Tag Archives: Birchcliffe

Confined Walks 3 – Riverside

Islands in the stream 2

By Easter, I became quite anxious as idiots (including neighbours who appeared to have friends round and flit from one house to another) seemed heedless of ‘social distancing’.  But a fine Easter Sunday convinced me I should get out of the house.  We ventured down the Cuckoo Steps onto the all but deserted main road.  As we waited for cyclists at the corner taking photos of the eeriness, we chatted about how rammed town would be normally during a Bank Holiday weekend.

Blossom of pink 2On Oldgate, Canada Geese sat unflustered by the river.  On Hangingroyd Road a mother and child cycled round an empty carpark fringed with white and orange tree blossom.  Continuing to Victoria Road, rainbows decorated windows and chalk Easter eggs adorned pavements.  People chatted, straddling the road as a mad cat lady took her cats for a jog.

We discussed the loveliness of the pink cherry blooms with a woman on the balcony above until, coast clear, we could proceed.

Horse chestnut 1From Foster Mill Bridge, we saw several people occupying the riverside path.  A woman with a dog came towards us necessitating a hasty move.  The grassy riverbank was resplendent with daffodils.  Horse chestnuts started to sprout, heedless of parasitic moss hijacking their drier branches.  Hebden Water resembled silvery ribbons flowing downstream.

As the path narrowed, we turned, re-crossed the bridge, and quickened our pace to keep clear of a walking group following close behind.  On Valley Road, we side-stepped back alongside the river.  A man sat on the wall.  Unsure if he waited for us, he seemed oblivious.  We hurried past to see him stuff 3 chocolate bars in his gob; essential eating, judging by the size of him!  In the town centre, even the square was deserted.

Pixie pool 2

Ten days later, following a bout of sinusitis, we visited Nutclough.  Walking via The Buttress onto Hangingroyd Lane, we encountered very few people on quiet mid-week streets.  At the Little Park, we cautiously took narrow steps between houses to Foster Lane, tricky to navigate with all the parked cars.  Crossing at the lights, workmen occupied the entrance path to the clough.  We hung back for a small group coming the other way then ran through, holding our breath.

Green and yellow 1Gasping for air amidst the spring foliage, flowers shone in the brilliant sunlight, including impossibly yellow celandine and soft-toned early bluebells.  We jumped over the wall to the top of the swamp.  Our shadows lay atop the stagnant water of the old mill ponds and glinting fish swam just below the surface.

Returning via Birchcliffe, boxes dotted on street corners contained random items including child’s toys, rucksacks, kitchen gadgets and bric-a-brac.  Normally, I would have derided the practice as ‘middle class dumping’ but with charity shops shut, it seemed acceptable.  I availed myself of a couple of free books.

Blue shadows 2

Nutclough in Flood

Branch and foam 1

Storms and floods wreaked havoc last month.  We had hardly ventured out, not least because the situation raised my depression and anxiety levels.  However, on the last Sunday of February, we walked to Nutclough to witness the effects on one of our favourite locations.  As predicted,  we found a very watery scene.  Foamy torrents teemed from the weir.  The firepit had been inundated.  The stepping-stones had been swept away.

But strangely, the deluge actually made some areas more accessible.  I bravely followed Phil up the muddy slope that I had refused to scale on our last visit, grasping at flimsy branches to prevent slipping.  I clambered onto the fallen tree serving as a bridge at the higher end of the old mil ponds.  Initially I tried to slide across without standing.

Streaming 4However, this proved impractical.  Taking a deep breath, I stood upright and almost ran across the horizontal trunk.  I had almost made it when I was startled by loud whooping ( the sound of children on the top path), triggering panic.  Phil had stopped near the far end of the trunk to take photos.  I pleaded with him to move so I could get back on firmer ground.  It struck me that he had not commented on my courage in undertaking the crossing in the first place.

Below the waterfall, we discovered that due to scouring from the swelled waters, we could venture quite a bit further up than usual.  This is  normally only possible during a extended dry spells.  Small copper beech, the leaves long-dried since autumn, reached towards the glinting water.

Orange fungi 3

We precariously picked our way across a jumble of sticks and branches, adorned with unappetising fungi of ochre and black. The sunken bench was all but marooned on the flooded path.  Phil daringly leapt over the swollen stream to a patch of shingle, practically the only part of the ‘islands’ that were not submerged.  This was a step too far for me.  I pottered on the water’s edge to examine pot fragments.

We took the path up to Birchcliffe, and walked down, pausing to admire tiny flowering moss atop stone walls.  In the town centre, we found the streets and marketplace weirdly depopulated for a Sunday.  Making our way homeward, we bumped into a friend and chatted as we walked.  Her house being canal side, I was relieved to hear that she had escaped largely unscathed during the recent terrible weather.

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Tiny moss 2

Birchcliffe to Nutclough

Nutclough descent 3

A Heritage open day offered the rare opportunity of gaining access to parts of the Birchcliffe Centre normally out-of-bounds.  On the cusp of autumn but still summery, we avoided a steep climb in the heat by walking via Hangingroyd, Foster Lane and Eiffel Street.  On reaching Birchcliffe, we first investigated Chapel Avenue. Lines of washing extended across the small cul-de-sac.  A wall plaque on the side wall of the centre commemorated transfer of school activities to the chapel building in the 19th century.  A stone gateway at the end of the street led to a dark path. I wondered if it would descend to Nutclough.

Chapel Avenue 1Entering the building via the impressive front entrance complete with granite pillars, the walls of the reception area displayed newly printed photos by Alice Longstaff.  A fellow photographer responsible for the collection  explained the context of the never-before seen images and related stories of some of the people shown.  It felt a real privilege and I was fascinated to note the differences between Alice’s commercial work and shots taken for personal reasons or just for the hell of it.

On the corridor running the length of the centre a young woman accosted me, asking if I would like to join a pilates class.  “No thanks.  Tried it once. Hated it”.  I said, politely.  Right at the back, the old Baptists pool was specially uncovered for the open day.  A guide approached from the opposite direction with a family group.  We stopped to listen as she explained how it was used.  In the boardroom we took part in a consultation on the future of the centre (ran by a neighbour of ours as it turned out).  From the ground plans we learnt that the path at the back did indeed lead to Nutclough and the centre actually owned that section of the clough.

RestingIntrigued by the discovery of yet another path in the tiny but endlessly fascinating Nutclough, we had to explore. We returned to the end of Chapel Avenue.  Through the gateway, spindly silver birch strove for light. their trunks casting shadows like palimpsests criss-crossing the path.

Further down, leaf detritus blocked the weir.  Speckled wood butterfly flitted about on the islands while dayflies danced like fairies.  Mainly shady now in the late afternoon sun, we stepped over the shallow stream to the firepit, bathed in a patch of sunlight. Birch replaced by beech, nuts and shells littered the ground.  I had fun arranging them artily on the hewn benches.

We walked back in full sun down Keighley Road, in search of lunch.  The town centre was absolutely rammed as people spilled out of the pub on the square; a last gasp on the last proper end-of-summer day. We scanned cafes on Bridge Gate and at the other end of the square but all were full or about to shut.  We spotted a couple of friends and stopped to say hello.  They both had sorry tales of redundancy to tell and conversations went on quite a long time .  By then, Phil  appeared about to fall over for want of food.  I suggested we go home to eat.  He did not sound keen.  We started homeward past more populous pubs, until discovering  that Tibetan Kitchen was an oasis of calm.  Friendly staff guided us through the choice of mouth-watering dishes and served us chai while we waited for our food.  I heard a guy say the food was better than the Manchester branch.  I made a mental note to take a friend who knows the original place well so she can compare.

Salad 2 crop

It seemed as though winter arrived early in November.  Often elusive, the sun appeared intermittently on a late Wednesday.  Although lifting the temperature slightly, it was still cold.  We discussed a few ideas involving a short walk to somewhere offering lunch.  I suggested Heptonstall, Mytholmroyd and Stubbings.  As we stepped out, a chilly wind made it feel even colder.  We decided to stay near town with a short trip to Nutclough.

Taking the picturesque route  via The Buttress and Hangingroyd Lane to Foster Lane, we remarked it had been a long time since we climbed the ginnel up to Unity Street.  Always evocative of the Victorian industrial heydays, parked cars hampered efforts to capture the mood on camera.  We scanned the rooftops of the town centre below, noticing for the first time how many turrets there are.

Far out 2At the end of the street,  we crossed the main road and headed into Nutclough. In spite of recent assaults by wind, rain and frost, autumnal colours still bedecked the trees.  Fallen leaves scattered the paths.  Jade-like lichen covered large grey boulders, resembling textured wallpaper.  Glistening moss swathed drystone walls.  Speckled brown oak leaves contrasted with the bright emerald.

On reaching the ‘islands’ I noticed some of the stepping-stones had been washed away by heavy downpours.  Phil strode over the shimmying stream regardless but I deemed it impassable.  I casted around for replacement stones and threw a promising square lump into the water.  It settled in the right place but was insufficient to breach the gap.  I had no luck finding the right shape and size to improve the situation. He tried to help by lobbing a stones from the other side but it was useless.  I gave up and backtracked to the steps near the weir.  At the top, different varieties of moss adorned rocks.  Delicate red stalks supported their tiny blooms.

Moss close up 2

Finding ourselves on the path belonging to the Birchcliffe Centre, copper beech, dark green in September, now lived up to their name.  We took the straight-forward route down into town.  This time, we had lunch options aplenty, with only a smattering of punters in the fading light of mid-afternoon.  Rendezvous supplied us with tasty, warming and filling meals.  I nipped outside for a smoke.  A juvenile jackdaw perched on the back of the adjacent chair to mine. He kept looking towards the café window as though waiting for something.  When I returned back inside, one of the staff told her colleague “Scruffy’s here.” Consequently, a young woman appeared with a crust of bread.  “Ah!  I wondered why he was hanging around.” “Yes,” she told me, “he comes every day to be fed.” Crafty!

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View back 1

 

Early Spring in Common Bank and Nutclough

Common Bank Trees 3

The mild weather continued into late February.  On the last Sunday, we took one of our familiar circular walks, starting out along Oldgate, over the packhorse bridge, up Bridge Gate and across Commercial Street onto the historic cobbled route towards Birchcliffe.  At the top of the steps, we proceeded upwards on School Street to the start of Common Bank Wood.

Common Bank Bark Close Up 4We could hear a dog barking from within a house when a woman with a dog came past.  She thought we were spooked by her hound, put it on a lead and walked ahead which was considerate.  However, the dog kept stopping to sniff interesting things!  We made the most of being held back on the narrow path to examine the interesting shapes and shadows.

Sycamore bark reflected filtered sunlight.  Shadows of tree trunks fell on the ground still littered with autumnal leaves.  A flawless blue sky framed tightly-packed twisty branches.

At the top, the bridge over the stream looked more precarious than ever but fortunately the water level was low thus not difficult to navigate.  Up the path between the fields, a jay (aka pink crow!) flitted from tree top to post.  We crept along to try and capture it on camera but we had more luck with the magpies and jackdaws.

Blooming 6Opposite the residential area of Dod Naze, low-hanging catkins swayed gently in the breeze.  We paused briefly on the corner where a smattering of spring flowers grew behind the bench before turning up onto Rowland Lane.  Mist topping the uplands created eerie scenes with the church towers of Heptonstall emerging ethereally from a grey landscape.

At the end of the lane, we waited for a group of walkers accompanied by a dog with stick to pass by then curved round sharp left down Sandy Gate.  Buds adorned small trees and shrubs, some appearing like miniature flowers.

Budding 6Part-way down, Phil had problems with his camera and I had a bit of tummy ache so we took a breather on the low wall.  A passing driver shouted through his open window at us as he raced up the hill, which made me jump.  Both feeling irritated, I decided to remove myself from the situation and marched off.  I had calmed down somewhat as he caught up with me.

Among the low springtime growth, I easily located the path descending into Nutclough and spotted a dead shrew under a tree– fluffy on the top, mouldy on the bottom!  As we crossed the stone bridge, fading afternoon sun glinted on the water’s surface making silvery patterns. The air became noticeably cooler as we followed the well-trodden route through the clough. Feeling disinclined to traverse to the ‘islands’, we rested instead on the top bench before a brisk walk homewards via Keighley Road.  Removing my boots to rest on the sofa, I reflected that I did not feel as tired as I would have a few weeks ago.  Although not a massive walk, it would usually be more than enough for me.

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Misty Field 2

 

Freaky Nutclough

Bright trees 1

Following a week in bed with sinusitis, we managed one more walk before the end of October.  As it was the day the clocks reverted to GMT and as usual, we did not leave the house until mid-afternoon, we agreed on a short jaunt to Nutclough.  We used the shortcut to the buttress and down towards town.  Discordant music could be heard, prompting speculation as to what event might be occurring but concluded it might just be a busker.  We walked the familiar route via Hangingroyd road, up the steps opposite the Little Park onto Foster Lane, turned right and crossed Keighley Road into Nutclough Wood.  Beautiful colours greeted us immediately; many trees still sported green leaves while browns and oranges littered the path.

Evil pixie 2Finding the large iron gate padlocked, we entered via side gate.  It squeaked ominously as I lifted the latch and went through.  I joked about recording the sound to scare young children on Halloween!  The freaky theme continued as Phil cavorted like an evil pixie – obviously influenced by the film we’d watched the night before featuring fantastically crap demons.i

We continued up leaf-strewn steps and through the gap onto the edge of ‘the swamp’.  Braving snagging brambles and biting insects, I ventured further towards the edge than ever before.

Colourful reflections 6The colours reflected in the water were stunning!  A cyan sky provided a backdrop for dark horizontal shadows of tree trunks.  Bright green ferns were reflected beneath curled-up leaves floating gently on the surface.  Ripples produced surreal effects with undulations of red and yellow.  On returning to the gap in the wall I spotted a small swarm of flies glinting in the sunlight; they gave the impression of fairies dancing in a magical woodland.

Continuing down towards the stream, a couple with two small boys strolled around ‘the island’.  The man chatted to us about the local environment and good weather, making comparisons with his home county of Kent.  The elder of the two boys asked Phil if he could use his camera.  Phil understandably said no and I added that he probably wouldn’t even be able to lift it.  In spite of the shallow water, I cautiously used the stepping stones to cross.

Flourish of fungiAt the top end of the island, we clambered over the felled branches.  More cutting had occurred – evidenced by sawdust on the ground – and sadly obliterated the black mushrooms.    However, a flourish of pale pink fungi grew in its stead.  Due to the low water level, the waterfall had become a tinkling trickle.  Above us, the sun glinted on the uppermost leaves of tall beeches, quietly rustling in the softest of breezes.

We rested briefly on the now even more sunken bench, somewhat bemused by the elder boy bashing everything in sight with a stick.  I remarked that he obviously didn’t get out in the countryside much (urban kids being well known for a fear of the great outdoors!)

Proceeding to the other end of the swamp, my attempts to capture a group of paddling ducks on camera were distinctly blurry.  We turned sharp left to climb the steep path up to the treetops looking down on the kaleidoscope of colours.  Behind the terrace of houses, we nosed around and discovered another path leading back down to the clough.   Phil considered it but I felt it would be too much for me.  After my latest illness, I had just wanted an hour or two of sun and exercise which I had achieved.  Instead, we carried on up to Sandy Gate and down to Birchcliffe.

Picturesque chair 1Taking the steep buttress-like ginnel, tall houses framed a narrow slither of sky in front of us was.  Halfway down, a picturesque chair had been left outside a garden gate, while at the bottom., lichen and small ferns created textured wallpaper against grey stone.  On reaching School Street, we proceeded onto Bridge Gate, noting that Calan’s did not seem popular.

Along Market street, we found amusement in a horrifying display of pumpkins accompanied by a terrible painting of Frida Kahlo – which someone obviously considered an appropriate homage to the late artist – probably the freakiest thing we had seen all day!

Pumpkin helli The excellent Basque film, ‘Errementari’ (the Blacksmith and the Devil)

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Waterworld

Pool reflections 1

A late May Sunday, we forced ourselves out of the house despite feeling tired and lazy and initially walked to the Sunday market.  Phil nipped in the newsagents while I looked at a few new stalls along the roadside.

Purple bloom with bee 2He came over and was taken by the posh pie stall with a massive queue of punters being fleeced (which later prompted us to consider ideas for selling stuff to idiots).  I said he would be better off going to the bakers, where we bought pastries at a third of the price.  We then walked up to Commercial Street and admired structured flower beds and bees.

Continuing up Keighley Road and into Nutclough, we noted several changes since our last visit in January (I don’t remember ever visiting in May before; we usually go further on our walks at this time of year).

Iron gate

 

A profusion of greenery created a picturesque frame for the iron gate.  Through the gate, we took the lower path and up steps overgrown with more greenery and yellow flowers.

Coming back up, bluebells edged the path and populated an area above a wall opposite, creating a forest amongst the ferns.

 

We proceeded down to the water where newly placed stones made it a lot easier to cross to the ‘island’.  Amongst the waterlogged ground we found more grasses and flowers.  A woman with a small dog came to talk to us and suggested going further up the clough.  I thanked her and said we did know the area.

We wandered around a while then sat on the sunken bench to eat our pies and enjoy the reflections of sky and branches in the water.  The scene was marred somewhat by a man with three kids playing at the other side of the stream, as he allowed a small boy pee in plain sight – not something you want to see when you’re eating your lunch!

White and yellow with tiny mothA more pleasant distraction was found in a moth that resembled a leaf.  As it settled on a nearby plant, we vied with each other for the best spot to get a close-up shot.  My efforts were appalling but earlier I had captured a tiny moth among a clump of small white flowers.

We then walked towards the weir and turned sharp left to take the path up, admiring the large sycamore as we reached the treetops.

On arriving at the row of houses on Sandy Gate, we walked back along the road for a short time before taking a shortcut down a path and through the car park of the Birchcliffe Centre.

Back in town, we crossed the busy pedestrian area and went down by the river to look at crows and pigeons behaving strangely in the late afternoon sun.

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Bluebell forest

Pootling Around Nutclough Woods

Snowy Swamp 3Nearby Nutclough woods is the perfect place for a pootle. Behind what was once Nutclough Mill on Keighley Road, lies a mini reminder of our industrial past. Now, the remnants of that Victorian legacy, including a variety of trees, mill race and ponds (maintained by the ‘Friends of Nutclough Woods’ i) are worth a visit at any time of year.

In autumn 2012, we spent a couple of enjoyable hours wandering around the post-flood altered landscape. We discovered several bits of pottery that had been washed down from the hills.

I doubt everyone would agree, but we decided it looked better as a result. A lot of silt had disappeared from the old mill ponds although that meant the ducks had scarpered, probably due to a lack of food.

Nutclough uphill 2aDuring the dry summer of 2013, it was easy to navigate the low waters of the beck via conveniently-placed stepping stones and explore the small islands.

A variety of wild flowers and a smattering of archaeology could be found. On one visit, my friend found a very interesting hook in the river.

After exploring, we often carry on up the hill to Old Town via a number of routes. Following the course of the beck, the path may be too boggy to navigate at any time of year, but especially in winter.

Last summer however, the problem was quite the reverse: it was so dusty and dry that it had become dangerous in a different way. As I found out to my cost, skidding on a pebble and landing on my arse.

A drier route involves a steep climb across a field. A scattering of meadow flowers, the views across the valley and a lack of mud, make this an attractive alternative.

Kestrel in flight 1On a recent visit to admire the snowy woodland scenes, I chickened out of crossing the fast-flowing water via the stepping stones. Instead, we crossed via a small bridge from where we climbed a steep path. This led through a private garden and out onto Sandy Gate.

 

Walking along the road, we paused to watch a kestrel hovering above. I spotted a path going down on the right. I thought it might go back into Nutclough Woods but disappointingly, it skirted the Birchcliffe Centre with cheeky signs telling us which way to walk!

Flooded Islands 1After the Boxing Day floods of 2015, the islands had got even smaller! I refused to even try fording the streams and took the top path to the stone bridge.

We crossed to the path on the other side. Missing the turning up to Sandy gate, Phil started going towards the white house where the path had turned into a muddy stream. I refused to follow him and started heading back until I spotted the path I was looking for above and found a way up to it. I

had planned to walk further but I felt exhausted and stressed. I sat on a wall to rest.

On the way back down, we noticed odd bits of Birchcliffe including a private burial ground which we explored despite the ‘no admittance’ signs.

Private burial ground 1

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