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A Stroll Through Judy Woods

Surrounded by towns these are some of the finest beech woods in West Yorkshire.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 328ft (100m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Good tracks and woodland paths, 8 stiles

Landscape Arable land and beech woods

Suggested map aqua3 OS explorer 288 Bradford & Huddersfield

Start/finish SE 147268

Dog friendliness Can be off lead in woods

Parking On Station Road (off the A641 at Wyke) near information panel and kissing gate giving access into Judy Woods

Public toilets None on route

1 Walk through the kissing gate and follow the track ahead through these delightful beech woods. At a T-junction of tracks, go right, uphill, to leave the wood via a stile. Take the path ahead, on a little ridge, until you come to a wall and another track. Go left here and over two stiles to a surfaced lane. Turn right and follow the lane up to some houses.

2 Just past the first terraced houses bear left on an unadopted road, Carr House Gate, walking gradually uphill. Where the road ends, at a breaker's yard, keep straight ahead on a path which soon bears left at a transmitter and broadens into a track. At a T-junction of tracks, go right. This walled track takes you past Park Dam, down on the right. Bear right beyond Royds Hall but, after just 20yds (18m), take a step stile in the wall on your left.

3 Pass a Dutch barn on a path across the field, and cross a stile in a fence. Walk directly across the next field to a wall stile. Follow the wall on your right, skirting woodland and a housing estate. As you approach garden fences, you come to a cross-path. Go left here, and back into Judy Wood via a metal kissing gate. Follow a broad track gradually downhill, with a steep slope to the right. When you approach a field, and a pylon, you have a choice of paths. Take either option; they both descend through the woods and meet up again at Judy Bridge.

4 Don't cross the bridge, but bear left, up a track. Almost immediately, take a gap stile in the wall to your right to access a footpath running parallel to the track. At the top of the slope, where the wall gives way to a metal fence, bear right. You have a choice of tracks here; take either of them, downhill, to leave the woods via a stile. Turn left to walk along Station Road back to your car.

Judy Woods are hemmed in by Wyke, Hipperholme, Shelf, Wibsey, Stone Chair and other intriguingly named West Yorkshire towns. Nevertheless, these are some of the finest broadleaved woods in the county. You will look in vain for 'Judy Woods' on the Ordnance Survey map, as each spur of woodland bears a different name. But to locals the whole area is known as Judy Woods, recalling a woman called Judy North who lived here during the 19th century. Her cottage was near to Horse Close Bridge (usually known as Judy Bridge). She opened her gardens to the public, selling sweets and ginger beer to passers-by.

The geology of Judy Woods is defined by layers of coal over a bedrock of millstone grit. The coal has been mined for centuries, as is evidenced by the shallow depressions that can be seen during this walk. These are the remains of bell pits: an early and primitive method of opencast mining. A less obvious sign of local industry is the predominance of beech trees, which were probably planted during the reign of Queen Victoria. These trees are a colourful sight in autumn, when the leaves are turning from green to golden oranges, reds and yellows. But they were actually planted for a more prosaic purpose: to provide the raw materials for the manufacture of spindles and bobbins for the textile trades.

Where to eat and drink

Now that Judy North no longer plies her trade there is nowhere on this short woodland walk that offers refreshments. On the A58, Whitehall Road, just heading out of Wyke near the start of the walk, you'll find the Red Lion serves real ales, bar meals and restaurant food in traditional surroundings.

While you're there

This is the closest walk in the book to the centre of Bradford, offering a good opportunity to explore this bustling and metropolitan city. There is plenty to occupy your time here. The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, opposite the Alhambra Theatre, has been expensively revamped. It's an excellent place to take the family, with the monstrous IMAX cinema screen being a particular attraction. Although much damaged by 1960s redevelopment, the city centre still has some fine architecture reflecting the heyday of the city's worsted trade which brought it great wealth. Particularly impressive is the town hall and the quarter known as Little Germany. The Colour Museum is a little-known gem, exploring the fascinating history, theory and technology behind many visual effects we take for granted. Newly opened, to reflect the city's proud multicultural heritage, is Life Force, the National Millennium Faith Experience.

What to look for

In the spring these beech woods are carpeted with bluebells. For most of the year these riotous flowers survive as tiny white bulbs about 6in (15cm) below the woodland floor. From late April until early June the succulent green stems rise up to as much as 18in (45cm) in height. The individual flowers are very similar to the flowers of the garden hyacinth, though the bluebell's scent is a little more subtle.


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