Moor. This relatively busy heath provides some great views, even on a hazy winter’s day (is that a Simon and Garfunkel song?) with low thin cloud you could still take in the sights. We took a moment as we crossed the moor to take in the scenery. There were plenty of different paths that offered interesting diversions and investigations. Pretty soon the moor quietened down as people went off exploring their own routes. We came across a beautiful icy stream cutting its way through the hillside, which was particularly fascinating. The walk then took us back onto a B road and a country lane, and then over some pretty lowland fields that we’d previously been looking down on. We eventually ended back amongst some pretty impressive houses that surround Burley in Wharfedale station.
This was a very enjoyable walk, not too short and not too long with some lovely scenery and a good mix of terrain. Typically my keenness to photograph EVERYTHING meant we missed the hourly train by 5 or 10… But with every cloud… Rather with every missed train there is usually a good pub and Burley in Wharfedale is no exception, we headed into the village where we went to the friendly Red Lion Hotel for a pint of Midnight Bell from Leeds Brewery while resisting the mouth-watering specials on the board!
A wonderful end to a day that began rather ominously.
And so it happens every year, that familiar feeling of anxiety, so far removed from just a few weeks ago. With a sharp intake of breath I hit submit on the HMRC self assessment form and utter a quick prayer. A rush of doubt and worry floods in momentarily, followed by annoyance. I decide to go out for a quick walk before Caroline got home.
Kirkstall is a 15 minute drive away, and I had only ever passed through, so I jumped in the car and set off. Parking in Kirkstall Abbey Walk, I went for a quick stroll around the ruins. The Abbey was founded around 1152 and occupied by self-sufficient monks and nuns (Cistercians), later to be disestablished by Henry VIII. It was also a popular subject for many painters including JMW Turner.
The eclectic range of structures that play home to a large number of birds are pretty impressive. Although skeletal, the ruins retain enough form to make it easy to imagine the Abbey in all its glory some 800 years ago. Having wandered through the Abbey ruins I went for a very short stroll along the river Aire that runs alongside. I was struck by the stillness of this section of the river as it approaches a weir.
The river bank stroll felt very similar to my amble round the abbey; while there were elements of unquestionable intrigue and beauty, they were slightly marred by the actions of visitors who possibly feel little attachment to the area, leaving obvious signs of disrespect. Not that this would put me off a revisit, it just made me wonder what could make people feel so disconnected from this environment.
Not long after and it was time to go home, get dinner on and pour myself a glass of Hob Goblin (Wychwood brewery) and I realised that all thoughts of the evil self assessment had drifted away.
An unplanned lazy lie in and poor visabillity meant we weren’t able to do the walk we had planned to do last week. We headed up to Ilkley Moor anyway, just to stretch the legs and get some air.
Parking as near to the Cow and Calf rocks as we could (this is evidently a popular weekend destination, as this was further than we would have liked), we changed shoes and set off. Neither ‘climbed’ nor ‘walked’ would be an accurate description of how we made our ascent, messily and laboriously may be more accurate. The top of the rocks themselves are not more than a 5 minute walk from the completely full car parks below but there are several places further up the road where you can leave the car if, like us, you leave it all rather late!
The rocks were fascinating. A variety of carefully carved etchings, both contemporary and old including many dated in the early 1800s, were scattered over the irregular surfaces of the Cow and Calf rocks. In fact, there are reportedly a number of engravings throughout Ilkley Moor thought to date from either the late Neolithic or the Bronze Age, and Rombald’s Moor (of which Ilkley Moor is part) is considered to hold the second highest concentration of ancient carved stones in Europe.
After spending a considerable amount of time walking around and examining the rocks we walked back down (disturbing a couple of red grouse on the way) towards the Cow and Calf Hotel where we stopped for a customary pint. I opted for a Black sheep (Black Sheep Brewery, Masham). The busy bar staff were friendly and the slightly crowded pub had a nice atmosphere, despite food clearly being the priority of this establishment.
The Ilkley Moor area is an intriguing landscape which clearly holds many points of interest. I will certainly be revisiting, just a little earlier next time, with a dinner table reservation at the pub for our return!