A walk around the woodland and parkland of Harrogate

This is a delightful walk from Harrogate Pump rooms to the west and high side of the town. The first half of the walk is uphill but not too strenuous and you should take you time to enjoy all the lovely scenery anyway. The return route includes a walk through Valley Gardens, a recreational space provided for the folk of Harrogate by their Victorian ancestors. Note: Some footpaths on the walk are unmade and stout footwear is recommended for those wanting to take full advantage of the Birk Crag woodland section.

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Statistics and Files
Start: Harrogate Pump Rooms Distance: 3.6 miles (5.8 km) Climbing: 114 metres
Grid Ref: SE298554 Time: 2 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Harrogate
Start: Harrogate Pump Rooms Distance: 3.6 miles (5.8 km)
Grid Ref: SE298554 Time: 2 hours
Climbing: 114 metres Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

Royal Pump Room Museum in HarrogateRoyal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate
Birk Crag near Harlow Carr GardensBirk Crag near Harlow Carr Gardens

This walk starts outside the domed building that is the Royal Pump Room Museum in Low Harrogate, the site of Europe's strongest Sulphur Well, a fact I can personally attest to. Visitors often mistakenly think the smell is from the sewer drains, it can be very potent some days! Fortunately we leave the smell behind to walk up Cornwall Road and not into Valley Gardens which we're leaving for the return journey and which makes a superb finale. The first part of the walk is all along streets but spectacular streets, wide tree avenue ones with huge houses and streets with evocative royal titles for from Cornwall Road we turn right along Clarence Road, then left along York Road, left again along Duchy Road and then right into Hereford Road followed by a left into Kent Road which peters out of tarmac and becomes unmade with potholes strewn everywhere, no doubt to put off short cutters. Emerging from Kent Road and out of urbanisation the walk now continues on the Harrogate Ringway route, first by taking a sharp turn left and uphill round a bend before turning off the road to the right and following a woodland edged track towards Birk Crag. Now we're one mile into the walk and suddenly amidst approximately 27 acres of fantastic mixed evergreen and deciduous woodland. What a contrast to the earlier; things are on the up, in altitude and in spirits.

Erosion causing root exposure in Birk WoodErosion causing root exposure in Birk Wood
Blazes of colour in Valley GardensBlazes of colour in Valley Gardens

Birk Crag is a series of rock outcrops, some hard to find in the deep foliage. Enjoy exploring the series of paths around the crag while always taking care, a slip could have nasty repercussions if close to the edge of the rocks. Play safe before continuing on south west for about 500 metres after the crags before turning left and heading south continuing through the wood and across a wooden bridge at a point where a few mighty oaks struggle against ground erosion as their east facing side lose out to the crumbling bank falling into Birk Beck. Soon after we emerge from the woodland at the Harrogate Arms, now home (in 2010) to a a resident Eagle and more Birds of Prey including Falcons, Hawks and Owls. If the pub is open enjoy refreshments if you wish, you're now over half way. After the Harrogate Arms climb up the road from the pub and turn right onto Crag Lane, following it for 100 metres before turning left along a marked path on the northern edge of woods. The woodland has some fine examples of Scots Pine and Cypress so look out for them.

Walking through Valley GardensWalking through Valley Gardens
Cherry Blossom in Valley GardensCherry Blossom in Valley Gardens

After following the path on a true line on the edge and then through woodland for 900 metres we emerge by the side of Harlow Moor Road which we go straight across....after using Tufty's Code or the Green Cross Code (your age inevitably deciding which code you choose!) On safely crossing follow a path straight back towards town, a path enclosed by high trees on both sides, high enough to give a feeling of being closed in but worry not, that will soon be gone and you'll emerge in the glorious wide open spaces of the upper reaches of Valley Gardens. This is a magical place.

Beauty is on every cornerBeauty is on every corner
A wonderful Magnolia Tree in blossomA wonderful Magnolia Tree in blossom

The walk, so far a superb one of varying interest has now reached a crescendo, especially if you're doing this walk in Spring which I highly recommend you do. I live in Harrogate, in Harlow Hill and my wife Lil and I often walk through the park. We certainly always make a point to when the Spring flowers are out which starts with the Snowdrops, then the Crocuses, then the Daffodils and finally the Tulips and other wonderful Springtime flowers. Then there is the brilliance of the Tree Blossom and Valley Gardens are full of blossoming trees. It is quite heaven walking through on a sunny Spring day, as the photographs above and below show. You simply have to walk through Valley Gardens when in Harrogate and most certainly so when you're in the town in Springtime.

Enjoying a sunny spring day in HarrogateEnjoying a sunny spring day in Harrogate
A wonderful floral arrangement in Valley GardensA wonderful floral arrangement in Valley Gardens

On the walk through the gardens you have every option to wander on the paths that criss-cross the park. Some lead to quiet corners, others to places of interest and activity like the Model Boat Pool which draws young children and grown-ups too, all embraced by a pleasure that defies the restrictions of age. I often see young and old playing with boats together and without a care in the world. Others may enjoy tea and cake at the park cafe while courting couples will stroll in the beauty surrounding. Parents with young children will be enjoying the playground area with adventure rides and games, one of the best amenities I have ever seen. There is also a Pitch and Putt Course, Tennis Courts and Table Tennis facilities for the more physical. So much to do for everyone. The fact is you can spend ages in the park. Lil and I often do. This time though we'll complete the walk by returning to the start at the Royal Pump Museum. Now, I am thirsty so I am going for a drink in the traditional surroundings of the Old Bell Inn. Care to join me?

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