Hunger Hills Wood, Horsforth, Leeds

Walk: A small suburban wood on the edge of north west Leeds.

Difficulty: medium

Accessibility: steep hills and very muddy at the moment.

Parking: street parking.

Links: https://www.hungerhillswoods.org/about-the-woods-and-their-history/the-origins-of-the-woods/ (also includes walks and other information).

http://west-leeds-country-park-and-green-gateways.webplus.net/a_guide_to_hunger_hills_woods.

It is a lovely spring day today. The sun is warm when out, but there’s a cool wind and pockets of snow are still lying about. Not quite t-shirt weather. The Dog and I walked to Hunger Hills Wood, a tiny woodland adjacent to a housing estate that affords some great view across Leeds.

Apparently today, days and nights are both 12 hours long and hark the beginning of spring. All I care about is summer is coming, with lighter evenings and the possibility of a barbecue if the British weather allows it. The squirrels in the wood certainly know, as there are an abundance of them scampering through the trees, much to The Dog’s delight. She spent a happy hour chasing them and wearing herself out. She has never caught one and never will as she gives them prior notice as she crashes through the undergrowth, but it keeps her occupied. The birds were all singing in the trees too which was lovely to hear – it gave you that feel good factor. I saw two or three Jays flying around too.

This is the view looking south west towards Shipley and the Pennines beyond. Considering there’s a housing estate some 100 yards away, this is literally the edge of Leeds but you could be in the middle of the countryside.

This is looking towards the city centre with the University, Bridgewater Place (the highest building in Leeds) and other landmarks clearly seen. On clearer days, you can see Drax Power Station (amongst others) beyond in the east.

The Friends of the Wood have created this great information board that pinpoints all the landmarks with a brief description of each. Very interesting and makes you really study the landscape.

Tried to be clever with my phone camera (one day I will use my proper camera) and did a panoramic shot in the same spot as the photos above. There’s is a fantastic 180 degree view from the countryside north of the city, across into the suburbs and the city centre and then out over the south side towards Farsley and Pudsey.

The green is not grass but hundreds and thousands of bluebells, starting to push their way up from the soil. In May time, this wood usually has a beautiful carpet of Bluebells throughout and is stunning.

Now this makes me vent.

Somebody has come up to the woods, carrying this piece of rubbish and dumped it. I scratch my head at this, as there is no vehicular access to the woods, so the person concerned as made a huge effort to cart it up the hill and drop it there, when there were easier options to dispose of it. The only other way for it to get there was by the wind catching it, but there’s surrounding fields and no other debris nearby, so I doubt it. It just drives me crazy at people’s careless actions and their mentality. End of rant.

There’s a footpath up from Westbrook Lane/Lee Lane East leading up towards Hunger Hills. Underneath all the earth are these stones, which I’m trying to find the history of. I’ve got a feeling that it was an old drovers road from years gone by, but can’t find out for sure. They have been there for quite a while!

Swinsty Reservoir

After a weekend of snow and icy wind, today felt a lot more like spring. The sun was out and warm in sheltered areas and I managed to go for a walk in trainers rather than wellies!

I’m cursing myself of not recording the last couple of days of snow, but my phone kept hibernating and needed CPR when I got home. Namely being plugged into the mains and being recharged even though it still had lots of battery life. Sometimes, technology just doesn’t make the grade.

Anyway The Dog and I headed to Swinsty Reservoir, north of Otley. It’s a lovely circular walk around the reservoir and through woodland.

It’s pretty flat and accessible to everyone. It’s one of my favourite walks as the drive to Swinsty is very pleasant too and The Dog can be off lead all the way round.

It was a glorious spring day, though snow can still be seen behind walls. Yesterday morning, snow blanketed the whole area, covering roads and paths. Twenty four hours later and it’s all different.

Spotted these icicles still clinging on down these stone steps.

The wind was quite strong here, blowing across the reservoir. Even the water has little waves with white caps. We didn’t linger here!

I think this is still in use and used by Yorkshire Water who manage the Reservoir. Inside there are tanks and pipe work, so I think it’s a pumping station of some sort. I just love the building – typical Victorian with its ornate windows. It looks like a little cottage!

Swinsty started construction in1871 and completed in 1878. It’s situated in the Washburn Valley, north of Otley and west of Harrogate. Click on the link below for more information.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swinsty_Reservoir

Love how nature works. These trees are just amazing – they are barely attached to the ground and actually a couple of them have lurched sideways and leaning against their neighbours. It shows how intricate their root system is too, intertwining with each other.

This is the Washburn Valley Heritage Centre, where on certain days, volunteers serve home made cakes and tea. It is very nice and a half way stop, though to reach it from the reservoir edge, it’s a bit of a walk up a gravelly path. Makes you appreciate your scone and jam though! It’s attached to the beautiful church and the graveyard. I love reading the inscriptions on the ancient graves. One is particularly heart rendering as a family loses four daughters in their early twenties. How tragic is that?

http://www.washburnvalley.org/i

I love these information boards. Apart from a wall in the background, all there is of the old vicarage is a knot of ivy and brambles. A beautiful stately house like that lost to the reservoir because of subsidence. It’s bad enough that valleys are lost for reservoirs feeding the large northern cities with fresh water and that many families were displaced and their homes lost forever. Sometimes, when the levels get too low, the lost villages and houses make a brief reappearance. There was a lot of upheaval and I wonder how the villagers reacted to the news.

Love these two very British iconic structures, rarely seen together like this. Many of the traditional red telephone boxes like this one, were replaced by awful metal and glass boxes that someone in BT’s design department thought was a good idea. They look like they were thought up after a Friday afternoon liquid lunch on the back of an envelope. Luckily the red ones survive and are usually home to defibrillators for medical emergencies. Others are used as mini libraries and other uses which is just brilliant. Others find permanent homes in people’s back gardens.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_telephone_box

Little Observations on Everyday Life

Is it just me it happens to or are other people out there who cannot fill their car up without going over to the penny?

Say you want £30 worth of fuel and you click off at say, £29.67 and spend the next few seconds of your life, gradually clicking a bit more petrol in the tank as it inches towards that nice round number. You get to £29.97, 98, 99. You’re concentrating so much that your tongue is sticking out. Just one more flick of the finger and bingo.

Except of going up in increments of one like the last few clicks, it suddenly leaps by two and you’re staring at £30.01. How did that happen? You pull a pained face and probably swear inadvertently loudly at the pump, alarming fellow motorists.

Now here’s the thing. Were you heavy fingered or are the pumps programmed to always show £30.01.

I’m convinced it’s the latter. I always ask the checkout staff and they smile and mutter about collecting points. Other drivers smile wryly. After all, if it’s happens to all the motorists filling up, that’s a lot of extra pennies being collected. It’s now becoming a challenge every time I fill up – can I avoid going over and giving the petroleum companies more profit? More often I fail miserably, pull a face and traipse across the forecourt cussing under my breath. Little things ………

Damp Around the Edges

It’s one of those dark, damp, miserable sort of days that Britain sort of specialises in.

It wasn’t good when we woke up with rain pouring down. Always the optimist, I declared it may brighten later. The Dog and I pottered around the house until a mate rang and asked if I wanted a walk? I asked her if she had actually looked out of the window? No, came the reply and a better deal of a coffee was struck.

On my return, The Dog was pacing, wanting a walk. The rain had eased off but mist was lurking. My weather prediction was sort of true – it had improved slightly as it wasn’t raining anymore! Where could we go without having to a) wear wellies b) slither in gooey squelchy mud and get blathered. I needed petrol first, so headed off racking the old brain cells where I could go and crossing off each one. ” Looking like we’re walking the streets” I yelled at Dog in the boot of the car, which thrilled both me and The Dog – not. It was when I was idly filling the car, that the perfect solution cropped up and pleased with myself, The Dog and I headed off.

We drove to Yeadon Tarn, a suburb in north west Leeds, squeezed between the High Street and the Leeds Bradford Airport’s runway. It is home to the sailing club and on summer days, there’s usually a range of sailing vessels bobbing on its surface. Numerous birds also gather here, scrounging food off visitors and at the end, there’s a sectioned off area for conservation. For me and The Dog, it has a paved path circling the Tarn, which ticked a huge box for us and we headed off into the deepening mist.

Told you. Not a good day for photography. Couldn’t tell if it was a mist or just very low cloud. I couldn’t even see the runway of the airport which is literally next door and could hear aeroplanes taking off, but nothing else. It was also drizzling slightly. The whole place is waterlogged too after last week’s snow melt and the rain. Puddles are everywhere and the grass boggy. (Thanks, Dog for going to the toilet about 10 foot from the path, in a particularly boggy area and I had my fashion boots on as I thought I would be on tarmac!!)

We did three circuits of the Tarn, before I was getting chilly. The Dog dredged a ridiculously long branch from the Tarn, (a habit of hers to find the biggest stick, branch, log she can find and drag it around with her, usually clipping the back of your leg as she passes), but thoughtfully dropped it on the grass out of the way.

We headed home. Not much of a report today with such dire weather, but at least we stretched our legs and got some fresh air. Roll on summer.

Soapbox Corner

People. They are a funny breed.

There’s me and my friend having a deep intellectual personal chat, albeit on a table for 6 – 8 people, in the local MacDonalds. Yeah, yeah not my favourite place and haven’t been in one for years, but my friend wanted a MacDonalds hot chocolate (I must admit their milkshakes are something else) and so, there we were sitting chatting in the restaurant, which was about a quarter full.

Towards the end of draining our drinks, one woman plonked herself two seats away from my friend on the acres of table we had occupied (we were sitting on the end) and I thought that was odd, to practically sit on top of somebody else. Within minutes, another 4 or 5 women joined her, dumping their handbags on the table next to us and spreading their food. I was nearly inclined to ask if I could snitch a chip, but felt that the Donald Trump wall they had built with their bags, deterred me.

I had my back to the rest of the restaurant, so imagine my dismay and deep annoyance, to find two more equally large and completely tables free, after my friend and I decided that they were encroaching our personal space and decided to leave. I felt like yelling in their faces Why???? and highlighting in dramatic fashion the bleeding obvious. Of all the space, you plonk yourself on top of me and my friend. Couldn’t you walk a little further??

Saying that, I noticed that MacDonalds now have built in iPads or similar on the tables, to occupy little kids whilst eating their way through a Happy Meal, saving their parents the chore of reminding their 2 month old to remember to bring their own iPad. I will save that one for another soapbox.

Of course, being very British, I huffed and puffed, swore under my breath and spitted feathers at my friend and left. You feel like publicly humiliating these people of very little brain, but feel you wouldn’t get anywhere. So I came home and now spitting feathers with my little group of followers. Well, honestly.

A Grand Day for walking.

Surprise View, Otley

A beautiful sunny day and The Dog and I decided to go up to Surprise View, another part of the Otley Chevin estate. It offers fantastic views up and down the Wharfedale Valley and it was far better weather than yesterday.

See, told you! This is looking west up towards Ilkley and beyond.

The market town of Otley, nestling in the valley.

There are many ruins on the Chevin, of old buildings that sadly fell into disrepair. The Chevin has a chequered history and one of my friends has done a lot of research on it (see the link below).This is where Jenny’s cottage used to be, with unenviable views along the valley.

http://www.chevinforest.co.uk/

There’s been a lot of work to supply information boards telling you the story behind the buildings.

If it had been a tad warmer and I had remembered to bring me sarnies, I would of had me lunch there.

The Dog and I dropped down into the wooded part of the Chevin and this photo doesn’t do it justice. These tall majestic trees remind of the Hobbit stories and I imagine them whispering to each other as we come in. They are just like soldiers on sentry duty.

The Chevin is full of boulders from the ice age and this one has fallen free many moons ago. It looks like it’s been dumped there by a giant’s hand. There are lots of stories of how stones end up where they are, usually fantastic mythical ones involving angry giants and devils who wreak revenge and throw boulders in temper.

At the beginning of the walk, you can almost get a 360 degree view. You can look towards Leeds Bradford airport and beyond into the city centre of Leeds and follow it around towards the outskirts of Bradford, Yeadon, Guiseley, along the edge of Ilkley Moor into the Wharfe Valley, scan across towards York and back to Leeds.

Here we are looking across towards Guiseley/Menston and the old High Royds Asylum Hospital. It was derelict for severalj years after the last patient left until building developers got it and transformed into homes. The old Victorian building has been saved and turned it into apartments and studios and surrounded by a variety of different houses on its grounds. It’s is a majestic, imposing old building and it retains its dignity. A few years a photographer got permission to enter it when it was derelict and took photos of the wards, corridors and treatment rooms. It was very creepy and made you wonder what it was like to be a patient there. 5e stories that old building could tell if it could talk.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Royds_Hospital

Just a couple of pictures looking west at Ilkley Moor. It’s amazing to think that behind me is the hulking cities of Leeds and Bradford, with their teeming masses and then there’s this stunning countryside and amazing views.

Isn’t Mother Nature just brilliant at art?

And this is equally beautiful too, the fungi on this tree.

Now for some man made art. I need to find out the history of these stones and why they are placed like this. It’s just great, a whole line of them standing bolt upright.

The provenance of this line of stones below Surprise View on Otley Chevin is unknown but they are undoubtedly of ancient origin, probably marking an old property boundary.

Scattered around the Chevin, the local woodcutters have been busy over the years and done this with a huge chainsaw and a picture in their heads. I would have trouble getting the chainsaw even started, let alone trying to carve something. You would end up with a pile of woodchip with me!

This is the White House, the old rangers building. If you stand anywhere in Otley you will be able to spot this halfway up in the trees. Probably an old farmhouse, Leeds City Council have used it for years for their rangers to work out of. Opposite there is an education room where a Wildlife Watch Group used to be held.

http://chevinforest.co.uk/chevin-through-time/places-activities/the-white-house/

The back of the White House with the cafe building in front of it. Somehow I always rock up and the cafe is closed, which always a huge disappointment as it’s at the bottom of a steep hill. There’s nothing worse than having to trail back up when denied a coffee and a sticky bun.

The trouble is, visiting the White House, is that it’s a long haul uphill back to the car. The Dog looked at me with pity as I slithered and squelched my way slowly up the incline, while she, with four paw drive, leapt like a gazelle through the oozing mud. My Dog has a good line of withering looks for my inadequacies as a human – the minutes wasted putting layers of clothing on, the interminable wait for changing of shoes to wellies and her raised eyebrow look reserved for all two legged animals trying to walk through mud and precious seconds lost to that activity.

We finally get back to Surprise View and have one more look across the valley and reluctantly head off.

Otley Chevin

The Dog needed a walk and we visited one of my favourite places – Otley Chevin.

The Chevin rears up from the little market town of Otley where at the top, you can view the most panoramic views up and down Wharfedale. On good days, you can see York Minster, some 30 miles away or peer into the Yorkshire Dales.

Yesterday’s early morning dumping of snow still remains up here.

A huge swathe of the Chevin is covered in woodland with sturdy paths criss crossing through the trees. Every now and again you come across old foundations of building that once stood and now long gone, all with their own little piece of history. It’s great for The Dog who spends a majority of her time chasing imaginary squirrels or sometimes, real ones. She’s not exactly a stealth dog and crashes through the undergrowth giving the squirrel ample time to scamper up the nearest tree and then blow raspberries back at her in triumph.

A glorious sunny day and relatively warm, the views are pretty good today. Dotted around are information boards which tell you a little bit about the Chevin. Here we’re looking over towards Harrogate.

The view looking west with Otley nestling in the valley beside the River Wharfe. To the left of the photo is Ilkley Moor (of “On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at” fame – the unofficial anthem of Yorkshire. Translated it means On Ilkley Moor without a hat). In the distance is Beamsley Beacon and beyond that, the town of Ilkley itself.

One of the information boards dotted around the Chevin. Here it describes the deer park and Keeper’s Cottage which no longer survives.

Around the Chevin are these signs, naming the different parts of the site. It also dates them too so you can admire the trees and go “wow, they’re 58 years old”. It’s saves you hauling in a chainsaw, cutting one down and counting its rings, which is rather convenient. They always remind me, for some strange reason, of the Winnie the Pooh stories and signs for the Hundred Acre Wood. Wouldn’t it that be great to have such a sign on the Chevin?

There’s a lot more about the Chevin, that I’ve hardly touched upon. Watch this space for more stories on my dog walking escapades on this lovely little area.

Aargh!

Kicking myself today as I was so busy yesterday,I forgot to take photos and then forgot to blog! But here’s a quick update.

Travelled to Leeds today, but as I got up this morning, listening to the radio, I tuned into the weather reports. Initially it was snow on the higher ground of Wales, the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales, but then Leeds kept being mentioned with the M62 and A1. I checked in with a friend who sent me a photo of a street in North Leeds at 8am, showing deep snow that had fallen within a 2 hour window. Hells Bells.

I left at lunchtime with a couple of warnings of being careful around Skipton ringing in my ears. There’s wasn’t a single flake in my little corner of England except trapped piles of old snow from last week’s “Beast from the East” episode, caught behind dry stone walls and shady cols. I swept past Skipton and through Ilkley with vast green fields and dry roads, passing grubby heaps of unmelted drifted snow on the roadside. I was beginning to scoff when just west of Otley, the fields were suddenly covered in the white stuff, the roads were slushy and the hills blanketed. Wow. It was almost if a solitary cloud had dumped it just on Leeds and this cloud had its own parameters.

The sun was out and it was a balmy 6 degrees, so the snow as rapidly melting and soaking everything. By teatime it was a different world with only a hint of the chaos of that morning. The only thing that stuck out was the haphazard parking of the early morning commuters who had abandoned any attempt to park their car parallel with the kerb that morning and had left a trail of cars with their backends sticking out, the front ends in danger of being clipped or just left in the middle of the carriageway, about three foot from the kerb. It looked like the zombie apocalypse had arrived. No, just commuters who can’t deal with 3cm of snow on the road! That’s why I love this crazy country of mine.

8am this morning on a main road in Leeds. At 6am there hadn’t been a flake of snow. The red faced weather forecasters hadn’t expected it to fall on lower levels and definitely not on Leeds.

Little hidden gems

Came across this fantastic piece of history on my travels today. A plague stone. To prevent the spread of the disease, the villagers were quarantined in their own community – voluntary or enforced, I’m not sure and unable to travel beyond its boundaries. The locals from other villages would bring food to the stricken hamlet in return for payment, pushing it through this small hole in the boundary wall for collection. What great community spirit too – not abandoning them to their fate in fear of contracting the disease themselves.

And I love the idea that they disinfected everything with vinegar……….

The Coast

It was only suppose be a shopping trip to the supermarket, but it ended up at the coast in the little town of Arnside.

I love Arnside. So does my dog. It sits on the edge of the River Kent, at the mouth of estuary which flows into Morecambe Bay. We often walk along the edge of the river towards the Bay but today, sans dog, I wandered around at my leisure.

It’s quite overcast today and the colours are very muted. Arnside overlooks the Southern Lake District and on a sunny day, the surrounding countryside is stunning. My photos looked drab and uninspiring and so amused myself looking for other things to photo.

It all started when I spied this sign on the way to Arnside. No wording – just a circle and an arrow. I followed it which took me through some roadworks in a small village (which I thought it would of diverted me from). I thought it was an one off, but they appeared periodically all the way to Arnside. What it was for I don’t know. I have seen these signs before – some have black squares, others triangles and they are, in my world, one of the mysteries of British life.

I parked up overlooking the estuary and walked a short distance to the river front shops. It was here that I noticed a lot of elderly people just sitting in their cars, admiring the view. I don’t blame them on one level, but the weather was positively balmy and tropical at a heady 7 degrees rather than minus 7 of last week and there’s plenty to investigate. I left them to their peering between windscreen, wipers and a steel fence which stops motorists from plunging six foot onto the beach and checked out Arnside on a pleasant March afternoon.

This sign is at the top of a causeway looking towards the mouth of the estuary. Arnside has its very own bore, similar to the Severn Bore in Avon. Only yesterday I learnt that it only happens if the tide is over 9 metres when it comes in or/and there’s a spring tide. Many years ago, I did witness it happening by pure chance and it is quite a spectacle and equally scary as it rushes up the river. It’s just another force of nature to be wary of in these parts. Apparently, if a bore is due, sirens are sounded to alert people to be aware of its coming. It’s quite spooky really with the wailing enveloping the town. There’s usually a half hour warning and then a 10 minute warning. Morecambe Bay is also renowned for its quicksands and many people have lost their lives over the years. It is advised to use a local guide before attempting to cross.

Aren’t some people so clever with words. I’m just hopeless at such things.

I wandered down towards the railway line and bridge that crosses the River Kent, taking those so inclined to let the train take the strain to the Lakes and beyond. Spotting a lone man sporting a camera around his neck and a keen eye studying the far riverside, I wondered if a majestic steam train was heading our way. Hearing a rumble behind me, I turned to see a huge locomotive spewing black diesel smoke out of its roof, tugging what I thought was some form of cargo. It trailed three trailers behind it, each one with a big cream steel crate and as it levelled with me, it dawned on me that it looked very much like containers for nuclear waste. It was fairly non-descript as it hurtled past at speed, giving no sign of its cargo. I shivered as I thought it would most likely come from the Sellafield nuclear plant on the west coast of the Lake District. No wonder it wasn’t hanging around and the grim realisation that this stuff gets moved around on the regular railways and we hardly ever note it. Where was it going (China probably), what was in those containers and what was going to happen to it. It was quite a scary thought the more I pondered, but then a cafe loomed into view and the thought of a hot latte and a sticky bun overtook my thoughts of a railway apocalypse and I headed towards its steamy warmth.

Silly Sign No 2: I don’t know why but this caught my eye and thought it was quite a strange notice. But then, who says that Mr Icecream Van hasn’t driven onto the mudflats to sell his wares and got hideously bogged down in the gloop and needed rescuing while his pride and joy sunk without trace, sucked into the jaws of the murky mud. I’ve watched that Kevin Bacon film, “Tremors” too many times……..

I love reading these kind of signs, giving you a history of that particular monument, trough, stone edifice etc. I liked the way that this little trough is stranded in brick paving and it was originally moved for a pavement . Now it’s stuck on the promenade surrounded by 21st Century gentrification. But I’m pleased that has survived all that trauma.

The same with the little pier. The community spirit to keep it there and resurrect it despite its calamities. Would it be rebuilt today? Would they just let it slip into the river quietly and put a sign up to say “if you squint and peer closely, you might be able to just see a brick sticking out of the mud”. I doubt a council would buy it today like back in 1964 and anyway it would take them years to decide, so it would slip into the mud anyway.

It was time for me to head back, passing the same elderly people staring out into the far distance in their cars. As I drove I lamented this time of year, spring is just around the corner, but yet to show an appearance apart a from the odd clutch of daffodils, awake far too early, by the roadside, slapped in the face by passing vehicles. The roadsides are muddy, dirty and brown from the last week’s melted slush and it needs a good wash. Alas to add to this grubbiness, was the plethora of rubbish as careless drivers and their passengers (and anybody else who uses the roads) lob their unwanted rubbish out of their window. It’s my annual rant – the disgusting state of our verges, clogged with plastic and for a better word, crap. I won’t bore you or put you off my blog with my venting, but lack of cash prevents councils resourcing into clearance and though a few good hearted souls do clean up, why should they risk their lives clearing up after thoughtless people. What’s the problem with keeping your filth within the confines of your vehicle until you a) see a litter bin b) get home and put it in your own dustbin. I can manage that, so why can’t a certain group of humans? A topic we may return to later.

Little parcels of snow still hug roadsides and behind dry stone walls, lying in streaks down the fells and peaks of Yorkshire. Pretty but unable to capture on camera due to the low cloud and mist and also I’m driving on narrow roads without an opportunity to stop. I also spot lambs in fields and utter a squeal of delight at the sight. I love this time of year when everything is so fresh and new life appears. I just wish it would hurry up though!

A lovely afternoon spent wandering and nosing around. Hopefully more tomorrow!