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Mark’s History: There and back again – a walk between Rodley and Apperley Bridge

You could call this walk ‘There and back again’ as its route takes you from Rodley to Apperley Bridge and back again to Rodley, writes Mark Stevenson.

I have started this walk from the gate at the Rodley Nature Reserve and ended it at the same place. It is basically a 5.51 mile walk by the time you have done a bit of exploring along the riverbank you will have done nearer to 6 miles.

I have done this walk a few times and sometimes it takes me two hours, sometimes four hours, depending on the company and on the wildlife. How long it takes you is entirely up to you.

Lots of wildlife on this West Leeds walk. Photo: Mark Stevenson

To start, follow the Leeds and Liverpool Towpath from the Rodley Nature Reserve (point 1 on the map).

As you walk along you can see the old wharfs and warehouses (not forgetting the Barge Pub) along the canal which are now people’s homes until you come to the Tiny Tea Rooms and take a right (off the Towpath) down the road towards the Railway Pub (point 2) which was once the Toll Bar for Calverley Bridge (Old Packhorse Bridge).

Keep going down the road on the right until you come to the Old Packhorse Bridge also known as Calverley Bridge (3). The bridge gets its name from Sir Walter Calverley, who paid for it when the weir (4) was built in 1710. 

Both the bridge and weir had to be replaced 65 years later because of storm damage. The remains of the weir, which was destroyed in a storm in WW2, can be seen (upstream) from the bridge which spans the River Aire.

If you look downstream you can see an island which was once a mill race for Calverley Mill.

If you look along the riverbank on either side of the bridge you can see some large dressed stones that were once part of the mill.

Cross the bridge, which it is now free to do as from between 1705 -1916 you would have had to pay to cross it. 

Just to your left as you leave the bridge are the remains of an old cow catcher (5). Walk just a little further and on your left you will see a footpath leading down some steps (6).

The footpath will take you all the way to Apperley Bridge, with plenty to see along the way. You can even, in some places if you are careful, get down to the river bank. As you walk along you will notice a new housing estate on your right. This was once the former Clariant UK works site.

The former Clariant works site. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Walking on you will come to a tunnel (7) that takes you under the first railway bridge.  When you emerge from the tunnel you will get a good view of underneath the railway bridges. 

On the 1847 Ordnance Survey map another Calverley Bridge was here, only this one was made of wood and I’m guessing free to cross – maybe?

Keep following the footpath, however, you will lose sight of the river for a while but eventually you will come to a fork in the path where an old house (8) is.

Scenic: The River Aire. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Take the left fork going down the hill where you will see open fields and if you carry on following the path you will start to catch sight of the river again. Soon there are even some ‘beaches’ along the way. 

The next bridge you will come to is Woodhouse Bridge (9). Once you pass underneath it you will start to see people across the river and field on your left walking alongside the canal. 

As you walk along you will see Woodhouse Grove School which was founded in 1812 to your right. If you keep an eye out you will see a monument to Julia Breese (10) along the path. 

You will start to see the road ahead as you come to the end of the walk along the river. Walk ahead to the main road (11) and turn left, but keep an eye out for the street signs that point you in the right direction to the canal. 

Five minutes walk at the side of the road and you will notice some steps to your left leading down to the canal (12)

Once you are on the canal take another left to Rodley, but don’t go right as you will end up in Liverpool. 

Once you have established you are going towards Rodley you can relax and stop worrying about going in the right direction just follow the towpath along the canal. 

Scenic: Leeds Liverpool Canal. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Everything seems to be on the left on this walk. Some newly converted flats can be seen on the left as you walk along the towpath. The flats were once Shaw Farm (13).

In 2016 it was up for sale for the first time since 1754 when it was taken down brick by brick and put back together.

For the next few miles you can just enjoy the walk and views then eventually you will come to a wall with a fence on it. This was the sight of the old Victorian Gasworks (14)

Not long after you will notice a swing bridge with stone work, which is Grade II listed. 

From here on in it is just a matter of following the towpath back to the Rodley Nature Reserve,  assuming you can manage to pass the Tiny Tea Rooms (15) or the Barge Pub (16) without wanting to quench your thirst.

The bold numbers match the places numbered on the map. 

Note: Canal towpaths have become increasingly popular with walkers during lockdown, making social distancing difficult in some places.

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