So put the kids in wellies and step into 2018 on this nice little family outing from one of Leeds’s most popular visitor attractions. If you can’t manage the full course, take the short cut of only four miles.
The wonderful facility that is Roundhay Park was the vision of one man, Thomas Nicholson, who purchased the Roundhay Estate in 1803 from landowning aristocrat Philip, Lord Stourton. Nicholson was born in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, in the 1760s, the son of a modest clothier. He made his fortune in London through a combination of banking and insurance broking and set about transforming his Roundhay estate into a green oasis.
He built the Mansion in 1818 in the deep recession following the Napoleonic wars, giving employment to scores of out-of-work labourers and returning soldiers. He transformed two quarries into lakes - the 33-acre Waterloo Lake and the much smaller Upper Lake. Waterloo Lake was constructed by old soldiers from Wellington’s triumphant army, hence its name.
Nicholson died in 1821 but his family continued to develop their property, laying out the Canal Gardens, among other ventures.
In 1868, the Roundhay Estate came on the market and Sir John Barran, the Leeds textile magnate, suggested the park should be bought by the corporation of Leeds, saying: “Here we have an estate which would make an ideal playground for the people of Leeds. Future generations will remember us with gratitude as they stroll along the pleasant walks enjoying the ease and shade of the trees”.
The cost of the 1,400-acre estate was a staggering £139,000 and the city fathers were aghast. However, they agreed to stump up an initial £40,000. Barran and his wealthy friends then stepped into the breach and loaned the city the remaining £100,000.
The park was opened to the public in 1872 by Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria. Sir John Barran is remembered by an impressive fountain visited at the end of this walk.
ROUNDHAY PARK and SHADWELL
Choice of 4 or 5 ½ miles: Allow 2 – 3 ½ hours for long route. Map: O/S Explorer 289 Leeds.
Use the free car park at the end of Mansion Lane, off Prince’s Avenue, on the western side of Roundhay Park, Leeds. If the car park is full, park in Mansion Lane.
Exit the bottom (northern) end of the car park, passing between three stout, square wooden posts, and go down the tarred path with the Upper Lake ahead. Bear left round end of lake for 70 yards to where a metal fence and stone wall on your right guard a pool and turn LEFT (bench) through trees.
This good path leads into Park Lane. Turn right and immediately go up the entrance to Roundhay Park golf course. Go past the buildings and the pro shop and straight ahead on the tarred track past a barrier consisting of three metal posts. Now beware flying golf balls!
At the fork ahead, take the left branch (arrow). The arrow is out of line – go slightly right down the golf course, continuing along a wide break with tall hedge on your right and trees on your left to spot a marker post in the distance. Cross the fairway – look left and right – to gain the marker post.
Go past marker post to strike a cross path at a low, stone wall overlooking the ravine of the Great Heads Beck and turn left. Soon, sweep right, over bridge spanning beck, and immediately turn left up to the Leeds Ring Road (A6120).
Cross it with great care and patience and take the signposted path just to your left, through a wooden chicane and on by trees on your left. This delightful path leads to a clearing – continue with tiny stream on your right.
The path eventually turns left to continue alongside trees. Follow it all the way – with no diversions – to emerge in Main Street, Shadwell, and turn right, soon passing the Red Lion.
1. Walk the length of the village, switching to pavement on left side of road at the library and take time out to read the interesting Shadwell history guide at the side of the library. Press on to gain the fish shop which occupies – amazingly! - the old Manor House of 1637.
Keep going, past Gateland Lane, and sweep right with Main Street, past house on your right called Minster View from where, on a clear day, you can see York Minster. Stick with Main Street, past Hastings Court, The Old Hall and then The Old Vicarage and then the tiny chapel of St Paul’s.
At a white house just before end of village, turn RIGHT along Hobberley Lane. Follow the lane for about 500 yards, past a cluster of houses and Hobberley Lodge, to a fingerpost on your right.
Take this path and go straight ahead along right edge of field – do NOT stride over wire fence on your left as local people have done. On this section, take care not to trip on hidden brambles.
At field end, cross a footbridge (tall yellow marker) and turn left up field edge. At top of field, turn right along a good path and then, within a few yards, turn left round garden wall of a house and follow the wall to a fingerpost to join Whinmoor Lane.
Turn left for 40 yards to where the road sweeps left and, here, go off RIGHT to pass to the right of a gate and a tall metal post on a permissive path. Enter a vehicle track at gates to a Leeds City Council works site (Redhall Farm) and turn right (fingerpost) along path to right of council depot gates (dog waste bin on right).
This strong path leads into a small wood, pass through and continue – all obvious – to the Ring Road. And now follows five minutes of purgatory in the company of constant traffic. Turn right along verge – NEVER step into road – to gain bus stops on either side of road after 250 yards.
Here, cross the road with great care. Enter Leeds Golf Club course and go straight across looking out for flying golf balls – look left and right before crossing fairways. On crossing the fairways, enter trees with a building ahead and spot fingerpost and steps on your right. STOP!
2. Short route: Turn right here down to Waterloo Lake and go up the other side to the finish.
Main route: For the long route, go straight ahead, passing to right of building on a tarred access track with golf course to your right. Go past a fingerpost pointing back the way you have come and press on along vehicle track to pass Cobble Hall Farm and Cobble Hall (on right) with its “battlements.”
This area began life in the mid-1700s as Braim Farm. At the beginning of the 19th century, Thomas Nicholson, owner of the Roundhay Estate, built Cobble Hall out of local cobble stones - hence its name - at the side of the old farm which then became the service quarters of the new hall. Nicholson gave the hall a crenellated parapet, probably to make an eye-catching picture from the other side of the park.
Continue along the dirt access road (Elmete Lane) which becomes tarred. Enter another access road with stout wall on your right and continue past the entrance to Leeds Golf Club and then past a new housing development.
Go past the former Elmete School and stroll down the slope to – eventually – pass Roundhay School to arrive in Wetherby Road and turn right along pavement for about 400 yards, past the Leeds Montessori School and St John’s Church.
Turn right at blue cycle sign to a car park for Roundhay Park and, just before car park, turn left along a tarred path with a line of square wooden posts on your right. Go straight ahead, past metal barriers, and continue on man-made path up through the trees. At top of slope, Waterloo Lake opens up.
Turn right along the broad park road to the Lakeside Cafe and bear right, round the cafe, and go straight ahead to a fork just past the car park on your left and a park map on your right.
Take the right fork which passes the fountain built as a memorial to Sir John Barran who was instrumental in opening up Roundhay Park to the public. Continue to the Mansion and the finish.