Still barred from much of the countryside, but no longer from long stretches of the canal towpath, we set off the other weekend for a suburban stroll around Bingley and its environs.

This is the sort of outing that offers plenty to interest those who like to admire (or envy) other people’s houses as the route passes through some rather pleasant residential areas.

However, it also takes in a tucked-away park high on a hillside which offers glorious views across Airedale, the most photographed canal locks in the country, and a well-used tunnel under the railway line.

The walk began in the middle of Bingley where we crossed over the ever-busy main road to reach Ferncliffe Road. Why is there no provision for pedestrians at this crossing? You have to take your chance between the traffic on the main road stopping at the lights and the vehicles emerging from Ferncliffe Road.

However, we made it across safely and walked down Ferncliffe Road to cross the canal before heading up the steep pull on the other side towards Gilstead. An attractive well in the wall below some houses, put there long ago by a builder who cared about his job, turned out to have been used as a litter bin by people of the present generation. Still, I suppose it’s an improvement on throwing it down on the pavement.

Up at Gilstead, where the Wesleyan Chapel has been converted into apartments, there were cars galore lining the road and at least three football matches or training sessions taking place. What a well-used facility that playing field is. And what a marvellous setting it’s in, with Baildon Moor as a backdrop.

We followed Warren Lane up towards Eldwick, passing lots of new housing development and Eldwick Primary School, and then lots more new development (this is clearly a popular area with builders) before reaching the busy road that runs between Bingley and Eldwick.

Here we crossed and walked down to the entrance to the steeply-sloping Prince of Wales Park - one of the tucked-away gems of the district. There are no swings and slides for children here, no ornamental lakes or lavishly laid-out flower beds.

There are, though, plenty of pleasant terraced walks, a rather attractive stream tumbling down through mature shrubberies, lots of stately trees and seats galore on which to park yourself and enjoy the peace of the place. The views from the top of the park are rather fine.

We left the park by the bottom gate and continued briefly down Park Road before turning down the aptly-named Spa Lane. The spa in question turned out to be another well in a wall, this time respected rather better than the Ferncliffe Road one and litter-free. We emerged at the bottom into a road and followed it down to the Five Rise Locks Hotel, heading from there down between some stately properties and the allotments to arrive at that magnificent 18th century construction, the Five Rise Locks, in time for “elevenses” at the waterside tea-rooms there.

We found a table that was sheltered from the cool breeze and sat outside in the April sunshine, watching the towpath walkers on the far bank, a young lad trying to hook whatever fish might be lurking beneath those grey waters, and a narrowboat which arrived at the top of the locks from Crossflatts, executed a very nifty turnaround without bumping into either bank, and headed back from whence it came.

On the move again, we followed the canal back towards Bingley and on the way admired the mill conversion into flats overlooking Three Rise Locks. It was halfway down these locks that we diverted from the towpath and took the popular tunnel footpath under the railway line to emerge alongside the cemetery into the busy main road.

We stood there for a while, trying to imagine what Bingley must have been like when the road through it wound between the White Horse pub and the church, before the new road was built which hived off the church from a big chunk of its cemetery.

Then the lights changed and we crossed that busy road and walked down towards Ireland Bridge to take the pleasant (though rather muddy) riverside walk footpath back to the centre of the town.

Myrtle Park, we were pleased to note, was open for business. No restrictions here - though the riverside meadow where so many events are held was waterlogged after the heavy rains of the previous couple of days.

As we headed back to the car, we agreed that this had been a rather pleasant walk with plenty to see and a not-at-all bad substitute for a country outing.

Step by Step

  1. From middle of Bingley, walk down Ferncliffe Road to cross canal and head up other side to Gilstead. Follow Warren Lane up to left to roundabout where Otley Road meets Parkside Road.
  2. Go left here down Parkside Road, crossing over and walking down to fork right immediately before telephone box into Prince of Wales Park. Take path immediately to right after entering park, then soon go right again, following broad path around top of park to descend (with views of former Bingley College buildings, now apartments, to west). Take any route you want down through park, which is worth exploring).
  3. From bottom entrance to park, cross over Lady Lane and walk down Park Road towards Bingley. Just past development of flat-roofed apartments on right, turn right down Spa Lane. At far end go left, following narrow road down to T-junction at Five Rise Locks Hotel. Go right here, walking down steeply and swinging right with road to pass allotments then turn left to Five Rise Locks.
  4. Over bridge, turn left on towpath to pass Five Rise Locks and arrive at Three Rise Locks. Halfway down these, go right on to paved footpath which goes under railway and emerges at main road. Cross and walk down side of White Horse towards Ireland Bridge, turning left before river on to riverside walk. Continue along this and at end climb steps back to town centre. For a walk around Myrtle Park, go right at top of steps to pass swimming baths and reach entrance to park.

Fact File

  • Time for walk: an hour plus any  extra for diversions.
  • Toilets: at the two main car parks and in the leisure centre.
  • Skipton Castle: open daily from 10am. Charge (tel: 01756 792442).
  • Holy Trinity Church: open daily (free).
  • Craven Museum in the Town Hall: open daily except Tuesday, 1.30-5pm until end of March, 10am-5pm from April (2pm-5pm Sunday)