Active April: Day One
Leeds Country Way #4: Barwick in Elmet to Swillington Bridge 9.9 miles
|Self at Barwick in Elmet, at the Maypole|
Take myself to the Maypole and note a 9.40am start, aiming to land the 2.40pm train at Woodlesford, and take in the Grey-pudding skies that will rule for today. Gone is the summery idyll of ten days ago, and Barwick now looks a whole lot more prosaic, and the LCW's trail out of the village via Main Street and Carfield Road is probably the least attractive part of the whole settlement. Perhaps it's good to know that such villages can appear to be thunderously ordinary. Immediately, this stretch of field walking takes feels dull, this is not going to be a day to warm the walking soul, there's not a lot to see by way of interest: a big flappy bird in the sky, a fire somewhere near the A1, the towers of Whinmoor, rapeseed that has grown to waist-height in the last week. Arriving on the edge of Scholes, provides a moment of having something to look at, it's an odd ribbon settlement that seem to have grown along the length of one road, but once across Leeds Road and onto Bog Lane, the boredom starts up again. Bog Lane? It's hardly a name to warm the soul is it? Grey skies and no views to speak of, and joining Barnbow Lane, the tracks and woods feel as remote as anywhere I've walked so far. Toward the end of the lane something finally shows up in the landscape to tickle my brain, an avenue of trees on the edge of the lane, odd looking raised terraces like old foundations in fields to the left and sturdy block houses off to the right. Has all the look of an old POW camp or some sort of military encampment to me. (Of course, nothing on the internet can provide any clues, so it's probably just farm buildings and my imagination getting overactive.)
|A Mysterious Landscape, near Shippen House farm|
Our westward phase starts here, and Brecks Lane is followed to see bluebells in Brecks wood and slurry farming and poly tunnels at Brecks farm, odorous in the extreme and thence south down a forgotten and isolated grassy lane to Whitehouse Lane, and at the junction with the A642, the saddest sight imaginable, an abandoned picnic area. Sealed off to prevent use by Travellers, or anyone else for that matter, but its such an odd place to have such a thing. I can't trace the path in the long grass, so make for the nearest spot that I can get over the fence and then go for a stretch along the A642. This road is just insane, it seem to be the avoiding road for those travelling east of Leeds and not wishing to use the motorway, and the speeds of many of the drivers suggests that they might have a death wish. Glad I don't have to cross it, as we go back into post-industrial lands of brickworks and collieries north of Swillington, and the path goes back into the fields to give a bit more country flavour, for more sights of horse farming before joining the road into Little Preston. Never heard of this village before, and the reason is because it's a dead end, and a very odd one too. Expensive new houses at the top, a sizeable old house in the middle with many farm buildings and then many chalets and caravans surrounding it, strange in any situation but perplexing here. We have a path that continues south into the heart of the old coalfields of this district, and first sight is Astley Lane, the coal road with no traffic. Then follow the drainage ditch that surrounds the old opencast site at St Aidan's, and miss a photograph of a hovering kestrel which annoys me no end, and as this site is only a short walk in the wrong direction, it's worth a brief trespass. Climb over the fence and up the hill to the edge of the natural ground and below the vast expanse of the site opens up before you. I'd visited the Walking Dragline here before, but this vantage point illustrates the sheer scale of the mining activity of the past, it might be becoming a nature reserve, but this is still a scar you can see from space.
|St Aiden's Opencast Mine / Country Park|
To Be Continued...
1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 69.1 miles