The last time I walked to Kirkstall Abbey it was a wet and gloomy day, which only served to exaggerate the Abbey’s Gothic reputation.
What a difference a spot of sun makes. The bright morning had brought out a host of joggers––both serious and amateur––including one hardy individual wearing a heavy carapace of a costume, campaigning for Save the Rhino. At points the route alongside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal looked more like a race circuit for runners and cyclists than it did a towpath.
I started out from the modern Financial Quarter in Leeds to the south of Wellington Street and quickly picked up the towpath at the point where it runs alongside the River Aire. The distance from Leeds to Kirkstall following the canal is only about three miles and takes about an hour to complete.
The early stages of the walk, closest to the city centre reveal the extent of the new building work taking place in Leeds; a skyline of cranes, and shiny high-rise apartments and office blocks contrasting with the brown bricks and tall chimneys of factories and warehouses from a former industrial age.
However, it is not long before the city is left behind and the calm of the countryside pervades. Birch trees overhang the water, their silver boles reflecting in the still waters; two mallards glide in to land, leaving long trails across the surface of the canal; sun light falls through the grids of an underpass producing a dappled pattern of shade and light.
Chalked on the tarmac of the towpath; a flag trailing from the branches of a tree; a banner hung over the side of a bridge: two colours, blue and yellow. Support for the people of Ukraine is a constant, affirming presence.
For Kirkstall, I take a right turn away from the canal path, detour through a retail park, before picking up another short footpath to the Abbey itself. Signs suggest that otters can be spotted in the River Aire close by, but I fail to see any. Cheery, yellow daffodils are out in abundance, and the sunny weather has brought out people, too. The bad weather during my previous trip to Kirkstall had ensured that I had the place to myself; now I am obliged to share. But the sunshine has made me generous. It is a day to be spent outside. For everyone.
© E. C. Glendenny
It’s an addiction. E. C. Glendenny just can’t stop walking.
E. C. Glendenny recounts a longer walk in her book From Maia to Arbeia: A Walk Along the Hadrian’s Wall Path