This was our first ride out after Emily got her bike for Christmas. Emily hadn't done any significant cycling since she was a teenager and I hadn't done any real distance for a similar length of time (plus, I have Cheshire legs which aren't well suited to going up hills). With that in mind, I planned this ride to do a minimal amount of busy road cycling and to take advantage of local bridleways instead.
It was a success. Enough road cycling to act as practice for Emily, but plenty of quiet bridleway cycling. Of course, it also features a place for lunch. As all rides should.
While it doesn't really qualify as South Leeds, it at least starts and ends there!
We headed out to the Aire & Calder navigation to start. This is a relatively short hop for us and gets us to a bit of a corridor to exit the city. It's also pretty easily accessed from anywhere around the south right round to the west of Leeds, so seems a pretty reasonable starting point. From there, we took advantage of a greenway and then cut across to Tempe Newsam, before dropping back down to the Navigation to return home... more details in the full article!
Most of my planned routes start around the Tommy Wass - it's an easily identifiable starting point for us in Beeston, but also has good access out via the bottom of Middleton Woods, avoiding many of the city roads.
So that's how we started. Starting out heading south on Ring Road Beeston, take a left turn onto Gypsy lane, following until the track which exits to the left just after Cockburn School.
This track is mostly made of Setts (I think), so isn't smooth, but is at least solid and means it doesn't get cut up into a muddy mess. After around 0.2 miles, you'll see a small wooden bridge to the right, heading into the woods. Take that bridge, but then take a left immediately and follow the paths along the edge of the ditch/stream which lead eventually to the path between the Equestrian Centre and the overflow car park for the John Charles stadium.
Head straight across the roundabout as you exit the path and head along John Charles Approach, traversing three more small roundabouts on your way.
Follow Old Run Road and turn right onto West Grange Drive. This road takes you out past Bell Isle Road, crossing at a point which is pretty easy for cyclists - the road is crossed in two steps, so you don't need to wait for both directions to be clear. You continue on East Grange Drive, eventually cycling along the south side of Hunslet Cemetery. Turn left at the end of the road, where you'll pass Scott's Almshouses, which is worth a linger for a moment or two to look at these beautiful properties.
After the Almshouses, you have a choice, either turn right along Parnaby Road, or carry straight on along Middleton Road. The Parnaby Road is more direct, but there is a footbridge that you'll need to push your bikes over. The footbridge ends in a residential road (Westbury Place North), which you follow to the end, turn left onto Wakefield Road and then right onto Queen Street. We've found these junctions easy on bikes - the busiest junction is at the end of Queen Street, where you join Pontefract Road. This is a wide junction with a good view along both directions so you can see when it's safe to move out.
The Middleton Road route is a fast downhill section which ends up at a traffic light junction which is safe and easy to use on bikes. You'd turn right onto Thwaite Gate and then continue onto Pontefract Road, to join up with the other option.
Turn left onto Skelton Grange Road, which takes you up to the Navigation. You can get to the towpath/footpath down steps that run off the right hand side of the bridge.
Now you are on the Navigation and this gives you access to a lot of different areas out to the South East of Leeds.
We follow this footpath along to the first lock. It gets a little muddy here, which can be challenging even on chunky tyres if you're not used to it. After the first lock, you can switch across to the other side of the navigation (crossing on the lock gates), where there is a tarmac road with very limited traffic that you can safely follow, even if you are cycling with kids who aren't used to road cycling.
Passing the second lock, the path returns to being gravel, but is a good surface still for cycling.
Follow along the navigation until you get to Lemonroyd Marina. Here, you double back on yourself to cross the Navigation on the road bridge. Turn right off the road immediately, to return to the Navigation. Turn left to cross the river on a footbridge.
This brings you to an entrance to RSPB St Aidan's, but we'll turn right before the fence and follow the route of the river.
As we get to the East of St Aidan's the bridleway heads north to go around the old route of the river (a meander). Follow down to the road here and follow to the start of the Lines Way. Turn right and follow in to Allerton Bywater. On our ride, we didn't turn off here, but followed the path along the river right into Allerton Bywater, but this section of path is grassy and ended up being more sapping. We then joined The Lines Way at the start of the route, from the centre of the town. It wasn't worth the detour really, although you could probably find somewhere to sit and each a picnic if you wanted.
The lines way will eventually cross a couple of road and it'll then join the rest of the Lines Way which runs from Allerton Bywater out to Garforth. Turn left to head north and follow for around 1.8 miles, where you intersect a bridleway. This is a tarmac road (not a brilliant surface), which you follow left, downhill before climbing back up to pass a large farm and carry on straight ahead along Brecks Lane. At the end of Brecks Lane, turn left onto Wakefield Road and then right onto Leeds Lane.
Follow Leeds Lane to the end before turning Left onto Swillington Lane, which you follow for 0.3 miles to another bridleway which heads off to the left. This bridleway goes via a yard and eventually runs out to a bridge over the M1. It then drops down to Bullerthorpe Lane. The route turns left and then right onto the Temple Newsam estate, but you can go straight across into the grounds and follow the route of the road within the grounds.
Here we follow the formal drive/avenue into Temple Newsam which has some grand views of the house. Follow the drive until it bears to the left. Here, a path goes off to the right. You can follow this path down, eventually turning right to get to the lakes.
If you've not already taken lunch, you can head right up to the cafe here for a very nice lunch in the coach house.
After that, we crossed below the house and exited the estate on the road which runs down to the motorway underpass.
Cross Pontefract Lane immediately, where you can then join Skelton Country Park.
There is a lot of construction work around here at the time of writing, with more planned, so this may take some working out in the future, but there is a bridleway which follows along the route of Pontefract Lane, but within the country park. It eventually bears left, dropping away from the road. Much of this route is pleasant, but it may change once the motorway services are built.
You'll reach a large gravel road which bears right and drops back down to the Navigation. Turn right back onto the Navigation and follow back to Skelton Road Bridge.
Here, I've taken the route off the road to the right immediately after the bridge (you'll have to jump an armco barrier to drop down to the path again). Follow this path up to Thwaite Lane, where you'll turn right to cross back over the navigation and onto the approach to Thwaite Mill.
There's a carpark here which you could have used to start this route if you aren't arriving from South Leeds and it would therefore be the end of your ride now. Otherwise you'll turn back on yourself along the footpath following the navigation toward the new flood alleviation barriers. Cross the new bridge here and follow the path along the far side of the river. You'll get to a coulple of bridges that bring you back onto the west side of the river, where you head along Old Mill Lane to get to Low Road. Turn right and then left onto Church Street, which you follow across the large crossroads and past the retail estate. Take the first exit from the roundabout, toward the entrance of the Middleton Railway, but take the cycleway which heads between the railway and the motorway. Follow this as it takes you under the motorway and eventually back up to John Charles Approach.
Here you can follow back along the original route along the bottom of Middleton Woods, before eventually emerging by Cockburn school, turning right to head back along Gypsy Lane and out toward the Tommy Wass.