Thanks to the development of the new Kirkstall railway station, I’ve been able to offer a new circular walk on my programme of events. You can book onto my tour of Bramley Falls Wood, Hawksworth Woods and Newlay Wood, which takes place on Tuesday 31st January, via the events page on this website. This will showcase the sites in winter and you’ll be able to compare the difference between seasons when I repeat the walk
in late spring. The whole area is reminiscent of a John Atkinson Grimshaw painting with its stone walls and dense undergrowth.
My walk starts from the car park at Bramley Falls Wood, my childhood playground, where you’ll be able to see birds such as great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and treecreeper. On a fine day in January, some of our resident birds will be singing and it is possible to hear woodpeckers drumming to announce their breeding territory. We’ll be heading straight down to the Forge Locks where the River Aire bends sharply towards the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. On the canal overflow we’ll check for grey wagtail and the river bend provides a great spot to look for kingfisher, dipper and goosander. The new Kirkstall station approach takes us through a previously inaccessible part of the woodland which provides some low cover for wrens, goldcrest, dunnock and, from the early spring, blackcap and garden warbler. The new Kirkstall Forge development is in its early stages and so far, apart from the railway station, only the empty shell of a new office block is visible. Despite this, the area has an exciting vibe and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished site which will include a residential area and shops, a small village with public transport nestled between protected woodland.
Walking back up the other side of the valley, the new site provides a new view of the River Aire. Now that the river is much cleaner than it used to be, it will be possible to look for dipper, kingfisher and otter from this bridge. After a short walk we then reach the main A65 with a new pedestrian crossing to help us on our way to Hawksworth Woods. Our walk will take a figure of 8 route (to manage a muddy hill in winter) so we pass the main wood at this stage and take the route through Outwood Avenue to Little Hawksworth Wood which also runs parallel to Hawksworth Road. This wood isn’t as disturbed by dog walkers and we’ve found woodcock here on past winter visits. Some of the gardens have feeders which makes it possible to see greenfinch and goldfinch around the entrance. It’s always possible to see red kite and soaring sparrowhawk on our walk so we’ll be checking the open sky whenever we’re walking through gaps in the woodland. Sparrowhawks will be hungry in the mornings after a cold winter night so we’ll be responding to any alarm calls we hear, especially abrupt, full songs from blue tits which are very good indicators that sparrowhawks are around.
At the north end of Little Hawksworth Wood, it’s possible to explore fields and woodland on the other side of Outwood Lane to look for winter thrushes, gulls and little owl. We then walk down to the mini roundabout where Hawksworth Road meets Butcher Hill at Oil Mill Beck. Here we look for grey wagtail, kingfisher and dipper before walking into the main Hawksworth Wood. As far as muddy paths and water levels allow, we’ll follow the beck quietly checking the water ahead for our target birds before moving back to the main woodland path. Mistle thrush and song thrush will be singing on warmer winter days and in January, it’s possible to see mistle thrush gathering moss to make a nest. All along we will be looking and listening for great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch and treecreeper.
Back at the A65, we’ll cross over and head up the hill to Rein Road. This densly wooded path takes us back down to the River Aire then bends down to Newlay. Some of you may be able to remember a small weir on the river at the end of the hill but this has now been removed. On the rippling water it’s possible to see dipper, heron, mallard, goosander and kingfisher. Grey wagtails often show on the goit that runs parallel to the bottom of Rein Road. Walk through the houses and take a left turn onto the iron footbridge that links Newlay Lane and Pollard Lane. This is a great place to look down the river and check the large weir for feeding birds and otter.
Climb the hill on Pollard Lane, pass the Abbey Inn and take the path on the left signposted for the canal walk. Look for bullfinch, robin, dunnock, long-tailed tit, great tit, goldcrest and blue tit and check the open sky again for birds of prey. The hedgerows are good for whitethroat in spring and willow warbler, chiffchaff and garden warbler will be singing from Hunters Green. At the canal, turn left and follow the path to the Lock. Here we cross the canal into Bramley Falls Wood again and follow the old railway track to the left. This a great place to see jay and treecreeper. In the spring you’ll be able to see blackcap here. At the first signpost to the car park, check the trees around the rocky area for treecreeper and nuthatch before climbing the steps into the parkland. Here you may be able to find stock dove, mistle thrush, redwing and fieldfare. We then get back to the minbus for a well deserved hot drink and biscuit from my mobile cafe.