Don’t tell anyone about it, but…
Psst! You! Yes you, Leeds running types, don’t tell anyone about this but…
There is the most wonderful footpath run I can tell you about.
I’ve been really thinking long and hard about whether to share it, because the thing about it is – although it’s clearly marked as a footpath, and there are stiles and everything – no-one ever uses it. Seriously, I have run there for 10, 15 years or more, and I think only ever twice have I met anyone on the path.
So basically, on the edge of this great city, you are running across an open field: no track, just grass, you, the sheep and the sky.
Trouble is, if I tell everyone, then it might damage exactly what makes it so special. It’s a bit like when southerners say how rough it must be ‘App Nawff’ and you smile and nod and keep quiet and don’t tell them the truth. Because you don’t want them all coming up here and ruining it.
Anyway. I’ve concluded that my love of running – and my joy in this route in particular – mean it’s my duty to share this with you. But only you: because you are runners, and you are Leeds. But if you tell everyone else, then….
So gather round, I don’t want to speak too loudly.
We all have “Special Runs”. Those routes and places that live in our memories and stir our hearts as much as our bodies. This is one of mine, for two reasons. The first is just simply the nature and terrain of the run, which we will come to in a moment. The second is that when I run here from home it is four miles or so to where I begin this description, so the full circuit from home is 12-13 miles. That means I must be in reasonable shape; it might even mean this is a part of a longer 18, 20+ mile marathon-training run, that special zone I get into for all-too-brief spells when I feel like… well… an athlete. So when my feet run here, my spirit flies.
As for the first: it really shouldn’t be possible to run like this so close to such a thriving, buzzing, busy city. Come on, I’ll show you. And I promise you, if you run it you will find yourself grinning inanely like a running village-idiot.
There are lots of variations and options depending where you are running from, but the route is a 6.9 mile circuit around Golden Acre Park north of the city. For the purposes of this I am describing it starting from below the north-east carpark at the start of the gravel footpath where the very end of King Lane (from Five Lane Ends) meets Arthington Road.
From here, run along the track to the dam at the end of Golden Acre and then follow the path to the underpass and go under the A660. Immediately (and without stopping for an ice-cream this time, you’re an athlete, remember, have some discipline!) we turn left on the footbridge and run into the Breary Marsh nature reserve, a much less visited part of the park. Taking the right turn, dismiss the more obvious tracks and keep well to the left edge of Breary, along a stone wall and for a short time an unmade track of mud and tree-roots, under lovely woods of birch and … other brands of trees (sorry), until we come to Paul’s Pond. You will run all round here in a clockwise circuit, and you might spot a swan and some anglers. This all used to be on natural mud but has now been made up into a clear hard-gravel track. As the track completes the loop of the pond and heads back into the woods a bridleway post points you off sharp-left to “Otley Old Road” and you leave the woods along another gravel track, passing left of some renovated cottages, and following their access track, until you come face-on to some woods. This is where your run starts to change.
Up until now, about 1.5 miles, you have been running on obvious tracks. But as we turn sharp-right over the stile this track is barely a track, just a line along the edge of the woods. As you follow this straight on you pass through a series of fields, and underfoot it is now more cow-pat than foot-path. (Tip: stay on the edge of the field because there are electric fences going across; just saying.) You may well encounter a cow along the way, docile and curious: if so, treat it as a roundabout.
In contrast to the farm-fields on your left you will notice on your right the impressive facilities of West Park rugby club, and before you know it you come to a road. It’s quite posh here but don’t worry you won’t be here long enough to cause a slump in the property values. Turn right at the road and follow the 100m or so to cross the A660: you will see a stile just to the right of Cairns & Hickey Wine Merchants. Being an athlete, you make a mental note to come back another time. Discipline.
This. This point here. This is where this very special run takes on its very special nature. At some point in the next three miles or so you will find yourself grinning like a running village-idiot. I guarantee it.
Stand on the stile (Stile 1) and look for the footpath. See it? No, because there isn’t one, and that’s the whole point. It’s a field; just a field. Aim for the windmill; trust me. Diagonally to your right you may spot a leaning-over footpath-post: don’t go that far over, aim for the windmill and make sure you pass the end of the drainage-ditch on your left. Aiming for the windmill, gently uphill on soft grass and sheep-doos, you will see Stile 2 ahead of you.
From Stile 2, leave the windmill to the right and aim very slightly left for the standalone tree (trust me) and as you pass just to its right you will see Stile 3 at the very left end of the farm buildings. Any tracks here aren’t for you, ignore them (unless you have four feet and are covered in wool), there is no footpath, just soft grass and more sheep-doos. Grinning yet?
Crossing Stile 3 keep straight on and bear just left of the muck/rubble heaps and you can just see a wooden gate in the wall. Go through and keep right, following the wall closely, and you will come to another wall and gate, just go straight on. Take a moment to glance left and you will realise that you are on the very edge of Lower Wharfedale, and you can see straight across to the unmistakeable gritstone cap of Almsclffe. (You must be grinning by now?) If there is any weather, you will be copping it here. But 95 times out of 100 it will be coming from the SW which is why I’ve brought you clockwise, so it is behind you. (Somewhere up on a cloud above Old Grandma Rosie smiles and says to herself “He’s no crate-egg, that one.” Don’t ask me what it means but I think it’s a good thing. I say up on a cloud, but we can’t be quite sure – she could be a bit cantankerous, could old Rosie, so maybe… anyway where were we…?)
A little more pathless grass and you will come to a road, Arthington Road. Turn right and after about 125m you will see a clear footpath sign on your left and escape the tarmac again: cross that stile and run along the left edge of the field, coming to another double-stile and keeping straight-on. Stiles but no actual path, just grass and… well, you’ve got it by now. Keep your eyes up along here, too, because you are in prime Red Kite territory. (In fact if you are using this run to exercise your hamster you might want to pick it up and tuck it under your arm for the next mile or so?)
One more stile and you run (definitely grinning by now) between trees and fences until on your left you pass the Donkey Sanctuary. There is a notice by their stile (warning: the lower step is shin-grazingly wobbly!) which says that walkers are welcome to stop by the café and sample their tea and cakes. But you are an athlete, so make a mental note to come back one day when you are walking. As you hit the road, in the lane on your right you will see a steel gate: go through that and follow the track straight-on, which will take you past the Lineham Farm centre, and after another gate channel you through another field to aim for a step in the stone wall. Angle slightly right through there towards the lone tree and you will come onto another farm track leading to another stile. Cross the stile but don’t follow the track into the farm: instead bear off left/straight-on to where the fences all meet and resisting the bridleway marked left go straight-on through the wall along the fence.
This brings you to another road, Eccup Lane. Go left and about 25m along there is a clear footpath sign to the right, before (BEFORE! You are an athlete, but make a mental note to come back) the New Inn. This takes you straight across a field which – depending what year it is – may be a meadow, may be grazing, or may allow you to run through hip-high wheat or barley as you grin and remember that just out of sight to your right is ‘Britain’s fastest-growing-city’.
One more stone-stile in a stone-wall and you come to a dirt and gravel track: turn right and the track leads you down to Eccup Moor Road. Turn right here and pass Village Road on you right and then stay on the road through the lovely undulations all the way past the kennels to 5-Lane Ends at the junction with King Lane. (Sorry about the tarmac, but to be fair I’ve kept you off road all this time. Of course you could, run this anti-clockwise and get this section of road out of the way at the beginning. Just don’t blame me if Rosie catches you.)
From 5-Lane Ends, and viewing Eccup Moor Road as no-1, take no-4 King Lane to your right, and you are back to the start at Golden Acre.
So there you are. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you felt it the same way I do. I hope I did the right thing, telling everyone about it. Just, please, keep it to yourself, eh? We don’t want to go spoiling it by having lots of people…. Well, y’know…. Lots of people running on it…?
And if by some chance you didn’t find yourself grinning at any point like some sort of running village-idiot you are of course absolutely entitled to a full and complete refund, oh yes certainly. You can apply any time at www.I-Have-No-Soul.com.
Want the visual route? Kop this golden nugget here: http://runleeds.co.uk/running-route/breary/