The day was bright and blustery and needed our full attention.
The Dog and I headed out to the village of Bramhope, just north of Leeds with the intention of walking out east into the countryside. We parked the car on a road on the outskirts, full of detached handsome houses and prim hedges and with a Ordnance Survey map in hand, strolled off down an adjacent street.
It was relatively mild, but the wind was strong. The sun shone between the big clouds, some threatening rain. We had already seen rainbows. We walked down a quiet lane, lined with houses, me indulging in my favourite hobby of having a good gawp into each property, wondering who lived there and their tastes in decoration. It’s amazing my neck isn’t at a permanent 90 degree angle. Most houses were quite modest, but suddenly in between a house and a bungalow, set back in its own vast acreage was house more suited on a country estate. It was monolithic in size and totally at odds with its surroundings. I walked many yards with my neck twisted and mouth agape, wondering how much furniture you would need to fill it and how you would call your family for dinner, as scattered as they would be in such vastness, when suddenly we were back to modest detached houses and gardens. It was such surprising interlude that I spent many minutes shaking my head in amazement.
The lane and houses now came to an end and narrowed into a small footpath towards a stile. Now we were out in the country and fields of sheep. We followed the well marked paths, admiring the big sky and the last of the autumn colours. A red kite – a bird of prey rather than an actual kite – hovered over us, looking for food. A breeding programme at nearby Harewood House has consolidated their presence in Leeds and further afield and its very common to see them flying and swooping low over residential areas, their forked tails making them easily identifiable. They are scavenger birds, so spend their time looking for dead creatures to eat. Smaller birds like crows will gang up on them and chase them off in competition for resources so there are some fascinating aerial dog fights. They are very beautiful graceful birds and I just love observing them.
We were now following a ridge, overlooking the Wharfe Valley. There were amazing views to be had along its length – from the west at Ilkley and down to the east towards York. We stopped many times to admire the stunning scenery which I never tire of.
It was here we came across this lovely bench, making me wish I had bough some sandwiches and a warming flask of tea. It was definitely a lovely spot for lunch. A few feet away, was a small personally made memorial, a circle of stones, to a local farmer, obviously still cared for. Here it was, down this tiny footpath, isolated and totally unexpected – a bench and a memorial. Perhaps it was the farmer’s favourite view and he had spent many hours here. It was certainly the only bench on the entire walk. It was just very sweet.
We continued on, the Leeds Harrogate railway viaduct looming into view across the valley and in the sunshine, was very striking. A beautiful piece of architecture in a beautiful part of the world. Today it just stood out, its arches majestically striding across the valley. Lovely.
We finally dropped onto a road, crossed it and continued down a wide driveway opposite, past a large group of buildings. I let The Dog off lead with the path enclosed which she was grateful for. We contoured along the ridge, then the path dropped down towards a scruffy farmyard, full of old rusting cars, farm machinery and other abandoned implements. God bless farmers and all the hard work and hours they put in, but why are their farmyards more akin to scrap metal yards? Farmers seem to have this obsession to hoard almost anything in the belief that one day, it will come in handy. I think it could be a man thing. Hubby can be a bit like that – there’s bits that I would happily chuck, but he prevents me with “one day, that might come in useful” and on occasion, it does (much to my despair) and I get a smug and timely reminder from a very happy hubby. But I have to scratch my head sometimes to when a dilapidated old tractor with its wheels missing and taken over by weeds will ever become useful again………..
We branch off here and head up the hill across more fields of sheep and negotiating stiles. The Dog is fairly nifty, jumping over them despite her advancing age, though sometimes she misjudges it and makes a real dog’s dinner of it. She sort of lands as if that was her intention and ignores my laughter and snide remarks. A few years ago, we went on a big group walk with friends and their four legged companions and all of them admired our dog’s agility over various stiles, including ladder stiles. The other hounds were a motley collection of terriers, spaniels and a particularly large, boisterous Golden Retriever and not one of them could jump over a stile (apart from one Collie who learnt over the course of the walk, how to jump stiles by watching our pooch). They just stood there looking baffled. All of them had to be lifted over by their owners, including the enormous Retriever who was like a sack of potatoes. Very heavy and awkward to handle. He was also extremely wet and muddy and nobody really wanted to deal with him. It took at least four people to manhandle him over, while he just looked serene and majestic, as if he was royalty. The humans dropped their shaggy cargo, staggering away, blathered and dishevelled. The Retriever remained indifferent to our encouragement to at least show some interest in negotiating the stiles and was lifted many times. I think we banned him from any later walks or chose stile-less expeditions…..
The hill flattened out as we continued. We dropped down to another road and through another farmyard. There were two farm dogs wandering around, which make me a bit nervous. They can be guard dogs and not appreciate strangers and other dogs entering their property. These two seemed friendly enough and the farmer was around, so I was happy. It was here we needed to find another path to get us back to Bramhope, which I initially couldn’t find, only realising that it was probably back in the farmyard after I had ventured onto a narrow lane looking for a sign. We returned sheepishly back to the farm, hoping that we’d find the new path quickly before the farmer saw us blundering around on his land and we wouldn’t have the embarrassment of asking him for directions.
Luckily two other walkers were coming towards us to confirm our bearings and we set off confidently. The Dog who usually has to be first to stiles, started to hang back, letting me clamber over first. I was a bit baffled by this. She then loitered behind the adjacent gate. It then suddenly struck me that she was probably hankering for me to open the gate for her, saving her leaping over the stile. The Little Madam! I told her in no uncertain terms that I refused to bend to her demands and stalked off. She soon followed me. Honestly, the cheek of it!
We entered another field full of sheep, who scattered as we neared them. The Dog was pretty good ignoring them and walked by my side, on her lead, but still the sheep scampered causing little stampedes as they spooked their neighbours. Then, one particular sheep looked up, stood its ground, stamping its forelegs belligerently. I was quite surprised at its audacity. It remained there, watching us pass with its beady eyes, it’s feet still drumming on the grass, refusing to gallop off. I hadn’t come across a sheep with such bravado and was half expecting it to charge at us and butt us (thankfully it didn’t have horns). I sort of adopted a funny sideways trot to protect my backside from a possible attack. What a wuss, but this animal looked like it meant business. Thankfully, it just followed us with its eyes with a look of “and don’t come through my field again!”
We came back to our first original road, but further down as I was following a circular walk on the map. I turned left towards a little lane that led to a group of buildings as per the map. I was a little baffled as there wasn’t the usual footpath sign at the entrance, so I double checked my map, which confirmed it to be a footpath. So I followed it down, pausing to take a photo of the edge of Leeds and Leeds Bradford airport with its planes all lined up ready for passengers in the distance, and then looked for any little signs or clues for the path as we headed to the cluster of buildings. To cut a long story short, the group of buildings turned out to be private houses, converted from a farm and its associated outbuildings and we must of spent at least 10 minutes stalking around, looking more and more suspicious, as we failed to locate the path. We traipsed up and down, peering at walls and fences, down the sides of the houses looking for an obvious continuation of our walk. We followed one track which just led to an electric gate and a private garden beyond. Frustrated, I studied the map, I even googled it. We did another investigation, inadvertently crossing a private lawn and blundering into a garden looking for a stile. By now, I was seriously thinking it looked like I was casing the joint for a burglary, I was probably appearing on various CCTVs and expected the wail of police sirens to be bearing down on us at any moment. Vexed, I declared to The Dog that we would have to give up and walk up the road to join the first path we had walked, something I didn’t really relish as it was a road with no pavements, and cars hurtled down it. We retraced our steps back to the busy lane, still looking for the reclusive signs and even did a brief trot down the road to check if there was another possible path I has missed. Thwarted, we started our road walk, when at the entrance of the track we had just left, pinned to a tree and very faded and definitely not very prominent, was a little sign declaring the footpath had been diverted, but lacked any further information as to exactly where. Muttering under my breath, frustrated with the residents there for having the footpath diverted and not advertising it very well, we stomped off. About 100 yards down the road, a well marked footpath sign stood, tall and proud, marking the new diverted route. Pleased not to have to walk down the road anymore, we happily strolled down it, when I suddenly started to realise that my map was pretty old and dog eared, and therefore not very up to date (which was proved later back home). Oops. I suddenly felt rather foolish and embarrassed at my hissy fit as I quickened my step, head hung in shame, making a mental note to choose my navigational aids more carefully next time……
The telecommunications tower you can see on the horizon is a well known landmark in Leeds and can be seen for miles around. It is probably one of the highest points in Leeds with the nearby airport being the highest in England. The airport can be closed on very windy days and planes do come in sideways, battling with side winds. Pilots usually slam down their planes on normal days, so it’s with trepidation when you hear the captain inform you that it’s a bit breezy in Leeds…..
We finally crossed our final sheep field, happy to find civilisation again, The Dog tried to chase her last sheep before we joined the main road that runs through Bramhope and trek back to the car. We peel off down the road to where the car is parked and I have a final chance of peering into people’s houses. It’s been a great little walk and we’ve been gone a good two hours or more. I think it’s time for some lunch and a hot cup of tea back home!