Tag Archives: leisure

Confined walks 2 – Slater Ings

 

Dark shadows 1With the return of bright sunshine on Sunday, we ventured a little further to walk up the Cuckoo Steps, across Heptonstall Road to the path leading to our favourite ridge. On the climb, black shadows of twisty thin trees criss-crossed the dusty pink shingle. Two women with dogs stopped for us, but although they stood aside, the dogs still blocked the path.  As I hesitated they assured us that their fur harboured no germs as they had been in isolation for 2 weeks.  Passing cautiously, Phil noted they were nice friendly dogs.  I agreed, but told the women I was wary as this is not always the case.  They sympathised saying “We’ll put the leads on if we run into us again”.  “That’s kind but it’s fine.”  Next, it was our turn to wait for a small family crouched on the verge.  We side-stepped into the old quarry until they had finished doing selfies.

Hell Hole 1As we rounded the corner, we saw unsightly scribbles on Hell Hole Rocks.  At first glance it appeared to be made with chalk, but on closer inspection turned out to be painted graffiti, thus likely permanent and a real shame.  We checked the coast was clear and climbed the small steps up to ‘photographer’s corner’.

Wavering about whether to clamber onto the ‘viewing platform’, quite a few people approached form the opposite direction, making the decision for us.  We gazed down at a more pleasing aspect of the big rock, without scrawls, and across the valley until it was clear to continue.

Heading for Slater Ings, an ageing hippie couple sat on a large flat rock right near it.  They could easily have moved further away, but as they didn’t, we side-stepped as far as possible to the other side.  The man greeted us to which I responded “that’s not 6 feet”.  He said “Don’t worry about it.”  “I do, it’s because of morons like you that the stupid lockdown will last forever.”  As we hurried on past, he shouted  “Stay indoors then… You’re out walking!” “Yes, but when I want a rest, I don’t just plonk down; I move away from the path!”  “Do you remember the Nazis?” to which Phil retorted “No, I’m not old enough.  Are you?”  Tempted to go back and clatter him, I said it wasn’t worth it and anyway, it couldn’t be done at a safe distance!

Slater Ings stony detour 3Luckily, the wood was less populous.  We soon spotted a patch of wild garlic and climbed down a slippery dry slope where deadwood crackled beneath our shoes – the feeble brook having dried to a trickle in the warm April weather.

A few people past on the path above as we gathered the pungent leaves.  Taking a while to come back up, we spotted several pieces of broken pottery, indicating this was once a popular picnic spot.

Hitherto considering Slater Ings the wilder part of  the woodlands, now I looked properly, it became obvious it had also been part of the Victorian ‘job creation scheme’.  Why else would the large rocks be so picturesquely placed along the walking path?

Making our way between said rocks, bluebells and primroses lined the grassy edges.  A woman with several kids in tow kindly took a detour for us and a second pair of women with dogs waited for us at a gap in the wall leading out to the lane.

Wayside primroses 3Chancing a return via Heptonstall, we saw more people in one place than in the last 3 weeks.  Locals stood chatting in small groups in their gardens while visitors lounged in fields and on benches, and walked, cycled, and drove along the road in both directions.  The small community had rallied round with the post office offering a distribution service for local businesses and the pub doing ‘order and collect’ Sunday lunch.

Managing to keep at a safe distance we rested  very briefly in Weaver’s Square and re-enacted a scene from the Pace Egg – sadly cancelled this year along with everything else during lockdown.

We continued on Heptonstall Road, down the steps to Lee Wood Road and onto The Buttress, where we made further waits a  for slower elderly people coming up the punishingly steep cobbles.

Slater Ings path 2

Colden Forage

Marble water

At the start of spring, a variety of factors mitigated against walking for several weeks, including stringent ‘social distancing’ measures imposed due to the Coronavirus crisis.  I had planned to go garlic-picking with a friend a few days before the lockdown, but as I felt unwell, I went into self-isolation for a week.  Thankfully, it was the usual sinusitis, not Covid-19.ii

Bridleway rock artPhil and I eventually managed a foraging trip to Colden Clough on a gloriously sunny first Sunday of April.  Approaching the Fox and Goose, we danced in the street, revelling in the novelty of hardly any traffic.  We walked directly up Church Lane to the bridleway to avoid the playpark.  From the higher vantage point, I could see that kids were using the swings although they were meant to be cordoned off.  Now devoid of puddles, arid dust whirled beneath our feet as moss clung to saplings overhanging the edge.  We encountered very few others enjoying their allotted outdoor exercise.  A kind family stood back so we could overtake them.  A couple waited patiently while we took photos of the rock art, now augmented to resemble a cairn.

Clough flowerNear Lumb Mill, vibrant yellow flowers glinted in the sunlight.  The low level of Colden Water enabled Phil to clamber down to the sands for risky shots under the bridge – such a contrast to our visit only a month ago.

Checking the coast was clear, we scooted along the large paving stones and continued upwards onto rugged paths, stopping only briefly to admire clumps of white anemones, knobbly tree roots and the marble-effect tumbling waters below us.

On reaching the ‘garlic fields’, the unmistakeable smell of ransoms mingled with the ridiculously fresh air.  Keeping well away from the path while picking, we soon filled two carrier bags with fresh green leaves.  When two more foragers arrived, I took extra care to remain at a very safe distance.  Alone again, we perched on rocks for a short rest as dry branches alarmingly crackled and thumped to the ground from the beech trees overhead.

Signpost 1We climbed the dry slope up to the top causeway, devoid of humans and animals apart from crows and curlews with their distinctive calls.  Looking back, I spotted them swooping low in adjoining fields.  At the familiar three-way junction, we rounded the ‘public garden’ and came to a lovely path, lined with twisty trees.

A picturesque wooden signpost confirmed the route down to Lumb Bank.  Returning to the site of the mill, we found it slightly more populous, with some people harder to dodge than others.  One family in particular obviously didn’t know what 2 metres looked like as they strolled along the path, oblivious to our attempts at avoidance; turning our backs and not breathing might have been a clue!

On Bridge Lanes, Phil nipped to the shop while I sped up the Cuckoo Steps.  I managed a preliminary sort of the pungent garlic leaves and a hasty snack before totally flagging.  While glad of the walk in proper fresh air further than the shop for the first time in weeks, it left me exhausted and achy for the rest of the day.  Later that evening, the health minister threatened to ban outdoor exercise if people didn’t behave – I’d like to see how that pans out!

Reference:

  1. My Journal of the Coronavirus: https://corvusdiaries.wordpress.com/

Variant path 1

Nutclough in Flood

Branch and foam 1

Storms and floods wreaked havoc last month.  We had hardly ventured out, not least because the situation raised my depression and anxiety levels.  However, on the last Sunday of February, we walked to Nutclough to witness the effects on one of our favourite locations.  As predicted,  we found a very watery scene.  Foamy torrents teemed from the weir.  The firepit had been inundated.  The stepping-stones had been swept away.

But strangely, the deluge actually made some areas more accessible.  I bravely followed Phil up the muddy slope that I had refused to scale on our last visit, grasping at flimsy branches to prevent slipping.  I clambered onto the fallen tree serving as a bridge at the higher end of the old mil ponds.  Initially I tried to slide across without standing.

Streaming 4However, this proved impractical.  Taking a deep breath, I stood upright and almost ran across the horizontal trunk.  I had almost made it when I was startled by loud whooping ( the sound of children on the top path), triggering panic.  Phil had stopped near the far end of the trunk to take photos.  I pleaded with him to move so I could get back on firmer ground.  It struck me that he had not commented on my courage in undertaking the crossing in the first place.

Below the waterfall, we discovered that due to scouring from the swelled waters, we could venture quite a bit further up than usual.  This is  normally only possible during a extended dry spells.  Small copper beech, the leaves long-dried since autumn, reached towards the glinting water.

Orange fungi 3

We precariously picked our way across a jumble of sticks and branches, adorned with unappetising fungi of ochre and black. The sunken bench was all but marooned on the flooded path.  Phil daringly leapt over the swollen stream to a patch of shingle, practically the only part of the ‘islands’ that were not submerged.  This was a step too far for me.  I pottered on the water’s edge to examine pot fragments.

We took the path up to Birchcliffe, and walked down, pausing to admire tiny flowering moss atop stone walls.  In the town centre, we found the streets and marketplace weirdly depopulated for a Sunday.  Making our way homeward, we bumped into a friend and chatted as we walked.  Her house being canal side, I was relieved to hear that she had escaped largely unscathed during the recent terrible weather.

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjkK19zVvfQti9sw2im4qloAhpqL9g?e=ujqbz3

Tiny moss 2

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.

 

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjkK19zVvfQti9RkfZatqiLCPQD4XQ?e=3ctubM

 

Upstream 8

 

Heritage, Tea and Cake in Sowerby

Valley view pano

Mid-September heritage open day events provided an opportunity to investigate something new.  We agreed that St. Peter’s Church in Sowerby looked interesting.  I checked public transport routes to discover it involved a bit of a walk from the nearest station.  We set off in the soft late summer sun, along the towpath and through the park.  The slightly-delayed train soon arrived at Sowerby Bridge where the subway stank strongly of cat pee.  We headed down Station Road and briefly perused interesting artefacts outside the junk shop.  At the bottom, we found a crazily busy junction where motorists tore past yellow stone edifices.  With no pedestrian crossing, getting to the other side of West Street proved hairy.

Terrace 1Sowerby Street led uphill.  An incongruent concrete block was fronted by a small parade of shops, most seemingly shut.  Upper floors housed maisonettes.  Ahead of us, a faded sign on the side of The Royal Oak made us wonder if the pub still served Whitaker’s ales and stout.

Across the street, we turned right onto Sowerby New Road and climbed ever higher.  On the left-hand side, industrial buildings and a dilapidated telephone exchange interspersed residential properties.  A whole row had been demolished leaving a pile of rubble reminiscent of a bomb site.  Stunted side streets proclaimed private land.  To the right, sloping terraces clung to the valley sides.  We remarked on the juxtaposition of the urban and rural in the Lower Calder Valley.

Further up, Phil asked if we were going the right way to which I replied there was no other (apart from crossing the valley near Luddenden Foot).  He seemed sceptical so I suggested he look it up before our return.

Sowerby village 2A bend eventually marked the start of Sowerby Village with the Church Stile Inn the first sign we had reached our destination.  The imposingly dark church stood proudly on the opposite corner.   A side gate led into the graveyard.  Going round to the unlocked front door, we entered to find St. Peter’s looking quite busy but soon surmised the occupants were all church people, with us the sole visitors who’d come on spec.  Undaunted, we explored the interior.  Sunbeams shone through amazing stained-glass windows.  Ornate plasterwork decorated the wall above the altar.  An intriguing balcony was unfortunately out of bounds. Display boards showed stills of film scenes from the BBC drama Gentleman Jack  – the church had stood in for St. Martin’s in the Field.

The lovely trendy vicar offered me a cuppa.  As I settled down with my drink, I fell into conversation with two other women munching cake, one of whom was also a writer.  She fetched me a copy of the church newsletter containing articles she’d written about the church and its historyi.  In turn, I told her about my column in Valley Life magazine.  When Phil  joined us, the vicar made him a coffee and I succumbed to the proffered cake.

Surprised at how long we had spent inside, we said we ought to make a move and bade goodbye.  Walking round the church exterior, our attempt to do a complete circuit was thwarted by tangled overgrowth at the back.

ParkingWe explored the immediate vicinity of St. Peter’s Square where the primary school had been turned into a church hall.   Phil checked google for a different way to Sowerby Bridge.  As I expected, there was none.  We returned the way we’d come.  Obviously quicker downhill, we occasionally  stopped to admire valley views, picking out landmarks and peculiarities.  Lone cats stalked about in long grass. Tall towers loomed in the distance.  A line of toy cars had been parked neatly beneath a garden swing. Upper Gaukroger sounded unusual; the name turned out to be idiosyncratically Yorkshirei i.

At the bottom of Sowerby New Road, we took a slight detour down Foundry Road and noted that some of the Victorian mills had been converted into apartments, rather over-furbished in places.

Town hallTowards  the town centre, a makeshift campsite had been constructed near the weir.   We wondered at the ostentatious architecture, particularly the odd shape of the town hall and the fake art deco defunct cinema.  We ducked into a wharfside pub to use facilities but were not tempted to stay.  Narrow alleys provided a shortcut to the station.  In the subway again, Phil this time noticed the stink and surmised there must be a station cat.

The next  due train was severely delayed.  The announcements helpfully informed us that it was late due to being late leaving the depot!  As we loitered in the car park,  one of the women from the church appeared, on her way  to Manchester where she now lived.

We chatted until our train eventually arrived, leaving her to catch the next one;  not far behind due to the huge delay.  Out of earshot, Phil said the woman reminded him of the ‘lovely Debbie McGee’.  I was glad he had not mentioned that earlier or I might have struggled to keep a straight face!

Notes

i.  https://st-peters.ryburnbenefice.org/

ii. https://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Gaukroger

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjkK19zVvfQti85ShF7iT8-DfaEScg?e=zXgwoe

St Peters Church exterior 9