Walking: Sunday afternoon doddle right on your Leeds doorstep

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Looking for the ideal Sunday afternoon stroll? You’ve found it!

This is a smashing little outing through the delightful countryside surrounding the popular commuter village of Thorner on the north-eastern fringe of Leeds. No hills, no problems – perfect!

Thorner is a place of great antiquity, forming part of the ancient British kingdom of Elmet. The Romans usurped the Celtic chieftains in the 1st century AD and established a fortified camp just beyond the boundary of modern-day Thorner at a spot marked on the map as Pompocali. This camp guarded the roman road to the important ford at Tadcaster.

Thorner was a substantial agricultural settlement at the time of the Norman Conquest. It was styled Tornoure in Domesday Book when it was part of the vast domains of Ilbert de Lacy, Lord of Pontefract.

The Normans brought order and prosperity, building a church, St Peter’s, and later, in 1246, establishing a weekly market. Disaster struck in 1349 when the Black Death decimated the community; the rector, Robert Creyks, and half his parishioners perished in the epidemic.

At this time, the manor was held by the de Metham family. It is recorded that in 1340, Thomas de Metham, entertaining his friends for dinner and breakfast the follow day, spent the grand total of 17 pence, a reasonable sum in those days when the average wages were 2d or 3d a day.

St Peter’s Church lost much of its medieval appearance when it underwent a radical rebuild in Victorian times, although the fine tower survives from 1503. In the chancel lies John Phillips, who died in 1742 aged 117, and of whom it is said “he might have lived for many years longer only for an accident which took him off”.

THORNER CIRCULAR

5 miles: Allow 2 – 3 hours. 
Map: O/S Explorer 289 Leeds

Park in Main Street, Thorner, in the vicinity of the Mexborough Arms and stride out along Main Street in a south-westerly direction – away from the church - soon passing the parish noticeboard on your left and then The Fox pub.

Keep going until Main Street begins to bear left and The Beehive pub comes into view and, here, go off right along Westfield Lane, passing to right of a ford. At end of Westfield Lane, at a cluster of cottages, go straight on, past a fingerpost and power pole, with hedge on your right.

After 80 yards, when hedge turns right, go straight ahead along edge of field (fingerpost and arrow) with an area of rough ground on your right. At field end, cross a stile (fingerpost) and follow the temporary fence by hedge on your left down to next stile, cross it and turn left to a stile within 20 yards.

Cross the stile and follow hedge on your left by another temporary fence. At field end, take the stile through the hedge line and continue by hedge on your left. At end of this long field, pass through gap in hedge into vehicle tracks and turn right to enter Carr Lane.

Turn left along Carr Lane for about 300 yards and then turn right at bridleway fingerpost along the access drive to Eltofts House. When access road sweeps right at a 3-sided fingerpost, go straight on between hedgerows.

1: Follow this pleasant green lane to emerge in the A58 Leeds-Wetherby road, cross it with great care – it’s a race track! - and turn left along pavement, past bus stop, and turn first right along a minor road.

Follow road to T-junction and turn right, walking single file, facing traffic and using grass verge if necessary. Go past Bay Horse Cottages and sweep right, past the end of Brandon Crescent, and then, at a fork after about 100 yards, go off right along Bay Horse Lane.

After about 500 yards, on passing The Poultry Farm, turn right at fingerpost (Wolinsky Nursery on left) and follow left edge of field. Enter next field and press on along vehicle track and then continue in a straight line – all obvious – with a large house (Scarcroft Grange) prominent ahead.

Scarcroft Grange was the childhood home of Sue Ryder (1924-2000), the renowned charity worker, who established a network of Sue Ryder Homes around the world to provide nursing care for the sick and elderly. Sue Ryder was ennobled as Baroness Ryder of Warsaw, a title she took to honour the people of Poland with whom she had served during the Second World War when a member of the Special Operations Executive.

She was married to Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, later Lord Cheshire, equally famous in the charity field, who set up Cheshire Homes for disabled es-Servicemen in 1948.

You will arrive at double metal gates with a riders’ gate to its left at a large notice: “Footpaths and bridleways of Scarcroft Parish”. Pass through to gain the A58, cross it with great care – Scarcroft Grange to your right – and turn LEFT along pavement for about 100 yards to spot a fingerpost on left side of A58.

2: Here, turn right, between buildings, at Scarcroft Manor and Ashfield House. At end of this access drive, go straight ahead by wall on your left (footpath sign for Thorner), passing to the left of a small stone building.

Follow this enclosed path to its end to enter field ahead and go along left edge of field. After about 150 yards, bear left with the hedge past a large tree. Follow left edge of field all the way – a pond eventually opens up down to your right – to arrive in field corner at an opening with a vehicle track and with a name painted on a post.

Take the vehicle track into Kidhirst Wood to arrive at a gate across the track and, here, turn right over stile and descend through wood to the aforementioned pond.

This is an interesting link with the Middle Ages. The pond – through which flows the Scarcroft Beck - is based upon medieval fish ponds created by monks who lived and worked at their grange at Eltofts, half a mile to the south-west near Eltofts House.

Go past pond, over the stone-parapet bridge, and bear left along the track (ignore track going rightwards past the pond).

After about 150 yards – don’t overshoot! – look out keenly for a kissing gate half hidden in the trees on your right. Go through kissing gate and straight across ploughed field on a decent path, passing to left of a telegraph pole in mid field.

On crossing field, go up steps, over stile and half left on an obvious grass path with a wind turbine in field to your left. This path leads into a field corner with a kissing gate, an old metal and double metal gates on your left leading into a field.

Go through the kissing gate and down the vehicle track to emerge in Carr Lane on edge of Thorner. Turn left for 100 yards and then turn right at fingerpost, through white kissing gate, and follow the enclosed path to arrive in Main Street.

Turn left to regain your vehicle.