Tag Archives: Hebden Bridge

Autumn Symphony – Slack Top to the Crags

View pano 2

We managed one more walk before the end of October.  I had suggested a trip to Hardcastle Crags which strangely, we had rarely visited in autumn. Following some route-finding, we embarked on what we hoped would be less of a slog to get to Gibson Mill.  This entailed catching the 596.  Due to roadworks, the bus shelter had disappeared to be replaced by a temporary sign.  As we waited, a chilly wind made me cold and I worried I might not be warm enough.

Greenwood Lea 1We rode up enjoying the scenery in the beautiful sunshine.  We got off at Slack Top, immediately crossed and began walking up Widdop Road.  To our left, a different aspect of Popples Common revealed its true size.  A cobbled lane suggested an old packhorse trail.   To the right, large gardens housed annoying yappy dogs. Farmhouses revealed ancient horse steps, auxiliary servant’s quarters. multiple chimneys and peafowl – the latter populating the grounds of Greenwood Lea (a historic Yeoman’s house dating from circa 1712).  A few sheep and ridiculously cute Shetland ponies grazed in the fields.  Across the valley, trees displayed a plethora of colours with emerald evergreens interspersing a variety of deciduous hues.

Clough trees 1The road dipped slightly and after a small bend we espied Clough Holes carpark.  As work was underway, a sign announced ‘footpath closed’.  “Oh no!” I exclaimed, then realised it meant the path to the carpark.  Alongside, a tiny step stile led down to a picturesque path following the line of a small brook, punctuated with idyllic cascades.  A second stepped stile marked meadows giving way to woodland.

Looking back, sunlight glinted on leaves of orange, yellow and green with branches stretching towards a pale blue sky.  The path became a mix of rough cobble and hardcore as it continued to wind down.  Just before the stone bridge, a tree stump resembled a teddy bear.

Like a teddyA couple of families had followed us down; a reminder it was half-term.  I hoped we would not be overwhelmed with school kids at Gibson Mill.  In spite of the family-friendly activities and several groups making use of the café facilities, I managed to find a vacant table.  We had brought our own butties.   Phil wanted a brew to go with them and disappeared inside the Weaving Shed for what seemed like an age!  Eventually emerging, he said it had taken so long because of the umpteen variations on offer including flake in coffee – is that a thing now?

Both the walk down and lunch had taken considerably longer than anticipated.  Having originally planned to go quite a bit further up, we figured there was insufficient daylight remaining.  We agreed to at least walk a little way beyond the mill.

Among the mill ponds, impressive fungi were the size of dinner plates.  The brook we had walked alongside on our descent culminated in a torrent teeming down the rocks.  A large party of elderly hikers came towards us, necessitating a precarious step off the path at the water’s edge.

Mill ponds 4A few ducks pootled about on the pond surface amidst floating oak leaves.  Below the water line, bare branches created black reflections while frondy pond weeds of bright green swayed gently.  At the actual crags, I remarked that I had only recently realised  that this exact spot had been the focus of Victorian jaunts.  Lovely as they are, I was somewhat bemused by its specific popularity; the whole Calder Valley is characterised by such features.

We continued a little further where the scene took on a more forested aspect.  Assorted mushrooms brought renewed life to dead wood.  Soft russets reflected in the silvery steam.  I lingered on the edge of Hebden Water to take in the gorgeous symphony of colours and sounds.

The Crags 1Returning, we took the top track for a faster walk home, edged with fading ferns, spindly saplings and older majestic trees marching up the slope.  On the last stretch of the riverside path, we stayed on the left side to laugh anew at the swamp.

At the end of Valley Road, Phil detoured to the shop while I headed home, stopping briefly to chat with a friend.  I slumped on the sofa, recovered slightly with a drink of water but felt in need of a proper lie down.

 

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Upstream 8

 

Lifting the Blues (Lumb Bank)

Dappled lane 4

Amidst an early autumn dominated by rain, frost and fog, the penultimate Wednesday of October dawned  dazzlingly bright.  The trees across the valley zinged orange beneath the glowing sun.  Keen to be amongst them after a bout of ‘flu, we had a few things to attend to first.  Predictably it was lunchtime by the time we left the house.  We bought pies from the bakers and went up the road past the Fox and Goose, then right at the first turning.

Enigma 2Behind Eaves Mount, the undulating path made our legs ache.  But it was worth the pain to reach the spectacular ‘avenue’, glorious this time of year.  A carpet of fallen red leaves crunched underfoot, contrasting with yellow and green still clinging onto higher branches.  Passing through an iron gate, the lane became dappled in light.  Felled trees allowed crops of fungi to explode in the shadows. A bizarre arrangement atop a stump bewildered us; art or accident?

On reaching the final stretch up to Lumb Bank , large cobbles paved the way.  We squatted on a moss-clad stone wall near the old stone gatepost.

As we ate our pies, cows in the adjacent field stared in our direction.  I hoped they could not escape to attack us.  We dusted crumbs off and continued, sneaking through the garden of the big house to avoid an even harder climb and take in panoramic views up the valley.  The two Lumb Mill chimneys stood starkly grey amidst a cacophony of colour.

Lumb Mill chimney from the back 3As light faded, air cooled.  We headed down towards Lumb Mill and discovered a couple of paths leading behind the second chimney.  The first looked decidedly dicey; the second a safer prospect. I later compared my photos to that in ‘Remains of Elmet’ to conclude Fay’s shot would be impossible now.i

Winding down to the site of the long-gone mills, we lingered awhile among the archaeology. Impossibly tiny mushrooms populated my favourite sycamore tree.  I wondered if this was another stage of its imminent demise following the blight that afflicted the leaves this year.  Nearby, a ladybird navigated round large Ivory caps.

We returned via the fast track, pausing to gather small bright maple leaves. Back home, we felt very tired and achy but glad we had got out for some much-needed fresh air and sunshine.

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Reference:

i. Remains of Elmet; Hughes, Ted (poems) and Godwin, Fay (photographs) (1979) Faber & Faber (1979)

Lumb valley chimney view 1

Mud and Mushrooms (Autumn in Crow Nest)

Valley view 6

Early October, we both had flu.  On the second Saturday, sunlight glimpsed through leaden clouds after overnight rain.  We agreed a short walk in the fresh air would do us good.  After two weeks of inactivity I thought it judicious to put a bandage on my foot and wear proper walking boots before venturing  up to Crow Nest Wood.  Almost immediately on hitting the first steep part of the path, my bad foot gave way, with a sharp pain – not in my ankle but on the top part.  I hobbled on to reach a low wall where I could squat to tighten the bandage.  I was able to proceed, with care, but I rued the decision to wear the boots which I suspected had caused the problem.  A little further up, we found a gap in the large garden hedges allowing us to admire trees across the valley displaying autumnal splendour.

Fungi of black 1At the corner we took the left-hand path, remembering this was usually the quickest route to the top of the wood.  But the stony surface and wet leaves compounded by several days’ worth of overnight rain, made it arduous and extremely slippy at times.  Soon, our noses were assaulted by the stink of sulfur from rotten trees.  Disgusting-looking black fungi resembling tyres sprouted from one decayed trunk.  Phil slid dangerously off the path to investigate.   I had to laugh when he asked “How do I get back up now?”  “That’s your problem!”

Elsewhere, fungi appeared in more appealing shades of ochre and white.  Small caps topped slender stems sprouting among sodden leaves at the edge of the path.  An ivory puffball had become covered in green mould –  Fungi on fungi as it were.

Quarry 1

Among the twisty trees on the top path, green faded slowly from leaves to be replaced by a spectrum of yellows and russets.  We continued to the babbling brook and perched on a rock to listen to the gushing waterfall.  In search of more we continued towards the old quarry.  Here, large patches of deep, squelching mud at last made me glad I had my proper boots on.  As predicted,  a cascade plummeted down the cliff-face of the quarry creating new streams and yet more deep mud patches.  We zig-zagged up and down small paths to avoid them and return to the main route.

Mushrooms grew from a felled birch.  White flecked with black, they almost merged with the monochrome stripes of the tree trunk.  We mused on the weirdness of the woodland where things appeared dead and alive at the same time.  I wondered why it was not a popular spot for witches!

We continued to Wood Top, turned left down to the  station and into town for lunchtime pies.  I stopped to chat to an old schoolfriend on the way.  Back home, I had to immediately take off my muddy boots and jeans…

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Fungi of stripes 4

 

Birchcliffe to Nutclough

Nutclough descent 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Salad 2 crop

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

50 Shades of Green (Horsehold Wood)

Horsehold view Panorama

 

During a mainly sunny mid-September, I had been struggling with computer issues all morning which gave me a headache and put me in a bad mood.  We planned on a mid-week walk but unfortunately picked a day when the sun remained hidden in the South Pennines.  Reluctantly, I submitted to Phil’s badgering to at least leave the house but disinclined to go far, suggested going to Horsehold Wood.  A decidedly chilly wind blew as we climbed the steep road.   I cursed grumpily at the elusive sun.

Brambles 4Through the small gate onto the path edging the valley, we stood to gaze across the valley.  A plethora of greens and yellows signalling autumn was on the way.  At our feet, fading heather and rotting blackberries added contrasting splashes of red to the natural palette.

Descending into woodland,  pale beige mushrooms and bright green ferns poked up from dark earth covered with rotten leaves.  Stunted trees struggled for dear life on the north-facing slope.  Rotting trunks resembled tree spirits.  Phil suddenly stopped in an awkward spot, dealing with a camera malfunction.  I became impatient.  I told him the walk was not doing its job of improving my mood and I just wanted to get on with it.  He giggled, and I had to admit it did sound rather ridiculous when I was meant to be having fun!

Red wood 4Deeper into the wood, we marvelled anew at the red earth with optimistically green grass sprouting in clumps, and at how on earth some of the rocks had landed in such strange configurations.  We had noticed earlier how many beech nuts and acorns there were this year.  This had prompted a new obsession with collecting items and turning them into art.  On the road, we had gathered nut casings and helicopter-like seeds.  Here, we added shinier specimens untouched since they hit the ground.

A new bridge had been constructed over the stream making crossing easier although I still found the stepping-stones tricky.  On the other side we perched on a rock to watch the fast tumbling water.  I decided I did now feel a bit better for being immersed in nature; we had not yet seen a single other person.  It was worth the initial effort, however difficult.

Upper path 2Large stones serving as steps led up.  We turned right and followed the path round where it became a tiny grassy line between spindly trees.  At the ruined house we spotted lettering on a stone among the wreckage but were unable to decipher it.  We followed the path down to the canal and walked on the towpath.  I spotted a deer across the way.  Typical, I thought, having seen none when we were in the wood!

At Stubbing’s, we left the canal to walk alongside the river where we considered the final demise of the once enormous Calder Mill (we had noticed from Horsehold Road that the roof slates had disappeared).  Back home  I collapsed on the sofa while Phil made coffee.  Although my headache had abated and my mood lifted somewhat, I was very tired. My ankle ached too as I had forgotten to wear a bandage.

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Jack Bridge Circular

 

Bridge Ahoy 3

During the the hot August bank holiday weekend we repeated a walk from two years ago, starting with a bus ride to Jack Bridge. As we walked up the lane, boisterous Scousers occupied a holiday home garden interrupting the otherwise peaceful scene.  Thistle fluff, beech nuts, and bright berries adorned the hedgerows, with glimpses of  a bright blue Colden Water beneath.

Bridge Crossing 4Now a familiar landmark, I spotted Strines Bridge quite early on and as we neared, we took the dark narrow path into private gardens to get nearer.  Infested with nettles and rather slippy in places, I trod carefully alongside the brook and managed not to get stung or fall which was quite a feat.  Passing through the small gate, the old packhorse trail was discernible as a delicate shade of green among a field of reds and pale yellows. We braved the tussocks and barbed wire to get a better view of the sparkling water.  As I crossed the bridge, a perfectly formed dandelion clock seemed to dwarf the diminuitive stone curves.  We mused about where the path led on the other side but deduced it would be quite a short walk to the village.

Pixie CastleReturning to the lane, we continued until we found the stile into the meadow.  The diagonal path was edged with tiny purple flowers and seed heads resembling pennies.

We proceeded through the woods and rickety gates and back onto tarmac near Land Farm.  What sounded like a combine turned out to be a lawnmower – what a racket! It was so distracting I almost missed the pixie castle, obscured as it was by vegetation.

I had forgotten about the climb up School Land Lane, and paced myself, picking the odd blackberry for sustenance.  At the top, posh new signs indicated local landmarks.  We turned right on Edge Lane  and chanced the grassy path to High Gate Farm.  Even more overgrown with nettles, this time I suffered several stings!  May’s Farm Shop looked  busy.  As a family ate ice creams, the holidaying Scousers turned up, chugging beer, and left with crates of the stuff.  After a lunch of pies and soft drinks, we decided to top the meal off with  lollies.  We discussed options for our return route and agreed to go via Colden Clough rather than Heptonstall.  Enjoying the cooling lollies as we walked downwards,  I observed we had never eaten ice cream on a  country walk before – a definite highlight!

Old Barn Receding 1Luckily, we located a slight detour avoiding the stingiest path and proceeded to Colden village.  Opposite an old barn, I observed the ‘junkyard’ had been cleared quite a lot.  We turned right at Smith Lane, taking us back to Jack Bridge, where we walked up to Hudson Lane and down into Hebble Hole.  New steps were framed by fading heather.  I expected the beauty spot to be packed  but only one extended family occupied the area and I realised it was teatime already.  A woman swam with a dog  hindering views downstream.  We crossed the clapper bridge onto the lower path, and stopped on the flat rock for a short rest.  Littered with beach nuts, we joked about harvesting them but they didn’t look tasty.

Mushrooms 3

Up the steps, red leaves littered the ground as sun rays beamed through tall branches.  In the ‘garlic fields,’ the rotten stump now resembled bare legs.  Unusual porcelain mushrooms grew on nearby tree trunks, where the bark had been stripped.  At Lumb Mill, I was slightly upset to see my favourite sycamore  almost bare. Blighted leaves littered the ground.  I had not noticed this elsewhere but Phil said he had and that it was not only affecting sycamores.  On the last stretch along the rough track, it started to feel very humid making me sweaty and tired.  Back home, I collapsed on the sofa while Phil made coffee. I had now completed a walk two days’ running without an ankle bandage which was good going although it did  ache a bit prompting me to take it easy for the next couple of days.

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Sycamore 1