West Leeds Country Park was something of a surprise to me - I didn't realise that it existed until I was at the furthest point on this walk, but in reality it's a really convenient network of footpaths leading out west from the Ring Road as it goes through Farnley etc, to Pudsey/Tong.
This was a walk I'd had planned for some time, but circumstances never permitted getting out to do it. It's another walk which starts around the White Rose Centre for extremely easy access (although could equally begin in Farnley, New Farnley, Gildersome or Churwell). This time I've taken the footbridge over the railway as the start/end point, but obviously you can add on parts of the nature trail around the White Rose Centre depending on where you're coming from.
The walk again skirts the residential areas mentioned above in order to link up rural sections, but this walk has some real gems along its way.
A few of my walks so far have been planned as to begin at the start of the nature trail, so I've taken that as a given and picked up at the footbridge over the railway directly behind the White Rose Centre. This brings us into the farm on Daisy Hill/Broad Oaks. I'm not sure what the name of this farm is - the maps seem to suggest Broad Oaks, but even then I can't say I've identified a significant population of oaks in the area!
After the footbridge, as you walk ahead between the fields and toward the farm, you'll eventually reach a clear footpath junction where a footpath leaves to the left going behind the farm - at this point, our footpath pretty much carries on straight ahead, but with a slight right bend. There are actually four or five public rights of way which join at this point, but they aren't all obvious. You'll carry on between two fields, along the right hand boundary and heading toward Churwell.
This footpath is very clear and eventually it reaches the end of the farmed land and becomes more like scrub. A footpath leaves to the left (which also leads to the same place, should there be a problem on the described route), but our footpath continues straight on eventually emerging between houses and on to Back Green. Turn left and climb up the small hill, following the road around to the right (before getting to the bend in the road, you'll see the alternative footpath joining on the left).
You're now on Victoria Street, heading toward Elland Rd (Churwell Hill) and you'll cross to continue on Park Street, eventually heading into Churwell Park.
Churwell Park is very nice, it's quite a small space, but is well kept and has plenty of character with the layout in the very least hinting at it's original appearance. I tried to look for some old photos of the park on Leodis.net, but there's not a great deal there! The park houses a crown green bowling green, tennis court and a decent play area within the green spaces.
As you enter the park, you will find yourself with a few footpath options - we are going to head diagonally left toward the North Eastern corner of the park.
On exiting in the North Eastern corner, cross William Street immediately and head down the alley opposite.
This is a marked footpath which crosses Granny Avenue, continuing straight ahead. I followed along until the first footpath junction, turning left behind the houses and heading up to Hepworth Avenue.
Again, the footpath continues directly on the other side of the road. It is initially a farm track and you will see warning signs about private land belonging to Hilltop farm(?). This applies to the fields, but the track you are on is a public way and this is shortly confirmed with a footpath marker directing you straight ahead and onto a footpath which runs along the edge of this residential area. Turn right at this point and head down the hill, keeping the motorway on your left.
You'll pass by a new housing development on your right before reaching an access road where you should turn left and then follow it around to the right. This will bring you back up the hill and to an underpass going under the M621.
Turn left immediately on exiting the underpass and follow the footpath down in the shadow of the motorway embankment. This footpath will bring you to a field where it continues on the right hand boundary with a dismantled railway embankment on your right hand side.
Follow this footpath all the way until you reach the road, where you turn left and go under a beautiful old railway bridge. You'll be able to see Gelderd Road straight ahead, where you'll need to turn right, looking for a place to cross.
After turning right onto Gelderd Road, there are two roads adjoining on the left hand side of the road. You need to take the second of these roads and follow the private road toward Spring End Farm. The public footpath leaves to the right approximately half way along the field on the left, but it is unmarked at this end.
Follow across the field to the gate in the opposite corner - there is a stile here and also footpath markers. Once you've gone through the gate or over the stile, the footpath continues along the right hand boundary of this field, climbing up the hill and heading roughly toward the wind turbine atop the hill.
The opposite side of the field has another stile leading onto a little footpath between fields - one of my favourite sort of features, which in turn leads to a gate onto a private road which runs along the length of the hill. Turn right here and head in front of the farm, where you will see a stile taking you into the next field, keeping the barn on your left.
I found this hilltop incredibly peaceful. You're not a million miles from Leeds - the centre is clearly visible ahead of you and we're only 2.5 miles from the White Rose centre (even closer to Churwell/Cottingley and Farnley), but this is a clear run of country side running incredibly close toward the centre of Leeds.
On the opposite side of this field, you'll see a gate and stile, where an overgrown concrete track will lead you down the hill, through a work yard and eventually down to Whitehall Road in Farnley, where you can use the traffic lights to cross the road.
I didn't actually take the planned route at this point because I didn't see it immediately. It actually turns off Whitehall Road and climbs the hill on the right immediately after the advertising hoarding and then drops down near a care home.
Instead, I continued straight onto branch road, then taking the second left and left again onto Blackpool Place/Cobden Road, where I joined up with the aforementioned footpath.
There is a footpath junction here with one footpath leaving off to the left, but we will head straight on, keeping houses to our right and the allotments to our left.
This leads to the continuation of Cobden Road, eventually joining Whincover Drive. After 110m/120yds the route turns left onto a footpath called Billey Lane.
This footpath climbs up to a bit of common land which appears to be frequented by motorbikes. Once up at the top, we'll cling to the left hand boundary as it leads almost exactly westward and into a relatively newly planted corridor of woodland.
This runs along the boundary of Farnley Academy built in 2012, but unfortunately it seems there can be a water runoff issue along here and I found myself working my way into the middle of a very boggy stretch about half way along the wooded area.
I suspect if I'd kept to the edge of the field on the left rather than walking through the trees, I may have escaped the worst, but it's one to look out for! It quickly dries out and you want to be heading toward the corner on the left, where there is a (broken) stile leading to the pedestrian approach between Lawns Lane and the Academy.
There's a pleasant looking cricket club on your right and as you get to Lawns Lane, you'll see a footpath sign which appears to direct you off to the left. I think this is more of a safe route for kids walking in from New Farnley to the school and it isn't the route that we are going to follow (there is a wall all the way along which you'd have to climb to get to our next section of footpath).
Instead, cross over Lawns Lane and onto the footpath on the other side, turning left and following to the corner of the stone wall. Here you can turn right and you'll see our footpath going straight ahead along the outside of this wall.
You'll see that you're crossing the driveway for quite the fancy property - this is one of the old entrances to Farnley Hall which had, amongst it's previous owners, the Danby family which included Thomas Danby, the first mayor of Leeds. There's a wikipedia page about the property here which covers the hall and significant owner's histories.
It now belongs to Leeds City Council and houses the Parks and Countryside Services department (as well as a public park).
You'll get a glimpse of the house as you continue along the footpath.
At the first field boundary, our footpath bears to the left and heads toward a tall tree, where there is the remains of a stile to its left. From here, the footpath is paved with stone and continues clearly into the back of New Farnley/Low Moor Side. You'll arrive on a gravel road/drive access just off a block paved residential road. Keep travelling roughly south to get to Low Moor Side (road), where you'll emerge next to the chip shop and turn right.
There are a couple of footpaths that turn left off this road, our footpath is the second one, which is near the end of the left hand bend where there is a clear footpath signpost directing you to Fulneck. The footpath starts as an access road before becoming narrower and running between a property and a field and then emerging on the right hand boundary of a field. Follow this boundary all the way along past four boundaries to emerge on Back Lane next to a bench.
I have a thing about benches and them never being in the places you need them. As such I often opt for stopping for lunch early because I've reached a suitable place, but I'd recommend skipping this one as a much better option isn't far away.
The next short section of footpath can clearly get overgrown judging by the vegetation. It is a clearly marked footpath and it's not a problem to traverse in good conditions, but there are large brambles all the way along which makes me think summer time access could be harder.
When you get to the end of this footpath, there is a fence straight ahead of you (which you can easily duck under) and the footpath bends round to the left before reaching a stile on the right.
Over the stile, the footpath drops down and through the stream before joining up where you would have been if you ducked under the fence - it's up to you which way to go, but it's probably worth acknowledging both routes in case the fence gets repaired!
This footpath now drops down to a broad bridleway through the woods and we'll take a left turn.
Initially, I thought this was the Leeds Country Way, but that actually runs along at the bottom of the hill, right next to Tong Beck. Just slightly up the trail, you'll find a wooden bench, which is the place I'd recommend for lunch - it's more quieter and less roady down here!
Whether you stop for lunch or not, continue along the trail. You'll continue straight on the first junction and then turn right when you reach the T junction at the end. There is also a map here showing the routes through the West Yorkshire Country Park, of which you are on the far west at this point.
You'll initially carry on along a track before entering a field and follow a clear route all the way down into Cockersdale - an idyllic settlement nestled away in the bottom of this valley. Continue south, climbing back up along Dale Road to Whitehall Road. Whitehall Road can be busy and fast here, so it could take a moment to cross, but when you do we are going to head down New Lane, which initially runs down hill and then climbs and climbs and then climbs a bit more up into Gildersome.
At the end of New Lane, you'll see a footpath dead ahead on the other side of Gildersome Lane. This is probably one of the less attractive residential sections, but it links up to the descent back down to Gelderd Road.
Head along the path until you reach the point where it splits right to Moorland Close and left to some common land. We'll take the left route which you can follow along the back of the properties all the way down to a large gap between properties on Springbank Road. Join the road here and follow it around the right hand bend before turning left pretty much immediately along Springbank Crescent.
Again the road bears round to the right and you'll see a green space on your left with a few benches and a couple of paths linking across to Spring View, which is an access road to a farm. Continue in roughly the same direction on Spring View (South) past one left turn and then take the second left, which should be signposted as a footpath (Harthill Lane).
At the top of the road here, there is a converted chapel and then a field. The lane turns to a rocky track and as you near the top of the incline, you'll see the trig point to your right in the field.
The next section of Harthill Lane was a really nice (albeit muddy) surprise. It is a very quaint little lane where the track joins from the farm on the left and you get a lovely panorama across the valley in an almost postman pat world!
The view over this valley is back to where we were early in the walk, by the wind turbine and farms on top of the hill before we dropped back into Farnley.
As the lane bears round to the right, that view is expanded to include Leeds city centre and you'll eventually find yourself at a modern metal kissing gate.
One of my other walks (Round Morley) has this as a common point, although after climbing the hill we are about to descend. In that case, we briefly turned down the lane which is now to our left before heading across Gildsersome. As hinted, we'll now drop down the hill straight ahead to reach Gelderd Road.
Keep to the left of the field as you drop down initially and you'll come across the footpath/lane as it starts to split two fields - there are a couple of trails crossing the path along here, used as field access for the farm, but we head straight all the way down to a wooden footbridge fashioned from a railway sleeper.
Cross the bridge to get into our last field in this section of the walk.
Officially, the right of way continues straight ahead as you come off the bridge before cutting diagonally across the field.
I tend to turn left and cling to the outside of the field as I love the wooded dell that you follow the edge of on that side. It's worthy of note that this way was pretty waterlogged at one point when I came through here in January, so that may affect whether you follow the right of way or the more obviously frequented path around the boundary of the field.
Whether you follow the boundary or the right of way, you'll find yourself along a large green factory/industrial unit as you return to Gelderd Road. The footpath emerges down a couple of basic steps through the hedge and onto the footpath of Gelderd Road, where you want to turn right and climb the start of the hill.
On the left, you'll see Rooms Lane and you'll need to cross Gelderd Road to follow the lane. Again, all of this is shared from the Round Morley route. As you get to a sharpish right turn, the questionable footpath I used on the Round Morley walk leaves on the left hand side of the road. It's not particularly obvious and although I like the peaceful route it takes, I don't think I'd recommend it for how overgrown this route gets.
Instead, continue up Rooms Lane - you'll pass a private drive on the left hand side also on the right hand bend, which leads up to Hilltop Farm and Rooms Lane will turn into a track as you keep walking up the hill. At the top of this track section, you'll see another entrance into Hilltop farm as the road splits into three. We'll take the stile to carry on along Rooms Lane past Hilltop Farm, but it is worth noting that keeping straight ahead along the middle option will take you over the M621, where you can take a right, left and then follow the footpath straight ahead to drop down into Churchwell Urban Woodlands, which you can follow past the miniature railway down to the nature pond, which is where our main route will meet us.
Back onto the main route...
We're following Rooms Lane past Hilltop farm and the lane then drops down right next to the motorway - really right next to it like you're on the footpath of the M621! It's a noisy stretch, which is why it's probably worth considering the other option I mentioned above.
You'll pass through another stile just above the motorway underpass. Follow through the underpass and keep straight on the path as it drops down into Churwell Urban Woodlands and you will find yourself emerging at the nature pond mentioned above.
Bear left here to take the footpath uphill, keeping as straight as possible and keeping on Smools Lane as it leads you back to Elland Road where you turn right.
Take your opportunity to cross Elland Road as soon as you can and walk up the left hand side of the road. We're going to follow the lane into the farm again on our left, which is the lane that exits first left after Mountcliffe View. You can't miss it as there are signs for Scaffolders and Stone sales. It's a paved road which zigzags across the landscape. We're not going to follow it past the Scaffolders to the farm this time (although you could, to cut the corner), our footpath is going to drop off to the right on the second left hand bend.
This footpath leads you to a green metal footbridge over the railway that quickly comes into view. It's easy access into the fields to the south of the White Rose Centre, where our walk will be finishing.
After crossing the railway on the footbridge, the path doubles back on the direction of the steps down and enters some fairly rough terrain initially. Shortly after, the marked footpath carries straight ahead in a tight corridor between the railway fence and a large hedge.
I went this way, but it was regretful! In January, this was very slippy and claggy and very hard work after the rest of the walk! It is worth noting that the route I've marked on this map runs along the other side of the hedge which is still a public right of way.
Either way, if you tend toward the railway, you'll find yourself at the southern end of the White Rose Nature Trail, which brings you up to the end of this walk at the railway footbridge.
Grab yourself a treat at Prezzo while you're here!