memoirs of walking the leeds & liverpool canal (1)

a canal wanderer

memoirs of walking the leeds and liverpool canal (1)

Part 1: The beginning from Leeds to Barnoldswick

Castleton MillLeeds to Kirkstall Bridge - Walk done in January 2017

One cold Saturday afternoon I re-walked this stretch with my Dad where we started in the City Centre. One must be impressed with the regeneration and restoration of the city’s waterfront and the ongoing prosperity with its businesses, hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants. We started in the Granary Wharf area and proceeded with our walk towards Armley.​

This stretch isn’t the prettiest and has been reputed for anti social behaviour and vandalism. The first few locks are usually operated by Canal and River Trust staff with use of their anti-vandal unlocking gear. There was nothing to worry about as this stretch was busy with walkers with their dogs, runners and cyclists.

The Armley part of the stretch, just after the Industrial Museum, is insalubrious with its graffiti, litter and it does feel creepily and eerily abandoned. More so passing the former Kirkstall power station. We reached Kirkstall after three miles or so and popped into the nearby shopping centre of the same name for a hot drink at the Costa there.

Things to see and do:
Castleton Mill
Armley Mills Industrial Museum

Food and Drink:
The Stables Café (by Oddy Locks)
Marks and Spencer Café and Costa at Kirkstall Bridge Shopping Centre 

Rodley, Leeds & Liverpool CanalKirkstall to Rodley - Walk done in August 2016

I met my parents at Kirkstall Bridge and we began our walk on the canal. We walked approximately three miles to Rodley. We passed some interesting staircase locks, the Forge Green Three Rise Locks and Newlay Three Rise Staircase Locks, and we even saw a boat descending down one.

It was a pleasant day out with the sun shining and we enjoyed the woodland nature of Bramley Fall Park. We saw Kirkstall Abbey and Horsforth town centre in the distance. Just after Newlay Lock, we saw a variety of boats lined up along Fallwood Marina and we felt this stretch of the canal is better looked after and certainly attracts many users.

Things to see and do:

Kirkstall Abbey (The abbey cannot be accessed from the canal however a trail to the abbey can be accessed via the main road from Kirkstall)
Rodley Nature Reserve​

Food and Drink:
Abbey Inn
The Tiny Tea Room

near Rodley, Leeds & Liverpool CanalRodley to Crossflatts - Walk done in January 2017

It was a very cold but sunny day and wrapping up wasn’t an option. The sun rays on the iced canal were a sight to see when we began our walk at Rodley. We ventured out in the countryside and in the distance we could see the Leeds/Bradford to Skipton trains roaring past. It felt silently rural and some of the stretches were covered in woodland at Calverley, Dawson and Thackley West. We ascended up two rise Dobson Locks, near Apperley Bridge, and the three rise Field Locks, near Esholt.

Seven miles later we reached Saltaire and we stopped for a hot drink at the iconic Salts Mill. Afterwards, we met some friendly Canal and River Trust staff and we stopped to have a chat. I was then considering becoming a friend and my desire to walk the 3,000 miles or so on the British waterways had grown stronger. We were also greeted by swans, cygnets, ducks and pigeons and this stretch is hustling with visitors to the World Heritage village.

We walked a further three miles to Crossflatts, passing Hirst Woods and Dowley Gap Aqueduct, crossing the River Aire, and the locks. On arrival at Bingley we ascended up the town’s three rise locks and the infamous five rise locks which is a marvellous feat of engineering. As the weather was glorious and we were warm from our walking we sat outside the Five Rise Locks Café having our drinks. Our walk finished, we went down to the main road for the bus back to Rodley.

We noticed on our walk the refurbished mile markers and I was puzzled whether the miles to Leeds and Liverpool were placed the wrong way round? When I enquired, The Canal and River Trust advised me of the following:

“Britain’s canals were the life blood of the Industrial revolution and a largely commercial machine. It was necessary for boatman and canal companies to be able to calculate precisely how far boats had journeyed along the waterways as these distances formed the basis of toll charges”

“Although the canal is 200 years old, the original cast iron mileposts date back to the 1890s. They were installed as a response to legislation introduced to regulate canal ​freight tolls – the Railway and Canal Rates, Tolls and Charges Order of 1893. This prompted the whole of the canal to be re-surveyed and new mileposts, along with half and quarter mileposts, installed along the towpaths.”

“Today we are so used to modern road signs that we assume the mileposts were there to tell boaters how far it was to Leeds and Liverpool, but most canal journeys were much shorter than that. In fact the posts served a very different purpose. Tolls were charged for each quarter mile that a cargo was carried. To calculate the length of a journey, the boatman would subtract the distance on the last milepost he passed from that on the first, then add in the number of half and quarter mileposts passed.” 

Source: Canal and River Trust, 2017

Thanks for sharing and clarifying, Canal and River Trust.

Things to see and do:
Salts Mill 
Hirst Woods 
Bingley Five Rise Locks

Food and Drink:
Café into the Opera, Salts Mill 
Five Rise Locks Café 
Fisherman’s Pub

former Bradford CanalSaltaire Heritage Trail and Bradford Canal - Exploring done in April 2017

One spring day in 2017 I returned to Saltaire and on that occasion I wanted to check out the disused Bradford Canal. I kept passing it on my walks on the canal and said I would return to have a proper look. The 3.5 mile Bradford Canal from Shipley to Bradford opened in 1774 and closed permanently in 1922. There is only a small stretch in water from the junction of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and it is understood that some remains can still be seen en route to Bradford. There are plans to restore the canal but it seems nothing has yet come into fruition. It remains to be seen.

After checking out Bradford Canal I walked along the towpath to Saltaire where the village is celebrating World Heritage Weekend. I have been to Saltaire many times ​but it’s always nice to revisit the sights including the congregational church, Salts Mills and the almshouses. I also had a wonderful afternoon tea at Jeanette’s Cakery which topped a lovely day of exploring.

Things to see and do:
Bradford Canal
Saltaire (World Heritage Village)

Food and Drink:
Jeanette’s Cakery 

between Crossflats and Silsden on Leeds & Liverpool CanalCrossflatts to Silsden - Walk done in March 2017

We travelled by train to Crossflatts Station and on our arrival we walked up the hill to rejoin where we left off last time. It was another lovely day walking in glorious sunshine and spring has certainly sprung! We didn’t walk too far before we arrived in Riddlesden and down the road from Granby Swing Bridge we saw East Riddlesden Hall, a National Trust property. A visit is highly recommended.

We had a drink at the Marquis of Granby pub. It is a cosy place though I felt it wasn’t necessary to have an open fire during mild sunny spring afternoon! The heat from the fire was too hot that we drank our drinks quickly so we can go out, cool down, and continue our walk. On this stretch there are no locks instead a handful of swing bridges.

We walked through some scenic countryside with Keighley, an Airedale town, down in the distant valley. The final stretch, probably for a mile and a half, was a challenge as the towpath was wet and very muddy. We eventually reached Silsden and after a short wait for the bus we were on our way back home via Keighley.

Things to see and do:
East Riddlesden Hall 

Food and Drink:
Marquis of Granby Pub

moored boats on the Leeds & Liverpool CanalSilsden to Skipton - Walked in March 2017

It was a wet and rainy day and it was no surprise that we had to deal with a very muddy and puddly towpath. Walking was a challenge as we had to watch more or less our steps so we didn’t slip or fall and it was also cold because of the wind.

The stretch doesn’t have locks but a number of swing bridges. It goes through a number of small villages including Kildwick, Farnhill and Bradley. Dad checked out the St Andrew Church’s graveyards, one on each side of the canal while I stopped for a drink at the White Lion. It is worth stopping to see the Polish War Memorial at Hamblethorpe Bridge. It was a poignant reminder as the memorial is built in remembrance of a Polish crew who were killed immediately in a plane crash nearby in 1943.

The towpath improves from Bradley which helped us. To feel warm and dry we stopped in the Bay Horse Pub by the canal and the drinks were well received. The stop braced us for the final couple of miles to Skipton as by then the weather worsened with the persistent rain. We finished at Gawflat Swing Bridge for the railway station for our train home.

Things to see and do:
St Andrew’s Church and graveyards, Kildwick
Polish memorial at Hamblethorpe Bridge

Food and Drink:
White Lion Pub 
Bay Horse Pub 

Skipton, Leeds & Liverpool CanalSkipton and Springs Branch - April 2017

We drove to Skipton for our walk on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal’s Springs Branch. The Branch is approximately half a mile and built in 1773 for Lord Thanet, owner of Skipton Castle, who wanted to transport limestone from the local quarries.

It was originally known at Thanet Canal.

It took was next to no time for us to complete the stretch and we decided to continue walking through Skipton Woods, which are managed by the Woodlands Trust, and we enjoyed the beautiful woodlands with the smell of wild garlic and colourful foliage of the flora including its purple spotted bluebells.

We returned back in town via Bailey Street passing the castle and the Parish Church. We were there the same weekend of the Tour de Yorkshire and the atmospheric town was having its waterways festival. The narrow boats and barges were out on display with their themed décor. I spotted the Kennet boat which led the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal back in 2016.

We did some shopping in town and we had lunch at Bizzie Lizzie’s. We had to wait a bit to be served as the restaurant was very busy. It is certainly worth the wait for its delicious fish and chips and I can see why the restaurant is so popular.

Skipton is an interesting market town which is proudly associated with sheep! The town is popular for the sheep festivals and is the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Things to see and do:
Skipton Castle
Skipton Woods
Skipton town centre  

Food and Drink:
Bizzie Lizzie’s

Leeds & Liverpool CanalBarnoldswick to Skipton - Walked in August 2016

This was one of our first walks my Dad and I did since we committed to walking all of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. This is probably the only walk we did going in the opposite direction from Barnoldswick to Skipton and the 12 mile stretch was a bit of a challenge.

Dad parked his car in Barnoldswick and we made our way down to the tow path which took us up in to the summit area with the Greenberfield Changeline Bridge and locks. Surrounded by the stunning views of the Pendle Hills, we joined the Pennine Way which covers some of the canal and led us to East Marton and the double arched bridge. It is certainly one of the most scenic stretches to walk on this canal.

The canal zigzagged for at least a couple of miles and we eventually reached Bank Newton Locks. We descended down the six locks towards the outskirts of Gargrave. We probably had walked several miles by the time we reached the village and had then decided to stop for lunch.

The remaining miles were a struggle and we had to stop constantly as our feet were hurting. It felt like forever to reach Skipton but we eventually made it. We weren’t used to walking 12 miler walks then so it took a lot out of us. We limped off the

towpath for the bus station where we got the X43 Witch Way back to Barnoldswick.

It was a 20 minutes ride - a contrast to our walk!

Things to see and do:
Pendle Hills
The Pennine Way 
Double arched bridge, East Marton

Food and Drink:
Cross Keys Pub

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About Dawn Smallwood

Dawn Smallwood offers us a personal look at canals through a series of walks. She includes some local history, comments on social and industrial landscapes, and gives recommendations for local attractions and places to eat or drink. She also raises a great deal of money for charity.