From Meanwood Valley to the Thorner Circular, explore the great outdoors…
Early autumn is a good time to get out and about. The occasional punishing heat of July and August has subsided, meaning you can risk a stroll without turning into a liquid. The new season brings a wealth of colour to your surroundings, and the city is slowly returning to its normal routine following the chaos of endless festivals and piss-ups. Oh, and did I mention that the kids have finally gone back to school?
With that in mind, here are five walks to enjoy in Leeds…
THE MEANWOOD VALLEY TRAIL
Woodhouse Moor to Golden Acre Park (above) might sound like a long way, but it’s only around seven miles. Start at the statue of H.R. Marsden near Lucky’s Pizza and walk up Delph Lane to Woodhouse ridge, with its many paths. From here, you’ll take in forests, parks, Meanwood Beck and Leeds’ first aqueduct as you make your way to the stunning lake in the middle of Golden Acre. Take a look at the gardens and then visit the café for a well-earned ice cream before taking the X84 bus back into Leeds.
LEEDS COUNTRY WAY - HAREWOOD HOUSE
As a 63-mile circular, Leeds Country Way probably isn’t something you’d want to do all of, but some of its sections are fantastic. My personal favourite starts at the aforementioned Golden Acre Park but then heads east to Eccup before traversing the Harewood estate (above) and taking in some spectacular views along the way. Plus, if you walk all the way to the Lofthouse Lodge entrance to Harewood House, then turn left and walk up the path alongside Harrogate Road until you hit Harewood village, you’ll be able to treat yourself to food at Muddy Boots café - featuring top notch food by Josh Whitehead and cakes by Porterhouse Cake Co.
THE LEEDS LIVERPOOL CANAL – KIRKSTALL FORGE TO SHIPLEY
Another route to be done in sections rather than as a whole, this historic 127-mile trade link dates back to the eighteenth century and is far more varied in its landscape than you might expect. This route starts at Kirkstall Forge train station; cross the tracks and head into the forest, where a path brings you out in the middle of Bramley Fall Park. From here, turn right and pass by Rodley Nature Reserve, Calverley’s Lodge Wood, then Dawson Wood and Buck Wood on the way to Shipley and your ultimate goal – Saltaire. Before getting the train back, it’d be rude not to visit Salt Bar & Kitchen.
Start: Kirkstall Forge train station LS5 3NF
Finish: Salt Bar & Kitchen BD18 4DH
Distance: 10 miles
Route: Just follow the canal path!
As this is one to drive to, it’s convenient that this walk is a circular one. This route takes you out of Thorner to the Moor trig point, through Wothersome and Hetchell Wood, before taking you right past rock-climbing hotspot Hetchell Crags, which is thought to have been the site of a Roman settlement. From here, you briefly meet the Leeds Country Way before passing Scarcroft Hill and heading back to Thorner. Now, where to eat? If only one of Leeds’ most famous chefs had just opened up a gastropub in the village…
RSPB ST AIDAN’S
Don’t be fooled – this isn’t just for birdwatchers (but if you like bitterns, gulls and owls then have at it). RSPB St Aidan’s is a maze of wetlands, forests, meadows, lakes and one of the UK’s largest remaining reedbeds. Add to that the buggy paths and the amazing wildlife, and you’ve plenty of reasons to make a short car journey. I like to start in Mickeltown, just off the Leeds Country Way (yes, again) then cross the River Aire and do a lap up past Astley. St Aidan’s also has a well-stocked café, serving a range of sandwiches, light snacks and drinks for when you’re done.
Images: Jack Ambler (Golden Acre Park), Mark Hemingway (Harewood House), Joanna Richards (Hetchell Wood)