The Hollies – and the Dales Way

Colin Speakman

There are times in one’s life where certain places take on special meaning. My wife and I first discovered The Hollies as young Leeds University students, in the innocence of first love, seeking beauty, peace, privacy. We discovered the rocky paths up from Meanwood Beck through a semi-wilderness of oak woods, bluebells, azaleas, tall and colourful primula candelabra. And then at the top of the woods, by the lawns and tennis courts, that huge and magical magnolia which each Spring – the start of a new academic term – was a glorious display of exotic bloom.

Each year it was somewhere to come back to, to rekindle memories – as young teachers, then with our children, as lecturers, writers. Even when we moved away from Leeds, we always returned and have done so over fifty years.

But in the late 60s The Hollies took on a new meaning. Fleur and I were involved in developing one of England’s most popular long distance footpaths, the Dales Way, an 80 mile walking route through the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks, from Ilkley to Bowness on Windermere.

From the very beginning the concept was to start from central Leeds – an extra 21 miles, Woodhouse Moor to Windermere – along what is now the Meanwood Valley Trail, a beautiful green corridor out of the city, to Adel Woods, then through Eccup, Bramhope, Otley Chevin, Burley Moor to Ilkley.

The highlight of the Dales Way Leeds Link is surely The Hollies. True the Dales Way itself follows the meandering Meanwood Beck along the valley floor, but an easy diversion into The Hollies proper to enjoy those still mysterious paths through ferns and azaleas, so glorious every Spring.
But for two people, a place intertwined with their lives, with memories.

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