Bradford: Chellow Dene Reservoirs

A gentle walk around one of Bradford’s favourite reservoirs




1.75 miles (2.8kms)

115ft (35m)

About the walk

Chellow Dene is a fine spot for a gentle walk at any time of year. In autumn however, when the leaves on the beech trees that surround the valley’s two reservoirs are turning to bronze and gold, the area looks magnificent.

The Victorian reservoirs were built by Bradford Corporation to ensure a supply of water for the city’s burgeoning population. At the time people were flooding to the city, looking for work in the flourishing textile industry but the overcrowding was having serious effects on people’s health, and clean drinking water and sanitation were vital if diseases such as cholera were to be avoided.

A wildlife corridor

First to be built was the upper reservoir, in 1844; the lower dam followed in 1853. Between them they hold around 75 million gallons (341 million litres) of water but are no longer part of Bradford’s supply. Since 1974 they have been owned and managed by Bradford Council for wildlife and recreational purposes. Being so close to the centre of Bradford, they provide a green lung, offering people fresh air and exercise in a wonderful open space just a short distance from the city’s hustle and bustle. The valley also acts as a wildlife corridor, along which birds and mammals can move freely within the surrounding built-up areas.

The open water attracts birds such as the heron and great crested grebe, while kingfishers have been seen on Chellow Dene Beck, the stream that feeds the dams. The surrounding woodlands are home to nuthatch, green and great spotted woodpecker as well as goldcrest. Even more exciting visitors have included buzzard and osprey, the spectacular fish-eating bird of prey.

A conservation group, The Friends of Chellow Dene, was formed in 2009 to help maintain this vital rural oasis in the midst of urban Bradford. The group works with rangers to encourage wildlife by providing bat and bird boxes, create nature trails and more.

Chellow Dene Beck joins other streams beyond the dams to form Bradford Beck, on which the city of Bradford – ‘Broad-ford’ – was founded. Its fate emphasises the value of open spaces such as Chellow Dene. For a while Bradford’s industry depended on the beck but the need for waterpower diminished with the advent of electricity. As the beck became less vital, and heavily polluted, it was channelled underground and forgotten. For almost its entire length, to its confluence with the River Aire at Shipley, the beck now rarely sees the light of day.

Walk directions

Leave the car park on the track from the information board. Head into woodland and keep ahead at the junction encountered after 66yds (60m). When the path forks either side of a brook, take the right-hand option; don’t be tempted to cross the stepping stones near the head of the dam. The path follows the south side of the reservoir to the dam wall. There are plenty of birds and other wildlife to look out for here, so it is worth having binoculars and a field guide with you.

Here you can choose to either cross the dam wall and complete the walk up the opposite side, or lengthen the walk by circumnavigating the lower dam, regaining the upper reservoir path afterwards via a flight of steps up the dam wall; this will add 0.5 miles (800m) distance and around 10 minutes to your walk, and a mere 40ft (15m) ascent.

At the far end of the upper dam wall, simply follow the north shore, regaining the outward path just beyond the top end of the dam to return to the car park.

Additional information

Good tracks throughout

Reservoirs set in beech and oak woodland

Dogs are free to exercise in the woodlands

OS Explorer 288 Bradford & Huddersfield

Car park off the B6144 Haworth Road, near its junction with the B6146

None on route

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About the area