Saturday, 23 February 2013

Morley to Leeds 16/02/13

Self at Morley Town Hall
It may be early in my second season of walking, but it's now time to start out on a proper linear walk, not all done in a single expedition, of course, as that sort of thing is still beyond me, but it's time to stop walking in circles and to travel in a distinctive straight line. The Dales Way is the obvious choice, as it's straightforwardly accessible along most of its length and its start point in Ilkley is only 21 miles distant from home in Morley, factor in the Link to Leeds and it's only 7 miles away to a path that leads me all the way to the shores of Windermere. There's still plenty of Winter to traverse before we get to the joy of Spring, and there's no great hurry to get this done in short order, the season can afford me a few short ambles before we get to the real meat of the trail, so my walk to Windermere can start with the walk from home to the Dales Way Link in Woodhouse, getting in the remnants of three lost railways along the way. Weather projections for Saturday had stated the high probability of mist all through the preceding week so it's a surprise to find a bright day opening up when I rise, so I have to get on at the hurry up to make a detour to collect more books to add to the 2013 pile from Morley parcel office before heading to my start point.

Walking to Windermere: Morley to Leeds. 7 miles

Our odyssey begins at the top of Queen Street, under the colonnade of the Town hall, that majestic statement of 19th century civic pride. Interestingly, the front gates do not act as an entrance at all, and the vestibule behind the gates is apparently used for storing chairs! Anyway, it's 10.25am and Bowness-in-Windermere is only 110 miles distant, so let's start this long amble cross-country by heading through some familiar territory, down Queen Street, which is this town's main drag for take aways (I count 11 of them), past Scatcherd Park, one of the better appointed urban green spaces that I know. To Morley Bottoms, where the main block of shops would really spruce up nicely if entrepreneurs wanted to send this town down the boutique route, and thence up Chapel Hill, the sort of slope that makes you wonder how they once managed to send trams up and down it. Here we meet one of the forgotten relics of this town, Croft House, notable as the birth place of Herbert Asquith, Liberal Prime Minister of Great Britain 1908-16. As Church Street meets Victoria Road, we depart the obvious route to Leeds down Churwell Hill, and instead start out past Morley Parish Church, St Peter's, and along Rooms Lane, where a century of different housing styles can be absorbed, from Edwardian terraces through to awful contemporary builds that seem to have been abandoned off a farm access road. Beyond we pop out into the countryside and leave Morley behind, crossing over the M621 and getting a view of the site Gildersome East station again, before following the path that leads up to the jumble of buildings that makes up Hill Top farm, and there's a lot of activity going up up here for a Saturday Morning.

The New Leeds Line Embankment

Beyond here is the view towards Leeds, still shrouded in mist as the sun beats down on me, necessitating the shedding of layers, and then descend from the side of the motorway by the path that we ascended two weeks ago on my circular tour, down past New Stables to find our first railway relic as an overbridge in the familiar styling of the L&NWR crosses the farm lane as it carries the route of the New Leeds Line down a massive curved embankment down towards Farnley Junction. I follow the path alongside the length of this, a route which I first trod on the 2011 Nocturnal Ramble of Legend, and it would be conceivable to mount the embankment as various track lead up it but I don't fancy tangling with the barbed wire or marshy field between me and it. Stay away from trespassing then, and stick to the path as it squeezes between embankment and motorway and ascend to where the farm track crosses by the Jewish Cemetery to take a look back and take in the view of this huge earthwork as it curves through the landscape, and it's amazing that something so huge could disappear so easily, and I wonder how many people travelling along the nearby A62 would even notice it. There are not many visible remnants of the 'flying' Farnley Junction itself, and what does remain is on the wrong side of an inaccessible field, so I have to share a couple of fields with the horses as I squelch my way down to the A62 to cross over in search of my route north. A somewhat forgotten about path leads down the side of the Huddersfield Line, and a look back to the Gelderd Road bridge at least shows up the point where the New Leeds Line ascended away from here, and I head off north through the undergrowth above the rails to seek out Remnant #2.

Farnley Junction Tunnel

More correctly, it is the site of many remnants as this now utterly abandoned and overgrown area used to be the site of Farnley Junction engine shed (55c), and spurs off the main line to the fireclay works and the Dunlop & Ranken steel works, half a mile distant in New Farnley, forming a triangle. Once a major industrial site and now completely off everybody's radar, so I'm free to enjoy it at will, and note the overbridge that remains over southern spur, and follow the track down to pass under the abutments of the bridge that crossed the northern spur, which closed some time in the 1980s, and between is the site of the engines shed, closed in 1966 and there are no remnants of it visible. To leave this site, we find the tunnel under the railway which once brought workers to the shed and this feels like a path that hasn't been used by anyone in years, and so pass beneath the main line from a brick portal in the west to an older stone one in the east, and negotiate around the piles of earth deposited on the path to discourage (!) people from entering the tunnel. I love the fact that such a large site seems so abandoned and remote whilst so close to the city, but seriously someone needs to put a cycle path through that tunnel. Onward to enjoy the longest stretch of cobbles that I've ever met in the city, and in such an obscure location too to meet the A62 again, and if you want a game to play as you cross the Ring Road, try counting the traffic lights as this junction as I'm sure you'll never count the same number twice.

Holbeck Viaduct - West
Now we have to pond along the A62 for a stretch, sadly unavoidable in this land of industrial units and car show rooms, as well as an over-large branch of Greggs, and pass under the Wakefield line before crossing over to head down Brown Lane West, a road which used to go somewhere before the Inner Ring Road severed it, turning this route into Holbeck into an industrial dead-end. Cross said ring road to take the path behind Holbeck allotments, which are pleasingly busy in search of Remnant #3, which doesn't take a lot of finding as it is the massive structure of Holbeck Viaduct (officially Farnley Viaduct, but no one calls it that.). So glad that I got a good sunny day to walk along its length and photograph it at will, as it is a splendid sight, 1,124m long, with 83 arches and 10 iron girder overbridges, built entirely in blue engineering bricks by the L&NWR in 1882. It's dead straight for its first 700 metres and the western end is fun as the arches are not of regular size, including one skewed to cross a now culverted beck, giving it a haphazard feel, before evening out as we cross Domestic Street. Negotiate around the streets to keep near its side, and meet some of the local wildlife, including a friendly Staffie chewing on his plastic pork chop, before passing the garages hidden beneath the arches and emerging at Bridge Street, site of Holbeck Engine Shed (55A) of which little remains also, aside from the south wall along Nineveh Road.

Holbeck Viaduct - East
Sweet Street leads us under the Castleford line, and that passes under the viaduct which now takes on an S-shaped curve so as to meet the main railway lines west of Leeds station at Canal Junction, and it's all very attractive, despite the extensive post-industrial scrattiness, and I especially like the passageway that passes under it at a sharp skew. However, it was these tight curves of 20 chains (? yeah, I don't understand old measurements either) ultimately led to the viaduct's closure in 1987 as electrification and longer carriages would prove incompatible with it. Happy to see that it has endured since, and hopefully someone might find the money to turn it into the Leeds Garden High-walk or somesuch, when money becomes available in the future. Onward along Bath Road to meet Water Lane and take my last looks at the viaduct before going on east to appreciate the views of Tower works and the old mills arranged haphazardly before the 19th century roads were instated, also peer down into Hol Beck and ponder why in all my time up in this part of the world, I have still never visit Temple Mills, which is odd seeing as I'm an architecture fan and it is one of the most significant buildings in the city (I'm not even precisely sure where it is). Pass the Holbeck Urban Village, which seem to have been a victim of the economic times as it hasn't grown much since I last came this way five years ago to have excellent food and horrible service in one of the gastro-pubs along here (I can't remember which one).

Leeds Town Hall
Arrive by the canal warehouse and beneath the Dalek-inspired Bridgewater place to cross the River Aire at Victoria bridge, the centre point of all my Leeds walks, and set off into the city centre to make my way through the throng of Saturday shoppers to the start of the Dales Way link. There's plenty of city to see before then, passing the Hilton Hotel and the Dark Arches, complete with light-feature, emerging from underneath the station by the Scarborough Taps, the Leeds walkers pub, where I have never been drinking, oddly. On into City Square, where redevelopment has turned it around from the architectural horror show that it was when I first came north 20 years ago, and thence north along Park Lane, still home to the city's banking district, where the architecture is frequently inspiring, and a very large tow truck is attempting to move a very broken down bus. Pop out at the Headrow and look toward Cuthbert Brodrick's Town Hall to get in the view of the city that any fool should recognise, and then north along Cookridge Street, where St Anne's RC cathedral is a fine bit of building in the Arts and Crafts style, the Electric Press building has been rescued from too many years of disuse and the Leeds Museum puts the Mechanics Institute to good public use. Could stop for a bevvy in my favoured post-work watering hole on Millennium Square, but the presence of Ice Cube 2013 puts me off that idea, so onward past the College of Technology, one of the better bits of 60s building in the city to join Woodhouse Lane for a stroll up through the old country.

Leeds University - Parkinson Building
We now meet the territory of my youth, as it were, as this path was tramped many times when I was a student, passing Leeds Met, site of many gigs and nights on the watered bitter at Stomp, and then over the ring road into the territory of Leeds University and it's odd that whilst the vistas are still the same at street level, there are a lot more high buildings in these parts than there used to be. Pass Old Broadcasting House, former home of Look North, as well as the Fenton, the best of Leeds grotty student pubs. Note that Blenheim Terrace looks very good in this weather and that Woodhouse Congregational Church has finally had the Student nightspot makeover that I always assumed it had coming, and arriving at the Parkinson Building I look over to the School of History to fail to recall where mt tutor's office was and to realise that I have never revisited it since I graduated. Carry on north, past Chemistry and the Engineering departments to watch the 20th century's architectural styles lapse in quality, and point to more pubs of the Otley run, namely the Eldon (acceptable) and the Packhorse (way too small!), finally noting just how many eateries of my past have changed hands, for gone are the days of Kashmir, Theo's and Nafee's. At least Pizza Milano is still there, and still behind the times as it displays its 'Students Choice 2006' banner, but we stopped eating there after discovering the words 'Cheese Substitute' on the menu. Anyway, here we are at the corner of Woodhouse Moor, and the statue of HR Marsden (Mayor of Leeds 1873-5) marks the start of the Dales Way link, and as it's only 1.20pm and it's such a nice day, I really should continue on to Bramhope, but I don't want to burn myself out, so that can wait as there's no real hurry to get to the Lake District!

Next on the slate: Into the (Meanwood) Valley!

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 495.4 miles
(2013 total: 30.1 miles)

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