This 5 mile walk from the centre of Bingley, up and around the country park estate of St Ives was a refreshing and eye opening day for me to spend.
Within minutes of leaving the main road you are almost immediately into parkland, riverside settings and onwards into meadows and woodland. Nature everywhere and history with views.
I chose to start from the town centre of Bingley to get a longer walk with more refreshment choices at the end. This also enables those that want to start after getting off a train too. But there are numerous car parks around the actual estate too for shorter walks and walks with little ones.
It is also a very dog friendly walk.
The start point for me was Bingley arts centre. Head to the left of it along the lane and into Myrtle Park. Head through the park whilst taking the left path until you cross the bridge over the River Aire.
Then you turn right heading into a little Hamlet.
Beckfoot Packhorse Bridge
You then come across the lovely Beckfoot Packhorse Bridge, over Harden Beck. It is in such a quiet and pretty setting but hundreds of years ago this was an important crossing. It was the way into town with goods from lower down in the Aire Valley.
It was originally made of wood but in 1723 it was rebuilt in stone by two local contractors at a cost of £10. Included in the price was 7 years of upkeep. It is now a Grade II listed building.
Up to St Ives
After crossing the bridge head up the wooded track and go straight across Harden Road to get back onto another wooded path and soon you will be at one of the main car parks of St Ives Estate.
From the car park head up the incline into the estate. There is a path off to the right, parallel to the road, so you do not have to walk on the road.
Soon on your right hand side you will see a unique house. A hexagonal shaped, one storey house, in Gothic Revival style. It goes by the name of Betty’s Lodge.
Built in 1820 it is yet another Grade II listed building and is now a private residence. It is believed that it was once home to the gardener of St Ives Estate called Matthew Summersgill and his wife, Betty and from here it gained its name.
St Ives Estate History
As we are now entering St Ives Estate, here is a brief history.
If we wish to go really far back then archeological digs have found that this land was inhabited way back to Bronze Age times over 4800 years ago.
In 1165 it was given as monastic land under the ownership of Rievaulx Abbey. This came to an end between 1536-1541 when Henry VIII dissolved the monateries.
After this the land passed through locally notable people and families. The Laycocks and the Milners. Then in 1636 it was bought by the Ferrands who kept it in their hands until 1929 before it was bought by the council. During those few centuries the land really became more and more like the estate and lands we see today, with walls around the circumference etc.
Harden Grange Name Swap
Now then, St Ives Estate was not called St Ives until 1858. It was known until then as Harden Grange.
You may know that there is an area down in the valley called Harden Grange today. Well until 1858 that was called St Ives. They literally swapped names in 1858.
Continuing our walk we come upon an expanse of water known as Coppice Pond.
This was originally built for water supply. and the Ferrands turned it into more a recreational boating lake. On the walk today I found this a very pretty setting and naturally the busiest part of the walk. Families out enjoying a stroll and feeding the ducks.
Lady Blantyre’s Rock
Back onto the woodland path it is not long before you reach another landmark. A rock one this time, known as Lady Blantyre’s Rock.
It is hard to believe now with all the tall trees around but in the 1870s you could sit under this rock and have an amazing views over the valley and beyond.
The mother in law of the then owner William Ferrand, was the Dowager Lady Blantyre. She was known to come to this spot so very often over a span of over 30 years with her daughter to enjoy the view and to read.
The Ferrand Obelisk
Situated just behind the rock and hidden off the path is The Ferrand Obelisk. Again this would have had a commanding position, without tall trees, in the late 19th century.
This obelisk leads back to the son in law of Lady Blantyre, William Ferrand. Even though he owned all this land, the mansion and so forth he was a rebel in that he was keen on workers rights during this industrial age. He was a Conservative MP for Knaresborough and then later, Devonport.
He fought strongly for industrial workers and the poor and helped make many laws for their benefit in the commons, as well as stop some law abolishments that would have affected workers rights.
To Altar Lane
From here the path passes straight between holes on the golf course and you see a gap in the wall ahead. This is Altar Lane and a chance to start taking in more expansive views.
Turn right down Altar Lane and you will soon see a detour sign off to the left for Druids Altar.
Just a couple of hundred metres off the lane you come to the impressive Druid’s Altar.
With the history of this land, the shape of the rock, the placement of it over the land, you can see how folklore has been written. It is named so, as it is alleged that it was an ancient place of human sacrifice.
However, there has never been found any archeological proof of this. It is though, a spectacular place to take in a view.
Back Down To Bingley
From here you can get back on the lane and the half mile or so back into the town of Bingley, and to the start. Cafes and pubs galore to refresh yourself.
A great walk had for learning, for seeing and discovering.
Parking – For no worry parking then use Bingley Arts Centre Car Park. Postcode BD16 2LZ. This is pay and display and less than £4 for over 3 hours.
This walk also starts near the train station too.
Distance – 4.8 miles
Time – 2 to 3 hours