So after all the delays, we managed to complete the Leeds Country Way with a good few weeks to spare (thought I feel that I'm pushing the envelope a little with the the last post written with 2 days left in the year!)
It was a strange feeling, getting in the car for the last time together, parking up in a strange road and setting off with a piece of paper in one hand (mine) and a smartphone with maps on in the other (Matt).
I had been looking forward to this part of the walk for ages because it covers a lot of ground near my house, so every now and then we'd pop out and I'd instantly recognise where we were from numerous running routes. However, it was very pleasing to see how much more I didn't know and some really picturesque parts that would be easily accessible for future walks.
The route dives quickly into woodland and one of the steepest hills we came across. I say this only because we did the walk again with some friends and in my head it was much flatter than it actually is. The route comes out onto fields and some of my favourite views out over Leeds into
Bradford and the glorious weather and the slight nip in
the air seemed to suit the final air of the walk.
A few twists and turns brings you into the Hunger Hills (not sure of the origin of the name) which are easily some of the nicest woods on the walk, if not the hilliest. About halfway up, the path hugs the outer edge of the wood and it stops at a great lookout point with a bench, which is definitely worth the effort to get to. Looking back, there's been a lot of woodland on the trail and it's been fun to see it in all different seasons, as well as making us realise just how green
is for a large metropolitan city.
The Way leaves the woods and takes you around the edge of Leeds Trinity (the 3rd biggest university in
and a bizarre track alongside buildings and the running track but which runs
between 2 head high hedges...interesting to walk with a baby in a backpack,
even more interesting to walk when there's another person coming the other way!
After crossing the road and coming through a short piece of woodland, the trail comes out into fields near to the airport where we decided to take a coffee break using the airport wall as a natural windbreak. The field apparently is home to some very inquisitive horses who came over to visit, incredibly closely so to the point where we had to fend them off Jake and one of them made off with an apple! It made us laugh a lot and has been one of the real highlights. The proximity to the airport was also kinda cool as we live under the flight path so seeing planes coming in so close was exciting (and Jake absolutely loved the noise!). There was something a little sad about packing up from our last coffee break, having had 12 great breaks across
Leeds. It was at that point that we started talking about
the next challenge as we've both enjoyed the walk and the time spent hanging
The path then hit Owlet Farm and some of the more boggy land that we've walked through. It was also about this sort of time that Jake fell asleep and it was incredibly hard to keep my footing with his head moving from side to side. It comes out near a timber yard where bizarrely our friends who repeated the walk with later on saw the tree that had been chopped from their garden.
The next section takes you round the Cookridge Cricket Ground and out into the backroads where I spend a lot of time running. It was strange to be there with Jake in the backpack rather than out front in the running stroller, but it also good knowing that we were on the final straight.
After passing a Scout hut and the outer edges of Rushes Farm, we picked up the gate at the back end of
where I first saw
signs for the Golden Acre
and the start of this whole idea. Coming through the gate felt like a
homecoming as we entered the last half mile of the walk which I've done many
times with my wife. It felt strange feeling tired coming back through the woods
alongside the river as well as a little emotional at the end of the project. Leeds Country Way
One of the big changes that's happened this year is Jake starting to walk, so I decided to get him out of the backpack to walk the last 20 yards or so. Walking hand in hand with my son is one of my favourite past times so it was a great way to finish a great walk. It's been fascinating going back to the pictures of Jake in January and seeing just how much he's grown and changed whilst staying in the backpack.
Our conversation naturally turned to the next project as we came back to the car park where it all started 11 months previously. Maybe it'll be our grand plan of walking the whole thing in a weekend (wife depending!) or maybe another longer challenge like the
. Either way, it'll be need to
be as fun, different, unusual and enjoyable as the Leeds Country Way. Pennine Way