This route is similar in length to my Ardsley walk, it also shares a similar style, taking advantage of as many footpaths across farmland and nature reserves as possible and skirting the conurbations where the alternative would be a significant detour.
Again, starting at the White Rose shopping centre for familiarity, the walk is easily reached from most parts of South Leeds. I wouldn't recommend parking in the White Rose car parks if you have come just to do this walk, I believe they fine people for parking without shopping.
Having said that, there are a good selection of restaurants and cafes within the shopping centre, so it would be an ideal place to stop off for refreshment at the end of your walk!
My common start point from the White Rose shopping centre is the start of the nature walk around the perimeter of the site. This is adjacent to the north entry roundabout on the ring road, leaving to your right as you approach the shopping centre. It's easily spotted and actually continues from the boardwalk over the lake/pond on the other side of the entrance. This road can be a little busy and often fast, but I've generally been able to cross without too much trouble.
The footpath leads around the perimeter anti-clockwise, initially between the shopping centre and the office park and then between the shopping centre and railway line. Follow this path until you are around halfway along the shopping centre, where the cinema/foodcourt entrance is. You should be able to see a concrete footbridge over the railway line, which is the route you should follow. It leads into the farmland opposite on a network of very well marked and maintained paths.
Our footpath continues straight ahead as you leave the footbridge, heading east toward the hedgerow leading down from the farm buildings. Walking across this field, it is surprising how quickly the hubbub of the city drops away and there are sections of this footpath where Leeds and Morley just appear on the horizon due to the lie of the land.
As you get to the hedgerow, the footpath bears left and you join a drive that runs behind the farmyard and eventually past a scaffolding business. Stick to this drive as it zigzags through the fields, it eventually brings you out on Elland Road, around the top of Churwell hill.
Here, you should turn right and follow the road downhill for a while. It's worth bearing in mind that you will need to cross, so take any opportunities that arise!
Just after passing the church building on the south side of the road, you will find a narrow pedestrian lane, named Smools Lane, turning off to the left. This lane squeezes between residential areas, eventually leading out via some new build estates, into a wooded nature reserve, built with as part of the housing estates.
This corridor of woodland is tended by volunteers from the area and contains woodland walks, a small nature reserve and a miniature railway.
We visited the railway a while ago and we were told of how the residents have turned this woodland around, removing waste from the waterways and maintaining the planting around.
Our walk only spends a short time in the woodlands, but it is worth coming back to!
As you leave the housing estates behind, the footpath drops down toward the nature reserve. Generally keep straight ahead as footpaths leave to the right and left here, but immediately before the gate into the nature reserve, our footpath leaves through a barrier to the right.
The footpath skirts the edge of the little nature reserve and over a footbridge before clinging to the outside of the boundary of the field ahead. Looking down to your right, you'll see more evidence of the work achieved by the volunteers of the Churwell Urban Woodlands.
Walking along this section, you'll be well aware of the presence of the motorway. We'll be heading through the underpass which cuts under the M621 and out back into farmland on the other side.
The footpath takes a rather steep climb out of the tunnel, where there is an option for your walk.
Immediately to your left, you'll see a stile leading to a lane that runs alongside the motorway before turning off to the right on a bridleway after passing a farm. This route sticks close to the motorway for around 150 yards before climbing up and bearing slightly to the right, so it won't be the most peaceful of routes.
Instead, I carried straight on, following the boundary of the fields until I reached a lane and a property to my left.
The public footpath leads through this property and is marked at least at the stile on the Eastern boundary (visible from the front). Welcomed by two dogs, I respectfully headed through and into the fields behind. This is where it got a bit tougher and that is the reason I offered the first option instead.
The footpath officially follows what appears to have been a lane between the fields, heading through a pretty overgrown route to the same point you'd have arrived at the end of the bridleway. I missed the start of this lane and walked alongside it on what appears to be a well walked path. However, once I got to the tidily mowed grass, it was pretty clear there was no route through onto the lane that I was supposed to be walking on.
If you find yourself on that mowed grass, turn back and make your way through the hawthorn at the easiest opportunity. You will probably find the correct footpath in there, although I would imagine it might be some effort to get through.
Since it was some effort, why recommend it as a route? Well, it has the significant benefit of climbing away from the motorway, quickly dropping it into the background noise, before it is barely audible. If you like countryside, I'd say this was the route to take!
Once you've got onto Rooms Lane, follow along to the end, where it meets Gelderd Road. This is another pretty fast road for crossing, but there does tend to be gaps in the traffic where you can cross.
Crossing as soon as possible, head right from Rooms Lane, toward Leeds and you'll see a footpath signposted on the left hand side. The entrance to this field is a gap in the hedge, but it has had wood steps added to assist the negligible climb from road to field.
The footpath now leads straight ahead along the boundary of the field to a wooded dell. If, like me, you are tempted to look up to the left, you'll see our eventual route up the hill into Gildersome, but take care - I did that and twisted my ankle, cutting short the first attempt of this walk after a mere 3.5 miles. It's a field and not overly dangerous, so only really needs the care assigned to normal field walking!
As you reach the trees, you'll be able to see the footpath bearing to the left. I was struck here by the amount of wildlife along this field boundary, it was mid spring and it seemed the majority of Leeds' butterfly population had arrived in that field... Exaggerated, naturally!
Follow your footpath up to the next corner of the field and you'll find a footbridge over the small stream.
Cross here and follow the lane up the hill. These are some of my favourite walking environments, quaint footpaths, more often than not hidden from everyday life. Eventually, you will leave the tree-lined path to continue your way up to the top of the hill by the field boundary. Take a moment to pause here and take in your surroundings. The climb is reasonable, so you get a good panorama across Leeds.
At the top of the hill, another lane leads off to the left. Follow this briefly before our footpath leaves to the right via a gap in the hedge. It follows the boundary of a paddock before bringing you to the end of a road called Harthill in Gildersome.
This is the start of the urban section of this walk, leading along this residential area before crossing onto a path that runs along the back of Gildersome Spur, an industrial area on the boundaries of Morley and Gildersome.
Follow Harthill all the way down to Town Street, turning left to follow Town Street to College Road on your right. This is a quiet, leafy road that cuts the corner and brings you back to Gelderd Road. Just to your right, there is a crossing with an island, which can make crossing this sometimes busy road a bit easier.
The footpath we are now going to use is directly opposite College Road. It is initially a nice path with a stone wall to the left and a good, compacted gravel surface running perpendicular to Gelderd Road. There's a fair bit of construction work going on a little later to the left and our path bears to the right and into the industrial/commercial area on the right hand side.
You'll emerge between a large lorry park and warehouse for C M Downton, where you should follow Stone Pit Lane down to where it meets Nepshaw Lane South. Turn right and follow this road south to the A650, Wakefield Road.
This is probably the least enjoyable part of the walk as it's the section which deals with the M621, A650, M62 and this industrial side of Morley so routes through this section are scant. It's not too long before we'll be heading away from the A650 and back down into countryside again though.
Turn left and follow the A650 over the M621 and toward the Toby Carvery. We do need to cross the A650, but as this is a very busy stretch of road, it may be worth waiting until the crossroads by the carvery.
Our route takes us south east along Howden Clough Road, which is the right turn at this junction. Along this road, you'll cross the M62 before the road becomes more rural again. Keep along this road until you've passed the terraces on the left and the road bears slightly to the right. Here, a footpath takes us off to the left and drops down into farmland and the valley below.
The track initially turns right to run in parallel with Howden Clough Road, climbing slightly. On the second left hand bend, the footpath we're to follow leaves the road and follows the edge of the field with the boundary on your right hand side. This will lead you down into Birkby Brow Wood. where there are quite a lot of footpaths and it's pretty easy to loose your bearings!
Intially, take a left turn as you enter the woods and follow below the boundary of the field, but as you go a little further, you'll see a much bigger path down to the right - this is the path we need to get down to. It's not hard to make it down, but I didn't find any path markings to follow and if you stick to the field boundary you initially follow, you'll end up just running in parallel with this larger footpath, so just make your way down the hill at a convenient point.
This is where we've rejoined the Leeds Country way and you'll need to bear left to keep moving away from Howden Clough Road.
The footpath here is broad and has a post industrial feel to it. It's the route of the Batley Branch railway line that used to run between Dewsbury and Birstall/Driglington as seen roughly in the centre of this old map from 1903 and this one from 1882, but I couldn't find many more details about the history of the next section of this walk.
As we've dropped down into the valley, the roar of the M62 has now disappeared into the background noise and this becomes a very enjoyable corridor between Morley and Batley.
Eventually, you'll emerge at Scotchman lane and cross almost straight head (but offset to the right a little) onto Howley Mill Lane.
I've made it known that I'm a big fan of old railway architecture and this lane brings us under a grand old bridge with the mainline between Leeds and Manchester running above.
Immediately after this bridge, our footpath leaves the lane on the left and climbs quite suddenly up the hill. We're still on the Leeds Country Way here and heading up to another section of land which has the feel of being once industrial, but neither of the two maps mentioned before seem to reflect that, just showing up as land belonging to Howley Hall (now home to a golf club).
The footpath starts to even out (and is a pretty good place to stop for lunch, looking out over a pretty picturesque view of the railway heading into Batley). Our route takes a the first right turn and follows along the contour of this hill, passing the ruins of a property on the left before opening back out into more fields.
This was the point where the path was a little harder to follow without assistance. You'll start off following a path which (according to Google Maps) just seems to circle the field, but the footpath actually bears left, heading roughly along with the boundary of the golf course and into a corner of the field where you'll find some footpath furniture which will confirm the route of the Leeds Country Way.
The footpath bears right here and climbs a little further, keeping the woodland on your right and starting to approach the land owned and quarried by Marshalls (with the same warning signs seen on the other side of the quarry, suggesting you stick only to the footpaths!).
The footpath curves to the right over a long sweeping section before hitting Quarry Lane, where you'll no doubt find some large trucks waiting to take their loads from the quarry.
Here, my route follows the Leeds Country Way still and as you hit Quarry Lane takes you left and along a short section of the road, before leaving to the right with a signposted footpath.
I came this way in early summer (June/July) and although the initial part of this section was clear and pleasant, it wasn't long before I was pushing my way through the overgrowth along here. It surprised me somewhat with this being part of the biggest major walking routes around Leeds and there were parts where It was hard to see hazards underfoot (particularly as I was recovering from an ankle injury at the time!). The footpath was reasonably clear, but as I checked my route later, I can see that I didn't follow the official line of the Leeds Country Way, but ended up bearing right and dropping out of the overgrowth early.
Thinking back to it, I can't really remember seeing the official route heading off to the left although it is reasonably visible in Google's satellite view. The route I took is much, much clearer though and resulted in me ending up in the abandoned railway station at Woodkirk.
I ended up keeping right of the station and dropping down toward Dewsbury Road, before taking an immediate left through a small carpark and along the road to Woodkirk Valley FC.
Looking back at Google's satellite view, I can see that I could have gone to the left of the platform and rejoined the official route of the Leeds Country Way and skirting the bottom of the football pitches. Either way, you'll end up in the same place.
The footpath runs along the boundary the field on the other side of the hedge behind the clubhouse and this is a common section between this walk and the Ardsley walk I've also written up on this site (and vlogged on youtube), but we are going the opposite direction here.
As you get to the end of this field, you'll pass through a really nice stone squeeze stile and into some uncultivated land, where you continue in roughly the same direction and drop down to a small footbridge over Woodkirk Beck.
The footpath then leads you back uphill slightly and through the edge of some woodland, into a field. Again, carry on pretty much dead ahead, through the next field, toward the motorway. As you reach the motorway boundary, turn right and follow alongside the M62 until you get to Rein Road.
Turn left to head over the motorway and toward Morley.
There is a small ginnel off to the right just after some private garages which will cut the corner and take us back to the A650, where it is called Tingley Common and there is another crossing just to the left, with an island in the middle of the road which helps on this busy section too.
After crossing the road, we'll continue opposite the ginnel and head alongside the terraces and old mills down Topcliffe Lane.
I've already spoken of my love for this lane as it becomes unpaved and passes between the fields toward Topcliffe Farm though it too was significantly more overgrown in early summer than it was last time I'd headed this way. As you get to the farm you'll find yourself at the intersection of two tracks and our route goes straight ahead. The stile here was worse for wear when I went this way and the footpath isn't as clear as some of the others we've used on this walk. It is a right of way and it follows outside of the field boundary to your left.
As you get down toward the bottom of this hill (almost getting back to Dewsbury Road), you'll find yourself in a smallish paddock. The official right of way seems to stick to the top of this paddock and then follow the far boundary down (alongside the woodland). As you get to the bottom corner of the field, there is a very clear footpath running between the woodland and the farm on your left.
You'll then descend some steps and find yourself on the busy and not so pleasant Dewsbury Road, where you need to turn left and follow it downhill toward the first roundabout.
The footpath here is on the left hand side of the road, but our route will leave from the right hand side of the road just after the roundabout and crossing here just isn't easy at all!
There is a short section of footpath crossing the centre reservation immediately before the roundabout, but it's going to take a dash to get across.
If you'd rather, you can stay on the left and cross Wide Lane and you'll find a similar footpath across the centre reservation on the other side of the roundabout, but I'm not sure you'll get a significant benefit for crossing on this side.
Either way, pass the roundabout and in the bus stop on the southbound side of the road, you'll see a barrier blocking a track off to the right. This is our path and it drops quickly down below Dewsbury Road before climbing under another fine example of railway architecture hidden from general sight and carrying the East Coast Mainline.
Once under this bridge the footpath bears to the right and emerges in a field where you turn immediately left and follow the boundary up to the public footpath linking the Parkwood Estate with Middleton and Thorpe Lane.
Turn left onto this path and follow it north to bring you up to the bridge over the railway and the footpath down through Stank Hall Farm.
Again, this is a section we followed on the Ardsley walk and brings us back down to Dewsbury Road, where you can cross and turn right, taking a track just before the railway bridge. This brings you to Ring Road Beeston, where you turn left and head down hill to the roundabout by the north entrance to the White Rose. There's a pelican crossing along here which will get you safely back to the White Rose - either turning left after the crossing to use the footpath over the ponds, or right to shortcut back to where this walk started.