Yorkshire cycling website
People riding bikes on Harland Way
The Harland Way is a Sustrans cycle and foot path between Spofforth and Wetherby, and is phase 1 of a route between Harrogate and York, the rest of which may be built one day. The Harland Way is owned and maintained by a partnership of Leeds City Council, Harrogate Borough Council, the Wetherby to Thorp Arch Railway Path Forum, and the Thorp Arch Estate and Retail Park.
It is on the route of a railway trackbed, and was converted to a path in 1992, at which time it reached the outskirts of Wetherby. A year later, it was extended into the former railway triangle in Wetherby by the local Lions Club. The route is named after Peter Harland, the late former Lion President.
The surface for most of the way from Spofforth to Wetherby is compacted gravel, and is not suitable for pure road bikes. Any bike with more robust tyres, including a hybrid, can be cycled along the Harland Way. Before Wetherby, the surface changes to tarmac.
There's some information about the Harland Way, and a map, on this Sustrans Wetherby Railway Path leaflet.
The map above shows the main Spofforth-Wetherby section in olive green. To the north west is a Harrogate-Spofforth route, and to the south east is the continuation of the route to the Thorp Arch Estate.
The Harland Way starts from East Park Road, just off Spofforth High Street. It's a housing estate, with street parking. Alternatively, if you're parking in Spofforth, there are spaces on Castle Street, in sight of Spofforth Castle ruins.
Turn right off East Park Road. There's an accumulation of gravel at the bottom of the path, but you can avoid it by riding over a bit of the grass.
At the top of a short slope, there's a green sign with a map, and an indication that this is National Cycle Network route 67.
There's a barrier just after the start, which I found awkward to get past when I first did this guide in 2014. More recently (in July 2018), I noticed that the ground-level metal obstacle in the photo below has been removed, making life easier.
As it's a on the trackbed of the former railway line, the Harland Way is flat and straight. It goes through farmland.
There are wooded sections too.
The surface is gravel of variable quality until the green barrier shown in the photo below. Thereafter, it's a hard surface. I suspect the green barrier marks the border between Harrogate Borough and Leeds Metropolitan District, although I've never had to show my passport there.
If you put in a rough surface, you automatically exclude certain bikes. There are enough obstacles to cycling in the UK without doing that. It's not as if we're blessed with extensive and good quality cycle routes all over the country, so where we do have one, could we just make it accessible to all types of bike please?
I believe it is planned to put in a decent, hard surface, but I heard about that a long time ago, and thought it was imminent then. At the time of writing (July 2018), I don't know what the timing is likely to be.
Just before arriving in Wetherby, there's a choice of routes (shown in the photo above). Keep left if you are continuing via Wetherby towards Thorp Arch. The right turn goes to the western edge of Wetherby.
The barrier at the end of the cycle route in Wetherby is so narrow that you can't cycle through it and you have to get off. That doesn't matter too much arriving in Wetherby, but it is more inconvenient in the other direction, because the barrier means that you can't get a run-up to cycle up the hill, and so you'll probably have to push your bike up it.
You arrive in Wetherby on Deighton Road.
The route in Wetherby is signposted, but not very well. Go right on Deighton Road, left on York Road, right on Hallfield Lane, then left on Freemans Way. (In particular, the sign indicating the left turn on York Road is easy to miss).
The cycle route (now NCN route 66) resumes from Freemans Way.
There's an underpass, under the A1.
The route is once again on the railway trackbed. There are views of Wetherby racecourse to the left.
It crosses the Wetherby to Walton road, then the Walton/Thorp Arch road, and finishes at the Thorp Arch Trading Estate, about 5km beyond Wetherby.
Spofforth is now signposted from the Yorkshire Showground Greenway in Harrogate. I've shown the route in orange on the map.
Cycling along Railway Road, you turn off to the right, towards the Travellers Rest pub. The surface is fine, then deteriorates to gravel before leaving the Showground. The Travellers Rest is on Crimple Lane, which is very badly surfaced.
At the T junction at the end of Crimple Lane, it's a right turn on Rudding Lane. This is not a good cycle route, because it is a busy road at times, and narrow. A survey for Cycling UK showed that 52% of British adults don't know the rules for passing cyclists. As a result, you can pretty much guarantee some unpleasantly close overtakes - unless you ride it when England are playing Sweden in the World Cup, as I did, in which case everyone is at home watching telly. Waiting until England are playing a World Cup quarter-final isn't always practical.
Rudding Lane takes you towards the A658 John Metcalf Way. One way to cross it is via the Follifoot Underpass. Turn right on Pannal Road just before you reach the A-road, and there's then cycling signage directing you left to the underpass. This is a mud and stones path, which gets very muddy when it rains. I believe there's an intention to do something about it, but it seems to be taking a long time.
I think it's better to go left on a footpath just before the A658 junction, and cross over the A-road (no official crossing). On the other side you can pick up the footpath again, then join the same residential road (Pannal Road) as you would if you'd gone under the underpass.
Pannal Road, leading to Follifoot
Continue to Follifoot on Pannal Road, passing the Radcliffe Arms, then the south gatehouse of the Rudding Park estate, both on your left.
South gatehouse of Rudding Park estate
Turn right on Spofforth Lane, passing the Harewood Arms on your left.
Harewood Arms, Follifoot
Spofforth Lane is a nice country road that ought to be cycle-friendly, but it does get busy at times, which makes it not a great route. I would say it is considerably better than Haggs Road, a road running roughly parallel with Spofforth Lane. Haggs Road is quite straight and narrow, and people do 60mph or more there, and leave insufficient space when overtaking.
Spofforth Lane brings you to Spofforth. There's a short stretch of the busy A661 to negotiate in order to get to the start of the Harland Way - again, not ideal.
1) Extend the route! It's been more than 20 years since the Harland Way was built. According to Sustrans, it's supposed to be part of a Harrogate to York cycle route. There should be a Harrogate to York route. Lots of people would like to cycle, for leisure and to get where they need to go. The modern problems of congestion, pollution, and obesity mean there's never been a better time to provide more and better facilities. So let's not wait any longer.
I realise it needs money and permissions, and it's not as easy as snapping your fingers and it's done, but surely this should now be a priority, not just for Sustrans, but for local authorities.
2) Improve the path surface. A compact gravel surface immediately excludes a large number of bikes. The goal should be to make cycling as convenient as possible for as many people as possible, and people shouldn't have to buy a second bike in order to ride this path.
3) Some of the barriers are awkward to negotiate. I find that the handlebars of my bike won't fit in the narrow gap in many of them. I believe that they are designed to keep motorbikes out, which is of course a legitimate aim, but it might be worthwhile to see if all the barriers are necessary, and whether the width of the gaps could be increased.
A cycle route should be safe, convenient, and complete. The Harrogate to Spofforth route falls short in a number of ways.
4) The route from the Yorkshire Showground is not direct but wiggly and roundabout. The surface deteriorates to gravel before exiting the Showground. The surface of Crimple Lane is also very poor. These factors mean it loses points in the 'convenient' category.
Ideally, a better route out of the Showground might be found, and surfaced properly. If this involved using the rather magnificent but closed Crimple Valley viaduct, that would be great.
5) Rudding Lane is too busy to be a good cycle route, so it loses points in the 'safe' category. Chris Boardman, who is Manchester's Walking & Cycling Commissioner, has written about the 'competent 12 year old' test: a network must be something a 12 year old would choose to use, and the 12 year old represents other people too. I suggest Rudding Lane fails the 12 year old test.
A solution is a better route out of the Showground (as described above), to the bend in Rudding Lane at the driveway to Rudding Park Home Farm; then physically protected bike lanes either side of Rudding Lane for the short stretch as far as the junction with Pannal Road.
6) The mud and stones path through the A658 underpass isn't good enough. Cycle routes should be convenient for everyone riding a bike. If people have to have a particular type of bike, or special tyres, they will just ignore your bike route, which isn't the point of creating it.
7) Spofforth Lane is too narrow to add a protected cycle lane. Probably the best that can be done there is signage, asking people to give a gap of at least 1m50 when overtaking.
8) Much more satisfactory would be to use the dismantled railway as a route from the A658 to Spofforth. It's the same trackbed that is used for the Harland Way from Wetherby to Spofforth. It would make a great cycle and footpath. Instead of apathy and delay, the local authorities should be saying, 'there's no time like the present, let's get on with it, this is a priority.'
9) There should be provision on the short stretch of the A661, ideally a physically protected bike lane.
The best and most popular cycleway in Harrogate, the Nidderdale Greenway goes about 4 miles to Ripley, using the trackbed of a disused railway. It opened in May 2013.
There are parking spaces near Spofforth Castle.
There's a local shop in Spofforth.
The Castle pub is next door to the shop.
The ruins of Spofforth Castle are a feature of the village.
It dates from Norman times. William de Percy was a Norman noble, who was favoured by William the Conqueror. Percy built a manor house here in the C11th, after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is said that rebel barons drew up the Magna Carta here in 1215.
The manor house was fortified in the 1300s. In 1461, during the Wars of the Roses, it was burnt down, and lay in ruins until 1559, when it was restored by Henry, Lord Percy.
The castle was again reduced to ruins in the 1600s, during the English civil war. It was given to the state in 1924, and now belongs to English Heritage. It's free to visit, and makes a nice place for a picnic on a sunny day.
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