The start of the canal is only a short walk from Leeds City station, one of the biggest stations in the UK and the third busiest outside London. It will be even nearer when the new Southern entrance is completed. One alternative starting point is the Wetherspoon’s on the North concourse of the station. It’s probably as good as Wetherspoon’s gets, opens at six in the morning and does a good cheap fry up.
If you walk from the station you go under the dark arches into Granary Wharf where the canal starts/ends (depends how you look at it really). This eery part of the city is one of my favourite places, underneath the station, the river rattling through Victorian brickwork passages, then suddenly you are out into the canal basin and the Holbeck urban village, as it’s now being called. It’s worthwhile having a venture down there and having a wander around the canal basin, houseboats and the confluence of the canal with the Aire. Ossett brewery have two places down there, The Hop and Candlebar (see my review of 25-06-15). There’s also quite a few restaurants, including Fazenda one of my favourites and a meat lovers paradise.
I’ve just done a tour of the excellent pubs in this area. You can put a nice little pub walk together revolving around six decent places, all with their own individual character and style, all within 800yds of the station. More of that in a later post.
As you set off along the tow path, the first thing that hits you, considering you are in the city centre, is the diversity of wildlife. Most of it in or on the canal which is like a massive aquarium full of aquatic plant life, think Cabomba, Elodea and water lilies. So long as a barge hasn’t just passed you can see hundreds of fish darting about, mostly small Perch and a few Roach. There’s dozens of Dragonflies, an odd emerald green one, but mostly of the electric blue variety. Surprisingly there were more Dragonflies down here than there were further out of town. There’s quite a few ducks and ducklings, a lot of boats, locks and winders, even the occasional fishermen.
There’s lots to see as you walk along. I’m not going to do a travelogue but The Tower works impressive chimneys which are replicas of Italian church towers are the first thing you see. You just need to be careful as you look around, the tow path is quite busy. Most cyclists were very considerate and courteous and I’m all for alternative transport, but there were a few (nob heads), all men, trying to do a near 30mph impression of an overweight Bradley Wiggins as they hurtled towards us on the narrow path. Categorising the cyclists; ones with shopping baskets and panniers are most considerate, the Armley smack head was the most polite and the lycra clad ones the worse. FFS you’re only going to work
Some of the artwork is really cool. I can’t condone illicit graffiti on Victorian Yorkshire stone. I can appreciate well done art work on derelict, soon to be demolished structures or on ugly concrete. When I say art work, I mean artwork and not juvenile squiggles, the human equivalent of a dog marking it’s territory.
We made the Kirkstall Bridge Inn our first port of call and up to this point there’s not much point detouring from the canal side to other boozers. The Armley Mills industrial museum is worth calling into and the Hollybush Conservation centre has a café, both would be interesting for children.
After the Kirkstall Bridge Inn the landscape changes, the canal and the valley broaden out. Although you are still very much in urban Leeds there’s a feeling of being in a more pastoral setting. You can imagine the monks of Kirkstall Abbey working in the fields of corn or herding the grazing cattle. I mentioned the scarcity of dragon flies on this stretch and strangely there is much less apparent wildlife in the now murky canal. The only thing we saw were three post coital dinner plate sized bream basking on the surface, they must have been nearly three pounders. I think the boat traffic here was the problem with the aquatic visibility.
As you near Rodley, there’s a choice of pubs, on or very near to the canal from now on. We went to the Rodley Barge but we could have called in at;
The Abbey Inn, Pollard Lane, LS13 1EQ. Leave canal at Newlay Bridge No 22. This one nests in an almost rural setting on a sort of island between the canal and the river, they have a decent, regular changing range of real ales on.
The Owl Hotel, Town Street, Rodley, LS13 1LB. Leave canal at Bridge N0 217. The Urban City Pub Co. run this pub, directly opposite the Rodley Barge (with whom they collaborate on the August beer fest). Eight cask ales and cider and full menu.
The Railway Inn, Calverley Bridge, LS13 1NR. Leave canal at Calverley Bridge N0 216A. This is another pleasant canal side location, traditional pub with (limited) choice of real ales and food.
Leeds CAMRA often have socials comprising of a canal walk. I’m not sure which pubs they do, but if you started at Kirkstall Bridge Inn all these pubs could easily be visited in one afternoon or evening, depending how long you stay in each one! You could even walk up into Farsley, Town Street which isn’t far and sample the two traditional boozers in the village centre.
I finished the day off by catching the bus back into the city centre, there are regular buses on Rodley lane (A657). Just be careful, worth paying the extra for a Metro day rider rather than a First day ticket, quite a few of the buses are operated by other companies. In total, including three refreshment stops, it took me and my son just under six hours from setting off to returning to the city centre. Six pleasant hours well spent. Try it.