I’m sure many people have been aware that there’s ‘something going on’ at Kirkstall Forge – after all, the roadworks and boarding along Abbey Road seem to have been around for a long time and there’s often chatter about the new railway station.
Business is starting to get going in the area now and it’s easy to have a nosey when walking along the canal. A quick surf on the website shows a clear focus of a ‘New Neighbourhood’ with community wellbeing and everyday activity – obviously a big focus of my own.
Therefore, I thought I’d check out whether this is just marketing fluff or if it really was existing from day 1. It’s sandwiched right between the A65 cycleway and the canal (route 66 cycleway) so does have good potential.
Farsley/Rodley to Kirkstall Forge
Since Farsley has easy access to the canal from Rodley, I thought I’d check that route so as to be relevant for anyone right along to Apperley Bridge, Shipley and beyond. I tracked using Strava and aimed to ride at 10mph, which is about the inclusive national average speed (lycra/sports cyclists faster).
The stats show that the canal gives you the lovely flat profile and takes a mere 17 minutes for the 3 miles – I did have a couple of minutes on top for photo stops, which to be honest, many people do snap on their way in to capture the changes through seasons. To put the Strava Suffer Score of 5 in context, a typical 5km run is about a 60 Suffer Score for me, so this is a really mild activity.
The canal portion of the ride is not at all difficult to sell; the Canal and River Trust do a great job of maintaining this stretch – worth quick shout out to support them with this. All it takes is a little consideration for other users of the canal and you’ll find you’re saying ‘Good Morning’ to so many people along the way.
Just after the Marina, you reach Bramley Falls Park, where you have two choices to access Kirkstall Forge. I exited at the bridge leading to the Abbey Inn pub (maybe that’s just my auto pilot ??) which then leads you to a quiet access road passing the Scouts buildings. The totally road free alternative is to remain on the canal then take the next branch off. Both routes unmistakably lead you to the Kirkstall Forge railway station.
The real test of Kirkstall Forge and the prime reason I tested out the route was “how do I get across the railway line with a bike?”. To be realistic, I took the big 29er which can be awkward to lumber around places.
Fortunately, Kirkstall Forge station has a lift which was clean and brisk to arrive. Space-wise, the lift was ‘just’ big enough not to be too awkward. I’d say you’d manage to get 2 bikes/people in the lift with a little care and a jiggle – an extra foot in depth would have made it a swish entry/exit.
As a visitor arriving at the first building, there was a plentiful supply of bike racks right outside the main door to lock the bike up to. These are well overlooked by the building reception area so I’d be confident about leaving a bike there.
Inside the building reception I was greeted with a warm welcome from Emma, who reiterated the active vision being introduced on the Kirkstall Forge web site. Cycling, running and walking are all part of this and it’s great to see it being introduced right from the beginning. The facilities for staff are even better with over 200 bike spaces and shower/changing rooms all on hand. Easy to see why they’re now a Bike Friendly Business.
Kirkstall Forge to Leeds
After chatting with Emma, I thought it may be a good idea to continue my journey and head in to town. As you can see, 4.5 miles to get in to Leeds City Square via the canal, though Kirkstall Road with its bus and cycle lanes would notch a chunk out of that. An easy non-sweat 25 minute journey is very palatable and a slightly extended lunch would allow shopping time.
Again, the canal is well maintained and scenic for the whole route. As you get close to town though, the canal stretch does become busier with pedestrians so please be prepared to further ride slowly and courteously or as I did, exit and use the cycle path to Wellington Street.
I fully understand it when pedestrians are frustrated with some cyclists whizzing past – there really is no need. Even whenever I’ve cycled the full 130 odd miles of the canal in a day, I always slowed down and been courteous to other users – so commuters have no excuse.
OK I do get it, sometimes a bike isn’t practical and it’s much more comfortable by car. Well, my return journey was using Kirkstall Road and I noticed that even at lunchtime, it was pretty much stationary traffic (as usual) stretching from Cardigan Fields to just short of Kirkstall Lights. Therefore, I wish you the best of luck with that mode!