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
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.