Walking around Headingley ……under Lockdown

Woodhouse Ridge at the bottom by  the beck

We always felt lucky in that although we live close to the busy city centre of Leeds there were green spaces close at hand to walk through.

One of the open spaces on The Ridge

Indeed Gary’s dad had always insisted that Leeds was one of if not the greenest cities in Europe. I am not sure how accurate that claim is but if you look at a map of Leeds it certainly does have lots of green spaces.

Hard to believe that this view of Meanwood Beck is in the heart of the city!

Just a 2 minutes walk from our house takes us to the wonderful wooded area of Woodhouse Ridge, known locally as simply The Ridge.

This forms a part of the Meanwood Valley Trail and joins up with The Dale’s Way long distance footpath. A variety of trails meander through this native woodland which follows the path of Meanwood Beck and offers enticing views of Meanwood Valley below and Sugar Hill opposite.

At the bottom of our street with the view over Meanwood Valley . The  start of The Ridge path is just to the right.
Socially isolated folk on the Ridge looking out over Meanwood Valley

For over 30 years we have wandered through this tiny woodland. Usually heading for The Chemic Tavern in Woodhouse. A firm family tradition is to walk through the wood and then back through the ginnels every Christmas Day before our late afternoon Christmas dinner.

Sadly, and of course, The Chemic has been shut throughout the lockdown but Arkwrights …the fish and chip shop next door has remained open for take aways and we hope to stop off there one day for a treat!

The longest of the ginnels we walk through as we return from The Ridge through the back streets of Hyde Park

Although The Ridge has always been a popular place as it is so accessible and offers a more pleasant walk to the University and the city centre than the main road, there has been a noticable increase in the numbers of people resorting there for their daily exercise. Although, having said that most of my photos are empty of folk!

A view of one of the many exits off The Ridge via a ginnel leading to Cumberland Road.

The three main pathways are wide and firm enough for prams and pushchairs and so it is popular with families. Cyclists use this route too and we are often carefully overtaken both by fully lycra’d up and helmeted experts and also more casual….often aged plodders.

Spring flowers and wild garlic.

We feel so lucky to have this beautiful area so close to home and have become more aware of its special attractions each time we walk through.

The base of the old Victorian bandstand…is a much used meeting place for local folk.

Just off The Ridge by The City of Leeds high school a wonderful and very innovative permaculture garden has been developed on waste land by volunteers.

View of the roof turfed permaculture pavilion
Inside the permaculture garden with a view from the pavilion.

Sometimes on our circular walk home we call in at another hidden gem which is stowed away amongst the back streets of Hyde Park…Dagmar Wood.

The stage at Dagmar

This outdoor garden, a former sandstone quarry, has more recently been custom adapted for outdoor theatre and hosts Shakespearean plays at the height of midsummer .

It is a wonderful oasis of calm close to one of the busiest and most polluted roads in Britain.

Dagmar Wood

Spring is always a very special time on The Ridge, especially once the bluebells are flowering.

And of course there is always the wildlife. Wild pigeons coo lovingly, blackbirds, robins and even little Jenny Wrens can be heard strutting their stuff. Ducks with their ducklings can be espied on the tumbling waters of the Beck.

And finally, there are always the horses…which are usually pleading for a carrot or two as we pass by.

Yes we are very lucky and my heart goes out to all those other townies and city dwellers not so fortunate. Especially those families trapped in high rise flats with no outdoor spaces close by.

How about you, where do you take your daily lockdown dose of exercise and escape?

A last Hurrah to Raasay BC part 3

Now in the third week of extreme social distancing our last trip away in the Van seems a million years ago!

Parked up at Metal Bridge

I am not sure if looking back at it is helpful or if it brings more to the fore the adventures we are missing.

As we retired a few years ago from our teaching posts we thought we were used to staying at home. But in actual fact we didn’t spend as much time alone together in the marital home as we thought.

Friends and family who know us and our history well have kindly enquired how we are managing in solitary confinement, caught together like rats in a trap! Suffice to say that although I keep the frying pan close to hand….I haven’t felt the need to use it ….yet!

So back to our last adventure.

Our first stop over on the Friday evening was a place we had driven past on many other occasions always intending to “give it a try” sometime. The Metal Bridge Inn near Gretna Green just off the M6.

This is a well known motorhome stopover and the pub provides about a dozen marked out pitches in a car park at the back of the pub. There is access to clean water and also large tanks to empty all types of waste water. Even better, access to the pub’s toilets is available from when they open their doors at about 7am until they close late at night.

When we arrived at about 4:30 there was only one other motorhome in the car park , although by the time we went to bed there was total of 6…and this on a cold night in early March. At the height of holidays I would imagine that the pace is crammed. We opted to park facing the riverside…with a view not only of the river banks but also the traffic speeding passed on the M6.

View from the van in our parking spot

Inside the pub was warm and cosy and surprisingly, extremely popular on a freezing March evening. People were even waiting outside for it to open up when we arrived before 5.

Part of the deal when parking up overnight for free in a pub’s car park is to have a meal and drinks in the pub. So we duly went in and happily complied with the unwritten rules. Gary was a tadge disappointed that the there was no hand pulled beer on offer but nonetheless enjoyed a couple of bottles from Scottish breweries that he likes….and later the several, inevitable glasses of red wine.

We sat in the conservatory looking out on the river and enjoyed a very pleasant meal in the busy pub. It looked as if many folk had come in for the meal deal which seemed excellent value…2 courses for £7.50.

We were just musing about whether to have a pudding or not when I went to the ladies. I was washing my hands…very carefully of course….when the door burst open ….Another lady customer appeared in a great rush and  some distress. Before she could make it through the doorway and in to one of the toilet cubicles she directed a stream of projectile vomit right at me. Leaving me cowering in the corner before this most unexpected onslaught.

Ignoring my baser instincts of cowardice to head for the hills, I dutifully enquired of the poor woman, as she continued to puke into the toilet, if I could help in any way. Thankfully, she spluttered a negative. Unconvinced, I asked if I could let anyone know of her predicament…her friends or family…or …given the dire state of the entrance to the bathroom the pub management? Again her answer was a no thanks…she would clean it all up herself and not to trouble anyone.

Still unconvinced, I left the Ladies and headed for the bar. The whole area of the toilets would need a thorough deep clean….and any unsuspecting female could easily step right into the unholy mess and then tramp it through the whole pub!

At the bar I approached the very young waitress who had served us earlier that evening. Trying to minimise the vomiting lady’s discomfiture I discreetly murmured the whole sorry tale to her. Shock, dismay and very definitely fear instantly registered on her pretty face. Realising that something was up her manager bellowed across the pub asking what was wrong. There then followed a bellowing farce between the two of them before he finally got the message and she was dispatched to clear up the mess and check on the possibly still puking lady.

For myself, I glanced around looking for the spare seat from which the puker had hailed. Was she with her partner, family or friends. No, I couldn’t see a vacant chair. So I returned to Gary and told him the sorry tale.

Gary was horrified. I was worried that she might be really very poorly….he was sure that it would be alcohol related….even though it was only about 9 o’clock. Pudding was definitely no longer an option. I just wanted to get back to the safety of the van as fast as possible. So we agreed to finish our drinks, pay up and go.

Then I saw her return to the very table next to us. This was a party of 4 middle aged couples out for a meal together. I watched her take her seat and wondered what she would say to her partner and friends.

To my amazement….she said absolutely nothing and carried on eating her meal, laughing and joking as if nothing unusual had occurred!

Perhaps Gary ‘s analysis was correct. It was alcohol related. Nonetheless I worried for the rest of the night that as I was in her direct line of fire…and ugh splatter… I might become ill.

I rang Sue the next morning and explained the whole sorry affair. Should we return home or continue with the risk of bringing her some lurgy?

She urged us to continue on our way. I hadn’t become ill yet and we still had a couple more days of travelling before we would reach Raasay. If I did fall ill on the way we could always reassess our options. I should seal all the clothes I had on that evening up in a plastic bag and wash them as soon as I reached her house.

So off we trundled on our way again…

To be continued….

Mud Fast in Halifax!

All the wet weather recently has meant that for the first time ever, we struggled to get the van off a very wet and muddy campsite while we were staying at Halifax. Well not exactly Halifax…..actually we were based at Hipperholme which is a couple of miles out of town.

The short distance we had to cover to reach the safety of the tarmac by the site’s gate

The site itself is a small Certificated site, affiliated with the Camping and Caravanning Club, RSH Southedge Works. When we arrived at the site we were helped to negotiate the slightly muddy entrance to the camping field by Robin , the site owner and without too much difficulty Gary was able to drive on to our allocated hard standing. Strong winds were predicted for our stay and we hoped that they would dry the ground out so that our exit would be easier than our arrival. This was indeed true and by Saturday, the day we were due to leave, the water had drained away leaving the ground much firmer. But, we were having such a good time there that we decided to stay another night………

Of course, torrential rain fell from midnight on the Saturday and continued through Sunday morning. So by the time we were ready to leave the ground was thoroughly sodden and the van soon became well and truly stuck in the mud as we attempted to move the van the small distance……a matter of twenty feet or so to the safety of the tarmac at the site gate. However, help was on hand and Robin and his daughter came to our rescue. After much shoving and pushing we got the van half way towards the gate and then Robin was then able to attach a tow rope to his Volvo estate and that provided sufficient extra torque so that with another hard push the van was free and we were homeward bound.

So what was the attraction that induced us to linger at this site.

The “portacabin ” pub next door

This is a rather quirky place hidden in the middle of an old industrial estate. The amenities are fairly basic. Hard standings for about 5 units, electric hook up, drinking water and a chemical toilet disposal point . No shower block, so you need to be able to be fairly well self contained. However, the toilets for the pub next door are left open for the free use of campers overnight.

Yes….the pub next door…..which is actually a micro brewery as well…..I think you can begin to see some of the extra attractions of this rather lovely oasis. The pub, The Cock Of The North, is rather unusual too. It is housed in a series of old portacabins but is warm and friendly inside with a wide selection of beers. The bar is based around a huge fish tank with lots of beautiful fish swimming around.

The pub seems very popular with the locals too and was filled with folk of all ages who were there to chat and enjoy a quiet beer.

Immediately outside the site is a bus stop with buses every 20 minutes or so into Halifax.

The centre of Hipperholme with pubs, restaurants and shops is only a 5 minutes walk away. One of the other neighbours on the industrial estate is a beauty salon offering a range of services from manicures and facials to massage!

At only £14 a night the site offers a great place to stay for anyone wanting to visit Halifax or Shibden Hall. I am sure we will be back….hopefully in warmer, drier weather!

Life gets in the way….

Since we arrived back on Arran on the first of July we have been very busy with campsite duties, enjoying the beautiful countryside around us and playing host to wonderful friends and family who have been kind enough to visit. Combine that with virtually non existent wifi and the result is that I haven’t been able to write any posts for weeks!

As ever our return trip from Leeds was great. We stopped off for an overnight at The Hopetoun Arms Hotel at Leadhills which is reported to be the highest hotel in Scotland, although nearby Wanlockhead is acknowledged as the highest village at 1,295 feet These villages are only about 5 or 6 miles from the A74 motorway in South Lanarkshire and so are ideal for breaking a journey further north.There is also another pub at Wanlockhead , the Wanlockhead Inn, which also welcomes motorhomers ….and which we also intend to try at some point.

Both villages are very interesting and well worth a visit. Leadhills, as its name suggests, originally developed to accommodate miners who came for the deposits of silver and lead which could be found there. Gold was also found and the area around became known as “God’s Treasure House in Scotland”. In fact gold is still panned in the area, although you need a licence.

The Museum of Lead Mining looked fascinating and includes a real 18th century lead mine and 2 reconstructed miners cottages. But we didn’t have time to visit the museum or the Leadhills Miners library which is the oldest subscription library in the British Isles. Another attraction we didn’t have time for was the Leadhills and Wanlockhead narrow gauge railway which closed in 1939 but has been reopened by volunteers and railway enthusiasts.

So we will definitely be back for a longer visit!

This was the second time we had stopped over at The Hopetoun Arms and wont be the last.

The friendly landlord welcomes motorhomers and has 4 or 5 hard standing plots with hook up at the back of the hotel. Hook up costs £10 a night. He insisted that he recognised us, well… Gary at least, from our previous stopover a few years ago.

We have had lovely meals both times ……standard pub grub but well and freshly cooked with portions suited to hungry appetites. Several of the other couples/ people who were eating there that evening were also returnees …..another good sign with regard to the quality of the food and the warmth of the hospitality on offer.

The village shop is next door to the pub and has a good selection of groceries and the very helpful shopkeeper even offered to order newspapers for you if you ring him up in advance as they only have a couple of copies of each one.

The next day we drove along the winding B797 over Mennock Pass and through a beautiful, steep sided valley beside Mennock Water. There were lots of people wild camping along the way and some of them even seemed to be panning for gold. It seemed a beautiful, if a little desolate and wild, spot and it also all seemed a little vaguely reminiscent. I felt as if I had been through that valley before.

Was this aged photo taken in this valley too?

Can anyone identify these two youngsters?

Waterfall walk in Glen Sannox

Yesterday it stopped raining and there was definitely sunshine! However, by the time we had got our shoes and coats on for a walk on the ridge it had started raining again. Undeterred we set off for a little potter in the rain.

As long as I can get dry at the end I don’t mind walking in the rain and even enjoy it. This was certainly the case a few weeks ago when we walked up Glen Sannox following several days of rain to see the waterfalls there.

This short, easy walk starts at the car park off the A841 by North Sannox Bridge. It is a very straightforward walk on well made paths and even in the rain and mist had dramatic views of the waterfall series and of North Glen Sannox itself.

Just setting off from the car park…..in heavy rain and mist…complete with boots and several layers of clothing!

At the very start of the walk, by a footbridge, the path split into two. We took the left hand track which headed off into the forest. The other track, which intuitively and wrongly so, seemed a more obvious choice for a river walk, simply leads to a bench with a great view of the burn.

The walk through the forest was truly lovely, all the lush vegetation was displayed in various shades of vivid green and the smell of pine was heavenly. In addition the trees gave good cover against the incessant rain.

As we climbed higher up the glen….again a fairly easy ascent…we had wonderful views of the narrowing gorge and a series of dashing , foam filled waterfalls.

As you come out of the forest there should be a fabulous view of the jagged ridge of Glen Sannox. Sadly, all we could see was mist and low cloud.

We will have to return on another day for a better view and at least a glimpse of the Witches Step (Ceum na Caillich) and the rocky outline provided by Caisteal Abhail.

View back down the glen complete with lowering clouds

Hardier souls would probably have continued on once the path ended at a fence and might even have attempted to reach the summit of Caisteal Abhail via Carn Mor ridge but we opted to return to the car . After all we had to seek out the ending to a good walk in the rain….a cosy pub.

We knew exactly where we were headed…..Crofters at Brodick for some live music!

Antidote for days of dreary rain…..photos of a memorable Spring day on Arran

Yes, I know the gardens and farms needed rain after a near drought earlier in the year….but after days and days of the stuff and flood warnings in abundance it is good to remember drier days!

One of those days involved a beautiful circular walk on Arran from Lamlash, around Clauchlands Point and up to the prehistoric fort of Dun Fionn and then a return to Lamlash.

Throughout this walk there were great views of Holy Isle and of Lamlash Bay which was Scotlands first No Take Zone.

The walk hugs the coast before rising steeply uphill to a narrow path along the cliffs to the ancient hilltop fort of Dun Fionn. Not one to be attempted in high winds but on a warm Spring day it made for a lovely little toddle for two aging, occasional walkers.

The views from Dun Fionn were stunning all ways and provided a good view of Goatfell in the distance beyond Brodick as well as the distant Ayrshire coastline.

With its fantastic rocky ramparts Dunn Fionn was a brilliant and inevitable, choice position for a hill fort as can be seen in the pictures below.

Looking back, up the steep mound of the hill fort

This was a lovely, fresh Spring day and the bluebells that clothe the areas around the base of the hill were in full bloom.

Then it was back to Lamlash to the Pier Head Tavern, for as we all know, it isn’t a proper walk without a pub at the end.

A bit empty downstairs as everyone was enjoying the sun upstairs on the patio

As well as great beer the Pier Head Tavern has a fabulous balcony patio that overlooks Lamlash bay.

It also has a tiny but beautifully presented terraced garden……..

Complete with surprising driftwood sculpture…….

Who does this remind you of?

The poshest loo in Leeds….

Gary and I took a trip into Leeds city centre on Sunday. Unless you know Gary that might not sound unusual. However, those of you that do will be flabbergasted to know that we were going shopping together. Yes, we actually went into Debenhams and he bought a pair of trousers! He even tried them on in the changing rooms first!

What on earth could have caused this topsy turvy reversal of the natural order where I buy his clothes unaccompanied, guessing his size and he eventually tries them on at his leisure in the comfort of his own boudoir. Those items that fit are gratefully accepted, those that don’t go in the pile of stuff on the chest of drawers to be returned or await the moment in the distant future when they might fit through either the loss or gaining of weight by the aforementioned Gary.

Being a leftie, anti-capitalist socialist he hates the whole business of shopping and would much rather be playing football, watching football, talking bollocks about football, planning future football matches or at the very least be safely ensconced in a pub with a pint.So what had happened?

Earlier in the week we had had a major clear-out. In doing so I went through several old handbags and in one I found some Debenhams vouchers that I had forgotten about…..a mere £110 worth, and as they don’t have expiry dates it seemed they were still valid….even though I had had them stashed away for about 15 years. So on Sunday we were off to spend the vouchers, Gary was coming with me to ensure I spent them wisely and didn’t incur any further expense and….he was in need of a pair of trousers.

We weren’t entirely convinced that the vouchers would work and that we could actually exchange them for goods so we approached the pay desk with a little trepidation. Fortunately, our only hiccup lay in the redeemable value of the vouchers themselves. We had 4 vouchers for £25 each and one for £10 and when you used them to pay for goods you couldn’t be given change. The trousers cost £20. What on earth could we do with this Level 4 SATS maths problem?

Simple! I just had to buy a cardigan and a pair of trousers to make the amount up to £50!

Job done, Gary needed to celebrate his foray into the world of shopping. As luck would have it , just over the way, down a ginnel in the Turk’s Yard was one of the oldest pubs in Leeds, Whitelocks.

Whitelocks has a romantic link for us. It was at Whitelocks that I was first attracted to the loud, moustachioed Economics teacher who seemed to have a “mot juste” for everyone and everything during a staff night out. I particularly remember the way the pub fell into a stunned silence when a huge Australian soldier bearing a massive kit bag on his shoulder burst into the room and forced his way to the bar to be greeted by Gary welcoming him with “Hey up! Action man!”. Was Gary about to be finally pasted for his tongue in cheek greeting and delight in taking the piss out of those senior or in this case larger than himself? No! The gigantic Australian slapped him on his back and bought him several rounds of beers as they continued to swap insults.

Reader, I was enchanted!

Whitelocks , described by John Betjeman “as the very heart of Leeds” was first licensed as the “Turk’s Head” in 1715 and was rebuilt by the Whitelock family in the 1880’s and they created its internal, ornate decor including a long marble bar , beautiful tiles and etched mirrors.

In days gone past it was a favorite haunt of stage stars from the City Varieties close by and gained renown when Prince George entertained a party in a curtained off section. At one time, many years ago, a doorman ensured that only dinner jacketed gentlemen could enter and ladies of course were not allowed at the bar so customers were served by waiters at their tables.

No dinner jackets or table service were to be seen on Sunday. The place was packed to the gills though with folks coming for Sunday Dinner and we were very lucky immediately on arrival to acquire one of the small round cast iron tables.

Before long my consumption of liquid comestibles meant I needed to pay a visit to the ladies. I climbed a very steep and narrow stairway, perilous for anyone who had had more than a few alcoholic beverages, to gain access to a room containing the grandest throne I had ever beheld. A sumptuous mahogany seat, wide enough for the largest of ladies bottoms sat like a howdah upon the back of a china elephant. Yes I did say the back of an elephant!

With its beautiful black and white tiled floor, brass fittings and chain for old fashioned flushing this must be the poshest loo in Leeds!

Or even the whole of Yorkshire!