Episode 23 – It’s been a While, Back at Ledsham

After many distractions over a busy summer when I either seemed to be working or spending time with my family I finally managed to get out walking and podcasting at the same time.

On a morning stroll from the Fairburn Ings Birds Reserve to Ledsham Bank Nature Reserve I managed to walk for two hours and talk for twenty minutes. I found on this visit the ancient church at Ledsham open and sat for a while in its cool and quiet interior.

Buzzards, church bells and buses!

Episode 23 – It's been a While, Back at Ledsham Gone Walking

After many distractions over a busy summer when I either seemed to be working or spending time with my ,family I finally managed to get out walking and podcasting at the same time. On a morning stroll from the Fairburn Ings Birds Reserve to Ledsham Bank Nature Reserve I managed to walk for two hours and talk for twenty minutes. I found on this visit the ancient church at Ledsham open and sat for a while in its cool and quiet interior. Buzzards, church bells and buses. 

Episode 22 – Leeds Country Way (3) to Bardsey

The third circular walk of my journey around the Leeds Country Way takes me from the villages of Thorner to Bardsey. I encounter an ancient church, a Roman road and mile after mile of glorious woodland.

Episode 22 – Leeds Country Way (3) to Bardsey Gone Walking

The third circular walk of my journey around the Leeds Country Way takes me from the village of Thorner to Bardsey. I encounter an ancient church, a Roman road and  mile after mile of glorious woodland.

Hello and welcome to Gone Walking. Today I’ve started my walk once again from the small settlement of Potterton on the outskirts of Leeds. It’s a nice day, there’s no rain forecast, high cloud and intermittent blue skies, about 13 degrees. A little bit breezy so when you’re on the higher ground it feels a little cooler.

My route out took me up Potterton Lane, across the fields to a pub on the main road called the Fox and Grapes. Now I’m heading to some higher ground called Thorner Moor. Before dropping down into Thorner.

I’m walking down a track away from the York Road called Mangrill Lane. Theres a hedgerow on the left and fields filled with crops. On the right is a wire fence and dense deciduous woodland. About a half a mile or so from the main road, there’s paths to the right and the left. The right is permissive paths that take you round the Bramham Park estate. The path to the left goes through a field of wheat. A narrow path steadily climbing uphill. We’re already on higher ground but I know from previous walks that there’s an actual high point. Imperceptible almost, this path takes me across the fields where I’ll rejoin the Leeds Country Way and walk into Thorner. I pick it up just after it leaves Saw Wood on the path coming from Barwick.

From setting out about twenty-five minutes ago I’ve been accompanied by a Red Kite, high in the sky just drifting along on the strong currents. I’ve now crossed the wheatfield and there’s a hedge on the right-hand side and another wheatfield on the left-hand side. In the hedgerow there just seems to be Nettles, Cow Parsley, Dock leaves, Burdock and a grass that I discovered last year for the first time. It’s called Yorkshire Fog an attractive grass that grows tall. It has seed heads about an inch or so long that hang over and they have a lilacy, purpley tinge when you see a lot of them together, quite a pretty grass.

I think covid and the lockdowns that we had here in the UK changed a lot of people in a lot of ways. I’m sure it will take many years to get over. People suffered with their mental health, the work has changed, their attitude to work has changed and one of the things that has definitely changed for me is walking. As I’ve probably said already, I really can’t get enough these days but I’m also happy to be as I am today on the edge the city in an area that people don’t necessarily rush to, to go for a walk but it’s gorgeous. I know I say it every week but it’s lovely.

I’m just reaching the trig point; the land does start to open up all around me. To the North now I can see all of the woodland that I’ll be walking back through that’s part of Bramham Park later and then there are hills to the North and West of Leeds with windfarms maybe ten miles in the distance. I can see the trees over towards Saw Wood and just beyond that is Leeds. To the South I can see the Fox and Grapes Pub on York Road, the wind turbines at Hook Moor near Micklefield and again to the East, the trees of Bramham Park block the view further. I think from memory the map says that I’m at 110 metres and the trig point sits just at the corner of a field, just by a hedge. The usual concrete pillar.

Blimey did someone say it was June in a week. It’s definitely a fleece on, fleece off sort of a day. Much cooler on the higher ground in the wind. Looking forward to the lower more sheltered parts of the walk. Just as I leave the trig point, the view to the North and East opens up and I can see the Hambleton Hills and about a mile or so away the road that runs from Thorner village to Bramham passed Bramham Park.

(Walking)

The path now takes me all the way to Thorner which I can just see in the distance through consecutive fields of Wheat and Barley. I’m now almost back to the Leeds Country Way. Crossing a filed with a hedgerow on my right and the freshly ploughed ridges and furrows of a potato field on the left.

I’m on the Leeds Country Way again, walking along Elleker Lane. It takes me into Thorner and down to the main street.

(Walking)

It’s very windy, I came down the lane into Thorner passed the end of Butts Garth which is where my walk last time headed back to Barwick. I’ve carried on now across the main street’ Up passed the bowling club, the tennis club and then very quickly out the other side of the village into open countryside. It’s quite a long village is Thorner but not such a wide village. You can pass through it width ways in five or ten minutes. Lengthways it would probably take about forty-five.

(Walking)

The path between here and Bardsey is undulating between farmland and luxury housing. At the moment I have a hedge to my left and pasture fields with mature Oak trees in them to the right. Ahead is a house on the hill that is shown on the map as Oaklands Manor. There was a wind turbine on the hill on the left as I came out of Thorner. Spinning so fast it looked as if it was going to come off its axis.

(Crows and birdsong)

I’ve crossed a pasture going uphill and I’ve now come out of a field into a path between two high stone walls. The manor is on my left and on the right another pasture field. I’m on the edge of the village of Scarcroft, the next village is Bardsey which will be the end of my walk for today. The path between the walls came out on a small road and there were the gates to Oaklands Manor and either side two gate houses. Like with most things in this area have now been converted into very expensive housing but the path’s lovely you’re not on the road for long and you’re soon into a meadow going steeply downhill with mature trees and I can see across to Bardsey in the distance.

(Walking and birdsong)

I’m now walking down a road and it’s lovely. Theres a strong smell of garlic, trees on both sides, overhead forming a tunnel but not much protection from the wind. The road I was on would have in a short distance taken you to the centre of Scarcroft village but we’re not heading there, we’re heading to Bardsey which is a little bit further to the North and West. So, I’ve turned off down a little lane and then once more into pleasant pasture fields with a hedge and trees on the right-hand side.

The path follows a little valley, I’m now out into open countryside climbing uphill but the stretch I just walked along was quite pleasant. On one side were at first big houses with big fences but this gave way to a farm and there were cockerels crowing, there was some Red Campion growing by a log pile which was very pretty but there was an awful lot of Himalayan Balsam that seemed to be invading the area.

Crossing the A58 the path goes up the side of a row of houses. It’s an unmade road but the houses go all the way up the hill on the right. The lane eventually gives way to a path which a little further on comes out at the top of a hill with a lovely view down to Bardsey with its ancient church sitting in a little hollow.

(Walking)

It’s very pleasant now the winds still strong but the sun has come out.

(Walking, birdsong and passes through village of Bardsey)

I’ve actually just checked the map and I’ve gone a little bit off course but the path I’m on will still take me up to Hetchell Woods but from the road I’m walking along a disused railway. Which is the one I was on last time I was on the Leeds Country Way near to Thorner. This is a lovely broad track in a cutting, heavily wooded at each side and it’s the railway that would have run from Crossgates to Wetherby. This is actually a section of line between Thorner and Bardsey. I hadn’t intended coming this way, there’s a more direct path up into the woods but it is as broad as it is long.

I’ve reached a dismantled bridge on the railway that would have gone over a track. I’ve come off the railway now turned left back towards Hetchell Woods. I cross a ford and a footbridge, then I reach the actual woods.

Welcome to Hetchell Wood.

Hetchell Wood supports a wonderful variety of wildlife thanks to its location on the junction between two different underlying rocks. Magnesian Limestone and Millstone Grit. Limestone creates a specific type of grassland that supports a wide variety of species such as Dyers Greenweed and the Yorkshire specialist Thistle Broomrape.

The grassland is managed by cutting and grazing using rare breed Hebridean Sheep. Bardsey Beck runs along the Western Boundary of the reserve and is bordered by wet woodland. The Millstone Grit can be seen exposed within the wood at Hetchell Crags. Below this is a mature Oak, Brich woodland. Home to birds such as Treecreeper and Black Cap.

Beneath the larger trees grows Hazel and Hetchell Wood has traditionally been managed by coppicing where marked areas or couples of hazel are cut in a rotation over several years. The process of coppicing creates diversity within a woodland having constantly changing areas of recently cut open glades, scrub like thickets and closed canopy.

This diversity of habitats in turn means that a greater number of species can find homes in the wood. Early Purple Orchids come up in the recently coppiced coupes and butterflies take advantage of the shelter in these warm sunny glades.

The board is provided by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

(Birdsong)

I didn’t have a lot of time today unfortunately to explore Hetchell Woods. I think on my next leg of the Leeds Country Way I’ll probably start from here and allow myself a little bit more time to explore these beautiful woods. I’ve come out of the other side of the reserve now and I’m heading in the general direction of the village of Bramham and the Bramham Park Estate.

I gained a lot of height coming up through the woods and now I’m back out on open farmland and it is very rural, fields, hedges, woodland. As I probably mentioned before I take little souvenirs home off my walks. Whether they be pines cones or feathers and I am partial to a bit of ironware. I found a lovely horseshoe once. Well, my son one of my sons found a lovely horseshoe once in a field. Been there for fifty, a hundred years. I’ve got an old bit of grate at home that I found on a track, and I’ve just found a little piece of iron on the path. I’m not sure what it is but it’s got the initials GE something and its snapped. I’ve popped it into the outside pocket of my bag, only to remember that last time I found a rusty old nut and bolt that’s still in there.

The paths lovely now, there’s a hedge on the right and arable land on the left and I can see the start of the woodland and I’m not sure if the woodland is owned by the Bramham Park Estate, but it all runs into one now. Theres literally mile upon mile of woodland. Most of which I’ll be walking through on my way back.

I’m now in amongst the trees, although on the edge although on the edge of the woodland. Through the thicket to my left is a stone wall then a field to the left. To the right is the woodland itself which is Subbing Moor Plantation.

(Sound of wind among the trees)

This is a flat area of higher ground probably of a similar elevation to Thorner Moor that I was on this morning maybe 350 feet. The field to the left on the map has the course of a Roman road marked. I’m not sure where it went from or to. Probably going East, it would have linked up with the Great North Road, which was also a Roman Road, the main North to South route through England but it’s certainly an area you could see that a Roman road would have been built.

(Sound of wind among the trees)

Linking one part of the country to another. Not hard to imagine on a day like today. The legionnaires and civilians and animals that would have been moved and food along it.

(Sound of wind among the trees)

If you listen carefully in the wind, you can catch the noise and commotion of the long train of people.

(Walking, sound of wind among the trees giving way to birdsong in a quieter woodland setting)

I’m walking through Ragdale Plantation its very pleasant. Haven’t seen a soul since I left Hetchell Woods. It seems to be something about walking on a Friday.

(Walking, wind in trees and birdsong)

This plantation’s lovely now as the valley sides start to rise up at each side. There are tall fairly young conifers and deciduous trees and the light streaming in.

(Walking and birdsong)

Dropping down into the valley through the woodland, it was really quite idyllic. At times you were level with the tops of the trees and gradually getting lower and lower. All the time there was a small lake that was visible for just seconds at a time before disappearing. Hoping I would see it from the valley floor, it had disappeared completely. Coming up the other side of the valley you come out onto the road that runs from Thorner to Bramham the one that I could see this morning from the top of Thorner Moor. You up into an area on the map called Terry Lug. I’ve never been sure whether that’s the name for the woodland or the area in general, but I turned right there and headed back towards Thorner, and I’ve now picked up Mangrill Lane which runs along the Western edge of the Bramham Park Estate.

I’m following the wall on one side and the hedge and fields on the other. This lane goes all the way back to the A64 and then onto Potterton Lane.

(Walking)

I think I mentioned last time. Its fascinating walking from village to village in this area and touching a road other than to cross. The network of tracks and paths must be one of our greatest outdoor natural assets. It really is wonderful even though we’ve lost so much of it we still have so much to explore without going near a road.

Coming up this side of Thorner Moor you get a real feel for how it is an actual hill. You can see its big mass from quite a way off and the climb from this side is steadily upwards. I’m passing a wood on my left called Whittle Carr and a little further on it becomes Jenny Sober Plantation. Every single name of a woodland in this country has a story to tell. Now there’s a project.

(Walking)

This seems like a good place to end this week’s podcast as I’m nearly back at my start point. If you have enjoyed it, please join me next time, tell your friends about it. I hope it doesn’t try to be anything its not. Its simply me going out for a walk trying to extoll the beauty of the things I see and the day itself. See all the previous episodes and transcripts of the podcasts at my website gonewalking.uk so till the next time, cheerio.

(Walking, sound of traffic and podcast ends)

Episode 21 – Ledsham Bank Linear Ramble

A linear walk linking two nature reserves that are run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Leaving the side of the old Al, the walk drops downhill through Ledsham Bank Nature reserve to the village of Ledsham. The route then goes through fields and lanes to a small settlement on the edge of Leeds at Ledston Luck. This is the site of a former coal mine and land associated with the pit has now been transformed into a nature reserve. The return is the reverse of the route out except for a small diversion into a Woodland Trust wood still at Ledston Luck. Distant views East and West across the county, roman roads and the oldest building in West Yorkshire are just some of the highlights.

Episode 21 – Ledsham Bank Linear Ramble Gone Walking

A linear walk linking two nature reserves that are run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Leaving the side of the old Al, the walk drops downhill through Ledsham Bank Nature reserve to the village of Ledsham. The route then goes through fields and lanes to a small settlement on the edge of Leeds at Ledston Luck. This is the site of a former coal mine and land associated with the pit has now been transformed into a nature reserve. The return is the reverse of the route out except for a small diversion into a Woodland Trust wood still at Ledston Luck. Distant views East and West across the county, roman roads and the oldest building in West Yorkshire are just some of the highlights.

Hello, and welcome to Gone Walking. Today I’ll be walking from the side of the old A1 in an area or locally as Selby Fork to a small community called Ledston Luck, two miles away. It’s quite an inauspicious start. The road was built in the 1960s and took traffic from London to Edinburgh. It was still preceded maybe 10 or 20 years ago by a six-lane road a few 100 metres to the East. The roads quieter now and it’s used by trucks and cars as a rest area. It is the highest ground around though so there are good views. To the east of the Yorkshire Wolds and to the northeast of the Hambleton Hills, but after clambering down a steep banking, across the freshly planted field of peas and headed towards a dip in the land with a gap through some trees.

The reason I like to walk and start from this particular point is because maybe a quarter of a mile from the road you come into Ledsham Bank Nature Reserve another one of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves. I first visited it a couple of years ago, and I’ve been back often and in every season. It is a delightful place. It’s a narrow valley, dropping quite steeply downhill.

(Birdsong and tranquil)

There is I am told a ridge of Limestone that runs across the whole of the north of England down into the Midlands, and when left to woodland and grassland it creates a wonderful habitat for nature. The weather today is, well I think a typical English day. There’s high grey and white cloud. It’s about 15 degrees, and there’s a light breeze. I’ll be walking through Ledsham Bank which is a mile or so long through the village of Ledsham and then on through the fields and lanes to Leston Luck. This was a mining community with a small number of houses associated with that. Now there are business units, a Café. Still the houses but what makes it special is that it’s also the site of another Yorkshire Wildlife nature reserve, so that’s today as walk.

(Walking, birdsong and tranquil)

This one in the summer is absolutely stunning and has dozens and dozens of different varieties of wildflowers. The grass and flowers get to about three or four feet high and it’s just a sea of colour, insects, butterflies. It’s early in the season but there’s still quite a lot going on.

(Walking and birdsong)

The ground gradually drops down from the road and in the dip at the bottom is a small village of Ledsham. From here you can turn left and walk to the village of Fairburn and the Fairburn Ings RSPB nature reserve. You can then walk around to Ledston back to Ledsham. You can walk into Leeds along the river. There are endless walks in this area, but for today I’ll turn right and walk through Ledsham and then out the other side.

Looking back from the entrance to the Reserve at the Ledsham end its clear that it’s a steep valley that twists to the right as it goes up to the higher ground. Woodland on the right and the grass banking on the left. A small track takes you down to the road and then on into Ledsham which is a pretty village built mostly of stone with a lot of very old properties.

(Walking and birdsong)

The passage through Ledsham is a brief one as it is only a small place situated on the eastern edge of West Yorkshire where it meets a county of North Yorkshire. Theres an old barn at the side of the road attached to a farm. The church which I don’t know the exact date, but I think I once read it’s the oldest building in West Yorkshire. Parts of it are over a thousand years old and then there’s the Chequers Inn which was always famous because as it didn’t have a licence to open on a Sunday. I think that may have changed now. Some anomaly of the ancient licencing laws.

(Walking and birdsong)

Heading through the village you come to a junction There’s a lane ahead called Park Lane. Follow that up past the houses and it soon comes out into up and countryside with two tracks, one going right, that would eventually take you to village of Micklefield and one going left, which is our path today, over to Ledston Luck.

The path out of Ledsham climbs up at the other side. Ledsham, I think is in a little hollow, tucked out of the way, A real sleepy old-world feel. Like stepping back in time and the track now climbs steadily, I think up to Ledston Luck which is at the side of another historical north to south road, A dead straight road that runs from Castleford all the way up to Micklefield and Aberford and links up with the new A1(M) that I was talking about earlier. This one’s known locally as the Ridge Road, and I believe it was historically a Roman road. So, I had a walk bounded by two nature reserves and it’s also what bounded by two north to south roads through the heart of England.

This tracks lovely now there’s a hedgerow with mature trees on the right-hand side and I think it looks like a field planted with crops on the left. I think is it wheat or barley. The path continues to climb uphill soon becoming dead straight, well gravelled. With Woodland to the right, called Long Plantation. To the left, well-kept and fully planted fields bounded by hedgerows and ditches.

The ground to the right stays high now goes to an area near Micklefield called Hook Moor. Further across there’s higher ground towards Bramham and Thorner but to the left, you start to get distant views and the land seems to be dropping away. This is because we’re on the edge of the Aire Valley and a mile or so to my left here is the bird reserve at Fairburn Ings. Further across to the right is Allerton Bywater, St Aidan’s, Rothwell and then on into Leeds. A city that you could walk to its centre from here in no more than a couple of hours.

(Walking)

After a long drag out of Ledsham the land levels off. I’ve passed a farm on the right and the well-made track gives way to a more overgrown track. I think the well-made track was for horses and horse riding. The path now still as up and farmland on the left and another wood Sheep Cote Wood on the right.

To the west now peeping over the horizon are the Pennine Hills. Probably over towards Huddersfield maybe 20 or 30 miles away and of course the hill I’ve just come, is we’re in the foothills of that long chain that dissects England for 200 miles or more.

(Birdsong and walking)

The day couldn’t be more different to the last time I did this walk, can’t remember if it was last summer or the summer before but it was the hottest day of the year. Not a cloud in the sky. It was absolutely baking and today although as I say it was 15 degrees when I set off, in this wind at the top of the hills and with the cloud cover it feels a lot colder.

(Walking and sound of distant tractor)

Just walking past the woods a few minutes ago, the whole of the air smelt of Garlic, wafting in from the dark depths of the wood. I’ve just crossed a little footbridge and noticed a few years ago a plant I didn’t recognise. So, I looked it up and it’s a species of the Burdock plant and there’s absolute masses of it at the side of the track. With its big leaves, forming big clumps. A little bit like rhubarb leaves to make the drink Dandelion and Burdock from it and I and I think they also made a kind of beer from it.

(Walking and sound of tractor) 

I just disturbed a Roe Deer on the track about 200 metres ahead I just saw the white rump disappearing into the woodland.

(Birdsong and sound of tractor) 

The woodland here’s lovely with some really old oak trees hanging over the path. I can see the Ridge Road now in the distance with cars travelling along it. I think the path continues to the road. I’m shortly going to be turning right into the woodland to take me to the nature reserve.

(Walking and birdsong)

Looking for the path on the right and then suddenly there it is a dark hole In the Hawthorn hedge. Two pieces of timber across the ditch and you through into another of the world. The coal mine here closed just after the miners’ strike in 1984. Coal mines had land associated with them, places where the spoil from the mining was tipped and this isn’t the biggest site but still quite large. As you come through the hedge, there’s an area of woodland on the right-hand side that is now, looks to be fairly newly planted and is run by the Woodland Trust. Then the nature reserve it’s run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is further round behind the industrial units on what was the spoil heaps.

(Birdsong)

The wood seems to be planted with mostly native deciduous trees. There are lots of lots of Oak, lots of Beech and in all honesty, hundreds of times I’ve driven past Ledston Luck village, the cafe and industrial units. I never would have expected any of this. Theres a sign at the far end that says Welcome to Ling Close Wood and that it’s part of the Woodland Trust. Theres a small footbridge and then a road and then beyond that I can see the iron gate of the nature reserve.

(Birdsong and walking)

It’s actually a farm track from the main road (gate opening) to a farm further inland. (Gate closing) Once in the nature reserve, there’s two paths. Theres a set of steep steps going up onto the top of what was once the spoil heaps, but then a path going around the perimeter which I’ll are follow to the far side and then begin my walk back.

(Walking and silent) 

It’s dark in here, there’s a steep bank to my left heavily planted with young trees and a broad thick hedge on the right.

(Walking and solitary bird singing)

A beautiful quiet place, as always best not to let your imagination run away with you when in dark and lonely woodland.

(Birdsong) 

I should have gone up the steps, the path wasn’t actually a path. It just petered out into a bit of a quagmire at the back of the hill, a foot deep in mud. So instead of safely going up a flight of steps I’m now clambering up a steep hillside between the trees. (Out of breath) Same result though brings me onto the flat top of the spoil heap, maybe four or five hundred metres in each direction, twenty metres high.

(Birdsong)

Theres an information board provided by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in conjunction with Leeds City Council.

Conservation grazing at Ledston Luck. In an effort to protect and maintain the beautiful wildlife on the site. We have installed livestock fencing, bridges, steps and way markers. To provide safe rights of way to the public whilst the grassland is being grazed.

There are drawings of Hebridean Sheep, Shorthorn Cattle and Exmoor Ponies.

The development of agriculture has played an integral role in the shaping of the English countryside. Across England most ancient woodlands were cleared to make space for crops and grazing animals in order to feed the ever-increasing population. Over time the wildlife changed and adapted to these practices. Creating new habitats and ecosystems, including grassland meadows, moorland and heathland.

Through years of study, it has been found that grazing is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to maintain these new communities and the rare species their home to. Cattle, sheep and ponies are the most commonly used animals for conservation grazing. Grazing can benefit the diversity and abundance of grassland species. The animals control the competitive course grasses that can dominate the meadows by continually eating and removing them. This allows the final less competitive species to flourish, increasing the number of different grasses and flowers on site. By constantly eating the grazing animals are removing nutrients from the grassland and soil, which is important because many wildflowers grow nutrient poor soils. Trampling by the heavy animals is also beneficial as it creates bare ground. This bare ground is brilliant for allowing seedlings to establish and is an essential part of the lifecycle of many insects.

Here at Ledston Luck we use conservation grazing to help control the encroaching scrub and weeds, in an effort to keep the meadows free for wildflowers. The number of animals are kept low to avoid over grazing the site and preserving the breeding grounds for the site’s birds. The effectiveness of this management is under constant review to ensure the health of the site and sustainability of the project.

Ledston Luck is part of a corridor of green spaces in the Lower Valley in Leeds which is owned by Leeds City Council and managed in partnership with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

And in front of me is a large as I described, flat grassy area with a few Silver Birch. Beyond that, and behind me is the trees and scrub that’s not grazed. Again, it’s a little early for the wildflowers. There are just the spring ones at the moment, but another couple of months and it’s absolutely beautiful here.

Sitting at the top of the hill by the meadow, I can look back to the east and just see through the trees as the ground falls away towards Ledsham. About a mile or so away is a plantation called Wellington Plantation, and then a series of plantations that go all the way back to the old A1. To the left and out of sight in the trees is the A63. As it heads out of Leeds towards the A1 and then on towards Selby and Hull.

(Birdsong)

I remember being told at school that that Yorkshire is on, is on top of one of the largest coal fields in the world. It stretches from here across and under the North Sea and into Europe and when I was a child growing up, the county was renowned as a as a mining area. With pits not just in the areas you would expect them, with pets up to and into the city boundaries of Leeds. Times change and now there are no pits in Yorkshire.

(Birdsong and walking)

Just walking around the edge of the grassland at the top of the hill. I’ve seen my second orchids of the season. The first ones were a few weeks ago on the Cleveland Way. I saw some Early Purple Flowering Orchids. These beautiful little purple spikes just a few inches off the ground. My app tells me are Marsh Orchids, a really pretty flower.

(Birdsong, crows, distant traffic and walking) 

Seeing them has really made the day worthwhile. I’d hoped to see some in the Ledsham Bank Nature Reserve, but I think it’s too early for the ones that they get there but these are actually one of the prettiest ones I’ve ever seen.

(Birdsong and walking) 

I can see the road now. I’m at the far northwestern side of the reserve but I’ve just come upon the pond which is maybe 75 metres across. Half of it clear water but then all around the edges are reads and bullrushes, I disturbed a heron which has flown across the pond and is now flying back in towards the trees.

(Birdsong)

This really is a lovely place. From here you’re about a mile to Kippax. A mile to Garforth, both big suburbs of Leeds with thousands of people living there but standing by this pond apart from the traffic, you could be anywhere. I think they’re Flag Irises that are all out around the edges, the yellow ones.

(Birdsong)

Theres a couple of Coots in the middle of the pond and looking at the dark water you can watch the reflections of the Gulls flying overhead.

(Birdsong) 

I’ve climbed back up to the top of the old spoil heaps now and in places where it’s muddy or the grass and scrub haven’t taken hold. It’s very clear what this hill is made of. The ground is black made up of waste.

(Gate opening) 

As this is a purely linear walk, I’m now leaving the hillside to start my return journey. I didn’t used to like out and back walks but nowadays I think we’re okay. It is in effect to a different walk; you see and everything from a fresh perspective. It’s also later in the day and the weather is different. The grey skies are starting to clear as the sun comes out and I have to be somewhere in two and one quarter hours and I’m not sure if that’s going to be enough time to complete this walk. Hey Ho!

(Walking and birdsong)

I found the steps this time. I didn’t really fancy scrambling down the way I came up.

(Walking, birdsong and gate opening) 

The 0nly a slight deviation of my route back is a small detail through the Woodland Trust wood. People have gone to all this effort to create it; it would be rude not to enjoy it

(Walking and birdsong) 

The path through the wood goes right up to the back of the houses and they’re very large gardens at Ledston Luck. It’s a real interesting, big word alert! Juxtaposition between a settlement and a nature reserve living side by side. This is delightful there are open areas amongst the young scrub and young trees, of grassland and now the sun has come out the whole feel has changed. Butterflies appearing, insects appearing.

(Walking and birdsong) 

Walking back along Long Plantation, the sun has fully come out now. It’s a beautiful afternoon. The path side is Dandelions, Buttercups, Clover, Cow Parsley. As a Red Kite just to my right high above the fields silhouetted now against a white cloud.

(Walking)

The gravel tracks now given where to the nice paths that came out of Ledsham. Now dropping downhill once more quite quickly. The open fields on the right, the woodland on the left and all the colours now so much more vivid. The green of the crops, almost blue in the sun, and the green of the new leaves of the trees and the hedgerow. All set against the blue sky with high wispy white clouds

(Walking and birdsong) 

I’m back on the outskirts of Ledsham now walking down Park Lane once more.

(Walking)

I made good progress from Ledston Luck back to Ledsham. Mainly so I can sit in churchyard it’s one of my favourite places to stop when I’m walking in this area. I just looked at the church up actually on the internet. What makes it the oldest building in West Yorkshire is that it’s been here since around. 750 It’s even mentioned a bit roundabout 731. Which is really mind blowing that this church was here possibly 350 years before the Norman Conquest.

(Birdsong) 

I’m back at legend bank now making my way uphill on the narrow path amongst the vegetation.

(Walking and birdlife) 

The path climbs steeply, the valley runs down now to my right. All grassland and then the woodland at the far side of the valley with another bank going up.

(Walking, birdlife and tranquil) 

The large proportion of flowers in this meadow are due out in a month or so’s time but there are some beautiful flowers. Theres the little blue Bird Eye Speedwell it’s called. A tiny little flower petal flower with the yellow centre and there are large areas of a plant this new to me. Its Cruciata the smooth bedstraw also known as Crosswort. It’s a tall, yellowy green stem and all these are growing together amongst buttercups, it really is beautiful. Just as you reach ahead of the valley, you get a view that you don’t get from the bottom as the as the valley twists to the right, but you can see away to my left. You can see to the end of the reserve and to the right to the bottom of the reserve and in the distance the whole of the Lower Aire Valley and the Pennines beyond that.

It is quite surreal though, because standing here in the middle of this gorgeous nature reserve, you can see the old A1 about half a mile further uphill, with all the trucks parked at the side of the road. It would have been even more surreal 100,000 vehicles a day would have been passing along it when it actually was the A1

(Walking) 

I’ll soon be back at my start point, so this seems an appropriate point to end today’s podcast amongst the grass and shrubs and birdlife of Ledsham Bank Nature Reserve.

(Walking and birdsong) 

if you have enjoyed the podcast, please join me again next time. Tell your friends about it and you can always keep up to date with what’s happening at my brand-new website, gonewalking.uk All the podcasts and transcripts are available there but for now, as the nature reserve narrows all around me to the style that is ahead of me. I bid you farewell’

(Walking and podcast ends)

Episode 20 – The Aire Valley South of Leeds

A short walk around the perimeter of St Aidans RSPB Reserve just south of Leeds. The site was previously an opencast coal mine and derelict for many years after it flooded. In recent years it has been taken over by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and has been transformed into a wonderful nature reserve. River, Canal and Railway follow the valley floor. The flooded mine alongside them is now a home for nature. On the day of the recording the wind gradually increased as it came off the Pennine Hills and was funnelled into the valley. I hope that there is still a feel for the tension, excitement and cacophony of noise that can be a spring day in such places.

Episode 20 – The Aire Valley South of Leeds Gone Walking

A short walk around the perimeter of St Aidans RSPB Reserve just south of Leeds. The site was previously an opencast coal mine and derelict for many years after it flooded. In recent years it has been taken over by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and has been transformed into a wonderful nature reserve. River, Canal and Railway follow the valley floor. The flooded mine alongside them is now a home for nature. On the day of the recording the wind gradually increased as it came off the Pennine Hills and was funnelled into the valley. I hope that there is still a feel for the tension, excitement and cacophony of noise that can be a spring day in such places.

Hello, and welcome to Gone Walking. Today’s podcasts will be a shorter one, but I’m at a place where I go walking often. I’m at the RSPB reserve at St Aidan’s near Leeds. The reserve was only established a few years ago and before that had been a derelict and flooded, opencast coal mine for about a quarter of a century. It’s now in the hands of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and is a very popular place to visit due to its proximity to large centres of population. The weather today is a little cooler than of late, the skies grey, mostly overcast, the temperature probably about 12 but feeling cooler, with the wind. The Reserve had been a series of deep open pits when about 20 or 30 years ago, the River Aire that runs along the southern section burst its banks and flooded the mine. Eventually, the RSPB took over ownership and have and are turning it into a wonderful place for nature.

(Birdsong, walking and train horn in distance) 

We’re in the Aire valley here south of Leeds, and along the southern flanks of the reserve is the River Aire, the Aire and Calder Canal and the railway. There are walks around the perimeter and through fields and woodland to the north that would once have been spoil heaps. The walk around the perimeter’s only a few miles but I thought it would be nice to share some of the sights and sounds of this beautiful place. I’ve left the car park and walked along the eastern shore of one of the lakes and now I’m walking along the southern shore by the perimeter fence.

The views are fabulous. Big skies, large open expanses of water, dotted with islands. This first section is fairly quiet for birdlife, but later it becomes a complete spectacle at this time of year. Inside the fence is a large area of grassland and then nearer to the water’s edge are trees and scrub. I think it’s mostly Willow.

(Birdsong, the sound of wind, a distant train and walking))

I’m not sure of the actual details but the night the river burst its banks caused the entire mine to flood. They managed to get all the machinery and people out safely. But in time, this huge area of lakes was formed. Along the southern section is part of the old waterway, marooned now on dry land. I think they had to recourse the river. There’s some stonework and steps down into what would have been a lock when the river was a lot closer to the mine. It’s lovely now, been walking about 40 minutes and the grey clouds have all gone and there’s blue sky.

(Birdsong and walking) 

The birds are singing and there’s a flask of tea in my bag that I may soon have to crack open.

(Birdsong and walking) 

I’m walking along the boundary fence now and at the other side is the Trans Pennine trail that runs from the West coast of England to the East coast of England and there are lots of Hawthorn, young beech trees and the wind is rustling in the leaves.

(Sound of wind rustling the leaves of trees) 

A sound I forget about in winter and realise that I have actually missed it.

(Sound of wind rustling the leaves of trees) 

My walk soon turns away to the right from the riverbank and the canal side and drops down 20 or 30 feet to the actual lakes. I’ll soon be in the North and West sections of the reserve. This area is so rich in birdlife. An area to take your time and marvel at nature in springtime.

(Birdsong and walking) 

As I turn there is a concrete path with lakes to either side. I’m not an expert on birds. I’m still learning them but the lake to my left has several islands and there are a few dozen Black Headed Gulls. I can see Cormorants. This reserve also has Bitterns which I think are very rare. We’re almost extinct the UK. From what I understand. they slowly reintroduced themselves into reserves along this valley that runs all the way to the sea. I’ve never seen one but at this time of the year you do hear them. They call it the Bittern boom. I always think it sounds like the noise you get when you blow across the top of a milk bottle. That low slow drumming sound.

(Birdsong and sound of wind)

It’s only in the spring that I’ve heard so maybe if we’re lucky today.

(Birdlife and tranquil)

The paths here run through a network of small lakes and channels lined by young Silver Birch and high reedbeds. I’ve just passed Heron that was almost invisible, standing in the reeds motionless and then upon seeing me flew low over the water, gracefully away. On a day like today, it’s absolutely wonderful here. Surrounded almost on all sides by either big centres of population or large suburbs.

(Birdlife and tranquil)

Theres some Gorse as well along the hedge paths. It’s not invasive, some of it in flower. I think I once read that Gorse is in flower for the whole twelve months of the year.

(Birdlife and tranquil)

There’s a little white flower in the grass here. A tiny, tiny thing hugging the ground. It’s called Cuckoo flower. It’s a springtime plant that is good for caterpillars. I only really started taking notice in nature a few years ago. I wish Id done it a lot sooner, but it is a lot of fun learning.

(Birdlife, wind noise and sound of train)

Also growing amongst the grass and Gorse is Vetch and Clover. Two geese just flew in front of me at head height from one lake to another.

(Birdlife and tranquil)

At this time of year, it’s very easy to get sensory overload walking amongst so much life.

(Walking and gate opens)

I’ve climbed away now from the lakes and pools. I’m walking through pasture, with hedgerows, footpaths, little lanes. The area is to the north of the reserve and is mostly reclaimed land that was spoil heaps when the area was a mine. It’s got very windy in the last hour or so. I had hoped to record lots of bird sounds, but it’s not really been possible.

(Walking) 

I’m now walking through a lovely field of pasture with a wire fence and a hedgerow on my left-hand side. On my right-hand side, the whole of this part of the lower Aire valley is laid out before me. The likes and paths of the reserve. Looking South I can see the Pennine hills over towards Huddersfield just coming up now over the horizon. To the right is Rothwell and then Leeds to the left. Castleford, Pontefract and as the ground climbs higher you see the intricate shapes and patterns of the various lakes and pools.

(Walking) 

I’ve dropped down now from the old spoil heaps.

(Walking on a gravel path, then a lot of Gulls and other birdlife)

I’ve left the old spoil heaps now, walked through the pastureland and then new plantation with its abundance of Willow and Scots Pine I’m now walking around Bowers Lake which is the one nearest to the visitor centre. It’s the last short leg as I make my way back to the finish of the walk. As with all the wall here there’s an abundance of birds but the predominant species at this point is the Black Headed Gull. (Sound of Gulls) of which there are hundreds if not thousands of them.

(Gulls and other birdlife)

This seems like a good place to end this week’s podcast, so if you have enjoyed it, please tell other people about it but for now on a rather windy afternoon in May I bid you farewell, Cheerio.

(Gulls, other birdlife and podcast ends)

Episode 19 – Leeds Country Way (2) to Thorner

Today I continue my walk around the Leeds Country Way. Starting from Barwick in Elmet and walking the few miles to Thorner. This area is close to built up areas of East Leeds but passes through lovely countryside. I spend a while little exploring the rich and varied history of Barwick before exploring fields paths, tracks and beautiful woodland in the area. An iron age settlement, a Norman Castle, World War 2 observation post, bluebells steal the show. A far off glimpse of the Hambleton Hills, a disused railway, and a wander through an ecologically friendly farm.

Episode 19 – Leeds Country Way (2) to Thorner Gone Walking

Today I continue my walk around the Leeds Country Way. Starting from Barwick in Elmet and walking the few miles to Thorner. This area is close to built up areas of East Leeds but passes through lovely countryside. I spend a while little exploring the rich and varied history of Barwick before exploring fields paths, tracks and beautiful woodland in the area. An iron age settlement, a Norman Castle, World War 2 observation post, bluebells steal the show. A far off glimpse of the Hambleton Hills, a disused railway, and a wander through an ecologically friendly farm.

Hello and welcome to Gone Walking. I started my walk today in a small hamlet called Potterton on the outskirts of Leeds. It’s about half a mile from the main A64 that goes from Leeds to York and then on to Scarborough. I’m walking down Potterton Lane a lovely quiet tree lined Road, bluebells, wild garlic, and many other wildflowers in the hedgerows and along the grass verges, I’m heading towards the village of Barwick to resume my walk around the Leeds Country Way. Last time I did the first section, from Garforth, and today I’m going to walk as far as Thorner. The way goes 62 miles around the outskirts of Leeds and is said to be never more than seven miles from the city centre.

The weather today is beautiful blue skies, about 16 degrees, a light breeze, so different from a week or so back, when it was still a winter. A little blue butterfly in the hedgerow. From where I’ve started to Barwick is maybe a mile and the whole of the road is tree lined on the left-hand side, and they’re all now in leaf. The sun casting dappled shadows on the road as I walk. Further back at Potterton, there was a whole host of crows nesting in some trees near houses, and the few houses that are there, the gardens were all looking pretty. With clematis, rambling over walls and climbing up pergolas the short north of England gardening season is now in full swing. The wind catching the leaves as it blows through the trees.

(Walking and a car passing)

The road initially drops down before a short climb takes me up to Barwick. (Birdsong) Barwick is a historic village. I think it’s mentioned in the Domesday Book, and there’s some speculation that it was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Elmet. It’s one of the few places in the area that still bear the name.

(Walking)

As I enter Barwick, I turn right into a little housing estate. This takes me through a snicket to the main area of the village. As I walked down on the right is a ditch and trees. A deep ditch that seems overgrown, but it is actually an age ditch and bank. It goes all the way around probably about a third of the village.

‘The ditch is about five metres then it was built by hand about 2500 years ago. The bank opposite is about five metres high, and it contains the stone and a little soil from the ditch making a massive defensive barrier giving protection from the flatland behind you. It is almost certain that the top of the bank would have had a wooden palisade. We have no evidence that the fort was ever attacked. Behind the bank lies the inner area of the fort. It covered about 10 acres enough to provide shelter for many houses and livestock. It is possible that scrub up and some trees were allowed to grow to improve the fortification after its construction’.

(Crows and other birds singing) 

‘Follow the earthworks to your right to Bank Cottage and then by public footpath to the north of the fort. Here there is no ditch, a steep slope down to Rake Beck provides a formidable barrier. Here there is a possible earthworks entrance turned in for extra protection. The path goes to The Boyle another possible entrance and returns you to the village’.

 The information I’ve just read is on the sign which is provided by the Barwick in Elmet Historical Society in association with English Heritage and the West Yorkshire Archaeological Service. It’s quite an impressive feature.

(Walking) 

The path was on going passed the earthworks comes out at the back of the Black Swan pub in the centre of Barwick. Theres the old church to the left, the Gascoigne to the right, and the Black Swan. I’ve turned right and walked towards Wendell Hill. I’m now climbing the steps that takes me to the top of it. Theres a small lane that goes up from behind the Gascoigne. As you reach the end of the lane, you see a large field on a high round, grassy hill with steep slopes. Climbing to the top, the view opens up all around. Barwick and the houses and the church and the trees in the village behind me. In front of me open countryside.

Looking towards Scholes I can just see in the distance, the A64 Just to my right. At the top is a big concrete plinth. As the board at the entrance says the hill was used as an observation post in World War Two. The concrete plinth is all that remains.

The information board at the top of the hill says, ‘this is one of about 600 hastily made Norman Motte and Bailey Castles. Some date from the conquest in 1066, and others from the civil war between King Stephen and Queen Matilda, 1138 – 1153. This one was built about then Mottet had a wooden fortification on top. Some were later made into strong castles built in stone. There is no evidence visible here of a stone replacement. But we know an undocumented excavation in Victorian times uncovered remnants of a stone structure.

You are on the castle mound, to the West and South is the Iron Age ditch and ramparts. The Bailey, the outer castle yard probably covered about a quarter of the hill fort surrounding the Mottes own ditch. It may have extended to the curved street to the north, The Boyle possibly derived from Bailey. The Norman landowner De Lacy, also owned a vast area locally known as the honour of Pontefract. Barwick’s Castle was built to be the devolved northern centre for the honour covering much of modern-day Leeds. In the 14th century the centre moved to Rothwell. The castle was abandoned and forgotten. People believe the remains were Saxon palace. In the Second World War, the Motte became a viewing platform for the Royal Observer Corps and standing on the base, of the two floor ROC building from where enemy aircraft sightings could be reported’.

I’ve now picked up the Leeds Country Way again I’m walking downhill, on a street called The Boyle. I didn’t visit the church today but could see it clearly from the top of the hill. It’s quite an old church parts of it date back to the 14th century. I think the tower is 15th century. At the bottom of the hill is a ford and a little footbridge. Also, a footpath that goes around to the right along the bottom of the hill and joins up with the earthworks that I visited when I first entered the village. And from here you can get a feeling of the defensive works around the original Hill. What the village might have been like, all those thousands of years ago. (Birdsong)

Cross the footbridge and there’s a lovely green lane now heading uphill, and this will be my path for the next few miles. On the left is an old fallen down farmhouse with a ‘Keep Out’ sign on the gate and barbed wire. The lane itself is lovely with a high hedgerow on both sides. Deeply rutted from farm vehicles.

(Walking)

The path continues down to a small stream with a footbridge over it.

(Struggles to cross footbridge)

And a fallen tree over the footbridge. This next section is one of my favourite sections of walk around here. I don’t really know the story of it, but there’s a little strip of land that runs alongside a stream that goes all the way up to Saw Wood and on this right-hand side of the valley are planted trees. I think I looked once before and there seem to be mostly apple trees but it’s a real peaceful, pretty area. I’ve walked through a farm nearby that seems to do a lot of conservation work. And I wonder if this is done by the same people. It’s very pretty though, all mature trees along the stream where a hedgerow to the right maybe 10 – 15 metres wide and the young trees planted all the way. About halfway up the valley is a stone seat. It’s a lovely place to stop for lunch. It’s about halfway between Barwick and the A64 which you can now just about here in the distance.

(Far off traffic noise) 

Just behind where I’m sitting is a small wood filled with wild garlic.

(Birdsong, sheep baaing and a nearby distant farm)

This is just a sea of white as the trees go up the hill from the little valley. The ground is just covered in the white Starbursts of wild garlic.

(Birdsong, tractor noise, cows mooing and sheep baaing)

The stream now is tiny, and it crosses the A64 and starts somewhere in Saw Wood. It’s typical of the streams in this part of East Leeds. This one, as do others feed into the Cock Beck that eventually becomes a small river then flows into the River Wharfe. I’m not sure which one is actually attributed as the start.

(Walking)

Well, I’ve never seen that before. Since the last time I was here. Somebody’s building a compost toilet. Damn decent of them as somebody who frequently seems to need one these days

(Traffic noise)

The path reaches the main road but runs parallel to it for a little way through quite a nice woodland across the stream and there’s a culvert that goes under the wide road no sign of light at the other end just a dark void with modern slow running water. We miss so much by travelling in cars I do it all the time, but there’s so much that we don’t see. By foot or horseback seems to me at least a better way to travel.

(Walking and traffic noise) 

I’ll come out onto the road soon and try to cross, I maybe sometime.

(Walking, traffic noise and gate opening)

Well that went well. Theres a lay by just to my left with an old double decker red bus, the Red Bus Cafe. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. I don’t ever remember eating there but it’s a very popular spot with lorry drivers and the like.

I’ve now entered Saw Wood which is a large deciduous plantation that goes quite a way towards Thorner, and there are a number of paths through it. The one I’ll be taking, takes me directly to Thorner its really beautiful, the bluebells are fabulous in here. The bracket is still flattened and brown from last year. Although looking closely it is starting to come through and the sea of Brown will soon be replaced by a sea of green but oh my, these bluebells they’re gorgeous. They go as far as you can see into the woodland.

(Walking)

After about 10 minutes, you come out the other side of the woods once again to open countryside. Around the flanks here of an area called Thorner Moor. To the left of here closer to Leeds is an area called Whinmoor. Although not like the moors you would find in other parts of Yorkshire. I think these areas of higher ground were given that name in the past. The path goes right or left and for the Leeds country where we follow the bridleway to the right.

(Walking)

This is a broad lane with a hedge and trees on the right-hand side and after a mile so this will take us to Thorner. The track climbs steadily up until we’re just about level with the top of Thorner Moor, there’s a trigpoint marking the actual high ground. It’s about a mile to the east but now Thorner comes into view and just beyond that, beyond the tree line, the hills further around the Leeds Country Way. Possibly passed Bardsey bouncy, even going towards Harewood but this whole section as I said this morning, it’s really pleasant. This track’s lovely, there’s Skylarks at both sides now high in the sky singing.

(Walking and birdsong) 

I often imagine in days before cars, what travel was like and the route I’ve taken today would surely have been the quickest way between Barwick, between Barwick and Thorner. You imagine people walking to visit relatives, or looking for work, doctors and priests travelling possibly on horseback, but communication was as fast as the fastest person or the fastest horse.

(Walking and birdsong)

Today when I reach Thorner, I’ll turn around and work my way back to my start point. Next time walking the section from Thorner as far as Bardsey. Just coming up on my right is a footpath that goes across the fields to the summit of, if summits the right word of Thorner Moor. It then continues to Bramham Park or back to Potterton where I started, but what I have just noticed looking across the fields way in the distance are the Hambleton hills where I was walking in last week. (Sound of wind) Right the way the other side of the Vale of York. A dark black line against the grey sky.

The weather has now clouded over a little since this morning, there’s still a fair amount of blue sky but quite a lot of grey. Still pleasant though. I’m reaching Thorner, you turn left and follow the road through a housing estate.

At first, it’s Kirkfield Lane and then Kirkhill. In a short time, a little Lane appears on the left, which you follow all the way down to the main street. I think Kirk means church. I don’t know if it’s Norse or Old English. I’m guessing these were Church Hill and Church Field Lane. This little path runs down the hill. Houses and gardens on the right and a hedgerow on the left.

(Walking, birdsong and crows in the distance)

Soon I’m once again on a metalled road, which has become Stead Lane and continues down to the, towards the main street.

(Walking and birdsong) 

I’ve reached a point where I can see the road in about 100 yards and there’s a turning to the left called Butts Garth. Looks as if there are some remnants of a railway wall or a bridge and I believe the Crossgates to Wetherby railway line used to come through Thorner before the Beeching cuts in the 1960s.

(Walking)

This now begins my walk back to the start point. After Butts Garth the path soon enters open countryside, and in fact soon comes out on what seems to be the old railway line. This was a route that went from Crossgates all the way to Harrogate calling at Wetherby. My path turns off the old railway after a few 100 yards. But I’ve just checked the map and it goes for quite a long way towards Scholes and there are paths and lanes that link up to Scholes and Barwick. So that’s definitely something I want to explore at a later date.

(Gate opening)

For now though, I’m heading back towards Saw Wood. There really is just so much to see and the more I walk, the more I see, the more I want to see. I haven’t always had the time or the enthusiasm and it’s no point regretting wasted time. I just know that now every time I see a nice footpath I haven’t walked down before I make a mental note to try and fit it in. (Out of breath) The path as you can probably tell is now going uphill. Open fields on the right beyond that Saw Wood and to my left a hedgerow. Hidden amongst the hawthorn tree at the meeting of three paths is a public footpath sign ‘to the disused railway’ and then the other way it points to Barwick.

(Walking) 

Almost back at Saw Wood now, just following a few little footpaths that will take me to the opposite end of where I was this morning.

(Walking and birdsong)

I’m back in Saw Wood, the map shows this little section called Red Hills plantation. There’s a lot of Beech in this woodland, and it’s only just coming into leaf. Also, quite a lot of Holly dotting the path, a big tree to my right that’s come down, its branches resting amongst the smaller trees around it. Still coming into leaf even though 95% of its root system is sticking up into the air.

(Walking and birdsong)

There’s also a number of apple trees planted in the in the hedgerow that have got beautiful blossom on them. There are lots of wildflowers out now, the Lesser Celandine the yellow buttercup type flowers. The white and yellow Daisy type flowers of the Greater Stitchwort, the little purple bell-shaped flowers of the Common Dog Violet. Dandelions in abundance, Ferns coming through and of course, the Bluebells.

(Birdsong)

One thing I hadn’t realised before, was the scent of Bluebells. It’s hard to describe, I wouldn’t know where to start describing scent but it’s so strong. There’s just this sweet smell hanging in the air.

(Traffic noise) 

At the other side of the A64 from Saw Wood just dropping down to the little I walked up this morning. Within a few feet of the cars is masses of Wild Garlic, the little white flowers on tall stems of Garlic Mustard, and Herb Robert in profusion. Having reached the head of the pleasant valley that I walked up this morning I turn left as I’m not going back to Barwick but across to Potterton. Again, walking through a strip of land that’s been planted this time with native deciduous Oak and Rowan I can see Hawthorn, Beech and just to the right-hand side of the wall the other side as you can hear (traffic noise) is the A64 but soon I’ll turn back inland over the last few fields back towards Potterton.

I really do enjoy walking through this farmland. Walking away from the road is Gorse Hedge to the left and open views back to Barwick in the distance and the little valley to my right that I walked up this morning. The Gorse hedge gives way to a Hawthorn hedge interspersed with Sea Buckthorn.

(Walking)

This is the farm I talked about a few podcasts back that has a fridge by the path with eggs for sale. I did have a look but there were none in. kqfarm.co.uk It’s called I’ll check that out when I get home.

(Walking and distant traffic noise) 

Just walking through a few fields of pasture, a Holly and Hawthorn hedge on my right.

(Walking and sound of Crows)

Almost back at my start point, so it’s time to bring today’s podcast to a close. If you have enjoyed it, please tell other people about it. And I’d be glad to hear comments or suggestions. I’ve recently set up a website for the podcast gonewalking.uk. Please join me next time if you can. Until then Cheerio.

(Walking, birdsong, sound of Crows and podcast ends)

Episode 18 – Cleveland Way (2) to Sutton Bank

In this episode I re-join the Cleveland Way near to Rievaulx Bridge for my second day walking it. I walk steadily uphill through Nettle Dale and Flassen Dale. Going from the valley of the River Rye to the top of Sutton Bank. An ancient horse racing track, empty moorland roads, pretty villages and isolated valleys. At Sutton Bank the walk meets the escarpment of the Hambleton Hills and further North the Cleveland Hills. There are some stunning views to come across the open countryside to the East of the hills. In the next episode I will explore the area around Sutton Bank before starting the journey North and West towards the sea.

Episode 18 – Cleveland Way (2) to Sutton Bank Gone Walking

In this episode I re-join the Cleveland Way near to Rievaulx Bridge for my second day walking it. I walk steadily uphill through Nettle Dale and Flassen Dale. Going from the valley of the River Rye to the top of Sutton Bank. An ancient horse racing track, empty moorland roads, pretty villages and isolated valleys. At Sutton Bank the walk meets the escarpment of the Hambleton Hills and further North the Cleveland Hills. There are some stunning views to come across the open countryside to the East of the hills. In the next episode I will explore the area around Sutton Bank before starting the journey North and West towards the sea.

(Walking and birds singing)

Hello and welcome to Gone Walking. I’m in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park today, walking the second section of the Cleveland Way. It’s a gorgeous day, we’ve had a bit of cold weather recently but today has dawned sunny. About 11C, very little wind so a perfect day for walking.

On the first section I walked from Helmsley to just passed Rievaulx Bridge. Today I’ve parked at the top of Sutton Bank and I’m walking down through the hills to the point where I finished last time.

(Walking and birds singing)

Leaving the car park, I head through Hambleton Plantation. A commercial woodland, with a series of footpaths, cycleways, horse riding trails. The walk on the outward journey today will be mostly downhill till I get back to the point near Rievaulx Bridge where I then turn round, pick up the Cleveland Way to bring me back up to my start point.

The Hambleton Hills that I am now walking in are clear for many miles as you come across the flat Vale of York. On the hills here is the famous White Horse of Kilburn. I’ve passed through Hambleton Plantation now and I’ve picked up a short section of the Cleveland Way before I turn off and take a different route down to Rievaulx.

There’s a sign at the side of the path that tells me this is the site of the site of the ancient Hambleton Racecourse. There’s a stable just as you leave the forest and horses grazing. People out exercising horses.

(Walking)

The Hambleton Hills and further North the Cleveland Hills form a ridge running South to North. It’s a very clearly defined steep hill that abruptly stops when it reaches the Vale of York which is to the West. To the East of the hills all the way to the coast is the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. Now having passed the woodland, the house and stables, I can see from my high position the rolling hills looking towards Helmsley and ultimately to the Yorkshire Coast.

(Metallic sound unlocking and passing through kissing gate)

I’m heading initially to a village called Cold Kirby between here and there is a footpath along the side of a field with freshly sown crops and a broken-down wall on the righthand side.  

(Walking)

There’s no real sense of the fact that a mile or so to the West is a precipitous drop for hundreds of feet yet to the East a gentle slope and rolling hills.

(Walking)

I can now see Cold Kirby in the distance and a lovely green lane with a drystone wall on one side and a fence at the other side where the wall used to be. It’s very pleasant and the views are fabulous, way off into the East a slight mist in the air. The sun beating down and on this downward slope, not a breath of wind.

(While walking and talking, the sound of cattle)

Just passing a field full of black cattle. Lots of young calves with them, they all seem a little bit excited. Glad I don’t have to walk through there.

(Sound of Cattle)

I’ve left Cold Kirby, now walking towards a village called Old Byland that I visited the other day when I did the first section of the Cleveland Way. I’m following the road; the old road sign tells me it’s two miles. When I get to Old Byland I’ll pick up the lovely valley I walked down last time, at the bottom of which is Ashberry Reserve. One of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust owned reserves. Shortly after that just before I get to Rievaulx I turn right and then follow the Cleveland Way back to the start. This is beautiful countryside though. Dry stone walls, old stone barns in the fields, pasture with lots of Daisies and Dandelions growing through. The villages are all made of stone, well maintained and life in the country, I’m sure it doesn’t but seems to go on at a much slower pace than the city.

The road I’m on is very narrow, has passing places. It’s not wide enough for two vehicles to get down. Luckily for me I don’t think I’m gonna see any vehicles. Apart from the farmer on his quad bike who’s just passed.

(Walking and birds singing)

This walk over to Old Byland is delightful, very little traffic on the road, there’s been a hare, started off running towards me in the road and then shot off into a field. For a wile it was just sitting until I think it was disturbed by two passing cyclists and it took off at full flight across the field. It was lovely to watch. The whole area is criss crossed by public footpaths, green lanes, bridleways. There are endless connotations of day rambles that could be had in this area.

(Walking)

Not long after leaving Cold Kirby the road to Old Byland turned right. Since then, it’s almost dead straight and downhill, between two stone walls. Pasture at both sides. Valleys going off to the left and right, lined with trees. The walk will keep going downhill, all the way until I get back down to the valley bottom, almost to the River Rye.

(Walking)

The road I’m walking on is a modern road covered in tarmac. Obviously very old and in places near the edge, the tarmac has broken away. I was surprised to see what looks like the original cobbled road still there in places. I knew they did this in the city. There are older parts of the city where they just put in the 60’s and 70’s tarmac on top of the cobbles. I suppose there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have done the same out here.

(Walking)

There are Holly trees dotted all along this road. Very big, very old ones. They have had to be cut in a straight hedge line along the road. I think if they grew naturally, they’d cover most of the road. Great find just by the roadside. Not sure if it’s a pheasant feather or a bird of prey. Beautiful, it’s about a foot long, brown, with alternate darker stripes going across it up the central spine.

(Walking)

It can go in my tray of treasure that I keep on the windowsill by the front door. I started a few years ago bringing little trinkets back. A stone, a pinecone, a feather, an acorn. It’s now filled to the brim with memories of nice days out. This one would be quite the largest item I have in it.

(Walking and birds singing)

I’ve turned off the road at Old Byland and turned down into the valley that I walked down just last week. The one that takes me down to Ashberry Nature Reserve. It was so pretty; I was more than happy to come back and walk this way again en route to the start of my next short section of the Cleveland Way.

(Walking and birds singing)

Walking down the valley, I’ve just come across an old tree that was obviously dead. It’s been cut back in places, the bottom maybe fifth of the trunk is still standing. A good six or seven feet in circumference filled with holes and hollows and it looks as if there’s a hive of bees nesting about a third of the way up.

(Much bird-life and peaceful)

It looks as though the tree is going to be left. The dangerous bits that were hanging over have been cut off or fallen off. That stump would make an incredible home for nature. The valleys round here, I think I described them the other day. Steep sided, filled with woodland. The bottoms are flat and often covered in grass or have streams. I discovered during my walk last week, they were formed during the last ice age by glaciers moving down the valleys that gave them this distinctive shape. In that time, when this part of the UK was uninhabited under a vast ice sheet. Hard to believe that where I am walking would have been under hundreds of feet of glacier.

(Bird-life and peaceful)

I’ve just stopped for lunch in the valley, sat down on the grass slope.

(Bird-life and peaceful)

It’s ever so quiet. There’s a pheasant just walking down the hill. Got to the bottom and started going back up. The Blackthorn trees in front of me. The flowers bright white against the slope. The trees aren’t quite in leaf yet but there are flashes of green. It is though very, very peaceful.

(Birdlife and peaceful)

I am now in the lower half of the valley. I think we’re in the area of the Ashberry Nature Reserve. It’s an area of ancient trees and wetland in the valley bottom. I believe it’s been protected since the 1800’s.

(Walking and bird-life)

As springs and little streams have appeared the nature of the valley bottom has changed. Higher up it was flat grass, easy to walk on. This bottom part is marshy and boggy. I believe the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust pretty much leave the woodlands as they are. They’re left over to nature. The gate on the entrance to Ashberry Nature Reserve tells me.

This gate was erected by the Yorkshire Naturalists Union and the Yorkshire Naturalists Trust. In grateful memory of Catherine Murel Rob (1906 – 1976) Who knew and loved Ashberry throughout her life and as an outstanding botanist did so much to create this nature reserve and to further the interests of both organisations.

(Gate being unlocked and opened)

Inside the gate is a sign from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, it says.

Ashberry Nature Reserve. This varied and fragile 48-hectare nature reserve is predominantly woodland with associated limestone grassland, fen, wet grassland, wet woodland and lime rich springs and streams. The reserve is part of a larger site of special scientific interest and has been known to naturalists since the 1800’s at least. Sheep and longhorn cattle graze the fen and wet grassland in order to keep it species rich. The woodland is largely left to develop naturally. Holly is thinned in places to prevent it dominating the understorey and inhibiting natural regeneration of other species.

There motto is, ‘love Yorkshire, love wildlife’.

(Walking)

I’ve retraced my steps through Nettle Dale on the Cleveland Way. I’m at the head of the dale now. Callister Wood is in front of me where I climbed through and over the last time, I came round here to get over to Old Byland to take me back to Helmsley. Today instead of going in that direction I’ll follow the Cleveland Way. I’m just crossing the stepping-stones now over the stream. The stream that in a mile or so joins the River Rye near to Rievaulx Abbey.

(Walking and birdlife)

The path forks right to go towards Callister Wood or left to carry on the Cleveland Way and in a mile or so I reach Cold Kirby (gate opening) where I passed through this morning,

(Walking, bird-life, and many lambs bleating)

From the stepping-stones the wooded valley that at first was mostly deciduous became an almost alpine valley. Steep sided, conifers, and little lodges. I’m not quite sure what they were possibly a camping ground or something.

The path got then quite steep. I suppose I had it coming, as most of my journey out was downhill so most of my journey back had to be uphill. It was a steep ravine through the conifer forest that then brought me out onto open farmland and a long hike up a green lane, called Lowfield Lane. That eventually came out into Cold Kirby. I’m now at a little path behind the old church. I’ve got an excellent view of it.

(Birds singing and peaceful)

What a delightful village Cold Kirby is. It’s two rows of houses two rows of hoses either side of the road going up the hill from the church. A broad grass verge at each side of the road and a line of trees along the left-hand side. A very peaceful place and for me it’s at the top of a long hill that stretches all the way back three miles to Ashberry Farm.

(Walking)

Leaving Cold Kirby as the road goes uphill, there’s a track on the left. It’s called Cote Moor Road, it’s a green lane that continues up to the top of Hambleton Plantation and Sutton Bank beyond. As this morning there’s no indication of the fantastic view that awaits across a large portion of Yorkshire when you reach the top of Sutton Bank. Behind there is some indication as the whole of the moors over towards Helmsley is in view.

I was quite taken with Cold Kirby, it seemed quite a pleasant little place. There were places where you could buy tomato plants, strawberry plants, free range eggs which I didn’t as I didn’t want to damage. I was glad I didn’t because the few that I had I spent at the next table. About five houses up which has some beautiful handmade buttons. I’ve never seen them before. All different kinds, big ones, little ones. All painted by hand, they were really, really nice. One packet contained buttons in the shape of the sweets Liquorice Allsorts and then in another container there were buttons in the shape of yellow and blue sunflowers which were being sold for charity, for Ukraine. I only had a few pounds in cash to put in the honesty box so I was limited to what I could buy. Otherwise, I may now have had a rucksack filled with hand painted buttons.

(Walking)

I’m now back as far as the various plantations that run alongside the main road as it approaches Sutton Bank. To my left is a quite mature conifer plantation. To my right the stables and racehorse gallops that I passed this morning. The area that I just walked through has a little sign on the end by the gate, it says.

You are currently on the site of the historic Hambleton Racecourse. A key element in shaping today’s horse racing scene as we know it. It was described as one of the finest natural racecourses in the country. Noted in records stretching back to 1622. It has been site to many a famous race and now home to Brian Smart racing.

There’s also an honesty box for flapjacks, water, and brownies which I could die for at the moment but there are none (laughs) just my luck.

(Walking and bird-life)

I suppose I should tell you a little bit about myself. I’m in my seventh decade and not as fit as I should be, but I do love exercise, being outside, walking. I went through a long period of my life where for one reason and another I didn’t go walking, it’s a long story but now I do, and I don’t want to stop. So, I’ll keep on struggling up these hills for as long as I can. I only mention this as I didn’t want anyone to be under the misapprehension that this was one of those extreme outdoor pursuit type podcasts. It’s a man going to visit and walk round a lot of the places he’s never got round to doing or seeing before.

(Walking)

So, bear with me if some days I sound utterly exhausted and crave flapjacks, brownies, and bottles of ice-cold water.

(Walking)

I’m now walking the last few hundred yards before I reach the National Park Centre at Sutton Bank. I’m nearly back to the main road that goes from Malton to Scarborough, I think. So, before I get to the side of the road, I’ll bid you farewell. Please do join me next time if you can and it would be wonderful if you could tell other people about this podcast, cheerio,

(Traffic noise, podcast ends)

Episode 17 – Leeds Country Way (1) to Barwick in Elmet

In this episode I begin my walk around the Leeds Country Way. A 62 mile circular walk around the periphery of Leeds. The path is often in open countryside and said to be never more than 7 miles from City Square in the centre. I begin at the large suburb of Garforth and walk to the pleasant village of Barwick in Elmet. At first there are busy roads and urban development. These soon give way to lovely lanes, field paths and woodland. We walk through an ancient kingdom, here of tragedy in World War 1 and at Barwick find one of the biggest maypoles in the country down for restoration. 

Episode 17 – Leeds Country Way (1) to Barwick in Elmet Gone Walking

In this episode I begin my walk around the Leeds Country Way. A 62 mile circular walk around the periphery of Leeds. The path is often in open countryside and said to be never more than 7 miles from City Square in the centre. I begin at the large suburb of Garforth and walk to the pleasant village of Barwick in Elmet. At first there are busy roads and urban development. These soon give way to lovely lanes, field paths and woodland. We walk through an ancient kingdom, here of tragedy in World War 1 and at Barwick find one of the biggest maypoles in the country down for restoration.

(Walking, birdsong, and distant traffic noise)

Hello and welcome to Gone Walking. I’ve started today from Garforth on the outskirts of Leeds. I’m here because I’ve chosen this as the starting for my journey around the Leeds Country Way. I started at a row of terraced houses at the top of the main street called Townend. This is easily accessible by bus and also by train. The station is only about two or three hundred yards away.

The Leeds Country Way is a sixty-two-mile circular walk round Leeds. I think it was devised in the 1970’s or eighties and I read somewhere that it’s never more than seven miles from City Square in the centre of Leeds. It is always one of the things I like about Leeds. It’s a big city but not so big that you can’t be out into the countryside in a matter of half an hour or so.

I walked from Townend along Barrowby Lane which used to be a little country lane that linked Garforth and Austhorpe in Leeds. I remember walking along it as a child and as a young man. It was a beautiful tree lined route. Unfortunately, only parts of it still remain due to a lot of development on the Leeds side. Not least of which is the A1(M) motorway that you could probably hear that was built maybe twenty years ago to link the A1 and the M1 which at that time ended in Leeds.

(Traffic noise)

I plan on doing the Leeds Country Way in the same way as the Cleveland Way that I’ve just embarked on. Walking sections of it but in the form of a circular walk. Initially Barrowby Lane is tarmacked and has got houses and stables and farms along it, but this soon gives way to the actual country lane.

Its cooler today, one of those overcast spring mornings where you definitely need to bring and extra layer with you.

I first did this walk about twenty-five years ago. I did it at the time over four consecutive days and I’m keen to do it again to see how much it has changed. How much the city has encroached into the countryside.

(Traffic noise, closer now)

I’ll be walking as far as Barwick in Elmet today before I turn around and walk back to my start point. Parts of today’s walk have changed very little in the last hundred years, but the first part has changed dramatically.

I’m now at the end of what was Barrowby Lane. I would have, twenty years ago I would have continued to walk in the open countryside until I reached Austhorpe. Now the lane ends abruptly and there’s a tarmac roadway taking you over a footbridge, over the A1(M).

(Loud traffic noise then walking and gate opening)

Once over the footbridge continuing on the Leeds Country Way the path goes downhill. Now crossing the Leeds to York railway. A little wooden footbridge with metal sides runs across it.

(Sound of train approaching and passing at speed beneath bridge)

This bridge is HUL4/20 Crawshaw Woods. Now dropping down to I think it’s Manston Lane. There are farm buildings, disused buildings, the Amaranth Cricket and Football Club is a pavilion type building in the distance. There are paths here left and right. Mine takes me straight on down to the Cock Beck, then up the lane to Scholes and then Barwick

Along Manston Lane towards Leeds for as long as I can remember there was the Barnbow tank factory. All throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties they built Chieftain tanks there and as a child it was always fun going on the train watching the tanks being put through their paces or seeing the low loaders working their way through the streets with the enormous pieces of military kit attached to them.

(Walking)

As I walk down the lane towards the beck, on the right are farms and horses in fields but on the left is an area of scrub and trees that has never been developed. I think this is because it is protected. The area was in the first world war a munitions factory where I believe it was predominantly women employed and there was also a terrible accident with a great loss of life. In amongst the trees and scrub you can still see the remains of old buildings and broken-down brick walls.

(Birdsong)

The noise from the motorway has faded now and this walk is very pleasant and pretty much unchanged for as long as I can remember it. It’s only when you reach the higher ground that you can see the development getting ever closer.

I’ve just passed over Cock Beck which at this point in its journey is just a small stream, I think it rises in the Whinmoor area of Leeds where springs and streams start. Further downstream the Cock beck becomes a small river that flows into the River Wharfe just south of Tadcaster.

The stream is surrounded by woodland, and I heard a Woodpecker and then further back nearer to the motorway I’m sure I heard a Curlew and saw it with its long beak flying overhead. The path climbs steadily now. The next village along the way being Scholes. The path climbs steeply uphill now through a beautiful section of woodland. Mature trees, bluebells, wild garlic just starting to come through.

(Walking and birdsong)

This path along the edge of Leeds is delightful and alternates between hedgerow and woodland. The surface is bricks and stones and I think it may in the past have been used by the munitions factory. It is now though a very quiet rural lane that could easily be fifty miles from Leeds city centre not just seven.

(Walking and birdsong)

Having now reached higher ground I can see Scholes in the distance. A lane goes off to the right, goes up to Barwick but the Leeds Country Way takes a more circuitous route linking up small communities as it goes around Leeds. I think possibly for ease of access. It is a very easy walk to do using public transport. Catching a bus back into the city from your finish point. Then catching a bus back out the next time. The lane I’m on is shown on the map as being called Bog Lane.

(Walking)

I’m getting close to Scholes now and the way ends inauspiciously at the back of a row of semi-detached houses. It comes out on the road that runs from Leeds to Barwick and Aberford. This whole area is steeped in history. The village of Barwick is actually Barwick in Elmet and Elmet was an ancient English Kingdom when the country was made up of a number of nations before it was unified. I think in the eight or nine hundreds under King Athelstan the first time there was an actual country of England but historian I am most definitely not. But of course, I love to share any little snippets of information I have with you. I just can’t guarantee that they will be accurate.

In a few hundred yards I come out onto the road and there’s a small traffic island and on it is tree I’ve always known as the Coronation Tree. It’s quite pretty in winter, the villages always put pretty lights on it. After the Coronation Tree I walk a short way into Scholes before looping back on a track that will take me back onto Barwick in Elmet a few miles further along the path.

(Walking, birdsong and traffic noise)

A small plaque near the tree actually tells me that it was planted to commemorate the coronation of king Edward the Seventh.

(Traffic noise, walking then gate opening)

After following the road for a few hundred yards the path takes a sharp turning right behind the houses, passed the Scholes allotments and then into the open fields following the hedgerows towards Barwick. The path runs parallel to the road about a half a mile inland. We’re in quite an elevated position now and the countryside to the left is opening up. This is where the Leeds Country Way heads when it leaves Barwick. It crosses the A64 Leeds to York Road and then works its way to the village of Thorner and then on towards Bardsey, but this is very pleasant. There are low hedgerows, open fields, lots of birdlife, lots of insect life. Even though the temperature does feel more like early March than late April.

In the field to my right is a tractor ploughing with about fifty or so Gulls in its wake getting any little tit bits they can off the land as it turns the soil over. A Red kite has just flown low over the path, no more than ten or fifteen feet just gliding on the breeze and hasn’t got any higher as it flies across the surrounding fields. Again, looking for scraps off the lands that it can eat. It’s one thing that seems to strike me at this time of year about the birds. They seem to come so much closer to us in their search for food. They must be in real need of it. The path now reaches Barwick in Elmet, and the country lane ends. I’ll walk up to the centre of the village.

(Walking)

There’s a little, not really a village square. It’s at a point in the village where four roads meet. There’s the Swan Pub, the Gascoigne Pub and the ancient church that normally is all centred around the maypole which I think is one of the biggest in the country. It’s not there at the moment, what traditionally happened. Every three year it was taken down to be painted. It’s taken down on Easter Monday and put back up on Spring Bank Holiday Monday. The highlight of the day then and I think it’s still the same now. Is a person who is strong enough and confident enough would climb all the way to the top and spin the weathervane which is quite a feat.

Whilst down its stored in a field at the back of the Gascoigne which is actually Wendell Hill Hall and Earthworks. An ancient monument and I’ll visit that next time when I pick up the Leeds Country Way. Looking into the fields there’s a green gate that takes you up to Wendel Hill and there’s a big blue tarpaulin and a scaffolding framework and the whole of the maypole is laid out on trestles going up into the field. Possibly the next time I come the maypole will be back up.

(Walking)

I’ve left Barwick now, I just passed through a housing estate, down a little snicket between two houses and I’m back in open countryside.

(Sound of a tractor)

A little bit of route finding there and avoidance of a very large tractor with a big roller on the back breaking down the soil ready for seeds to be sown. I followed the path with a hedge and a ditch on the left filled with wildflowers, beautiful and the Red Kite that passed me earlier as I was walking from Scholes is still around. (Wind noise) Putting in a lot less effort to flying than I seem to be doing walking. I’m getting treated as I walk and talk to a beautiful display by the Red Kite, I was telling you about. Its running along the hedgerows, no more than fifteen of twenty foot above them. As it spins and turns on the breeze, it seems so effortless. A few beats of the wing every minute or so manages to keep it in the air. There are now two of them, spinning like a whirlpool and then there were three. Three Red Kites all circling above me.

As I climb out of the little valley that I was in heading back towards Garforth I can actually see it now once more over to my right I can see the cranes at The Springs shopping Centre. A little way to the left vehicles travelling on the A1(M) and then further across to the left the motorway and then warehouses at Garforth and the spire of Garforth church in the distance. Looking back, I can see Barwick and Scholes. The three Red Kites are now just gliding off into the distance.

To my right now is a little hedge and a filed filled with Rapeseed which is now in full flower. The whole field just a sea of yellow. Again, as on the outward journey this whole area between Manston Lane and Barwick is really pleasant. I’m walking through fields that have been left for grazing just filled with grass, lovely hedgerows and nice stretches of woodland. There are distant glimpses of the development and the city but then and I suppose its to be expected for a walk around the perimeter of a city. Here though you could be fifty miles away from Leeds not just mere seven.

I’m working my way back to my start point and the quickest way is through Garforth Golf Club. I reached the perimeter of the club and I’ve doubled back now towards a tree lined ridge in the distance. Where the trees are is where Bog Lane is which is what I walked up earlier on the Leeds Country Way.

(Walking)

This is really too nice. I think this is why I’ve decided not to go through the golf club, walking through these fields and along the hedgerows is absolutely delightful. Theres the field of Rapeseed that I passed on my way down, it’s now on my right going up the hill and there’s a farm on top of the hill set amongst some trees. My path goes at an angle across the field to a stile and then across the next field to the wooded area and beyond that the lane.

The weathers settled down a bit now, it’s a little bit warmer. It was bitter this morning. No sign of the sun yet though just a blanket of grey and white cloud filling the sky.

(Walking)

Walking along a path through a field of crops its apparent that we haven’t had much at all. The ground is baked hard and cracked like you might expect it to be in August not how you think a filed in England should be in April. We’ll see what May brings.

(Walking)

I’ve come out of the woods and across Bog Lane which was the course of the Leeds Country Way on my outward journey. I’m now skirting the edge of the fields towards Barnbow Wood and I’m still on the higher ground looking towards the A1(M) motorway and the whole of The Springs shopping Centre and Thorpe Park Office complex and the new houses that are going up around it comes into view.

In the field to my left which goes downhill towards the Cock Beck, on the map it shows the site of Barnbow Hall. Theres nothing now to show it but it would have been a lovely spot for a stately home. Looking over the fields towards Garforth.

I decided to come this way back as the new Outer Ring Road extension is gonna go passed the far side of these woods and for all the time, I’ve ever visited them they’ve been really peaceful. Pretty much out on the edge of town but not close to anything either really. Now the city is gonna encroach right up to the edge. So, I imagine when the road opens later this year the peace and quiet of this woodland will be lost but it’s a lovely wood. There are parts of it that are covered in Bluebells and Wild Garlic. There are lots of Beech trees, predominantly Beech trees that are just starting to come into leaf and they’ve got that beautiful light green, almost glows even on a grey day.

(Walking)

I’m at the far edge of the wood now and about a hundred yards away I can see the bridge that’s being constructed to take the new road over the Cock beck. Quite a substantial structure.

((Walkin and birdsong)

So, I hadn’t realised until now that the roads going to come to within a hundred feet probably of this bottom corner of the wood.

(Distant voices, machinery noise, birdsong and gate opening)

I’ve left Barnbow Wood now and I’m walking along a little track that skirts the old Barnbow munitions factory. To my left is a hedge and fields beyond, to the right a big scrubby area that contains the remnants of the factory.

(Walking and birdsong)

This seems like a good place to end todays podcast. If you’ve enjoyed it, please feel free to share it and tell your friends about it and do if you can join me next time. For now though I’ll say cheerio.

 (Podcast Ends)

Episode 16 – Cleveland Way (1) to Rievaulx

In this episode I embark upon the Cleveland Way, a 110 mile horseshoe shaped walk from Helmsley to Filey in North Yorkshire. It may take some time as I plan to do it as a series of circular day walks. I begin in the pleasant market town of Helmsley, following the Way to just beyond Rievaulx Abbey where I take a less trodden route back. Pristine waterways, wildflowers, ancient woodland and spring dominate this splendid day.

Episode 16 – Cleveland Way (1) to Rievaulx Gone Walking

In this episode I embark upon the Cleveland Way, a 110 mile horseshoe shaped walk from Helmsley to Filey in North Yorkshire. It may take some time as I plan to do it as a series of circular day walks. I begin in the pleasant market town of Helmsley, following the Way to just beyond Rievaulx Abbey where I take a less trodden route back. Pristine waterways, wildflowers, ancient woodland and spring dominate this splendid day.

(Birdsong)

Hello and welcome to Gone Walking. Today I’ve started in the small market town of Helmsley on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. It’s a bit of a honey pot as far as Yorkshire tourism goes but I’m here for a reason. The Cleveland Way, a long-distance footpath, goes in a long horseshoe from Helmsley to Filey on the Yorkshire coast. It’s a hundred and some miles long and follows the Cleveland Hills until Saltburn and then the coast.

Conveniently it starts at the car park in Helmsley. So, I find myself here on a Friday morning when the sun’s shining with hundreds of like-minded people. Leaving the car park the path follows a clear track uphill and then skirts the edge of Duncombe Park. I haven’t done that many long-distance footpaths, but I did the last half of this quite a few years ago. I started at Redcar, picked up the Cleveland Way at Saltburn and walked down to Filey over five days. It was absolutely fabulous. It was in November as well; the weather was great.

So, I thought I’d do the first half and, in all likelihood, the last half again. I’ll not be doing it all in one go. For convenience I’ll do small sections, make them into circular walks. Here we are, Day one, section one of my adventures along the Cleveland Way.

(Walking)

Helmsley’s a lovely little spot, hence all the early morning tourists. It’s got a great castle, it’s got a walled gardens, birds of prey centre and enough trendy shops and coffee bars to fill a small city.

(Walking)

So, if that’s your thing Helmsley is a great place to go. If it’s not, do as I did leave the car park and begin steadily climbing uphill and into the lovely countryside outside of Helmsley. As I climb the track Duncombe Park is on my left with a low wall. On my right is open countryside, arable, cattle, sheep. Today is beautiful, the weather’s gonna be about 16/17C, clear skies and a fairly stiff breeze but not a drop of rain in sight. I’m hoping today to get as far as Rievaulx Abbey

There have been a number of woodlands on the left as I’ve walked. First the wonderfully named Blackdale Howl Wood. Shortly after that is a house standing alone which is Griff Lodge and then on the left is Jinny York Bank which is a steep bank. I can’t actually see the bottom of it amongst the trees and then a little bit further along is Whinny Bank Wood.

(Walking)

The Celandines are still flowering, as are the Bluebells. I’ve seen the first Yarrow flower and there are Pheasants in the fields and the woodland is alive with birdsong.

(Walking)

On the right in a field is a medieval village of Griff, g, r, i, double f. I’m not sure there’s much to see except humps and hollows where the houses once stood.

(Walking and birdsong)

There are wild primroses all along the path.

(Walking and aeroplane noise)

The woodland on the left is commercial pine forest. Quite densely planted. On the right dividing the path from the farmland beyond is a newly planted hedge. Hundreds and hundreds of young saplings planted in the double row that you need to get a good hedge.

(Walking and birdsong)

Whinny Bank Wood gives way to Quarry Bank Wood as I start once more dropping downhill. This is a much more mixed planting and seems to have a lot more wildlife. The primroses are absolutely beautiful.

(Walking and birdsong)

The woodland floor filled with bluebells and Wood Anemones, a mass of blue with hundreds of thousands of little white specks. As the little white star shaped flower peeps through, it’s beautiful.

(Walking)

I’ve left the woodland now and I’m in a deep tree lines valley by the side of a small country road.

(Walking and sound of quad bike going by)

Complete with a little four-wheel drive farm vehicle. The valley floor is broad and flat, all grassland from farm animals and horses.

(Walking)

The road I’m on, very soon will bring me to Rievaulx Abbey. Behind me it would take you back to Helmsley and carrying on towards the West, it would take you where the Cleveland Way goes. Higher into the hills to the point where they reach the Vale of York. The Cleveland Way turns right there and heads North.

(Walking, pheasant call and birdsong)

I’m in the valley of the River Rye (sound of rushing water) just sitting by a three arched bridge that takes the road over, continues to Old Byland. To my right would take you up to Rievaulx Abbey but for the moment I’m just sitting on a tree stump watching the world, hikers and tractors go by.

(Sound of rushing water and birdsong)

It’s the first time I’ve ever been to this valley and it’s so peaceful. Just small roads coming in from three directions and yet only twenty miles or so from York. Sitting by the bridge is beautiful, opposite is a garden that comes right down to the river side. There’s also a small stream that is the rushing of water you can hear that joins the River Rye. The River Rye continues its journey and much further downstream it joins with the River Dove and they both flow into the Derwent north of Malton. The Derwent that I walker along a few weeks ago near to its tributary with the Ouse. I’ll not visit Rievaulx Abbey today but I’m continuing on the road over the bridge towards Old Byland. A little bit further along the Cleveland Way. I’ll then loop back and follow the track back to my start. Although on a day like this I think I’d be happy to just keep going towards the North Sea.

(Walking)

I’ve now crossed Rievaulx Bridge I’m continuing up the road with a little stream that entered near the bridge on my righthand side. The hedgerows are coming into full bloom now. The Hawthorn still a little way to go. After Rievaulx Bridge the Cleveland Way follows a section of road for a mile or so and it’s very pleasant with hedgerows at both sides.

(Walking and a car passing by)

The valley’s narrower now, steep slopes to either side filled with deciduous woodland. There are just hints of green among the trees in the woods as they slowly come into leaf but predominantly a lot of the trees are still bare.

(Walking, birdsong and sheep)

The Cleveland Way has now left the road and I’m going along the side of a steep hill on the left, through some woodland and soon I’ll turn back. Heading back through the hills towards Helmsley and will have to continue the Cleveland Way another day. On my right is a little stream but also some quite large ponds. I think there’s about three that fill the entire valley floor, and they are actually higher than the stream. I’m not sure what they are, whether they are an old quarry or naturally fed lakes.

(Walking and birdsong)

This is definitely Kingfisher and Dipper country. Neither of the two birds have I ever seen often so I’m not holding out too much hope but the woodland now on all sides is absolutely gorgeous. Steep sided valley, ancient trees and still the canopy not fully formed. So, a great view looking up of the amazing shapes.

(Walking and birdsong)

I’ve reached the point where the Cleveland Way continues without me. According to the map it heads up into Flassen Dale. I’m continuing as I have been for the last mile or so in Nettle Dale crossing a small stream (dog barking in distance) and then following the path up the ever-narrowing valley.

Well, that was a steep old climb, almost straight up through Callister Wood. What beautiful, beautiful stretch of woodland that was though but just as quickly we reached higher ground. Farmland (out of breath and sound of wind blowing) hedgerows. This is very pleasant, between two valleys now walking along a field of newly sown crops blowing in the wind. Making those many different patterns. Like waves across a green sea. The landscape here looks flat, the valleys hidden from view. So, the horizon is quite a way, maybe ten/fifteen miles away dotted with pockets of green and trees and farms and walls and hedgerows. Just while I was standing here trying to shield the microphone from the wind, a Hare came between the hedge from the next fields and trotted off down the path where I’d just come without even noticing me. There are butterflies now, along the path, bees, dragonflies, horseflies. The insect kingdom seems to have come back to life in this past week or so.

The small hamlet of Old Byland is about a mile/three quarters of a mile to my left. I think fairly soon I’ll turn right and head back towards Rievaulx, down another steep sided valley.

(Gate opening)

I think this is the first time I’ve ever been walking in this area, and this is the sheer joy of these little adventures for me. I’ve just come off the farmland into what on the map looks to be a steep sided valley and it is absolutely stunning. I think my path towards Rievaulx is fifty/seventy-five feet below me and I’m slowly working my way down to it and it’s really hard to explain how pretty this is. Trees growing out of rocks, wildflowers, birds. A real revelation, I was walking across a field of cereal crops a few minutes ago and now I’m in a valley with overhanging rocks and (quiet and peaceful) complete solitude.

And I was a little disappointed as I thought I had to trek up to the road near to Old Byland to pick up the path, but this is the actual path. I’ve now done a zig zag and I’m now walking downhill in the opposite direction, and it looks as if this valley is my footpath for the next few miles. Gaining all that height was hard work but well worth it and to be fair, since I first left Helmsley amongst dozens of other people all heading out on the Cleveland Way and since I left the vicinity of Rievaulx I’ve barely seen a soul. A party of schoolchildren on an adventure camping holiday, a few farmers and that’s really it.

(Walking and birdsong)

And now it seems I’m to have the North Yorkshire countryside completely to myself for the next few miles. Although there is a slight possibility that I’m a little bit lost.

It’s OK I wasn’t lost, just taking a less trodden path. I’ve now picked up the main path that would have brought me down from the road. I could see in the distance a white shape and I was looking on the map to see if there was a lake or a house and… brilliant white in the valley bottom, thinking it was some kind of building or some kind of water and as I get closer, I think it’s Hawthorn. Blackthorn or Hawthorn, just an absolute mass on a dozen or so trees.

(Walking, birdsong and wind noise)

I think it’s sometimes easy to exaggerate the beauty of the environment, but this is the first time in my life I’ve set foot in this valley, and it is breathtaking. What it must be like when the trees are all in leaf.

(Walking and birdsong)

It was Blackthorn, flower before leaf. Unlike Hawthorn, leaf before flower. There are old trees and branches strewn all around covered in moss and there are fungus on all the dead trees.

(Walking and birdsong)

I just heard an Owl. The valley now is, it’s opened up. The first part of it where I was raving about it, was like something out of Tolkien but it’s opened up now, maybe thirty metres wide, flat, with grass on the valley floor and then the steep V shape of the wooded sides.

(Walking, birdsong and faintly an owl)

The sky is almost clear blue. A few high wispy clouds and high above that strong breeze.

(Walking, birdsong and sound of wind)

I’m just walking down the lane back into Helmsley. I can see the church, the castle and the whole of the town laid out before me. About twenty minutes ago I was walking along the high ground with the valley to my right, just chatting with a couple and we heard this almighty road and when we looked through the trees. There was, I believe it was a, I think it was Hercules transporter plane at our level flying no more than a few hundred feet above the valley floor. Quite a sight, a nice spectacle to finish a nice day.

(Wind noise)

Until the next time, I’ll say cheerio.

(Walking, wind noise and podcast ends)

Episode 15 – To the East of Leeds

An exploration of the fields and lanes near the village of Aberford in West Yorkshire. Starting near the old chapel of St Mary, Lead, walking to Hazelwood Castle, then skirting the A1(M) before heading back to the start point. Woodland, wildlife, ancient earthworks and giant Yorkshire Puddings!

Episode 15 – To the East of Leeds Gone Walking

An exploration of the fields and lanes near the village of Aberford in West Yorkshire. Starting near the old chapel of St Mary, Lead, walking to Hazelwood Castle, then skirting the A1(M) before heading back to the start point. Woodland, wildlife, ancient earthworks and giant Yorkshire Puddings!

(Gate opening)

Hello and welcome to Gone Walking. It’s mid-morning in the week before Easter and today I’m taking a walk around the fields, lanes, and woodland to the East of Leeds. It’s a murky old spring morning. As I travelled to the start of the walk, there was low cloud and mist hanging over the fields and vales and just as I took my few steps the rain, that I think may have set in for a couple of hours began.

The walk today starts by the Crooked Billet. It’s on the road from Garforth to Tolton. In the field opposite the pub is an old chapel. The Lead Chapel, a settlement at Lead was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book back in the ten hundreds and all that remains of the settlement now is the chapel. I think the field that it’s set in would have had timber houses, but they’ve long gone. Just the bumps and hollows, presumably where buildings once were.

(Walking and birdsong)

Apart from the rain, it’s a gorgeous morning. Blackthorn is still flowering and some of the Hawthorn is just coming into flower. There are fields planted with Rapeseed that is grown for its oil and is already flowering, starting to mature and there are other fields around that have been left fallow where another crop of Rapeseed from last year seems to be coming through.

(Walking and sound of rain)

The Vale of York is about five miles to the West, and this is just the start of the low Pennine foothills. The hills that here are low and rolling, slowly get higher the further West you travel. After crossing the field with the church sitting atmospherically at the centre, we join a lane that gradually climbs uphill. This if you continue travelling North would take you straight through to the Hazelwood Castle but I’ve turned off and I’m heading West now along the course of the Cock Beck or River Cock as it’s sometimes known. This small river starts actually in the Leeds city area and flows East for maybe ten miles before it joins the River Wharfe just South of Tadcaster. It has some notoriety as the river that ran red with blood following the Battle of Towton. The battlefield is on some higher ground about two miles to the West of this location. If memory serves me correctly it was in the War of The Roses that the battle was fought. Its renowned to be the bloodiest battle fought on I guess English soil. There tens of thousands of people killed on the day in the most brutal fashion you could imagine. Hard to imagine on a peaceful day like today.

(Walking and sound of rain)

Along the flat valley floor is a line of trees. Not yet in leaf but covered in Lichen, every branch dripping with bright yellow Lichen. To my right is a field and the hill gently climbs up to some woodland. In the distance and to the right is Hayton Wood which I think I’ll walk through. Just seen a Hare in the field to my right, not sure what it was doing running backwards and forwards and then disappeared into the distance. Often see Red Kites and Buzzards when walking round here and I have been lucky enough just last year to see an Otter. I felt so privileged as the creature I don’t think had heard me as it had its head under water, just its tail and back legs were sticking up and it must have stayed like that for two or three minutes. Just flowing with the current looking for food. I froze because I wanted to get my phone out to take a photograph, get my binoculars out to have a closer look at it but in the end, I just stood perfectly still and enjoyed the moment, it disappeared upstream.

(Walking, birdsong and tranquil)

I’ve turned away from the river now and up the gently sloping valley sides to a point where I can enter Hayton Wood plantation. It’s a beautiful spot this, I often stop to have my lunch here and it’s no less beautiful in the rain. Trees along the top of both ridges, the whole landscape has a misty quality. The trees still dark brown mostly, not fully in leaf yet. A field in the distance bright yellow from the Rapeseed but very calming, a lovely day.

This wood’s lovely it’s not very mature I think it must be a commercial woodland. Walking uphill along the track, there are Bluebells, Wild Primroses, and little creamy white flowers in profusion of the Wood Anemone. Spring really has arrived.

(Walking on wet ground, birdsong, tranquil)

There are Primroses all along the side of the path, Bluebells in the woodland and occasionally among the Primroses the tiny little purple flower of the Common Dog Violet, with its small flowers hanging like bells very close to the ground.

(Walking, birdsong and tranquil)

I’ll just stop walking for a moment. If you can imagine, even though we’re at low level we’re shrouded in low cloud, the rain steadily falling.

(Birdsong, tranquil and sound of rain)

In places the leaves are just starting to burst through on trees in the wood and they look like, well to my wild imagination distant galaxies, drifting off, deep into space. One huge cluster of tiny green shoots, followed by another and another. Going further and further back, almost to infinity in the mist.

I’ve left the wood now and I’m walking on a good track that serves the farms in the locality. I’m gonna turn right shortly, go through the hedgerow. This area has quite a lot of horse racing stables. Not really something I know much about but through the hedgerow I come out onto some gallops with the little white plastic fencing that runs around racecourses, a racetrack. I’ve never yet seen any horses galloping round it and in the middle of that is a small copse. A small, wooded area and it’s one of the few areas on this whole walk that has very mature trees.

In the distance just coming into view is Hazelwood Castle.

(Walking)

Crossing the field inside the racetrack and dropping down Hazelwood Castle comes fully into view, and it looks very nice on a day like today. Shrouded in mist, set as it is in parkland. I’m not sure of its exact history, it was originally a stately home. I believe Mary Queen of Scots stayed there overnight on her travels. I think later it passed into private hands and for a long time was a religious retreat. In more recent times it has become a swanky hotel.

There are two lovely horses now in a field that I have to go through. Big horses, both looking at me. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I’m a city lad. They are lovely though, but I do hope they move before I have to walk through the field. Well so far so good. I didn’t think they were going to move away from the stile, but they did. I’m not sure if shoo, please go away is a proper horse term but they seemed to understand.

(Walking)

I’ve left the fields now and I’m back on a well-made track. This whole area between Aberford and Saxton and Stutton near Tadcaster is criss crossed by farm tracks linking up the various small communities. I don’t know if it’s unusual so close to a city but there are mile upon mile of unmade roads around here and its always fairly peaceful to walk. Just by the side of the track is an old summerhouse about two storeys high built like a round small castle that I guess would have been used when this was a home and the land all around private. It’s a lovely feature but has fallen into disrepair and now sitting as it is by a busy farm track surrounded by farm buildings, but one seems to have a good use for it.

(Walking, birdsong, and distant traffic noise)

I can now see the A64, that’s the main Leeds to Scarborough road. I’m still on high ground, to my right now I can see the Vale of York just beginning. I remember from a school geography lesson that although the A64 crosses the Vale of York, as it does so its higher than the surround land. This I remember being told is due to the fact that it had been built on a moraine at the end of a glacier that ended here in the last ice age. Hard to imagine really looking at this green rain-soaked afternoon that it would have once been like Antarctica. All along these tracks are farms every few miles most of them as ancient as Hazelwood Castle

(Walking, birdsong, and traffic noise)

I’ve skirted the edge of Hazelwood Castle and I’m now heading back into woodland. Another plantation. This one is called Hazel Wood, again mostly deciduous trees. The woods are very still, peaceful today. To my right a large area that’s recently been cleared and hundreds if not thousands of new young trees have been planted.

(Walking on wet ground and traffic noise)

I’m reaching the end of Hazel Wood. There’s a farm just beyond the boundary. It’s absolutely delightful this last section. Ther are Wodd Anemones and there are literally thousands of them. Twenty, thirty yards wide on either side of the path. I think its stopped raining, the droplets are dripping from the trees onto the woodland floor splashing on the delicate leaves and flower. They’re a creamy white bell-shaped flower with just a hint of pink where the flower meets the stem.

(Walking)

I’ve left the wood now and I’m walking down a pleasant lane with a hedge at one side and mature trees and open fields with electricity pylons running through on the right. In the distance going up from the valley bottom near Aberford towards Hook Moor and Micklefield I can see the eight lanes of the A1(M) in the mist and murk. It looks quite ominous, the lights on vehicles moving at seemingly a snail’s pace. Yet they’ll be hurtling along in the rain at sixty, seventy, eighty miles an hour. It looks quite eerie like some far off monster slowly working its way across the North of England.

Ahead just where there is a fork in the track there’s a Kestrel hovering about twenty feet above the footpath. Beautiful birds when you see them up close.

(Walking, loud traffic noise)

I’m now walking at the side of the motorway. Theres a steep banking leading down to it and at the opposite side a steep banking going up to the village of Aberford. The village is cut off from this countryside other than a couple of footbridges and a couple of access tunnels. It is a nice village though. Still got lots of pretty little cottages along what was the main road. Hard to imagine all the traffic going North to South passing through it. Even here though wildlife is making its presence felt, the banking is covered in bright yellow Cowslips the trumpet like flowers quite majestic against the violent noisy backdrop.

(Loud traffic noise)

The whole of this area that I’ve been walking in today is criss crossed by ancient earthworks. I’m just coming up to one of them now at the lowest point I reach by the motorway so therefore the noisiest. There is through an information board so for once my podcast may have some accurate facts.

(Lound traffic noise)

I’m standing by Becca Banks. The longest of three large banks and ditches known as the Aberford Dykes. The other two are South Dyke and Woodhouse Moor Rein. The run across a North South limestone ridge an important prehistoric route which was later followed by the Castleford to Tadcaster Roman road. The medieval Great North Road between London and Edinburgh, the former A1 and the present A1(M).

The dykes were previously thought to have protected the local Iron Age tribe the Brigantes against the advance of the Roman empire in the first century AD. Others have suggested they defended the later British kingdom of Elmet against the Anglo Saxons in the late sixth and early seventh century or protected the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira against the Mercians. Archaeological excavations have confirmed Becca Banks and South Dyke are 2500 years old, dating to the late iron Age around 400 BC to AD 70.

Becca Banks runs East to West for 5.5 Kilometres, from Potterton bridge in the West to Hayton Wood in the East. The bank was built above the north side of the beck with a ditch on the downslope. By using the natural slope, the earthwork would originally have been almost nine metres high from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the bank.

South Dyke lies on the South side of Cock Beck to the East of the A1(M) and is only one kilometre long. The ditch is on the upslope north side of the bank and the West end runs down towards a possible crossing point of the beck. In the best-preserved parts, the bank stands up to three metres high and the ditch ten metres wide.

Woodhouse Moor Rein is almost two kilometres long and in place the bank is five metres high and up to sixteen metres wide. The exact date and function of this substantial earthwork remains obscure.

(Walking and traffic noise receding)

Walking away from the motorway towards the East Becca Banks is to my right. I’m actually on top of the earthwork with the banking dropping sharply down to the ditch. To the West the whole area has been destroyed by the motorway. Going in this direction the bank goes all the way into Hayton Wood where it’s actually very clear that here is an earthwork there.

I’ve now turned off and I’m heading on a service road still following the course of the motorway. I go passed the water treatment plant for Aberford, uphill and then back inland towards my starting point. Even in recent times Aberford had three pubs which were all coaching inns in earlier times. The mail coach and stagecoaches travelling on the long journey North and South would stop. They had stables and accommodation. Two of them are now closed, been sold I think for private houses and there’s just one pub left in the village. As teenagers or in our early twenties we got into the habit of coming out here on a Fridy night. I’m not sure who we thought we were. There were plenty of pubs in the city that we went in, but we used to like our bus ride. I think it was just the fact that a bus came to the very edge of Leeds out into the countryside. So, we’d finish work on a Friday. Come here, drink copious amounts of beer, have fish and chips and go home on the bus.

(Walking)

I’ve left the service road now; I’m heading back inland towards the Crooked Billet. Behind me is the motorway and at the other side of it Aberford. I followed the road for about a mile and a half, and my ears are throbbing from the noise.

Ahead of me going roughly North to South, Woodhouse Moor Rein. The whole thing is now filled with hedge plants and trees but the closer you get the clearer it becomes. From my side there’s a straight drop down into a ditch and then on the other side a steep banking leading up to a raised earthwork. Standing where I’m stood human beings have been busy living their lives for thousands upon thousands of years. I always imagine there would have been wooden fencing running along the top and inside presumably communities, farms, animals.

(Walking)

Just negotiating the banking (slips and laughs) it’s a little bit treacherous after all the rain for the last few hours and out the other side the view opens up once again. Looking across to Hazel Wood in the far distance and Hayton Wood in the near distance.

(Walking, birdsong and tranquil)

I’m at the point now where I pick up my path that I followed out this morning. I’m at the crossing point of the beck. The waters quite fast flowing with all the rain but lovely and clear. I’ve never found anywhere deep enough to swim yet; I imagine there’s a little pool somewhere along here.

(Walking and birdsong)

Theres a Red Kite just overhead, not often I don’t come on this walk and see one. They’re quite common now and I believe were either extinct or almost extinct in the UK not so many years ago. Has to be one of the most successful reintroductions of a bird.

(Birdsong)

I think Otters are doing well though because growing up as a child they were very rare, or they seemed to be. A lot of the rivers were very badly polluted, and I read somewhere that there aren’t many rivers now in Yorkshire that don’t have Otters in them which is wonderful because they’re such a beautiful creature.

This little river or beck has had a lot of work done to it. I believe the environment agency did work to improve its flow and put weirs in and I believe there are Salmon now coming to lay their eggs in it which maybe explains why I saw an Otter in it.

I’ve been lucky the sighting last summer was the third time I’ve seen Otters. The first time was at a campsite at Ullapool about twenty-five years ago and to this day I swear it came up out of the water, took and Oyster Catcher, took it underwater, came back up and sat on the rock eating it.

The second time was a wonderful experience. I was walking with one of my sons on the Kyle of Durness in the very North of Scotland and he went all David Attenborough on me and laid down in the path. I followed suit and the cliff there is only a few metres. Three or four metres down to the beach and it’s a vast expanse of sand is the Kyle of Durness when the tide goes out and there was an Otter and a young Otter.

And we watched it for about twenty minutes and basically the mother or the father had caught a fish that was still alive, and they came up the shoreline amongst the rocks, let go of the fish which then tried wriggling back to sea and the little Otter was having loads of fun. Chasing it, catching it. I guess it was teaching it how to hunt and this went on for about ten minutes and the poor fish had no chance. Until eventually the mother went to the water’s edge got the fish, came back up on the shore and bit into its head and we were so close we actually heard the crunch. It was fabulous and then the two creatures sat there, ate the fish and we watched them walking off across the sand disappearing into the distance.

But they’ve all been great sighting that I’ll remember all my life. Not least the one last year because I never really expected to see one a mile or so from the Leeds boundary.

(Walking)

Almost back at the start of my walk back in the field where the Lead Chapel is, the Crooked Billet Pub in the distance. I forgot to mention earlier, its well known for its giant Yorkshire Puddings. Has been for many years, I think there’s been a pub there for hundreds and hundreds of years, but you can get Yorkshire Puddings for every course, starter, main and desert.

I’m just coming up to the chapel which is now owned by the Redundant Churches Trust. I think for a lot of years it was derelict and then was restored. Its no longer used as a church apart from once a year when they have an annual service but its open to the public and it’s a lovely spot to sit outside in summer or to sit inside on a cold winter’s day.

A place to pause and reflect on the days walk, the days exertions and what tomorrow might bring. Theres often sheep in the field surrounding it so there’s a little gate (gate unlocking) protecting the door which is ancient and weathered. (Enters chapel, door opening and closing).

The first documentary evidence of the church is in 1421 and that it was a church for a little estate and that 1596 it was in complete ruin. In the eighteenth century it was restored and the three-deck pulpit that it now has in the left-hand corner was installed. Its very simple with just half dozen rows of pews, the three-deck pulpit, and a stone altar. The roof is made of wood and there are various coats of arms and inscriptions on the walls. The doors interesting, it has various writing on the back of it.

Rededicated by the Bishop of Whitby in 1932, this chapel was repaired in 1784, built about 1150 AD.

There are streaks of lights coming through the gaps in the panel. I do love sitting in old churches where people have sat before me for almost a thousand years. The pews are beautiful, I’m guessing they’d be Oak, but they’re damaged, and you can see the marks of the tools. Where bits of wood have broken off, they show their age.

(Door opening and closing as leaves church)

I’ll say cheerio and if you can join me next time for the Gone Walking Podcast.

(Walking, birdsong, and podcast ends)

Episode 14 – Trollers Ghyll on A Rainy Day

A saunter over the moorland between Greenhow and Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Skirting the shores of Grimwith Reservoir, reaching a high point on Nursery Knott, then following ancient moorland lanes to the valley of Skyreholme Beck. The highlight of the walk is a climb up the stunning limestone ravine of Trollers Ghyll.

Episode 14 – Trollers Ghyll on A Rainy Day Gone Walking

A saunter over the moorland between Greenhow and Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Skirting the shores of Grimwith Reservoir, reaching a high point on Nursery Knott, then following ancient moorland lanes to the valley of Skyreholme Beck. The highlight of the walk is a climb up the stunning limestone ravine of Trollers Ghyll.

(Walking and sound of wind)

Today’s walk, I’ve started midway between Greenhow and Grassington and I’m going to do a circular walk today. North towards Grimwith reservoir and then back round towards Wharfedale and through Trollers Ghyll. And in the mile or so I’ve been walking across the moor I’ve had at least three seasons in about half an hour. The third lot of rain has just stopped, and the sun is coming out.

Most of the reservoirs in this area were built to service the needs of Leeds and Bradford. It is in a beautiful part of Yorkshire just inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Oystercatchers and Curlews struggling in this strong wind. The whole area is owned by Yorkshire Water Authority. They maintain the walls and paths and buildings. And in front of me is a barn by the side of the reservoir, typical of the stone-built barns of the Dales. This one has a lovely, thatched roof.

Waves lapping on tbe stony shore (windy) could easily be in a quiet corner of Scotland. Tere’s an Oystercatcher with its familiar black and white and its bright orange bill picking its way amongst the rocks. As I look across the reservoir, I can see the barren moorland stretching out towards Grassington and Kettlewell and the grey cloudy sky that gets darker as another rain shower comes my way.

(Noise of wind)

The weather seems to be closing in again, but I’ve reached the high point of todays walk. I’m standing by a rocky outcrop called Nursery Knott which is just to the south of me. I’m about 389 metres. To the West and North and East is a vast expanse of moorland. The one directly in front of me is called Jack Hall Flat and turning to the right I can see the road going to Pately Bridge and buildings that are Stump Cross Caverns maybe about a mile or so away.

A skylark singing and flying in this weather, I don’t know how, how the birds do it. So, I’m going to turn South now heading downhill, heading back over towards Wharfedale. Hopefully it might be a little bit more sheltered down there. Theres a lone car travelling on the road at the moment going past Stump Cross Caverns. The road continuing uphill just, and I can just see the outskirts of the village of Greenhow on the top of the hill. I’ts the highest village in Yorkshire. Greenhow was a mining village; I think the whole area is dotted with Lead mines and spoil heaps.

(Walking and sound of rain)

I’ve crossed the road and followed the clear track at the other side which the map tells me is Black Hill Road. It’s one of the green lanes that criss cross the Dales. They would have been the main routes between villages in the past. The weather is terrible, I thought today might be showery with sunny intervals. Today is torrential driving rain (laughs). I’m just pressing on, but I thought I best give an update.

The lane goes across the moorland which today was very bleak. I would like to have let you hear the many moorland birds that normally sing up here but on a day like this they are just struggling to survive. Initially in front of me and now to my left-hand side as I drop down into the valley where the start of Trollers Ghyll is. Is a big lump of moorland which is Barden Fell and at the top facing me is a craggy outcrop Simons Seat, a mile maybe two miles away? Over the other side of that is Wharfedale, Applereewick, Bolton Abbey going south and Grassington and Buckden going North.

My route continues down this stony, watery path which becomes Skyreholme Bank and in time a proper metalled road. This takes me to the little hamlet of Middle Skyreholme where I turn right and follow Skyreholme Beck uphill passing Parcival Hall on the righthand side. This should take me into Trollers Ghyll an impressive ravine that should take me back to my starting point.

I’ll put my phone away somewhere dry and press on. This update has come to you from underneath an ancient Hawthorn tree. It’s a beautiful, a beautiful place to rest for a few minutes.

(Walking, rain, then rushing water)

Just about to start my walk-up Troller Ghyll and I’ve stopped by a little weir. Theres a bridge over the beck and then a weir that drops over a six-foot drop into a tangled maze of fallen down trees. A huge tree stump that’s come crashing down into the small beck and the rain and wind as quickly as they’ve started seem to have stopped. Its actually bordering on quite pleasant although I’m now soaking wet and cold through to the skin.

(Rushing water then walking)

The path initially runs alongside of the beck, a beautiful little valley. To my right on the other bank of the stream is the walled gardens of Parcevall Hall. The gardens look very pretty with many different trees going up the hillside and large swathes of Daffodills.

(Walking and running water)

This short path before the start of Trollers Ghyll is lovely. There are Holly bushes, Flowering Currants, and a line of gnarled old mature trees. On the opposite bank is the greenhouse of the gardens and a large woodpile.

(Walking on wet ground and running water)

My path now starts to go uphill to the splendours that lie ahead.

(Walking on wet ground and running water)

The valley sides very quickly close in. On the opposite bank the gardens have given way to woodland and on this side the hamlet and habitation has given way once more to moorland. This time though as I head back up into the hills the sun however briefly is beginning to shine.

As I started to climb the valley closed in very quickly. Its reminiscent a little bit of Gordale Scar with steep sides and scree slopes. The trees still not fully into leaf so a very dramatic landscape and delightful in the few minutes of sun. Unfortunately, I think its starting to rain again.

At the moment its wide and the stream is still at the bottom of the valley but soon the sides close in even further and it becomes a steep, rocky ravine.

(Walking on difficult ground and trickling water)

Ahead of me lies the cliffs n either side with a narrow, dark gap between them. (Sound of crows) Trees hanging off the cliff face, this is Trollers Ghyll. (Wind noise) The lovely stream that I’ve been following stops and seems to just bubble from the ground at the side of the path.

Yorkshire is covered in vast areas of Limestone where rvers, streams and many caves run underground. I’m not sure but I think possibly Trollers Ghyll was formed in this way. Once uon a time it would have been a cave with a river running through it and the roof has collapsed leaving what we see today. I’d like to say it looked ominous and forboding but everything has looked ominous and forboding today apart from about the last twenty minutes when the suns shone.

(Walking on rocky ground)

I’m now basically walking in a gorge. Cliffs either side going up fifty/sixty feeet, extremely rocky path underfoot that gives the impression of being a river bed. The stream is now, the the surface stream is now a long way behind me. I’m not sure but I’m guessing the stream that bubbled out from the ground near the path is now underground. I can hear the wind and feel it blowing high above on the moorland. I’m sure the weather really hasn’t changed much up there.

Crows flying overhead, dozens and dozens of them. I’m sure at weekends and in the summer this place is absolutely packed but today its deserted. (very tranquil) Onwards and upwards.

I’m now at the head of Trollers Ghyll. It was a fairly stiff climb but I’m back out onto the open moorland. I’m actually perched on top of a ladder stile at the moment. I got up and over and sat down (sighs) taking a little breather. The stream bed on the moorland is well defined so there must be a point somewhere in the hills where the actual beck goes underground.

Stump Cross Caverns is only two or three miles away. I think they were discovered when they were lead mining in the area and they discovered a whole series of limestone caves. It’s beautiful now, it showered again but now the suns come out. its delightful, but all that wind and rain seem to have sapped y strength earlier.

(Walking)

There I was wondering where the stream went underground, when I bothered to get off the stile and start walking again fifty feet further up I heard the sound of running water (running water) and as quickly as it reappears at the other side of the ghyll it disappears in three small pools.

(Wind noise and sound of rushing water)

I’m now leaving the ghyll, the path turns left across a small footbridge. The stream now is once again a full-blown mountain waterway cascading over rocks.

(Sound of rushing water)

The path over the bridge continues uphill for a little further, through a new plantation. Then I’ll be on the open moorland and its green lanes all the way back to my starting point.

(Gate opens and closes)

A lot of the tracks that I’ve walked on today were used by miners and the mines were up on the fells. I don’t think, well I don’t think I realise sometimes how hard life must have been for people in those days because to even get to work, they have had to come up these tracks in all weathers. Just ahead of me as I come through the gate is an old building. A track going up the hill and an old tumble-down building and then what are obviously two big spoil heaps. This must have been a bleak old place to come to work every day.

(Walking)

I’m back at the start of my walk now high in the fells of the Eastern Pennines. Once I got to the top of Trollers Ghyll the moorland opened out and I could see all the walk that I’d done. To the North there’s a dip in the hills where Grimwith Reservoir was and the rocky outcrop that I’d walked over this morning. Then down the hill to the farmhouse on the Grassington to Greenhow road and then along the miners track. A tortuous walk in the wind and rain. Behind me Trollers Ghyll and the final leg of the walk along a beautiful, broad, level green lane, looking across to the West towards Wharfedale all the hills are now shrouded in rain and mist and low cloud. It really has been one of those sort of days. Until the next time cheerio.