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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

It seemed as though winter arrived early in November.  Often elusive, the sun appeared intermittently on a late Wednesday.  Although lifting the temperature slightly, it was still cold.  We discussed a few ideas involving a short walk to somewhere offering lunch.  I suggested Heptonstall, Mytholmroyd and Stubbings.  As we stepped out, a chilly wind made it feel even colder.  We decided to stay near town with a short trip to Nutclough.

Taking the picturesque route  via The Buttress and Hangingroyd Lane to Foster Lane, we remarked it had been a long time since we climbed the ginnel up to Unity Street.  Always evocative of the Victorian industrial heydays, parked cars hampered efforts to capture the mood on camera.  We scanned the rooftops of the town centre below, noticing for the first time how many turrets there are.

Far out 2At the end of the street,  we crossed the main road and headed into Nutclough. In spite of recent assaults by wind, rain and frost, autumnal colours still bedecked the trees.  Fallen leaves scattered the paths.  Jade-like lichen covered large grey boulders, resembling textured wallpaper.  Glistening moss swathed drystone walls.  Speckled brown oak leaves contrasted with the bright emerald.

On reaching the ‘islands’ I noticed some of the stepping-stones had been washed away by heavy downpours.  Phil strode over the shimmying stream regardless but I deemed it impassable.  I casted around for replacement stones and threw a promising square lump into the water.  It settled in the right place but was insufficient to breach the gap.  I had no luck finding the right shape and size to improve the situation. He tried to help by lobbing a stones from the other side but it was useless.  I gave up and backtracked to the steps near the weir.  At the top, different varieties of moss adorned rocks.  Delicate red stalks supported their tiny blooms.

Moss close up 2

Finding ourselves on the path belonging to the Birchcliffe Centre, copper beech, dark green in September, now lived up to their name.  We took the straight-forward route down into town.  This time, we had lunch options aplenty, with only a smattering of punters in the fading light of mid-afternoon.  Rendezvous supplied us with tasty, warming and filling meals.  I nipped outside for a smoke.  A juvenile jackdaw perched on the back of the adjacent chair to mine. He kept looking towards the café window as though waiting for something.  When I returned back inside, one of the staff told her colleague “Scruffy’s here.” Consequently, a young woman appeared with a crust of bread.  “Ah!  I wondered why he was hanging around.” “Yes,” she told me, “he comes every day to be fed.” Crafty!

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View back 1

 

Cragg Vale Tales 2

Mill Ponds 8

Amidst a changeable and frequently wet August, we took advantage of a more promising day to re-visit Elphin Brook.  A cloudy sky prompted me to take a pac-a-mac but at the bus stop, it suddenly became hot and I wished I’d taken a sunhat instead.  Riding up to Cragg Vale, the air cooled.  We pressed the buzzer  when we spotted the sign pointing down to the village.  On alighting, we noted tiny steep steps between the tightly packed terrace housing the old co-op building.

Church LaneWe descended Church Bank Lane, where leafy trees partially obscured church features .  In the junk yard, we played a game of ‘spot the difference’ .  Phil joked the tea mug was not resting on the rusty van last time.  I observed that there would not have been flowers in the pot in winter.  Behind, ramshackle buildings looked deserted although I was half-expecting dangerous lifeforms to emerge.

Beyond the gate, summer growth in unbelievably vivid greens surrounded the brookside path.

Friendly SignFurther down, we  laughed at the un/friendly warning sign as we picked our way down to the weir.  Large ferns almost touched the foamy water.  Eddies played tricks on the eyes, with water flowing in all directions.

A narrow path led between old water courses.  Dazzlingly green algae lay atop mill ponds.  Ubiquitous pink balsam surrounded the edge. Elongated houses reflected deep in the water. Approaching the old paper mill, we failed to see a way to get nearer and continued on the ‘permissive path’.  The small steps were almost completely obliterated by brambles necessitating care to avoid a mishap.  At the top, a sign suggested the path was maintained but not for some time I’d wager, given their unkempt condition.

StalkingBack on Cragg Road, we wondered if it was possible to get back down to the brook at some point but gates and signs suggested private land only.  We continued on tarmac and were surprised to see a heron standing in a field.  At the entrance to Broadhead Clough the brook disappeared beneath the road.  We took a refreshment break on a convenient bench. Nearer Mytholmroyd, we spotted a footpath sign and crossed to the ice cream factory.

A concrete bridge led into a shadowy yard, beyond which a path led into a decidedly eerie thicket.  I was not keen to investigate.  Instead, we opted to return home via Nest Lane and Park Lane.

Two spots of rain fell.  Ah!  I thought, just as well I brought my mac!  Then it promptly stopped again.  It was not until later that the weather really turned and I reflected that we had timed the outing perfectly.

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Evergreen 2

Mythical Mytholmroyd

Scout View Pano

A couple of summers ago, we had attempted a walk to Scout Rock.  As the houses petered out on Scout Road, fencing blocked our route, due to post-flooding work.  A local informed us that it was due to re-open in October.

Last Sunday, I realised we had not yet returned to the area and suggested an outing.  We set off along the Rochdale Canal, dodging cyclist without bells, we looked across the water where the ever-increasing number of barges displayed photogenic washing lines.  Reflections made curvy patterns in the water and a perfect circle of the tunnel leading under the main road.

Lock 3We tarried a little at lock number 7, where strips on the walkway over the lock created an optical illusion. Although straight, it appeared to slope, whichever side I viewed it from.

We left the towpath at Westfield Terrace.  On Burnley Road, ongoing work on flood defences had progressed somewhat since I last visited on foot.

Mysterious large blocks lined the road.  The bridge over the River Calder had been transformed.  Balustrades and steps allowed us to peek through and over toughened glass.  Below, an expanse of sand prompted Phil to remark that the beach was coming on nicely.  I said there would be umbrellas and sunbeds on it soon!

Centre 1We walked up to Mytholmroyd village centre, noting a few changes in shop use and signage.  I pointed out the new bridge over Elphin Brook behind the Shoulder of Mutton.  When I had visited with Marisa in February, arty shadows danced on the yellow stonework.  Alas, the overcast conditions did not allow for the same effect this time.

Continuing to the corner, we contemplated Mytholmroyd Farm and wondered how a road leading to a business park could be private.  Climbing up Scout Road, Phil spotted numerous small berries on the trees. Sampling one, he declared it tasted like a cherry so of course, I followed suit.  As I bit through the dark red skin, I found fuzzy green pith beneath and my mouth immediately became numb!

Scout Road 6The road steepened and I hoped it would not be long before we could turn off into Scout Wood.  However, we found the footpath still shut.  It seemed unlikely that it would be open anytime soon.  A plethora of ‘Private’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs on the sturdy metal gates, not to mention an electric fence surrounding the wood beyond, made it clear that we were not welcome.

We rested on a wall and ate real cherries that I had with me, to take away the taste of the fake ones.  Phil checked google maps which showed another path further up.  Already flagging from the climb and realising it would lead onto the ridge and then to Cragg Vale, I said it would be too much for me.  Instead, we contented ourselves with gazing at the wood from afar, noting the large population of oak trees, and taking in different views of the valley below.

Heading back down, we turned left at the junction, across the green triangle.  Although I had not walked this way back from the village, my instinct told me to cross Cragg Road to the next bridge over the brook.  As we took a sharp left onto Nest Lane, I picked a few overhanging raspberries, certain they were safe.

Roger GateAfter the housing estate, we made a slight detour at ‘Roger Gate’.  Signed Stubb, I thought it might take us to Stubb Clough.  But on reaching the hamlet I realised we’d done the same thing once before, when we had ended up crossing a railway bridge and continuing to Hawksclough (the opposite direction to our destination).  We returned to the corner and ascended the picturesque Park Lane.

Unclipped hedges encroached onto tarmac.  Makeshift signs warned off HGVs.  Tall foxgloves stretched into the grey sky.  Large cows grazed in the field populated by lambs last spring.  A loud hissing noise gave me a bit of a fright until I realised it was a cow farting!  I was unable to share my amusement with Phil as he raced ahead of me: “I’m not stopping near them beasts!”

At Wood Hey, unusual large flowers provided a splash of yellow amongst the greenery.  We continued onto Wood Top for the quickest way back down to the towpath at Mayroyd.  We both felt knackered by then and rested briefly on a low wall.  We discussed why it was often problematic getting to ‘Mythical Mytholmroyd’ -like Brigadoon!  Nearer home, Will Kaufman who said hello as he walked by.  I joked he recognised us as there were so few people at the’ Lunchtime Live’ gig he had played the day before!

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjkK19zVvfQti7tGe7ddwXPDnan4Sg?e=TVlVHi

Circle