Walking: A bit of paradise on your doorstep

The autumn spectacular in Cliffe Drive above Apperley Bridge.
The autumn spectacular in Cliffe Drive above Apperley Bridge.
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Looking for a peaceful oasis amid the urban sprawl of Leeds and Bradford? You’ve found it!

Here, at Apperley Bridge, with mass housing all about, is a true green “lung”, the perfect antidote to urban living.

A feature of this circuit – which goes out along the River Aire and returns along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal – is its encounter with two interesting local buildings.

First up is Buckstone Hall which was built in 1874 for William Dewhirst, a Bradford textile manufacturer, and his son Herbert. Its castellated outline and distinctive tower led the locals to nickname it “Little Windsor” or “The Castle”. The Dewhirsts lived there until 1911.

In 1923, the property was purchased by Sir Arthur Croft, owner of an engineering business in Bradford. The history of the house took an unusual turn in the 1960s when it was converted – would you believe! - into a casino. The property is now divided into four apartments.

Next in line is the imposing, red-brick Woodlands, built as a convalescent hospital in 1877 at a cost of £20,000, the money being provided by Sir William Hendry Ripley, politician and Bradford businessman. A further £5,000 was spent on improvements in 1891.

Convalescing servicemen received treatment at Woodlands in both world wars. During the 1914-18 conflict, more than 3,000 servicemen were cared for there. The building was converted into an orthopaedic hospital in 1951.

The hospital closed in 1993, one of the reasons being the inconvenience of its remote location. It was then converted into apartments.

PARKING: Use the free car park alongside the A658 at Apperley Bridge at the entrance to Woodhouse Grove School playing fields and opposite the Apperley Bridge Hand Car Wash. The car park is to the right on entering the sports fields.

THE WALK

APPERLEY BRIDGE and the LEEDS-LIVERPOOL CANAL

6 miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. 
Map: O/S Explorer 28

Exit back of car park with River Aire to your right and soccer pitches ahead and turn right along path round edge of soccer pitches alongside wooden fence. Follow this path past all the playing fields, go under Woodhouse Bridge carrying the Leeds-Bradford railway and then, after a couple of hundred yards, look out keenly for a stile on your left – do NOT overshoot!

Go across field on a worn path to wall and stile and continue along an enclosed path. This leads out to a road (Woodlands Drive) – turn right. When road sweeps right at Acacia Park Terrace (huge “potatoes” sign), go straight ahead up the drive for Acacia Farm.

After about 80 yards, at stone cottages on your left, turn right along a walled track. Soon, ignore path on your right to metal gates – continue on the main path, soon climbing between high walls. On arriving in access drive, go straight across and continue climbing to gain a tarred road (Cliffe Drive).

Turn right with Rawdon golf course on your left and soon passing, on your right, the aforementioned Buckstone Hall with its strange tower.

At end of this fine section – glorious in autumnal colours – you will arrive at a cross path with a gate and fields ahead. Go through the gate ahead (stile to its right) and then go half right across the field, descending to a gate.

1: Enter road (Woodlands Drive) and turn left for 200 yards, passing Woodlands Farm and The Registrar’s House, and immediately turn right – fingerpost on banking on your left – along a tarred drive alongside tall hedge.

Follow this access drive past properties – notice the imposing, red-brick former convalescent hospital,Woodlands, to your left – and then, when the drive bears left to iron gates, go straight ahead to a stile. At the end of the short, enclosed path, bear left with the path and the wall and follow the wall down to an old blue metal gate and a cross track and take the tarred access road opposite past a “Private road” sign and a Leeds City Council sign warning about the dangers of water and flooding.

Go past a white house and then go straight ahead, the track now unmade, soon passing the entrance to Rawdon water treatment works. Now stay alert! When wall on your right finishes, there is a fork in the track – take the right branch with the River Aire immediately popping into view.

Pass below a new housing development, over footbridge and onward, under the Leeds-Bradford railway, and ever onward by the river, along edge of field, past a pylon.

2: Continue to emerge in a cobbled track and turn right across the old Calverley Bridge spanning the Aire.

The bridge was built by Sir Walter Calverley in 1711 to replace a number of fords between Apperley and Kirkstall. In the vicinity of the bridge was Calverley Mill, a great source of local employment. The mill began life grinding corn in the 13th century but had become a fulling mill by 1320.

It continued in use until a woollen mill was built on the site in 1788. That building was destroyed by fire in 1822 and, 10 years later, a new four-story mill opened and continued in production until the end of the 19th century. The mill site is an overgrown mound just upstream from the bridge end.

On crossing the bridge, go up the steps ahead to emerge in another cobbled lane. Turn right to gain the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Owl Bridge. Do NOT cross the canal, but turn right (fingerpost: Apperley Bridge) for a terrific finale of two miles along the towpath with the canal on your left. No description needed – just saunter along at one with the world.

After a mile or so, spot the gaunt tower of Buckstone Hall appearing above the trees on the righthand skyline.

On arriving at Apperley Bridge, go past the moored canal boats, pass under a turquoise bridge and continue to the next bridge, passing new houses on your left. Just before the bridge, turn right, up steps, into the A658 and turn right along pavement. Cross the bridge over the River Aire and immediately turn right into the car park and the finish.

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