Baildon Hill (282m) sits above the Aire valley between the town of Baildon and the village of Eldwick. I grew up in Baildon and now live in Bingley, just below Eldwick, so this is very much my home patch.
We start from the Leeds-Liverpool canal, at Dowley Gap locks. You could get a train to either Bingley or Saltaire and hoof along the canal to get there. From the locks, we (Susan, Harvey the shorkie and I) head east along the towpath, crossing the canal over a little humpback bridge to the north bank. Where the canal crosses the River Aire, we drop down some steps to the river bank. This is Harvey’s first outing in his new Ruffwear Web Master harness. It has a handle to make it easier to lift him over obstacles. I will never stop finding this funny.
The weather is definitely turning its mind to thoughts of autumn, although it’s bright and clear. There are a couple of mallard on the river – I’ve seen dabchicks, goosander, tufted ducks and kingfishers here. We follow the river to the rowing club. The weir looks like it’s had its gradient reduced since the floods at the end of 2015. After we pass the clubhouse, we take the club’s private road north to a long, straight avenue, running east to west. We follow it west until we reach what used to be one of the gatehouses to the Titus Salt estate. From here, a path runs steeply and muddily uphill. In winter, the tall hedge on the right is babbling with long-tailed tits and goldfinch.
At the top, a curious wrought iron construction, almost like a massive kissing gate, admits us onto a cobbled, walled bridleway. We turn east and descend to a tiny little reservoir. I should know what it was for, but I don’t. My assumption is that it provided water for Salts Mill, but whether for the workforce to drink or for industrial purposes, I know not. Harvey has discovered a love of jumping on walls for a look at what’s on the other side. He quickly changes his mind with this particular view.
As we clear the reservoir, we’re into Shipley Glen woods. In the summer, they echo to the strange, ululating laugh of the green woodpecker – the yaffle. Its plumage camouflages it perfectly in tree canopy so it’s more often heard than seen. We head uphill once more and, as we hit the main track through the woods, curve eastwards up and around the slope to emerge from the trees at the Old Glen House pub. We follow the road westwards to the ice cream van and then take a way-marked public footpath around the back of some houses – Harvey’s new harness is useful for manoeuvring him over the cattle grid here.
Behind the houses, there’s a drystone wall running up the hill. We cross a stile to the western side of the wall – Harvey is once more airlifted in his new gear – and handrail the wall up
the hill. Just before we reach a caravan park, we recross the wall to some boggy ground, ascend a little more before…drrrrrrrum roll…recrossing through a rather narrow gate. A muddy footpath runs up through bracken and Himalayan balsam to emerge on the caravan park’s entrance road. We carry on straight uphill through bracken now turning seasonally brown (the bracken, I mean; we’re not turning seasonally brown). As we start to crest the top of this slope, we turn back for a view roughly Leedswards. What? Leedswards is totally a word.
We have a gentle stroll across flat ground now, skirting another caravan park to the west. Ahead of us, the summit mound of Baildon hill looms (admittedly not very loomingly, as it’s not that big). A short pull takes us onto a plateau with splendid views of West Yorkshire (if such a thing an be said to exist). We take a pew on one of the benches near the trig point, drink coffee and admire the vista. There’s a circular display that names all the features of interest on the horizon. It’s all here – Top Withens, the Ovenden Moor wind turbines…um…Drax (the coal-fired power station, not the massive, blue guy from Guardians of the Galaxy). West Yorkshire is the best Yorkshire.
We slip off the north edge of the summit and down to a strange geological arrangement, like a conglomeration of cinders and shale. No idea what it is – when I was a child, my dad told me it fell from outer space. I’m 47 now, and I think he may have made that up. We turn due west, skirting the northern edge of the upper caravan park before plunging downhill, back toward Shipley Glen. Crossing Glen Road, we follow the broad, obvious track down to Loadpit Beck, and cross the stream on a little, concrete foot bridge. At the far side, we turn roughly south, climbing gently back up into the woods.
The path here, hugs the top of the glen, walled pasture to west and steep, deciduous woods to the east. We arrive once more at the strange Victorian-almost-kissing-gate and turn uphill where we turned downhill before. The bridleway is skirting the edge
the Salt estate; soon a walled lane draws us west, down onto the carriage road that ran between Salt’s two gate houses. It’s not marked on the OS map as a public right of way, but it’s been treated as one since I was child. Just uphill from where we join the carriage road and off to the south are what I believe to be the remains of Salt’s mansion. It (or rather its various owners) suffered a series of macabre and unfortunate deaths before its demolition in the 50s. Recently, a series of hauntings were proved – by a talking dog and some kids – to be Mr McGruder trying to make off with the old Salt fortune. He’d have gotten away etc…
Emerging from the woods into Gilstead, we cross the road to turn south and downhill. Where the road turns sharply to the right, we recross and footpath takes us back to our starting point on the canal.
I didn’t really take any. A flask of coffee, basically. Harvey was wearing a Ruffwear Web Master harness. He looked splendid. I think he’s starting to like it. He gets excited when he sees it now.