Tag Archives: speckled wood

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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New Road to Crow Nest

High roadIt is very rare for me to suggest a walk in Crow Nest Wood during the winter months.  But in mid-February, spring made an early appearance.  Setting off in early afternoon sun, we initially embarked on our usual route: across Market Street, up to Palace House Road and up the signed path towards Crow Nest.  I then spontaneously suggested turning up the next switchback.  The attractive path was no longer signed ‘bar cliff’ as it had been in summer 2017.  As we climbed steadily upwards, we paused for scenic views of the busy town centre below and over to Midgeley Moor and villages ‘up tops’.  The sun disappeared and a few spots of rain fell.  With no protection, I hesitated to continue until Phil lent me his cap.  A few minutes later, the rain stopped.

Field with ridgesAt the top of the path, we passed through the metal gate, skirted Weasel Hall and followed the road round onto the lovely cobbled part of New Road.  Behind stone walls dotted with holes, mysterious ridges lay in a field.  We could only guess at their meaning.

We followed the line of the road west then east, to the TV transmitter.  The grey steel structure keyed in perfectly with the steel grey sky.

Gushing water 1Continuing to Old Chamber, a noisy family inhabited the ‘honesty shed’ outing paid to the idea of stopping for a cuppa.  Water gushed down gutters, splashing into stone troughs.  Bright primroses poked out of ceramic pots.  Further on, we noted several changes.  Among the farm buildings and fields containing very pregnant-looking sheep, some of the old buildings had been demolished with others converted into holiday lets.

Descending the steep incline proved hard work as the square grey cobbles made my toes hurt.  At the bottom we looked back.  The view up towards the line of trees at the top of the hill was marred somewhat by the clouds of smoke.  We kept to the left of Wood Top Farm and turned left, to climb up once more.

Sunlit laneThe sun re-appeared, infusing the scene with a lovely yellow glow. We rested on the edge of a broken wall to enjoy some rays.  On the ridge behind us, a tree covered in flaky green mould looked ready to fall – not the first rotted casualty of the afternoon.  We continued on the grassy lane, sloping gently downwards to Crow Nest Wood.

The old quarry was totally dry – very uncharacteristic, especially in winter.  We then climbed up again, along the rocky path to the top of the wood.  I did not recall ever doing the journey this way round before.   Phil strode ahead with absolute certainty of the route.

Trees within treesHe made me laugh as he used familiar trees as landmarks, many of which he had given funny names such as ‘stone tree’ ‘smelly tree’ – the latter having rotten and collapsed, emitting a distinct stink of sulphur which followed us for some time.  Others sported stripped bark, and desiccated branches hanging precariously and crashing into their neighbours.

We crossed the stream and commented that plants were already poking through the ground in the area resplendent with flowers during spring.   I wondered if the garlic might actually be ready in March for once.  Still unsure of the way down we soon spotted a small gate, marking both the place where the path straight down from Old Chamber emerges and the point where we could descend.

The mixture of loose stones and sticky mud was even worse on the toes than the Spencer Lane cobbles!  Still, at least the dearth of water after a dry winter did not add to the discomfiture and made for a short easy stretch back to Palace House Road.

Before leaving the track, I stopped to admire pussy willows when I heard the sound of tits twittering.  They flitted about so fast they were difficult to keep track of.  I was still trying to follow them from branch to branch when midget dogs barked ferociously at us.  Not even I was scared by them as the owners laughed, although I observed some training would not go amiss.

New Road with River 3August 2019 brought copious rain.  Tributaries poured from fields and bled from underground springs.  New Road looked more like New River!  We paused at the crest where bright pink and orange flowers dotted the verge and took in panoramic views before continuing to Old Chamber.  This time the ‘honesty box’  was unoccupied.

I hoped it might supply lunchtime butties but alas not.  I eschewed the tea and cake, settling instead for a cup of water on the bench outside.  A gentle breeze ruffled grass in the meadows as small birds swooped between hedges and poles.

RestingProceeding to Spencer Lane, fat sheep grazed peacefully.  A butterfly landed on the cobbles in front of us.  It was hard to convince Phil, who claims to have only ever seen four species of butterfly in his life, to admit it was a different one, (even when I later identified it from a recently-acquired book as a ‘speckled wood’)

Hungry, we opted for a quick route into town via Wood Top, past the station and through the park.  We took a table outside Rendezvous, ensuring full coverage from the awning in case of the predicted rain.  As we finished our drinks, a downpour arrived on cue and we prepared for a drenching.   But it stopped as we left (to return with more force later – story of the summer!)

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