There were several unexpected highlights on today’s walk and despite heading into the congested Aire Valley we enjoyed rural walking throughout on one of the warmest sunniest February days I remember.
Continuing our straight line walk meant once again logistics of two car parking. Sir Hugh suggested Saltaire as a finishing point so we arranged a rendezvous in the large free car park there, all went well with my journey until I became stuck in early rush hour traffic, not the best of starts for a day’s walking. With the late start and more traffic problems we drove back to our last point in the Ponden Valley. Sir Hugh seemed to know all these intricate Pennine roads and little villages or at least the lonely Public Houses where he spent his money when living in the area as a young man. We were stunned when the lane up to our isolated parking spot was closed necessitating back tracking and finding an alternative route on what was becoming a frustrating morning.
At last we set off down a bridleway high above Ponden Reservoir only for Sir Hugh to realise he’d left his phone on the car, fortunately we hadn’t gone far. This initiated a conversation on things left behind on walks and the cut off distance where one is prepared or able to return. Poles, passports, waterproofs, cameras and particularly hats were prominent on the list. We ran into problems with unmarked, difficult to follow and blocked paths in the Oldfield area and at West House farm admitted defeat and took to the road for a while. None the less there were many interesting houses passed.
We were concerned with our poor progress after the delayed start on what would be a long day but as often happens things suddenly improved and remained so all day. We encountered a deep gorge not apparent on the map and decided to take the old flagged path alongside down to the River Worth which was then followed for a mile or so through green fields. We reached a road at an old mill that had been restored to provide modern living accommodation. There were several pack horse type bridges on this stretch reflecting the days when the valley was thriving with small riverside mills.
On the edge of Haworth I had noticed on the map a ‘Railway Children’s Walk’. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit, published in 1906, was set in Yorkshire and a 1970 film used The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway as a backdrop. I remember watching a BBC TV series back in the 50s. Thus Haworth’s tourism benefits from both the Bronte connection and the preserved steam railway. We followed the lane across the Mytholmes railway tunnel made famous in the film …
… I regret now not going the extra few hundred yards to view the authentic Oakworth station featured prominently in the film. No trains today so we climbed up the steep hill to the busy Cross Roads and would you believe it – halfway up a steam train came into view way below us in the valley, bad timing. Up on the road the stone houses all bore that blackened look of the industrial past.
At Barcroft we reached high open countryside and enjoyed marching out with distant views to Bingley. In the fore ground was a prominent rocky tor, Catstones, and we speculated on the climbing possibilities and the height of the faces.
A bench below was perfect for lunch, I didn’t have the energy to ascend to the rocks. An inscription was dedicated to a Cllr. Ron Senior who pioneered a circular walk around Cullingworth, Senior Way. We felt well qualified to follow it.
We ended up just using the pavement through Harden but then entered St.Ives country park for a popular woodland walk to the edge of Bingley. The park is yet another old estate taken into council ownership providing a wide range of activities, we only skirted the edge.
A lane dropped down to bridges and fords at Beck Foot, a site of old mills, all very picturesque in the sun. An ecyclist proudly showed us his bike and extolled the virtues of battery powered leisure, not sure what it is doing for his fitness.
The River Aire, on its way into the industrial Leeds, was followed through fields to give another aspect to this day’s walk. Surprisingly rural although there was rubbish evident. A last stretch of woodland linked to the Leeds Liverpool Canal which took us into the heart of Salts Mill at Saltaire. Formerly a textile mill, now an arts centre, built by the philanthropic Sir Titus Salt in 1853, along with the adjoining Saltaire village in the hope of improving the conditions for working people. The whole complex is worthy of a day’s exploration. We found our car as the sun was setting and joined the heavy traffic home.