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St Ives, Bingley
The St Ives estate above Bingley is a wonderful country park criss-crossed with footpaths and bridleways. It’s terrific walking territory, whether you want to limit yourself to a gentle stroll along the edge of Coppice Pond or strike off up to Druid’s Altar and gaze up the Aire Valley from on high.
In the past few years my visits to St Ives haven’t involved much walking. They’ve largely been undertaken for the benefit of grandson Sam and have been restricted to watching him enjoy himself in the playground, playing hide-and-seek with him in the adjacent copse, or feeding the ducks and geese on the pond.
Sadly, at ten years old he’s grown out of playgrounds and hide-and-seek and unfortunately hasn’t yet grown into walking for walking’s sake. So for the first time in a long time I visited St Ives as an unaccompanied adult with the idea of seeing what had changed about the estate from a walker’s point of view.
First surprise was the fine, large new car park close by the main entrance. It’s impressive, with a colourful information board showing the whereabouts of the various attractions and all the footpaths and bridleways.
I headed off up the new, stepped path leading towards the wood, which was noisy with birdsong on this last day of April. Blue tits and log-tailed tits darted among the branches. The path through the wood passed a wooden sculpture of a crone, standing in the leafy shadows, before heading on to a gate.
At the end of it, in a field, was the Commemorative Woodland: rows of saplings planted in the names of loved ones to raise money for the Bradford CAN cancer research appeal. A memorial board explains what it’s all about and lists the many names of those remembered. In a year or two this will have grown into a fine, though rather more orderly, addition to the existing woodland that makes this country park such a joy.
At the top corner of the woodland another gate led out into a bridleway known as Blind Lane, beyond which were the test beds and buildings of the Sports Turf Research Institute, where various combinations of grasses are put to the test. In the large field on the nearside of the lane two horses were carrying out their own taste test, grazing quietly in the still morning air.
I climbed up to a T-junction at the top of the hill, heading right towards a barn and passing on the way another new plantation, this time the work of the Friends of St Ives. The track continued between grand old walls past another barn and soon arrived at a stone gateway. Beyond that was Altar Lane, which rises steadily up from the road just above the Brown Cow pub, and Druid’s Altar with its fine views.
But that wasn’t the way I was heading. Instead I stayed within the St Ives estate and followed a path along the edge of woodland. At the top corner, with another stile leading out into Altar Lane, I took the opposite direction down through the wood on a muddy path and eventually past the golf course which, surprisingly, was empty of any golfer. On the right-hand side was the aptly-named Heather Park.
Eventually the path swung round to the right to pass another wooden sculpture, this time of an elderly Victorian lady reading a book. This was Lady Blantyre, and the flat rock behind her was where she used to pause and read during her perambulations around the estate. Steps led from there up to the Ferrands Memorial among the rhododendron bushes.
Returning to the main path, I headed down through the trees to almost meet Keighley Road before swinging round to pass a marshy area newly cleared of trees and arrive at Coppice Pond. This is a fine stretch of water with a woodland backdrop and a leafy island, enjoyed by anglers and birdwatchers alike. Unfortunately on this day it wasn’t being enjoyed by a Canada goose, which lay dead in the water near the edge of the lake.
Soon, after strolling on past the mansion (now a care home), I emerged into the open area near the playground where there’s another carved wooden feature: a large chair and a semi-circle of mushroom stools.
From here I headed down the main access road back towards the car park, passing the low stump of the 250-year-old Ferrands Oak which weighed 12.5 tons when it was felled in 1985. It’s now part of the transept at York Minster.
Step by Step
1 From new main car park near St Ives entrance, walk up stepped path into wood then go left, passing sculpture of witch to arrive at gate. Go through this and walk ahead through Commemorative Woodland to gate stile in top left-hand corner. Emerge into Blind Lane and turn right, walking up hill between fields with Sports Turf Research Institute on left.
2 At T-junction go right towards barn, following left-hand fork past Friends wood to join another track and continue past end of a barn on left. Approaching exit on to Altar Lane, turn left just before it through metal stile beside gate and follow path with trees on right, sticking with main path to eventually arrive at another gate stile and footpath signpost.
3 Turn sharp left here. At junction of three paths, go straight ahead between fences and later fence and wall, descending. Continue along main path as it eventually swing right to Lady Blantyre’s Rock.
4 Carry on descending to meet a wall ahead and Keighley Road beyond. The path follows wall for a while then turns left to pass Coppice Pond. Past pond, emerge briefly into road then take right-forking path. Stay with this, passing below buildings of Home Farm and picnic area and then The Mansion before taking a left-hand fork to open area with playground beyond. From here, follow main access road back to car park.
Start: St Ives car park off Harden Road. Alternatively, start in Myrtle Park, Bingley, crossing river at bottom left-hand corner and walking up past allotments into Beckfoot Lane. Turn right and go over Beckfoot Bridge, following lane up to Harden Road, crossing road (with care) and following path left-ish up through trees towards car park.
Time for 3½-mile walk: 90 minutes.
Map: OS 288 Bradford & Huddersfield.
Toilets: at St Ives upper car park, near The Mansion and playground.
Refreshments: Reader’s Tea Room at St Ives (open daily 10.30am-4pm).