This jolly jaunt offers a couple of hours or so of excellent entertainment. And it is all so handy for the people of Leeds as it lies only five miles from the city centre.
The scenery around the upmarket commuter villages of Bardsey and Scarcroft is a gentle delight and the ever-changing terrain is enough to keep you interested throughout.
The only hiccup which may be encountered is deep in Hetchell Wood where, after heavy rain, the paths can become very muddy. So best go prepared – clad yourselves in stout leather boots and gaiters (or wellies) and then you’ll have an even chance.
Bardsey, so Domesday Book records, was held by the Saxon thane, Ligulf, at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, but he was dispossessed and his holding passed to the Crown. About 1105, the Conqueror’s son, Henry I, granted Bardsey and nearby Collingham to the de Brus (Bruce) family, ancestors of Robert the Bruce.
The Bruces were followed by the equally-illustrious Mowbrays who, in 1205, gifted Bardsey and Collingham to Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds. The monks built Bardsey Grange as their headquarters (a later Bardsey Grange still stands on the site in Cornmill Lane).
After the Dissolution of 1539, the Bardsey estate passed through several families before being purchased in 1720 by Robert Benson, 1st Lord Bingley, who is remembered by the village hostelry, the Bingley Arms.
The estate then passed to Lord Bingley’s descendents, the Lane-Fox family of adjoining Bramham Park whose sale of properties in the village allowed the community to develop.
The village church of All Hallows (visited in the final stages of this outing) has a remarkable tower dating from 850 AD in its lower section - the remnants of an early Saxon church on the site.
The church you see today took shape from 1100 onwards. It was altered and extended down the centuries until a major renovation at the beginning of the 19th century completely changed the medieval character of the building.
The parish records go back to 1538 and record the baptism of Bardsey’s most famous son, the dramatist and poet William Congreve, who was born at Bardsey Grange in 1669. The famed Bingley Arms claims to be the oldest inn in England (as do several others!).
PARKING: Bardsey can be approached along the A58 Leeds-Wetherby road. From the Leeds area, follow the A58 to traffic lights at Bardsey and turn left for East Keswick into Keswick Lane and park by the roadside where the road is at is widest.
BARDSEY and HETCHELL WOOD
5 ½ miles. Allow: 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S Explorer 289 Leeds
Walk back along Keswick Lane to the A58 at the lights, cross over and go straight ahead up Rigton Bank and struggle up the hill – apologies for the brutal start - to arrive in East Rigton at the village green. Just after passing a nameplate on your left for Rigton Green, turn right on a track between the greens, past a bench (on your left) and turn right to a fingerpost and take the enclosed path to left of a property.
Cross stile into field. Put your back to the stile and go straight ahead over the field (no path) with a large barn complex to your front left. Then descend the field to its righthand corner (just left of a house) to enter a road (Mill Lane) and turn left, soon sweeping right to gain the road signposted: Bardsey, Wothersome, Thorner and Bramham (Holme Farm Lane). Farm on your right.
Press on along Holme Farm Lane, the road passing through a wood after 500/600 yards. When the wood on your right finishes, immediately turn right (no signpost!), just before a large tree, through sleeved saplings, to continue along edge of wood.
Go down edge of wood, turn right with wood and then turn left down to field corner. Go half right into the field on your right (stout wooden gateposts) and turn left along field edge for 15 paces and then turn left into Hetchell Wood Nature Reserve.
Follow the good path until it arrives at a cross path and turn right downhill to gain bottom of wood at information board and turn left A stout track now leads through the wood, soon passing beneath Hetchell Crag, occasional summer haunt of the rock climber.
Go through kissing gate to emerge in a wide cross track – Scarcroft Beck to your right – and turn LEFT for 50 yards and then turn right through gate with blue arrow to gain a fork in the path and take the right branch up the sandy slope and then turn right along a ridge path with, to your left, the site of a near-2,000-year-old Roman marching camp known as Pompocali.
The fortified camp lay alongside the Roman road from York to Adel, Leeds, the course of which is marked on modern O/S maps. A Roman altar and coins have been found at the site.
1: Follow the ridge to its end and drop down on to a good path and go straight ahead, soon passing blue arrow, and onward, eventually passing the ruins of a 200-year-old farm. The farm had close links with a water mill by the side of the neighbouring Scarcroft Beck. The mill was still grinding corn up to the Second World War.
Go under the dismantled Leeds-Cross Gates-Wetherby railway. Soon, on crossing the Scarcroft Beck, turn left past blue arrows, staying on the main path (ignore gate on your right).
The field on your right is the site of a medieval moat which was visible until the beginning of the 20th century when it silted up. The moat was part of 13th-century Moat Hall. The present Moat Hall – the house to your right - still retains part of the earlier building.
This strong path turns right to emerge in the drive at Moat Hall – turn left to enter Thorner Lane and turn right along the lane into Scarcroft, walking single file, facing the traffic, or using the grass verge on lefthand side of road for safety. A pavement is used on the final section into Scarcroft.
On gaining the A58, cross with care and go straight on along Syke Lane, passing The New Inn, and onward, ignoring a footpath on your right. Go past Malthouse Close and then go past Moss Syke to gain a fingerpost on your right.
Enter field to left of a house and turn right along field edge alongside a tall hedge. At field end, cross a metal stile and continue on a narrow path between holly trees and a green mesh fence. Go past a marker post and curl left with the mesh fence and follow it downhill to emerge in a vehicle track.
Cross it and immediately turn right along an enclosed path and then continue along a wider, enclosed green track with golf course driving range on your right. Follow this wide green track up the slope until it narrows and then continue between hedgerows to emerge, eventually, in a road, Blackmoor Lane, and turn right along pavement, passing houses.
2: At end of houses, go off right along Tithe Barn Lane. At end of this lane – tiny triangle of grass with white stones – turn right along a vehicle access track, passing to right of a pond. Follow the vehicle track as it sweeps left and then, when it turns right into premises, go straight on along a broad track to emerge in a field at a tall marker post.
Turn LEFT, round the hedge corner, and go down the field, by the hedge, towards Bardsey. At bottom of field, turn right for a few yards and then, at end of a garden hedge, slip off left down hill, cross the Gill Beck, and climb up to the church. Enter churchyard, go up to the porch and turn right and left round church to enter Church Lane and turn right.
After a couple of hundred yards – when within 50 yards of the A58 – turn left along Cornmill Lane and keep straight on – do NOT turn right into another section of Cornmill Lane over the bridge. Continue to a house called The Cornmill and turn right along Cornmill Close and go straight ahead to enter the A58.
The corn mill dates from the 17th century but is believed to rest on the site of a mill built by the monks of Kirkstall Abbey more than 700 years ago. The mill was operated by one family, the Midgleys, for centuries. Records show that William Midgley was running the mill in 1800. The mill was converted to a private residence as recently as 1980.
On gaining the A58, turn left along pavement for a quarter of a mile to the traffic lights and turn left into Keswick Lane and the finish.