If there’s one thing better than an unexpected snow day, when schools and offices are closed because of inclement weather, than it’s a snow day with Gruffalos. If that sounds like something that appeals, then you are in luck as just five miles outside Leeds is Woodlesford Lock on the Aire & Calder Navigation. Head here on a snowy day and you’ll find pubs and cafés, a gorgeous stretch of canal and – if you are very lucky – a Gruffalo.
The Aire & Calder Navigation is the name given to the canalised section of Yorkshire’s Aire and Calder rivers. It was built to connect the cities of Leeds and Wakefield with York and Humber allowing freight to get to the North Sea. It also connects to several other waterways – the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the Calder & Hebble Canal and the Rochdale Canal. The waterway had its own unique type of boat – the Tom Pudding, which were large open containers for carrying coal that connected together in a chain like carriages and were pulled by tugs. Woodlesford is located between Leeds, Castleford and Wakefield, making it easy to reach if the roads are clear. It also has a station.
Woodlesford Lock is worth visiting in almost all weather conditions, but there is something magical about seeing it in the snow. Here you can have a picnic or settle in the nearby café or pub in between strolls around the area. You can take a longer stroll to Thwaite Mills, location of a fabulous water mill museum, or try the short circular walk to Fishponds Lock (a mere 1.75 miles) or wander down the towpath to Lemonroyd Lock (an even more mere 1.5 miles, although you need to walk back again). Along the way, you might see wooden sculptures of animals hidden in the nearby woods of Rothwell Country Park, including an elephant and gorilla – and if you look really carefully, you might find the Gruffalo, with his friends – an owl, snake, fox and cunning mouse.
Plan your day out to Woodlesford Lock with our online guide, which includes a downloadable map for the circular walk from Woodlesford Lock to Fishponds Lock (1.75 miles)
*If however it’s looking too treacherous outside, don’t risk it, save this walk for another day – you won’t be disappointed!