After a week in the flat, flat, flat Netherlands, I was itching to get out into the hills. So on the Monday between Christmas and New Year, I decided to get out for a walk – my last for 2019. Checking out the weather forecast the South Pennines looked a good bet, so I took the train over to Todmorden from where I set out for a walk over the moors to Hebden Bridge. It was a continuation of a walk I did at the end of August when I walked from Littleborough to Todmorden on a hot, late summer day. This time it was also bright and sunny and although obviously colder, it was milder than I expected.
The start of my route this time meant retracing my steps from my August walk, from the train station in Todmorden as far as the small, former textile manufacturing, village of Lumbutts. Leaving the station I passed the ornate, neo-Classical town hall which straddles the former border between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Since Local Government reorganisation in the 1970’s it’s been entirely in West Yorkshire, but remnants of the old loyalties remain.
I crossed over the Rochdale canal. If I’d wanted I could have followed the towpath to my destination, a much flatter and easier route than the one I’d chosen over the hills and moors – but that would have rather defeated my objective.
Following the Calderdale Way I climbed up out of the town and into the countryside. Looking back over the fields I could see back to Todmorden and the moors to the west. I’ve plans to get up there some time in the near future.
Carrying on Stoodley Pike, surmounted by the monument erected after the Napoleonic and Crimean wars, came into view.
I passed a number of old farm houses, many of them restored as desirable, and expensive, modern homes. Most retain the old windows. In the past it was hard to make a living from farming out in this bleak landscape and, before the advent of the Industrial Revolution, farming families would supplement their earnings by spinning and weaving. The rows of narrow windows was to allow in light for these activities.
After a while I reached Lumbutts, passing the site of the old mill with it’s tower that used to house three water wheels which powered the machinery.
I carried on past the village chapel
and then started to climb up on to the moors via the old packhorse trail.
I reached the top of the hill and turned off the packhorse trail, which now descended down the other side of the moor, and turned north, following the well trodden path, which is part of the Pennine Way, towards Stoodley Pike.
There were quite a few walkers and mountain bikers up on the moor heading to and from the summit. It was still bright and sunny, but there was a strong, stiff cold breeze.
I made my way along the path through the peat until I reached the monument. The current stone tower was completed in 1856 at the end of the Crimean War, replacing an earlier tower erected in 1815
The viewing platform 40 ft high can be reached via a spiral staircase of 39 steps inside the tower, accessed by this door.
I made my way up, using the light of my phone as the steps are in the pitch black. On a sunny day there were good views across the moors from the elevated position.
including the path I was going to take to head towards my final destination.
After a hot coffee from my flask and a bite to eat I carried on along the route of the Pennine Way across the moor, but then turned off to Follow the Pennine Bridleway through the fields and then, after a while, turning off the bridleway to take a path through some pleasant woodland towards the town.
As I got closer to Hebden Bridge I could see the old textile village of Heptonstall over the other side of the valley lit up by the sunshine. But dark clouds were gathering and the bright day started to gradually turn grey.
Turning on to a cobbled road, I started to descend steeply down into Hebden Bridge.
The tall terraced houses were built with 4 or 5 storeys and are “over and under” houses built due to the limited space in the narrow Calder valley. In most northern industrial cities and towns workers’ houses were often built “back to back” – i.e. two houses sharing a common rear wall. This wasn’t so feasible in Hebden Bridge so they built one house on top of another. One house occupies the upper storeys which face uphill while the secon house in the lower two stories face downhill with their back wall against the hillside.
With the decline of the textile industry in the 1950’s and 1960’s Hebden Bridge, like many northern textile towns, became depressed and dilapidated. However, in the 1980’s it started to attract “incomers” – mainly people who favoured a more “alternative” lifestyle – who have regenerated the community.
Today the town is very picturesque and a desirable place to live, as well as being something of a honey pot. But in the past there would have been sulphurous smoke belching from the chimneys of the textile mills which would have filled the valley and it wouldn’t have been such a pleasant location.
I reached the Rochdale canal (the same waterway I crossed in Todmorden) and joined the footpath and walked towards the town centre.
I passed the Trades Club, a socialist members cooperative, club, bar and music venue built in 1924 as a joint enterprise by half a dozen local trade unions. Today it’s been revived and has been described as “the hippest venue in the North” by The Guardian. Many major artists, including Patti Smith, Laura Marling, The Fall The Unthanks, Curved Air, Nico, Thurston Moore, Slaves, Lee Scratch Perry, Marc Almond and Donovan have played here.
I had a wander around the town centre, which is full of small, mainly independent, shops.
There are two independent bookshops in the town and I couldn’t resist calling into one of them, the Bookcase, which looked particularly good, for a browse. The shop had a good selection and I ended up buying a copy of a guide book to the West Yorkshire Moors.
Written by a local author, Christopher Goddard, it includes hand drawn maps of the moors and walks, in a style reminiscent of Wainwright’s guides to the Lakeland Fells, togethor with information about the moors, their history, geology and wildlife. A good buy.
I set back towards the main square over the old bridge
and then made my way back along the canal towpath
to the train station where I was able to catch a direct train back to Wigan Wallgate.
Dusk had fallen and it began to turn dark during my journey home. But I was able to relax and read my new purchase, finding inspiration for some other walks around Todmorden and Hebden Bridge for the near future.