Probably the area of Leeds with which I’m most familiar, the Leeds-Liverpool canal dawdles through the city centre in a timeless meander. The growl of background traffic, and hammering from new buildings, creeping skyward, hasn’t succeeded in destroying this peaceful haven though, to hapless walkers, bicycles and skateboards are an ever present threat. Still, it’s the area of Leeds that I’m most at home with. Whenever I’ve an hour or two to idle, waiting for my son and partner to finish work, or keeping the youngster entertained, I gravitate here. To absorb the changes since my last visit.
Just behind the railway station lies a beautiful canal basin, with locks where you can watch the narrowboats test their navigation skills. Trains constantly rumble by. The canals were once the transport hub, and the means by which coal and cargo from the woollen mills was carried through the city, on the 127 mile journey to Liverpool. These days the narrowboats are mostly for leisure. A family of swans have made their home in this exact same spot for the last several years, and I’m not the only one who’s happy to see them.
The lily pads too are thriving. Canal people must be amongst the friendliest in the world, always happy to return a wave as they drift past. A couple sit chatting by the waterside, a retriever blissfully stretched out between them. ‘Is the kettle on?’ I ask. They nod and smile, waving me to a stool if I want to join them.
Apartments reach for the sky, echoing the mill chimneys but without their style and grace. Graffiti finds a natural home in the tunnels and under bridges. From the city centre out to Kirkstall Abbey is about 4 miles along the towpath, and can be broken around the halfway mark with a visit to Leeds Industrial Museum.
Peep through the ornate railings at the River Aire, flowing smoothly alongside the canal to join it in the city centre. You have to weave in and out behind the buildings, butting up against canal history, modern architecture and fast trains.
Free entertainment is on hand at the Royal Armouries. A Samurai demonstration, wild west gunfighters and a display of mounted tournament skills are among the events on offer as we pass by. Or you can hop on a river taxi to observe life at water level.
In the opposite direction the footpath passes an eco housing development, beyond which lies an industrial estate. Old mills with their shabby walls provide ample opportunity for more grafitti. I tease small boy, who has never heard of ET! A gap in his education perhaps, or a sign of age in me.
Something rather wonderful happens to us along this stretch of the river. The bikes and boarders still hustle past but, in a quiet moment, a young woman tells us ‘Look over there! There’s something for you on that fence’. Bemused, the youngster looks, and finds a small see-through bag, looped around a fence post. Inside it, a blue crochet worm with a winsome expression. A small piece of paper tells us that this is Winifred, the Worry Worm, donated by Random Acts of Crochet Kindness. We look back and the lady waves, and continues on her way. Wreathed in smiles, so do we.
I hope you enjoyed wandering the canal banks with me. I’m back home in the Algarve now, but these next several weeks will be full of memories from my summer visit to Leeds. I enjoyed every second because it’s 2 years since I was last there. I am reinstating Jo’s Monday walk on my new blog, but there’s no compunction to join in. I simply enjoy showing you my world.
Have a good week, and see you next time!