Tag Archives: sky

Rawtonstall Fall

A rainy Saturday was superseded by a dazzlingly bright October Sunday.  The stunning early autumn colours sizzled in the light.  I commented some of the best trees could be seen out the window.  Nevertheless, we went out to explore others.  Using the erstwhile High Street as a shortcut to the Fox & Goose, we continued on the main road, inordinately busy with walkers and motorists.  We turned up Church Lane, veering left at the apex.  Previously approached from the top, we were unsure of the best way into Rawtonstall Wood.  A sign for Rawtonstall Bank told us we had reached the edge.   Noting the tiny Cat Steps were even more overgrown, a discarded sign further up discouraged their use. 

We took the next option into the woodland before it got stupidly steep.  Deep greens surrounded us on the gentler slope of Green House Lane.  At the top, The Hall was obscured by an assortment of vehicles and builder’s materials.  We almost walked into the next garden and back-tracked to find a yellow arrow signifying the public path.  A carved stone indicated the wall dated back to 1816.  Dark Lane, always muddy where springs sprung from adjacent meadows, looked foreboding.  I found a stick to help navigate the worst patches and bravely continued.  On drier ground, sheep looked obligingly picturesque, grazing against a backdrop of green hills with Stoodley Pike on the skyline.

Heading back down, a chicken coop formerly used as a landmark had been replaced by sheds making us hesitant until we came to a familiar stone arch, also date-stamped.  We rested on the memorial bench opposite.

Squeezed between a couple of ornamental evergreens, it was barely big enough for two.  As we enjoyed views across the valley, we exchanged cheery greetings with a woman we knew passing by with her daughter.  “She’s grown.” Said Phil.  “That’s because we haven’t seen them for ages.”

We wended down Turret Hall Road, where zingy oranges capped deciduous emeralds.  An uphill cyclist informed us that the colours would be “even better in a couple of weeks.”  Well, the grass is always greener, as they say!   On reaching Oakville Road, we returned to Burnley Road where a late middle-aged couple asked us the location of the Fox & Goose.  It was just as well, seeing as they were going the wrong way.

Crossing at Stubbings, we took the towpath for the home stretch.  A woman stopped to enquire if I was ‘the lady’ who wrote the walking articles in Valley Life.  “It’s really good!” she enthused.  So far, positive feedback had come from friends and acquaintances.  Praise from a total stranger made my day!

Hey Ho! (Lee Wood to Hebden Hey)

A short exploration of Lee Wood Road in summer curtailed, we vowed to return.  On a glorious October Wednesday, we climbed the Cuckoo Steps onto Heptonstall Road where sun-topped hills and trees resembled strata above the shaded valley.  Turning right onto Lee Wood Road, rich foliage crowned silvery trees, just starting to turn. The mellowing tones of yellow and gold leaves scattered prettily on the ground, prompted us to amuse each other with improvised short-form poetry, unworthy of a wider audience. 

Among a variety of mushrooms infesting the verge, we spotted ink caps.  Others, beyond our amateur identification skills, imitated jelly tots and marmalade on toast.  Tiny purple blooms emerged from mossy cushions.  Scarlet slime mould aped strawberry jam as it crept along charred deadwood.

At Hebden Hey, the road came to a dead end just past the scout hut.  Unable to stay on tarmac, we ascended steps onto a familiar stony path and realised we’d end up at the stepping stones (see Heptonstall to Hardcastle Crags).  I dithered at the edge of Hebden Water.  A gap between the stones, a lump of people congregated on the opposite bank and a woman repeatedly chucking a ball in the water for her dog to retrieve, made me really anxious. 

As Phil kept asking why I couldn’t cross, I had a full-on panic attack and froze to the spot.  The woman and dog moved on, making the way clear.  I took a deep breath and considered braving the torrent when I noticed my walking boots had sprung a leak so that was that.  We retreated to a wide patch of wet grass, moisture seeping between my toes, to squat on a convenient square stone and recover from the ordeal. 

Phil wasn’t thrilled at returning up the stony path but soon cheered at the colourful surroundings.  As a rabbit ran across a lawn, a lone bird sang in a tree and a squirrel scampered into the woodland, I wondered why we’d seen so few animals.  Bullet-like holes in desiccated trunks suggested woodpeckers nearby, but as usual, they stayed hidden. From Lee Wood Road, we considered a choice of routes leading off to the right, opting for the Buttress.

We declared it quicker than the riverside way, but there was the issue of the stepping stones… I later recalled my friend had told me of this drawback yonks ago.  Well, hey ho, now we know!

A Lull in the Storm (Nutclough)

As Storm Alex caused flooding in South East England, Italy and France, the rain had stopped in the Calder Valley, giving way to sunny spells.  Both struggling with fatigue but wanting to take advantage of the lull, we re-visited Nutclough. 

A small bulldog at the top of the street looked at us expectantly.  The owner said he’d spotted the camera.  Laughing, I called it “Insta -dog!”  They followed us onto The Buttress.  As we headed down, arrested by rooftop views framed in soft autumn hues, they climbed upwards to re-appear on Hangingroyd Lane.  We indulged the attention-seeking animal with portrait shots and chatted to the owner. “Does he have a Facebook page?”  I asked.  “No, but he should!”

In the clough, the brook sped past the weir.  Moss-covered trees lined the banks.  Fungi erupted from felled stumps.  Reflections looked almost monochrome in the mill ponds.  The islands were flooded with the excessive rainfall.  Better there than town, I thought.

Deciding against our usual foray to the waterfall and a spell on the sunken bench, we took the top path – a carpet of red edged with beech trees, arresting in early autumn colours of green and yellow.

Beneath the stone bridge, emerald ferns stretched towards foamy waters. We rested briefly on a memorial bench and discussed the possibility of replacing those lower down.  “I’m sure the Friends of Nutclough would welcome a donation.”  I suggested, to which Phil replied: “I’m not dead yet.”  Following the wider path onto Sandy Gate, young ferns seemed incongruous amidst the slow decay. 

We cut the corner by way of tiny steps down to the Birchcliffe Centre car-park and into town for a few supplies.   The short spell outdoors made us inordinately tired.

Scouring in Eaves Wood and Heptonstall

The last weekend of summer, Phil suffered severe back pain which thankfully eased off enough to allow for a Sunday walk. That morning, cop cars screeched along the main road and helicopters circled overhead.  A Facebook post suggested they were scouring the valley for a parachutist or hang-glider had fallen in the woods and couldn’t be found.  Surely there’d be signs of the canopy?

We ascended the cuckoo steps onto Heptonstall Road where a pair of new houses had sprung up.  A planning notice opposite, only posted a few days before, announced a 3 week timescale to object – how did that work when they were almost built?

Crossing into Eaves Wood, dappled shadowed adorned the path, strewn with felled branches.  Speckled wood butterflies grazed on browning bracken.  Slender trees reached for the sky as thick layers of moss obscured their silvery bark.

At Hell Hole Rocks, we spotted something brightly coloured and joked it had fallen off the parachutist.  In fact it was a bag containing chalk, left by a climber.

We waited for a couple to climb the worn steps and clambered onto the overhanging rocks for a brief rest at ‘photographer’s corner.

Proceeding along the top path, horses fretted within the confines of a very small area, cruelly hemmed in by electric fencing.  Through the gate, small white flowers danced prettily in the gentle breeze while willow herbs thrived in the newly-planted forest.  Southfield displayed a wealth of life.  Crows roosted in treetops, above varied hedges where bees sapped on flowers resembling yellow pom-poms, and papery honesty paraded a rainbow of hues.  We scoured the brambles for a few late blackberries.

In the churchyard, history buffs scoured gravestones for famous names.  We indicated the resting place of David Hartley to a bemused couple.  Resting under the yew tree, the ground beneath was strewn with attractive cones.  A pigeon stood statue-like on the eaves of the ruined church, where deep magenta flowers bestowed a splash of colour to monochrome stone troughs.

With both village pubs open, Phil suggested a pint.  I’d drunk enough for the weekend and would have preferred a cuppa.  Alas, the tearoom was shut.  We returned quickly via the road, dodged a cyclist careering recklessly down The Buttress and a lump of people at the top of the street, to pick a few more berries: the pathetic crop only sufficient to supplant a fruit salad.

Bank Holiday Ellipse (Crow Nest to Mytholmroyd)

On the late summer Bank Holiday, a fractious morning put us in a bad mood.  However, glimpses of sunlight penetrating grey clouds in the early afternoon tempted us out.  As we took the familiar route towards Crow Nets wood, via Bar Cliff, a couple of hikers emerged from the west side of the wood.  On an impulse, we decided to risk the path which we remembered from many years ago as being rather dodgy.  Luckily, a perfect equilibrium of damp mud and dry leaves made the incline easier to scale. 

Behind us, trees eerily appeared black against the late summer light.  Grey granite rocks to our left were coloured with red and green lichen.  Many seemed deliberately placed along the route.  A stone circle suggested ancient rituals.  Amazed we’d been oblivious to the evidence  of druid purposes practically on our doorstep, we spent time investigating the structures and imagining the site as a mini Stonehenge.

We emerged near the TV transmitter onto New Road.  As we walked to Old Chamber, vivid orange corncrakes and pink clovers sprung from emerald verges.  The honesty box supplied us with fresh eggs and as we were just about to exit, a woman came along wittering about a non-existent sign on the door.   Distracted, I forgot to pay.  Phil feigned horror saying: “it should be called the dishonesty box!” 

Debt paid, we aimed to rest briefly on the bench to find it gone. 

Continuing to the corner, we thought of taking the top road for sweeping views across the valley, to find it marked private – that didn’t seem right.  I refused to climb further on the signed footpath and returned to of Spencer Lane, where the almost-grown kids and lambs audibly munched grass.

We turned right onto Wood Hey Lane and failing to recall a short cut, proceeded via Park Lane where fluffy thistle heads replaced summer blooms in the hedgerows.  Approaching the village, I wanted to avoid the centre but Phil insisted on going to the awful Sainsburys (possibly the worst in the world).

As horrid as expected, I felt trapped by a heedless woman selecting one of every type of biscuit in the narrow aisles.  On the way out, I lost a precious zip-lock bag for my face-mask!   Angrily, I stomped off, taking the straightest line via Caldene Ave to the Sustrans path, only stopping to pick blackberries.  Our last forage being at the start of the month, I’d expected a bumper crop by now, but they’d got too wet with all the month’s rain resulting in a disappointing haul.

Confined Walks 6 – Common Bank to Old Town

Lane view 2

On a hot Tuesday amidst the early August heatwave, we considered ideas for a shady walk.  The picturesque Buttress route led us down and round to the top of town and up the unnamed old cobbles towards Birchcliffe.  School Street, leading to Osborne Street, rose steeply beneath the blistering sun.  On entering Common Bank, we immediately felt cool in the dark wood.  Unlike other nearby woodlands, it appeared to change little with the seasons.

Common Bank 4Evergreen holly, their prickly brown leaves spiking our feet, twisted branches, and rotting stumps providing fodder for clumps of multi-coloured fungi, gave the impression of eternal winter.  At the small stream, a new walkway of fresh yellow wood kept our feet dry.  On the path between the meadows, ladybirds rested on purple seed-heads.  Disinterested goats eyed us lazily to our left while on the right, a decrepit piece of farm machinery faded from red to pink.

Dod Naze machinery 1Thinking it dumped, Phil said the fact it still had wheels attested to current use.  A shiny new gate led out to Wadsworth Lane where brambles competed for space with wild geranium on crumbling stone walls.  Sweaty after the climb, we rested briefly on a bench at the corner before taking the small steps to Rowland Lane.   Ramshackle gates framed hazy views of Old Town and Heptonstall.  Brown cows grazed calmly in the field, undeterred by flighty jackdaws.  Garden fugitives interloped in the wild undergrowth.

On reaching Lane Ends, we dithered before cautiously approaching The Hare and Hounds.  As we espied a couple of punters, glasses in hand, Phil suggested a pint.  Hesitantly, I agreed to our first pub pint since lockdown!  The front entrance extolled social-distancing and the application of hand-gel.  Inside, more signage bade us wait to be seated.  A young man directed us through the occupied beer garden to tables in the carpark.  During a short wait for the table to be cleared and beer brought, an old pub-goer of years gone by shouted over from the beer garden.  We laughed as she mistook Phil for a significantly older regular at our old local.  She then asked “is he (the old regular) still alive?”  None of us had any idea!  Predictably, Phil wanted food after one drink.  The lad went to fetch menus then told us they were fully booked for dinner; obviously drawn by the mid-week Dishi Rishi meal deal.

Wayside berries 2The temperature dropped slightly as a gust of wind blew grey clouds upwards from the misty valley.  The landlady arrived in her car and grimaced at the humidity.  She agreed with me that a storm might come “I like the proper ones.” She informed us.

We walked briskly down to Sandy Gate, hedges laden with ripening berries, veering off into the lower end of Nutclough for the coolness of trees once more.

Skirting the town centre, we considered eating at the Italian but unfortunately, pre-booking was essential.  Dinner out scuppered, we sought quick tea inspiration in the co-op.  The return of hot sun after a speedy walk made me rather fraught.  But a cooling ice lolly and reviving coffee soon restored equilibrium.

The First Picnic (Oakville circular)

Roadside poppies 8

A week after lockdown easing allowed picnics, we took sandwiches on a slightly longer walk.  Initially making our way to the canal again, we walked on the towpath to Stubbings only to find the route blocked.  Quickly coming up with Plan B, we crossed the main drag and took the second left turning.  Heady scents of pine assailed us.  Phil said it smelt of holidays!   Oakville Road resembled a poppy field.  Dazzling golds and oranges crowded the hedgerows, dancing in the stark sunlight.  Arriving at a junction, we continued upwards on Turret Hall Road, becoming  hot on the steep switchbacks.  We stopped by a patch of bluebells to rest and drink water.  Phil looked as though he needed it more than me which was unusual and I rued not bringing more.

Wood Farm 1Cooler in Rawtenstall Wood, we noted ‘Wood Farm’ seemed to have grown.  Just off the track, a dappled clearing housed palettes and rickety lean-tos with tarpaulin draped atop indeterminate piles.  I joked the farm actually made wood like in the old PC video game ‘Transport Tycoon’!

We detoured onto a magical-looking small path, scented by more bluebells with smaller flowers studded between the rough hardcore.  Reaching what I deduced was Dark Lane, we perched on a wall opposite the pike to eat the packed lunch, enjoying a light breeze and the beautiful scenes.

Roadside garlicComing down Marsh Lane, the views ahead of us omitted the road hidden deep in the valley, suggesting a clear run to the pike.  Twisty trees and barbed wire decorated the descent.  As  signs indicated the Pennine Way, the path became uncomfortably stony underfoot, reminding me that several years ago I’d arrived at the bottom footsore and vowed never to come this way again!  The towpath also blocked at Callis, I suggested it was nothing to do with flood repairs but to contain the hippies!

Not quite remembering the best way back to Oakville Road, we eventually found it behind Stoney Bridge.  Away from the dusty main road, the scent of wild garlic replaced that of traffic.  Crossing back to Stubbing’s we returned to the towpath and rested briefly on lock number 10.  To quench the still burning thirst, we popped in the co-op for ice cream.  Normally immune to advertising, I had to admit the new magnum ruby red lollies were rather yummy.


Stoodley view 2

Confined Walks 1 – Crow Nest and Environs

Post with wood

Breaking the confines of the town centre, we took two small walks on successive sunny Wednesdays, in and around Crow Nest.  On the first of these, we set off quite a bit later than planned, due to mislaid keys.  Ambling down quiet streets to the main road, we waited to cross at the zebra.  An impatient driver beeped us; obviously frustrated at having to slow down from 100 mph on the clear stretch!

Dandelion clocks

On reaching the canal, we turned left.  Some waiting and weaving was required to avoid loiterers and cyclists.  In the almost-empty park, Japanese cherry trees blossomed pink beneath a blue sky.  Towards the station, dandelion clocks dominated the verge. Men loitered around roadworks on the access road and clambered noisily on the roof as refurbishment continued.  We had to wait again for people coming the other way, detouring onto undergrowth as a man dithered with his phone on the Sustrans path.

Finally, he shifted leaving us free to examine mysterious signs on posts, small white and yellow flowers, and sandy stretches near the water from which stunted garlic grew.

Surrounded by greenery, we continued at a leisurely pace to the end of the path, noting long shadows cast by tall trees on the tarmac and further ruination of the shipping containers.

Rusty container 5Moss continued its relentless quest to obliterate the graffiti, with artistic effect.  Just before the site of the old Walkleys Mill (Still odd to see flattened), we turned sharp right up to the green railway bridge and followed the path skirting the bottom of Crow Nest wood.

At the station again, large dislodged stones had scattered on the flood-damaged road.  Past the stoneyard, the towpath looked clear when a pair of joggers almost ran into us under the next bridge.  I was annoyed they hadn’t stopped for us.  The next stretch housed several moored barges.  We waited for a woman strolling with a pram on other side of the gate so we could re-enter the park.  We made for the central pitch to avoid weed smokers huddled on benches, not adhering to ‘social distancing’.  At Blackpit Lock, we ran past more loiterers, deciding it might be less hazardous to return home via Holme Street.


Going up

The following Wednesday, lattice-like clouds scattered across a deep blue sky in the bright afternoon light.  I had become anxious about socialising between different households on the street below, with children running interminably hither and thither.  To avoid them, we took the larger steps down to the road, greeting a neighbour at the end of the terrace over her garden wall.  On the other side of the main road, we climbed straight to the top of Crow Nest wood.  On the way up, we stood aside a couple of times, first for a couple then for a straggling family group.  As we passed the noxious dead tree, on the steep climb, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my bad ankle, making me keen to reach the flat.


New sheepAt the top, sheep with lambs so brand new they shone white, grazed in a meadow, fenced with barbed wire. Further on, last year’s beech nut husks clung onto spindly twigs.  Bluebells had started to emerge while the brook had almost totally dried up.  From the top we could see the quarry was equally arid.  From the top we could see the quarry was equally arid.  A pair of women waited for us and I thanked them heartily; it made a change for us not to be the ones who paused.

A rather steep end section of path led down onto the wider track.  As we turned right to Wood Top farm, we heard bleating and hoped to see more lambs.  Instead, we came across a field of goats with offspring – no kidding!

No kidding 1On Wood Top Road, we again had  to stand on the verge a couple of times for other walkers, using the opportunity to take pleasure in a squirrel jumping between high branches and resplendent native white cherry blossom.

After the episode of the previous week, we deemed the park safer than the towpath.  However, the plethora of non-essential activity made me wonder if we’d chosen wisely.  Several people sat around on benches and grass; kids skateboarded and cycled with gay abandon; teenage girls made videos for tick-tock.  Near the lock, a dog rushed canal-side making the geese scatter and squawk with fear.  It made me jump too!

Hanging on


Puddling in Colden Clough

Bridle way puddle 3

A bright but breezy start to March prompted us to re-visit another familiar haunt.  Getting ready seemed to take ages, making me quite impatient.  Finally, we left the house and walked westwards up the main road.   Several cars parked on the pavement at Bridge Lanes made me wonder if they had different laws in those parts.  Seeing a woman come out of one, I was about to have a go when she said hello.  It was an ex-neighbour, laden with groceries, poised to cross the road. On enquiring about the pavement parking, she suggested it was for unloading purposes.

Chimney from the back 1Past the Fox and Goose, the cold wind blew straight in our faces.  Feeling buffeted, we wondered how long we would be out.  But it eased off as we turned into Church Lane.  We took the easy way up to Eaves, via the play park and steps to the bridle track.  Already, my legs began to tire.  Hearing me sigh, Phil said “don’t start getting grumpy.”  To which I retorted, “what do you mean start? I already am grumpy! I haven’t even taken any photos yet!”  He chuckled and challenged my claim that I had not yet seen anything inspiring.  Then, I noticed reflections in the puddles occupying every pothole.  In small watery worlds of black and blue, branches and sky appeared trapped, framed by displaced hardcore.

Cheered somewhat, we continued to Lumb Mill and explored the ceaseless torrents, almost full-to-bursting streams and derelict ponds. Underground gurgling indicated yet more water beneath our feet.  We started to climb up to the higher path.  Pausing at the top of the small arch, I  spotted a smaller path behind the chimney.  Having tried it from the top end in autumn, I wondered if we may have more luck from this end.  I stepped in the stream without thinking, making the bottom of my jeans sopping wet.  The path came to an abrupt end just beyond the chimney where a chunk of earth had fallen.  Thwarted, we at least gained a different perspective.  Tall thin trees stretching up to the sun way overhead created ebony shadows on the yellow stone.

Red and green 2We returned to the standard route which  proved hard going.  Large rough stones were replaced further up by the remains of dead trees and deep patches of sticky mud, requiring several small detours off the path.  above the glade, we climbed a strange mound which Phil comedically named ‘the ‘escarpment’, for a higher vantage point.  Square stones,  that had tumbled from the raggedy cliffs opposite, so long ago that they were now adorned with thick green moss, lay stranded amidst a permanent carpet of scrunched copper beech leaves and discarded nut husks.

Proceeding, we descended the steep wooden steps to land in the worst patch of mud so far.  Carefully picking our way through the earth and debris, we stopped on the flat rock to fend off dogs while we ate the wraps we’d brought with us.

As it had taken almost ninety minutes to get that far,  I guessed we only had an hour of daylight left.  We called it a day to get home before dark.  It was only then that I noticed that as well as being soaked through, the bottom of my jeans also had gravel caught up in them!

More photos at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjkK19zVvfQti9tvFGnnr5q8QZCxXw?e=Fsf6pZ

Cascade force 3


Domesday (Cruttenstall via Pinnacle Lane)


On Pinnacle Lane 1

A glimmer of sunlight in early January prompted me to suggest a mission to find Cruttenstall – an ancient settlement mentioned in the Domesday Book.  On a list of sites to investigate as part of background research for Cool Places, I’d not actively followed this up for some time although we did chance across one or two last year.

We set off at lunchtime, bought pasties from the bakers and proceeded up Palace House Road to the familiar path towards Crow Nest.  Taking the diagonal path on the right, views of the north side of the valley provided an opportunity to use my film camera for the first time, pre-loaded with black and white film.  Past Weasel Hall, we continued on New Road, where grey cobbles glistened in patchy sunlight, round the bend to the TV mast.  We had considered a detour for a cuppa at Old Chamber but due to short daylight hours at this time of year, we headed straight up instead.

Sheep and treeA signed path on the right led us through steep, muddy fields.  The climb proved much harder going than I’d anticipated. Out of breath, I stopped to sip water allowing another couple, garbed in proper hiking gear, to overtake us.  I then noticed sheep calmly grazing on the other side of the drystone wall.  Behind a winding dirt path, black branches appeared stark against a pale blue sky.

At the top of the field, a gate led out onto a paved lane I recognised as our return route from Stoodley Pike in May 2018 (the juncture of Broad Lane and Horsehold Lane).  Straight across, signs proclaimed access to Pinnacle Farm only.  Deducing the signs were aimed at vehicles, we strode onto a delightfully grassy Pinnacle Lane.

As we approached the farmhouse, a man disappeared round the back.  I had not expected the downward path so soon but to be sure, I checked with a woman who happened to be in front of the house. “No, that’s our garden” she replied, not unpleasantly.  She then proceeded to give directions to the pike and looked bemused when I informed her that was not our objective.  “We’re trying to find Cruttenstall” I said, then added, “for historical research” (In case she wondered what on earth for!)

PBW gate 2The woman told us to continue to a line of trees further on.  I had already guessed from the map that this would lead down to the Pennine Way but thanked her for the confirmation.  continuing, we eschewed a smaller footpath which would also have led to our destination as looking rather dodgy, and arrived at the line of trees indicating an intersection with the national trail.  Again, I recognised it from visiting the pike.

Through a large wooden gate, the path sloped downwards.  An azure haze dominated the view eastward with Heptonstall church tower appearing ethereal on the opposite side of the valley.  On our right, bright green lichens, dotted with small red flowers, carpeted sturdy stone walls.  To the left, a brook tripped down the slope.  Phil noticed that rocks had been deliberately thrown in to determine its course.  This evidence, coupled with the fact that further down it had gouged out a deep valley, suggested it was an old waterway.  Although the scene was not new to us, I remarked that having a historical objective in mind gave a new perspective to the landscape.  Hungry, we clambered over deep tractor ruts to stop among stones away from any traffic (not that we saw any), quickly ate the pasties then continued.

Tiny bridge

At the bottom of a dip,  the familiar cute arched bridge traversed the brook.  We took a moment to admire its small but perfectly-formed dimensions with shimmering water reflecting thin trees in the fading light.  We then crossed to climb another steep incline up to the fabled Cruttenstall.  Today just a farm, we saw no point getting closer.  As I had suspected, we’d passed nearby several times but gained a better picture of its context thanks to a specific quest.

We continued to follow the steepening valley, now with the brook on our right.   Loud barking emanated from a large house and instead of testing the ferocity of the hounds, we opted for a path through Callis wood, indicated by an acorn sign.  Happily, it was also a shorter route.

Arriving at a very familiar junction, we had a choice of turning right through Horsehold Wood or left down to Callis.  We chose the latter as a safer bet in the darkening afternoon.   We walked quickly westwards on the towpath, except for a short wait while a workman moved dredging machinery to let us through.  Back home, we removed our shoes  at the doorstep.  Along with our jeans, they were clarted in mud.