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Bingley and the St Ives Estate

Great views of Airedale from a viewpoint known as the Druid's Altar.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 525ft (160m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Good paths and tracks throughout, 2 stiles

Landscape Woodland, park and river

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 288 Bradford & Huddersfield

Start/finish SE 107393

Dog friendliness Can be off lead on St Ives Estate

Parking Car parks in Bingley

Public toilets In Myrtle Park, Bingley

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1 Walk downhill from the centre of Bingley, towards the church. Go left at the traffic lights, passing the Old White Horse pub, on to Millgate. Cross the River Aire and take the first right, Ireland Street, veering right past industrial buildings to join a riverside track. Very soon you seem to have swapped town for country. Bear right in front of Ravenroyd Farm, to pass between other farm buildings and continue on a walled track. Pass another house, Cophurst, and through pasture, with thick woodland on your left.

2 The track skirts a hillock and approaches Marley Farm. Go through a metal gate on the left, to continue on a field path that soon emerges on to a more substantial track. Bear left, immediately, by Blakey Cottage, on a setted (paved) track uphill. You soon gain height, passing two more farms, with views of Airedale opening up on the right. The track bears left and, after 100yds (91m), left again. At this point look for a stile ahead of you and take a narrow path that climbs steeply up through bracken. Keep left at a fork of tracks to the top of the hill to enjoy level walking with a wall on your right. Cross a track to arrive, just 100yds (91m) further on, at a rocky outcrop, known as the Druid's Altar, which offers splendid views.

3 Bear right, after the rocks, to come to a meeting of tracks. Go through a gap in the wall ahead, on to a walled track that leads into the St Ives Estate. Bear immediately to the right, through a gap stile in a wall, to take a path with woodland to your right and open fields to your left. After ½ mile (800m) you come to a kissing gate in the wall on your right, but your route is left here, into the woods and between golf fairways. At a choice of paths ahead, take the right-hand option, soon having a wall on your left and heather heathland on your right. Follow the path downhill, passing Lady Blantyre's Rock.

4 Ignoring side-tracks, follow the path downhill, past exuberant displays of rhododendrons, to Coppice Pond. Join a metalled road to bear left, soon passing a stable block, golf clubhouse and the house itself, St Ives.

5 Bear right past the house, to follow the house's drive downhill. Just 100yds (91m) before the road, take a path, left, through woodland. Keep right where the track forks, to reach the B6429, the Bingley to Cullingworth road. Cross it and continue downhill on narrow Beckfoot Lane. After houses the lane becomes an unmade track leading down to a delectable spot: here you will find Beckfoot Farm, in a wooded setting by Harden Beck, with a ford and an old packhorse bridge that dates back to 1723.

6 Cross the bridge and bear left at Beckfoot Farm, to find allotments on your left. Where the allotments end, take a path to the left which leads to a metal footbridge over the River Aire and into Myrtle Park. Cross the park to arrive once again in the centre of Bingley.

Sitting astride both the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, in a steep-sided valley, Bingley is a typical West Yorkshire town. With its locks, wharfs and plethora of mills, the town grew in size and importance during the 19th century as the textile trades expanded. But Bingley's pre-eminence did not begin with the Industrial Revolution; it is, in fact, one of the county's oldest settlements, with its market charter being granted by King John as far back as 1212.

In keeping with its age, Bingley has a number of splendid old buildings, such as the town hall, parish church, butter cross, the old market hall and the Old White Horse, a venerable coaching inn. Ancient and modern sit side-by-side in Bingley, which has more than its fair share of architectural monstrosities, dating from more recent times. The headquarters of the Bradford & Bingley Building Society is perhaps a case in point.

Halliwell Sutcliffe, author of such books as The Striding Dales and By Moor and Fell, lived in Bingley while his father was headmaster of the town's Grammar School.

The River Aire rises close to the village of Malham, in the limestone dales of North Yorkshire, and flows past Bingley. By the time it joins the Ouse and decants into the Humber Estuary it has been one of the hardest worked watercourses in Yorkshire. When the textile trades were at their height, the Aire was both a source of power for the woollen mills and a convenient dumping ground for industrial waste. But, like so many other West Yorkshire rivers, the water quality is now greatly improved.

For part of this walk, you will be exploring the St Ives Estate which, from 1636, was owned by one of Bingley's most prominent families, the Ferrands. It was William Ferrand who, during the 1850s, landscaped the estate and created many of the paths and tracks that climb steeply up through the woods. The view from the top of the hill is ample reward for your efforts. From the gritstone outcrop known - somewhat fancifully - as the Druid's Altar, you have a splendid panorama across Bingley and the Aire Valley.

There is an inscription on Lady Blantyre's Rock, passed later on this walk, which commemorates William Ferrand's mother-in-law. Lady Blantyre often used to sit in the shade of this rock and read a book. A splendid notion: a monument to idleness. Near by is an obelisk with a dedication to William Ferrand himself. St Ives, a little wooded oasis on Bingley's doorstep, is now looked after by Bradford council on behalf of local people.

What to look for

Having been removed from the main street, Bingley's ancient stocks, butter cross and old market hall were re-sited near to the Ferrands Arms and the entrance to Myrtle Park.

While you're there

Next to Bingley is the little town of Cottingley where, in 1917, two young girls took photographs of fairies by Cottingley Beck. Despite the fairies looking like paper cut-outs, the pictures were 'authenticated' by Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the fiercely logical Sherlock Holmes. Pay a visit to Cottingley Beck, and listen out for the beating of tiny wings...

Where to eat and drink

The oldest pub in Bingley is the 16th-century Old White Horse Inn, which you pass early on in this walk. It has oodles of character: that patina of age just can't be faked (no matter how hard the big pub chains try).

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