This is a lovely walk in spring, with Hirst Wood providing a carpet of bluebells, and is an excellent addition to a visit to the Saltaire World Heritage Site, home of the famous Salts Mill and David Hockney gallery.
From Hirst Wood the route crosses the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and eventually follows peaceful walled paths and tracks. Along the way is an ornate kissing gate known as the Bird Cage, one of the entrances to Titus Salt’s now demolished home, Milner Field. The path then descends to wooded Shipley Glen, where the dam over Loadpit Beck was constructed in 1911 to supply clean water for the dye works at Salts Mill. At the end of the walk, Roberts Park was opened in 1871 to provide leisure facilities for millworkers and their families. Listen for newly-arrived willow warblers and chiffchaffs.
1. From Saltaire station walk downhill, cross the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and turn left to follow the towpath west towards Bingley. At Hirst Lock turn left over the canal bridge and go right to enter Hirst Wood. Keep to the main path, ignoring turn-offs. Eventually the path bears left downhill to arrive on the south side of the canal.
2. Cross an aqueduct and leave the towpath by going left to walk round buildings and turn right to cross the canal bridge at Dowley Gap. On the other side don’t descend to the towpath but continue ahead on a rising footpath which emerges on Primrose Lane. Cross the road with care and turn right to walk uphill. Before a junction in Gilstead, re-cross the road to a signposted public footpath on the right.
3. Follow a walled path into a wooded dip and continue uphill to emerge on Sheriff Lane. Turn right, pass the Bird Cage gate on your right and continue downhill to the old dye works pond. Cross the dam and on the other side bear right uphill, and when the path splits go right. Further on, at a junction of paths go right and walk down to Higher Coach Road.
4. Cross with care to walk through houses, passing a green before a bridge. Don’t cross the River Aire but turn left to follow a path along the riverbank. Eventually, enter Robert’s Park and follow the path to the right of the cricket field. Further on it swings left then takes a sharp turn right to cross the river and return to Saltaire.
Difficulty rating: 2 stars
Hours: 2 hours
Distance: 3 1/2 miles
Map: OS Explorer (1:25000) sheet 288 Bradford & Huddersfield
Public transport: Saltaire is on the Airedale rail line between Leeds, Bradford and Skipton and served by buses from Leeds, Bradford & Keighley. For times visit www.wymetro.com or call 0113 245 7676.
Refreshments & toilets: Saltaire