Hirst Wood and Saltaire

The route through Hirst Wood and Saltaire is a great family walk. It is mostly flat with plenty of things to do and see. You will take in the canal, river and parts of Saltaire. You can also stop off at the lovely Half Moon or Higher Ground cafés for some delicious coffee, hot chocolate or cakes.

At just over 3 kilometres (2 miles), the Hirst Wood and Saltaire walk is a perfect stroll for a Sunday afternoon. Calmly let your Sunday dinner go down and allow the kids to blow off some steam on the lovely play area. This Hirst Wood and Saltaire route is a great way to get some fresh air for the whole family.

As the leaves fall from the trees this autumn, the park and woods will be glowing a gorgeous amber. This peaceful walk is an excellent route regardless of the season.

Incorporate the Victorian village of Saltaire and you can visit Salts Mill. See the philanthropic work of Sir Titus Salt in this UNESCO World Heritage site and wander the gallery. If you’re feeling like getting your Christmas shopping done early you can visit the variety of independent shops within.

Find the full route here.

All photos by Jill Bell

Finding mud when on a walk with children

Five Things That Always Happen on a Walk With Children

One particular film scene that really captured my attention as a kid came from Crocodile Dundee. Grizzled bushman Mick pretends that he can tell the time by observing the position of the sun. In the movie it is a trick. The charming chancer sneaks a sly look at his business partner’s watch before claiming to read the sky. But I always wondered whether it was possible. Thirty years on, I am sure it must be because I have developed a similar skill in real life. I can set my watch by the five things that always happen on a walk with children. 

Walking in the Wharfe Valley in West Yorkshire

If there are any positives to take from the coronavirus pandemic, one of them is the newfound acceptance of spending the whole working day in your pyjamas, and another has to be the opportunity it has presented us with to explore our local areas. 

We live in Burley-in-Wharfedale, near Ilkley in West Yorkshire, and we are lucky to have so many spectacular routes on our doorstep. However, one walk in particular has captured the imaginations of the entire family. And we rarely all agree on anything. Seriously. It takes about three hours to pick a film we all want to watch. 

Our Favourite Lockdown Route

We deliberated, cogitated and digested for weeks before settling on the Walkshire route that suits us all best. Eventually, the walk along the old railway line from Burley, crossing Otley Golf Club and returning to our village via the footpath that leads to the Otley Old Road won out. 

It has everything. Trains for my locomotive-obsessed three-year-old lad on the section where you walk parallel to the current railway, trees and nature for my seven-year-old daughter, a budding naturalist, and beautiful views across the expanse of the Wharfe Valley that us parents appreciate as we emerge from the wooded canopy by the golf course. 

And, having enjoyed that walk with children in all seasons and weathers, I can categorically state the exact point at which all of these events will occur. Like clockwork. 

Five Checkpoints on a Walk With Children

1. Taking an Hour to Get Out of the House

Obviously this occurs before we begin. I have never understood how it can take us so long to leave the house at the same time. It might be understandable in winter, with gloves, scarves and hats to find, but it also happens in summer. 

No matter where children put their shoes when they come home, the footwear instantly disappears and hides. Usually, the pairs split up and take up position in two separate, tricky-to-find locations, just to delay your exit even longer. Surely there is a research team at one of the great Yorkshire universities looking into this exact problem right now. I am keen to read that paper. 

Once everyone is fully clothed, you ask the all-important question, “have you been for a ‘just-in-case’ wee?”. The answer is invariably “no,” so the children take off their coats and gloves to oblige and the whole process pretty much begins again.  

2. There Will Be Mud

Have you ever seen footage of dowsers attempting to discover sources of ground water using those v-shaped sticks? Well, children don’t divine water, but they do have a natural and highly tuned ability to seek out mud wherever it may lay. 

Finding mud on a walk with children

This is understandable in winter as this is Yorkshire after all and the rain is all part of the charm of that time of year around here. But even following a Yorkshire heatwave (definition: two days of sunshine), they will uncover any patch of sludge there is to find en route, no matter how miniscule. 

This occurs within seconds of us heading away from the residential streets and climbing up onto the old track bed. It is preceded by parental warnings that they will have to suffer wet feet for another couple of hours’ worth of walking, but that always falls on deaf ears. Every time. 

3. Someone Will Fall Over

No walk with children is complete without someone falling over. Usually a child, but sometimes me. The paths are uneven, there are jutting tree roots and, let’s face it, children are always in danger of tripping as they charge about and release some of that energy they tend to store up. 

When it is a child that tumbles, there is an assessment to make. Is it sufficiently serious to turn around and go home, or will it be okay once you’ve bribed them with sweets and fizzy drinks for pushing onwards? It’s almost always the latter, but either way, are you even a dad if at this point you don’t look sorrowfully at the injury and say, “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to amputate?”

This is usually just before we cross the A65 Burley to Menston road for some reason. Perhaps it is the point where they are so engrossed in running around and having fun that they forget about the need to do something as silly as look where they are going. The same goes for when I’m the falling victim too, by the way. 

4. “You Brought the Wrong Snacks” 

Once we have crossed the A65 and we are walking through the woods on the edge of Otley Golf Club, I deem that we have made it sufficiently far to reward ourselves with snacks. The initial burst of energy is on the wane and we all need a boost. 

However, whatever I bring to replenish ourselves, it’s the wrong snack. Every time. If I bring apples, they want bananas. If I bring bananas, they want apples. Same with chocolates and sweets. Even if I asked them what they might want before we set off, that has changed by the time we reach this point on the walk and I should have pre-empted that when packing the bag. 

Short of lugging a suitcase filled with the contents of the newsagent’s confectionary aisle around the Yorkshire countryside, there is no way of avoiding this. 

5. “Can I Go On Your Shoulders?”

Eventually, once the disappointment dies down, they eat the treats and that energises us to carry on. We cross the golf course (making sure we use only the marked paths, avoid interrupting players mid-swing and keep an eye out for eagles, albatrosses, bogies and other potential hazards) and make it to my favourite part of this walk with children. 

Walking in Yorkshire with a child on your shoulders

You get to stroll through a meadow with spectacular 360 degree views filled with lush green landscapes, sweeping around from the Otley Chevin, past Burley Moor, round to Weston and back to Otley itself. With the cattle and sheep grazing in the pastures and the dry stone walls dividing the fields, every time it provides the proof I need that we were spot on when we decided to move here. 

And then I am shaken from my reverie by those six words. “Can I go on your shoulders?” The three-year-old simply runs out of puff this far in. We have walked more than two miles by this point, so it is no surprise. But as I eye up his mud-caked footwear and consider how recently I washed my coat, it is far from an enticing prospect. 

Still, I lift him up and think about all the good that the resistance training is doing me on the mile-long slog back home. My thought process is only broken by his occasional comments about how I could “speed up a bit if I tried.”

Then it’s back home, hot chocolate on the go, coat in the wash and kids’ shoes scurrying around the house ahead of the next family trip in Yorkshire. Then we snuggle up on the sofa to watch a film. Minions? No. Frozen? No. Trolls? No. And so on for the next three hours. 

Maybe I could tempt them with Crocodile Dundee next time…

Roundhay Park’s Adventure Trails

The beautiful Roundhay Park in North Leeds is a much-frequented spot among many local families. A family trip there often includes a visit to the play area, a stop at the café and a stroll around the lake. But there is SO MUCH more to see!

A great way of seeing some of the hidden gems of the park is by following the Friends of Roundhay Park Adventure Trails. There are two trails, one for pre-schoolers and one for primary school children, but each trail is split into sections so you can do as much or as little as you want!

The trails are a great way to engage the children with the fun of walking, as well as introducing you to areas of the park you may not have known about before. The trails can be downloaded for free from the website, though they do ask for a donation to support the charity’s running costs.

North Leeds is a wonderful place for families, with plenty of things to do and lots of activities and events going on! To find out more, check out North Leeds Mumbler, a go-to parenting website that has all the information you might need. You can also follow the news page on Facebook, Instagram, or join the North & South Leeds Mumbler Facebook Chat Group for local parents and carers.

Buggy-friendly Temple Newsam, Leeds

As a family with two young children, we’re always on the look out for places to go that really make you feel that you’ve done a ‘proper’ walk, but are also buggy friendly! Aaagggghhhh they are definitely few and far between, but we are persisting with our pursuit, and you can find descriptions on many of my walks on my Muddy Boots Muddy site.

Temple Newsam Estate in Leeds is one of our favourite places to go for a family day out. As well as the playground, Home Farm and cafe (which makes it great for children) the walking is brilliant- and largely undiscovered!

The Temple Newsam Trailway takes you on a seven mile route around the estate, but for a buggy-friendly 3km version, walk from the house and take a short circular route that brings you back in the estate at the back of the ponds. This is a walk that we’ve done with our own buggy many times during the drier months- but please be aware that the track can get VERY muddy in winter and after rain. You’ll get lovely views up to the House, pass below the Little Chapel and see some of the more unexplored areas of the estate. Read more about this walk here.

Family adventures at Meanwood Park

This Meanwood Park and the Hollies walk is sponsored by Weetwood Hall Estate

As a mum, I love getting out for walks. In fact, I thank walking for saving my sanity when I had a new, colicky baby. Walking has no rules, it can be as far or as challenging as you want it to be and you can do it anywhere! This walk is in Leeds, a fantastic place to visit without even leaving the city!

Meanwood Park, in North Leeds, is one of my absolute favourite places to visit as a family. It’s not at all what you think of as a park, especially being so close to Leeds centre (but does have a good cafe and playground if that’s your thing). It has little streams and bridges, fabulous woodland and LOTS of opportunities for little explorers to, well, explore! We love this route which is just over 3km and takes you up to the Hollies.

Luckily I’ve found that a lot of new parents share my love for getting out with their babies and children on walks. My Muddy Boots Mummy blog has a range of suggestions of family-friendly Yorkshire walks, and has led to the Muddy Boots Baby Walking Group, who meet weekly to go on walks with our babies! Meanwood Park is a favourite of ours because it is so accessible to families! We’re always on the look out for new friends, so feel free to join in!

Useful links

Visit Leeds

A nature reserve, marina, canal and river in Leeds!


As a family with small children, we love walks that offer a bit of everything, with lots to see and explore. One of the main reasons that I wanted to suggest this place to all you walk-lovers, is that it’s such a great example of the diverse environment in Leeds. Families don’t need to travel to the Yorkshire wilderness to enjoy some fantastic nature and beautiful walking.

Lemonroyd Marina, is in Woodlesford to the South East of Leeds City Centre. It’s one of our regular places to visit with our children, who can enjoy a walk down to Woodlesford Lock (to meet the Guffalo) or cross the River Aire to take a circular route around RSPB St Aidan’s, with up to 12km of trails as well as the transpennine trail. In dry weather the tracks are great for pushchairs, but be aware that they can get a little muddy in places. Read about walking from Lemonroyd Marina here.

South Leeds Mumbler is a website that provides loads of ideas and support for local parents; everything from children’s classes to days out and activities when your stuck at home. We’ve got loads of walks around South, East and West Leeds for families with children to enjoy, have a look at all our suggestions here.

Find the Gruffalo on the Leeds Canal

Sometimes it’s prettttttttttty difficult to get your children out on walks. My first tip is NEVER call it a walk; it’s an adventure, it’s going exploring, it’s finding some sticks or collecting treasures….. or in the case of this walk, it’s going to see the Gruffalo!

Woodlesford Lock is a fantastic place to visit with children. There’s about a mile between the lock and the next one towards the City Centre (Fishpond Lock), and here you can cross the canal to return on the other side. You can ramp up the excitement by getting the train to Woodlesford Train Station (just 12 minutes by train from Leeds) and the canal is just a few hundred metres down the hill.

But the real attraction here (yes, on top of the locks, the canal boats, the ducks to feed, and the train journey) is the collection of character carvings that can be discovered. The Gruffalo takes a starring role, but you can also find Olaf, Stick Man, Donkey and more! Read more about this lovely walk here.

Haw Park Wood with Children

Many families will have discovered the joys of Angler’s Country Park in Wakefield before and completed the popular Room on the Broom Trail. But for us, the charms and true magic of Haw Park Wood draw us into any walk from the Waterton Centre! Inside you’ll find wooden toadstools and magical picnic spots, and even a pixie village!

This fantastic 5.5km circular route around the wood is mostly flat and easy walking, so perfect for children. There are a few tight squeezes though, so buggies should be avoided. You’ll even get a glimpse of the beautiful Cold Hiendley Reservoir, great for a well-deserved snack stop.

Useful links


Shore Thing

Andrew Vine steps out to walk the Yorkshire coast and discovers a landscape of breathtaking beauty.

It’s the most magnificent stretch of coastline in Britain, with majestic cliffs, glorious beaches and enchanting coves, and putting your best foot forward is the perfect way to savour it at a leisurely pace.

Walking Yorkshire’s coast is to feel embraced by the beauty all around you, a constantly changing panorama of scenery. The path meanders through historic seaside towns including Whitby and Scarborough, the fishing villages of Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay and takes in seemingly endless, award winning beaches including Filey and Bridlington.

At a steady couple of miles an hour along the clifftops or sands, the coastline reveals its grandeur and loveliness. Vistas of headlands and bays open up, stretching away as far as the eye can see, timelessly beautiful and as exhilarating now as when the first people to settle at the coast saw them centuries ago.

The sense of space and scale, the vast sky, the sparkling blues and greens of the summer sea stretching away to infinity, moorland of purple heather and yellow gorse overlooking the path, all combine to make this an inspiring walk that truly brings the senses alive. Dots on the clifftop gradually grow into Scarborough Castle, Whitby Abbey or Flamborough Head lighthouse, as the coast beckons you to discover the next treasure waiting along the path.

History and heritage feel vividly alive as you walk, of fishing communities which still put to sea in traditional cobles directly descended from the Viking longships that once landed, of smugglers who hid contraband in the caves that honeycomb secluded bays, of pioneers who made Yorkshire the birthplace of the great British seaside holiday.

And walking brings you thrillingly close to the rich array of wildlife for which Yorkshire’s coast is a haven – huge seabird colonies that nest on the sheer chalk cliffs, seals that bob their heads above the surf or bask on the rocks at low tide, porpoises that break the waves and even, if you’re lucky, whales.

Yorkshire’s coastline is on an epic scale, stretching about 120 miles from Redcar in the north to the unique natural wonder of Spurn in the south, where land and sea are locked in an endless battle for supremacy. It’s possible to walk the entire length, and dedicated long-distance walkers will find it as satisfying to complete as any route in the country.

But one of the great things about the coast path is that it naturally divides into shorter, easily manageable sections which are family-friendly and suitable for walkers of any age or ability, whether you’re looking for half a day’s ramble, or just an unhurried stroll of a mile or two.

It’s well signposted, easy to follow and you’re never far from somewhere to take a break and find something to eat or drink, which means that there’s no need to set out with a rucksack weighed down with supplies for a full day.

The path takes in every highlight of Yorkshire’s coast, all its landmarks and the extraordinarily rich and diverse heritage. For 50 miles, it follows the Cleveland Way from Saltburn to Filey, then joins the Headland Way around Flamborough and into Bridlington. From there, it’s along the beach to Hornsea and Withernsea, and finally to Spurn. Beginning on the seafront promenade at Redcar, the path climbs to the cliffs at Saltburn, leading on to Staithes, the fishing village that became an artists’ colony at the turn of the 20th century, where time seems hardly to have moved on since then.

Charming Runswick Bay is next and then Sandsend, with its two miles of beach leading into Whitby, where the sense of its heritage as a fishing and whaling port is so powerfully felt at every step. The path is a stroll through the town’s history, passing alongside the harbour, across the swing bridge and up cobbled Church Street, then climbing the 199 steps to St Mary’s Church and the iconic ruined 13th century Abbey that make Whitby’s skyline so unforgettable. Beyond lies Robin Hood’s Bay, nestled in the cliffs and coyly staying out of sight from the path until you round a headland and it reveals itself, pretty as any picture.

The trail climbs again, to the mighty 600ft peak at Ravenscar and then, visible from nearly 10 miles away, is Scarborough, Queen of Resorts, crowned by her castle, and coming closer with every step. The path becomes a promenade through the heart of Britain’s original seaside resort and one of its best loved, from the North Bay, round the Marine Drive and into the bustling South Bay.

It passes the Spa, the site where the first tourists came to take the waters of a mineral spring believed to benefit health 400 years ago, beginning the enduring love affair between Scarborough and its visitors. Cayton Bay, surfing capital of the Yorkshire coast, is next and the trail leads to a grandstand view of elegant Filey and its Brigg, the finger of rock pointing out to sea, a magnet for families exploring its pools teeming with tiny creatures at low tide.

And then comes one of the Yorkshire coast’s most imposing features – the towering chalk cliffs of Bempton, North Landing and Flamborough Head, gleaming white and seeming to glow when the sun is on them.

From there, it’s an easy downhill stroll into Bridlington, with its busy harbour which is Britain’s leading port for lobster and crab fishing, and miles of golden beaches which stretch away to the horizon. Those sands are the route onwards to Hornsea and Withernsea, and then to the magical finale of the coast – Spurn, the fragile sliver of land that is a living entity, forever on the move as the tides erode it and then bring in sand and shingle to reinforce it.

A circuit of this utterly captivating place poised between the sea and the River Humber, where the beach shape-shifts constantly like a restless sleeper trying to get comfortable, is just one of the shorter walks that the path breaks down into.

Others explore the coast’s wildlife and heritage. Walking from Bempton to Flamborough Head in spring or early summer is to be in the midst of one of Britain’s greatest natural spectaculars – half a million seabirds nesting on the cliffs and soaring on the air currents at your eye level as they head out of their nests in search of food. There are gannets, guillemots, razorbills and fulmars, but the stars of the show are puffins, with their colourful bills, clockwork-toy flight and guttural call. All are easily visible, especially from the viewpoints at the RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs reserve.

Walking from Staithes to Runswick Bay or from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay is to step back 300 years to an age when smugglers sailed darkened ships into lonely coves to land contraband.

Robin Hood’s Bay was their prime destination because it knew how to keep a secret. The closely packed cottages that make it so enthralling and picturesque were once riddled with interlinked secret passages, enabling smugglers to pass their wares from the seashore to the top of the village without them ever seeing the light of day. Or simply wander from Scarborough to Cayton Bay for the breathtaking views back across the town from the clifftop. But whether out for a stroll, or exploring everything Yorkshire’s coast has to offer, walking it makes the spirits soar higher than any clifftop along the way.



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