The surrounding area of Bradford is an incredible place to walk. Stunning scenery that includes rolling green hills combined with rich heritage and history.
Walks in the area often always combines a walk with fantastic views you won’t forget together with a learning of the history and industries that left their mark on the landscape.
The Great Northern Railway Trail is a tremendous example of this and then some, to the west of Bradford. Not only did I see a lot or walk a lot of miles. I discovered so much about the area and plans for the future.
The Trail Overview
Between 1874 and 1884 the Great Northern Railway opened up lines between Bradford, Halifax and Keighley (The Queensbury Lines).
It was an area that was full of industry but in those times it had not been well served by road, never mind rail.
A mammoth task of engineering for its time. When on the walk you will see the landscape is all valleys and steep sided hills. To connect these three towns involved a whole lot of viaducts and many tunnels. Hence the nickname of The Alpine Lines.
Today, much of the route I did between Cullingworth and Queensbury Tunnel has been grandly made into cycle paths and walkways.
However, the sections across and through the hills has become a work in progress. A lot of work has to be done to open the tunnels for the true pathway to be complete. And there are financial arguments ongoing.
For cyclists that is a possible future, but as a walker, the way is great at present. There are pathways and lanes over the tops that follow the route very well. Along The Keighley and Thornton Branch of the lines.
After leaving Cullingworth on a well laid cycle/walking path, the first landmark you come across is the impressive Hewenden Reservoir, one of the highest viaducts in the UK.
Standing at one end of it you get a sense of the scale and the work that went into building it across the valley.
It is 37 m high and spans 527 m across with 17 arches. The ground beneath it was so unstable they had to go a further 18m under with the pillars.
Today the lines are gone and you can walk over it with ease whilst enjoying the views up and down the valley.
After the viaduct look out for what was Wilsden Railway Station. Now converted into a house. Look around it (without looking too nosey, but I am sure the occupants are used to it). You can clearly see where the platform ran.
Not long after the viaduct the cycleway ends and cross country paths and terrain begins.
Down into the valley bottom you can look back at the impressive viaduct you have just left and look forward up the valley. Through fields and across streams. As you look around you can see that this was an area not fit for an average railway line.
On the map you can see where the line ran that winds around the valley edges. Tunnels all over the place.
Before the climb over and above the longest tunnel you can enjoy walking beside two stretches of water.
Hewenden Reservoir and Doe Park Reservoir. The latter full of sailing boats, no matter the weather it seems.
Moscow and The Walls of Jericho
After Doe Park Reservoir we headed up and up onto Ten Yards Lane to make or way up and over the top of the hill the big tunnel would have ran underneath.
I was fascinated to see that the hamlet that greeted us was called Moscow.
It was in keeping with the quirkiness of other names of hamlets in the area. Egypt, World’s End and Jericho.
You don’t see much sign of it now, but in the 19th Century this area had over 30 active quarries. Quarry waste in those days was just literally thrown downhill. To keep it all from crashing down into the hamlets and villages they built huge high walls. Which became known as The Walls of Jericho after the village.
At the top there are some wonderful fields to pass through. The rain had stopped, the fresh air was invigorating and all was calm.
Malc and Pete were enjoying a good walk too.
On the way down the other side you come to Thornton Cemetery with steps leading down and down to the bottom.
Once down into Thornton you cross the main road and as this is the area where the tunnel ended, you get back onto the old railway path proper again.
It is here you come upon another viaduct that is a marvel in itself. Thornton Viaduct, spanning Pinch Beck Valley.
An S shaped viaduct that had to built carefully to the shape of the valley. It is 270 m long and has 20 arches.
Today it is full of families and dog walkers enjoying the fresh air and the views.
Once on the viaduct itself the views were absolutely as impressive as I had been pre told of. all the way down and across you could see the city of Bradford on the skyline.
The FA Cup Chimney
Now then, as you walk further along the path, look to your left and you will see a lone chimney. this is a remnant of the Clayton Fireclay Brickworks.
If you look two thirds up it you can indeed see the FA Cup painted on it.
This is said to have been painted on in 1911 to commemorate Bradford winning the FA Cup. I am sure that there are painters in Bradford eagerly awaiting a time they can put something else on there?
As you head toward the end point of the walk, Queensbury Tunnel, there is lots of signage showing the history of the area. This is where the triangular 3 way Queensbury Station stood. Only one of a few of this type. The lines went off in three directions from here.
You will also realise that Queensbury itself is not actually in sight. No, the station is down here in the bottom of the valley. Queensbury is up the hill, 400 feet (120 m), up the hill in fact. Imagine getting home off the train to find you have a steep climb to actually get home.
The line from here carried on through Queensbury Tunnel from Queensbury station to Holmfield. A huge tunnel for its day. In length it is 2,287 m (7,503 ft).
Today it is blocked off and now a cause of argument. The owners want to concrete it up and save worrying and money. Most people though want it to be made into a huge and unique extension to the cycling and walking trails. it would be the longest cycling tunnel in Europe and would of course draw so many more people to the area.
A Great Walk
The tunnel marks the end of this trail today and what a day. A real eye opener.
I learnt so much, saw so much and discovered another gem in West Yorkshire. The dogs loved every minute too!
Distance: 4 miles (or 8 with return)
Parking: Village of Cullingworth