Walking and Watercolours

“It is inconceivable that people in our big cities should prefer to stay grubbing in the hot and dusty streets instead of getting out into the green fields and the breezy country side, unless there were some real hindrances in the way of their doing so.”

Watercolour of Apperley Bridge by local artist Fred Swaine, showing the George and Dragon public house in view, left. The pub dates back to at least 1587 and was originally built by the Atkinson family of Apperley as a private house. It was first recorded as an inn in 1835 but was probably established as such in the late 18th century, c1780. The George and Dragon retains many of its original features and is also Grade II listed. © Fred Swaine.
Apperley Bridge in summertime (Image from Leodis © Fred Swaine)

So opens Thirty-six Country Rambles Round Leeds by local journalist, John Hornby. This 1923 guidebook, a compilation of the author’s regular newspaper columns, has an unusual style that’s simultaneously terse and evocative. To say his writing ‘will take you to another place and time’ is almost something of an understatement: pick up his little tome and you really will walk the outskirts of the city with him, as seasons change and secret pathways unfurl at your feet. This week, we’re joining him on his suggested route 19, a pleasant hike eight miles to the west of Leeds… and 92 years into the past.

No. 19: Calverley, Rawdon, and Apperley

“Take train to Calverley or tram to Rodley. Emerging from station turn left and ascend hill. The river lies below. Beyond Calverley Woods are tinged with autumn and all about the valley is pleasantly wooded. After two hundred yards turn to lane on left, and in a while after passing mill to right four roads meet. Turn right. A pleasant murmur of the stream on the right mingles with the laboured rhythm of the mill.

Dam at Clover Greaves Mill, Carr Road (Image from Leodis © Fred Swaine)

“In a few yards turn left by little chapel, and then beyond the chapel cross the stream, and pass in front of Red Beck Cottages. Turn left up hill. A wooded and most charming dell to left. All sign of the work-a-day world is gone and the Red Beck ripples below you. There is iron in the land further up. Hence the tinge of the bed of the stream. In ten minutes reach tram route. Turn left, and in 200 yards turn down Knot-lane on the left. Neglect turning to right in 50 yards and continue descent into road marked “Private.” It is only closed one day in the year.

Old blacksmith’s shop in Calverley Wood (Image from Leodis © Fred Swaine)

“Soon reach three roads. Turn right. Skirting lower side of Woodlands Convalescent Home – the comfortable-looking brick building in the gardens on the right. This is a delight in summer when the rhododendrons are in bloom. Our way lies pleasantly, among the greenery for a considerable distance, and emerging takes us straight on in a mile or so to Apperley Bridge Station. The return may be varied by ascending to right for over half-a-mile, then turning to right, reach tram-line, and so home.”

Reference copies of Thirty-six Country Rambles Round Leeds (shelf mark: L 914.2819 HOR) are available in the Local and Family History Library should you wish to sample any of John Hornby’s 35 other walks. (We particularly recommend his wanderings around Windyridge and Guiseley.)

The watercolour paintings featured in this post are the work of Calverley artist, Fred Swaine (1858-1942), who painted many scenes of the locality. Swaine had lived and worked in Calverley all his life. He began work as a weaver at the age of 12 and progressed to the occupation of loom tuner and, eventually, to that of a power loom overlooker. However, he is best known for his detailed work depicting 19th and early 20th Century life and landscapes of Calverley, offering a window onto a bygone time. You can view many more of these on the Leodis site itself.

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