This is the ideal opportunity to stride into the New Year with all members of the family, young and old.
Stick the young members of the party in wellies - and away you go! Good paths and waymarking, easy ground and a lovely outlook combine to make this a very enjoyable morning or afternoon stroll.
The starting point is St John’s Church, Adel, renowned for its remarkable Norman stone carvings which are amongst the best in the country. Of particular note are the stunning south porch and the chancel arch with their intricate patterns and ancient figures and symbols.
The present church dates from about 1150, but its foundations are Saxon. A document of 1089 records the gift of this earlier church by the Norman Lord of the Manor, Ralph Paganel, to the monastery of the Holy Trinity at York.
The monks had the right to appoint the rector and did so for some 450 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 when the patronage passed to the Crown.
The south porch and chancel arch were built between 1160 and 1180 when Norman sculptural architecture was at its peak. You must pause on your way past the church at the finish - go inside if it is open - to admire the stonework.
The chancel arch has 37 miniature carved heads, many of them grotesque figures, shocking in their detail. One shows Satan eating twins and another features a cat-faced devil devouring a new-born baby - all dire warnings to the medieval congregation to stay on the straight and narrow.
ADEL and the MEANWOOD VALLEY
4 ½ miles: Allow 2 – 3 hours. Maps: O/S Explorer 289 Leeds and O/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale
Use the parking area in Church Lane, Adel, opposite Adel church (St John’s), and start out along Church Lane in a southerly direction – towards Leeds – for about 400 yards until just before Holt Close and spot a green fingerpost for Long Causeway on lamp-post on your right.
Here, turn left down vehicle access with old stone house on your right. At end of this access track, go through kissing gate ahead, between garden fences, into Leeds University playing fields and continue on the tarred path to enter a road (Long Causeway) with Adel St John the Baptist Primary School on your right.
Turn right along pavement, past the school, and continue to enter another road (still Long Causeway) and go straight on along pavement. Go past Dunstarn Drive on your left and then cross to lefthand side of road. On crossing Dunstarn Lane (at North Lodge), immediately turn left along a narrow, enclosed path (fingerpost).
Follow this path to its end, cross over the access lane and take the path opposite along left edge of cricket field to emerge at the Leeds Ring Road down steps. Turn left along footway for about 100 yards to a crossing point at a break in the central reservation barrier and, here, turn right across the road with great patience and care and go down Parkside Road opposite, crossing to righthand side of road.
1: Go over a stone road bridge spanning the Meanwood Beck and then turn right at fingerpost for the Meanwood Valley Trail with the Meanwood Beck on your right.
Meanwood Beck rises some three miles to the north on the open ground beyond Golden Acre Park and is known as Adel Beck as it makes its way south to the Ring Road. On crossing the Ring Road, it becomes Meanwood Beck on its journey down the Meanwood Valley into Leeds. On nearing the city centre, it changes its name yet again to the Sheepscar Beck before finally entering the River Aire near Crown Point Bridge.
For centuries, the beck was a source of power for the many mills down the length of the Meanwood Valley from the corn mills of the Middle Ages – of which Adel Mill, just north of Adel church, was the most well known – to the textile mills and tanneries of the 18th to 20th centuries.
Now stay alert! After about 300 yards, the track passes a wall end on your left (yellow tape) with a redundant kissing gate and arrow on your right – STOP!
Immediately on passing the wall end, turn LEFT left up through trees, through a broken wall, to arrive at a gate with blue arrow on your left. Take this path, passing to right of blue arrow and follow the good path all the way to its end, passing below a house (Grove House, built 1810), to emerge, once again, in Parkside Road with barriers to your left.
Cross the road and take the path opposite (fingerpost) up into a wood to arrive at a stout wall, fingerpost and barrier. Ignore the path with permissive bridleway fingerpost. Instead, turn left along the lichen-covered wall (wall should be on your right).
At end of wall, turn right up through the trees to another wall and bear left along it. Follow the wall, eventually ignoring a permissive path pointing right. Keep on along the wall until it turns right at an ancient stone gatepost and spot the two-sided fingerpost to your front left. Here, turn sharp left down a diagonal rake to regain the Ring Road.
Again, cross the road with great care and patience waiting for a long break in the traffic. On crossing the road, turn left along footway for 50 yards and then go off right along drive to Bywater Farm and immediately take the waymarked path to right of the farm drive. After 50 yards, take the permissive path on your right for Scotland Wood and the Seven Arches.
Go up the slope, past stone gate posts, and onward through Scotland Wood with the Adel Beck down to your left. Follow this path through the wood with no diversions whatsoever with flats and other properties appearing to your right on edge of wood and passing occasional white arrows.
2: The path eventually begins a gradual descent down through the wood and then passes a fallen tree and crosses a stone causeway and duckboards. Soon, the Seven Arches aqueduct appears to your front left – descend to pass between the arches.
The aqueduct was built in 1841-42 across the Meanwood Valley to carry the first piped drinking water into Leeds from Eccup Reservoir. By 1851, more than 22,000 homes were connected to the supply and demand became such that, by 1866, the aqueduct could no longer cope and was decommissioned. It was replaced by a large-diameter underground pipe.
Continue on a stout path (The Dales Way) bearing right. Press on to a tall, yellow-topped marker post with two arrows and go straight on into a dip, cross a beck, go up steps to a pond and then go half right (arrow on tree) to approach a wooden fence on your right surrounding Rugby pitches.
Ignore the path going half right past the corner of the wooden fence into a clearing. Instead, go straight ahead, staying in the wood. On gaining the next tall yellow marker, turn left between picnic tables to a fingerpost and go down through the trees, eventually stepping over a fallen silver birch, to arrive in a cross path and turn right.
Follow this to an arrow pointing left and turn left down the steps to the Adel Beck and turn right through kissing gate to emerge in Stair Foot Lane. Turn left and climb the hill, walking single file and facing the traffic. At top of slope, spot the steps on your left – go up the steps and follow a good path to arrive at the junction of Long Causeway, Stair Foot Lane and – opposite – Back Church Lane.
Cross the road to Back Church Lane and follow the footway on left side of road. This leads to a fingerpost and gate. Pass through gate and continue on a good path, past properties, and go straight ahead into the church yard.
Go past Adel Church, pausing to admire the magnificent carved doorway dating from early-Norman times. Follow the flagstones out to Church Lane and the finish.