Welcome to Yorkshire - Walkshire

#Walkshire – Water and Industry in Kirkstall Valley

Find out more with Welcome to Yorkshire

A walk for ‘every day of the year’ is promised as one of the many highlights underpinning Welcome to Yorkshire’s new ground breaking #Walkshire campaign which launched on New Year’s Day 2021. The aim is to promote Yorkshire as the walking capital of the world and the year-long project will see 365 walks covering all corners of the county to showcase the very best of the region across the globe.

Walkshire will demonstrate Yorkshire’s rich diversity of place, landscapes, people, architecture, heritage, history, economies, attractions and of course food and drink all through the medium of walking with a strong emphasis on inclusion and accessibility with walks planned for all abilities.

The largest county in England has a wealth of wonderful walks, from short strolls to hilly hikes, some challenging, others more accessible to all and with three national parks, a breathtaking coastline, vibrant cities, stunning countryside, rich in heritage, delicious dining, perfectly placed pubs and amazing arts, the top trails will take you on a voyage of discovery through vast open gorgeous green spaces and inspiring inner city strolls. Fantastic for fitness, families, friends, for yourself and your four-legged friends.

At a time when health, well-being and the great outdoors are a top priority for all, whatever age and ability, #Walkshire will show spectacular Yorkshire and all it has to offer on foot and with wheelchair access, regionally, nationally and internationally, highlighting world-class walks and wildlife watching, as well as businesses and tourist attractions en route to a huge audience, welcoming walkers to all parts of the county, whilst considering current Government guidelines.

 

We are delighted to work in association with Welcome to Yorkshire to highlight a walk local to us here at Tong Garden Centre.

 

WATER AND INDUSTRY IN KIRKSTALL VALLEY WALK

  • 5 kilometres / 1 – 2 hours
  • Accessibility – Unsuitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs, etc unless sections are missed. See notes at the bottom of the page

We start this walk on the banks of the River Aire in the grounds of Kirkstall Abbey (LS5 3EH). You will find a weir at the southern end of the park.

The river is likely to be one of the reasons the monks chose to settle in this location. A weir built here in the 1100s was one of the earliest built on the river and allowed stone to be floated downstream for building.

 

This walk takes you between two new fish passes. Before summer 2020 fish hoping to reach the gravel beds in shallower parts of the upland river to lay their eggs were stopped by the weirs at Kirkstall Abbey and Armley Mills.

Many fish need to move within the river to feed, breed and shelter. One of the fish that will have travelled the furthest is the Atlantic salmon.

Salmon will have travelled from the Atlantic Ocean around Greenland to lay their eggs in the shallow upland streams they are born in. These fish pass help connect 60km of river habitat. Their construction will allow salmon to return after an absence of over 150 years.

Atlantic salmon caught and returned by the Environment Agency in the River Aire Leeds in 2010

These monks lived there until Henry VIII forced its closure in 1539. The Abbey was left to slowly fall apart until it was given to Leeds City Council in 1890.

Kirkstall Valley played a key role in industrial development in Leeds. An ingenious system of mill races or “goits” were constructed downstream of Kirkstall Abbey between 1760 and 1860 to provide mills with water and power. Many of which survive today. Our walk will follow these.

A keeper would have lived on it on the weir before you in the unusual gothic style cottage. They would have controlled the water flow to the mills using the set of eight sluice gates.

Take the path that leads through the park away from the Abbey and towards the city centre.

 

Photo © Rich Tea (cc-by-sa/2.0)

You will pass Abbey Mills on the far side of the goit. This is the oldest and best preserved of three mills that once stood on the Kirkstall mill race. The current mill was built in the early 1800s as a woollen mill but it thought to incorporate parts of an earlier medieval corn mill.

Kirkstall Valley Development Trust hope to convert the mill into social housing and a community hub. You will exit the park next to the Kirkstall Bridge Shopping Centre. Cross over bridge Road and continue along Commercial Road. A couple of hundred metres after the junction you will see a car park on your right. To the rear of it a gate leads you onto the goitside walk.

Photo © Mark Stevenson (cc-by-sa/2.0)

This walk will eventually lead us back to Commercial Road at St Anne’s Mills but it is worth exploring the woodland to gain a view of the river and a number of ruined features connected to the weir.

Development of St Anne’s Mill probably started around 1760 when the Vicar of Headingley (Rev. John Moore) leased about 500 acres in Burley and Kirkstall from the Earl of Cardigan. St Anne’s seems to have operated initially as a scribbling and fulling mill. These were two easily mechanised processes that could not conveniently be done at home by family weavers working under the domestic system.

From the riverbank you will be able to find a view of the weir, the 1830s St Annes Mill; the remains of a road bridge over the goit from the 1700s (see image); and the ruins of an early steam pumping engine that was used to drive the water wheel, supplementing the action of the river.

Once you are finished exploring follow Commercial Road until you reach the hand car wash. After this you should see signs for a goitside walk.

Follow these into the woods to get a view of the river and fish pass.

This weir sent water to Burley Mill. A woollen and worsted mill. Now it finds a new use. In 1993 Leeds City Council constructed a platform here so that bereaved Sikhs might scatter relative’s ashes into the river. Unable to travel to the Ganges, Sikh’s believe the ashes of cremated bodies must be scattered in the sea, or in waters that flow to the sea, to transport them to the next life.

The structure you see in the river here is a fish pass. Its is the same as those at Kirkstall Abbey and Armley Mills but smaller.

Follow the goit through the woodland until you once again emerge on Commerical Road. 800m further along this turn right on Redcote Lane and cross the River Aire. This lane will take you under the railway line and then go left round the National Grid site.

You will find yourself at Aire Valley Marina. Coal was once delivered by canal here for the Kirkstall Power Station that stood on this site. This dominated the area from 1931 and covered surrounding streets in ash. The station was converted to burn oil just in time for the 1973 Oil Crisis, and the resulting price rise led to its closure in 1976.

Turn left on the canal to visit Armley Mills or right to head back to Kirkstall Abbey.

Emerge from the towpath on Wither Lane. This takes you up to Broad Lane. Turn right and then right again across Kirkstall Bridge.

It was here that Royalists thwarted Thomas Fairfax and his Parliamentary Army from retaking Leeds in 1643. By demolishing the bridge they forced Fairfax to travel upstream to Apperley Bridge to cross the river. The current bridge dates from 1912.

Bridge Road takes you back up to the junction with Savins Mill Way opposite which you can turn left and head back to Kirkstall Abbey.

Photo © Rich Tea (cc-by-sa/2.0)

  • Accessibility: This walk is level but includes a number of sections of unmade paths. If you avoid the goitside paths it may be suitable for wheelchairs or buggies. Care should be taken alongside traffic on busy roads
  • Free car parking is available at Kirkstall Abbey and there are excellent public transport links. Regular buses link you to Leeds city centre.
  • Refreshments: There are a number of cafes and pubs along the route. The Kirkstall Bridge Inn is one of our favourites. This walk is part of the Developing the Natural Aire programme.
  • This partnership programme between the Environment Agency and The Aire Rivers Trust. We run volunteer programmes to care for the river and school visits to educate future generations about the importance of our great river.