A few days after my return from the Lakes, I was itching to get back out again. I’m keen to do some more exploration of the South Pennines, so on a fine and sunny Thursday morning I hopped on the train to Hebden Bridge.
I’d worked on a route which would head up to Heptonstall and then round the Colden Clough – a steep sided valley that curs into the Pennine hills to the north of the Calder valley. But first, I had to make my way through the town,
I crossed over the old packhorse bridge (which has been repaired and rebuilt several times following the floods that have plagued the town in the past)
and then started the climb up to Heptonstall by the VERY steep cobbled lane up
Part way up I stopped to take in the view over Hebden Bridge. I could see several streets of the “over and under” houses that are characteristic of the town. The tall terraced houses were built with 4 or 5 storeys were built as a solution to the limitations created by 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 second house in the lower two stories face downhill with their back wall against the hillside.
Eventually, huffing and puffing after a steep climb. I reached Heptonstall
There’s been a settlement here as far back as at least 1253 and it was even the site of a battle during the Civil War. Historically, it was a centre for hand-loom weaving, The work was done in the worker’s own homes, usually on the top floor and the old cottages and houses have long rows of stone mullioned windows on the first-floor which were meant to allow in plenty of light for the weavers.
High up on the hill it was away from the dark and damp valley floor. However, during the early Industrial Revolution, with the advent of water power, the new factories were built by the source of their power, the river, so Heptonstall went into decline. As a consequence, it’s almost as if it’s been frozen in time. I guess that for many years the buildings would have fallen into disrepair, but with the resurgence of Hebden Bridge, Heptonstall has also become a desirable location and the old houses and other buildings have been renovated.
This looks like a laithe house, where the barn (laithe), used to house livestock, is adjacent to the living accommodation. They’re not internally connected, so there are separate entrances for the living and livestock areas. This is a common type of farm building in West Yorkshire and over into Lancashire and parts of Westmorland and, like this one, today they’re often converted into more modern living arrangements
passing a close of houses
I made my way to the churchyard – there was a grave I wanted to visit.
There’s actually two churches there, one of them a ruined shell. The original church, dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, was founded c.1260, but was damaged by a gale in 1847. The new church which replaced it, dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle, was built just across the churchyard.
There’s a lot of graves in the old churchyard, but after hunting around for a while, I found the one I was looking for – the resting place of David Hartley, the Kong of the Crag Vale Coiners, who was executed in York on 28 April 1770.
Some consider the coiners to be local heroes, Calderdale “Robin Hoods”. Others consider them as a bunch of vicious rogues. In either case, they are the subject of a rather excellent prize winning novel, The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, who lives in the area, and there’s a TV series due to start on the BBC in the near future based on the novel.
Due to the novel, the Crag Vale Coiners have become better known and this probably accounts for the coins scattered on the headstone, left by other visitors. Thre weren’t any when I was last here a few years ago.
I walked through the old graveyard and the “new” church and then into the churchyard extension. I wanted to visit another grave. The American poet who had been married to local lad, and former Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes
Time to move on so I joined the path that was part of the Calderdale Way. I was going to follow this route for a while now
and was soon treated to a magnificent view over the narrow Colden Clough over the Calder Valley and on to Stoodley Pike
I carried on along the Calderdale Way, high above the valley on a narrow path with a steep drop down to my left
climbing over over and past outcrops of Millstone Grit.
After about a mile I emerged on a narrow country lane
which I followed for a short distance before joining a narrow track, still following the Calderdale Way. Up here, the route is following an old packhorse trail.
At one time the routs which are quiet and peaceful today would have been busy with packhorse trains transporting goods such as salt, milk, coal and lime, to and from the settlements in the Pennines and further afield. High up on the hillsides, like this one, they were away from what would often have been marshy and boggy valley bottoms.
The path went through some fields where I attracted the attention of some local residents.
The path here is a very good example of a ’causey’ – a paved packhorse trail which probably dates right back to the 17th or 18th century. I’d been along one during my recent walk above Todmorden too. Many of these causeys stretch for miles across the moors.
Looking over the fields I could see one of the small settlements that are scattered on the hills and valleys around here.
Eventally the path started to descend towards the bottom of the clough.
Where it crossed over an ancient, narrow stone clapper bridge
I was now on the Pennine Way and would follow the route now back down to the Calder Valley. There were some steep steps to climb
which took me to a narow track, which I crossed and I continued on along the Pennine Way
The path took me through fields with good views of the countryside all around. it was quiet and peaceful up here and I could hear the bubbling cry of curlews flying over the moors in the distance.
Topping the brow of a hill a view opened up across to Stoodley Pike
Reaching a small group of houses the route started to descend steeply down the sides of the valley.
I passed several houses on the way down. At one time these would have been hives of industry – homes of farmers and their families who were also participating in the “dual economy”, supplementing their living with spinning and weaving textiles before the rise of the factory system during the Industrial Revolution. the architecture of the houses reflecting the dual purpose.
The path wound down the hillside, down into theCalder Valley
Reaching the main road< I crossed over and took the turning down a lane to the canal, where I left the Pennine Way and joined the towpath to head back towards Hebden Bridge.
There were quite a few narrow boats moored up along the canal – many of them probably houseboats.
Getting closer to Hebden Bridge there were clusters of houses close to the river and canal
Arriving back in Hebden Bridge I had a mooch around the small town and ate my sandwiches sitting in the park
Then it was time to return to the train station to catch my train back to Wigan.
I’ll be making more use of this train route in the future as there’s more potential for walking routes to explore the Calder Valley.