−−−−− BY LINZI DAVIES −−−−−
Spring is upon us, the days are longer and hopefully warmer! One way people love to shrug off the winter blues and make the most of more daylight hours is to get out and about for a walk. As well as cheering you up, it is fantastic for the body too – it is a form of exercise that you can take at your own pace – literally! Whether you just fancy a stroll in your local area or a more challenging hike, walking clears the mind, exercises the body and let’s not forget, is also great for the environment. May is the National Walking Month, and as our feature offering suggestions on where to go last year proved so popular, we thought we would bring you some more ideas this year. Be it near, far, country or coast, the wealth of walks to be enjoyed right here in Yorkshire means there is something for everyone. I have included some walks suitable for a leisurely afternoon stroll, or some longer more challenging walks for those with a bit more stamina! Read on for this year’s suggestions.
GOLDEN ACRE PARK
Golden Acre is a beautiful park set in 179 acres of mature woodland. It has display gardens to be enjoyed as well as a lake that make for an enjoyable stroll in the sunshine. In the centre of the park lies the Demonstration Garden which is ever changing, meaning you never get bored with the view! The garden follows trends and fashions, providing inspiration to visitors with themes from cottage gardens to tropical. As well as a visit to the gardens, the circular lakeside walk is very popular for its beauty and is a great place to watch and feed the ducks (remember peas not bread!). Other areas of the park to explore are the woodland garden, the wildflower meadow and the cherry orchard, as well of course, as the café for refreshments afterwards. If you wish to extend your walk, Golden Acre has the advantage of being on the doorstep of Breary Marsh and Adel Dam too, both stunning nature reserves in their own right.
The Linesway is a traffic free walk from Garforth to Woodlesford, which utilises an old railway line to pass through some of our best local countryside. This was a very familiar walk to me as a child, I spent many a sunny Saturday ‘walking the line’ with my grandad enjoying the outdoors whilst he taught me a little of nature. I even planted an acorn once – I wonder if there is an oak growing in the same spot now! You can begin the walk at Garforth station by following the White Rose (WYCC) signs until you pick up signs to National Route 697, but I always used to begin at Ninelands Lane. Billy Wood at the edge of Kippax is your first destination where from the grassland plateau you can enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. The route continues to Allerton Bywater where you can take a breather at the local café. Continuing toward Woodend you can then join National Route 67, part of the Transpennine Trail where you come across the River Aire, then the canal to Woodlesford, passing Woodlesford Locks. At Woodend, before joining the National Route, you can take a short detour to visit RSPB St Aidens, but I think this is best as a separate walk to fully appreciate the beauty of the nature reserve. This walk, from Garforth to Woodlesford is 9 miles long, but you could always do as I did as a child – walk, enjoy, and turn back around when your legs start to ache!
RSPB ST AIDEN’S
This 400 hectare nature park opened officially last month and is an ex-mining site on the banks of the River Aire. It has over 12km of footpaths, bridleways and cycle paths, offering you the opportunity to get close to nature at its best. The grasslands, reed beds, woodland and open water that makes up St Aiden’s not only offers stunning scenery to enjoy, but is also a tranquil haven for bitterns, lapwing, owls and dragonflies. This makes St Aiden’s a perfect choice for a walk if you really want to get up close with nature but not have to travel too far. Situated in the Aire Valley, not far from the perhaps more familiar Fairburn Ings, it is definitely somewhere worth exploring!
BLUEBELL WOODLAND WALKS
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust recommend that now is the perfect time to see the spectacular bluebell displays. The UK is home to more than half of the world’s bluebells, but they only grow in certain woodlands as they are slow to spread. They appear before the woodland floor becomes shaded by the leaf canopies, and as well as providing a stunning scene to look at, they give off a subtle sweet smell too. If you want to take a walk amongst the bluebells, the best places to see them nearby are Hetchell Wood in Leeds, North Cliffe Woods near Market Weighton, Moorlands Nature Reserve in York, Potteric Carr near Doncaster and Garbutt Wood Nature Reserve near Thirsk.
HELMSLEY CASTLE TO RIEVAULX ABBEY
Why not combine a bit of history with your walk? Just east of Thirsk lies Helmsley Castle, a 12th century fortress which over time evolved into a Tudor manor house, and also Rievaulx Abbey founded in 1132 and once home to 140 monks. You can park in Helmsley and explore the quaint market town and stock up on refreshments before exploring the castle’s ruins which include the medieval walls and Tudor mansion, offering a snapshot into two different periods of English history. From there you pick up the start of the Cleveland Way and enjoy this 7 mile walk which takes you through magnificent woodland, the valley of Blackdale Howl and the top of Jinny York Bank which is the place to pause to take in the stunning views across the countryside. Your walk is well rewarded as you drop into the valley where the ruins of Rievaulx nestle majestically in this haven of peace and tranquillity. The quiet surroundings offer the perfect setting to discover the lives of the monks here who transformed the area into a busy hub of industry during their time. You can then retrace your steps back to Helmsley or take a more circular route using the local roads and lanes.
If you are up to the challenge, The James Herriot Way is 52 miles long in total, taking in some of the best the Yorkshire Dales has to offer. You can walk the full length in four to five days with suitable accommodation dotted along the way, but of course you can choose to walk a much shorter distance, enjoying a day out in scenery unrivalled by anywhere in the world! This circular walk is of course named after the famous vet James Herriot who inspired a film and television series based on his life, and visits a lot of the places where he lived and worked. The walk splits nicely into 4 stages which average 13 miles each, such as Aysgarth to Hawes, or you may opt to pick one of the places along the Herriot Way and do a shorter, circular route – the choice is yours! Aysgarth is a beautiful part of Wensleydale to explore. The limestone steps on which the River Ure tumbles down are not particularly high, but the sound of the water rushing down amongst the wooded banks create a special atmosphere. The falls also featured in the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves! If you do decide to take a walking holiday and do the full Herriot Way, there are online Sherpa services which can be booked who will collect and deliver your luggage at each destination so that you can fully enjoy your surroundings without worrying about carrying your backpack.
FLAMBOROUGH HEAD TO NORTH LANDING
If exhilarating walks along the coast are more your thing, then why not start at Flamborough Head and walk along to the peaceful cove beach at North Landing? This scenic stretch of coastline is marked by rugged white cliffs and is a great place for bird watching. There is a nature reserve to enjoy and two ancient lighthouses to break up the skyline. Flamborough is popular with hikers as they love the challenge of the windswept paths rather than the busy tourist attractions of other nearby coastal towns. The 4 mile walk to North Landing is rewarded with a stunning ¼ mile beach to relax upon and enjoy some refreshments from the little café there.
Wherever you choose, you can be certain that Yorkshire offers some of the best views in the world, be they woodland, moors or coastal vistas. Living in such a beautiful county makes walking easy – you soon forget you are exercising when you are too busy soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of good old Yorkshire all around you! So, get your walking boots on, and go see for yourself – enjoy!