Burley-in-Wharfedale is a village situated in the beautiful Wharfedale valley in West Yorkshire. It’s located eleven miles north west of Leeds and two miles from the market town of Otley. I’ve arrived today by train, Northern run regular services on the Wharfedale Line from both Leeds and Bradford, the journey taking around 25 minutes.
The railway station lies on the edge of the village where trains have been running since 1865. To reach the village centre I walked down the hill to the main road and here I found The Grange, a large stone detached building which was used as a private residence until early in the 20th century before being taken over by Burley Urban District Council in 1905. In recent years it has been used as an adult education centre. The attractive Roundhouse, a village landmark featured above lies in its grounds.
Turning to the right by The Grange took me to the main road through the village but nowadays it is fairly quiet as a bypass was opened in 1995 routing non local traffic away from the narrow village centre. Nearby, I came across the Queen’s Hall which had originally been built as a lecture hall for the local mill workers, the mill having long ceased operating.
The building has a stage and is used for amateur theatrical productions in addition to other community activities. Continuing a little further along the main road to the north west side of the village, I came to the Corn Milll Pond, formerly a small reservoir for the local corn mill.
Burley-in-Wharfedale became a mill village when cotton mills were built alongside the river in 1790 and 1811. They used power derived from building a weir across the River Wharfe in 1833.
The local Probus (Professional and Business) Club presented the village with this ornate wrought iron sign and circular seat creating an attractive focal point alongside the former mill pond.
Located beside the Corn Mill pond stands the Anglican parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, its register dating back as far as 1749. From the above photograph the village green can be seen in the foreground.
The cottages pictured above are typical of the area, constructed from local stone and look particularly scenic at present with the Virginia Creeper turning a deep shade of red in late October.
Before returning uphill to the station, I enjoyed a pot of tea in the Wharfedale Deli which serves as both a cafe and delicatessen / grocers. The village has a few small shops, two pubs and cafes and makes a pleasant outing if combined with a visit to either of the neighbouring towns of Otley or Ilkley.
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An evening of town centre cycle racing first took place in Ilkley in 2014 as part of a festival of cycling prior to the Tour de France cycle race passing through the town. The evening was a such a huge success it was decided to make it an annual event in the town.
There are children’s and adult races throughout the evening ending with elite men’s and women’s events. Competitors race along a challenging 1.5 km circuit with a steep incline and a sharp downhill section which has a very fast right hand turn before returning to the finishing line along Ilkley’s tree lined main thoroughfare , The Grove, where many spectators view from, the races averaging 15 laps.
Cycling has become very popular in the town after Ilkley Cycling Club was re-established in 2011. The club now has over 1250 members and is the largest cycling club in the country. Membership is only £15 for individuals and £20 for families and a variety of organised rides to suit all abilities are included in the weekly programme. In 2013 the club was awarded the accolade of Sports Recreation Club of the Year having achieved phenomenal success for such a small town.
Fortunately, the weather was perfect for this year’s race and it attracted many spectators along the circuit as well as those enjoying the evening sunshine from the outside terraces of cafes and bars along The Grove. Near the starting line a small race village offered craft beers from the local micro brewery and a lengthy queue had also formed for some delicious sausages from a local high class butcher.
We arrived in the town early as the roads through the centre are closed to traffic and the event attracts many visitors. Walking around the complete circuit we paused along the way as the riders sped past and it was interesting to notice haystacks had been positioned at the bottom of the steep incline to soften the impact in case a cyclist misjudged the corner (see photo below).
The racing was of a high standard and provided a fun filled evening’s entertainment for everyone. Imitation cowbells were handed out to children and they enjoyed ringing their bells whenever they saw the riders approaching. Prize giving took place by the finishing line at 9.30 pm after which the roads were re-opened to traffic. If you are interested in watching or participating in street cycling events this race meeting takes place in late June each year, details can be found here.
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It was decided that we would spend a day in Ilkley, a prosperous small town set in the beautiful Wharfe Valley of West Yorkshire. The town is located between Skipton and Harrogate and there is a rail link to Leeds.
From the railway station, we walked up Wells Road to the famous Ilkley Moor which lies above the town. A moor is a tract of uncultivated heath on an uphill slope with low growing vegetation such as bracken and heather. There’s a well known folk song ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht’ At’ – meaning ‘On Ilkley Moor without a hat’ which is sung in the local dialect and is often referred to as the unofficial Yorkshire anthem.
Passing the junction with Crossbeck Road we followed a signpost to Ilkley Tarn, a peaceful small lake before climbing some stone steps towards White Wells. This white washed stone cottage perched on top of the moor contains a bath dating back to Roman times (Olicana being the Roman name for Ilkley).
White Wells was instrumental in establishing Ilkley as a spa town and several large hydros were built in the town during the 19th century where people could come ‘to take the waters’ in the belief that their ailments would be cured. Charles Darwin visited Ilkley in 1859 and is believed to have taken the waters at White Wells. There is now a garden in his honour nearby.
Visitors can still ‘take the waters’ today in the plunge pool. Surprisingly, the busiest day of the year for visitors wishing to ‘plunge’ is New Year’s Day when more than 100 brave (or foolhardy) people shiver in the White Wells plunge pool. There is no charge for ‘plunging’ but visitors need to come prepared with their swimwear and towels. A certificate of ‘plunging’ can be purchased as a souvenir afterwards. Rather than ‘take the waters’ we preferred to sit with mugs of coffee in the adjacent cafe. To find out whether White Wells is open or not, check to see if the flag is flying as this is the indication to walkers from lower down the moor.
A footpath from White Wells takes walkers towards the Rocky Valley and Ilkley Quarry. One of the best known attractions of the moor are the ‘Cow and Calf Rocks’ high on Ilkley Moor. The craggy outcrop and the smaller single rock are both slabs of millstone grit (similar to sandstone) and are said to resemble a cow sheltering her calf looking across the dramatic moorland. It’s a popular local beauty spot and when we visited we spotted hill walkers and rock climbing enthusiasts in the area. There are fine views looking down to the town centre and along the Wharfe Valley from here. There is a refreshment kiosk by the car park whilst across the road you will find the Cow and Calf Hotel. This country pub was a former 19th century spa hotel, modernised it still retains its rustic charm and affords panoramic views both of the moorland and the town below. There is a large beer garden where you will also find an old Victorian well.
After stopping for a lunchtime snack at the pub we made our way down Hangingstone Road which leads onto Cowpasture Road to return to the town centre. The main shopping street is called ‘The Grove’ and along this tree lined avenue you will find some beautiful Victorian buildings housing high class shops, many of which are small independent retailers. One of my favourites is The Grove Bookshop one of the largest independent book stores in the north of England, with it’s delightful window displays and well stocked shelves. Ilkley is home to one of the north of England’s largest Literature Festivals, this event taking place in October. A little further down the road you will find Betty’s Tea Rooms, the quintessential English purveyor of fine teas with a cake shop at the front and tea rooms to the rear. Waitresses wear long black skirts and frilled white blouses with large white pinafores.
From The Grove, we turned onto Brook Street towards the river. Stretching alongside the River Wharfe are the Riverside Gardens, a popular place to relax or take a stroll. Just by the old bridge is the starting point of The Dales Way a long distance footpath starting here in Ilkley and continuing 78 miles to Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. The walk passes along rivers, over moors and across limestone pavements before ending on the banks of Lake Windermere in the Lake District National Park
Before returning home we wandered along to the Bluebell Woods on the Middleton side of the river as at this time of the year the flowers create a fragrant blue carpet across the hillside. If you happen to visit Ilkley in May do try and spend a little time in the woods, access is via Denton Road and parking is available opposite the suspension bridge just by the entrance gate to the woods, it takes about 20 minutes to walk back to the town centre from here.
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What could epitomise a British Summer more than grass court tennis, Pimms and strawberries! The Aegon Ilkley Trophy has returned to the attractive small town of Ilkley, set in the heart of the beautiful Wharfedale countryside yet easily accessible from Leeds by car or train. It’s being held for the second year at the Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club which has superb facilities, both indoor and outdoor courts (grass and all weather) and a modern club house with an attractive cafe bar.
We arrived by car and parking was well organised in a neighbouring field, just a couple of minutes walk from the club. Tickets can either be purchased in advance or on the day, but for the final two days it’s necessary to pre book as they sell out fast. Stands are erected around several of the show courts and apart from the finals, spectators can move around and sit where they wish. From my photos, you may think that there were very few spectators the day we attended but it was actually quite busy – we arrived early and I wandered round taking photos at the start of the day before most people had arrived so that I could devote the rest of the day to watching myself!
Play starts at 11.00 am on the show courts and usually 12.00 noon on the outside courts as those do not have covers so the lawns need to be completely dry to avoid court damage and players slipping on damp grass.
This tournament is the largest in Yorkshire and attracts world class up and coming British and international players giving them an opportunity to perfect their game on grass shortly before the world famous Wimbledon tennis tournament takes place. Last year’s winners of both the men’s and women’s tournaments were given wild cards into Wimbledon and they both performed remarkably well, each reaching the last 16 in their respective singles competitions. I wonder how the players we are watching today will progress? I need to keep a look out for them as they could be stars of the future. Two competitors appearing this year at Ilkley are already in the top 100 men’s rankings and other players not far behind.
Winners prize money for the men’s ATP Challenger Tour is €42,500 and for the ITF Women’s Pro Tour it is $50,000 (I am not certain why the men’s prize money is given in Euros and the women’s in US Dollars).
110 local school children are trained as ball boys and girls for the tournament and take a great pride in their duties having a rotation of one set on duty and one resting. I hope they get to keep their smart kits as souvenirs – I’m sure they will treasure them in years to come.
Spectators can either bring their own picnic with them or eat in one of the marquees. We looked in the stylish cafe bar in the club house but this was being used for players during the tournament. In the marquee we couldn’t resist a bowl of strawberries topped with whipped cream and a glass of Pimms it’s just synonymous with tennis!
As is typical at outdoor summer events in Britain, dark clouds threatened and it finally started to rain at 4.15 pm when play was halted for the day, but we were ready to make our way home by then as we had seen three full matches and the first set of another. Play was of an extremely high standard and the court side view is much better than from a television screen.
We’ve been to Wimbledon several times, and Queens once but in my view the Aegon Ilkley Trophy is just as nice and a fraction of the price. It’s held in mid June each year and details can be found here.
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