Bingley, Five Rise Locks, Saltaire and Shipley Glen

Walking by Britain's longest artificial waterway to a popular wooded ravine

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Start: Bingley Distance: 7.8 miles (12.5 km) Climbing: 294 metres
Grid Ref: SE 10818 39209 Time: 4 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Bingley
Start: Bingley Distance: 7.8 miles (12.5 km)
Climbing: 294 metres Grid Ref: SE 10818 39209
Time: 4 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: The walk goes along the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool canal, between Bingley and Saltaire, ascends to Shipley Glen at the edge of Baildon Moor, and leads back via a woodland path to the outskirts of Bingley and the canal-side path.

Five Rise LocksFive Rise Locks
Following the Leeds and Liverpool canal towpathFollowing the Leeds and Liverpool canal towpath

The Leeds and Liverpool canal is Britain's longest inland waterway. Begun in 1770, it was soon superseded by the railway, but is much used today by pleasure craft. The start of the walk is on the towpath at Bingley, and begins with a diversion to visit two impressive pieces of canal engineering, the stepped Three Rises Locks and Five Rises Locks, where boats passing along the canal rise or fall 60 feet (18 metres) over a distance of 320 feet (98 metres).

From the locks, you retrace your steps past Bingley and continue on to Dowley Gap. At first, you pass a varied mixture of old and new warehouses and factories, but soon it becomes a typical Pennine valley, with the River Aire, canal, road and railway cutting side by side. Yorkshire's wool trade was given a boost when the road from Keighley to Kendal was made into a turnpike in 1753. It became easier then for wool to be brought from the sheep rearing areas of north-west England to the industrial West Riding of Yorkshire.

After a short diversion from the towpath into beautiful Hirst Wood the walk returns to waterside bedecked with alder, rowan, hazel, beech, elder and sycamore. The banks of the canal are also thick with meadowsweet, ransoms, dog-rose, yarrow and butterbur.

At Saltaire, the great stone built mill of Sir Titus Salt spans the canal. Opened with much ceremony on Sir Titus's 50th birthday, 1n 1853, it covers 25 acres, and has an ornamental chimney 250 feet (76 metres) high. It was built in a Venetian Gothic style, and intended to resemble an Italian palace.

The magnificent Congregational Church opposite the mill, the burial place of Sir Titus and his family, is in the Italian Classical style. Further up the road to the south, the Victorian Hall has an impressive facade, with two stone lions at the front that were reputedly made for Trafalgar Square, but proved too small. Further on are Sir Titus's almshouses and the hospital.

Saltaire MillSaltaire Mill
Shipley GlenShipley Glen

Robert's Park, on the other side of the canal, is another example of early town planning. A splendid bronze statue of Sir Titus Salt was erected in 1903 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. it stands on a plinth decorated with an angora goat and an alpaca, symbols of the wool industry on which the Victorian philanthropist built his very considerable success.

The route heads uphill to Shipley Glen on the edge of Baildon Moor. Should it be open, the Shipley Glen Tramway saves some of the uphill climb. The open cars are hauled by cable 386 yards (353 metres) up a 1 in 12 incline, beneath overhanging trees. The tramway, built in the 19th century by a local man, Sam Wilson, was restored to operation in 1982 by the Bradford Trolleybus Association.

Shipley Glen is a typical Pennine gill, or ravine (See my Shipley Glen walk 1 and Shipley Glen walk 2). On the moor there is a thin layer of acid soil between outcrops of bare millstone grit. It supports heather and bilberries, sheep's sorrel and clumps of soft rush, as well as various tough grasses, which are grazed by sheep and well trodden by people.

From Shipley Glen the woodland path brings you out into Gilstead, a suburb of Bingley. On the walk downhill towards the canal, there are good views over Airedale, where rural and industrial areas co-exist side by side - typical of West Yorkshire.

Acknowledgments: Text derived from the Out and Out Series; Discovering the Countryside on Foot. Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

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