A walk around Colden Clough

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 Coinerswho 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.

The old, ruined church
The “new” Victorian church

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

Looking upstream
and downstream

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

Looking back to the footbridge

which took me to a narow track, which I crossed and I continued on along the Pennine Way

Looking across the fields

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

Getting close to Hebden Bridge, now
More “over and under” houses as I reached Hebden Bridge

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.

A walk from Todmorden to Hebden Bridge

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.

“Do you have some Blues in you?”


I came across this gentlemen at his stall on Hebden Bridge market when I was there a few weeks ago. He made up cigar box guitars and after spotting them I had to have a closer look.

He greeted me by asking me “have you got some blues in you?” Well I have – a little anyway! He spotted my Lancashire accent but despite this (!) I got chatting with him about how he made his hand built guitars and I had a go at playing one – they’re meant for playing slide or “bottleneck” style and it’s not something I’d really attempted before.

He told me that he had Parkinson’s disease (he had the characteristic hand tremor) but still persevered in building the instruments. I thought they were quite reasonably priced (probably worth more) and would have been tempted to buy one if I wasn’t just about to set out for a walk on the moors.


A walk up Stoodley Pike


After looking around Heptonstall and grabbing a bite to eat I set off on my walk up to Stoodley Pike, a 1,300-foot (400 m) hill topped with a monument, which lies on the Pennine way in the South Pennines close to Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. I’d decided to follow a route published by the AA, although I did vary a little from it.

Setting out from Hebden Bridge, passing the train station, I was soon climbing up a quiet country lane.


As I climbed up through the woods I could look down on Hebden Bridge at the bottom of the narrow Calderdale valley


Coming out of the woods by a telecoms mast,


the route continued up hill through the open fields


with the sun beating down with no cloud cover and now out of the shade for most of the route I was glad I’d decided to wear my wide rimmed Aussie hat !

Looking back I could see Heptonstall village on the other side of the valley


and looking ahead my objective came into view, silhouetted by the bright sky


After a while I turned off the path through the fields to continue on along some quiet country lanes


passing a number of traditional buildings, some working farms but many had been converted into (no doubt expensive) homes


There weren’t many other people about on this stretch of the walk and no noise other than the bleating of sheep and the call of curlews and other birds.

Getting closer to the Pike now


which was quite busy with other walkers, most of whom seemed to have come up from Todmorden. (I angle my photos to avoid the “crowds”)

Good views from the top


The 121 foot (37 m) high Monument on the top of the hill commemorates the Napoleonic wars. It’s actually the second structure, replacing the original tower, completed in 1815 and paid for by public subscription, which collapsed in 1854 after a lightning strike.


After a short stop to take in the views and refuel, I decided to continue along the ridge for another mile. The peat is quite eroded. It’s a busy path, popular with people coming up from Todmorden but also part of the Pennine Way


Having had quite a long dry spell I didn’t have to wade through a muddy morass.

I thought about descending the hill taking the path down towards Todmorden and then following the bridleway that traverses the foot of the hill, but it was sunny, with hardly a breath of wind and very pleasant on the top of the hill, so I turned round and retraced my steps back towards the monument


I retraced my steps back down the hill,


turning off to follow the Pennine Bridleway in the direction of Hebden Bridge


after a while turning off the bridleway to take a path through some pleasant woodland towards the town


before hitting a cobbled track


and being watched by some curious locals


It was the day after Good Friday!


I was getting close to Hebden Bridge now


After descending the steep hill I was back on the Rochdale canal


I picked up some cold drinks from the Co-op, then carried on along the towpath back towards the station


I only had short wait before my train arrived that would take me back to Wigan. 90 minutes later, I was back home.

Another good day out. The train is making this area very accessible without a car, avoiding an awkward drive across the busy M62 and down narrow roads, and also avoiding the bother having to find somewhere to park. I think I’m going to be spending more time exploring the area in the near future.

Hebden Bridge, Gibson Mill and Hardcastle Crags

After a hectic few weeks at work I took something of an inprompu decision to extend the Bank Hliday weekend and take a few days off work. I had a commitment on the Wednesday but decided that I could afford to take the other three days of the working week as holiday.

On the Tuesday we caught the train to Manchester and then transferred on to another that took us to Hebden Bridge. A total journey time of just over 1 1/2 hours.


Hebden bridge is a picturesque, small former textile town. Like most similar towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire, its industry declined in the 1960’s and 70’s. However, it got a new lease of life when it was colonised by artists, writers and “New Age” types in the 1970’s and 80’s. Today it’s a thriving tourist “honey pot” with art galleries, independent shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s featured in TV recently as one of the settings for the gritty police thriller “Happy Valley” and was in the news over the Christmas period when it was badly hit by the floods that affected the North of England.

We had a quick look around the town, but our main objective was to walk up to the National Trust site of Hardcastle Crags.

A beauty spot of the South Pennines with more than 160 hectares (400 acres) of unspoilt woodland.

Hebden Bridge has been designated as a “Walkers Welcome Town”. As part of this there are way marked trails  and other facilities for walkers. We were going to follow one of the trails up to the Hardcastle Crags site and then explore the woodlands. So we made our way across town and then crossed the small bridge over Hebden Water. The track more or less followed the course of the right bank of the river


The trail took us through pleasant woodland along the bank of the river


Before deviating up hill


Following a track higher up the side of the valley


before descending back down to the river bank


Close to the beginning of the Castle Crags estate


There are several waymarked trails in the woods. We took the path that continued to follow the course of the river, heading upstream towards Gibson Mill.


At several points the river could be crossed using stepping stones. Not too bad as the river level was low, but probably more scary when the water is deeper.


Eventually we arrived at Gibson Mill, about  half a mile along the valley, which was built around 1800.

The National Trust website gives us a little history

The mill was driven by a water wheel and produced cotton cloth up until 1890. In 1833, twenty one workers were employed, each working around seventy two hours per week and living in the adjacent mill workers’ cottages.

In the early 1900s, Gibson Mill began to be used as an ‘entertainment emporium’ for the local people. It offered dining saloons, a dance hall, a roller-skating rink, refreshment kiosks and boating on the mill pond. After the Second World War, the mill slipped into disuse, and was acquired by the National Trust in 1950.



We had a bite to eat in the obligatory cafe and then had a look around the mill building where there were displays and information about the mill and it’s history.


It was only a small building and only a few spinners were employed. This coupled with its location made it uneconomic. But in the early years of the 20th century it became a popular destination for workers from the nearby West Yorkshire textile towns


One of the displays was a recreation of the tea rooms that occupiedthe top floor of the building with two sections – First Class and Second Class.


The NT have made efforts for the mill to become a model of sustainable development and self sufficiency. Power is provided by two water powered turbines, photo voltaic panels and a wood burning boiler. There’s also a wood burning ceramic stove and composting toilets (being repaired currently so they’ve had to bring in temporary chemical porta-loos) and they’ve used locally-sourced reclaimed interior materials.

After looking around the mill we decided to follow the Railway Trail that headed further upstream.

Map route for railway walk at Hardcastle Crags

Back through woodlands



There were still lots f bluebells to be seen higher up the valley



Eventually we came out of the woods into more rugged moorland


before descending back down to the bottom of the valley, turning back to head downstream.

After a while the trail took us over a footbridge on to the other side of the river, climbing up the valley side and through more wodland


There were large expanses of wild garlic coming into flower (we could usually smell it before we could see it!)


The path took us past the crags themselves – stacks of millstone grit (a hard sandstone found all over the Pennines).


Eventually we arrived back at he mill.


We retraced our steps and leaving the estate took the path on the left bank of the river back to Hebden Bridge. Then on to the station to catch our train back to Manchester and beyond!


Day out in Hebden Bridge


Hebden Bridge is a small village tucked away in a valley between steep hills in the Yorkshire Pennines. It was an industrial town of textile mills which originally developed due to a plentiful supply of running water needed to power the machinery.

Like most textile towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire, its industry declined in the 1960’s and 70’s. However, unlike most of the other cotton and wool communities, it got a new lease of life when it was colonised by artists, writers and “New Age” types in the 1970’s and 80’s. Today it’s a thriving tourist “honey pot” with art galleries, independent shops, cafes and restaurants and a sever lack of parking!

We decided to have a day out there on Saturday. Knowing that parking is a problem, and that its not an easy drive down the narrow’ winding roads that run along the Calder valley, we decided to go by train. There’s a station at Hebden Bridge on the line that runs from Manchester to Halifax and beyond, with a regular service with trains from Manchester about every 20 minutes. The train fare from Wigan was about £17, but by booking two tickets, one to the last station on the line in Greater Manchester (Rochdale or Littleborough) and then another one from there to the final destination, we were able to make a substantial saving as the maximum fare between any two stations in Greater Manchester is £3-90. I don’t know why the full “normal” fare can’t reflect the subsidised fare for travel within the county boundary.

Getting off the train at our destination was like stepping back into the past. When the train station at Hebden Bridge was renovated in 1997 the signage was changed to the style used by the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway before the days of British Rail.

2012-05-19 11.25.53

We walked the short distance along the Rochdale canal from the train station to the centre of the village and had a wander round the streets lined with old, traditional stone buildings.



The original community was the village of Heptonstall, a steep climb up on the hillside. But a settlement developed in the valley around the old bridge over the River Calder. It has been a major crossing point since medieval times and although there are now two new bridges capable of carrying modern traffic, the old packhorse bridge, built around 1510, is still standing and can be crossed by foot.



It’s only a small town so it doesn’t take too long to explore unless you browse, as we did, in the shops and galleries, of which Hebden Bridge has more than its fair share. Due to the tourist trade it has considerably more shops than most other villages of the same size. It’s more akin to “honeypot” towns in the National Parks such as the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales than the Yorkshire and Lancashire Pennines. Even the old mill in the centre of town has been converted into shops and a cafe.


It was noticeable that other than a branch of Boots, a recently opened Rohan franchise and the main banks, the town was devoid of all the usual chains that dominate the high streets in just about every town in the UK. There were plenty of coffee shops and tea rooms but no branches of Starbucks, Costa Coffee and the like. This must be a deliberate policy, and it’s not a bad one.

After mooching round the shops and galleries and grabbing something to eat we went for a short walk along the Rochdale canal. It’s lines with old mills and other former working buildings, many of which have been converted to new uses.


2012-05-19 15.38.03

Having spent a pleasant few hours in the town we headed back to the station and caught the train back to Manchester.


There are a number of potential walks starting from the village and I think I’ll be returning in the near future. Hebden Bridge has been designated as a “Walkers Welcome Town”. As part of this there are way marked trails  and other facilities for walkers. There are a couple of routes I quite fancy following – up to and along Hardcastle Crags and, more strenuous, up Stoodley Pike.