Tag Archives: Hardcastle Crags

Return to Willow Gate

River art 1Mid July, the intermittent summer returned bringing a bright, sunny day but with a breeze making conditions bearable.  Phil and I took the same walk.   As we ambled along the river, we noticed the sun falling between the trees made arty reflections on the water’s surface.  Our photos looked like impressionist masterpieces without the need for any digital trickery!.

At Hardcastle Crags, we walked through the full car park, trying to locate the path I’d found instinctively in March but this time it eluded me.  Confused, I asked a man in an NT hut.  After he tried to flog me a map, I eventually garnered from him the way to the Willow Gate path.  I just about recognised the leafy lane now overgrown with summer vegetation.  At the field, I suggested a rest but the gate was not attached and required too much heft to lift so we perched on the wall.  I pointed out a huge rabbit in the rough field opposite.  Phil captured it on camera but I failed.  As we climbed up the stone path, I indicated various rock features remembered from my previous visit.

 

Continuing to the top of the wood, we crossed a stile and went up the ‘green lane’ to emerge at Shackleton.  Spotting another rabbit, this time I managed to get it in shot.  At the bottom of Shackleton Hill, we debated options.  Phil said he needed to rest and I thought going into the dean might be too much for me anyway.  We started down the track on the lookout for a stopping place, settling on a clump of rocks amidst the trees.  We ate a small picnic before walking the short distance back to Midgehole Road.  With 10 minutes till the 906 bus was due, we waited to enjoy a lovely quick ride back to town.  As we walked home, the sky became cloudier and the air cooler.

 

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Willow Gate

Boulder field 1

 

Riverside stumpMarisa and I set out on a sunny late March afternoon.  We walked along the riverside where I noted the decaying tree stump (half the size as the last time I had seen it) and several new waterfalls.  Climbing the recently-repaired steps to Midgehole Road we continued to Hardcastle Crags gate and through the upper car park to find the Willow Gate path.

 

Stone markings 1We stopped briefly in a lovely field scattered with interesting rocks and boulders, admiring the views.  Continuing up along ancient causey stones,  we noted letters carved into them.

I spotted remains of mysterious wall and imagined the buildings that once stood here.  Impressive rocks on our right resembled squares and pillars.  We then came to the famed ‘Slurring Rock’.  Marisa told me that people used to skate down it in their clogs.

 

Sheep dyed red 2We carried on through Foul Scout Wood, across a makeshift bridge and a field containing ancient gateposts.  At the hamlet of Shackleton, old barns held testament to a long history.  Sheep alarmingly dyed red shared grazing space with pheasants.

We proceeded downhill to the edge of Crimsworth Dean.  From here we took the quicker way back, turning right onto the NT track, using new-looking steps to skirt the car parks and crossed the bridge to Midgehole.

 

River with bouldersPassing The Blue Pig we waved to an acquaintance but decided to head straight to town.  We took the lower riverside path and felt the chill off the water.  Lower down, we took the left-hand side path, spotting young garlic and yellow flowers across the ‘swamp’.  Emerging onto Windsor View we walked into town,

 

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Slurring rock 1again taking the river path when possible.

A Dodgy Walk from Blake Dean

Graining Water 1

The intermittent summer of 2016 and a series of family traumas did not allow for many opportunities to enjoy longer days out.  However, the first Saturday in August promised to be a good, fine day for walking.  We determined to forget recent troubles and make the most of it.

1800 markerI got together a picnic and we set out for the bus stop.  We almost gave up waiting for the community bus, as it was delayed by several minutes.

At last it arrived and we rode up to Blake Dean, alighting at the bridge over Graining Water.

I noticed for the first time the stonemason’s mark – ‘W. 1800’ – carved into an edge stone.

 

We crossed the road and descended via the rickety wooden gate into the dean.  Predictably busy on a warm summer’s day, we escaped uphill via paths overgrown with bracken, away from the crowds.  A lump of rocks edged an attractive grassy path, in front of a small stone cave.  We enjoyed a picnic and views whilst discussing options for the walk down into the crags.

Stone caveOpting to stay on the east side of the stream, we kept on the lower grassy path.

This took us above the remains of the trestle bridge i, over a rickety styal, past a disused quarry (likely again related to the temporary railway) and through what could have been an abandoned garden.

 

 

We then entered a cedar wood, awestruck by its sheer beauty.  Tall trees emitted scents redolent of Christmas, interspersed with truncated and fallen trunks.  We continued downstream, until things took a turn for the worse.  Apparent landslips had rendered the path unnavigable in places.  Springs had created bogs, very tricky to cross.  Much trial and error ensued. Our feet became inevitably wet and muddy (thank goodness for waterproof sandals!)

Fed up of the constant sinking, we considered fording the stream but it did not look safe enough.  Eventually we came to an old stone wall and paused to think.  After some deliberation, we decided to try and ford yet another impromptu stream surrounded by bog.  However, in spite of laying down a carpet of bracken, I was unable to make the leap.  Meanwhile, a group of European hikers appeared, in the same predicament “on no!  We will be here forever!” one of them said “yes, we are stuck” I agreed” do we have enough provisions?”  This made them all laugh in that continental way.

Wooden styalI recognised a house further up whose garden we had traversed on our very first walk on this side of the water some years before. We headed upwards in search of a path to said house.

Alas, we searched in vain but we did eventually find a safe crossing point after which the path became easy going, eventually merging with an access road which again I remembered from our first foray in this specific part of the wood.

 

Back in familiar territory, we expected the last leg through the crags to be plain sailing.  However, a flood-ravaged bridge necessitated another wet, muddy feet experience as we had to use the original Victorian path underneath the cliffs.

At Gibson Mill, we were so late even the toilets had been locked!  Exacerbated, we commandeered one of the deserted picnic tables to partake of apple pie and pop.  From there, we took the quick way back along the driveway to the main gate and along Midgehole Road and onto town.

Cedar wood 3

I Later that month, Phil came across a pamphlet by the University of Leeds with some interesting facts and photos about the history of Hardcastle Crags.  Amongst other things, there is a fantastic picture of a train crossing the trestle bridge just below Blake Dean: http://www.see.leeds.ac.uk/misc/scienceandtourism/Final%20copy%20leaflets/Industrial%20Heritage%20leaflet.pdf

On the first Sunday in October, we again rode the community bus up to Blake Dean.  We spent a few minutes rambling in the dean.  Rowan trees in full berry looked beautiful against the early autumn backdrop as water sparkled under a blue sky.

We then took our more usual route back down.  Some very churned up muddy bits on undulating parts made the path rather tricky in places.   I became quite anxious at one point and sat down in a mossy glade to recover.  We spotted lots of mushrooms and a triangle-shaped rock we had not noticed before.  Refreshed, we continued down and noted that the bridges and paths damaged in the floods had all been fixed. It seemed to take quite a while to reach Gibson Mill so as usual, it was shut.

A cloud of midges descended on us as we sat on the picnic bench finishing our flask of coffee.  Again, we opted for the top track to reach the gate quickly and onto Midgehole road.  I stubbed my toe 3 times on the riverside path (cursing the walking shoes I was wearing rather than sandals I had worn since April) and felt the need to stop once more on a bench near one of the ‘beaches’ for a short rest.  Phil suggested I look for archaeology but all I found were pieces of a boring jug!

rowan-tree-close-up

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Heptonstall to Hardcastle Crags

 

Meadow Flowers 2

Having failed in an earlier attempt to reach Hardcastle Crags from Heptonstall, we tried again during the fine weather of the late May bank holiday weekend.  We caught the bus up to the village to ease our ascent.

Heptonstall NorthfieldWe walked the short walk up Towngate , passing the two pubs.  We paused at Top O’ The Town before turning right up Townfield and along to Northfield.

Notable for never being enclosed and still containing common land, this attractive area includes traditional stone-built houses and pre-fabs with attractive gardens.

 

 

Above Town - view with open gateWe emerged onto a truly stunning path!  Views overlooking three valleys confronted us, with Lee Wood directly below and Pecket Well and Old Town in the distance.

The hedgerows and meadows were resplendent with flowers of all colours.  Cows with their babies grazed peacefully in the fields.

 

I paused to consult the map and determined that we could either go straight down to Midgehole or hang a left and head further along the crags.  We plumped for the latter.  This took us across a wildflower meadow, where we dawdled to take close-up nature shots.

We exited via a tiny stone gate onto Draper Lane.  We then continued on the footpath on the opposite side of the road along the top of the crags.

Barbed wire 1Several interesting features lined the way as we walked through the woods: very arty barbed wire, sheep wool, a busy anthill, and seasonal curly ferns.

Eventually we came to another junction and chose the route heading downwards.  Large stones took the place of earth underfoot as we wound down to the ‘scout hut’.

 

We entered the crags near a grassy riverbank.  Finding a convenient rock ‘on the beach’, we settled down intending to eat pies we had brought with us, when dogs and children appeared.  We shooed them off and waited until they were out of sight before having our picnic.  We lingered awhile, contemplating the sparkling water and marvelled at a tree growing from a tiny island in the middle of the river.  Phil found some pieces of quartz which I washed in the river.

Hardcastle Crags - Hebden Water 2We walked round a very fine rock and onto small stepping stones across Hebden Water.  The other side proved crowded with more kids and dogs.

I remarked that this popularity was why we usually avoided the lower crags although it is a lovely spot.

 

 

At this point it is necessary to make a short climb in order to continue down to the lower entrance of the crags.  But we kept as close to the river as possible, with the cool water and trees providing respite from the hot sun. Amongst other things we noticed prominent tree roots underfoot, a variety of woodland flowers, a clay pit and the old weir.

At Midgehole, we laughed at the ‘New Bridge Hall – no parking’ sign.  It’s alright for some!  But to be fair, it is the original name of the property.

We visited the Blue Pig and sat on a bench by the river, enjoying our beer and the intermittent sun and watching the antics of yet more dogs and escapees from town centre bars.

As it turned chilly, we departed, taking the riverside path into town.  We had a second pint in The Oldgate.  Perched on the low part of the wall, I warned Phil not to drop his phone in the river this time.  As the sun inevitably disappeared behind a chimney, we made our way home.

A year on, we repeated the walk with one minor detour – we veered off the slippery stone path just above the scout hut, navigating carefully through grass and pine trees.

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Hardcastle Crags - Tree roots

A Detour to Pecket Well

Pecket Well Clough packhorse trail 7

Despite the development (yet again) of symptoms that often presaged the onset of sinusitis, I was determined to not give in.   It was the first day of spring and a gorgeous sunny one at that. I looked forward to Marisa coming round for coffee followed by an afternoon outing. She was also suffering. With a frozen shoulder, and we spent some time comparing health notes over coffee and biscuits.

Approaching Hollings 3The three of us then set off via the local bakers, for Foster Mill Bridge. I mentioned an article I read in a recent issue of Valley Life about a walk via the path upwards and as we chatted, I realised it led to the hamlet of Hollins on the way to Hareshaw wood. Marisa suggested we walk up that way and although we had only done so three weeks ago, we agreed.

 

We ascended the broad, cobbled steps at a leisurely pace before taking a similar route through the hamlet and the woods.  Descending near ‘little Switzerland’, we  crossed Hebden Water and took the flight of steps up to Midgehole Road and along to the public WCs.

Pecket Well Clough tree roots 2From there, we headed behind the toilet block and instead of going straight into Crimsworth Dean, took a path to the right and descended upwards into Pecket Well Clough. Like Crimsworth Dean, this forms part of the National Trust Hardcastle Crags estate, but feels a world away. The old packhorse trail leads steadily upwards, through beech woods.

At this time of year, the trees displayed a stark beauty. Brown and grey dominated, occasionally broken up with patches of green.  The mostly bare ground allowed impressive tree roots to show through along the route.

Pecket Well Clough packhorse bridge 1At the top of the clough, we came across a lovely stone bridge where two streams conjoined. We picked our way across a mulchy flat bank to find a suitable rock for our picnic. Marisa made several archaeological finds including what looked like melted glass and broken pots. We posited that the area had been used by people going back hundreds of years.

 

Pecket Well monument 2Food and explorations over, we climbed another flight of steps to reach the WWI monument. I commented on the tete-a-tetes, which provided a splash of colour as we approached. We rested on the benches and surveyed the vistas. from there, we followed paths along the side of fields, passing newly planted trees, cute horses, and a rather fine old gate.

Pecket Well field with horses 3Marisa had recently discovered interesting facts about the history of gates and I told her she should start a blog about them!

Looking back, the monument stood in the foreground of a landscape with Heptonstall church and Stoodley Pike behind. We proceeded through Higher Crimsworth Farm and eventually onto Keighley Road. Walking passed the Wesleyan church and school house straddling the main road, we availed ourselves of ale and facilities at The Robin Hood Inn before taking the bus down into town.

More photos at: https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=2DF4BDD5DCD70A39!111038&authkey=!AL7UCa6R91JVs00&ithint=folder%2cPecket Well attractive gate with three sticks in background

Bus Up, Walk Down

Blake Dean - Dappled treeDuring the summer months, a community bus runs from town up to Widdop. We have made use of this service on several occasions. Usually, we alight at Blake Dean then choose a walking route back down the valley.

Blake Dean (or Black Dean as it was known in the olden days) is a picturesque spot.   Nestled at the confluence of Graining Water and Reaps water, on a warm sunny day it can be full of people picnicking and bathing on one of the small islands formed where the two tributaries meet to become Hebden Water. If it is not too busy, we pause to take in the pretty features including gnarly trees, stone posts and an old wooden bridge.

Blake Dean - ripples in the streamOn a recent visit, despite the forecast assuring us there was 0% ‘chance of rain, it started showering the second we alighted from the bus! Convinced it would pass, we proceeded into the dean regardless.

A heavier burst of rain required us to take shelter for several minutes.   Whilst standing under a tree, I noticed the ripples created by raindrops falling in the water.  Also, the nice thing about the changeable weather was having the place to ourselves..

A walk along the left hand side of Hebden Water brings us to the remains of the Trestle Bridgei. From there, the path becomes rather dodgy and eventually forces us to find a safe place to ford the river. We then follow the path on the right hand side into the woods.

Alive with all types of trees, mushrooms, and lichens, this is another good place to linger. We have a favourite flat rock where we may stop for a picnic with little chance of being disturbed.

Upper crags - Flat rockAn alternative route onto this path is to descend off the main road opposite Gorple gate.

This also affords a good view of the Trestle Bridge from above. A series of steep, small steps, festooned with vegetation, takes us down to the river path and into the woods.

Due to the cliffs which feature heavily in the ‘Upper Crags’, the path deviates from the river necessitating clambering up and down at times.

A top path also eventually leads down to the crags.   Staying on the left side of Hebden Water, this route is even less well-maintained and boggy in places which could be a deliberate ploy to put walkers off.

The path becomes very narrow and overgrown too. A rickety ‘bridge’ made of plywood over a brook, leads into a private garden and then onto a lane. Again, we emerge in the woods and proceed downwards towards civilisation.

Hermits caveOn the way back down, we may stop at one of two places for liquid refreshment. Gibson Mill marks the border between the less populated Upper Crags and the better-known part of Hardcastle Crags.

Facilities include a cafe and ‘eco bogs’. Several times we have just managed to order coffee by the skin of our teeth.

Towards closing, a man who looks like he means business appears on ‘cup patrol’. It’s worse than being harassed out of the pub at last orders!

Continuing to walk the length of the crags along the bottom path, we often pop in for a cheap pint at The Blue Pig. We are frequently forced to move away from the riverside benches though, having been eaten alive by midges.

Following the river back into town, we will have walked the whole length of Hebden water – not counting the last part where it flows into the Calder.

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i For information on the Trestle Bridge: http://www.milltownmemories.org.uk/mm8/7.html

Strolls in Hareshaw and Tinker Bank Woods

Paved lane 2On a rainy Sunday in October, we ventured out to explore lesser known woods close to home. A steep climb up Moss lane led to a turning on the right and through a gate onto a small path.

The grey paving, now slippery and worn, hold testament to its past as an old road. Navigating gingerly as the overgrown path stepped downwards, before widening into a ‘lane’ banked on one side by a moss-covered stone wall.

Blocked windowWe noticed several cobbled paths leading off up the hillside.

These, together with the buildings that remain, make it easy to imagine this hidden enclave as a village in days gone by.

Proceeding to a fork in the way, we headed up to Hareshaw wood until we came upon a ‘stone circle’. We then realised we had traversed into Tinker Bank wood.

We considered carrying on going west but the path appeared overgrown and the rain returned.

Upright stone and small tree

Instead, we doubled back to the fork and took the downward route from there. This led to a very narrow path between allotments.

We navigated carefully past a large tree whose roots served as steps down, to get onto the riverside path.

We marvelled at the changing flow of Hebden Water.

After a dry summer, recent rain had brought more trees down and the river itself appeared to have shifted to the north with a new waterfall forming.

Small stone stepsWe revisited Hareshaw woods in the spring. This time, we followed the lower path that had been blocked in autumn.

It emerged near the river just beyond a bowling hut. We carried on up the lane to a posh farm.

The way ahead being marked private, we took a flight of steep stone steps up to Bobby’s lane.

 

Picnic bench with small yellow flowerFrom there, we carried on passed the Blue Pig and onto the edge of the crags.

We rested on a bench and examined the miniscule plant life in the cracks of the picnic table whilst trying to fend off all the dogs.

 

 

Swamp 3We then returned via the riverside path. At the bridge where we normally crossed, we decided to stay on the east side for a change.

It took us passed what looked like a swamp full of rubbish – not very pleasant. We came out at Windsor View and went into town.

 

 

Old casueway 2A year on, I had been mostly inactive for two months due to illness. The brightening sky with its promise of better weather lured us outdoors. I found the walk up Moss Lane hard work but persevered. We took the now-familiar right turn towards the old road and again mused over the old buildings and causey stones.

Although patches never saw sunlight and walls dripped with water and damp-loving plants, a crust had formed over the mud making it easy going.

 

Small waterfalls 1In Hareshaw Woods, we remarked how different it looked from last time we had visited. We discovered a variety of mosses and lichens and interesting holes in dead tree trunks. I tried to find the ‘stone circle’ we had discovered on our first visit but to no avail.

We carried on further along the path above the bowling hut. We crossed over a gorgeous little stream, where mini waterfalls tripped over higgledy piggledy rocks. I surmised that this had been created in the recent floods.

 

Smugglers cave 1Continuing, we came down onto a paved road near a group of chalets. This ‘little Switzerland’ is a rather odd do – someone obviously had a dream and built it. We crossed the river via a bridge with white railings. I noticed an arch in the wall at water level and joked that it was the entrance to a smuggler’s cave.

We then took the well-trodden route along Hebden Water towards Foster Mill Bridge. Again, changes had occurred, with much sand exposed on the northern banks of the river. An old tree stump I had been documenting for years looked as if it would not last much longer.

 

Dead trunk with holes and moss 1

 

 

 

 

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