Tag Archives: reflections

Cragg Vale Tales

 

cragg vale 2

Since we moved to this part of the world, we have only visited Cragg Vale three times.  In 2015, we met our friends M&M at the Hinchcliffe Arms for a birthday lunch.  With time to kill before they arrived, we explored the churchyard backlit by the watery yellow winter sun. Amongst the jumble of rusting vehicles in the adjacent junkyard, a collection of discarded Christmas paraphernalia added pathos to the scene.

cragg vale - merry christmasThe following year, I had a terrible summer involving the loss of a brother.  Over the August bank Holiday weekend, I struggled with deep depression but forced myself to get out of the house.  We heard of a food and drink festival in Cragg Vale, and rode the bus up.  A few stalls inhabited the pub car park.  It did not take long to exhaust their offerings, although we discovered the best sausages ever!

We parked ourselves outside the Hinchcliffe to eat them hot with a pint of beer.  We then noticed that the superbly named church of St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness was open to visitors.  Exploring the interior we noted that this gem, built in 1815 amongst the textile mills, is now badly in need of restoration.  Dedicated volunteers endeavour to keep it going.

On the 2nd of January this year, M&M planned a traditional birthday walk to Cragg Vale. Having just fought off yet another dose of sinusitis, I did not feel strong enough to accompany them and instead, we arranged to meet them there for lunch.  It took a lot of effort to be up and ready to leave the house on time to catch the bus at 12.38.  Travelling up the steep incline of Cragg Road, I hoped we would know where to alight, when I spotted the sign pointing down to the Hinchcliffe Arms.

lichen and moss 4A short upward walk took us to the junction of Church Bank Lane.  With time to spare, we dallied to look down on the compact village centre nestled in a dip – consisting mainly of a couple of farms, a church and a pub.  Cushiony greens adorned stone walls edging the lane all the way down to the brook. I had never seen so many different lichens and moss in one place.

Finding the church locked, we contented ourselves with circumnavigating the churchyard and the junkyard where the accumulated old tractors and vans still stood rusting.  The pile of Christmas decorations were sadly absent.  Arriving at the Hinchliffe Arms, a sign in the window informed declared ‘no food available’.

As we hung around near the door, staff emerged on a break and apologised for the kitchen closure (for a deep clean during which the chef was taking a break).  I mentioned that I had seen him featured on ‘Back in Time for Tea’ serving up Yorkshire Goujons, which led to reminiscing about eating tripe and offal as kids.  They invited us in for a cuppa by the fireside.  Preferring to await M&M outside, we perused planters at the car park entrance where melting ice left structural drops atop oval leaves.

When our friends appeared at the end of their walk over the tops, we entered the bar to spend an hour supping beer, chatting and exchanging amusing anecdotes.  We then walked past the junkyard, turned left, immediately right and through a gate onto a path alongside the brook.  Worn round cobbles marked the route as we past weirs and twisty trees.  Marisa spotted a dipper but as usual, it flitted about too fast to be caught on camera.

mill ponds 2We passed through a second gate and soon after, ascended steps amongst mill ponds.  Clumps of bright green algae dotted the surface.  Wintery black trees reflected into the depths.  As we climbed back up, we espied crumbling walls marking the site of an old paper mill, making a mental note to come back and explore in summer.

Ascending yet more steps we came to a gap in the wall and headed up to the road.  Just before we reached the top, I was amused by a sign consisting of an angry-looking black cat in a red triangle.  ‘Watch Out’ was written in large letters underneath.  We emerged onto Cragg Road opposite the Robin Hood Inn which was of course shut.  I had mentioned that according to google, there would not be a bus until after 4 o’clock.

The timetable at the nearby bus stop confirmed this. There was no option but to continue walking down to Mytholmroyd.

As we neared the end of the long road, we spotted a mutual friend coming towards us and stopped to exchange new year greetings.  One of the two children accompanying him jabbered onto me in an incomprehensible manner.  I nodded and smiled.  We entered the Shoulder of Mutton (now recently fully re-opened by a celebrity comic) but as predicted, they stopped serving food at 3 p.m.; we had missed it by 10 minutes!  Luckily, as we continued down to Burnley Road we spotted a bus and caught it just in time.  Back in Hebden, we went to The Oldgate and said hello to a group of friends.  Table and drinks secured, we were able to order food at last – three hours later than planned!  After eating, I started falling asleep so said goodbye and returned home before fatigue set in.

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weir 3

 

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Freaky Nutclough

Bright trees 1

Following a week in bed with sinusitis, we managed one more walk before the end of October.  As it was the day the clocks reverted to GMT and as usual, we did not leave the house until mid-afternoon, we agreed on a short jaunt to Nutclough.  We used the shortcut to the buttress and down towards town.  Discordant music could be heard, prompting speculation as to what event might be occurring but concluded it might just be a busker.  We walked the familiar route via Hangingroyd road, up the steps opposite the Little Park onto Foster Lane, turned right and crossed Keighley Road into Nutclough Wood.  Beautiful colours greeted us immediately; many trees still sported green leaves while browns and oranges littered the path.

Evil pixie 2Finding the large iron gate padlocked, we entered via side gate.  It squeaked ominously as I lifted the latch and went through.  I joked about recording the sound to scare young children on Halloween!  The freaky theme continued as Phil cavorted like an evil pixie – obviously influenced by the film we’d watched the night before featuring fantastically crap demons.i

We continued up leaf-strewn steps and through the gap onto the edge of ‘the swamp’.  Braving snagging brambles and biting insects, I ventured further towards the edge than ever before.

Colourful reflections 6The colours reflected in the water were stunning!  A cyan sky provided a backdrop for dark horizontal shadows of tree trunks.  Bright green ferns were reflected beneath curled-up leaves floating gently on the surface.  Ripples produced surreal effects with undulations of red and yellow.  On returning to the gap in the wall I spotted a small swarm of flies glinting in the sunlight; they gave the impression of fairies dancing in a magical woodland.

Continuing down towards the stream, a couple with two small boys strolled around ‘the island’.  The man chatted to us about the local environment and good weather, making comparisons with his home county of Kent.  The elder of the two boys asked Phil if he could use his camera.  Phil understandably said no and I added that he probably wouldn’t even be able to lift it.  In spite of the shallow water, I cautiously used the stepping stones to cross.

Flourish of fungiAt the top end of the island, we clambered over the felled branches.  More cutting had occurred – evidenced by sawdust on the ground – and sadly obliterated the black mushrooms.    However, a flourish of pale pink fungi grew in its stead.  Due to the low water level, the waterfall had become a tinkling trickle.  Above us, the sun glinted on the uppermost leaves of tall beeches, quietly rustling in the softest of breezes.

We rested briefly on the now even more sunken bench, somewhat bemused by the elder boy bashing everything in sight with a stick.  I remarked that he obviously didn’t get out in the countryside much (urban kids being well known for a fear of the great outdoors!)

Proceeding to the other end of the swamp, my attempts to capture a group of paddling ducks on camera were distinctly blurry.  We turned sharp left to climb the steep path up to the treetops looking down on the kaleidoscope of colours.  Behind the terrace of houses, we nosed around and discovered another path leading back down to the clough.   Phil considered it but I felt it would be too much for me.  After my latest illness, I had just wanted an hour or two of sun and exercise which I had achieved.  Instead, we carried on up to Sandy Gate and down to Birchcliffe.

Picturesque chair 1Taking the steep buttress-like ginnel, tall houses framed a narrow slither of sky in front of us was.  Halfway down, a picturesque chair had been left outside a garden gate, while at the bottom., lichen and small ferns created textured wallpaper against grey stone.  On reaching School Street, we proceeded onto Bridge Gate, noting that Calan’s did not seem popular.

Along Market street, we found amusement in a horrifying display of pumpkins accompanied by a terrible painting of Frida Kahlo – which someone obviously considered an appropriate homage to the late artist – probably the freakiest thing we had seen all day!

Pumpkin helli The excellent Basque film, ‘Errementari’ (the Blacksmith and the Devil)

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A Rare Visit to Gibson Mill

Tree tops 3

It is a rare thing indeed for us to purposefully visit Hardcastle Crags in summer.  Almost as rare (apart from holidays), we set off at 1 p.m. on a mid-July Sunday to catch Gibson Mill’s opening hours.

River rock art 2We took the most direct route via Hangingroyd Lane and the riverside path.  New rock art stood in the centre of Hebden Water, where the banks were adorned with green and white flourishes.

At the bottom of the steps up to Midgehole Road, loud barking caused me to jump out of my skin.   A large dog leapt up from behind tall grasses.

Phil let out an involuntary shout.  Two women appeared, along with a smaller dog causing more commotion.  The women apologised, saying it was a rescue dog responding to our fear.  That sounded reasonable, except I hadn’t even seen the mutt, so how could I be fearful in advance?  Later, Phil felt sorry for shouting at a rescue dog but I said (not for the first time) that dog owners should control their charges when they are likely to come into contact with other walkers.

Gibson Mill interior 3On Midgehole Road, signs declared the Crags car park full.  We weaved between parked cars and clumps of irritatingly slow people to the main gate.  Staying on the top track, we walked speedily to Gibson Mill.  We immediately entered the building and climbed to the top floor to be met by the sight of a Victorian-era kitchen.  An iron range arrayed with a selection of contemporaneous cooking vessels stood against the back wall. To the right, a shallow Belfast sink perched on brick legs.  Around the cracked windowsill, peeling whitewash revealed fading yellow paint.

Through a door on the left we found a larger room with tungsten bulbs suspended from a high ceiling.  The ample space was occupied by Yan Wang-Preston’s ‘Forest’ exhibition, the main object of our visit.  I had expected arty photos of trees.  It turned out to be a project documenting the uprooting of mature trees in China and transplanting them to concrete cities where of course they die.  Utter madness!  Why can’t they grow new trees?

Gibson Mill window viewDownstairs, we made our way to the café for freshly-made sandwiches and tea.  We chose a table on the terrace and got a different view of the mill pond.

From the upper floor, I had noticed small splashes hitting the water’s surface.  What had looked like raindrops, I now realised, were being made by small fish.

After eating, we went out front to finish our drinks.  On the surrounding tables, yet more barking dogs threatened to cause alarm but thankfully, they were kept at bay.  I spotted an acquaintance sitting nearby with a friend.  We exchanged greetings before they entered the mill to peruse the exhibition.

Rock with shadowsWe took the slower, but less populous and pleasanter riverside route back to the main entrance.  Tall pines stretched into the summer sky, the canopy giving respite from the muggy afternoon heat.  Impossibly large stones punctuated the paths and stream, some sporting strange holes.  Foliage made attractive greyscale patterns on eroding surfaces.  At the almost-dry weir, dippers dived among square paving rendered visible by the low water level.

As we rested on a nearby bench, I heard something drop to the ground.  At first, we could see nothing.  Then Phil realised it was his phone.  The screen had cracked (For the third time.  Luckily, he has since discovered he can buy the parts to fix it himself).

Behind bars 2On reaching the end of the crags, we continued on the riverside as much as possible, staying on the left-hand side towards town, foraging a few raspberries from sporadic bushes.

We paused briefly on Victoria Road where a tractor seemed imprisoned.  Headlights gleamed wide-eyed behind an iron gate fastened with rusty iron chains.  Polished blue paintwork reflected blue sky.  Getting ready for the local show, no doubt.

 

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Weir 6

Nutclough in May

Clinging Bluebells 1

A glorious second week in May was marred somewhat with recurring bouts of sinusitis and an altercation with a neighbour, raising my anxiety and stress levels.  Following an exhausting Saturday afternoon hacking shrubs and clearing up outside, we were determined to have some R&R on Sunday. I suggested a short walk as I was still not strong enough to go far.  We walked to the very end of the street, noting lots of hedgerow flowers, then round and down to the buttress.

Bluebells and leavesAt the bottom, we took Hangingroyd Lane to climb the steps opposite the little park and along Unity Street into Nutclough.

The stream was very low, with additional crossing points to the islands.  I was able to get much closer to the small waterfall than usual and marvelled at how much difference a short dry spell could make.

We spent a considerable time surrounded by the beautiful colours. Trees displayed an array of greens; bluebells topped walls and ridges; smatterings of yellow punctuated the palette.

The water was so blue and the reflections of trees so still that it looked like the sky.  The area became busy we families as we relaxed on the bench.

Tree reflections 7We escaped up to the top path and walked along to the stone bridge, where we debated which route to take.  We opted for the second path on the left, up towards the meadows.

A dinky craggy path led between small trees and bushes which I deduced had been planted since we last came this way.  At the top, two guys with dogs sat next to a steep stone stile.

On crossing, one of the dogs started following and pestering us.  We started up the grass path bisecting the flower meadow, resplendent with dandelions as a precursor to summertime blooms.  Put off by wandering cows, we backed down and searched for another route avoiding the canines but failed. Clambering back over the stile, being pestered again, we started to follow the line of the wall.  It became very tussocky and the darn dog followed us!  Defeated, we made our way back to the proper path.   I picked up the pace as we descended.  Phil called me to wait for him (makes a change).

Top field 1

I hadn’t realised, but I must have taken a right-hand fork somewhere and emerged at the bottom of the cobbled lane leading up to Hurst Road.  We jumped down a bit of a drop where there might have been steps once.  A smaller, unexplored path opposite looked enticing and we decided to be adventurous and follow it, only to soon emerge onto the original top path!  Phil thought it was hilarious.

We headed towards the main entrance when I suggested that as it was a day for exploring new paths, we should try the small flight of stone steps leading further up.   We found ourselves in a small wooded area, carpeted with bluebells and garlic flowers.

Garlic flowers 1Continuing up to a gate, a passive/aggressive notice on the other side declared it part of a private garden – it’s aright for some!  We emerged onto a long driveway, curving round yet more bluebell woods.  At the bottom, the stone gatepost displayed the name ‘Arnsbrae’.  How many times had we passed that without noticing it? We walked down Keighley Road and into town.

In search of a refreshing pop, the cafes in the square were packed and the nearby shop shut.  We found spaces at Rendezvous on Bridge Gate.  Phil secured an outside table while I went in for drinks.  Then he decided he was hungry.  We were given both daytime and evening menus.  I settled on a wrap when we were informed that the daytime menu had just become unavailable.  We shared a hot meze off the evening menu – very tasty albeit rather more food than we had intended.

Bluebells and LadybirdExactly a year on, I could not resist the allure of Nutclough in May.  There is something almost magical about the place, with bluebells on top of the wall seemingly clinging to a cliff, the almost- surreal greenery and vibrant reflections in the water.  Copper butterflies flitted among the flowers while  ladybirds grazed on bramble leaves.

 

Yet more new steppingstones had been installed onto the island and a new stream had appeared, leading from the diminutive waterfalls.  We settled on the sunken bench for refreshments when a family headed our way.  As they had a dog, I thought better of exposing our sausages rolls (albeit veggie ones!) Instead, we walked towards the weir and up the ‘Crow steps’ into the treetops.

Fearney StileMy bad ankle gave me severe grief on the climb coupled with pain in my opposite leg but I soldiered on.  Reaching the row of houses at the top, we tried to find a different route back down to the clough and ended up in a posh garden.  A woman on the other side of a gate called to us, saying we could go through.  As we did so, she asked: “how are you?” I didn’t recognise her but later realised she was a former neighbour).  She was looking for a cat which I spotted a bit further down.  She thanked us and we walked alongside the white house, down to the stone bridge, always littered with beech leaves.  We crossed to head up the track to Hirst Road.  I remembered the first path up to Fearney Field being unpleasant, and continued to the next one, across the stile.

Having been spooked last year by cows, Phil went ahead to check the coast was clear.  Only a docile rabbit grazed.  We sat on the wall and took our time enjoying our snacks in the warm sunshine. Aeroplanes headed straight up in a blue sky, looking as if they were heading for the half moon.  Returning via Joan Wood, my Achilles heel pain flared up again on the brief but tricky descent.  Back in town, the place heaved making us disinclined to linger.

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Moon and Rocket

Wood Hey to Hawksclough

Black bird

A fine and dry Sunday in early April, we remarked on the contrast with the snow and rain of the previous Easter weekend.

Cherry blossom 3We strolled along the towpath of the Rochdale Canal where daffodils created pretty reflections in the still water.  We entered the bustling Calder Holmes Park.

Dogs chased balls; kids chased around on scooters; footballers played; skateboarders wheeled up and down the slopes, listening to rap. (Just like being in ‘Da ‘Hood’!)

Taking the path alongside the river, elderly men sat contentedly on benches as we admired blossom and tree bark.  At the station, we ascended Wood Top Road, where more photogenic bark and bright green lichen punctuated the sloping woodland.

Lamb close upAs we climbed we detected bleating.  New lambs gambolled cutely in the adjoining field, occasionally returning to their mothers.  Near the fence, a set of twins nibbled twigs. One of the pair looked straight at me for a close-up shot.

We headed towards Stubb Clough before I realised it would be very muddy and double-backed through Wood Hey Farm and upwards to the corner of Spencer Lane.

Turning left along Wood Hey Lane and onto Park Lane, we enjoyed idyllic country scenes until we reached the edge of the Nest Estate.

Stubb FieldI wondered if there was a shortcut rather than going all the way into Mytholmroyd.  The amusingly titled ‘Roger Gate’ sported a sign to ‘Stubb’.  We followed, down a beautifully maintained lane.  A blackbird conveniently perched in a tree for more animal shots.  Stubb Field recreation ground contained more than its fair share of warning signs alongside an empty noticeboard.

At the end of the lane, the very large ‘Stubb House’ faced us.  From a choice of two routes we followed arrows pointing to a tiny gap in a stone wall.  Down a narrow path edged with hedges, to steps onto a green railway bridge, I hovered at the top with a touch of vertigo.

On the other side of the tracks, we continued till we could see the road, and considered the options.  Eschewing the route which would take us past the scrap yard, we turned left to a picturesque stone bridge.

Hawksclough bridge 2Complete with old stone gate posts, we imagined horses and carriages trotting along.  A small terrace of old houses on the main road was labelled ‘Hawksclough’.  I marvelled at how many times we must have seen this without actually noticing it.  Across the road, I briefly examined The Square, noting it looked just as old.

We cut across grass to get back onto the canal and rested at lock 7 where Canada Geese paddled in the fast overflow.  We returned home via the towpath, remarking on how long we’d been out without going very far.  But we had enjoyed discovering more about this little area between Hebden and Mytholmroyd.i

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Lock no seven 2

A Quick Blast

Canal Barges 3

The harsh winter of 2017-18 showed no signs of letting up.  On the last Sunday of February, the cold persisted despite the sun, but I was desperate to get out of the house having been ill in bed the previous week.

Blackpit MoonriseWe set off on a short stroll along the canal.  It felt arctic on the aqueduct with the Siberian blast hitting us straight on.  Phil said it was officially the coldest part of town which made sense, being surrounded by all that water.  At Blackpit lock, as he searched in vain for rooks in the rookery, I noticed the moon was up – a silver semi-circle in a clear blue sky.

In the park, we found little of interest.  Bare branches dominated, and there seemed to be even less to look at than in mid- winter.

Canal Perpendicular 2Exiting through the gate onto the towpath, we watched ripples on the surface created by the easterly wind, changing the reflections of small colourful barges as a lone duck swum past.

Still walking easterly, my eye caught a collection of canal paraphernalia adorning the stone wall opposite.

Re-entering via the other gate, we skirted the park and spotted a few signs of life in the shape of tiny yellow blossoms.  Over the concrete bridge into the memorial gardens, Phil looked again for rooks.

I thought I spotted some but they turned out to be jackdaws – a very cute couple in a tree.    After admiring an interesting evergreen adorned with interesting bark and moss, we retreated into town.  We made a short circuit of charity shops before returning home. I felt exhausted and cold, despite trying to warm ourselves with coffee and cake.  I retired back to bed.

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Proud Tree 2

Return to Willow Gate

River art 1Mid July, the intermittent summer returned bringing a bright, sunny day but with a breeze making conditions bearable.  Phil and I took the same walk.   As we ambled along the river, we noticed the sun falling between the trees made arty reflections on the water’s surface.  Our photos looked like impressionist masterpieces without the need for any digital trickery!.

At Hardcastle Crags, we walked through the full car park, trying to locate the path I’d found instinctively in March but this time it eluded me.  Confused, I asked a man in an NT hut.  After he tried to flog me a map, I eventually garnered from him the way to the Willow Gate path.  I just about recognised the leafy lane now overgrown with summer vegetation.  At the field, I suggested a rest but the gate was not attached and required too much heft to lift so we perched on the wall.  I pointed out a huge rabbit in the rough field opposite.  Phil captured it on camera but I failed.  As we climbed up the stone path, I indicated various rock features remembered from my previous visit.

 

Continuing to the top of the wood, we crossed a stile and went up the ‘green lane’ to emerge at Shackleton.  Spotting another rabbit, this time I managed to get it in shot.  At the bottom of Shackleton Hill, we debated options.  Phil said he needed to rest and I thought going into the dean might be too much for me anyway.  We started down the track on the lookout for a stopping place, settling on a clump of rocks amidst the trees.  We ate a small picnic before walking the short distance back to Midgehole Road.  With 10 minutes till the 906 bus was due, we waited to enjoy a lovely quick ride back to town.  As we walked home, the sky became cloudier and the air cooler.

 

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