Walking: Rural delights on the edge of bustling Leeds

YORKSHIRE LAKELAND: View over Fairburn Ings from the headland path near Newton Farm.
YORKSHIRE LAKELAND: View over Fairburn Ings from the headland path near Newton Farm.
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Ledsham is such a pretty spot, hewn in mellow stone and surrounded by the lush parkland of the adjoining Ledston estate, yet it is only a mile or so as the crow flies from the industrial Aire valley and what was once, perhaps, the busiest corner of the Yorkshire coalfield.

In the heyday of King Coal, Ledsham was, indeed, a sparkling rural oasis, the mining operations stopping well short of the community.

Ledsham has a very remarkable building at its heart - All Saints’ Church, described as one of the three most important Saxon churches in England. It is thought to date from about 750AD and still retains a number of features from those Dark Age days, including an exquisitely-carved Saxon doorway at the base of the tower.

The neighbouring manors of Ledsham and Ledston formed part of the vast empire of the de Lacy barons, Lords of Pontefract, after 1066. The de Lacys gifted Ledsham church and half the village - as well as adjoining Ledston - to the newly-founded Pontefract Priory in 1138 and the priory built its grange on the site of the current Ledston Hall, which lies alongside our route.

The priory held sway over these fertile lands for 400 years until the Dissolution in 1538 when its properties reverted to the Crown. The Ledston estate and the patronage of Ledsham church were sold to Henry Witham who then built the magnificent Ledston Hall, incorporating into its features the undercroft of a 13th-century chapel erected by the monks of Pontefract.

In 1653, the Ledston estate was purchased by Sir John Lewis who had amassed a great fortune with the East India Company. He was a generous local benefactor and in 1670 built the almshouses in Ledsham - the long, low building just north of the church and now retirement homes. The tombs of Sir John and his wife are inside the church