This is a nice walk that takes you through some surprising parts of South Leeds; bits that may not have found even if you live here. It takes in a good part of Middleton park, which brings a few extra benefits, but also goes out adjacent with the East Coast Mainline and a section of derelict railway heading over toward Morley.
I've started this walk in Middleton Park as it's a good place for parking, but with this being a circular walk, you can of course start at any point. The mapped route is around 5.5 miles, but one of the advantages of it including the park is that this can be extended by taking in more of the woods, or slightly shortened by not going all of the way to the bottom of the park.
Since you are in the park, I might as well cover some of these benifits here. Along with the ability to change your route or wander through the woods and keep an eye out for the wildlife (a wide variety of birds throughout the park), there is the newly added cycle park and cafe at the top of the park, serving great coffee and cake, a small play area half way down and also the Middleton Railway at the bottom. On Sundays you'll also find more events including the South Leeds Aero Modellers up on the clearings.
From the park, exit via the golf club, along Gypsy Lane. Follow to the end of the road and cross Ring Road Beeston on the crossings to proceed along Parkwood Road. Alternatively, after crossing Ring Road Beeston, you could turn left and walk until a pedestrian entrance on your left (before the large house on the corner). This will take you along some common land behind Parkwood Road. If going this way, you'll cross one tarmac path and then join a second. At the top of the second path, you have the choice of walking along the path behind the houses or joining Parkwood Road to follow until Parkwood Crescent (first right in this case).
Turn right onto Parkwood Crescent and then take the first set of steps down to the right. As you are descending, you'll see a path that leads behind the houses. Follow this path and turn left to head south. If you walked across the common land and carried straight on behind the houses, this is where the paths join.
This path follows the East Coast Mainline for quite a while. There are a couple of junctions along the path, but you will generally follow it south all the way down to Thorpe Lane (A654).
The first junction you get to here is a large footbridge across the railway. If you were to turn right here and cross the bridge, the path would take you to Stank Hall Barn, a 15th century tithe barn. Although this is one of Leed's oldest secular buildings, it has a team of volunteers who seemingly have to fight to keep it from being neglected. Sadly, the farm building associated with the barn has fallen into neglect and is now fire damaged, but thankfully the barn is still intact. The Friends of Stank Hall put on events through the year in an attempt to keep the site alive.
Our path goes straight on rather than across the bridge, so rejoin if you've taken a look at the barn. Here you'll follow a metal security fence which forms the boundary to the mainline. It's a well made path, although starting to get overgrown in places, but abundant in brambles for good blackberry picking.
A little short of half a mile after the bridge to Stank Hall, you'll come to another patch of common land. Here the path forks and you could opt to take a shorter route up to Middleton Park by going straight on (this path will bring you out directly opposite you here is Leeds Urban Bike Park, the one with the good cafe!).
Our path turns right to carry on southbound and along the edge of the field where you'll often find local ponies grazing.
As you reach the far end of the field, you'll enter a wooded section. Here there are multiple paths that you can take - the all generally lead south, but this guide will follow the prepared hardcore path around to the opposite corner of the field from where you entered. This path climbs slightly and skirts above a couple of fields and the edge of the woodland. After a third of a mile (from the field/common land), you will find yourself at another junction in the path. We are going to take the right hand path again. The path straight ahead will follow the same route, but goes much closer to the estate at the top of the hill. I found this lower path more enjoyable and felt a little more like being in the countryside!
The path now runs above a disused (and dismantled) railway, which was a line that appears to have run to the south of Morley. Although the cutting is clearly evident, at the time we walked the route, the track bed was more of a stream than a path, so not really passable. The route we are taking follows closely at the top of the embankment and gives a good impression of what the old line would have been like.
As you exit this section of woods, the line bears off to the right where it would have crossed the East Coast Mainline on a viaduct that is still standing and only really visible from this path.
Following the path, you cross a couple of springs before the path turns left and steeply climbs to join the path we left at the last junction.
The path now skirts the edge of the housing estate in Middleton before continuing along an old lane to Thorpe Lane.
Thorpe Lane is a fairly busy route which climbs into Middleton. We'll follow that and take the third left onto Middleton Park Avenue, following for one mile through the small selection of shops and over Ring Road Beeston/Middleton Park Circus and down St Philip's Avenue to the gates of the park.
If you held off visiting the cafe at the bike park at the start of the walk, you can turn left now to follow the park road around until you reach the rose gardens. Here, a path leaves to your left and almost doubles back up to get to the bike park.
Otherwise, enjoy the park or return to your car!