You come across some pleasant surprises when you walk around the countryside - tucked-away places that only the locals know about. Places like Pompocali.

I would never have known about this secret spot if I hadn’t been browsing through the excellent Ramblers’ Association Book of Kiddiwalks to line up a few outings for my grandson when he gets into serious walking (as opposed to stopping every couple of paces to examine something that’s caught his interest).

And there it was on one of the maps, near to Bardsey, which is in its turn near to Collingham, which is not far from Wetherby.

Pompocali, said the introduction to the walk, was “extensive earthworks”. And that was that. So I decided to do the walk to find out a bit more for myself.

Parking was handy enough, on a lay-by beside the A58 Leeds-Wetherby road, close by the Bardsey turn-off. The path led directly off the lay-by up into the wood. It was a muddy start to a walk which was to be quite heavy going at times, along the edge-of-fields and woodland paths of a landscape laden with the water of the winter rains.

A brief stride along the old railway line and then I was into the woods and soon walking alongside a hedge with Bardsey Beck flowing through the wetlands below until I arrived at the stile into the Hetchell Wood Nature Reserve.

There was a board at the entrance which once carried information as to what was to be seen and heard in the reserve. Alas, it’s now just a plain and weather-beaten board. The reserve was left to speak for itself, with squirrels, blackbirds and wrens rustling and darting through the undergrowth as I walked along through the ancient woodland to pass below the dramatic outcrop of Hetchell Crags.

Soon the path dropped towards a fence, with stepping stones over the beck to the right and a newish wooden gate-stile to the left. I headed for the gate stile, which led into a muddy, fenced bridleway - an old Roman road, apparently, and the clue to the nature of Pompocali.

I found this place soon enough, turning off the bridleway in a few yards and going over a stile with the dreaded “BULL IN FIELD” warning on it. Not in mid-January there wasn’t!

I climbed the path ahead, up the steep bank of the earth works, and found myself with glorious views of the surrounding countryside and looking down on a fascinating collection of man-made, grassy mounds, and trenches created long ago.

In the days that followed, I checked all my reference books about Yorkshire for Pompocali to no avail, then tried the internet. It threw up only two references to that name, one of which was on the website for Bardsey Tennis Club, which has a Roman helmet as its logo.

Apparently Pompocali was a Roman fort in Hetchell Woods alongside a Roman Road called Ryknield Street which ran north through Bardsey. The Romans hung on in this district until about 600AD. So now you know. Pompocali is well worth a look.

The walk continued via tracks and field paths until it returned to the A58 and its busy traffic. I crossed with care and headed up the lane opposite for more fields walking, dropping down to cross Gill Beck and then climb up to walk through the graveyard of the mediaeval Parish Church of All Hallows, with its fine Saxon tower.

The walk ended with a walk along the foot of the hill on which Bardsey Castle once stood, and soon I was back in the lay-by, knocking the mud off my boots and enduring the roar of the traffic - a whole world away from Roman times at Pompocali.

Step by Step

  1. Leave the lay-by and go between wooden posts up path into wood to meet old railway line and turn right along it briefly. Soon fork left over stile and follow path between trees and grassy area into path enclosed on right by hedge and on left by fence. Bear right with hedge then keep ahead, with Bardsey Beck on right, to stile into Hetchell Wood Nature Reserve.
  2. Veer right and follow main path ahead through reserve, passing below Hetchell Crags and keeping on until there is a fence ahead. Head left to wooden kissing gate and, through that, turn left up bridleway for 15 yards. Go right over stile with bull warning and climb bank ahead up to top of Pompocali. Turn right and walk along ridge and follow path to far end of earthworks  then keep ahead, dropping down parallel to beck and heading for stile by gate.
  3. Through stile, bear left with path to pass ruins of old corn mill and follow right-hand edge of field to stile, then keep forward on track under railway bridge. Soon track turns left. Here, go ahead through gate-stile on bend then head slightly left across field to large gate near house. Through gate, walk ahead for a few yards then go right over step-stile.
  4. Walk along right-hand side of field then swing right at far side to stile with footbridge beyond. Over footbridge, go right briefly then left, taking left-most of two tracks with tree-line to right and trout farm on left. When this track leads into a field, stay to right-hand edge of it until it descends to a broad cross-track. Turn left along this to road.
  5. Cross road and dogleg slightly left to go up Wayside Mount. Keep on past houses and go through gate into track between fields. Where track turns sharp left, dogleg right and walk down field side with hedge on left, cutting across bottom corner to footbridge over Gill Beck and climb up to the wooden gate into the churchyard. Walk to right round church to gate into road and cross into Woodacre Lane. Past village hall cross over to go through gate above Callister Hall and walk along path with Castle Hill on left, soon descending to snicket between houses on to cobbled drive.
  6. Go right here, passing Bardsey Grange (birthplace of the 17th century poet William Congreve) and following road round to right (ignoring Cornmill Close and another road on left) to meet Church Lane at T-junction and return to A58 to turn right and return to lay-by across road.

Fact File

  • Time for 3-mile walk: about 1½ hours.
  • Going: easy, but a bit muddy after rain.
  • Map: OS Pathfinder 672, Harewood.
  • Getting there: turn right at bottom of Pool Bank and drive through Arthington, going right at T-junction up Harewood Bank and then left at traffic lights by Harewood House. Drive along Harewood Avenue, eventually passing pub on right. Ignore first turn-off to East Keswick, taking turn-off to right at bottom of dip with large car park on corner on right. Drive through East Keswick and follow Bardsey signs to T-junction by Bardsey Church. Go left down Church Lane to main road then turn right to lay-by.
  • By bus: take the Wetherby bus (98/99 service) from Leeds to bus stop on A58 opposite lay-by.
  • Toilets and refreshments: none on route, but a pub in Bardsey (turn right instead of left at T-junction facing church).