Pen-Y-Nearly

It was supposed to be an easier day, only 6 miles, and a bit of Amateur Radio thrown in for good measure. Today, the Yorkshire Dales had other ideas.

When we set off from Huddersfield, the weather was not too bad. A rainbow in front of us, a little blue sky even. It was quite different in the dales. The Ribble was swollen, fields flooded, and even many of the roads covered. Still, we had driven quite a way, so we decided to try.

We parked in the car park at the far end of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and got ourselves organised. Good boots, check. Gaiters, check. Waterproof trousers, check. Waterproof coat, check. In the packs we had storm shelter, first aid kit, food, water, spare dry clothing in waterproof bags, map, compass, gps and spot, as well as the camera equipment and radio gear. Throw the rucksack cover over and we are I think pretty well equipped, and covered for eventualities. Over-prepared? possibly you might think so, its 12’C in the car park, with light drizzle. The walk is only 6 miles, expect about 3 hours. We are carrying about 10 kilos each, which is not too bad for too big blokes, and at our age, feeling you are prepared for the worst does give a modicum of satisfaction.

Feeling like too intrepid explorers, we headed down the road, past the famous cafe, and turned left through the field to the wooden bridge. The water in this normally quite tributary was flowing fast, and only about a foot below the bottom of the bridge. As we got to the middle, we looked at each other and both at the same time exclaimed “pooh sticks!”. I have no idea who won. before you could turn around the sticks were gone.

Following the road for a short way, we were able to see just how much water was tearing down the hill, tremendous volume, brown like a chocolate river in Charlie’s chocolate factory, but turbulent as if it needed to destroy everything in its way. The rain stopped. Just kidding, the rain stopped pretending, and came on strong. Even the sheep were having a bad day.

We started up the track at Brackenbottom, where the field was leaking great torrents on what should be the track. Sheets of rain could be seen tracing their way across from left to right. The wind was starting to pick up too.

Half wading, half slipping, we made our way to the top of the first field, with a couple of pauses to catch a breath. The wind was at our backs, which, remarked Dave, “is a good thing, it would be awful walking into this!” Oh joy.

Sheep , it seems, can have more sense than people. We would be the ones sheltering behind a wall later on.

For now, though, we feel good as we reach the first wall at Brackenbottom scar.Water cascades over the edge. “See that water fall Dave, that’s the path”. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong. Hardly here yourself speak above it. On to the second wall.

Water cascades over the edge, and gets flung back by the wind. Its a “waterclimb”! It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong. Just about hear Sam and Tom. They are as mad as we are. Sam and Tom have been staying nearby over the weekend, in a tent, and walking all 3 peaks. Turns out they may actually be even less sane than us!

I think that this is the first point at which we raised the spectre of not playing radio at the summit. Only a few yards further and we met a group from UCLAN. They had turned back without reaching the summit, forced back by strong winds.

This is Craig, Adi and David. We left them to continue off the hill with a promise that we would take a look and probably follow them down soon.

How bad could it be? Young, fit, fully equipped yet they couldn’t get to the top? Dave and I looked at each other, turned and put our heads down as we put our feet to the hill again. By the time we reached the gate with the Pennine Way, the wind had picked up. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong. It takes both of us to open the gate against the wind, and it near launches Dave as we just get through. We crouch behind the wall, like sheep, and discuss possibilities. We decide to see what it is like over the next section, a paved step section of about 100 yards. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its…… oh bugger, back to the shelter of the wall.

Decision made, we send a Facebook message that we are abandoning the try. The temperature reading is -1’C. Thirteen degrees colder than the car park. The wind is not gusting, its just a constant. It sings through the fence, and makes the wall leak droplets like a wet sponge lifted out of the bath, but these droplets peel out horizontally. Fighting the gate open, we set off back down. Now we get the full force of the monsoon at us. It turns out that up until now, the wind hasn’t been strong, NOW its strong, and its wet. And its hard! Should rain feel like you are been sand blasted? I can’t talk over the gale, so I can’t thank Dave for his earlier comment about it at least blowing from behind, but I think harsh thoughts. 🙂

With each drop in altitude the pitch of the wind drops by an octave and we can hear normally again. We meet a couple heading up. They don’t look prepared. He has the small day pack, she is wearing jeans. Hoping they will be sensible, we advise that they should assess the climb at the next step up along the path. We give the same advise to at least 3 more groups we meet on our way down, and we see at least one pair make the right decision and follow us off the hill.

Back at the car and it seems that all the precautions I took were not enough. My new camera is fogged, having got wet through. Battery out, hopefully it will dry over the next few days. Hopefully.

Our adventure at an end, we retire to the nearest bar, for what I am starting to believe should be a tradition. The Selfie with beer in hand at the pub.

That should be the end of the story. After most outings it would be, however, I must quickly give a review of the Crown at Horton in Ribblesdale where we took the selfie. The beer was good, but that I am afraid is all that was good about this pub. Hardly two sentences did we get from the staff, and both of those indicated that wet walkers were not welcome. After she disappeared to who knows where, we started to notice all the printed paper pinned around the room. Don’t do this, don’t do that, no dogs, no mud, no wet, NO INTEREST! We quietly finished our beer and left. I will not return. The Golden Lion will have our custom when we return later this year. If you read this before your visit, I hope that you will consider the Lion before the Crown too.

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Calderdale Way – Day 2- Todmorden to Midgley

Calderdale Way Todmorden to Midgley.gpx

The route from Todmorden is not very well signposted, and even with constant referring to the map there is a lot of retracing to be done to get back on track. Part of the problem is that I wanted to stay on the marked footpath exactly, if you can be a little more flexible, then this is the way forward.

Calderdale council have used similar looking way markers for the Calderdale Way and the general footpath. If you find the older “3 circles” markers, they are much easier. Still, armed with a good map, a compass and a download of the gpx to your GPS navigator, you will be fine.

This section begins at the supermarket in Todmorden, or rather, on the opposite side of the road, and almost immediately there is a revision. the Calderdale way used to cross the railway line. It still does, but now you use a footbridge.

Somewhat safer, you can start the first of a lot of uphill sections. Signs are good so far, and you will soon be able to look out upon Dobroyd Castle. On the Sunday I passed by there were canoeists on the pond.

Now, keep your eyes open. you are soon by an old cow byre, and it is tempting to walk on by, but you need to turn left to stay on the route.

Heading generally North you will, after half a mile or so, come to Todmorden Edge. Don’t expect to see the sign, it is well obscured. A steep, short side road, hidden behind a road sign leads you to a couple of houses. A footpath sign has been “edited” to advise that bikes are not welcome, but it does at least point in the right direction. The right direction is a gentle but muddy path leading to the top of a wooded area with a very steep, very muddy pathway down to the road. This tarmac leads you down, past the school to the main road, the A646. Here, behind some crocuses (crocii ?) and dafodils, the river Calder is encased in a concrete gully. The Calderdale way turns left, and will soon be heading up the other side of the valley, so cross over whenever it is safe to do so, there is no beauty by the river, so nothing is lost by crossing earlier.

The next uphill takes you through a tunnel under the railway along Stoney Royd lane

On the skyline you will see Orchan Rocks. Your path does not lead directly to them, and the diversion is awkward, so content yourself with the view, there are more good horizons later on.

At the point where I took the above photo of Orchan rocks, there is a fork in the path. The Calderdale way takes a right turn to pass below Stannally Stones, but you can carry straight on. It is a bit steep, and you will need to turn right at the juntion with the Todmorden Centenary Way. This diversion adds about 00 yards to the walk and takes you around the top of the Stannally stones. Both routes meet up at Kit Hill and continue on a well marked route to Whirlaw Stones.

The Calderdale way here is a public bridleway, so be aware that you may come across horses, like this beautiful old girl, Bo, who was very well behaved when she was being photographed. She did think a little nibble was in order when I stroked her nose though.

If you have ever wondered at how the countryside looks so lovely, you are not on your own, but it doesn’t get like this all on its own. Today I was lucky enough to spot a lady taking on the task of making the world more beautiful. Sally was busy pruning an Alder so its branches didn’t get tangled. Nothing wasted either, the offcuts get used for kindling.

East Whirlam Farm is a muddy confusion with not much in the way of way markers, but if you negotiate the way through correctly you will be on a road made from old concrete railway sleepers leeding down to a junction. The Way marker leads you uphill again, this time through a muddy field, but easily followed until you reach a B road. You aren’t on this for more than a few yards before heading back into the mud. You are heading towards Law Hill then following the contour past Higher Birks to reach a minor road at the other side. Follow this road uphill and turn right at the T juction and before too far there is “Great Rock”.

The Calderdale Way pointer (bottom left) looks to point to the top of this ancient rock formation, but it means pass to the left of it. Only an idiot would take it literally and climb up the rock!

Back down on terra firma idiocy confirmed, the way follows a bridleway on the level before forking. The North fork is the one we want and it leads to Hippins Bridge and good signage through Hippins, Blackshaw Head and into Shaw Bottom.

Aiming to get to Colden Clough, which is a very picturesque series of waterfalls in a pleasent glade, it is easy to miss the left down a narrow path. You may end up as I did looking longingly at the river from the wrong side of the valley. Double back if you do, Colden Clough is just too good to miss

I wasn’t the only one to think this a great spot, I arrived at about the same time as a ladies walking group, “The Jessies”. Claiming the group name comes from them all being big Jessie’s I think is a bit of a fib. Whichever way they got here its a proper hike. Maybe I need to become a big Jessie too?

This thought was soon efaced from my mind when, taking the woodland path to the right after the bridge, I happened upon a pregnant ewe. She had managed to get herself stuck in the barbed wire, and really didn’t look too happy about it. As I couldn’t find a telephone box to change into my superman outfit, I had to content with just taking off my pack before climbing up to her. Holding her head still while tugging upwards on the wire soon freed her, but left a large clump of fleece behind to mark the spot. Somewhat dazed she wandered off a few yards, then stared at me with a look that said “Don’t expect thanks, I never asked to be rescued!”

Even though my undoubted heroism was unacknowledged by sheepkind, I was sufficiently boosted to walk with a marked spring in my step (and a sheepy smell on my hands 🙁 ) for the next mile or so.

Shortly after, I found a trough with a clear running spring, so I gave my hands a really good scrub. Just as well, because after the next stile I met Eddie. Eddie was very friendly, and couldn’t wait to jump muddy paws on my trousers. When you are already muddy this is not a problem, and she is so cute, how could you refuse her love?

Reluctantly leaving her behind I almost take the wrong route, but make a quick correction and follow signs which indicate that the Pennine way has been given the addition of the “Hebden Bridge Loop”. Regardless of the merits or otherwise of such a loop, it does take you very nicely to Heptonstall, which is incredibly pretty. It also has a pub.

Even better than a pub, it has clear, accurate signs for the Calderdale Way, which direct you onwards and into a short sharp downward woodland section towards Midgehole.

The name may strike fear in the hearts of men, particularly men who get eaten alive by midges! Worry not, Midgehole is actually a nice place, with a weir and a working mens club. Very nice, though I would imagine it is under-used. The reason I suspect this is that only 100 yards further along is the main entrance to Hardcastle Crags. A super spot owned by the National Trust, it isn’t actually on the Calderdale way, its a small detour. Not sure which way the Calderdale Way path was, I asked a member of the National Trust staff for directions. I was 500 yards into Hardcastle Crags before I realised that he was wrong. I doubled back and showed him the route on the map, “oh yes”, says he, “I did know that, Ooops”

Lesson learned, trust your own map reading, not directions from anyone else, no matter how authoritative they look 🙁

Girding my loins (is that actually an expression used in the 21st century?) I set off up what should be the last uphill of the day, past Shawcross Farm and on to the strangely named “Bogs Eggs Edge”

The next mile or so, it is difficult to go wrong. The path walks the boundry between tended fields and fells. A beautiful, but uneventful section, keep a look out for the abandoned quarry working at cock hill.

Having walked 17 miles of the Calderdale way last weekend, I had set myself the target of 18 miles for this section. That was not to be, I only managed 15 before nostalgia got the better of me, and I found an excuse (the weather), to take one of the many link paths and visit Midgley and Luddenden Foot. This was where my childhood was spent, and where I left age 18 to join the Navy.

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Calderdale Way – West Vale to Todmorden – Section 1

You can download a .gpx file of this route here

Calderdale Way – West Vale to Todmorden.gpx

The Calderdale Way was created in the 1970’s, so its not a new route, but it is worthwhile giving it  a try. The Calderdale Way is 50 miles long, and being a circular route you can start and stop at any point on the walk.

This section is 17 miles long, Can be done in 3 sections 5-6 miles long

It is suitable for dogs, but take a lead

Total ascent is over 3000 feet

I class this as a moderate to hard walk. Smaller sections would be said to be relatively easy

You will need good stout boots, and be prepared for any kind of weather.

Mobile Phone signal was generally good throughout the walk

Officially the route starts in West Vale, close to a bus stop at Grid Ref SE095214.  One thing that I like about the Calderdale Way is that you can tackle it in very small chunks. The route has lots of “access path” sections which are always well marked. These short pathways lead you off the Calderdale Way to civilisation, and public transport. Finding the start is quite easy, the biggest landmark is “Andy Thornton’s”, an Architectural salvage company in a repurposed mill. About 100m North of the bus stop is the start of the walk, at Clay House Park, which is where my journey will begin.

My route along the Calderdale Way is planned to be 3 sections each of around 16-17 miles. This is the first section and is around 17 miles long including the detours. It will take around 6 or 7 hours to walk. This section can very easily be split down further to 3 or 4 parts. I arrived in West Vale at about 8am and was struck by how few references to the path there are. In fact, I couldn’t see any. The OS map shows the route along the main road, turning Right up some steep stairs, a left and another right at the Star pub. This is okay and will lead you to a narrow path on a cliff top.

Two OS maps cover the route

This path will be closing on the 18th March 2017, and will stay closed for repair work for about 18 months. There is a better way. Instead of the roadway, you can walk through Clay House park, and you will join the Calderdale way after the soon to be closed section. Distance and elevation are similar, and the OS map does show clearly a footpath.

The Calderdale Way is marked with Signs and symbols very well. There are occasions when you are left wondering where to go, luckily these are few and far between. Take a map or the gpx from above with you. It will prove to be preperation well worth doing.

After the clifftop, Take a the road downhill briefly, the back into the woods. This part is really muddy. In the woods you will be joined by the alternate path I mentioned, just in time for a pretty stream.

A few yards further, at the bridge, you leave the woodland behind and head for the fells. Norland moor is not a huge are, but its easy to get lost. There is no Calderdale Way marker at the first major junction. The path divides into at least 4 routes at a low electricity pylon. Turn Left, heading on a bearing of 255′ until you see a cairn, where the signs resume and you go right.

On the top of Norland Moor is a trig point at grid ref SE054214. Its actually just off the Calderdale Way, but I do occasionally detour if its worth it. Do you take a selfie at trig points? I do.

You leave the moor a few minutes later and walk along the tarmac of Butterworth End Lane, looking out for a Right turn through a farm yard. Grid reference is SE052208. Before long you will be on Moor Bottom Road, which is nice and level, but there are a couple of dogs behind a wall that make you jump. At the end of Moor Bottom Road, you turn right to head downhill, and can if you desire have a stop for refreshment at “The Fleece”

As your way continues down Greetland road, past the Fleece, keep a look out for a very steep side road on the right. You need to follow this down into Ripponden. Pass St Bartholemew’s church on your right, cross the bridge and, after a short climb, you will be at the A672. This is a busy road, taking a good amount of traffic from Halifax out to Oldham or Manchester on the A62, so please cross with great care. The route at the other side is uphill for about 200 yards, and turns Right at grid ref SE038199. On the day I passed this way, the parts that were flagged were slippy, and the other ares were deep mud. This however leads you to more pleasent pastures with a good view of the valley. Signposting along this section is excellent, just be careful to look for the correct waymarker, as several routes converge here.

Following the signs, you will arrive at Soyland Town, and here I was left with no guide. You will see from the gpx plot that I missed the Right at grid ref SE036205 and instead, took a fork in the road a few yards further along. This could have been a good thing, as by now the rain was torrential and my steep downhill section on tarmac may have been somewhat safer. I rejoined the Calderdale Way just on the outskirts of the pretty little village of Mill Bank, where maybe 30 yards after the bridge the route hairpins around and leads you up into the woods. On your right as you walk up you can look down onto the old Mill pond, but take care not to get too close to the barbed wire fence. A warning sign telling you it is there is shown at the other end of the wood.

Follow a well marked route along tarmacfor a while, passed Great House and Hole Head turning right at SE017218 on a dirt track heading up towrds the dissused quarry. There is no shelter, but walkers can always adapt.

The bridleway you follow is very wet, and you can see it will get much worse just a bit further up. You turn left before you enter the mud pit.

After about a mile on theses green paths, if you are following along with the well signposted route, another potential finish point is reached. The Hinchcliffe in Cragg Vale awaits, along with a cheeky barman who will photo bomb your selfie

I was drenched and filthy when I arrived, and they could not have made mw feel more welcome. This is a great place for walkers to visit.

Leaving the bar, if you can, head outside and turn right. stay on this road, don’t turn off, even though tempted. A lack of signs will encourage your return to the real fire in the pub, but perseverence will lead you uphill to eventually find Withens Clough Reservoir, and a level but stoney pathway around its northern shore. You almost cannot miss the gate taking you away from the water and NorthWest on another hill. This one has awelcome rock strewn skyline to draw you along. You will be turning left before the top, along the bridleway. There is a footpath taking a diagonal for the two sides of the square you are about to walk, but I couldn’t find the start of it. I was onlt aware it exists because at the other side there is a marker pointing across the field. You have arrived at a strange place called Red Dykes. No longer used, there is an abandonned building and a lot of tall drystone walls. I would hazard a guess that this was used when the sheep were driven across the moor to market. I my be wrong, but the path has the feel of a drovers route. You will follow one of these walls up the hill to the start of Withens Gate.

This ancient way marker is one of several along this 300 yard stretch, with a large stone at its other end, leaning to one side, as if pointing you up the hill. It is not necessary to follow its suggestion, the Calderdale way continues straight ahead. If you are feeling strong in the legs though, be tempted. The stone is showing you the way to Stoodley Pike. It s much further thn you think. The structure is massive, and can be see from a long way off. Stoodley Pike was completed in 1856, and at 121′ high it dominates the landscape. If you have a torch, and are feeling brave, you can climb the steps to the landing and have a view all around. It is open all the time.

Retrace your steps back to the leening stone, and thank it or curse it for its suggestion. Either way, it marks your retur to the Calderdale way, so turn right and begin the long downhill walk on the well worn drovers path.

On the tarmac you will pass through Mankinholes (look for the YHA building) keeping an eye open for your left turn back on the drove route, leaving the road.  You will get to Lumbutts. A nice straight road leads away from the village heading generally West. Turn off the road at SD949233, through Croft Farm and then take a left at SD948235, which is marked, but not immediately visible. This next section is the muddiest of the walk so far, and was well above ankle deep in a few places. I tested the depth with my stick, a wise move, as some areas are very deep. At the end of the quagmire is a riding school, and welcome hard surfaces to tread upon. All that remains for this section is a pleasent walk down hill into Todmorden, about 1/2 a mile away, passing the old quaker burial site and the very large Church.

 

 

 

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Whats that, Lassie?

I have been thinking about how to write this blog. Am I alone in having a conversation going on inside my own head? Should I just blog that conversation?

This morning, on the way to work, I thought I might record my thoughts on a voice recorder, and then listen as I write the post.  I am listening to the ramblings of a mad man.

It is an awkward thing to hear yourself as others hear you, perhaps even stranger than seeing yourself on video. Worse, you look mad talking to yourself, although on the canal bank there are very few people to see.

Last night I discovered that the Misfit step counter doesn’t give an accurate distance. I’m not sure if I am annoyed or happy. I guess its a bit of both. Annoyed that a piece of equipment isn’t as accurate as you need (its out by about 40%), but happy that I actually managed 14 miles yesterday not the recorded 10 miles. Step count seems to be very close to reality, not sure why it thinks I have the stride of a short arse.

It doesn’t really matter, so I will just keep in mind that I am doing more than it says.

Back to today’s walk. I left Marsh and headed down into Milnsbridge, then joined the canal to Aspley. At one point I was joined by a random pair of Alsatians.

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No owners, but they seemed friendly. One had a tag, “Ruby” and a number. No answer, from the phone, and the dogs kept looking over a wall to a big drop. “Oh No”, I thought, “It’s one of those Lassie Movie moments”. Thankfully there was no broken body ‘in the well’ or on the river bank, and I left Ruby and her friend to their fun. The owner rang back shortly after, looking for two lost dogs, and I pointed her to the bridge where they were, hopefully to be re-united.

Its peaceful on the canal towpath, most of this walk is accompanied by birdsong, and little traffic noise disturbs the tranquility.

 

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Monday. New Week, New Regime 10miles a day

As I said in my last post, I need to up my mileage, so I’m aiming for 10 miles a day. To make this happen, I’m walking the long way to work. This adds a good 4 miles on to the start of the day, but it means I get to see so much more of this lovely town.

Monday 20th Feb

I’m getting to quite like my Salomon walking boots. I got them to be okay walking this winter if it got snowy, but they are good for these morning romps.

Also available for girls:)

 

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