It isn't encouraging to park your car, pull on your boots, and stride out to start your walk to be confronted, within a couple of paces, by a sign warning "CAR THEFT AREA".

That was the situation I found myself in, though, as I entered Judy Woods at Wyke from Station Road, where there's plenty of parking space at the roadside. I consoled myself with the thought that it was barely eight o'clock in the morning and I'd probably be back at the car by ten - while the bad lads who go in for robbing vehicles would be still in their beds.

Even so, it didn't help me to get into the relaxed sort of mood that you need to be in to enjoy a walk to the full. The anxiety was soon eased, though, by the splendour of a perfect autumn morning.

The sky was clear and blue, with the low sun etching sharp shadows from the trees and tussocks of grass as I headed out of the wood and took the fields path northwards towards High Fernley. Grazing horses moved slowly out of the way as I approached, heads down as they concentrated on their morning meal.

Soon I was following a muddy track to a  paved road. I turned to look back over this South Bradford landscape, with its wide-open views in all directions. Immediately in front of me was the leafy canopy of Judy Woods, its colours changing.

Look on the OS map and you won't find any mention of Judy Woods. You'll find Jagger Park Wood, Royds Hall Great Wood, Old Hanna Wood, Gannerthorpe Wood and Low Wood. But no Judy. Nor will you find any mention of Judy Bridge, an ancient packhorse bridge spanning Royds Hall Beck and linking Royds Hall and High Fernley with Norwood Green.

It's really called Horse Close Bridge, but it and the woods took their popular name from Judy North who lived in a cottage near the bridge and died in 1870 at the then very ripe old age of 80.

The walk continued via tracks and paths through a very varied landscape. Partly it was in splendid countryside. Partly it passed by ancient cottages and busy farms. At one point it went along the backs of vandal-ravaged houses on the edge of the Delf Hill estate then headed into the countryside on a track which offered fine views towards Wyke and Wibsey across fields of grazing cows and the sun-reflecting surface of Park Dam - one of the many places around Bradford where city and countryside meet.

Further on, the route passed the impressive gable end of Royds Hall, where a sign on the gate warned that guard dogs were roaming free. The gate was open. I quickened my pace.

Soon I was walking across the fields again, on a clear path that led into the corner of North Brow Wood above the southern edge of the Woodside estate, before turning back into the dense woodland of Jagger Park Wood with Royds Hall Beck trickling along far below in its leafy valley.

This is ancient woodland filled with mature oak and beech trees and threaded with various well-trodden paths. The sun, still low in the October sky, brightened the fringes of the wood but there were still enough leaves on the trees to prevent it penetrating to the heart of it.

My path emerged from the gloom briefly at Judy Bridge before climbing back into it for the last stretch of woodland walk back to where I had left my car. It was still there.

Step by Step

  1. Enter Judy Woods by kissing gate from Station Road and walk ahead on broad track. At crossing track, go right to stile at top of wood into field. Walk ahead up field, turning left at top to stile beside gate. Keep on to next gate and stile into paved lane. Go right and pass High Fernley House. Keep on, taking left turning opposite gates of High Fernley First School into unmade road Carr House Gate.
  2. Walk on past houses. Just beyond Carr House (farm, set back from road on left) track climbs Delf Hill then turns left through iron gateway. Keep ahead here on narrow, sometimes muddy path with gardens on right to emerge into open with field ahead and telephone mast. Follow track round to left here to T-junction, then turn right and walk on to pass Royds Hall and cluster of houses around it.
  3. Immediately past Royds Hall, with farm ahead, turn right with track then almost immediately go left over wall stile just before iron gate. Walk up field to stile in fence and keep ahead on clear field path to wall stile. With wall on right, walk on into top of North Brow Wood. Descend gently, going left on crossing path not far before a fence to head for kissing gate beside gate into Judy Woods again.
  4. Follow broad path through wood (or narrower path to right of it if you like, closer to edge of wooded valley but always staying above it). Where path passes close to edge of wood and field on left with pylon in it, take left-hand fork, going left around edge of field. Stick with this path as it heads through wood and eventually descends via steps to a bridge made of a railway sleeper over stream on right. Cross this and almost immediately arrive at Judy Bridge.
  5. Climb steps and turn left, then soon go right into fenced-off path running beside track and climbing. At top, go right and follow broad path again through wood, to eventually swing left with it and find yourself climbing on path that took you out of top of wood near start of walk. Go right off this path to return to leave Judy Woods via track you entered it by and return to Station Road.

Fact File

  • Time for 3½-mile walk: an hour and a half.
  • Going: easy.
  • Map: OS Explorer 288, Bradford & Huddersfield.
  • Getting there: drive down Huddersfield Road from Wyke, turning right to follow Norwood Green sign into Station Road.
  • Parking: in Station Road, along edge of wood.
  • Buses: info to come later later info later info later info later
  • Toilet and refreshments: none on route.