Ok hands up who eally believe weather forecasts? This year has promised heatwave, flood, drought, plague of frogs etc with little success but got to love them they got it right this time and the ‘Big Guy Upstairs’ did his part giving us a ‘reet proper ‘ Christmas Card snowy morning to wake up to, prompting a reaction in one small over excited terrier that resembled Bambi on some quality hallucinogenic .
Ok so in best festive mode (humour me here only 3 days to go till back to work ) it was indeed reasonably ‘deep and crisp and even’ but not exactly to 1947 quantities , but as usual the whole Nations infrastructure had a mass panic and any chance of reaching our chosen destinations for the day disappeared rapidly into a puff of bus cancellations .
With only the possibility of another day sat aimlessly watching more dodgy films we’ve seen before and consumed more calories in chocolate and other goodies and Bruce currently pacing the hall like an expectant father our usual fallback plan of the 3 and a bit mile canal stroll to Bingley it was.
No doubt from anyone who has read my other blog posts will have worked out my love for the canal systems, an amazing feat of last century engineering, a mix of urban and countryside and most importantly ,FLAT walking ideal for someone who’s frame was never designed for tough uphill battles! Also living only a quarter of a mile from our walks start at Granby Bridge in Riddlesden just on the western edges of the town may just have something to do wit as well.
Although this at best only an hours stroll it can be easily combined with days out further to St Ives , Saltaire or Shipley all accessible from the towpath further onwards to the West or to Parkwood in the East. We began at the Riddlesden End but again you could begin in Bingley, either way, you’ll find a welcome dog-friendly pub at either end and the Shuttle Keighley-Bradford bus service is a frequent (every 10 mins Mon-Sat Daytime ) way of linking our two destinations.
If history is your thing a detour before hitting the canal bank is East Riddlesden Hall, a 17th century Manor house, owned by the National Trust. It’s interior was the location for the recent series ‘Gunpowder’ about the infamous Nov 5th Plot. Anyone can remember back to 2010 and the Halls Exterior and Grounds stood in for Wuthering Heights in the ITV production with Tom Hardy and Sarah Lancashire. Although the Hall itself doesn’t allow dogs inside they are allowed in the grounds where there is plenty of space to
Our canal trail begins by the Marquis of Granby pub (we’ll return later !) with the turn towards Bingley.There was no let up to Bruce’s enthusiasm for the white stuff which was now falling satisfyingly in bigger and bigger flakes giving an even more satisfying crunch underfoot and he proceeded to carry on his best sled dog impression on the end of the lead.
Although sadly there is more and more residential development planned canalside the path still bring moments of calm and solitude along its way as you pass towards East Morton and Crossflatts here at times your only company can be the many ducks and swans that make it their home, watch out too if you are doing the walk in the warmer months for the resident terrapin who has been a canal feature for a number of years and can be seen occasionally basking on the water’s edge. Similarly further down the path at the Micklethwaite Bridge watch out for the pack of marauding geese that live canalside, def not dog lovers they happily show their disgust to anything canine that approaches!
When you reach East Morton Bridge /Swine Lane anyone wishing to break their journey for a pit stop can leave the Canal here and visit the Airedale Heifer a short distance away, another of our fav dog pubs and for beer aficionados, home to the BridgeHouse Brewery which is housed in the pub’s grounds and usually open for visitors to have a look around .
The weather had obviously deterred many people from coming out and for much of the early part of the walk we had the path to ourselves with only the odd fellow dog walker for company and a refreshing lack of the lycra clad menace this is mountain bikers who believe the towpath is theirs and theirs alone!
As we reached the Canal Bowl a mile from Bingley, home to several houseboats and the Boatyard the concentration of fellow walkers began to increase as the falling snow turned to finer skys . Bruce enjoyed a encounter with a couple of excitable whippets and in the adjoining field the legions of sledgers and snowmen builders added to the winter scene .
The main attraction on the route was upon us the famous Five Rise locks, the steepest set of locks on the countries canal systems, with the canal freezing over in parts there were no narrowboats attempting the complex system of gates and chambers that make up the system ,just a bevy of photographers taking advantage of the conditions and families making a beeline for the excellent cafe (dog friendly) that can be found adjacent
Constructed in 1774 , apparently 30,000 folk with nothing better to do turned out to witness their opening .It’s some fair feat of engineering and def worth a trip during the summer months to see full process as the barges come through.
The locks although spectacular , with deep water and big drops are without doubt a place to consider putting the pooch back on the lead especially for ones with not too awesome a recall like the Bruce!
Carrying on into Bingley outskirts brings you to the 5 rises little brother the Three Rise that sit alongside the huge Victorian mill that now houses the HQ of the world most thermals and essential purchase of old ladies everywhere – Damart.
Fro there it literally is downhill all the way into Bingley and onto our first refreshment stop
Leaving the Canal we headed for the Town Centre and the Potting Shed Pub found on the main street near the Parish Church.Initially sceptical of its dog-=friendly credentials due to its reputation as Bingleys major evening ‘going out’ venue, we had been recommended to visit by another mutt owning friends and were very pleasantly surprised at the warm welcome we received on our first visit last summer , water and fuss for the dog before beer for humans always a good sign !
A large open plan venue that still has a few cosy comfortable corners to settle its a fine stopping off point however it’s outside space that is the talking point, sticking with gardening theme, covered benches, giant gnomes and most uniquely individual furnished garden sheds are a great place to sit out on a sunny day, but not today !!
With the snow rapidly turning to sleet and then rain and our winter wonderland rapidly disappearing it was a bus back to one of our locals The Marquis of Granby. Canalside and dog-friendly (tap room) , sadly we cannot walk past without Bruce scrabbling and whining to cross the road to enter.
It’s many canine regulars are joined by two resident collies with floor space at a premium in front of the open fire at this time of year. Decent range of hand pulled beers (Ossett Brewery , Taylors )for humans with treats and water for pooches makes for a good end to a winter wander .