Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Morley to Leeds (again) 26/05/14

Bank Holiday Monday rolls around and I'm back home again, eager for a stretch whilst the sun is out and the skies clear, a surprisingly good day after a sequence of four grotty ones, and yet I'm not feeling that well-disposed towards the world, no a particularly happy camper at all. There has been a shift in this nation that I do not approve of at all, one which marks a particularly unpleasant change that this country has happily avoided for several decades, and I get the feeling that the discourse is going to get rather more poisonous in the coming years, not a good places to be for sure. Not that this has anything to do with walking of course, but right now I'd really like to disappear far away from the world as it is to gather my thoughts and harden my resolve, but there's no option for a distant retreat as I need to work on Tuesday, instead taking a walk into the town again, happy that my city has retained a small amount of sanity in these testing times.

Morley to Leeds, via Middleton Park & Hunslet Dewsbury Road  6.3 miles

Morley Station
10am from Morley Town Hall feels like a familiar sort of time to be setting out, with another fresh route into Leeds in my mind, departing from Queen Street between the Market Hall and the Queens hotel, and heading down Hope Street and Ackroyd Street, noting the interesting thing that dwell on another local street that I haven't previously visited. Things to see along here include the converted mill on the corner of Commercial Street, the local hall of the Salvation Army, an ice-cream wholesalers (no, really), more stone terracing and the church school conversion on Cross Peel Street, and from there it's over Albert Road, and down the flight of steps by the Miner's Arms down to the railway station, another route that I have never walked until today. Morley station looks the same as ever, but the trains are arriving at an odd time, as the services have been rescheduled on this line for the first time since I moved, which will probably result in a worsened local service, which I can assume before I've even tested it out. There's also been extensive clearance of vegetation along Valley Road, creating an open space by the oil re-processing works that is to be a traveller's camp, which I have received various notifications for me to oppose it, but have done nothing of the sort, and then it's striking off into the greenery around the back of the works to find that this path is a bit more difficult when choked with spring growth. The memorial garden is still in situ by the rails, neatly enclosed by a fence now, and a large footbridge has been installed in place of the lethal foot crossing on the railway, but I do wonder if it is actually going to get that much use, but I won't be passing over it, instead striking out over the meadow and the land-filled rise of land that descends down to Dewsbury Road, picking the correct field boundary to walk and remembering to not wander into the oil facility and instead slipping along the path by Cotton Mill Beck, emerging from the culvert which carries it beneath our feet in Morley.

Stank Hall Barn
Cross the main road, avoiding going anywhere near the White Noise Centre, noting that The Woodman is looking a lot more derelict than it did the last time I passed this way, on a beer raid to Sainsbury's. Carry on along the side of Dewsbury Road, looking for the path that hairpins back to take a route into Middleton Park, as my chosen route is intended to lead me into the city via Hunslet on paths never previously traced, and only a few yards up the path can be found one of the most unexpected sites that i have yet found locally, namely Stank Hall farm and it's impressively huge barn. It's immediately recognisable as being a medieval timber framed structure, and it's sheer size suggests that it should be in some sort of use, but it seem that geography seems to have condemned it, lost between road and railway with council estates in the nearby surroundings, surely the city council should take charge of a building securely dated to a 15th century establishment? At least it is intact and secured, which is more than can be said of the farmhouse, decaying away as rapidly as the nearby pub, and another would be heritage scheme drops into my head as I ascend to cross the footbridge over the railway line, with the trains to Wakey and Donny rolling on below me. The footpath that I want isn't immediately obvious, branching off the cycle path that runs around the Middleton Estate, ascending behind the houses until disappearing into a waist high sea of nettles and weeds, and a minute of fighting it soon has me beating retreat as this is a right of way that the locals clearly take no interest in using. I can't see a good alternative, especially as the surfaced paths all post-date my ancient E289 and I don't know where they lead, so I return to the A653, feeling that Middleton Park is not wanting to welcome me today, and I'm smart enough to take a hint. I could bail from the trail completely, but choose to carry on to town, using Dewsbury Road as my path, especially as I've often thought that this represents the most direct route into town from Morley on foot, so I plough on among the council houses, under the railway and past the angular St David's Church and up to the Tommy Wass junction, choosing to leave Middleton Park to another day.

Dewsbury Road & Cross Flatts Park
A long road walk wasn't what I had in mind for today, and I find that I have deeply mixed feelings about Beeston as a district, ones which are hard to express without them feeling hugely insulting, as I have have friends and colleagues living here, and not having any real problems, whilst i lived there for 6 months in 1998, and it was a consistently miserable time for me, and I've probably never disassociated my experience from the reality of the district. I guess my thoughts are when the two halves of Beeston were developed, in late Victorian, and Inter War years, it had an aspiration to be a better class of housing than it ended up being, and there's no hiding the fact that this train of thought is not very polite at all, so social commentary is better left to someone who knows what they're talking about. There are some interesting sites along here, especially Cross Flatts park where I had numerous bursts of healthy strolling when I was unemployed, and it still retains the feel of a Victorian leisure ground today, and the Broadway and the Social Club stay in business too, the latter's ballroom notice indicative of a social age now passed. Past Tempest road, the route well-travelled from the past and the bus stops that I first rode from when I started work too, and I hadn't previously noticed that the old cinema had found new life as a 'Health Club', and that's a euphemism for knocking shop, isn't it? Carry on, with a number of international supermarkets illustrating the presence of a large migrant community in the area, and I almost feel the need to drop in and offer an apology to the proprietors, to illustrate that we are not all vile, hate-filled people in this country, and then onwards to the town, past the old police station and the borough War Memorial, as well as the Spinning Wheel, a pub where I attended a colleague's 40th birthday party, when that age seemed quite old and relatively remote from my age, neither of which is true these days. Over the M621 and the railway to Castleford, avoiding the footbridges and sticking to the pavements as the roads busy up on the periphery of the Holbeck Urban Village, where the new builds do not attract my eye, but the conversion of the Union Mills site is the best re-use of the old industrial buildings in this quarter.

St John the Evangelist, Leeds
Meadow Lane leads me into the city centre, past one of my favourite quarters of the town, with the Salem chapel, Leeds Bridge House, the Adelphi and the Aire & Calder Navigation offices forming a cluster of architectural interest in from of the old Tetley brewery site, with the road leading over Leeds Bridge, and the River Aire with it's view that has changed very little in the last century. Meet Lower Briggate, which has a few architectural gems of its own, notably the Time Ball building, the former Dyson's clock and watchmakers storefront that is surely the best in the city, adjacent to the former Job Centre, which was surely one of the worst. The town is busy, even at lunchtime an a bank holiday, and the slow moving crowds earn the road's particular epithet as 'Chuffing Briggate', and I won't be detouring into the new Trinity centre or the older arcades of the Victoria Quarter, instead pressing on all the way to Upper Briggate and onward between the buildings that I still regard as Lewis's and the Odeon Cinema, after all these years. My detour is to take me through the yard of the the church of St John the Evangelist, the city centre's oldest church, dating from 1634, an unusual time in British history for a major consecration, and the lasting monument to the city's early benefactor John Harrison, the remnants of whose almshouse remain at the periphery of the site, now mostly hidden by the St John's centre. Through the Merrion Street gardens and over the road to pass through the Merrion Centre, these days the least of all Leeds' shopping arcades, but still in a lot more business that I would have thought, and celebrating it's 50th anniversary this very weekend when I would have honestly expected it to have been demolished a decade ago, but if the shops are still there, I guess it still has a reason to live, despite my personal distaste for it. Avoid the panhandlers and pitchmen to slip out at the side of Morrisons, still here after all these years, and cross Woodhouse Lane to pass between the very 60's College of Technology and the very Edwardian College of Art, to meet Cookridge Street and my final destination of Cuthbert Brodericks on Millennium Square. I'm not expecting a reception today, as my 1,000 miles in the north day is already nearly 50 miles distant, and I'm only here because I want a pint and a sit down, but at 12.15pm that feels like a good amble, even though I'm no more happy now than I was at the start of the day, maybe the next walk will get my head feeling clearer?

Next on the Slate: Still more walking days in May available? Let's canal walk into another new county then! EDIT. Nah, not happening when when feeling as tired as I do right now, let's instead replot the route that I had originally planned for today on a Sunday morning stroll instead.

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 1128.6 miles
(2014 total: 215.4 miles)

(Up Country Total: 1049.2 miles)
(Solo Total: 930.2 miles)
(Declared Total: 920.4 miles)

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