A secret garden on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal – North West

Explore an ancient woodland in a Victorian garden this summer

Tim Green Flickr


As the Leeds & Liverpool winds its way across the north-west, it passes close to West Wood, a patch of fascinating woodland in the Aire Valley between Shipley and Pudsey, on the edge of Bradford. This wood is only a short distance from the canal and makes a superb diversion for anyone exploring the area, especially in the summertime when the flowers and wildlife are lively. “West Wood is very close to the Leeds & Liverpool canal and is set in the woodland grounds of a former Victorian house, filled with old features to seek out in the undergrowth,” says Paul Bunton, the Woodland Trust’s Engagement and Communication Officer.

The 19-acre site is a wonder at any time of the year, thanks to its combination of ancient woodland and the remains of the imposing house that once stood here. As well as twisted and gnarled oaks, beech, horse chestnut, sycamore, rowan, birch and holly, you might see blackbirds, great tits, robins, wood pigeons, wrens, jays and blackcaps. Shrews and moles have been spotted, and roe deer also live in the woods, while a dense coverage of native bluebell can be found near the canal.

The wood is also fascinating thanks to its origins as the grounds of Champion House, a Victorian house that is now a nursing home. Here you can find old stone grottoes secreting springs for a man-made swimming pond, a walled garden, old stone steps to nowhere and even a tennis court. This adds a real air of mystery to the spot, especially given the aged oaks that grow abundantly in the area.

West Wood links up to Calverley Wood and Lodge Wood to provide a large area of woodland in what is otherwise one of England’s least wooded counties. There are many trails through the wood, which can be easily accessed from the canal at Apperley Bridge. The canal marina at Apperley Bridge is also worth exploring, as it contains some converted canal buildings and also the remains of an original wharf crane.