Take a stroll and enjoy some of the stunning landscapes in God’s Own Country. Rolling hills, ancient woodland and mile upon mile of magnificent waterways, West Yorkshire has it all! The difficulty is where to begin…here are a few ideas of instagrammable outdoor spaces, scenic walking routes, and cycle trails to explore this summer.
Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve
Hidden a 40-minute walk away from the city centre, Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve is the intersection of blossoming wildlife within an urban environment. The area was previously home to a power station before being levelled and seeded with local wildflowers in the 1990s, transforming it into the wonderful green space it has become today. Thanks to these efforts, and the upkeep provided by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the area is now an ideal place for bird spotting with Kingfishers, Sparrows and Goldfinches roaming the reserve all season. Spot the Grade II listed weir in the river Aire, built in the 1800s, that would have been used to power the mills of the industrial revolution. The area by the weir nowadays is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing in nicer weather. To explore these wonderful elements of the reserve you can walk along a circular path that takes you right around the reserve, roughly taking you 45 minutes.
Otley Chevin Forest
This outstanding area of natural beauty is host to various walking and cycling trails that will suit everyone’s interests, such as: the Tree Spotters Trail that takes you past the most unusual trees in the forest, the Geology Trail, a more challenging 4km route featuring 8 marker stones that each have a geology themed carving on them, or the Heritage Time Trail that features sculptures by a local artist that represent the Forest at different periods in history. Make your way to the 282 metre Surprise View summit for stunning views of Wharfe Valley and Otley. They even offer other activities such as rock climbing, orienteering and geocaching that you could try your hand at.
Oakwell Hall and Country Park
Oakwell Hall is an incredible piece of history that resides on the edge of Leeds in Kirklees. This Grade I listed Elizabethan house was built by John Batt in 1583 and is now furnished as a 1690s family home. Visited by both Emily and Charlotte Bronte, it was immortalised in Charlotte Bronte’s 1849 novel ‘Shirley’ and has been the filming location of many period dramas. The ideal place to get away from the city and relax, Oakwell Hall is surrounded by rolling hills of cows, horses and sheep and tranquil streams that are cherished by locals and visitors alike. Explore the 110 acres of lush countryside that feature period gardens, nature trails, picnic areas, a mountain bike track and a playground. Afterwards, why not stop at the Oaktree Café for a coffee and a slice of cake.
Leeds to Bradford – Ilkley Moor
From Otley Chevin Forest you can take the Dales Way Link footpath to Bradford for the breath-taking Ilkley Moor that was the inspiration for the iconic county anthem ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at’. Hike to the tallest part of the moor that stands at 402 metres to see expansive views of the lush countryside and the quaint town of Ilkley below. On your way up make sure to notice the Cow and Calf, a rock formation that exemplifies the rich history of the land, and how it has eroded into the state we see today. The distance between Otley Chevin Forest and Ilkley Moor is 5.5 miles and takes roughly 2 hours to walk.
Leeds to Calderdale – Manor Heath Park
Despite being a lesser-known area compared to other parts of West Yorkshire, Calderdale still has an incredible amount to offer, especially in terms of picturesque parks and green spaces. Manor Heath Park, a Green Flag and Yorkshire in Bloom award-winner is definitely one of these parks. It features 19 acres of green space as well as flower gardens, a woodland walk and over 30 species of wildflowers and bulbs. Especially visit the walled garden, where you can see demonstrations of gardening techniques and plant trials. To get here from Leeds, take the train to Halifax and then either walk or catch the 563 bus to the park.
For more suggestions of beautiful parks and gardens you can explore in Leeds visit the website.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Nestled amid the beautiful West Yorkshire countryside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s (YSP) inspiring artwork and landscapes bring visitors back, time and time again! Spanning over 500 acres of parkland, YSP is one of the world’s leading outdoor galleries for modern and contemporary sculpture. With around 100 sculptures and installations to discover in the open air, exquisite 18th-century pleasure grounds to explore, and a changing programme of exhibitions in the indoor galleries, you’ll find an abundance of exciting things to see during your visit. This summer YSP is celebrating a Summer of Love, a new programme of events and activities which celebrate human relationships, understanding and love, inspired by the current exhibition Robert Indiana: Sculpture 1958-2018. If you’re looking for a lunch spot with a view, take your pick from one of the designated picnic spots around the parkland or treat yourself to something delicious from the terrace at the Weston Restaurant.
National Trust Nostell
With over 300 acres of beautiful parkland and landscaped gardens to explore and set against the backdrop of a charming 18th Century Palladian Mansion, Nostell, is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and get a little closer to nature. For a gentle walk, follow the paths around the beautifully manicured pleasure grounds and sparkling lakes, or take in the tranquil seclusion of the gardens. Young adventurers can jump, swing and slide in the woodland playground and burn off any excess energy exploring the family bike trails through Bluebell woods. The wildflower meadows are an ideal spot for a picnic and provide picture-perfect views of the historic treasure house and surrounding countryside. The house is open to visit, Wednesday to Sunday through the summer and offers a full programme of events and activities throughout the year.
Anglers Country Park
Anglers Country Park is a beautiful haven for wildlife, including many migratory birds. The park has achieved Green Flag status and it is easy to see why, a central lake is surrounded by grassland, woodland and wetland, with accessible pathways great for both walking and cycling, which lead to a wider network of footpaths and trails to explore the surrounding countryside. Haw Park Woods is a short walk or ride away and links up with the disused Barnsley Canal and the Trans Pennine Trail. Young explorers will enjoy following the Room on the Broom story trail, based on the popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson or letting off steam in the adventure playground.
Wakefield to Bradford
The Wakefield district has a superb off-road cycle network that connects to larger cycle routes such as the National Cycle Network, which you can find more information on here: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/national-cycle-network. If you’d like to combine your cycling with a little culture, try out the 20-mile route between Wakefield Cathedral and Bradford Cathedral.
Wakefield to Leeds
Another great route for walking or cycling is the Trans Pennine Trail, the entire trail totals 350 miles, although this can be broken down into different sections and easily manageable routes. Pick up the Central trail in Wakefield at one of the picturesque conservation areas of Anglers Country Park or Heath, head along to Stanley Ferry Marina and then on to the Aire and Calder Navigation along several peaceful miles before reaching the vibrant city of Leeds. This link provides more information about this route.