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.
We 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.
We 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.
Several 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.
We 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.