I caught the train yesterday into Leeds and then had a brisk walk back home. In the sunshine as well! The towpath is quite an attractive hiking option, it is almost entirely flat so you can rattle along at a good pace. It is also rather pretty, even right in the heart of the city there isn't much left of bleak, industrial Leeds. Instead there is a lot of greenery to frame the newer buildings that are part of the physical regeneration of the city.
When I was a young man, the canal basin was run down and grim looking. Now it is surrounded by hotels, nice restaurants and bars and new build apartments, it is a marked improvement. I resisted the temptation to call in at Fazenda for lunch, there'd be no hiking if I pigged out on Brazilian grilled meat.
There is plenty of wildlife to see along the canal. Here an urban swan has built her nest by the side of a factory building, adding in various items of litter along with natural building materials.
Three miles from the city centre is Kirkstall, with a view of the abbey ruins. The busy Kirkstall road and it's crowded lanes of bonnet to bumper traffic seems miles away though, the tow path is beautiful and serene. That said, there are a lot of people making use of the path today. You can tell you're getting within a few hundred yards of a road crossing by the increasing numbers of pram pushers and families with giddy toddlers. On the longer stretches between easy road access points the path is quieter, a few hikers, quite a few cyclists and some runners pounding out the miles.
The quintessential canal scene, a prettily painted narrow boat.
Six miles on and another temptation waits for the walker, the Rodley Barge has a good reputation for proper ales, and they had a rock band playing out in the sun. With another 9 miles or so to go, I thought that if I called in for just one pint, it might easily become two, and then I'd really struggle to get going again. So I kept going.
Early starters, these geese have a brood of half a dozen or so goslings already.
These are the 'hardest' climbs on the tow path, a gentle rise at the side of Apperley Bridge locks. Nine miles done on a pleasantly warm and sunny day. I'm not much for stopping when I'm walking on my own, I'd much rather just plod on and watch the miles roll past.
I left the canal just after bridge 212, where the River Aire swings back to the canal side. There is an incredibly narrow footbridge across the river, a tight squeeze for portly chaps, then a bit of a wander around Esholt Sewage Works. Now somewhere here I missed my way and added a little distance on to the hike. I either didn't see or ignored an entrance to the woods and instead half a mile further on I ended up in a fenced off area and had to re-trace my steps. Bugger. In the woods at Esholt I had another slightly displeasing incident.
Whatever reaction the biker in Esholt woods was hoping for when he rudely yelled at me "Bike coming through!" it certainly wasn't for the exhausted, sweaty, beardy hiker to stand across the trail and yell "NONE SHALL PASS!" in return. He got off and wheeled his bike past me, remounted, and from a safe distance, called me a weirdo. Every other cyclist that had passed me all day, and there were dozens and dozens, were all really polite, but it just takes one...
A hairy moment at Hollins Hill, this herd of young cattle were too inquisitive for my liking. They came galloping across the field to the point where I was trying to cross from one stile to another. Thankfully they all stopped six feet short of me and I wasn't crushed under tonnes of mobile steak.
14.5 miles in 4 hours flat, that's pretty decent pace for me.