Apperley Bridge is squeezed tight between Leeds and Bradford, seemingly hemmed in on all sides by development – but wait, that is not the true picture.
This valley, bisected by the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal – they run almost side by side at Apperley Bridge - is dotted with stout woodland tracks, towpath walks and riverside rambles. It all adds up to a green oasis within an urban sprawl.
Variety is the hallmark of this circuit, beginning through the vast acres of Calverley Wood before winding through the bridleways of Calverley for a woodland finale by the Fagley Beck.
The village of Apperley Bridge takes its name from the first bridge erected across the Aire in this location in the late 16th century. The community’s fortunes were built upon four textile mills which sprang up in the 19th century making use of the abundant water supply.
Two of the mills were demolished in the 20th century to make way for new housing, but the other two, Apperdale Mill and Oaklea Mill, situated by the canal basin of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, survive after being converted for residential use.
Apperley Bridge is overshadowed by the extensive buildings and playing fields of Woodhouse Grove School. The school was opened in 1812 by the Methodist Church to educate the sons of Methodist ministers. It has a special link to the Brontes.
The headmaster’s niece in those early days was one Maria Branwell and it was at Woodhouse Grove that she met her future husband, the Rev Patrick Bronte, a union that produced, perhaps, the most remarkable literary family the world has seen.
PARKING: Use the free car park alongside the A658 at Apperley Bridge at the entrance to Woodhouse Grove School playing fields and opposite the Apperley Bridge Hand Car Wash. The car park is to your right on turning left to enter the sports fields.
APPERLEY BRIDGE AND CALVERLEY WOOD
6 miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S Explorer 288 Bradford and Huddersfield.
Exit car park into the main road (A658) and turn left along pavement, over the River Aire, and then turn first left along Parkin Lane. Go straight ahead along the middle one of three roads, past a sign for Pudsey Link, Leeds Country Way.
Cross the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and, within 50 yards, turn left at fingerpost (house called Woodside). Go down the dirt access road and, at bottom, turn right between stone properties to a gate and marker post with yellow arrow and go straight ahead to join the canal.
Now stay alert! On passing a huge house on your right – hidden behind a high wall – spot the entry on your right into Calverley Wood at a warning notice for old quarries. Enter the wood and go straight ahead with canal on your left. Always stick with the main path near left edge of wood, passing a fallen tree across the path after a few hundred yards and then passing a pylon.
Press on – have patience! – to arrive at a stout cross track with a metal gate with barbed wire and stone gate pillars on your left. Turn RIGHT along the vehicle track, uphill, to emerge in another strong track (stone gate post on your right with blue and yellow arrows) and go straight on.
Continue to join a tarred vehicle track and bear left. Exit Calverley Wood and go straight ahead, past a house (South Lodge), and onward to enter access road and go straight ahead with Calverley Primary School to your left to emerge in the A657 at Calverley parish church of St Wilfrid’s.
The church is very ancient, dating in its earliest parts to the 11th century. The tower was added in the 13th century and was increased in height in the 15th century.
1: Cross this busy road at the pedestrian crossing and turn right along pavement, past the old vicarage complete with plaque detailing its history from 1581 to 1886. Turn first left along Thornhill Street, soon passing library on your left.
On arriving at cross roads, go straight on to end of street and turn left along Woodhall Road and then turn first right along Shell Lane. At end of street, turn right (fingerpost) along a stout path, past a motorcycle barrier. This is the unmade continuation of Shell Lane.
On this section, extensive views open up across the Aire valley on your left to the water tower at Cookridge. Press on to arrive at a cross road of tracks at fingerpost and go straight ahead.
On emerging in an unmade road, Priesthorpe Lane, turn right, ignoring a fingerpost on your right after 40 yards. Keep going for a couple of hundred yards and then ignore a fingerpost on your left – just beyond, at a two-sided fingerpost, turn right for Woodhall Hills.
Go through kissing gate and onward along right edge of field. At field end, go through hedge line ahead on to Calverley Golf Course and straight on looking out keenly for flying golf balls. You will see a stone property ahead – aim for its left side. Just before property, you will pass a stone viewing station and then pass to left of a well-sited bench (picnic anyone?) to emerge in Woodhall Road.
Turn right to brow of hill and then turn left across the road to a fingerpost and go down Woodhall Hills Hamlet. Go past a vehicle barrier and straight on, passing to right of a metal gate, to gain a three-sided fingerpost and turn right for Leeds Country Way.
2: At end of this path, turn left along a broad track (the unmade Priesthorpe Road). At bottom of track, turn right at fingerpost for the Millennium Way and Carr Bottom, passing to left of house gates and with a former pub, The Blue Pig, on your left.
Now follow the main track through Ravenscliffe Wood, Round Wood and Bill Wood, ignoring any offshoots, with the valley of the Fagley Beck down to your left. After more than a mile, you will emerge in a road on the western edge of Calverley at the former Ravenscliffe Mill (Crowther Avenue on your right). Go forward a few yards to a fingerpost and turn left for the Millennium Way.
At end of this path, cross a footbridge and turn right (fingerpost) soon arriving in a cobbled lane – the two stone houses either side of the ford date from about 1650. Go straight ahead up the slope to emerge in the A657.
Cross with great care to a fingerpost opposite and turn right down into West Wood, go along the side of a wall above a deep drop and then sweep left down to the Carr Beck and follow it through the wood on a boulder-strewn path.
Stay with the main track until, eventually, it bears right up a slope to strike a strong cross track and turn left. Exit wood at a link-up with the outward leg and go straight ahead along the unmade road, which soon becomes tarred, over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
On arriving in the A658, turn right to regain the car park and the finish.