Monthly meanderings #1: Leeds Liverpool Canal (Bramley to Kirkstall)

Monthly meanderings #1: Leeds Liverpool Canal (Bramley to Kirkstall)
Leeds Liverpool Canal between Horsforth and Kirkstall

The walk I do most often is along a stretch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal and it never disappoints. The joy of a much repeated walk is that you get to see the micro changes of the seasons and there is always something new to spot - egrets, kingfishers, sunbathing turtles, leaves changing, berries reddening, barges, canoeists and paddleboarders to name but a few.

You never do the same walk twice and there is much to recommend the Leeds Liverpool Canal for all ages and walking abilities due to its relative flatness. Don't worry, I'm not suggesting you walk the whole of the Leeds Liverpool canal (127 miles) though that would be an epic undertaking - think of the things you would see on an urban adventure like this! Instead, this wandering took me along a stretch that is part of a 5 miles walk from my house in Horsforth, Leeds.

Just a word of caution/disclaimer before you read any more! This is not a precise guide to follow. It is vague in places as its intention is to give a flavour of a walk you might be interested in rather than providing a route description. So, if you wanted to do the walk, it would be worth planning it yourself in terms of distances and timings. Also, the walk discussed here can be varied by coming off and on the canal at various points. The joy of a canal walk is it is very difficult to get lost - you just follow the water - making it perfect for less experienced walkers or people who just want to walk without spending time on navigation.

I joined a path at Pollard Lane, near the Abbey Inn which has a popular little caravan providing drinks and snacks at the weekend. The path is directly opposite the caravan and weaves its way past a Scout campsite and Kirkstall Forge railway station, before going up hill to join the canal towpath. This provides a bit of variety and is a pleasant treelined path. An alternative is to walk slightly further up hill to turn left onto the canal towpath (just after the traffic lights).

Path towards Kirkstall Forge station with a very large stick!

If you turn left on to the canal towpath, you can walk into the centre of Leeds (approximately 5 miles) and either walk back or get a bus or train. There is something about arriving at a city on foot. It always feels quite old fashioned - a bit like Dick Wittington.

Locks on the canal

My walk wasn't as long as the trip into Leeds - I was going as far as Kirkstall. With views of Bramley Falls park across the other side of the canal, the tranquil greenness is wonderful. It feels much less urban than the A65 that runs parallel. A small word of caution, the canal can get busy with runners and cyclists in good weather so it is worth choosing your time and/or getting out early at the weekend.

A quiet stretch of canal - it can get busy!

Passing locks, tree-filled verges, and, more latterly, fields, look out for Kirkstall Abbey peaking over the trees to your left. It is more obvious in Autumn and Winter but visible year round. The path splits once you are nearing the end of the walk and there is a bridge with a path to the left (down the side of a field). It is at this point, I left the canal for a morning coffee with my walking companions.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love a café. For me, it is not the caffeine hit but more a chance to pause and reflect; today was no exception. The great thing about coming off the canal at this point is that you are spoilt for choice in terms of cafés. Our regular Sunday morning haunt is Starbucks at the Abbey retail park which welcomes dogs (not all Starbucks do so it is worth checking in advance). This Starbucks is a particular favourite of a certain Black Lab who loves the occasional puppuccino! To get there, turn left and follow the road round towards Kirkstall Road.

After a coffee and chat, we returned the same way. A gorgeous way to spend a morning in the Autumn sunshine!

Autumn sunshine and reflections

So, if you fancy an easy, relatively mud-free walk as we head into Winter, you can't go far wrong with the Leeds Liverpool canal. The stretch from Pollard Lane to Apperley Bridge is equally lovely. Why not spend a little time exploring?