TFVA Tong Valley Winter Walk
On a bright Saturday morning, the first weekend in December, TFVA members congregated at the Tong Village hall looking forward to a walk in the Tong Valley. We weren�t alone either, walkers from outside the area were also congregating in Tong with their own routes in mind. Interestingly most seemed to be planning to walk to the South East towards Drighlington.
Our route was to head North West into the Valley and then West up the Valley, or more accurately up one of the valleys before looping back.
We normally refer to the Valley in the singular, which it is at it�s eastern end with just Pudsey Beck running through it, but towards the Western (Bradford) end, the single valley splits into a number of smaller valleys as defined by the becks which run through them.
Ironically none of these are Tong Beck which doesn�t run through the Tong Valley as we know it but runs to the South side of Tong towards the Golf course and through Sykes Wood before joining Pudsey Beck at Roker Lane.
There are 2 main routes into the valley from Tong village; the Bridleway down Keeper Lane which is a pleasant walk into the valley and up to Fulneck. We chose the other which meant a walk down New Lane. At the Tong Lane end the lane is a little wider and has vestigial footpaths in places but it still needs walking with care as it attracts more traffic than might be expected. At the lower end it becomes very narrow and frankly is quite dangerous for walkers, cyclists and horse riders who have to share the very limited road space with vehicles. Without doubt, a separate bridleway adjacent to New Lane would be infinitely safer. An unfortunate observation is that this section of New Lane, along with Raikes Lane, Holme Lane and Ned Lane up to Tyersal regularly suffer the blight of fly tipping. The Council are very good at removing rubbish once they are aware of it. To report fly tipping try here.
We were treated at the bottom of New Lane with the sanctuary of a footpath across the corner of the field, which must be the worlds shortest footpath, linking up with lower Raikes Lane just a few yards later.
Another few yards stroll towards Scholebrook Farm and we could turn left across the stile. This enabled us to follow the path alongside the beck which runs through Holme Wood. Yes there is such a wood and it�s found to the west of the kennels by the lowest point on Ned Lane.
This little valley is a hidden treasure, it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere and yet it is very little used. There is for instance no obvious footpath, and as you would expect it can get muddy in winter, especially with cattle paddling around. Despite the presence of an experienced rambler, with the prerequisite OS map, it really wasn�t clear exactly where the right of way was. It was however, good to note that, having had to negotiate some very rudimentary stiles, at just one point a brand new footpath gate had been installed. It may have seemed out of place but was welcome both for the ease of passage and confirmation we were heading in the right direction.
To complete that section required a combination of the aforementioned experience and a little nose following. Disappointingly, whilst just a few yards from Joining Holme Lane we encountered a rope which had been tied across the right of way. This we were told was to prevent cattle leaving the field but )apart from being an offence to block a right of way) is not the sort of thing which encourages people to explore the countryside. An overgrown hedge belong to the adjacent property was also an unwelcome hindrance.
After strolling just a few miles up Holme Lane we took a gate onto a path which runs behind Raikes Hall Farm. Once again though, our way was initially barred due to the gate being securely fastened closed by a leather strap. Presumably this was to ensure that the horses within had no chance of escape but it was becoming evident that legally enjoying a walk in the countryside had a good many impediments. The very muddy fields that followed and lack of obvious paths, lack of waymarkers (despite the Rights of Way departments obvious attempts to rectify this) and more closed gates would incline most casual walkers to brave the narrow roads instead, defeating the objective of a quiet walk in the country.
The next footpath was across Raikes Lane towards Meadowlands Farm and then across the fields, through Kit Wood and back towards New Lane. Once again this section was obviously hardly used and not particularly easy to follow. In summer, sections of this path become overgrown and pretty well impassable.
We rejoined New Lane just in the dip by Calverley Couch Farm and thankfully higher up than the dangerously narrow section walked earlier.
The short stroll back into Tong village gave us time to reflect on what a shame it was that such an enjoyable, healthy and free pastime as walking in this beautiful countryside was not enjoyed by more people.
Many must be unaware of the existence of these local Rights of Way but clearly there are a lot of difficulties involved in trying to take advantage of them and the safety issues of walking on the narrow roads must be taken up with Bradford Council.