West Yorkshire walk - Bingley and the Aire Valley
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 December 2014 | UPDATED: 21:05 28 March 2016
Follow good paths and tracks for an enjoyable walk in the Aire Valley
If your image of the mid-Aire Valley is a string of sad-looking mill towns it’s time to think again. This short, accessible walk, ideal for the cold, dark days of mid-winter, reveals unsuspected rural delights just a stone’s throw from the river. It starts in the very centre of Bingley, once famous as the home of one of our most famous building societies, then strolls along the wooded riverbank, before climbing to the rim of the valley, a mansion and parkland and finishing with a flourish at an 18th century packhorse bridge.
From All Saints’ Church, which traces its history back 1,000 years or more, at the western end of the main street turn right back towards the town centre and then turn right again into Millgate. Cross the bridge over the Aire and on the other side turn immediately right into Ireland Street (note: not Ireland Terrace, which has a signed footpath). Just a few paces into Ireland Street turn right again and immediately left to take the wide track in front of the houses beside the river. Within minutes, despite being so close to the town centre, the walk takes on a very rural feel with the trees overhanging the river and the large gardens coming down to the water’s edge on the opposite bank.
Bear right past the attractive mullioned frontage of Ravenroyd Farm and then weave between the buildings to continue along the walled track. At a fork of paths by a gate take the left hand branch, continuing to follow the wall beside the wood to emerge on a lane by Marley Farm. Turn left to take the lane uphill, passing one cottage and curling round Marley Brow and past another farm before turning diagonally right up the slope through trees and bracken guided by a small yellow footpath sign.
At the top of the slope the track reaches a wood enclosed by a wall. Go through a small gate into the wood. Follow the now narrower path through trees and bracken, ignoring side turnings until it reaches a wall. Follow this leftwards uphill and then, keeping the wall on your right, make a long traverse on the rim of the valley. When it reaches a metalled track carry on straight across to quickly reach the gritstone escarpment and flat rocks of the Druids’ Altar. This is a magnificent viewpoint looking across the valley to Ilkley Moor, while to the left there is a glimpse of the southern Dales.
Carry on along the path which curls rightwards to reach a broad track. Cross straight over and go through a wide gap in the wall to enter the St Ives Estate, for centuries the property of the wealthy Ferrands family but now a playground for the people of Bingley, having been bought by the former Bingley Urban District Council in 1928 for the princely sum of £28,000. From here on the walk has an increasingly park-like atmosphere and on sunny weekends you are more likely to meet family outings than fellow walkers.
Turn immediately right through a metal kissing gate and follow the path as it meanders through a long, narrow plantation. At the top, where it arrives at a wall corner, turn left following the sign to the Coppice Pond. The track slowly descends passing a golf course and then skirts an attractive heath before reaching Lady Ballantyne’s Rock, an overhanging boulder where Lady B apparently liked to sit and read, before arcing leftwards to reach the pond, a perfect spot for watching wildlife or feeding ducks.
Beyond the pond, where the path reaches a road cross over and continue along the path signed to the picnic area. This passes behind the former mansion, now a care home, to a road. Cross over and go throufg a kissing gate to take the path down through the trees to the main car park. Immediately beyond this take a signed path on the left. After a few steps fork right and drop down to the road.
Cross this into Beckfoot Lane and follow it ignoring side paths, to reach a ford and delightful 18th century packhorse bridge over Harden Beck by Beckfoot Farm. Turn left along the access track beside allotments and at the end of the gardens take a signed footpath on the left. This quickly leads to a metal footbridge over the Aire which delivers you unexpectedly to Myrtle Park. Go through this to the main road and turn left back to the church.
Start/finish: All Saints’ Church, Bingley
Distance: 6 miles/10km
Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Good paths and tracks, one stiff climb out of the valley
Parking: Car parks or on-street in town centre
Refreshments: Tea shop at St Ives, pubs and cafés in Bingley
Map: OS Explorer 288 Bradford and Huddersfield