Tag Archives: recreation

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

 

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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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

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St Peters Church exterior 9

Nutclough to Common Bank Circular

 

 

Path to Field

During the hot August Bank Holiday weekend, we headed for Nutclough in search of shade and tranquillity.  Bright green grass reflected in impossibly blue water.  Large seed heads rustled in the shade of the leafy canopy.  As we dingled amongst the islands and streams, the peace was disturbed by a crowd of insta-types trying to get the perfect selfie.  One of them said “it’s beautiful here” to which I was tempted to reply, ‘it was ‘til you showed up!’

Dappled Water 3Phil clambered over fallen trunks and dodgy slopes to get nearer the waterfall.  Still mindful of my tendonitis, I declined to follow and waited on the sunken bench.  As the large group departed, a woman with two children and a lively dog appeared putting paid to any idea of enjoying a picnic in solitude.  I realised I had totally lost sight of Phil and waited for what seemed an age until he re-appeared.

We proceeded further up the clough and took the left-hand path leading to the meadow where clumps of pale purple heather grew beneath beach trees bearing nut clusters.  As the scrub thinned out further up,  a refreshing breeze blew softly.  We squatted on the grass to eat flatbread and drink sarsaspirilla.

Before crossing the stile, we cautiously checked for cows that had spooked us on our last foray in the area, then continued slowly upwards following the just-discernible grass path between field boundaries marked by drystone walls and the odd hawthorn.  The meadow was denuded of flowers.  I wondered if the cows and eaten them all before moving on to pastures new.

Really Shiny Fly

We followed the line of the path to a small gate leading to a lovely lane, where late summer blooms  bobbed and thistle fluff floated in the mild wind. An incredibly shiny fly buzzed atop golden flowerheads.  At Club Houses, we Continued to Billy lane and through Old Town.  We stopped at Lane Ends for a pint in the beer garden.  I had to move round a lot to avoid heatstroke, even though evening fast approached.

 

We took a top route back down.  On Rowlands Lane, we looked across at the route we had climbed, observing it was a long way round to Old Town. Yet more downy fluff adorned the hedgerows with tall willow herbs stretching beyond walls into the clear sky.

Waxing 2We descended via Dodnaze into Common Bank wood where the waning sun filtered through the trees and made puddles of light on the dry path.

Approaching town, very loud music assaulted our ears.  It turned out to be emanating from the White Swan which seemed slightly bizarre.  We chatted briefly to a friend outside the Shoulder of Mutton but were not keen to linger for Bank Holiday mayhem,  returning home via the Chinese take-away instead.

 

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Path Via Field 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

Jungly Jumble

Jungle 3

The last Thursday of July was the hottest day of the year so far although tempered somewhat by a few clouds and an occasional breeze.  We decided to spend the afternoon among trees and flowing water and caught the bus upwards.  Unusually quite full, several people stayed on beyond Heptonstall to alight at the New Delight (for Hebble Hole).  We continued to Blackshaw Head and went down the small lane beside the chapel onto Badger Lane.  I spotted a couple ahead of us consulting a guidebook of some sort.  We followed the familiar route signed Calderdale Way.

ChickensThe narrow path was extremely overgrown requiring careful footing to avoid being stung by nettles, scratched by thistles or sinking into marshy spots.  It seemed to take longer than I remembered to reach the trough; often surrounded flowers, today mint dominated.  After Apple Tree Farm, where we only saw a few alpacas and no babies, chickens scratched about in the gravel. 

We turned left through the wooden gate, walked along the top field boundary to the signpost and could just make out the grassy path leading downwards, although Jumble Hole was no longer signed.

Delicate 2Delicate pale blue harebells dotted the meadow, their distinctive star-shaped heads bobbing in the gentle wind.  We settled on the excellent flat rock to eat a leisurely picnic lunch.

A woman with three dogs appeared.  I shouted “help!” but she managed to stop them jumping up for our food.  They bolted straight for the water, chasing a ball.

We ascended the cute stone steps onto the wooden bridge.  Below us, foamy water tumbled over flat stones resembling paving.  On the other side, we proceeded to Staups Mill.  The man I’d seen earlier was coming the opposite way, still lost and consulting his book.  He said they had somehow missed the first path down and thus bypassed the mill, arriving at the next bridge, where his girlfriend was waiting,.  I gave him directions for proceeding down the clough (noting that a map to accompany the walking guide might be an idea).  I realised later that they must have taken a second path from the meadow, leading straight down to what we call ‘the pixie bridge’.

Mill 3A profusion of opportunistic tree growth rendered only parts of the grey mill walls visible from above.  On getting closer, we discovered that trunks and branches had been placed around the ruin making exploration annoyingly impossible.

Agreeing to stay on the straight-forward route, we used the ‘most obvious paths’ (as the man’s walking guide called them).   In places, large ferns made the wood more like a primevil jungle and we joked about dinosaurs lurking in the undergrowth.  Just before the larger bridge, the lost couple re-appeared, again coming a different way, and dithered at the junction signed Penning Bridleway.

Old Mill Race 2We pottered about among flattened mill remains.  The top of a mill pond had become visible due to low water levels.  The thick dam wall housed tiny arched doorways.  A smaller arched bridge upstream of the big one was obscured by fallen branches.  Structures jutting out over the stream suggested the location of a watermill.

We rested briefly on the low wall of the bridge, enjoying the cooling effect of the waterfall behind us with a view of the curve. Two young boys rode dangerously standing up on the back of a flatbed, shouting with glee.

We then continued down the Pennine Bridleway where the leafy canopy provided total shade. Tumble-down houses were as equally inaccessible as Staups Mill due to the encroaching trees.  Approaching Underbank, we messed about doing ‘selfies’ in a convex traffic mirror.  Outside the converted workshop a man cut stone, creating a lot of noise and dust. I  said it was too hot for that type of thing.

On reaching Burnley Road, we stuck to small paths behind the pavement and emerged near Callis Bridge.  We crossed onto the canal.  Making a slight detour through the community garden, we had to clamber over chopped-down trees to get back onto the towpath.  At Stubbings, the sun became fiercer.  I nabbed the only free table with a parasol while Phil bought beer.  I suddenly felt very hot and sweaty .  I went inside with the intention of putting cold water on my face to find the sink taps ran hot.  So that didn’t help much!

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On the Way Down 2

 

Lumb Falls and Crimsworth

Lumb Falls Panorama

Plagued by tendonitis for a couple of months, I had been hesitant to embark on longer walks, despite the longer late spring days.  Recent outings had been confined to familiar territory with minimal climbing.  By mid-May I decided to be pre-active and embarked on a self-treatment programme involving special Achilles heel exercises, massage and the use of a bandage when necessary.

Suitably prepared, I agreed to a more adventurous jaunt to Lumb Falls in the mid-week sunshine.  This started with a ride on the 595 bus. The few other passengers alighted at Dod Naze or Old Town leaving us alone on the rest of the journey onto Keighley Road.  The driver stopped for us at the junction of Haworth old Road, with a cheery farewell.

Haworth Old Road 2We walked upon the patchy tarmac of the single track, almost silent apart from bleating sheep, a handful of birds flitting between telegraph wires, and the odd passing vehicle.  Roadwork signs indicating that the road narrowed ahead made us chuckle; narrowed to what?   Grassy verges lined the route, interspersed with bright flowers, rickety gates and defunct signposts.

A sole walker overtook us, striding purposefully and disappeared behind a wall.  Guessing his destination, we then saw a helpful sign indicating ‘Lumb Falls’.  We paused at the top of the path for a couple with a trio of panting dogs to come up and get straight in a car.

Dean Descent 7

The steep path proved absolutely stunning!  Square grey cobbles shone underfoot, rising into bridge-like structures over springs.  Overgrown grasses, tall flowers and curly ferns made arty shadows on the ground.  Leafy boughs formed shady arches, framing a bright blue sky.  Across the dean, a grassy track rose steeply with a trio of sheep seemingly teetering on the slope.

Arriving at Lumb Falls, we discovered a variety of wonders.  A tree trunk resembled an elephant’s head; tributaries tumbled picturesquely into Crimsworth Brook; sturdy stone gate posts stood amongst the debris of a long-gone wall.  A smattering of people occupied the beauty spot including two men hogging the prime rock.

Lumb Falls 5We explored the scene from all angles witnessing a yellow dipper swooping over the water as insects buzzed beneath the arched bridge.  Picking a spot to rest, we ate a small packed lunch and gazed at the gushing falls, mesmerised by the babbling sounds and popping bubbles.

It became quite hot in the direct sun prompting us to eventually stir.  Climbing up the opposite side of the dean, I was very glad of the bandage on my bad ankle!  We soon spotted a sign pointing to Midgehole.  I immediately recognised the path, from our only other visit to this particular stretch several years ago.

Path Going Up 1Along the ridge, dry pale brown bracken covered the slope to our left.   Large stones littered the landscape, which may or may not have been from ancient buildings.  A tree gripping onto a mound with exposed roots suggested dramatic soil erosion. Enormous sheep grazed on the right.  Further on, we recognised landmarks across the way from previous, less-adventurous treks in Crimsworth Dean.

Presently, a large black stone wall impeded the path.  Due to the light, I didn’t immediately see how to cross it but realised a stile had been integrated.  The steps were so dark and far apart that great care was required in clambering to the other side.

From here, signs marked out private land from permissive paths.  We greeted a grumpy farmer who managed a curt ‘hello’ as we were directed back down into a field and across a rudimentary bridge into a pine forest where we spotted the next bridge.  We considered crossing back towards Pecket Well but opted instead to continue.  The path wound up another steep incline.

Wayside Flowers 2Aching, tired and thirsty, we eventually reached the main track and scanned for a suitable resting place.  Planning to perch on a rotting tree trunk, the sight of a wood cockroach put us off.  We settled on a nearby patch of grass to recover with a drink of sarsaparilla.  Further down, clumps of flowers lined the verges with white garlic under the shady pines to our left, and poppies, bluebells and forget-me-nots on the right.

Soon enough, we reached the edge of Hardcastle Crags carpark and easily found the small path leading straight down alongside the brook and onto Midgehole Road.  We headed over to the Blue Pig for a comfort break.

We found a vacant riverside bench to enjoy welcome pints.  From the corner of my eye, I spotted a selection of bird species skimming Hebden Water.   Standing for a closer look, I could not see any of them – typical!  We took yet another upward route homeward, rouxing the decision as we ascended the wide stony steps until we reached the paved stretch to Lee Wood.  A shortcut part-way down the Buttress led quickly home.  As I rested my legs and supped coffee, I realised it had been my longest day out for quite some time.  I was tired of course but thankfully, my ankle did not cause too much grief.

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Path Through the Wood 2