THERE used to be a sign close to the Rodley roundabout, directing traffic down to this famous old canalside pub.
Back then, when the Railway was practically in the middle of nowhere, this would have served as a useful helping hand to bring drinkers to its front door. But now, after the towpath and nearby riverbank have been rediscovered as a place of recreation and a small estate of new houses has sprung up around it, the pub seems to do decent business from its own constituency, without this little hint to the passing trade.
It’s slightly awkward to drive to anyway, requiring either a quick dash between the oncoming traffic if you’re approaching from Horsforth, or a nifty hairpin bend doubling back on yourself if you’re coming from Rodley. From here you pass down through a car park used by the walkers and anglers, before turning right along the waterside to reach the pub.
But it’s certainly worth the effort, even before you step inside. Here you find yourself in a quiet haven of wildlife and rippling water. Barges with names like Misty Lady and Onion Bargee are moored up against the bank, swans glide lazily along, walkers and cyclists pass by with a cheery nod, bound for Bramley and Kirkstall in one direction, Apperley Bridge and Saltaire in the other.
The busy ring road may be just a hundred yards away, but it all feels beautifully serene.
The bike rack beside the entrance to the Railway is an obvious invitation to the cyclists to step inside. You pass picnic tables in a flagged south-facing courtyard which is no doubt a sun-trap in the summer, before passing through the entrance, above which is a sign saying “Narrowboats Only”. They may be narrow, but I reckon you’d struggle to squeeze one through the doorway.
From here you enter a homely, cosy room with tables either side of the doorway and a bar dead ahead. It’s a Sunday afternoon when I call in; all the tables are taken and plenty more customers are standing around the bar.
This has long been a real ale paradise and it’s no surprise to find a clutch of great Yorkshire beers available on handpull – Leeds Pale, Theakston’s Best, Old Peculier and Black Sheep. There’s John Smith Smooth too, but quite why you’d drink that rather characterless keg beer ahead of its esteemed company is anybody’s guess.
I choose the crisp and refreshing Leeds Pale before taking a quick nosy around. Across the walls are old pictures of the area, along with the inevitable railway memorabilia, some of it from the time when trains actually stopped close by here at Calverley and Rodley Station, before Dr Beeching had it closed down. The trains still rumble past though, on the Airedale and Wharfedale lines. Even the coathooks look as though they were liberated from some long-abandoned waiting room.
A doorway to the right of the bar leads through to a bright and airy conservatory at the rear where families are enjoying the last of their Sunday lunches. This offers views onto a attractive enclosed beer garden, which must do great business on warm weekend afternoons when Calverley Bridge becomes a surprising tourist trap, just a stone’s throw from from the traffic.
Calverley Bridge, Leeds
Type: Traditional waterside ale house
Opening times: Noon-11pm Tues-Sun, closed Sat
Beers: Leeds Pale, Theakston’s Best, Old Peculier, Black Sheep and John Smith Smooth plus Carling, Stella and Praha lagers
Wine: Decent selection
Food: Good choice of hearty pub meals served noon-3pm and 5-9pm Wed-Fri; noon-3pm and 5-8pm Sat, noon-4pm Sunday
Children: Welcomed, especially in the dining area to the rear
Disabled: Slightly tricky access and rather cramped inside
Beer Garden: Attractive enclosed garden to the rear, plus tables on patio to the side
Parking: On-street parking nearby
Telephone: 0113 257 6603