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My Dad David died 10.09.13 aged 69. He had a huge love of the countryside. He loved walking and was a keen angler. I was desperate to find and own an object that summed Dad up, after an insightful conversation with a friend, I remembered his walking boots. This set me thinking... How about stepping into them and going for a walk somewhere with a body of water (sea, river, lake, canal, pond, tarn...) and stunning, just as Dad would have wanted.... Here I go in 'My Dad's Boots'

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Eccup Reservoir - MDB 1st official outing!

At the outset I'll explain this reservoir cannot be fished but I know Dad would have enjoyed the pleasantly surprising qualities of this place, the main one being that it is a SSSI and is only a 'stones throw' (roughly 5 miles) from Leeds City centre. A SSSI or Site of Special Scientific Interest is a legal land designation and a site can fall into one of two categories; Geological, which takes into account any unusual landforms, rock features or types and Biological, this is to do with the flora and fauna present on the site. Eccup falls into the Biological type as it has a burgeoning population of Red Kites. 

Birdwatching becomes a secondary activity whilst fishing and Dad would often comment on the birds he'd seen whilst he was out for the day. He was quite taken with birds and their song, he said it added to the sound track of the day. 

To start this walk we parked on a suburban Alwoodley street, changed our footwear and set off down a clearly signposted track that ran beside Sandmoor Golf Club, at this point I wasn't too sure how rural this walk would be but carried on with optimism. I was soon rewarded when we looked up and saw our first Red Kite! It was earnestly swooping about on the thermals looking for pray. I knew once I had seen this fabulous sight we could be in for a treat. 

I just wish my camera had a telephoto lens but here he is! 

At the end of the track was a beautiful stone house, Reservior Lodge. We took a left in front of it and carried on along a very obvious pathway.

The initial part of the walk takes you along a path that snakes the edge of the reservoir. This pathway offers dramatic open water views framed by the woodland edge. To all the world, this man-made environment looks very naturalistic and I can easily see why the Red Kites enjoy this as their home.

The pathway is bordered on the other side by a lovely broadleaved woodland which continues the 'naturalistic' feel of this environment. 

As you venture round the path you come across a little beach with a wonderful, dare I say perfect little Fishing platform. 

The idea of this being a natural lake environment is soon dismissed as the path brings you to a track along the dam wall and sluice workings.

On the opposite side of the track from the dam wall a binocular toting twitcher told me this fantastic view is of the Red Kite's favourite hunting ground.

The track brings you to a footpath that leads you beside a couple of large properties, collectively called 'Owlet Hall'. I wonder if this name has anything to do with the Owl being the symbol of Leeds?! 

This path brings you out on the road to the village of Eccup. As you walk along you pass open arable and stock fields. To your left you can clearly see the Reservoir over the fields.

We passed a farm, on our right, as we made our way into Eccup. As we carried on we found a number of interesting features in such a tiny place.

A Secret Garden gate?

Our second sight of a Red Kite. Again frustrated by my lack of good photography kit... Maybe I should hunt for Dad's camera too! 

A derelict barn. I'm surprised it hasn't been bought up and developed into a swanky pad.

A couple of yards on we made our way over a style and we squelched over a muddy field, a short section of the larger 'Dales Way' walk. The Reservoir, to our left, was kept in our sights through the trees the whole way.

The idea of keeping My Dad's Boots clean when we got to the style at the end of the muddy field was well out of the window. Gaiters I think next time!

The home straight was in sight as we walked beside the coniferous wood known as Goodrick Plantation. 

The final access point brought us back to the front of 'Reservoir Lodge'.

What a wonderful and surprisingly rural Sunday stroll bearing in mind its proximity to the Alwoodley suburbs. You can of course do this walk in reverse as it is a simple but enjoyable circular. The route is approx 4.5/5 miles long and took us a lesuirely 1.5hrs as I kept stopping to take photos. I think I'll do this one again in the summer as it is very accessible from where I live and isn't too strenuous; in the words of one of Dad's favourite funny men Lee Evans I was just "warming up my shoes". A great 1st MDB outing.

On a final note, I read that Eccup Reservior's 79hectares of open water make it the largest in West Yorkshire... Who knew! 

Where to next... MDB

Friday, 3 January 2014

My Dad, Mr Salmon... The Reservoir Dog

Dad was an extremely keen and successful fly fisherman. He loved any body of water where he could fish, that said he wasn't a big fan of Canals. He once told me "The Leeds Liverpool houses more shopping trolleys than Asda" and he continued to explain "and I can't eat them!". In any case it was all Course Fishing on Canals and he wasn't into that after all he was a Game Fisherman. Dad did however marvel at the engineering that went into constructing them and the vessels that used them so for that reason I shall be walking Canal Paths too.

He loved the whole Man Vs Fish thing, the whole understanding the territory, the interconnected ecology of the places he fished, the behaviour of the fish, the effects he and the weather had on the chance of a catch. He also enjoyed the beauty, peace and solitude of the environment. He loved nothing more than to be slightly hypnotised by the line floating on the water's surface, then slowly and gingerly reeling it back in and then with an expert flick of the wrist the line would be deftly paid out again with an unmistakeable whoosh of the rod as it sliced through the air and the whip of the line as it travelled forward. On the end of the line was a fly, a beautiful feathered mimic of a water insect designed to draw in the fish. Dad used to tie his own flys until his eye sight got the better of him and he discovered internet shopping. 

Dad found the whole Reservoir environment an easy win for fishing as they are usually quick to get to, they often have good access roads, clear paths and have well managed ecology. The beauty of them is they tend to be high up and out of the way, just what Dad liked. Here in Yorkshire we have a fabulous array of Yorkshire Water owned and run Reservoirs with good well documented walks, some are simple circular jobs and others are connected to longer routes. I think it makes sense to follow some of these. 

One of Dad's favourite fishing Reservoirs, 'Stocks' in the Forest of Bowland.

And another of Dad's favourite spots, Embsay Reservoir in the Yorkshire Dales

     Photo: Daleswalk Limited

Photo: SteveMG

The first official trip out in My Dad's Boots will be a Reservoir walk close to home.

Till next time... MDB 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

An introduction... The Boots.

Dad had a number of sayings, one he used a lot was "You only get what you pay for" and for someone who had Scottish blood coursing through his veins this was quite a statement! The boots Dad used to wear were good 'old school' leather ones and not cheap either which he wore with his long real wool socks a la the photo below.

After 20 years wear he literally walked the soles off his old boots and after a short gap the decision eight years ago to splash out and furnish himself with a new pair was, at first, if memory serves, a challenge. "None of this colourful Gore-tex stuff with bits sewn all over them" He just wanted a good pair of brown leather walking boots like his old ones. The search began in earnest and concluded when my copy of Trail Magazine offered a solution. A Brasher Boot none the less! 


Well little did Dad know prior to buying them, and for all their classic styling they have Gore-tex in them and a long list of other technical bonuses... Best of both worlds eh?! 

Here they are with me modeling them prior to my first short outing in them.

For the unaware they are a pair of Brasher Hillmaster GTX. A very fine pair of boots that have been lovingly kept and I must keep them in the same order or Dad wouldn't be happy at all!

My only grumble, and or possible problem is that they are a good half size too big and I have narrow ladylike feet and these are men's wider fitting boots. I know in all the technical guide books and online advice they always advise a snug fitting boot where you can slip one finger down the back. I am going to risk it with a good pair of thick socks. I have also heard that it's better if your boots are a bit on the roomy side rather than too tight. If however they are ruining my feet then I shall revert back to my own pair and walk with Dad in mind, after all he wouldn't want me to cripple myself would he!

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