Tag Archives: Cuckoo Steps

A Mystery Solved? (Heptonstall and Northwell Lane)

Northwell Panorama

In the heat of July, Marisa and I took the bus up to Heptonstall for lunch at The Towngate Tearooms.  We discussed options for walking back to Hebden and I asked her to confirm for me which path was Tinker Bank Lane and see if I could determine if there was another path between that and Northwell Lane.

FleecedShe led me through the old co-op yard into a carpark and up a grassy path parallel to Northgate.  I noted a washing line being used to hang sheep fleeces and the pinfold.  Now a picnic area, this little enclave was once used communally to house livestock.  At the end of the path we turned immediately right, onto Tinker Bank Lane.   With no apparent right of way ahead of us, I still wondered if I had imagined the middle path and resolved to clear up the mystery at some future date.  We descended to Draper Lane and crossed into the wood, through Hollins and into town.

The days leading up to the autumn equinox brought a resurgence of summer.  Still tired from an outing earlier in the week, I consented to a short hike through Eaves Wood.  We walked along the ridge slowly, pausing to examine details close up.  Tall grassed framed the hamlet below.  Fat spiders lay in wait on delicate webs.  Baby oak trees sprouted from the ground, their tiny red leaves bright amidst the grass.

At Hell Hole Rock, we waited as a dorky-looking couple descended the steep stone staircase, carrying mattresses on their backs.  I joked they planned on camping but obviously they were climbers.  Steps clear,  we went up to ‘photographer’s corner’ and clambered onto the dodgy ledge overlooking the rock, the climbing couple hampering attempts to take good shots.

Lit ruin 1Back on the proper path, we turned right to Southfield.  Loud bellringing emanated from the church where the afternoon sun glinted yellow on the stonework.  We had the ruin to ourselves for a spell, enjoying seeing it in a different light, until a few other walkers appeared.  A woman with young boy in tow enquired as to the location of ‘King David’s’ grave (aka David Hartley of the Cragg Vale coiners).  She was horrified that we had never made a point of seeking it out.  Phil commented it made a change from women asking about Sylvia Plath’s resting place.  I suggested she may well end up there but was probably trying to make the visit more engaging for her son.

Normally we would tarry awhile in  the churchyard but the persistent bell-ringing played havoc with my tinnitus.  We retreated onto West Laithe and walked down the road to a snicket into the old co-op yard.  Dismayed at the apparent lack of maintenance , I joked  they should get the stocks back out.  A man stood in front of the adjacent garage.  Imposingly large, with a bushy beard and arms crossed, he regarded us suspiciously. Unperturbed, I bade him a cheery “hello!”.  He reluctantly returned the greeting.  At a side door, an even surlier-looking fellow eyed us warily.

Tinker Bank chickensWe stifled sniggers as we continued up the small path to the pinfold which I had wanted to explore since discovering in July.  Through the small square doorway, worn picnic tables inhabited an oasis of dappled shade.  We agreed it was a good spot for a rest although we ended up covered in particles raining down on us from the nearby trees.  As we chatted, I expressed amazement that in spite of  gentrification,  real yokels still existed in little enclaves.  Phil said he was not in the least bit surprised.  He regaled me with tales of Dick the ‘beech nut god’ and the ‘bramble spirit’, claiming people round here still believed in these pagan deities.

We continued to Tinker Bank Lane, being chased by chickens as we went back up a short way onto Northgate and turned right to the top of Northwell Lane.  We took in the views and my eyes were drawn to the private garden immediately below us.  A distinctly wide section with stone walls on either side, seemed to solve the mystery of the middle path; seemingly once a lane joining Tinker Bank with Northwell but now repurposed.

Northwell HouseBrightness at the top of the lane gave way dramatically to darkness as we walked down Northwell to Draper Lane.  Crossing, we followed the footpath towards Lee Wood, even darker and decidedly cool.  I picked up the pace as we headed down to a junction.  Of three routes, we chose one leading to Hebden Water in the hope of returning to warmth.  Snaking round bends, we noted the horsey holiday farm had become even bigger, though the military vehicles we had spotted a couple of years ago were no longer in evidence

On the riverside, a woman walking purposefully ahead f us and game of croquet underway at the bowling club were the only signs of life.  Disappointingly still in shade, we finally regained sunlight on Valley Road.  We dawdled into town and considered staying out for a pint to make the most of it.  Inevitably though, hordes of after-work drinkers had descended.  With barely a scrap of outdoor seating to be had. We went for coffee instead.

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Pinfold 2

Snow Wonders (Eaves Wood and Heptonstall)

Pike and spikes 2

The penultimate day of January, overnight sub-zero temperatures preserved the snowfall, to be followed by a beautiful sunny day.  We left home early afternoon, noting that it did not feel as bitingly cold outdoors as the snowy scenes and internal temperature suggested.  We climbed the Cuckoo steps, pausing to crane our necks towards the sound of tits twittering in stick-like branches above us.  This also allowed me to catch my breath.  On Heptonstall Road, roadworks blocked the pavement so we crossed over straight away and headed left up the path.

Ice lumps 1Initially, the path was sheltered by trees and remained snow-free.  At the top of the ridge, lumps of ice clung to sprouting trees growing precariously at the cliff edge.  White blankets weighed down heather bushes.  Snow melted slowly from the branches.  Water droplets created soft dripping sounds.

 

Further up, two dogs bounded towards us, then turned and ran the other way.  I could hear voices slightly further up and supposing they accompanied the hounds, suggested waiting for them to go by.  However, when a group of hippies appeared with no dogs, I was rather puzzled.  We proceeded warily wondering if the dogs might re-appear but thankfully, they did not.

Hell Hole in snow 1At Hell Hole Rocks, the pristine snow lay deep and squeaky underfoot.  Lumps on nearby trees resembled Japanese blossom.  From above, layers of white contrasted starkly with the dark rock.  We climbed the narrow steps, taking care to avoid muddy icy patches and stood at the top awhile for archetypal views across the valley.  Phil started walking North on the path, headed for the dank part of the wood.  I refused to follow him in such wintry conditions. Instead, we took the path in the opposite direction, through a gate and along the top of the quarry.

Breath-taking scenes arrested us.  Blue mist topped Snow-covered hills towards Lancashire in the west. Stoodley Pike appeared ethereal in the distance.  Plants punctuated the cliff edge, their spike-like stalks adorned with snow crystals forming needle-like blooms.

We followed the path round, through a second gate marking the start of the newly-planted ‘wood’.  Here too, snow studded the hedgerows where glacial thawing made wondrous shapes beneath  a perfect deep blue sky.  At the other end of the field, we noticed that the snowline stopped abruptly to the east with green fields visible below the white.

Starling roost 1On Southfield, jackdaws gathered atop trees, while two magpies looked totally unflustered at being outnumbered.  At the churchyard, a flock of starlings replaced the crows. They had descended from their usual roost in the clock tower onto trees by the outer wall.  Their loud chattering sounded musical; almost choral – I had never heard anything like it!

A pair of staffies made a big fuss, to be berated by the woman walking them.  We waited patiently until they calmed down before continuing into the churchyard.  Inevitably, the ruin looked delightful in the snow.

All the way up, I had been attempting to keep my boots and jeans snow-free.  I tried to shake some off when I noticed a massive lump on the bottom of my hem.  Phil was a little way ahead of me and I called after him to stop so I could tackle it.  Eventually, he came to look, declared “it’s frozen solid” and promptly walked off.  I became annoyed but eventually managed to break the ice into smaller lumps and prise them off, to be left with a big rip in the hem and freezing cold hands.

Desperate for a proper rest, I headed for chairs outside Towngate Tearoom.  I checked the time, surprised to find it had taken almost two hours to get to the village (it normally took 50 minutes).  No wonder I felt tired and narky!  I had thought the tearoom would be shut but thankfully, it was not.  Phil ordered us a cuppa.  A tray appeared, complete with china teapot and froufrou dolly-sized cups.  We huddled under the awning, doing our best to avoid melting drips from splashing in our warming drinks.  As we returned home via the road, I tried to keep my trouser hems from getting under my boots.  This proved exceedingly difficult on slippery stretches.  Near home, he volunteered to go for milk while I headed straight indoors to take my ruined clothes off and collapse on the sofa.

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Snowy ruin 1

 

Eaves Wood in Snow

 

Black and white 1

Last Saturday we watched the snow falling and considered a walk.  However, we were put off by the cold, grey conditions.  After dark, the snow started melting.   So much for predictions of sub-zero temperatures and a crisp, white dawn!

Sunday started off equally cold and grey but we felt that we really ought to get out.  It started snowing again as we wrapped in layers and braved the elements.  We climbed the cuckoo steps, slowly.  At the top I already felt knackered and as the snow became heavier, I wondered aloud what the hell I was doing.  Phil said he just wanted to reach the ridge leading into Eaves Wood.  I agreed it would be a lovely scene and reluctantly followed.  On reaching the lovely path, we were greeted by an almost monochrome landscape – black hills and trees sprinkled with white against a grey sky, broken here and there by splashes of brown and red.

Black and red rock 3We continued up to Hell Hole Rocks and waited for a small child leading a family group down the steps behind before we ascended.  After another hard climb, we elected to travel along the path round to the bowling club.

Two girls were building an enormous snowman in their garden.  “That’ll be a snow giant!” I told them.

 

Forlorn pairBy then I felt much better and was actually enjoying being out on the blustery tops.  As we rounded the field, two forlorn horses trotted over to us, probably hoping for apples.  Sadly, we had nothing to give them but appreciated the opportunity to take close-ups.

We continued up Acres Lane to St. Thomas’ churchyard and cut through the church where I pointed out the Last Supper painting to Phil.

In Heptonstall village, I suggested calling on a friend.  She invited us in for a cuppa and we had a lovely time chatting until I noticed it was getting dark and time to head down the hill.  Heading down the road in the darkening, we admired views of snow and lights in the town below us (very Christmassy!).  Returning back down the cuckoo steps, I lost my footing slightly but it was due to slippery leaves rather than snow and ice.

Snowy church ruin 2

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Up and Down to Stubbing’s

Saint James church tower

A gorgeous July evening, Marisa arrived for an evening stroll and dinner. With no firm plans, we stepped outside to admire hydrangeas in the garden until Phil was ready to join us. After some debate, we settled on Stubbing’s the long way round.  We ascended the Cuckoo Steps a short stretch, entered ‘Robin’s Park’ and took the path to Heptonstall Road.  Crossing the road, we continued to Church Lane and commenced the steep climb.  At the corner of Bank Terrace, I had to pause for breath and noticed the lovely view of St. James’ Church tower framed by green leaves and lilac.

Signs of doom 1We discussed the chimney of Bankfoot Mill – quite a way from the mill buildings that sat in the valley bottom.  Marisa told me that what looked like an overgrown path by the side of the chimney was the original flue.  We continued round and down Savile Road.

We agreed that the ‘danger keep out’ signs were probably designed to deter trespassing on private land rather than for any concern for the general public.

 

 

Wall with poppy plantOn the opposite side of the road, a red brick wall arrested our attention: optimistic ferns and poppies had populated the cracks and niches while some housed snails.

A little further on, Marisa suggested detour to a picturesque small wood nearby.  Up a lane, opposite ‘Treetops’ bungalows we found a gap in the hedgerow.  Crouching to avoid being pricked by holly bushes, we entered the lovely woodland of oak and silver birch.

 

A rusty memorial to a local architect stood to the left as we carried on into a glade.  Several paths led on up to Rawtenstall but without refreshments, we had run out of steam to climb further.  I declared I needed liquid.  We retraced our steps back to Savile Road and continued down back to the main road.  We crossed over and travelled the short distance to Stubbings.

Stubbings duck familyMarisa found seats by the canal while Phil and I fetched drinks and menus.  We ordered food and admired a family of ducks on the canal.  Just before our meals arrived, a group of women with dogs arrived Oh no! I thought, that’s bad timing!

However, they were quite well-behaved apart from the inevitable begging.  The food was all good but Marisa struggled to finish her lamb and gave some to the black Labrador by her feet.  A breeze picked us as we decided to return home.

We walked along the towpath surveying the stricken weeds that an elderly man had attacked with a stick.  Further on, a pair of geese watched from the water’s edge as their offspring rooted amongst plants on the other side of the path.  Wary of getting between parent and child, we paused until we deemed it safe to continue.  Marisa and I walked quickly past the hissing pair while Phil shouted “what about me!”  I laughed.  A couple walked towards us.  As they approached, Phil snuck by and said to the man “you’re alright, you’ve got a stick”.  I said I would get him a goose stick!

Woodland trees

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Hollins to Heptonstall

Hollins Tree bark 4

On the final Saturday of April, we had arranged a walk and lunch with Marisa.  I started the day feeling tired and a slightly ill but well enough.  The weather (cloudy and changeable) made us reluctant to go far and she suggested a different way up to Heptonstall.  A walk across town and over Foster Mill Bridge took us to the steps leading to Hollins.  Pausing to catch our breath, we admired the bark and twisty branches of a wayside sycamore tree.  We continued through the hamlet and entered Tinker Bank Wood.

Path edged with bluebells 1We kept to the pretty lower path where luscious grass was interspersed with clumps of bluebells.  Stepping over the tiny stream, we came down alongside Hebden Water and climbed up a rough track.   We arrived at a massive farm which appeared to be being converted into a horsey holiday camp.  They also had a rather impressive if alarming collection of military vehicles!  Are they getting ready for a post-Brexit Britain?

We climbed the long flight of stone steps to Bobby’s Lane and had to rest at the top before continuing.  Walking eastwards to the next junction we took left turn.  Picturesque old stones underfoot and a variety of tree life either side provided plenty of interest.

Route marker 2We emerged at Lee Wood Road where we crossed and examined the marker post before ascending up of Northwell Lane.  This gave us great views across the valley and eventually led to Heptonstall.   In the White Lion, we supped pints and had fun reading the place mats (mine had the grim tale of a murderous Coiners plot) while awaiting our food.

 

 

We agreed on a quick way back home and detoured through the village to locate the village stocks opposite the old co-op yard.  Marisa showed us the ‘Corpse Road’ which travels parallel to Heptonstall Road.  I had been unaware of this path although I worked out that we had taken various parts of it previouslyi.  Again, we admired different views down the valley and varied plant life including a wild cherry tree, while avoiding the muddy spots.

Stone with carved initials

We spiralled down to the bottom of Eaves wood, noting the old stone carved with the initials ‘W.G.’.   On Heptonstall Road once more, Marisa invited us in for a cuppa but I had become very tired and slightly unwell.  We walked her to her front door and commented on her tidied up garden, said our goodbyes and returned via the Cuckoo Steps.

 

 

Note

i. For further information on the Corpse Road see:  http://www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk/folklore/the-last-road.html

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Corpse path 3

Frost, Fog and Sun

stoodley-view-4

The last Saturday in November, the low morning sun was blinding!  Lingering fog in the valley created a white line below an azure sky.

cuckoo-steps

We set off early afternoon, up the Cuckoo steps (resplendent in brown and green with a sunlit backdrop) and into Eaves Wood.  Views back down proved absolutely stunning with the bright light and clear sky.  Climbing up the lovely path along the ridge, we watched crows wheeling above the rocks – observing for the first time that they resembled a vanilla slice.

We took the steps up behind Hell Hole Rock, resting at the top to enjoy the warm sun. Phil clambered over an outcrop for more views.  I followed him and noticed a small path going southwards that I had not travelled before.

 

We walked along the edge of a horse field, past climbers whingeing about dogs, and saw an acquaintance with her dog who managed to chuck its ball into the field.   Phil clambered over the fence to retrieve it.  We continued around the field, through a newly-planted woodland and emerged near the social club.

 

As we watched the horses eating straw as if it was spaghetti, I spotted frosty leaves on the ground where the sun never shone.  We continued up the edge of Southfield to West Laithe and into the village.

sunny-path-1The old co-op building had been commandeered by a Heptonstall artists’ and makers’ market.  We Chatted to some of the artists and perused the merchandise.  I was fascinated by the pile of junk inside the old building – I never knew that lot was in there.

In the Cross iInn we found more art and bought raffle tickets. We fancied a pint and pub food, but they only seemed to be offering pizza and tapas.

Reasoning that we could walk back down in the last light of the day, we headed back to town.  We took the easy road back, until we came to The Buttress.

We took our time going down to avoid slipping on leaves.  It had been so long since I had travelled that way, and had not realised that the council had cleaned up the small graveyard.  Entering for a nosey, we found more frosty leaves, large brown mushrooms (Phil macabrely pointing out that they were growing from dead people!) and took in views of sunlight still lingering on Old Town.  At the bottom, we crossed the Packhorse bridge and up Bridge Gate for beer and huge pies at The White Lion.

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misty-valley-2