Bramham, Scarcroft Hill, Thorner and Bramham Park

A lovely walk in the West Yorkshire countryside to the east of Leeds. The walk begins in the quiet isolated village of Bramham and from there it follows a Roman road westwards to the site of a lost medieval village before ambling through woodland and along the edge of fields to Hetchell Crags, site of a lost Roman settlement, continuing on to the rural village of Thorner and afterwards crossing Thorner Moor to access Bramham Park. This beautiful park leads us back to the start in the village bearing the same name as the park.

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Statistics and Files
Start: Bramham Grid Ref: SE 42500 42893 Distance: 10.1 miles (16.3 km)
Climbing: 220 metres Time: 5 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Bramham Park
Start: Bramham Grid Ref: SE 42500 42893
Distance: 10.1 miles (16.3 km) Climbing: 220 metres
Time: 5 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk:

Bramham villageBramham village
The roman road from BramhamThe roman road from Bramham

Bramham is one of those enigmatic villages which many people are aware of. Yet few have visited. That is because Bramham is isolated by the A1M motorway which passes close by the western fringe of the village. Fortunately, the village sits in a dip below the motorway and thus all noise from heavy traffic roaring by is quickly dispersed, leaving Bramham quiet at all times. Indeed, when I parked up my car in the village centre to start this walk on a sunny morning in late April all I could hear was the beautiful birdsong of the springtime dawn chorus. It was blissful. There were a few local residents out and about as I set off on my walk at a few minutes before 9.00am. All returned my greetings with a smile; that making for a lovely start to the walk. I climbed steadily out of the village, following the north side exit road from the village and continuing across the motorway road bridge to follow the dead straight Roman roadside towards the site of the medieval village of Wothersome.

Copse at medieval village of WothersomeCopse at medieval village of Wothersome
Wothersome LakeWothersome Lake

After reaching the grand private avenue leading to Hope Hall, at the point of a Y junction, I took the left hand choice of routes which led me steeply down the roadside to the wooded valley of Bramham Beck. Despite heaving walked a mile and a half of roadside to this point I had barely half a dozen vehicles pass me by. It was really just me and the wildlife at play which gave me an immense feeling of pleasure. To Bramham Beck, bar the initial climb from Bramham to cross the A1M, the walk had been an amble which I had barely noticed. In fact my time had been taken by watching the stirrings of the birds and by the thrill of seeing the first Bluebells unfurling to bloom their beautiful colour in the woodlands alongside Thorner Road. Even the proliferation of flowering Dandelions on the roadside verges made me smile. As they always do after the long grey of winter. Beyond Bramham Beck thought, my languid joyful walk took a turn. I had to work, climbing the steep bank towards Wothersome Lake. It was not much height to gain, just twenty metres or so, but I had to wake my legs up doing it. At the lake I met up with a few dog walkers, out for morning strolls from the nearby villages.

Path through Ragdale PlantationPath through Ragdale Plantation
The Red KiteThe Red Kite

From Wothersome Lake I continued climbing along paths through the increasingly lime green woodland of early springtime. The prolific and almost dazzling white blossom of Blackthorn was at its most sparkling, another joy to the walk. Springtime really does warm my heart. Even though I was climbing I was practically bouncing along to the next show of flora breaking out to the new year. There were still plenty of trees not playing out yet, they were waiting their turn, but enough of the early flourishes were there to enchant me. Yet it was not flora that gave me the next big thrill of the walk. It was fauna. And a spectacular example at that. As I approached the top of Stubbing Moor, just before the woodland ceded to open fields, I saw a chap stood still on the path in front of me. His wife was next to him pointing up into the trees and his eyes, with binoculars fixed in front of them, were looking directly into a tree, about 20 metres away to the left of the path. I walked up to them quietly and the chap turned to me saying "Look there, a Red Kite is staring directly at you". And as I looked to where he was indicating I said to him "Wow, yes I see it. How fantastic". It was indeed a marvellous moment. I see Red Kites regularly, they being a common sight in the North Leeds area since they were released on the Harewood estate in 1999 as part of a UK conservation initiative. However, much as I see them gracefully flying around and sometimes close by, this encounter was much more personal. In fact it seemed a privilege for the Red Kite to take the time to perch it the tree and pose for us.

Path beside Hetchell WoodsPath beside Hetchell Woods
Mill ruins near Pompocali EarthworksMill ruins near Pompocali Earthworks

After the thrill of the encounter with the Red Kite I climbed out of woodland to cross Stubbing Moor where I watched a group of Metal Detecting Detectorists sweeping an open field. I thought 'Each to their own thing, not my cup of tea at all'. And yet I used to do it myself as a Water board Inspector in the 1990's when searching for buried street furniture such as a stop tap box. It was always a thrill when the metal detector bleeped making the search a win. Anyway, continuing on from my recollections of a working past I continued on my walk to reach my first path of familiar ground by walking through Hetchell Woods and returning to the site of the Roman Pompocali Earthworks. (see here for more detail on my earlier walk). Whereas on my first time I followed the Leeds Country Way towards Scarcroft from the woods, this time I tracked southwards parallel to Scarcroft Beck, crossing the roller coaster humps of old stone quarrying spoil heaps, passing the site of a disused mill and under an ivy covered disused railway bridge to reach Scarcroft Hill. I must admit, running up and down the undulating path on the site of the quarry workings did bring the child out in me. Great fun it was.

Path from Oaklands Manor to ThornerPath from Oaklands Manor to Thorner
St Peter's Church, ThornerSt Peter's Church, Thorner

From Scarcroft Hill I was on familiar ground, having trod along the same paths during that earlier walk of Thorner Moor, Pompocali, Hetchell Crags and Scarcroft Hill. I had enjoyed strolling the paths in this piece of lovely countryside then and I was enjoying it just as much now. The sunshine helped now, just as it had the first time though that time was as summer was drawing to a close while this time I still had its joyous days to look forward to. Soon I was walking into the village of Thorner, much like Bramham, around the same size and just as quiet. A quaint village which seems to sleep as much during the day as it does a night. Here, at five and a half miles into my ten mile walk I decided to stop for lunch. A conveniently placed bench in the churchyard made the perfect resting point.

Trig point on Thorner MoorTrig point on Thorner Moor
Fields of Rape SeedFields of Rape Seed

After my lunch break I continued on by leaving Thorner and crossing the farmlands of Thorner Moor heading eastwards towards Bramham Park. On the way I touched the lonely 110 metre high trig-point partly hidden in the hedge line between two fields. Just like I had the first time, it had to be done. A ritual for walkers like me. On that first walk which I had crossed this ground in mid September and the fields had been cropped, the grasses brown and the shorn cereals stubbly. This time they were just starting to grow or as in the case of rape seed well on their way. Already a dazzling brilliant yellow. It was quite a contrast. I also saw a couple of Birds of Prey flying low while crossing Bramham Moor but on close inspection I saw them to be a deception. They were plastic models, flying in the same circles, somewhat erratic when blown by gusts of wind, deterrents to any potential seed nicking pigeons.

Path leading into Bramham ParkPath leading into Bramham Park
The Rotunda in Bramham ParkThe Rotunda in Bramham Park

Now it was time for me to walk away from the familiar to the unknown as I left the path I had previous walked at Mangrill Lane and this time instead of turning northwards along the lane I kept going eastwards alongside Jenny Sober Plantation for about 400 yards or so in order to turn left, following a well made track through a gap in the tree line to access Bramham Park. Now everything was new and thoroughly exciting. The first half mile was typical parkland walking on a well maintained packed stone track with early spring flowers on the cropped grasses by the track side masking a show and the first flushes of green leaf breaking from avenue trees. All nice in themselves but these visual delights were soon overshadowed by the oncoming sight of the wonderful Rotunda Temple in the Black Fen Pleasure Ground, the first of several attractions I was to enjoy on the walk through the park. "Why isn't anyone else here?" I thought to myself. This walking on a public path through Bramham Park was already stunning but I was perplexed to why it was just me on one of the earliest warm spring afternoons of the year. Still, I was not complaining; feeling delighted in having all this beauty to myself.

The Obelisk in Bramham ParkThe Obelisk in Bramham Park
Path leading from the park to BramhamPath leading from the park to Bramham

Next to catch my eye after passing the Rotunda was the tall slender Obelisk, set in the heart of woodland. There is no access to it from the track but I could clearly see it through a gap in the tree line. The obelisk was built to commemorate the second Lord Bingley's son, who died in 1763. Next up I walked past some of the famous fences on the cross country course for the Bramham Horse Trials. One of the most striking was a whitewashed picket fence and gate. Beyond the route of the cross country course I continued ambling along the track while gazing on wild flower meadow fields by the side of me and looking up to the big blue sky above me. there was nothing to impede the view. No buildings, no trees, no sounds. Complete nothingness. It was great.

Bramham BigginBramham Biggin
Lane leading to Bowcliffe HallLane leading to Bowcliffe Hall

Eventually I walked from Bramham Park following an avenue of young trees while cresting the hump of a small hill to walk gradually downhill towards Wellhill Farm. On cresting the hill I came from my peacefulness back into the reality of modern life when casting eyes on the traffic flowing north and south along the A1M towards the A64 junction just south of Bramham. At first I was too far away to hear the traffic but as I approached Well Hill the hum started to penetrate my hearing. Slightly at first, growing louder as I neared. Soon I lost it again, as I walked into an enclosed avenue of thick high hedging, at the same point meeting a lady trotting into the park on her horse. "Heading for the cross country course?" I asked. "No, we are just out for a leisurely canter today" she replied, with a smile. Then I met a couple of friendly horses in a field, one of them coming up to me to say hello. Next I reached the imposing but sadly forlorn grand house of Bramham Biggin. No doubt it will be turned into something grand before too long (pictured in April 2021). Being a listed building, hopefully something for us all to appreciate and enjoy rather than private homes.

Model aircraft at Bowcliffe HallModel aircraft at Bowcliffe Hall
Alice in a Yorkshire WonderlandAlice in a Yorkshire Wonderland

A final bonus to my spectacular walk before returning into Bramham was an unexpected walk around the grounds of Bowcliffe Hall. Seeing cars drive in as I passed the entrance I followed them in. There was no one on the gatehouse to stop me so I had a little exploration, seeing Alice in her Yorkshire Wonderland, a big kids model aeroplane and more besides. There was even a woodland walk in the grounds but I declined this time, instead following my walk, across another bridge over the A1M and back into Bramham to finish my good day out. It was a fabulous walk. "Perfect" I whispered to myself.

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