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If you feel the need to mark the millennium for your village, what better way of doing it than by creating a special walk around the place.
That’s what some of the people of Calverley decided to do at a meeting in 1996 to discuss ideas for the millennium. Somebody suggested that the ancient custom of “beating the bounds” should be revived, and from that idea came a plan to create a seven-mile circular walk around the boundary of Calverley village.
And thus the Calverley Millennium Way was devised, using old tracks and fields paths, the canal towpath and, for one short stretch, a strip of landed donated by local farmers to enable the route to be completed.
Congratulations to the local Rotary Club, the Calverley Residents’ Action Group and everyone else involved in this Calverley Project 2000 enterprise. The result of their efforts is a splendid ramble around that precious patch of greenery that separates Bradford from Leeds.
Officially-suggested starting point in the excellent booklet describing the walk is at Calverley Bridge over the River Aire, just north of Rodley roundabout. However, for people from Bradford a better start can be made by joining the canal at Apperley Bridge, taking the steps down to the towpath from the north-west side of the Apperley Lane road bridge.
The stretch of towpath from here to Rodley is a delight. In summer it’s fringed with wild flowers, and the dense woods and fields on either side of the canal give the impression that you’re in open countryside miles from anywhere.
I was off by 8am and there was no-one else around apart from the passengers in the trains which kept trundling past between Shipley and Leeds. No narrow boats had stirred up the canal’s waters. There were plenty of fish to be seen below its calm surface, large and small, cruising about untroubled by propellers or anglers.
I saw three herons during that two-mile towpath stroll, one of them a whopper, reminding me of the sightings of “Big Bird” which prompted so many letters to the T&A in the 1980s. That mystery was never solved, though a heron remained the prime suspect.
But there was an even more startling bird encounter to come. I had turned away from the towpath, and arrived at Calverley Lane via fields paths and pavement and the strip of field now known as Gawthorp Way after Gawthorp Bros of Lodge Farm, who donated it.
From there, a brief bit of pavement walking took me to another footpath sign (the waymarking is excellent throughout this walk) which pointed the way across a field.
In the middle of this field was a large holly bush, and adjacent to it a free-standing footpath signpost. As I approached, a Little Owl flew out of the bush and landed on the post, about ten feet in front of me and with its back to me. I froze, but it had sensed that I was there, turned its head around to stare at me, then flew off up the field in a panic.
Soon I was negotiating a field full of horses to make my way into Priestthorpe Road before turning off up Priestthorpe Lane and then once again hitting the fields paths to soon cross the golf course.
This took me into Woodall Lane and, across it, Woodhall Hills Hamlet - a cluster of superbly-restored old houses which in the last century also supported their own shop, beerhouse, butcher and inter-denominational Sunday school.
More golf-ball dodging followed before I came to an intersection of paths known as Stone Stile, where a cloth-making settlement once stood. Nothing remains now, though, but boundary walls. From here, the route was all downhill to pass the Blue Pig pub and Fagley Lodge before following the broad track down through the edge of Ravenscliffe Woods, with Fagley Beck down in the trees to the left and, beyond them, the houses of the Ravenscliffe estate.
The track emerged, eventually, at Ravenscliffe Mills from where a footpath led down to a ford at Beck Bottom, formerly known as Carr Bottom - a tricky spot on the main route from Shipley to Leeds until New Line was built at Greengates in 1826.
I now crossed that busy road to Carr Lodge, where two roads fork off: the right-hand one named Clara Drive in the middle of the last century after one of Thomas Thornhill’s daughters, the other Eleanor Drive after his other daughter. The walk followed Eleanor Drive through the edge of the wood to meet up with the bottom of Calverley Cutting and cross the canal via Thornhill Bridge to return to Apperley Bridge.
It had been a splendid outing guided by an excellent, informative booklet. The people of Calverley have created themselves something to be proud of.
Step by Step
- Join canal at Apperley Lane and walk along towpath towards Leeds for a couple of miles. By canal-side houses, with road bridge carrying Leeds ring-road ahead, go right over canal bridge and follow path ahead up fields to main road (A657).
- Turn right up pavement briefly, then cross road and follow footpath sign up wide path (Rodley Lane) between houses and fields to emerge into playing field. Walk right then left around this to meet path at corner by garden centre. Follow this path (Gawthorp Way) up to Calverley Lane.
- Cross Calverley Lane, turn right, and walk along pavement to footpath sign pointing left, down in dip. Walk up fieldside briefly to stile, and over that head diagonally left across field towards holly bush and signpost towards stile on right of house. Cross access lane and walk along fieldside to another stile on left. Walk down field, with wall on right, and up other side of dip towards Wadlands Farm. Go through stile into farm lane, then head to left of farm, skirting round big barn to stile beyond it into Priestthorpe Road.
- Turn right up Priestthorpe Road (look out for water fountain in wall of Springwood Hall grounds bearing invitation "Press the spout, it's your for nowt") for 400 yards then turn left into Priestthorpe Lane. Walk up here, ignoring paths and signs leading off, until you pass Priestthorpe Farm on right (its sign, by gate, is a wooden one and not easy to read). Soon beyond this, take well-worn green path leading right up fields to gap stile at top into golf course. Keep ahead, heading to left of house and gap stile into Woodhall Lane.
- Turn right up Woodhall Lane, then soon cross and enter Woodhall Hills Hamlet. Walk ahead through this to enter small wood and where walled track forks, go left on to golf course. Keep ahead to left of line of trees, eventually crossing open fairway to fenced path. Walk along this to open space (Stone Stile).
- Follow footpath sign right, crossing fairway again briefly on way to white wooden post indicating gap into path beyond. Turn right down this path and stick with it to bottom of hill where, by dismantled railway bridge, it meets track going right to Fagley Lodge. Path goes through lodge gate, to left of house, and ahead to stile into Ravenscliffe Woods. Stick with main track through wood, ignoring various paths to left, to emerge by Ravenscliffe Mills.
- Swing round past mill entrance then go immediately left down path, veering right over footbridge to reach ford near houses. Go right over beck then up road, swinging left to meet A657 opposite Carr Lodge. Cross with care, walk ahead to pass lodge and take left fork down through wood to meet Calverley Cutting at wooden gate at bottom. Turn left to cross Thornhill Bridge and keep on to pass houses at bottom (Waterloo Crescent), swinging left to cross Harrogate Road (again, take care) to return to Apperley Bridge near George & Dragon pub.
- Time for seven-mile walk: three hours.
- Going: easy.
- Map: OS Explorer 288, Bradford & Huddersfield
- Getting there: by bus to Greengates, then walk down Apperley Lane to bridge over canal and join towpath there. l Parking: at bottom of Apperley Road, opposite entrance to George & Dragon pub car park.
- Refreshments along route: George & Dragon at start and finish; Railway Hotel at Calverley Bridge; Blue Pig at Fagley Woods.
- Toilets: ditto. n Copies of Calverley Millennium Way booklet available from local shops, Calverley Golf Club and the Railway pub. Price £1.50 for illustrated verson with full historic detail, 50p for walk only.