Sunday, 20 April 2014

Morley to Huddersfield 19/04/14

The walking year so far has not really had me exerting myself in my choice of trails, starting off at a steady pace of short walks for the colder part of the season and having largely avoided treks that would be all-day ventures. Nearly 100 miles into the 2014 season and I still haven't topped 12 miles in a single day, so it's time to make a break from such modest excursions, and as we've a long weekend of Easter break afoot, I can allow myself an extra day of relaxation before hitting the trail on Saturday. So, to the heart of Kirklees we look, finally cutting a path from home to the Calder valley and the south west (having failed to do so in my first 1,000 miles), to see if Huddersfield is a long way away or not, for I dwell under the idea that it isn't that far away at all, only 30 minutes distant by train, but we all know that travel time is deceptive as almost everywhere else in West Yorkshire is around an hour distant, and that line on the map is what tells the true story.

Morley to Huddersfield, via Batley, Dewsbury, Thornhill Lees, Whitley & Kirkheaton 
   16.1 miles

Morley Central Methodist Chapel
I'm not sure what happened to the bright sunny day that we were promised by the weather people, we have overcast skies and defiant cold spring temperatures in the air as I head out from Morley Town Hall at 9.05am, setting my course south down Queen Street before swinging round into Wesley Street, home of the Italianate and imposing Central Methodist Church of 1861, the largest and most enduring of the town's Nonconformist chapels, and a tale for another blog is the intertwining of the social history of Morley and that of Nonconformism in the 19th century. Opposite is the similarly scaled Wesley Street Mill, and a view to an angle on the Town Hall that is distinctly unfamiliar, and a wander down Oddfellow Street leads to Fountain Street where the Primitive Methodist Chapel and Temperance Hall stand opposite each other as if to reinforce my point. Past the still derelict Fountain Street Mill, to Chartists Way, to report that the site of Morley Top on the GNR Ardsley - Laisterdyke branch shows no remnants whatsoever, all scoured from the landscape in the late 1980s, but one of the goods sheds is still there, used by ATS Euromaster and oddly never noticed in all the times I've been past it, which is stupid because it looks like a railway building and it doesn't take a genius to decipher the words 'Great Northern Railway Goods Depot'. Onwards down Fountain Street, for a long stretch of Morley's stone terraces, many of which haven't been scrubbed too clean, and I'm glad to see that the Morley Academy still has its Victorian school building in use when so many others have been demolished or abandoned. Also, I'm becoming inclined to think that every substantial corner shop used to be a Co-operative store, and our tour through Nonconformism brings us another pair of chapels before we have to cross over the A650 to the Halfway House Inn (betwixt Bradford and Wakefield?) and then head out of town down Scotchman Lane. It's council hoses and terrace down to the M62 crossing, where a great view over the wrinkles of Kirklees and our distant destination should emerge, but the heavy clouds ruins the view point, but now we start the long descent down towards the Calder, and it's a long walk down through suburban plots we go, which first emerged in the early 20th century to my eyes, and continued as on of the most desirable of locals throughout it, judging by the quality of the houses.

GNR Cutting, Batley
I find it amusing that a pub called the Needless Inn is still in business, and is clearly not a unnecessary as many of its wayside companions, and two mile out from the start we can finally get off the footpaths to meet the Leeds Country Way path again, as it joins Howley Mill Lane to head down past the riding school and under the apparently wonky arched bridge beneath the Leeds - Huddersfield Line, and then it's shadowing Howley Beck through the trees to the point that it is too easy to miss the path junction and to wander into the converted buildings of the watermill itself. Rejoin the dirt track above the beck, and stretch along a wooded track, offering only a momentary view of St Thomas the Apostle, Batley and the abutments of the missing GNR bridge of the Wrenthorpe - Adwalton line, before descending to Lady Anne Road for accompaniment of industrial buildings, 70s council houses and rough common land by the beck, and also more long stone terraces. I don't take the footpath that burrows beneath the double width embankment where the GNR and L&NWR used to run side by side, sticking to the road to pass through the most unexpected of railway relics, massive retaining walls and abutments forming a deep cutting which is really quite amazing to be within, as the road s-bends to path under what was once the GNR Beeston - Batley line (last seen at Woodkirk and Soothill) and for some reason all the more impressive for being surplus to use, I'm sure if it wasn't in such an out of the way corner it would be better known. Press on to the B6124, failing to get a good perspective on the railway lines below to illustrate the doubled tracks, but the eagle eyed will spot that Batley Railway station appears to have half of its platforms missing, and I'll wander down past the front of the station because I'm not sure if I'll ever find a reason to walk from this station, to enjoy the large number of enduring railway buildings and the odd mix of upscale Victoriana and prosaic industrial use that surrounds it. Down again to pass the Alexandria Mills furniture outlet and under Batley Viaduct, another major bridge that I've never really acknowledged in all times I have ridden over it, the L&NWR's curving and 14 arched beast that dominates the view from down below, and another one for the scrapbook but sadly missing its parallel GNR companion on the Dewsbury Loop Line.

Dewsbury Town Hall & Self
Ascend Mill Lane to the short cut along the terrace on Bromley Street, which is actually all semis, which offers brief views across Batley's valley towards the town hall, Batley RLFC up on the hillside and to Redbrick Mill below. Hit the main road again along Commonside, which keeps lacking a good footpath on this side, moving on into Dewsbury district, looking down over the railway into the valley where mill conversions mix in with the current industries and become so absorbed by these views that I forget to look right to see up the high hillside of Crackenedge and to the nicely prosperous Victorian villas at the roadside. A short detour is necessary to use the footbridge over the railway to see where the GNR trackbed endures as a car scrapyard, on the site of Batley Carr Station and in front of the north portal of Crackenedge Tunnel, another odd relic that you would never notice was there if you didn't look for it deliberately, and then its back to the road to the next detour to find the tunnels vent, still standing by the current railway line to confuse the passing travellers and surely unnecessary on a tunnel only 161 yards long? The road descends as the eye follows the alignment of the GNR line down into Dewsbury, right up to the point that the A638 Ring Road consumes it, and you pass beneath it to meet the crowds that gather in the busiest quarter of the town, namely at Dewsbury Market whilst my attention turns to the remains of Dewsbury Central station, still sitting below the elevated road, looking as if its gates are just temporarily closed despite the fact that trains last came this way in 1964, and an excellent bit of re-use well deserving of its architectural award in 1998, and the Station Hotel remains too, mostly to slake the thirsts of local shoppers these days. I pass along the alleyway by the Ring Road, and pass through the car park of the impressively scaled Baptist church, despite the signs asking me not to, and that drops me at the car park at the back of the Town Hall, which I hadn't anticipated visiting, but I'm so close to it that I'll claim this as an unscheduled visit, and it is probably the sixth most notable in the county as Dewsbury District was fused with Huddersfield to form Kirklees Borough in 1974. Nice looking Free-Renaissance styled building of 1889 too, at least from the back, and I'm in no position to describe its front as I can't see it, but it's appearance on my day is an unexpected bonus, and I start to wonder how small towns around the county have to get before they have no town hall for me to visit?

Headfield Viaduct
Across Rishworth Road and find the path that leads off below Wakefield Road, where a handy dog walker indicates that the path I'm looking for really does lead through the yard full of caravans, and if you've ever wondered where fairground people live, this is one of those places, though they mostly seem to be away on business at present, with only a couple of attractions left behind in a poor state. The footpath beyond is well concealed, and surprisingly rough seeing as the Kirklees way follows it, and we are back on the GNR Dewsbury Loop line, and between here and the Calder stood the extensive Railway Street goods yards (still active up to the 1980s), whilst the rising hill to the north provides a welcome green space in the middle of the town. Soon enough we meet the hard path of the Dewsbury - Ossett Greenway, ascending to pass through Earlsheaton Tunnel, but I'll be meeting the 1887 Headfield branch, linking the GNR to the L&Y pressing on to the riverside to cross the Calder via the hugely impressive Headfield viaduct, with 14 stone arches leading to the crossing of Sands Lane and a pair of Iron Bowstrings over the river. A remarkable survivor, reopened in 2011, and proof that an iron bridge can be rescued for further generations to enjoy, and a great place to burn off a couple of dozen pics before I pass on, wishing I could photograph smells as one of the local factories is either blending spices or has a lot of local workers all cooking their lunch at the same time. Beyond Bridge 3, I'm delighted to find that the path continues over the Dewbury arm of the C&HN, as I hadn't known that it had been developed, so pass over Bridge 2 to meet the still extent rails of the Headfield Branch, and to get a good close look at Bridge 1, where the GNR and L&Y rails merged. Take a look at the still extent trackbed towards the L&Y's Market Street branch, before striking off to the bottom corner of the Savile Town playing fields and down the alley way to the local industrial estate, the ideal spot to be as the day hits its greyest. Hit Headfield Road, and wander into the middle of a gathering Asian wedding party, oddly, and then the last of the railway relics for the day appear, a trio of abutments which once carried the Midland railway branch to Savile Town over the road and the L&Y Calder Valley line, and these last few miles have been the most extraordinary collection of relics of the Railway Age haven't they?

Quzlewell Farm & the Way Travelled
Over the Calder & Hebble on Slaithwaite Road bridge, and then track a ways through Thornhill Lees, the lower half of the town which lives atop the nearby hill, and a cut along Ingham Road takes me to Lees Hall Road, for a long road walk, and after all the interest of the preceding miles, it's finally a dull stretch, which starts giving me fatigue for my love of stone terraces, with only the odd period outlier and the changing perspective to the north keeping thing interesting. The path I intend to take into the countryside fails to materialise, but there is another track that leads parallel just past the allotments and Ravenshall school as the ascent to the high slab in the middle of the district starts, finally offering some sunshine as I hit the rising track. The views north steadily improve as I head up Ouzlewell Lane, offering a panorama from Upper Calderdale, past Mirfield, the Spen Valley and Ossett, an a excellent vista into the route just travelled. hard going after relatively level stuff, and the day clouds over again as I pass Quzlewell Hall farm, and that's not my typo, it might be OS's or reality's. Beyond, the rough and muddy Back Lane bridleway leads me to the top of the woods which form the popular walking grounds south of Ravensthorpe and Mirfield, and I'm happy to find folks of all ages out on the rising track, but less happy when I think the woodland should be proving a riot of Bluebell carpet, as a lone Daffodil is all I can find. The path hugs the perimeter of Dewsbury District Golf Club as it levels off, keeping me off the fairways for once, and a look south shows up Emley Moor Transmitter, your regular companion in this part of the world. I'll keep on all the way to Whitley, avoiding the various horse riders, as I had plotted a route keeping to the bridleways, but dropped it when I felt like I didn't fancy 100 more metres of descent and ascent on the day, and thought that I might earn myself a view if I stick to the high grounds. Whitley is a mix of old houses and 30s council houses, with a reservoir looming above it (how hill top cisterns work, I'll never know), also possessing a sizable inn, the Woolpack, and an eccentric church, St Mary and St Michael. I need a lunch spot, found next to Charlotte's Ice Cream Parlour and the farm park of Unusual Breeds, an odd location for such until you see the view, surely spectacular on a good day. Revealing Rombalds Moor to the north and Ferrybridge in the east, it's the best view point for Mirfield and a better all rounder than Castle Hill, and each trip to a vantage point makes this landscape make a bit more sense, I'm not feeling as lost as I did on my last two trips to this plateau.

Gregory Farm & the Route to Come 
Clough Road, my route of choice lacks a pavement, but I'm okay with that as I can keep my wits with traffic, at least until it hits a sharp downhill stretch, single car width with no verge and a blind corner at the bottom, nope, not dicing with death here, instead I'll bag the footpath detour over to the B6118 Liley Lane, where there is a lot more traffic but enough footpath to not risk injury. The cloud cover finally starts to break as the high land crests and I start down with the Colne Valley starting to emerge, with Castle Hill, Meltham Moor and Black Hill appearing off to the south west and Huddersfield settling down at the valley floor. I've still got miles to do before I get there though, hitting the cross country route again down to Gregory Farm, looking back to identify the strange folly on the hilltop as being The Temple, part of the Whitley Park estate, now passed into history, and then continue into the cleft below which looks like it has been popular with off road bikers in recent times. Muddiness continues as the next fields are traversed, with duckboards laid to cross a marsh, and the rise beyond being pretty sticky too, so I'm happy to meet a hard surface again around the hamlet of Houses Hill, which looks like a burgeoning holiday village, and this landscape seems to be littered with similar settlements. The road turns to muddy bridle path pretty quickly, and proves much harder going than it needs to, before it resumes as impacted farm track and starts the descent down to the main road, but at least it provides me with the Bluebell Carpet that the day lacked earlier, as well as a hoot of laughter as I find that the track is called Long Tongue Scrog Lane. Follow Lane Side Lane down past a pair of attractive low-ranged farmsteads, and also one of the most ostentatious country houses I've seen in a while, stood right opposite the runoff pouring from the broken drains of the abandoned clay pit on the opposite side of the road. A beckside walk beckons as I depart the road, for a couple more fields in the direction of a church, and passing the map fold means that I don't know where  am until I'm upon it. This is Kirkheaton, with the parish church of St John the Baptist and the Beaumont Arms forming a well placed combo, and the churchyard provides a memorial to 17 children killed in a factory fire in 1818, with an inscription which really goes to the heart of one of my problems with Christian thought: 'A striking and awful instance of the uncertainty of life and the vanity of human attainments'. First half, yes; second half, no!

The John Smith's Staduim
Only a short stretch into the outer edge of Huddersfield and the countryside soon feels very far away, as my choice of route takes me from School Lane and onto Crossley Lane, between a disused factory site on one side and a completely derelict one on the other, not the prettiest of stretches but necessary when you are picking a route to take you past what you find interesting. Over Lees Brook, a branch of the Colne that influences the landscape more significantly than its size would suggest, and then off via the bungalows of Cow Heys to meet the footpath that rises through the recreation grounds of the Dalton and Rawthorpe council estates, and naturally the sun blazes down for the last ascent of the day. There's an old farm at the top to distract you from the 1950s housing, but once again it is proved that a council estate can look much better if planned with a varied pattern book and an interesting mix of materials, sunshine also helps of course, clearly being enjoyed by the kids with the bouncy castle in their back garden. Bradley Mills Road leads down the hill, not really wide enough to carry traffic in both directions, and heavily shaded by the trees which clad the hillside of Kilner Bank, and no view at all can be gained of the Dalton Works, which occupy so much of the floor of the Colne Valley, only the battlemented Dalton Grange stands out, clearly built here before the tides of history made the district a bit less appealing. Our objective of interest is at the bottom of the hill, namely the home of Huddersfield Town FC and Huddersfield Giants RLFC, namely the McAlpine Galpharm John Smith's Stadium, built in 1994-8 and still one of the most aesthetically pleasing new football grounds in the country, with is quartet of gracefully curving stands and its ability to sit snuggly in its surroundings, at least when viewed from the south. It's not a match day today, but the cinema complex means the site is still busy, and I've never attended anything at this venue (not even when R.E.M. played here foolishly), but next weekend a certain team from the Midlands will be here to hopefully claim their first title as Champions of the English Second Tier in 34 seasons! I move on, as a path has been laid out down the riverside, for another bit of a green idyll before crossing over the Colne, where i coclude that the John Smith's banner greeting fans and reminding them to not drink and drive is really placed a bit too late in the journey to be of any use.

Huddersfield Town Hall
& Self
Find myself opposite the prominent gasometer and pick my concluding route into town along St Andrews Road, southwards down a road that looks to have been industrial for along time, but I do note that if you have an old works building that you want to renovate for contemporary use, the job that has been done for Turbo Technologies is well worthy of emulation. Take a quickly improvised detour when I realise that I can take my route over the Quay Street Locomotive Bridge, and crossing the Huddersfield Broad canal via that curio of the industrial age has to be a good idea, even if it seems to dump me on a dead end at the back of Sainsbury's, but it's easy enough to land myself on the A62 Southgate ring road. Cross over opposite the student accommodation that looks like it has been developed out of old tenements, passing the back of the Kingsgate shopping centre and the various pubs and clubs which stand opposite the University campus, before finding the steps up into the back if the Piazza centre because 60s redevelopment can't take an ROW away that easily. I'm so close to a third day of astroglide synchronicity on the grass outside the Giles Gilbert Scott-esque box that forms the Art Gallery and Library, but it's being deflated when I get there (though I do get my second bouncy castle of the day), and I'll drop into the tourist information desk to find that they do have a Kirklees Way guide in stock today (and for only £2 too). Right opposite is the Town Hall, my destination and warranting a commentary this time, an odd composition of 1875-81, with the older half on Ramsden Street looking like the extension to the newer half containing the concert hall, which explains why it can look so modest close to, and so large from a distance, it's Free-Renaissance stylings also explaining why it looks like an Italian Opera House. Despite its small footprint, it's so hemmed in all sides that it is virtually impossible to photograph successfully, and it looks too small to have ever enclosed the council offices, maybe that's why they now live in the civic centre on High Street, In some of the blandest 60s architecture you could ask for. Market Street is my last street of the day, featuring more buildings worthy of a travel with Pevsner, and it's a new route to the railway station, which looks like it was designed to be imposing regardless of the angle that you approach it from, shame it's clad in scaffolding then. Roll up to check my conclusion, at 3.35pm, and any day that you top 16 miles has been a good one, and my body is certainly feeling it, draining two bottles of liquid before my ride home arrives.

Next on the Slate: An Easter Monday walk in the Park.

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 1027.2 miles
    (2014 total: 114 miles)

    (Up Country Total: 947.8 miles)
    (Solo Total: 836.3 miles)
    (Declared Total: 819 miles)


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