Walking: Come on – get off the couch for a Christmas jaunt in Leeds

The glorious outlook over Eccup 
Reservoir.
The glorious outlook over Eccup Reservoir.
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Looking for a bit of Christmas exercise? Fed up of sitting in front of the telly?

Then get booted up with all the family – wellies will do! - and stride out round the edge of north Leeds on this easy-to-follow ramble.

Golden Acre Park, nestling by the side of the A660 Leeds-Otley road at Bramhope, is one of Leeds’s most popular visitor attractions, teeming with families of a weekend all enjoying the footpaths around a central lake and with a good cafe stop to round off proceedings.

The park has an interesting history. It is sited on what was once the Black Hill Dam, constructed in about 1825 to power the mills and tanneries which ran from Adel along the length of the Meanwood Valley into Leeds. When the dam was no longer required, the stage was set for the next phase of development by a local builder, Frank Thompson.

Thompson had seen pictures of the great pleasure park at Coney Island, New York, and was inspired to construct his own version in Yorkshire. The result was an ambitious and spectacular amusement complex complete with miniature railway, water chute, a lake with motor boats and many other features.

The grand opening by the Lord Mayor of Leeds on Good Friday, March 24, 1932, was attended by film stars Charles Laughton and Jack Buchanan. Soon, the Winter Gardens ballroom, boasting the biggest dance floor in Yorkshire, was in operation.

It was all a tremendous success, attracting weekend visitors by the tens of thousands. But how fickle the public! As war clouds gathered over Europe - at the end of the 1938 summer season - the park closed, never to re-open. During the war, it was used for tank training.

In 1945, Leeds Corporation bought the site with the intention of re-opening some of the 1930s attractions. But this plan was shelved in favour of a more conservative scheme - transforming the area into landscaped gardens and woodland, forerunner to the excellent facilities on offer today.

PARKING: Use the “back” car park for Golden Acre Park – that is, the car park on the eastern edge of the park in Arthington Road.

GOLDEN ACRE PARK and ECCUP RESERVOIR

6 ½ miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map O/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale

From the car park, enter the park between the red “Welcome to Golden Acre Park” sign on your left and a noticeboard with information sheets on your right. The man-made path begins by passing a single metal post and a litter bin. Now stay alert!

Soon, you will pass two benches on your left and then, when the gravel track sweeps right, go straight ahead (no path) down the grass to trees on far side of the clearing. Go straight through trees for a few yards to strike a broad path and turn left to emerge in Arthington Road and take the road opposite (King Lane, but no nameplate).

Go past Clonmore Farm and follow footway up to a wood (Eccup Whin) and, 25 yards beyond a brown sign for Herd Farm Activity Centre, turn left into wood. A good path leads up side of wood.

After half a mile, on emerging in Black Hill Lane, turn right to the junction with Eccup Lane and turn left, walking single file and facing the traffic. After 400/500 yards, turn right along a minor road – it actually looks like a dirt road because of all the debris - past a “No tipping” sign and a blue cycle arrow.

Follow this quiet byway to a T-junction and turn right, soon sweeping left through the tiny settlement of Eccup.

Eccup, now a hidden backwater, was of sufficient substance at the time of the Norman Conquest to be recorded in the Domesday Book survey of 1086. Its unusual name is a mixture of Saxon and Viking and means “valley of the oak trees” from the Old Norse “eik”, an oak, and the Old English “hop”, a hanging valley - the hamlet lies near the edge of the shallow valley containing the Eccup Beck.

The community was once much larger than it is today with a school (closed 1942), a shop, chapel and blacksmith’s, all long gone. Life was hard in this forgotten corner on the edge of Leeds. Until 60 years ago, there was no electricity, no gas, mains water or sewerage system.

The villagers obtained their water in buckets from nearby springs and wells and lit their cottages with paraffin lamps. Modern amenities eventually reached Eccup in the 1950s.

Stay on the main road past properties to merge into another road (Village Road nameplate on your left) and bear left along the road towards a farm (Bank House Farm), ignoring a fingerpost on your left just before farm.

1: Go past the farm and continue along the Yorkshire Water access road for Eccup Reservoir past a fingerpost and blue cycle sign. After a short mile, at a fork, take the right branch which immediately becomes a vehicle track (sign for Hall Farm).

On approaching gates to houses, go off left to bypass properties (arrow). On emerging in reservoir road, turn right and then left to continue by the reservoir wall.

Eccup Reservoir was built in 1897 to serve the rapidly-expanding city of Leeds. At 79 hectares - about 170 acres in old money - it is the biggest stretch of water in West Yorkshire.

Go past end of reservoir to a stone house and turn right, just before the house, past ornamental metal gates. The reservoir shore path is simplicity itself, eventually passing Sandmoor Golf Course on your left.

After about a mile, you will emerge in a tarred road at a house (Reservoir Lodge). Bear right past the house, ignoring access road to your left. Continue to a fingerpost and a wooden walkers’ gate, pass through and turn left along edge of field with a pine wood (Goodrick Plantation) on your right.

2: When the pine trees finish at a field corner with stile and arrow on your right, turn LEFT up the field by fence.

Go over the brow, drop down to a stile, cross it and turn RIGHT along fence. Follow right edge of field to its end, passing the stone pillars of an old agricultural building on your right. Cross the stile ahead and press on – all obvious – to eventually pass properties to emerge in King Lane.

Turn right along the footway with Headingley Golf Course on your left and then, soon, on your right. Do NOT step into the busy road at any time. Follow the footway for a few hundred yards to the junction with Eccup Lane and Eccup Moor Road at Five Lane Ends and go straight ahead (road sign: Bramhope) still along King Lane and still using the footway and soon passing the path of the outward leg into Eccup Whin on your right.

Keep going to arrive at the junction with Arthington Road and go straight across to enter the edge of Golden Acre Park. Count out 15 paces and then turn right, past a large log, through the trees to enter the grass clearing of the outward leg.

Go straight up the grass to gain the gravel path of the outward leg at the two benches. Go past the benches and follow the good path to the car park and the finish.

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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