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The Broadleaved Woodlands of Harden Beck

A short but entrancing woodland walk between Bradford and Bingley, to a splendid waterfall.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Woodland paths and tracks, and field paths, 6 stiles

Landscape Deciduous woodland and arable land

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 288 Bradford & Huddersfield, Outdoor Leisure 21 South Pennines

Start/finish SE 088378 (on Explorer 288)

Dog friendliness Can be off lead in woodland

Parking From Harden, take Wilsden Road to roadside parking at bottom of hill, just before bridge and Malt Shovel pub

Public toilets None on route

1 Walk downhill, turning right just before the bridge, on to Goit Stock Lane. Pass a few houses, then a cattle grid, to follow a metalled track alongside Harden Beck. Cross the beck, skirt a caravan park and continue on a path beyond the caravanners' car park, signed to the waterfall. Pass a bungalow and enter Goit Stock Wood, now with the beck on your right. You have easy walking, as the beck runs through an increasingly steep and rocky gorge. Your progress is halted at Goit Stock Falls, which cascades over a rocky ledge into a pool below. Hand-rails on the left help you to scramble up to the top of the waterfall and continue to follow Harden Beck, past another, smaller waterfall. A rocky path soon leads to Hallas Bridge.

2 Don't cross the footbridge, but bear acute left, uphill, signed as a bridleway. Keep left of a row of terraced houses, to locate a gap stile in the wall ahead. Follow a field path, skirting woodland on your left. The path takes you over three more stiles; at the fourth stile you re-enter the woods. Pass between the legs of an electricity pylon. Follow the obvious path through woodland, with a steep slope on your left. Leave the wood via a stile, and follow a field path to meet Wilsden Road again. Turn left, and walk down the road. At the end of a garden centre car park take a narrow lane on the left, which takes you steeply down to the Malt Shovel Inn and your car.

Harden Beck and Goit Stock Woods are little known, except by locals.

If they were situated in the Yorkshire Dales, for example, you would see walkers aplenty. As it is the woods are hidden away, between a trio of unassuming little villages, Harden, Wilsden and Cullingworth. No matter as this is as pleasant a woodland walk as can be found, and all the better for being a little off the beaten track.

Harden Beck runs from Hewenden Reservoir, through Goit Stock Woods and takes a meandering route to join the River Aire close to Beckfoot Bridge near Bingley, a picturesque packhorse bridge encountered on Walk 28. It is only a short walk along Harden Beck to find Goit Stock Falls, which plunge more than 20ft (6m) over a rocky ledge into a pool. While it's no Niagara, it can still be an impressive sight after rain.

These deciduous woods are a little oasis for birds; look out for woodpeckers, jays, treecreepers and - in summer - many species of warbler and other songbirds. As with the waterfall, the drumming of a woodpecker is usually heard long before you get a glimpse of it. If you're lucky you may spot a dipper along the side of the beck.

What to look for

No one would pretend that West Yorkshire is a rural idyll, since much of the country is uncompromisingly urban. But one unexpected pleasure is to find so much broadleaved woodland. In more celebrated landscapes (the Lake District and North York Moors spring to mind) too much ancient woodland has been supplanted by the serried ranks of conifer trees, which offer little to walkers or wildlife. Goit Stock is one of many delightful and deciduous woods that make welcome green oases in the metropolitan county, supporting a great variety of animals, birds and plants.

While you're there

The little stone village of Harden abuts on to the Bingley St Ives Estate. A short walk through Goit Stock Wood would make an ideal morning stroll, with lunch at the Malt Shovel nearby, followed by a leisurely exploration of the wooded hillside of St Ives. You may also like to explore the group of villages which occupy the high land between Bradford, Bingley and Keighley. Wilsden faces Harden across Harden Beck, Cullingworth lies higher up the valley. A delightful network of old lanes link up with Denholme and the historic conservation village of Thornton where Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell Brontë were born. There is a Village Trail around Thornton's cobbled streets, centred on the Brontë birthplace.

Where to eat and drink

The Malt Shovel is a handsome 16th-century pub with mullioned windows, close by the bridge over Harden Beck. There's a good selection of bar meals on offer; if the weather is kind you can eat al fresco on the patio or in the large, beckside beer garden. If you're looking for more choice, it is a short drive down into Bingley, where there are many more options available.

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