This is a route I planned a little while ago and finally got to complete this week. It's somewhat more of an Urban Ramble than the other walks that I've added so far, spending more time within Leeds/Rothwell, but taking in some of the linking countryside paths along the way.
I've suggested that this walk starts at the Leeds Urban Bike Park. It has good cake and coffee. From there, we will head down to the tramway, head north along the Middleton Railway and then out to the Aire & Calder Navigation. We'll start to return back at the Rothwell Country Park, before walking briefly through Rothwell and joining a disused railway to take us to Robin Hood, before climbing back up Middleton Hill and back to the bike park.
There are a few places for parking at Middleton Park now. The Bike Park has ample parking with two overflow car parks, there is also the main park car park and some spaces on the approach road. Also, there is parking along Town Street above the park. All parking is free, but it'd be pleasant to make use of the cafe, should you use the car park at the bike park.
Setting off through the park, follow the tarmac path that passes the BMX track and blue/red routes at the top of the hill. If you have a remote interest in cycling/sports, you will probably find something up here to entertain you as you pass through. The bike park opened toward the end of 2017 and appears to be a big success, reusing land that was previously a golf course and bringing in many visitors of all generations.
The tarmac path leads you down to the main park access road at the Rose Gardens.
Middleton park is reclaimed land on the site of historical mines/collieries and is an ancient woodland. The northern area of the park is home to an earthwork dating to 1204, which marks the boundary between Beeston and Middleton. Throughout the park, there are information points helping bring the history of this area to life. While walking the main, tarmacked road is pleasant, the whole site is accessible and, arguably, many of the nicer areas are found off the main access road.
In this case, we'll follow the road around, clockwise to the start of the tramway, where you can either descend off the road, to the left using the steps or the tarmacked ramp. You'll pass the steps first, but if you'd prefer the ramp, it is arond 160 metres (170 yards) further along the road.
The steps and ramp join up almost at the same point at the bottom of this descent and the tramway then runs off to the northeast; almost straight ahead from the bottom of the steps and doubling back on yourself if you came down the ramp.
At various points along the tramway, the Bike Park's forest trails cross from one side to the other. Cyclists are asked to be cautious at these points, but it makes sense to have your whits about you at these points. They are all clearly marked on signposts along the side of the tramway.
While you could carry on along the tramway right to the road at the end, where you can turn left to head down toward the John Charles stadium (which is a slightly more level footpath), this route recommends that you turn off left from the tramway after around 300 metres (330 yards). Here, a footpath will lead you downhill, crossing the cycle track once and then bearing right before you reach a stream. Don't cross the wooden bridge here, but continue along next to the stream. The paths aren't so clear in this section of the woods, so instructions are bound to be a bit vague.
I stayed above the ditch containing the stream, keeping it on my left hand side and staying as close to it as I could. Following this general route, the path drops down gently to leave the park near the John Charles stadium. Whichever route you take along here, you'll be fine as long as you don't bear right and head back up the hill. If you miss the less steep path down, there are a few opportunities to drop down on short steeper paths.
After a narrower section coming out of the woods, you should emerge next to the overflow carpark for the John Charles stadium and this is where you'd join up had you walked the length of the tramway.
I turned left immediately and crossed the entrance to the car park and then immediately crossed Middleton grove as if heading straight across the roundabout from the path. Here you'll find a footpath that runs parallel with Charles Way, on the opposite side of the road to the back of the aquatic centre.
This footpath drops down below the level of the road and follows the boundary of an industrial estate to the left, bearing to the left after 250 metres. Having completed the route, I can add that it isn't the most pleasant of paths with a lot of litter strewn around, but it does take you away from the road.
If you'd rather, you can stay on the footpath following the road for two more roundabouts and then drop down on the path leaving on your left.
At the point these paths meet, you should follow the cycle way signpost for Leeds City Centre which runs alongside the Middleton Railway before turning right and passing under the M621.
Middleton Railway is the UK's oldest continuously working public railway and is now run by volunteers with services running from the terminus at Junction 5 (City South retail park) to the station at the North of Middleton Park. It runs on weekends and public holidays with diesel and steam days depending on the timetable. More information is available at their website.
The footpath emerges near the entrance to Middleton railway, where we will use the underpasses to cross the roundabout. Exiting from the north of the roundabout, take the footpath that bears right, passing by the Hunslet Club rugby pitch.
If, like me, you forgot to pack snacks, there's plenty of choice here (and toilets!) in The Range, Morrisons and also some local shops!
Join Beza Street and follow along to Church Street and eventually to Low Road.
At this junction, use the crossings to head over Low Road and into Old Mill Lane, which you should follow, crossing one roundabout, until you reach the towpath of the Aire & Calder navigation.
Head towards the what was the point that the Navigation split from the river, crossing two bridges. You'll continue along the far side of the Navigation to the weir and locks, where you cross back to the footpath running between the river and the navigation toward Thwaite Mills.
This area has recently undergone a lot of work with the removal of a large construction that separated the Navigation from the river Aire. Both bodies of water ran parallel with each other and at the same height all of the way down to the next lock and it was deemed an unnecessary restriction to flow in the case of flooding. Along with the removal of the barrier here, the footpath was also moved to the far bank of the river and significant works carried out to install moving weirs/flood alleviation barriers and a very nice footbridge crossing them.
I walked this way just after significant rainfall and the flow of water over the barriers was certainly impressive.
Heading up to the car park at Thwaite Mills there are a couple of interesting structures including a modern stone circle, on which a plaque gives its history and also informs us that the circle is used by local pagan groups for worship.
At the carpark, join the road and turn back on yourself to cross the Navigation on the road bridge. Immediately after the bridge, the footpath leaves to the left, where it follows along a wooded area, eventually emerging at the bridge where Skelton Grange Road crosses both the navigation and the river.
Half way over this bridge, there is a set of steps which leads down to the towpath. Follow the towpath until you have just passed under the M1.
A footpath now heads off to the left, which will take you up to a disused railway bridge. Turn right to cross the navigation using the bridge.
Here, the path splits in two. There is a lower footpath on the left fork and a wider lane on the right hand fork. Either is passable and I've experienced minor flooding on both routes. I was left with the impression that the right hand fork is probably the better option here.
After approximately 500 metres, you'll either drop down having crossed an old railway bridge or arrive at the bridge from the other side if you took the lower footpath. Either way pass under the railway bridge and into Rothwell Country Park.
As with the other country parks along the route of the navigation, this is area has been relatively recently reclaimed and is nowhere near the maturity of the reclaimed land of Middleton Woods. It has a very industrial feel to it, but its main focus is returning wildlife to the area, much in the same way as seen at Skelton country park and RSPB St Aidan's and Fairburn Ings.
The corridor along the Aire/Navigation is very promising in terms of returning land back to natural environment.
Leaving the country park along Bullough Lane and First Avenue, you will first cross Leeds Road, there are pedestrian crossings to the left of this junction as you approach it. The junction can be busy, so the crossings are welcome. Next, continue on Stylebank Lane, crossing before you get the next crossroad, where a footpath leaves almost opposite, on the corner of Stylebank Lane and Haigh Road.
Here you pass a couple of benches I mentioned in one of my bike ride routes. It's worth bearing in mind that there aren't many benches on this route. It seems there aren't many benches on many walking routes now, particularly around conurbations. If you're the type (like me) who like to sit to eat your sandwiches, this is the first of two opportunities to do so!
The path drops down immediately and is is a relatively short section of disused railway, which will take you to near the entrance of Rothwell CofE Primary School. Turn left at the end of the footpath to join Abraham Hill and then first right onto Churchfield Road.
At the end of Churchfield Road, carry straight on to The Paddock, which runs along the north side of the church grounds.
Turn right at the end of The Paddock crossing Wood Lane and then turn left onto the track that runs behind 32 Wood Lane. This track joins a footpath going through Rothwell Pastures, which in turn joins the disused railway line again.
There are quite a few footpaths around this area, but the main footpath is finished with compacted gravel, so it is pretty clear where to go. Essentially, you want to be leaving the pastures by the westerly exit, following the disused railway.
The disused railway will bring you into the East of Robin Hood, where you continue to follow the line, crossing various roads until you get to the A61 at the Gardeners Arms.
Turn right onto the A61, where you'll pass the next bench - again sadly, by the side of a reasonably busy road! Follow to Milner Lane where you turn left. This lane leads between a primary school and its sports field and eventually bears right to run in parallel, but below the M1. Eventually, you will emerge where Thorpe Lower Lane passes under the M1.
Cross the road early here as traffic travels quite fast and the further you walk up the road, the more unsighted you are to traffic coming down the hill.
The footpath then takes a right turn off Thorpe Lower Lane, where you are best to follow the bridalway initially. There is a footpath that runs along the field boundary, but it is harder to follow due to foliage.
There is a footpath into the field just before you reach the first hedge which isn't always clear, depending on the vegetation at the boundary of the field, take this and follow the south of the hedgeline through two fields to a large gate/access route through the hedge. The one by the particularly stinky manure dump.
As you turn right, the footpath carries on dead ahead along an unfenced boundary between the two fields. When you get to the other side of the field, as the corner starts to drop away, a footpath drops down on the left over a bridge crossing the Throstle Carr Beck. After the bridge, take a left at the footpath junction and follow to the south of the Middleton Nature Reserve.
On your left, there is the Beck that you have just crossed and on your right there are a series of soak away lakes/ponds, constructed with the housing estate to the north. There is a surprisingly wide range of wildlifer along this corridor and it is a nice area to walk.
At various points, there are footpaths leading from the south of the ponds to the north and there into the housing estate.
The third of these paths is particularly obvious as the footpath naturally curves around to it (with an option to turn left and stay on the south of the ponds). Follow this path to the path along the north of the ponds and exit through the triangular barrier/gate straight ahead to join the housing estate. Follow up Woodside View to the junction of New Forest Way, where you will turn left and then right at the roundabout. Shortly after the roundabout, a footpath leaves to the left follow this and then take the first footpath on the right.
After this footpath winds its way up a slight incline, you'll see a path to your right, leading through a fence into some sports fields. Follow that path and turn left where it joins the next footpath and then continue to bear right, through another triangular barrier/gate and around the corner of the South Leeds Family Learning Centre.
Following this path north, it will eventually lead you to Ring Road Middleton. Turn left and you'll shortly get to a pedestrian crossing which allows you to get over to the other side of the road to follow the footpath on the other side of the grass which is a bit nicer than following the footpath along the ring road.
You can now follow this road all the way past the water tower and into the bike park to finish where the walk started. Optionally, you can follow Ring Road Middleton until you reach Aldi, then turn right to follow St Philip's Avenue back to the main park entrance and follow the access road around to finish the walk.