Tag Archives: Hardcastle Crags

A Rare Visit to Gibson Mill

Tree tops 3

It is a rare thing indeed for us to purposefully visit Hardcastle Crags in summer.  Almost as rare (apart from holidays), we set off at 1 p.m. on a mid-July Sunday to catch Gibson Mill’s opening hours.

River rock art 2We took the most direct route via Hangingroyd Lane and the riverside path.  New rock art stood in the centre of Hebden Water, where the banks were adorned with green and white flourishes.

At the bottom of the steps up to Midgehole Road, loud barking caused me to jump out of my skin.   A large dog leapt up from behind tall grasses.

Phil let out an involuntary shout.  Two women appeared, along with a smaller dog causing more commotion.  The women apologised, saying it was a rescue dog responding to our fear.  That sounded reasonable, except I hadn’t even seen the mutt, so how could I be fearful in advance?  Later, Phil felt sorry for shouting at a rescue dog but I said (not for the first time) that dog owners should control their charges when they are likely to come into contact with other walkers.

Gibson Mill interior 3On Midgehole Road, signs declared the Crags car park full.  We weaved between parked cars and clumps of irritatingly slow people to the main gate.  Staying on the top track, we walked speedily to Gibson Mill.  We immediately entered the building and climbed to the top floor to be met by the sight of a Victorian-era kitchen.  An iron range arrayed with a selection of contemporaneous cooking vessels stood against the back wall. To the right, a shallow Belfast sink perched on brick legs.  Around the cracked windowsill, peeling whitewash revealed fading yellow paint.

Through a door on the left we found a larger room with tungsten bulbs suspended from a high ceiling.  The ample space was occupied by Yan Wang-Preston’s ‘Forest’ exhibition, the main object of our visit.  I had expected arty photos of trees.  It turned out to be a project documenting the uprooting of mature trees in China and transplanting them to concrete cities where of course they die.  Utter madness!  Why can’t they grow new trees?

Gibson Mill window viewDownstairs, we made our way to the café for freshly-made sandwiches and tea.  We chose a table on the terrace and got a different view of the mill pond.

From the upper floor, I had noticed small splashes hitting the water’s surface.  What had looked like raindrops, I now realised, were being made by small fish.

After eating, we went out front to finish our drinks.  On the surrounding tables, yet more barking dogs threatened to cause alarm but thankfully, they were kept at bay.  I spotted an acquaintance sitting nearby with a friend.  We exchanged greetings before they entered the mill to peruse the exhibition.

Rock with shadowsWe took the slower, but less populous and pleasanter riverside route back to the main entrance.  Tall pines stretched into the summer sky, the canopy giving respite from the muggy afternoon heat.  Impossibly large stones punctuated the paths and stream, some sporting strange holes.  Foliage made attractive greyscale patterns on eroding surfaces.  At the almost-dry weir, dippers dived among square paving rendered visible by the low water level.

As we rested on a nearby bench, I heard something drop to the ground.  At first, we could see nothing.  Then Phil realised it was his phone.  The screen had cracked (For the third time.  Luckily, he has since discovered he can buy the parts to fix it himself).

Behind bars 2On reaching the end of the crags, we continued on the riverside as much as possible, staying on the left-hand side towards town, foraging a few raspberries from sporadic bushes.

We paused briefly on Victoria Road where a tractor seemed imprisoned.  Headlights gleamed wide-eyed behind an iron gate fastened with rusty iron chains.  Polished blue paintwork reflected blue sky.  Getting ready for the local show, no doubt.

 

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Weir 6

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Zigzagging from Heptonstall to Midgehole

Valley view 1

Another sunny Sunday and I felt strong enough to tackle a longer walk.  We intended to get the bus to Blackshaw Head and walk down Jumble Hole.  I checked bus times as there had been some timetable changes but the website displayed the original times.  On the way to the bus stop, we bought pasties and pop then waited several minutes.  The Widdop bus came first.  I suggested catching it to Heptonstall and possibly take the lovely route down to Hardcastle Crags.

Heptonstall Townfield Lane 5Alighting in the village, Phil stood in a patch of sun and declared he was stopping there.  I laughed.  We walked up Towngate and turned right.

Along Townfield, we paused often to appreciate the white tree blossom above us, golden meadows stretching before us and panoramic views of the valley below.

Among scattered farm junk, a child’s toy perched atop an animal feed container made us chuckle.

At a fork in the grassy path, I suggested taking the lower one down to Midgehole.  This took us along a stone wall, through a picturesque stile and onto Draper Lane.  I could see the footpath sign across the road, slightly to the right.

Heptonstall verge 3

On the other side, we discovered a beautiful verge on the cliff-edge.  We sat awhile on a convenient a bench surrounded by flowers to take in views of the Crags and Crimsworth Dean.

An idyllic wooded path led downwards.  Thin oaks stretch upwards, their bark adorned with red lichen and their tops crowned by shiny leaves.

Tiny anemones poked out amidst bright green ferns.  Gnarly roots acted as steps to aid our descent.

In between woodland flowers 3I had expected to go more or less straight down to Midgehole but hadn’t factored in the steep cliff-like drop, hence the path travelled westwards as it descended, until it met with the bottom of Northwell Lane.

We continued downwards along an old cobbled path where an old acquaintance was coming up the other way with a companion.   She had availed herself of a strong pint of cider at The Blue Pig.

On reaching the river, we decided we’d rather have pies than beer and walked along away from the pub to find a suitable patch of rocks to squat on.

After eating, we continued on the riverside path and up to Midgehole Road.  Having had a shorter walk than planned, we considered continuing up to Pecket Well but the prospect of a hot climb proved off-putting.  Instead, we returned home along the tried and trusted route, where tiny May flowers lined the riverside and the beaches were busy with families enjoying the sunshine.

Heptonstall meadow view 2

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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