Tag Archives: sunlight

Autumn Symphony – Slack Top to the Crags

View pano 2

We managed one more walk before the end of October.  I had suggested a trip to Hardcastle Crags which strangely, we had rarely visited in autumn. Following some route-finding, we embarked on what we hoped would be less of a slog to get to Gibson Mill.  This entailed catching the 596.  Due to roadworks, the bus shelter had disappeared to be replaced by a temporary sign.  As we waited, a chilly wind made me cold and I worried I might not be warm enough.

Greenwood Lea 1We rode up enjoying the scenery in the beautiful sunshine.  We got off at Slack Top, immediately crossed and began walking up Widdop Road.  To our left, a different aspect of Popples Common revealed its true size.  A cobbled lane suggested an old packhorse trail.   To the right, large gardens housed annoying yappy dogs. Farmhouses revealed ancient horse steps, auxiliary servant’s quarters. multiple chimneys and peafowl – the latter populating the grounds of Greenwood Lea (a historic Yeoman’s house dating from circa 1712).  A few sheep and ridiculously cute Shetland ponies grazed in the fields.  Across the valley, trees displayed a plethora of colours with emerald evergreens interspersing a variety of deciduous hues.

Clough trees 1The road dipped slightly and after a small bend we espied Clough Holes carpark.  As work was underway, a sign announced ‘footpath closed’.  “Oh no!” I exclaimed, then realised it meant the path to the carpark.  Alongside, a tiny step stile led down to a picturesque path following the line of a small brook, punctuated with idyllic cascades.  A second stepped stile marked meadows giving way to woodland.

Looking back, sunlight glinted on leaves of orange, yellow and green with branches stretching towards a pale blue sky.  The path became a mix of rough cobble and hardcore as it continued to wind down.  Just before the stone bridge, a tree stump resembled a teddy bear.

Like a teddyA couple of families had followed us down; a reminder it was half-term.  I hoped we would not be overwhelmed with school kids at Gibson Mill.  In spite of the family-friendly activities and several groups making use of the café facilities, I managed to find a vacant table.  We had brought our own butties.   Phil wanted a brew to go with them and disappeared inside the Weaving Shed for what seemed like an age!  Eventually emerging, he said it had taken so long because of the umpteen variations on offer including flake in coffee – is that a thing now?

Both the walk down and lunch had taken considerably longer than anticipated.  Having originally planned to go quite a bit further up, we figured there was insufficient daylight remaining.  We agreed to at least walk a little way beyond the mill.

Among the mill ponds, impressive fungi were the size of dinner plates.  The brook we had walked alongside on our descent culminated in a torrent teeming down the rocks.  A large party of elderly hikers came towards us, necessitating a precarious step off the path at the water’s edge.

Mill ponds 4A few ducks pootled about on the pond surface amidst floating oak leaves.  Below the water line, bare branches created black reflections while frondy pond weeds of bright green swayed gently.  At the actual crags, I remarked that I had only recently realised  that this exact spot had been the focus of Victorian jaunts.  Lovely as they are, I was somewhat bemused by its specific popularity; the whole Calder Valley is characterised by such features.

We continued a little further where the scene took on a more forested aspect.  Assorted mushrooms brought renewed life to dead wood.  Soft russets reflected in the silvery steam.  I lingered on the edge of Hebden Water to take in the gorgeous symphony of colours and sounds.

The Crags 1Returning, we took the top track for a faster walk home, edged with fading ferns, spindly saplings and older majestic trees marching up the slope.  On the last stretch of the riverside path, we stayed on the left side to laugh anew at the swamp.

At the end of Valley Road, Phil detoured to the shop while I headed home, stopping briefly to chat with a friend.  I slumped on the sofa, recovered slightly with a drink of water but felt in need of a proper lie down.

 

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Upstream 8

 

A Mystery Solved? (Heptonstall and Northwell Lane)

Northwell Panorama

In the heat of July, Marisa and I took the bus up to Heptonstall for lunch at The Towngate Tearooms.  We discussed options for walking back to Hebden and I asked her to confirm for me which path was Tinker Bank Lane and see if I could determine if there was another path between that and Northwell Lane.

FleecedShe led me through the old co-op yard into a carpark and up a grassy path parallel to Northgate.  I noted a washing line being used to hang sheep fleeces and the pinfold.  Now a picnic area, this little enclave was once used communally to house livestock.  At the end of the path we turned immediately right, onto Tinker Bank Lane.   With no apparent right of way ahead of us, I still wondered if I had imagined the middle path and resolved to clear up the mystery at some future date.  We descended to Draper Lane and crossed into the wood, through Hollins and into town.

The days leading up to the autumn equinox brought a resurgence of summer.  Still tired from an outing earlier in the week, I consented to a short hike through Eaves Wood.  We walked along the ridge slowly, pausing to examine details close up.  Tall grassed framed the hamlet below.  Fat spiders lay in wait on delicate webs.  Baby oak trees sprouted from the ground, their tiny red leaves bright amidst the grass.

At Hell Hole Rock, we waited as a dorky-looking couple descended the steep stone staircase, carrying mattresses on their backs.  I joked they planned on camping but obviously they were climbers.  Steps clear,  we went up to ‘photographer’s corner’ and clambered onto the dodgy ledge overlooking the rock, the climbing couple hampering attempts to take good shots.

Lit ruin 1Back on the proper path, we turned right to Southfield.  Loud bellringing emanated from the church where the afternoon sun glinted yellow on the stonework.  We had the ruin to ourselves for a spell, enjoying seeing it in a different light, until a few other walkers appeared.  A woman with young boy in tow enquired as to the location of ‘King David’s’ grave (aka David Hartley of the Cragg Vale coiners).  She was horrified that we had never made a point of seeking it out.  Phil commented it made a change from women asking about Sylvia Plath’s resting place.  I suggested she may well end up there but was probably trying to make the visit more engaging for her son.

Normally we would tarry awhile in  the churchyard but the persistent bell-ringing played havoc with my tinnitus.  We retreated onto West Laithe and walked down the road to a snicket into the old co-op yard.  Dismayed at the apparent lack of maintenance , I joked  they should get the stocks back out.  A man stood in front of the adjacent garage.  Imposingly large, with a bushy beard and arms crossed, he regarded us suspiciously. Unperturbed, I bade him a cheery “hello!”.  He reluctantly returned the greeting.  At a side door, an even surlier-looking fellow eyed us warily.

Tinker Bank chickensWe stifled sniggers as we continued up the small path to the pinfold which I had wanted to explore since discovering in July.  Through the small square doorway, worn picnic tables inhabited an oasis of dappled shade.  We agreed it was a good spot for a rest although we ended up covered in particles raining down on us from the nearby trees.  As we chatted, I expressed amazement that in spite of  gentrification,  real yokels still existed in little enclaves.  Phil said he was not in the least bit surprised.  He regaled me with tales of Dick the ‘beech nut god’ and the ‘bramble spirit’, claiming people round here still believed in these pagan deities.

We continued to Tinker Bank Lane, being chased by chickens as we went back up a short way onto Northgate and turned right to the top of Northwell Lane.  We took in the views and my eyes were drawn to the private garden immediately below us.  A distinctly wide section with stone walls on either side, seemed to solve the mystery of the middle path; seemingly once a lane joining Tinker Bank with Northwell but now repurposed.

Northwell HouseBrightness at the top of the lane gave way dramatically to darkness as we walked down Northwell to Draper Lane.  Crossing, we followed the footpath towards Lee Wood, even darker and decidedly cool.  I picked up the pace as we headed down to a junction.  Of three routes, we chose one leading to Hebden Water in the hope of returning to warmth.  Snaking round bends, we noted the horsey holiday farm had become even bigger, though the military vehicles we had spotted a couple of years ago were no longer in evidence

On the riverside, a woman walking purposefully ahead f us and game of croquet underway at the bowling club were the only signs of life.  Disappointingly still in shade, we finally regained sunlight on Valley Road.  We dawdled into town and considered staying out for a pint to make the most of it.  Inevitably though, hordes of after-work drinkers had descended.  With barely a scrap of outdoor seating to be had. We went for coffee instead.

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Pinfold 2

Woodland Mist

Mistical 1

As the mild weather continued well into November, we enjoyed a mid-week stroll.  We planned to catch a bus up to Colden for lunch at May’s but missed one by minutes.  With a short window of afternoon sun, we bought pasties from the local bakers and strode rapidly towards town.  I remarked we were going at a fair lick considering we had no aim in mind.  I suggested going to Hareshaw Wood and we made our way up to Salem Fields.  After crossing Foster Mill Bridge, we climbed the large cobbled steps and paused by the majestic sycamore to contemplate the glorious sunny scene.

Majestic 2A friend descended the steps towards us and stopped for a chat.  She asked if we were going to Heptonstall.  I replied that we had no definite plans but “’All roads lead to Heptonstall’ (as it says in my book)”.

She laughed, and invited us to call in for a cuppa next time we ended a walk there.

We turned right at the top to pass through Hollins.  A rustling sound near my feet did not alarm me at first, assuming it was my boots treading fallen leaves. However, the noise did not match my pace.  I looked down to find a daft dog sniffing at my heels, threatening to jump onto me.  The owner seemed oblivious: strolling some paces back, busy gassing on her phone.  I shouted repeatedly at the mutt until the owner overheard and called the animal off.

Leaves with drops

We chose to go upwards through the wood which we rarely do.  Interesting colours strew the path, with lichens and fungi dotted amongst the autumn foliage, some sprinkled with perfectly round dewdrops.

At the top, we crossed Lee Wood Road and looked for the gap on the other side.  Having thought we had spotted it, we made our way up worn shallow steps barely discernible beneath a thick carpet of brown leaves, indicating an ancient route.  We crossed the road to continue, where more worn steps and a crumbling waymarker post gave further clues to its history.  Hesitating briefly as it was not Tinker Bank Lane as we had expected, we reasoned that it must be nearby.

Tiny mushroomsI found the last part of steep climb very hard work.  We caught our breath near the top where a fowl enclosure stood to our right.  Disgruntled geese flapped their wings, perturbed by our presence.  Tiny orange mushrooms grew in a clump from a hollow in a tree.  A wooden signpost gave directions to various locales from which I guessed we had somehow come up a parallel path to Tinker Bank Lane.  This assumption was confirmed as we made the last bit of the climb alongside the octagonal chapel.

Yellow sign

Now in Heptonstall (which, as I pointed out to our friend earlier, was inevitable), we continued along Northfield.

An almost blank yellow sign amused us with only the word ‘Please’ discernible, albeit faded.  We guessed it had once warned against parking before the letters had peeled off.

Over in the churchyard we sought a patch of sunlight to sit in and settled on the church steps facing south.  After eating my pasty, I foraged for interesting leaves that had collected round the Victorian gravestones.

With only an hour till dusk, we made a quick return via Eaves Wood.  At ‘photographer’s corner’, the Stoodley Pike monument and wind turbines rose from a blanket of grey, topped by artily-arranged lenticular clouds.  We joked about the ‘mistical valley’ (which became the subject for the next Monday Morning haigai.  Descending the steps at Hell Hole Rocks, a man waited at the bottom and asked us if he was on the right track for Heptonstall.  I confirmed that he was.  Further down, we watched squirrels scampering amidst the tree branches, gathering nuts.  My wildlife photography proved as pathetic as ever!  Back home, I felt pleased that we had got out for some fresh air and exercise, in spite of my extreme tiredness and achy legs necessitating a lie down.

Squirrel 2

Note:

i. https://mondaymorninghaiga.wordpress.com/2018/11/19/mistical-valley/

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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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