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.
A 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!)
The 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.
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.