During the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, I had a particularly bad night on the Saturday. I lay sleepless until 4.00 a.m., when of course the sky brightened. The birds began their dawn chorus, annoyingly joined by the cockerel who lives nearby. I did eventually sleep but fitfully. Needless to say, I felt terrible on Sunday morning. Phil wanted to go up to Stoodley Pike but I said “no way”. I did manage to drag myself out in the afternoon for a bit of sun, noting that even the easterly wind felt warm. Not really a day for climbing hills. We pottered round town and the park, ate ice cream, and strolled up the towpath for a canal side pub meal which was nice.
Thankfully, I had a better sleep that night and awoke on Monday feeling refreshed. I agreed to the planned trek, with the proviso that I might not make it all the way up to Stoodley Pike.
We had not reached the top since our mission in 2013 was thwarted by large cows lying in our way, causing an amusing detour up Dick’s Lane and Cock Hill. Since then, we had discovered the lower delights of Horsehold Wood and Beaumont Clough thus negating the need for a steep climb.
Armed with supplies, we left the house mid-afternoon to climb up Horsehold Road. Inevitably hard work I had to stop a few times but that gave us chance to look down towards town, where thick foliage prevented us from checking our roof tiles as we usually did. Further up, the cobbles snaked between lush greenery. Pretty horses grazed in a golden field.
At the top, we followed the curve round to Horsehold Farm, became spooked by vicious barking from behind a crumbling wooden door, and searched for the right lane to go further up. On locating Horsehold Lane, we were put off by very large cows in a field protected only by a low wall. Phil swore they were like the bull on his Picasso t-shirt. We returned to the curve and went left through the gate signed ‘Pennine way’ onto a beautiful path.
Being at the top of the wood, we remarked on the perpetual redness of the ground below on our right, no matter what the season. Curly ferns emerged from verdant verges as we followed signs to the Pennine Bridleway.
Through a copse and bypassing the cute stone bridge leading to the clough, we continued upwards into grassland. We wondered at the original purpose and location of mysterious stones scattered about – one looked distinctly phallic!
Ahead of us, a line of trees stood along a stone wall. We turned right onto grassy lanes bisecting farmland and recognised an ancient ruin on the corner from our hike up five years ago. We rested on a wall, admiring tiny pine cones on a tree opposite.
Noticing Stoodley Pike monument in view to our left, I said it wouldn’t be much further.
Proceeding along Kilnshaw Lane towards the pike, it never seemed to get any nearer! Eventually, we wound our way up the rough path as the monument loomed above us like a dark spectre silhouetted behind the early evening sun. Further up, the path had been recently re-paved. My camera dropped onto the stone slabs when the strap broke. I persuaded Phil to wait until we sat down to assess the damage.
At the summit, a few people milled around as we found a lovely outcrop of sloping rocks facing Mankinholes to perch on. Phil fixed the strap and made sure the camera still worked. As we ate picnic snacks, a group of lads who had commandeered the monument marred the peace somewhat, playing loud music and commenting on veggie samosas. “How far is it from Hebden Bridge?” I heard one say, before answering himself: “Not far enough”. Did they mean us? Thankfully, they soon left so we had the place to ourselves.
I entered the monument and climbed the steps. It was pitch black and I used my phone torch to light my way. At the top, I discovered ancient graffiti etched into the granite, providing a foreground for the panoramic views. I heard Phil calling from below asking how I’d got up. I descended with my torchlight to meet him halfway. Having taken in the vistas, we returned to ground level to circumnavigate the base.
I had used google maps to find a different way home and suggested a route staying ‘up tops’ awhile. We followed the new paving in a straight line across a boggy field. Our feet stayed dry thanks to thoughtful raised platforms constructed over the worst bits. We emerged onto an apparently ancient road, separated from a pine forest by neat stone walls. This stage of our journey was punctuated by the sights and sounds of wild birds. Curlews wielded overhead. A juvenile blackbird landed on a wooden fence post before flitting upwards in a flurry.
Arriving at a junction I checked the map. Google insisted we had gone the wrong way and suggested we backtrack. But I felt confident that the old road wasn’t on the maps and knew that a left turn would join the suggested route. I was further encouraged in my instincts as Heptonstall and Old Town were clearly recognisable ahead of. We descended a desolate moorland path, beneath a wide blue sky scattered with small, fluffy clouds. Reaching Whittaker Road, we walked eastwards until we came to a gate on our left.
Passing through, we discovered the gorgeous ‘Rake’. Grass and flowers again surrounded us, as a sheep family grazed in a field and an archetypal farmhouse lay in front.
As we descended, I was interrupted by a phone call which I curtailed as politely as possible, and suggested a stop to fully appreciate the scene. As the lane curved round, we rested on the corner, looking westwards for a different view of the pike and ahead of us at the profusion of bilberry bushes. I said it would be a good place to harvest when the fruits appeared.
Further down, the name of the lane changed to Broad lane. Again, we were awestruck by beauty! Trees in full leaf gave an avenue-like effect as the hedgerows were lined with cow parsley, their tiny white flowers swaying gently in the breeze. We could hear people on the other side of the hedge.
Phil realised it was a campsite, then I spotted a poly tunnel and joked about illegal immigrants living in tents (maybe I watch too many Spanish dramas on Netflix). As we wound down, we found ourselves on Horsehold Lane and had no option but to pass the field of large cows we’d avoided on the way up. They looked quite docile and in spite of being eyed warily by a sheepdog, we passed through the farm without incident. Back on Horsehold Road, I preferred going down rather than up, unlike Phil. I remarked that we had probably chosen the worse route possible to reach the pike. Maybe next time we should choose a less steep way.
More photos at: https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjkK19zVvfQtivtiSIs2Eb13PL8GzQ