After an unseasonably cold and wet start, mid-June brought some improvement. I suggested a wander up Tinker Bank, but ended up walking rather further than planned.
Crossing Hebden Water at Foster Mill Bridge, we paused for fellow walkers coming the opposite way. Below us, laden branches all but obscured the stream, hanging heavy above the silvery torrent.
On the steps to Hollins, the majestic sycamore presided over an enchanting scene. Geometric foxgloves had survived a battering from the previous night’s thunderstorm. Bees buzzed round dog roses. One disappeared inside a flower. As I waited patiently for it to re-emerge, a second one landed. After some fumbling that too vanished. Turning right on the small path, we past the gloomy hamlet and proceeded up through the wood, mildly reeking of dankness.
Here, bees focused on bramble blossom, so pretty I initially mistook them for another kind of rose. Reaching Lee Wood Road, we followed signs to ‘Hebden Hey/Hardcastle Crags’. Picturesque twisty trees and well-curated rocks soon made it apparent this was yet another Victorian construction. Amazed at still discovering new parts of the vast National Trust estate, I wondered why we had never taken this route before. I then recalled a foray in our early walking days, and thought maybe we had, albeit from the other direction and not quite as far.
We became hungry and weary. Reluctant to end up in the middle of the crags, we back-tracked to a stony footpath. As predicted, we arrived at The Blue Pig. The outside seating area was packed! At first, we wondered if it was illegally open. But as the doors looked firmly shut, we concluded the regulars congregated out of habit. I refused to sit anywhere near the flouters. Instead, we took the snicket at the side of the small bridge into the lower reaches of the crags. The first bench occupied by a family, I stopped in the verge. Phil marched on. “Where are you going!” I called after him. He indicated a further bench that I hadn’t seen due to the tall grass.
Breathless and sweaty, we collapsed with cold drinks, wishing we’d brought lunch with us. We mustered the strength to walk back via the flattest route. On Midgehole Road, the deep purple foxgloves contrasted with golden poppies against grey drystone walls.
Descending to the riverside, kids played on the makeshift beach. We took the less populous left-hand Foster Mill Dam path. ‘The swamp’ exuded a strong smell of wild garlic, severely past it at this time of year.
Further on, we traced the remains of the old mill ponds and dam wall, envisioning the location of the erstwhile mill buildings.
Towards Windsor View, a dog blocked the path. I hailed a woman gardening close by, asking her to call her mutt away so we could pass unimpeded. Back on tarmac, I felt uncomfortably hot. As I stripped off a layer of clothing, I heard my camera hit the pavement. Thankfully, with firm hold of the strap, it survived unscathed. Towards town, we returned to the riverside path. We held our breath hurrying past a bunch of itinerant drinkers. Phil said hello as one recognised us but I refused to open my gob until well clear. Aware they would never change their behaviour, I really wished they wouldn’t move round so much- they were much easier to avoid in the park! In search of instant fodder, we perused the shops to little avail. I exited One Stop pretty sharpish as people crowded round the ice cream freezer and a massive queue for the till snaked round the aisles. Back home, we were absolutely desperate for food and rest. I hastily assembled cheese and crackers and slumped on the sofa.