Sunday, 6 April 2014

The 1,000th Mile: Morley to Leeds 05/04/14

The final straight awaits, and I feel like it was only a few weeks ago that I embarked on this walking scheme, and I can't believe the target is within sight at the end of only the shortest of ambles, and I've already stated my case for avoiding a dynamic finish, as I feel that my achievement needs to be engaged socially, but I also think that there is a good case for doing something really mundane. That thought needs some explanation, as travelling from home in Morley to Leeds City Centre is a route that has been engaged thousands of times but has only been walked twice, and I have never walked Chrurwell Hill in either direction, so going along the main road, shadowing the route of the #51 bus, will give me an opportunity to pay close attention to a landscape that I have passed so many times. There's a fascination in the everyday surroundings that many people will never notice, but it is something to get me excited and intrigued, a journey through the present to the past and to a goal that I would never have thought was so easily attainable, so it might not be the nicest day of the Spring, but it is the first weekend of the season when glumness does not bring the feeling that winter is still lingering.

The 1,000 Mile: Morley to Leeds, via Churwell and Holbeck  5.8 miles

Morley Town Hall & Self
Roll up to Morley Town Hall for a 10am start, grabbing necessary energy after a night of poor sleep with a bottle of Coke and wondering if my day should start with a ride on the inflatable astroglide that has been set up on Windsor Court. No, it shouldn't, I'm 39 and need to get a move on as I've scheduled my reception for 12.30pm, so I set off after I've finally acknowledged the statues outside the town hall, a miner and a seamstress representing the industries which allowed Morley to flourish in the 19th century. Southwards, and the Queen Street / Chapel Hill / Church street axis has been walked and described on a prior occasion, so interest will be picked up once the corner of Victoria road is met, with the pair of hostelries on the edge of old Morley, the still extent Nelson's Arms, and the deceased Prospect Inn (and I recall many pubs that looked like this in the Midlands and are a relative rarity in the north). Across the way is St Peter's, the Parish Church, an early exercise in Early English Gothic revival by noted Leeds architect Dennis Chantrell, a substantial figure in the 19th century city, and the sizable graveyard has a good lychgate, proving that this was once a country churchyard. A little further down the road is a wayside maker, indicating that this is the Leeds - Elland road, from the days before it became the A643, and these triangular prisms have become a source of fascination to me over the last few years, and I'll snag a picture of them wherever they can be found around the West Riding. This was clearly the booming end of the town in the late 19th century, judging by the size and quality of the stone-built villas and terraces along the main road, with the more ordinary semis of the mid 20th century on the side roads before the green space that separates Morley from permanent subsumation by the Leeds conurbation, where Lane Side Farm still sits as smart house and riding school, guarding the green belt and the view to Middleton and the city.

Churwell Viaduct
The main road now moves us into Churwell, a barely perceptible change, where the notable Wellfield House stands across the road, a nicely symmetrical pile once the home to the owners of the Laneside Mills, producers of textiles and paper until the 1990s, and now owned by an orthotics clinic but it doesn't appear to have been in use for a while now. Big 1920s semis line the road until we meet Churwell's terraces and All Saints church, and the continuing descent down the hill demonstrates this village must had quite a varied population in the past as it managed to support five churches in the past (only two appear to be in use. Then it's right mash of housing styles, covering more than a century and it's definitely an odd place to built your terraced hacienda, and three wayside pubs once stood along here for this burgeoning pub crawl, The Commercial and the New Inn remain, but the Old Golden Fleece has gone, to be replaced by a Tesco Express but its sign and Melbourne Brewery mosaic were thankfully retained (there may have been an inn on the site since the 15th century, according to some sources). The other oddments in Churwell's mix also show up, the insurance office with the long curved window, the dance studio, the Stanhope Memorial Hall (who might Stanhope have been?) and the War Memorial Garden that looks like someone forgot to install the roll of honour within it. The last stretch down Churwell Hill slips between council estates and allotments, and the looming feature is Churwell Viaduct, built by the L&NWR in 1848 and carrying the railway towards Huddersfield, and travelled over so many times that it is almost possible to forget that it is there at all, but it's six arches long and well hidden by the curtain of evergreens at the roadside, only showing its length as you pass beneath it and out of Morley Borough, indeed the best place to get a view of it might  be the top deck of the #51 bus. This section of road also passes another waymarker of the old Elland Road, heavily rusted and not noticed before, so there is good reason to travel on foot, and I've always wondered what district that old Victorian school at the bottom of the hill used to serve, as it seems well removed from the residential areas of the late 19th century.

Elland Road Stadium
Off to the left is the Cottingley Hall estate, taking its name from a farm previously on the site, so no house of note was lost beneath the tower blocks and council houses, and it's not pretty, largely because of the choice of brick colour, and I might slate the Lego building of the 90s with its red and yellow bricks, but it's a lot more colourful than dark brown. Cross over the noisily surfaced Beeston Ring Road, noticing that there are a lot of buses flying around on the route of the #51, opposite the rare bit of local heavy industry of the Sulzer plant, and pass the Dry-Salters, which looks like its had a makeover to distance itself slightly from being the Leeds United pub of choice. Press on to Elland road again, passing the depots of Jewson and Cemex, as well as Booker Wholesale, who don't sponsor he book prize sadly, and I've always wondered about the location of the bungalow with the high pitched roof by the road here, as well as how the car yard around it managed to park cars on the ridiculously steep slopes. Pass under the railway bridge of the GNR line to Doncaster and the looming presence of Elland Road stadium looms up to dominate the view, featuring the largest free-standing cantilevered stand in Europe as one of my university friends always used to remind us, and I'd assumed the land opposite was being redeveloped for car parking space, but it's apparently the new HQ for West Yorkshire police, so they won't have far to go when the fans get restless when Leeds United goes tits up, again (and even as a non-fan, that joke seems unnecessarily painful. The stands do present a few good modernistic angles, from below, and I note that the Old Peacock also seems to be venturing down the slightly smartened route, as if they might be needing new business soon, and the best look at the football ground does come from the east, and I wonder if the crowd by the statue of Billy Bremner are observing a moment's silence for a deceased comrade or are praying that there club may receive salvation. Depart the A643 as Elland Road rises away from the sports ground and the car dealerships and the commercial units, as it moves up to cross the M621 which sliced through its original alignment, and seeing the 1865 Perseverance Works indicates a nice Victorian industrial survivor, whilst the footbridge over to Holbeck always seem a bit overstated for the amount of foot traffic it probably gets, maybe some of it is matchday traffic from the United Bar, formerly the Waggon & Horses, on the stub of the old main road on the opposite side.

Matthew Murray Monument, Holbeck
Meet Cemetery Road, coming down from Beeston and one of the good views of the rising city is gained, crossing over the motorway and taking the subway under the road to the edge of Holbeck Moor, where playing fields have ensured the survival of a green space on the old common land amid the terraces and industry. Also I'm glad to see that building is finally going on where several rows of terraces were demolished a few years ago, not sure what's going up, but when residences get removed the planners surely need something to replace them, the same goes for the Holbeck Towers, with the site still desolate four years after their removal. Holbeck still looks like it needs help, as the Britannia pub has closed, the only one which seemed to have endured locally with the Spotted Cow still being a burned out shell, and the Bulls Head looking very tenuous indeed. St Matthew's Church, another work of Dennis Chantrell's, is no longer consecrated, acting as a community centre, but still providing a distinctive landmark next to the sole remaining tower block and council estate, and it's worth taking a detour into the graveyard to see the monument, fashioned as an Obelisk in cast iron, to Matthew Murray, pioneering industrialist and machine maker whose company rivalled that of Boulton & Watt in the early 19th century, a name now only recalled as that of one of the least regarded of Leeds' secondary schools. Moving on to Nineveh Road, we can find the remnants of Leeds Holbeck engine shed (55A), where there is more remaining than I thought, with its machine shop still largely intact and the office building still in use by Network Rail, as is quite a large area of the sidings, it may not be the major regional depot anymore, but it's not as entirely dead yet. Cross over the railway, MR line to Castleford, and beyond is Holbeck's best non-industrial building, the Public Library of 1901, in red brick and terracotta, providing some architectural exuberance aside the scene of desolation as most of the buildings between here and Sweet Street have been swept away (including the Kays building where about half of my former work colleagues seemed to have worked in the past) as the 1960s developments have gone the same way as the terraces which stood here a century ago.

Temple Mill, Holbeck
Joining Marshall Street, the only old building to endure is the Commercial Inn, which looks like it got a makeover anticipating the Holbeck Urban Village was going to come this way, but it now looks rather sad after the redevelopment work stalled, leaving it at a crossroads, so to speak, and passing there we approach the important milestone of the day. I've been so caught up in my local history discourse that I haven't really acknowledged that I have been walking my 1,000th mile, due to conclude at Temple Mill, the Egyptian styled flax processing works of John Marshall, built by James Coombe and Joseph Bonomi jr in 1838-43, and the major architectural gem of Leeds that I have somehow never visited in all my years up country. First feeling I get is not elation, but actually disappointment, to see that this Grade 1 listed structure has a large section of its facade clad in scaffolding and all its windows are broken, and the 'largest room in the world' appears semi derelict, and I can't help feeling that it deserves a better fate than this. I like the fact that the graffiti on the boarding features Anubis and Bastet, a good choice of gods for Holbeck, and wandering up to the office building reveals that this part is in much better condition, imposing in Millstone grit and echoing the stylings of the Temples at Edfu and Antaeopolis, and my mood perks up, wow, 1,000 miles of walking completed, at 11.40am, on a quiet side street in Holbeck with no one around to witness my moment of triumph. I'll tape a commemorative notice to the railings, so anyone who parks there car here might acknowledge it, and enjoy the personal history being made, right across the road from the site of the mills where the Leeds Co-operative society was formed in 1847. Still I need to get to my finish, and to start the next 1,000 miles, so head on past the older buildings of Marshall Mills, imposingly large and another testament to one of Leeds' most notable industrialists, and rolling up onto Water Lane, I meet another walking man, who enthusiastically tells me of the local industrial heritage and of Holbeck's 32 listed buildings, and I tell him of my 1,000 miles and it always feels good to shake the hand of a complete stranger.

Leeds Town Hall & Self
Take a different route to the city centre from my last trip this way, passing the Cross Keys and the site of Matthew Murray's Round Foundry, crossing the Hol Beck to join Globe road and pass Tower Works and the the unvisited top end of Holbeck Viaduct before passing beneath the converging railways at the west throat of Leeds station. Pass the walls which once contained Monk Bridge iron works, which I can actually recall being demolished, and were scheduled to be the next phase of urban regeneration back in 2007 as part of the Green Bank Development, it's all still derelict. Join Whitehall Road and cross Monk Bridge over the Aire and the L&L canal, and its a route which offers my favourite views into the town, but still feel like its redevelopment never quite finished, the riverside apartments and offices to the south were completed, but to the north the commercial district of Wellinton Place still has a lot of empty spaces, but that offers views to the remnants of Leeds Central Station, notably the approach viaduct and the wagon hoist. and I do think that the grassed area down by the river looks like it should have become a city centre cricket field.

Leeds Civic Hall & Self
Pass onto (great) Northern Street, which once ran beneath the old station, to cross Wellington Street past Apsley House, George Corson's last building of 1903, to make my way through this district of Georgian Terraces and goods warehouses to find the part of town where these come together at their most attractive, namely Park Square, dominated by Thomas Ambler's St Pauls House, a factory and warehouse with extensive Hispano-Moorish styling of 1878, and we really are getting an impromptu tour of the notable Leeds Architects, aren't we? Of course, we are mere steps away from the most internationally renowned of them all, as across Westgate stands the Town Hall, Cuthbert Brodrick's magnificent Classical/Baroque edifice of 1858, and that turns today into another town halls sort of day, and we can tag the Leeds municipal complex too, by George Corson (1876) in a distinctly Franco-Italianate style before moving up to Millennium Square, the neo-Stalinist public space that stands in front of the Civic Hall of 1931, by Vincent Harris and one of the 20th century's last good Classical revival building, with towers which ape Sir Christopher Wren's St Vedast alias Foster in the City of London. The pub which marks the end of the day, and the first 1,000 miles of wandering is at the top of the square, Cuthbert Brodrick's appropriately, and 12.30pm is my conclusion time, but it looks like I have arrived before my reception party, though that is no immediate matter of concern, for I have achieved my target of 1,000 miles (before I'm 40) with 7 months to spare.

Next on the Slate?: Keep Going!

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 1001.1 miles
         (2014 total: 87.9 miles)

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