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Mythical Mytholmroyd

Scout View Pano

A couple of summers ago, we had attempted a walk to Scout Rock.  As the houses petered out on Scout Road, fencing blocked our route, due to post-flooding work.  A local informed us that it was due to re-open in October.

Last Sunday, I realised we had not yet returned to the area and suggested an outing.  We set off along the Rochdale Canal, dodging cyclist without bells, we looked across the water where the ever-increasing number of barges displayed photogenic washing lines.  Reflections made curvy patterns in the water and a perfect circle of the tunnel leading under the main road.

Lock 3We tarried a little at lock number 7, where strips on the walkway over the lock created an optical illusion. Although straight, it appeared to slope, whichever side I viewed it from.

We left the towpath at Westfield Terrace.  On Burnley Road, ongoing work on flood defences had progressed somewhat since I last visited on foot.

Mysterious large blocks lined the road.  The bridge over the River Calder had been transformed.  Balustrades and steps allowed us to peek through and over toughened glass.  Below, an expanse of sand prompted Phil to remark that the beach was coming on nicely.  I said there would be umbrellas and sunbeds on it soon!

Centre 1We walked up to Mytholmroyd village centre, noting a few changes in shop use and signage.  I pointed out the new bridge over Elphin Brook behind the Shoulder of Mutton.  When I had visited with Marisa in February, arty shadows danced on the yellow stonework.  Alas, the overcast conditions did not allow for the same effect this time.

Continuing to the corner, we contemplated Mytholmroyd Farm and wondered how a road leading to a business park could be private.  Climbing up Scout Road, Phil spotted numerous small berries on the trees. Sampling one, he declared it tasted like a cherry so of course, I followed suit.  As I bit through the dark red skin, I found fuzzy green pith beneath and my mouth immediately became numb!

Scout Road 6The road steepened and I hoped it would not be long before we could turn off into Scout Wood.  However, we found the footpath still shut.  It seemed unlikely that it would be open anytime soon.  A plethora of ‘Private’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs on the sturdy metal gates, not to mention an electric fence surrounding the wood beyond, made it clear that we were not welcome.

We rested on a wall and ate real cherries that I had with me, to take away the taste of the fake ones.  Phil checked google maps which showed another path further up.  Already flagging from the climb and realising it would lead onto the ridge and then to Cragg Vale, I said it would be too much for me.  Instead, we contented ourselves with gazing at the wood from afar, noting the large population of oak trees, and taking in different views of the valley below.

Heading back down, we turned left at the junction, across the green triangle.  Although I had not walked this way back from the village, my instinct told me to cross Cragg Road to the next bridge over the brook.  As we took a sharp left onto Nest Lane, I picked a few overhanging raspberries, certain they were safe.

Roger GateAfter the housing estate, we made a slight detour at ‘Roger Gate’.  Signed Stubb, I thought it might take us to Stubb Clough.  But on reaching the hamlet I realised we’d done the same thing once before, when we had ended up crossing a railway bridge and continuing to Hawksclough (the opposite direction to our destination).  We returned to the corner and ascended the picturesque Park Lane.

Unclipped hedges encroached onto tarmac.  Makeshift signs warned off HGVs.  Tall foxgloves stretched into the grey sky.  Large cows grazed in the field populated by lambs last spring.  A loud hissing noise gave me a bit of a fright until I realised it was a cow farting!  I was unable to share my amusement with Phil as he raced ahead of me: “I’m not stopping near them beasts!”

At Wood Hey, unusual large flowers provided a splash of yellow amongst the greenery.  We continued onto Wood Top for the quickest way back down to the towpath at Mayroyd.  We both felt knackered by then and rested briefly on a low wall.  We discussed why it was often problematic getting to ‘Mythical Mytholmroyd’ -like Brigadoon!  Nearer home, Will Kaufman who said hello as he walked by.  I joked he recognised us as there were so few people at the’ Lunchtime Live’ gig he had played the day before!

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Circle

 

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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

 

Cragg Vale Tales

 

cragg vale 2

Since we moved to this part of the world, we have only visited Cragg Vale three times.  In 2015, we met our friends M&M at the Hinchcliffe Arms for a birthday lunch.  With time to kill before they arrived, we explored the churchyard backlit by the watery yellow winter sun. Amongst the jumble of rusting vehicles in the adjacent junkyard, a collection of discarded Christmas paraphernalia added pathos to the scene.

cragg vale - merry christmasThe following year, I had a terrible summer involving the loss of a brother.  Over the August bank Holiday weekend, I struggled with deep depression but forced myself to get out of the house.  We heard of a food and drink festival in Cragg Vale, and rode the bus up.  A few stalls inhabited the pub car park.  It did not take long to exhaust their offerings, although we discovered the best sausages ever!

We parked ourselves outside the Hinchcliffe to eat them hot with a pint of beer.  We then noticed that the superbly named church of St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness was open to visitors.  Exploring the interior we noted that this gem, built in 1815 amongst the textile mills, is now badly in need of restoration.  Dedicated volunteers endeavour to keep it going.

On the 2nd of January this year, M&M planned a traditional birthday walk to Cragg Vale. Having just fought off yet another dose of sinusitis, I did not feel strong enough to accompany them and instead, we arranged to meet them there for lunch.  It took a lot of effort to be up and ready to leave the house on time to catch the bus at 12.38.  Travelling up the steep incline of Cragg Road, I hoped we would know where to alight, when I spotted the sign pointing down to the Hinchcliffe Arms.

lichen and moss 4A short upward walk took us to the junction of Church Bank Lane.  With time to spare, we dallied to look down on the compact village centre nestled in a dip – consisting mainly of a couple of farms, a church and a pub.  Cushiony greens adorned stone walls edging the lane all the way down to the brook. I had never seen so many different lichens and moss in one place.

Finding the church locked, we contented ourselves with circumnavigating the churchyard and the junkyard where the accumulated old tractors and vans still stood rusting.  The pile of Christmas decorations were sadly absent.  Arriving at the Hinchliffe Arms, a sign in the window informed declared ‘no food available’.

As we hung around near the door, staff emerged on a break and apologised for the kitchen closure (for a deep clean during which the chef was taking a break).  I mentioned that I had seen him featured on ‘Back in Time for Tea’ serving up Yorkshire Goujons, which led to reminiscing about eating tripe and offal as kids.  They invited us in for a cuppa by the fireside.  Preferring to await M&M outside, we perused planters at the car park entrance where melting ice left structural drops atop oval leaves.

When our friends appeared at the end of their walk over the tops, we entered the bar to spend an hour supping beer, chatting and exchanging amusing anecdotes.  We then walked past the junkyard, turned left, immediately right and through a gate onto a path alongside the brook.  Worn round cobbles marked the route as we past weirs and twisty trees.  Marisa spotted a dipper but as usual, it flitted about too fast to be caught on camera.

mill ponds 2We passed through a second gate and soon after, ascended steps amongst mill ponds.  Clumps of bright green algae dotted the surface.  Wintery black trees reflected into the depths.  As we climbed back up, we espied crumbling walls marking the site of an old paper mill, making a mental note to come back and explore in summer.

Ascending yet more steps we came to a gap in the wall and headed up to the road.  Just before we reached the top, I was amused by a sign consisting of an angry-looking black cat in a red triangle.  ‘Watch Out’ was written in large letters underneath.  We emerged onto Cragg Road opposite the Robin Hood Inn which was of course shut.  I had mentioned that according to google, there would not be a bus until after 4 o’clock.

The timetable at the nearby bus stop confirmed this. There was no option but to continue walking down to Mytholmroyd.

As we neared the end of the long road, we spotted a mutual friend coming towards us and stopped to exchange new year greetings.  One of the two children accompanying him jabbered onto me in an incomprehensible manner.  I nodded and smiled.  We entered the Shoulder of Mutton (now recently fully re-opened by a celebrity comic) but as predicted, they stopped serving food at 3 p.m.; we had missed it by 10 minutes!  Luckily, as we continued down to Burnley Road we spotted a bus and caught it just in time.  Back in Hebden, we went to The Oldgate and said hello to a group of friends.  Table and drinks secured, we were able to order food at last – three hours later than planned!  After eating, I started falling asleep so said goodbye and returned home before fatigue set in.

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weir 3

 

Woodland Mist

Mistical 1

As the mild weather continued well into November, we enjoyed a mid-week stroll.  We planned to catch a bus up to Colden for lunch at May’s but missed one by minutes.  With a short window of afternoon sun, we bought pasties from the local bakers and strode rapidly towards town.  I remarked we were going at a fair lick considering we had no aim in mind.  I suggested going to Hareshaw Wood and we made our way up to Salem Fields.  After crossing Foster Mill Bridge, we climbed the large cobbled steps and paused by the majestic sycamore to contemplate the glorious sunny scene.

Majestic 2A friend descended the steps towards us and stopped for a chat.  She asked if we were going to Heptonstall.  I replied that we had no definite plans but “’All roads lead to Heptonstall’ (as it says in my book)”.

She laughed, and invited us to call in for a cuppa next time we ended a walk there.

We turned right at the top to pass through Hollins.  A rustling sound near my feet did not alarm me at first, assuming it was my boots treading fallen leaves. However, the noise did not match my pace.  I looked down to find a daft dog sniffing at my heels, threatening to jump onto me.  The owner seemed oblivious: strolling some paces back, busy gassing on her phone.  I shouted repeatedly at the mutt until the owner overheard and called the animal off.

Leaves with drops

We chose to go upwards through the wood which we rarely do.  Interesting colours strew the path, with lichens and fungi dotted amongst the autumn foliage, some sprinkled with perfectly round dewdrops.

At the top, we crossed Lee Wood Road and looked for the gap on the other side.  Having thought we had spotted it, we made our way up worn shallow steps barely discernible beneath a thick carpet of brown leaves, indicating an ancient route.  We crossed the road to continue, where more worn steps and a crumbling waymarker post gave further clues to its history.  Hesitating briefly as it was not Tinker Bank Lane as we had expected, we reasoned that it must be nearby.

Tiny mushroomsI found the last part of steep climb very hard work.  We caught our breath near the top where a fowl enclosure stood to our right.  Disgruntled geese flapped their wings, perturbed by our presence.  Tiny orange mushrooms grew in a clump from a hollow in a tree.  A wooden signpost gave directions to various locales from which I guessed we had somehow come up a parallel path to Tinker Bank Lane.  This assumption was confirmed as we made the last bit of the climb alongside the octagonal chapel.

Yellow sign

Now in Heptonstall (which, as I pointed out to our friend earlier, was inevitable), we continued along Northfield.

An almost blank yellow sign amused us with only the word ‘Please’ discernible, albeit faded.  We guessed it had once warned against parking before the letters had peeled off.

Over in the churchyard we sought a patch of sunlight to sit in and settled on the church steps facing south.  After eating my pasty, I foraged for interesting leaves that had collected round the Victorian gravestones.

With only an hour till dusk, we made a quick return via Eaves Wood.  At ‘photographer’s corner’, the Stoodley Pike monument and wind turbines rose from a blanket of grey, topped by artily-arranged lenticular clouds.  We joked about the ‘mistical valley’ (which became the subject for the next Monday Morning haigai.  Descending the steps at Hell Hole Rocks, a man waited at the bottom and asked us if he was on the right track for Heptonstall.  I confirmed that he was.  Further down, we watched squirrels scampering amidst the tree branches, gathering nuts.  My wildlife photography proved as pathetic as ever!  Back home, I felt pleased that we had got out for some fresh air and exercise, in spite of my extreme tiredness and achy legs necessitating a lie down.

Squirrel 2

Note:

i. https://mondaymorninghaiga.wordpress.com/2018/11/19/mistical-valley/

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Nutclough in May

Clinging Bluebells 1

A glorious second week in May was marred somewhat with recurring bouts of sinusitis and an altercation with a neighbour, raising my anxiety and stress levels.  Following an exhausting Saturday afternoon hacking shrubs and clearing up outside, we were determined to have some R&R on Sunday. I suggested a short walk as I was still not strong enough to go far.  We walked to the very end of the street, noting lots of hedgerow flowers, then round and down to the buttress.

Bluebells and leavesAt the bottom, we took Hangingroyd Lane to climb the steps opposite the little park and along Unity Street into Nutclough.

The stream was very low, with additional crossing points to the islands.  I was able to get much closer to the small waterfall than usual and marvelled at how much difference a short dry spell could make.

We spent a considerable time surrounded by the beautiful colours. Trees displayed an array of greens; bluebells topped walls and ridges; smatterings of yellow punctuated the palette.

The water was so blue and the reflections of trees so still that it looked like the sky.  The area became busy we families as we relaxed on the bench.

Tree reflections 7We escaped up to the top path and walked along to the stone bridge, where we debated which route to take.  We opted for the second path on the left, up towards the meadows.

A dinky craggy path led between small trees and bushes which I deduced had been planted since we last came this way.  At the top, two guys with dogs sat next to a steep stone stile.

On crossing, one of the dogs started following and pestering us.  We started up the grass path bisecting the flower meadow, resplendent with dandelions as a precursor to summertime blooms.  Put off by wandering cows, we backed down and searched for another route avoiding the canines but failed. Clambering back over the stile, being pestered again, we started to follow the line of the wall.  It became very tussocky and the darn dog followed us!  Defeated, we made our way back to the proper path.   I picked up the pace as we descended.  Phil called me to wait for him (makes a change).

Top field 1

I hadn’t realised, but I must have taken a right-hand fork somewhere and emerged at the bottom of the cobbled lane leading up to Hurst Road.  We jumped down a bit of a drop where there might have been steps once.  A smaller, unexplored path opposite looked enticing and we decided to be adventurous and follow it, only to soon emerge onto the original top path!  Phil thought it was hilarious.

We headed towards the main entrance when I suggested that as it was a day for exploring new paths, we should try the small flight of stone steps leading further up.   We found ourselves in a small wooded area, carpeted with bluebells and garlic flowers.

Garlic flowers 1Continuing up to a gate, a passive/aggressive notice on the other side declared it part of a private garden – it’s aright for some!  We emerged onto a long driveway, curving round yet more bluebell woods.  At the bottom, the stone gatepost displayed the name ‘Arnsbrae’.  How many times had we passed that without noticing it? We walked down Keighley Road and into town.

In search of a refreshing pop, the cafes in the square were packed and the nearby shop shut.  We found spaces at Rendezvous on Bridge Gate.  Phil secured an outside table while I went in for drinks.  Then he decided he was hungry.  We were given both daytime and evening menus.  I settled on a wrap when we were informed that the daytime menu had just become unavailable.  We shared a hot meze off the evening menu – very tasty albeit rather more food than we had intended.

Bluebells and LadybirdExactly a year on, I could not resist the allure of Nutclough in May.  There is something almost magical about the place, with bluebells on top of the wall seemingly clinging to a cliff, the almost- surreal greenery and vibrant reflections in the water.  Copper butterflies flitted among the flowers while  ladybirds grazed on bramble leaves.

 

Yet more new steppingstones had been installed onto the island and a new stream had appeared, leading from the diminutive waterfalls.  We settled on the sunken bench for refreshments when a family headed our way.  As they had a dog, I thought better of exposing our sausages rolls (albeit veggie ones!) Instead, we walked towards the weir and up the ‘Crow steps’ into the treetops.

Fearney StileMy bad ankle gave me severe grief on the climb coupled with pain in my opposite leg but I soldiered on.  Reaching the row of houses at the top, we tried to find a different route back down to the clough and ended up in a posh garden.  A woman on the other side of a gate called to us, saying we could go through.  As we did so, she asked: “how are you?” I didn’t recognise her but later realised she was a former neighbour).  She was looking for a cat which I spotted a bit further down.  She thanked us and we walked alongside the white house, down to the stone bridge, always littered with beech leaves.  We crossed to head up the track to Hirst Road.  I remembered the first path up to Fearney Field being unpleasant, and continued to the next one, across the stile.

Having been spooked last year by cows, Phil went ahead to check the coast was clear.  Only a docile rabbit grazed.  We sat on the wall and took our time enjoying our snacks in the warm sunshine. Aeroplanes headed straight up in a blue sky, looking as if they were heading for the half moon.  Returning via Joan Wood, my Achilles heel pain flared up again on the brief but tricky descent.  Back in town, the place heaved making us disinclined to linger.

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Moon and Rocket

Springing up in Colden Clough

 

Twin trees 5

Following a week and a half of being bedridden with sinusitis, I recovered somewhat to enjoy the mini heatwave in mid-April.  We made the most of it with our first spring outing to Colden Clough, first visiting the healthy bakers for veggie pasties and posh pop.  We walked up the main road towards Mytholm, navigating the extensive gas roadworks.  We turned right at Church Lane and again at the school, to take the shortcut across the playground and up a short flight of steps (looking very dark and broody).

Mystery ball

On the track, we competed with each other to take the best possible photos of tiny things such as buds and lichen, which we continued throughout the walk.   I think he won the contest but I spotted the most interesting mystery feature; a round brown ball in a small bush.

Approaching Lumb mill, Phil decided to descend down to the stream and try and go under the low bridge.  I waited for him near my favourite tree, enjoying its company as I would an old friend.

He appeared quite a few minutes later having given up the quest – a sudden drop where the water became eight feet deep had put him off.  We rested awhile before climbing up to the garlic fields.

Although still not fully grown as spring is so late this year, we filled a couple of small carrier bags.  It had taken an inordinate length of time to get this far, which I put down to a combination of recent illness, a lack of uphill walking and lots of stops to admire the new growth.  We installed ourselves on the nearby flat rock to recover, ate our pasties and whittled sticks on the quartz granite.  I joked that we should keep them to use for calligraphy.

Cautious sign 1

Both still tired after all the climbing, we considered turning round until I remembered that the clapper bridge had been damaged during the infamous ‘beast from the east’ storm.  We made the effort to go the short remaining distance to Hebble Hole, noting ‘danger signs en route’ (obviously installed when the authorities came to survey the rights of way.

On reaching the bridge we saw immediately that one of the four pieces of stone forming the walkway had collapsed in the river, split in two.  The tree that had crashed onto it causing the break stood on the nearby bank, also injured.  Wooden planks and metal rails had been put up so it could still be used.  We crossed to the other side for all-round views.

Green HawthornComing back, we noticed a few bluebells in flower as we climbed up to the top causeway, enjoying being level with the tree tops.

Pussy willows and catkins surrounded us, dangling from branches and littering the causey stones.  Bright green hawthorn sprigs adorned the dry stone wall.  Phil yet again tried to persuade me there were tasty but I maintained they tasted of ‘leaf’.

We descended to arrive back in the garlic fields and took the quickest way back.

He suggested a drink in the Fox and Goose.  However, I felt exhausted and as we past the pub, I spotted a group of rowdy young men in the beer garden so that clinched it – no chance of a quiet pint!

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Ruination 4

 

Wood Hey to Hawksclough

Black bird

A fine and dry Sunday in early April, we remarked on the contrast with the snow and rain of the previous Easter weekend.

Cherry blossom 3We strolled along the towpath of the Rochdale Canal where daffodils created pretty reflections in the still water.  We entered the bustling Calder Holmes Park.

Dogs chased balls; kids chased around on scooters; footballers played; skateboarders wheeled up and down the slopes, listening to rap. (Just like being in ‘Da ‘Hood’!)

Taking the path alongside the river, elderly men sat contentedly on benches as we admired blossom and tree bark.  At the station, we ascended Wood Top Road, where more photogenic bark and bright green lichen punctuated the sloping woodland.

Lamb close upAs we climbed we detected bleating.  New lambs gambolled cutely in the adjoining field, occasionally returning to their mothers.  Near the fence, a set of twins nibbled twigs. One of the pair looked straight at me for a close-up shot.

We headed towards Stubb Clough before I realised it would be very muddy and double-backed through Wood Hey Farm and upwards to the corner of Spencer Lane.

Turning left along Wood Hey Lane and onto Park Lane, we enjoyed idyllic country scenes until we reached the edge of the Nest Estate.

Stubb FieldI wondered if there was a shortcut rather than going all the way into Mytholmroyd.  The amusingly titled ‘Roger Gate’ sported a sign to ‘Stubb’.  We followed, down a beautifully maintained lane.  A blackbird conveniently perched in a tree for more animal shots.  Stubb Field recreation ground contained more than its fair share of warning signs alongside an empty noticeboard.

At the end of the lane, the very large ‘Stubb House’ faced us.  From a choice of two routes we followed arrows pointing to a tiny gap in a stone wall.  Down a narrow path edged with hedges, to steps onto a green railway bridge, I hovered at the top with a touch of vertigo.

On the other side of the tracks, we continued till we could see the road, and considered the options.  Eschewing the route which would take us past the scrap yard, we turned left to a picturesque stone bridge.

Hawksclough bridge 2Complete with old stone gate posts, we imagined horses and carriages trotting along.  A small terrace of old houses on the main road was labelled ‘Hawksclough’.  I marvelled at how many times we must have seen this without actually noticing it.  Across the road, I briefly examined The Square, noting it looked just as old.

We cut across grass to get back onto the canal and rested at lock 7 where Canada Geese paddled in the fast overflow.  We returned home via the towpath, remarking on how long we’d been out without going very far.  But we had enjoyed discovering more about this little area between Hebden and Mytholmroyd.i

Note

i See:  https://hepdenerose.wordpress.com/tag/wood-hey-circular/

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Lock no seven 2