A walk from Littleborough to Todmorden

For my second walk during the hot and sunny Bank Holiday weekend, not wanting to endure the inevitably busy traffic, I decided to take the train over to Littleborough. I’d worked out a route that would take me over to Todmorden, taking in a stretch of the Pennine Way. It was a long walk but doable. As it happens I ended up extending it a little.

Arriving at the station, a short walk along the road I was on a minor road that crossed the canal and then became a track that was soon out into the fields. A path then took me through some woods, past a farm and then past the golf course with views of the hills opening up.

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The low cloud that was hanging over Wigan and Manchester had cleared by the time I reached Littleborough. It was sunny and becoming hot and there was barely a breeze. The wind turbines on the hills were completely still.

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The line of pylons carrying power cables that stretch out over the moors brought to mind a poem by Stephen Spender that I’d studied for my O Level in English Literature. Here’s an extract

The Pylons

The secret of these hills was stone, and cottages
Of that stone made,
And crumbling roads
That turned on sudden hidden villages

Now over these small hills, they have built the concrete
That trails black wire
Pylons, those pillars
Bare like nude giant girls that have no secret.

by Stephen Spender (extract)
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Can’t say I’ve seen many nude girls that look quite like that, mind!

I guess that the modern day equivalent are the Wind Turbines of which I could see plenty on the nearby hills during my walk.

I’d originally planned to climb up the “Roman road”, that would let me join the Pennine Way to the north of Blackstone Edge. As it happens as I reached the path that would lead me to the start of the ascent, looking up to Blackstone Edge I decided to divert and climb the edge, taking the path up to the south of the summit, adding 2 or 3 miles to my planned route.

Looking down to Hollingworth Lake as I climbed

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A couple of curious locals ahead

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The top of Blackstone Edge ahead

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It didn’t take too long to reach the top of the hill with it’s jumble of millstone grit bolders

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I stopped by the trig point for a short break and a bite to eat. Just like on Friday, long range visibility wasn’t so great but the views over the moors were still OK.

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I was now on the Pennine way so followed the path heading northwards. Looking back to the Edge.

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I reached the Aiggin stone

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The Pennine Way then descended down the “Roman road”

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before turning north by the drain – a waterway taking water from one of the reservoirs that feed the Rochdale canal

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It wasn’t too long before I reached the White Horse pub on the A58 which runs over the Pennines from Littleborough to Halifax.

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Crossing over there’s a short walk stretch of road before the Pennine way continues along a gravel path that’s used a a service road for a string of reservoirs.

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This path extends for a few miles and is pretty flat. It’s reputedly the easiest stretch of the Pennine Way. The lack of inclines means it’s also one of the least interesting stretches, but on a fine day there were good views over the moors and the water in the reservoirs was a lovely bright blue.

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About a mile along the track I reached this little bridge, which I crossed and then walked along to an outcrop of millstone grit in a former quarry

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Inscribed on the rock is a poem

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This one of the Stanza Stones – poems by Simon Armitage (the new Poet Laureate) inscribed on rocks on the moors between Marsden (his home town) and Ilkley, all about an aspect of the water which frequently falls on these moors. This is the Rain Stone

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Unusually (!) it wasn’t raining today, but it had been a few days before and the moors off the path were wet and boggy.

Rejoining the path I carried on heading north passing a string of small reservoirs.

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After passing the last of the reservoirs, the path continued over the boggy moor. Fortunately flagstones have been laid down over the boggiest section other it would have meant walking through a quagmire. There’s a reason why Simon Armitage located his Stanza Stones up here!

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Soon, Stoodley Pike came into view

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It didn’t look so far off, but sometimes your eyes can deceive you!

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Carrying on, Todmorden and the nearby villages came into view down in the valley

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and looking in the opposite direction towards Cragg Vale, home of the Coiners

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My plan was to descend down the Calderdale Way and follow it to Todmorden where I’d catch the train back to Wigan. Looking north along the Pennine Way, Stoodley Pike didn’t look so far off and I was tempted to continue onwards.

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But I’d extended my walk by a few miles already by tackling Blackstone Edge so I decided to stick to my original intention.

The path was an old packhorse trail and had been paved, making the walking relatively easy.

I was greeted by a couple of sheep as I entered the small village of Mankinholes

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It’s small village of old traditional Pennine houses, an ancient settlement, going back to the 13th century, and some of the houses were built in the 17 th century. They would probably have been originally occupied by textile workers, weavers and spinners, who worked from home, so the houses have the typical rows of mullioned windows that allowed maximum light into the first floor work rooms.

I reckon that later on, after the Industrial Revolution had killed off the domestic textile industry, the occupants probably went to work in the mill in nearby Lumbutts – there’s an old path across the fields between the two villages and that was what I followed.

Lumbutts isn’t as old, coming into existence along with the mill in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Reaching Lumbutts I passed the local pub which, on a Bank Holiday afternoon, was busy with customers enjoying a meal and a pint.

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Time was getting on so I didn’t stop but carried on to have a look at the village chapel

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It’s rather a large chapel for a small village but probably served the surrounding area. It was only constructed in 1911, replacing an earlier building. The ground floor was used for the Sunday School with the main chapel above it.

I rejoined the Calderdale way which carried on along the road and down the hill towards the old mill. The only thing left is the unusual old tower.

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The mill was water powered and the tower contained three water wheels, one on top of the other, powered from lodges on the hills above.

I carried on along the road for a while passing the rows of terraced workers’ houses

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A short while further on the Calderdale Way turned off the road to start crossing some fields. Looking across to Stoodley Pike

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I passed a number of old, traditional houses which are now expensive, desirable residences

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Soon I could see Todmordem, but it was still a way off

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I carried on along the Calderdale way through fields and along a country lane, eventually arriving at the small former textile town down in the bottom of the narrow valley.

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Todmorden used to split by the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire and the neo-Classical Town Hall actually straddles the border.

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Since Local Government reorganisation it’s been entirely in West Yorkshire, but remnants of the old loyalties remain. My walk had taken me from Littleborough in Lancashire (well, Greater Manchester these days) and across the border into West Yorkshire. But it would be difficult to tell the difference as the landscape and architecture across the South Pennines is essentially the same.

I’d run out of water a couple of miles before reaching the town (should have stopped at that pub!) so needed to get some cold liquid. It was nearly 5 o’clock and everything seemed shut but I managed to find an off licence were I was able to buy a couple of bottles of diet coke from the fridge for a couple of quid. The cold liquid and caffeine were more than welcome and I quickly downed the contents of one of the bottles saving the second for the journey home.

I didn’t have too much time to look round before the next train was due so I made my way to the station. It was running 10 minutes late and I might have otherwise missed it (although they run every half hour). Just over an hour later I was back in Wigan.

Another grand walk on what was probably going to be the last sunny day for a while. I also feel that September is the beginning of Autumn, so this was my last walk during this year’s summer. But Autumn can be a good time for walks too – so fingers crossed!

Heptonstall

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On Easter Saturday I decided to take advantage of the good weather and get out for another walk. I’d enjoyed my walk over Blackstone Edge the previous Saturday so thought I’d take the train back over to the South Pennines, this time to Hebden Bridge for a walk over to Stoodley Pike. I arrived in the former mill town in the bottom of the narrow Calder Valley, which has now become rather trendy and “Bohemian”. I didn’t stop long, I’d been a couple of times before, but decided to gead up to the small community of Heptonstall, just up the hill from Hebden Bridge. And what a hill it is!

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I took the VERY steep cobbled lane up from the centre of Hebden Bridge

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and then up a steep road that took me into the village.

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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.

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The former Cloth Hall, which is now a private house,was built between 1545-58. Finished cloth produced in the town and nearby area used to be traded here.

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The Octagonal Methodist Chapel was built in 1764 and the design and construction of were overseen by John Wesley, who frequently preached here. It’s one of the oldest Methodist churches in continuous use today.

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No visit to Heptonstall would be complete without a visit to the churchyard. 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. 

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A large proportion of visitors come up the hill to see the grave of Sylvia Plath who is buried in the new graveyard, just across a narrow lane from the church.

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There’s a lot of old graves in the old churchyard

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The most notable “resident” is David Hartley, the KIng of the Crag Vale Coiners, who was executed in York on 28 April 1770 This is his gravestone

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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

Just by the graveyard there’s a rather excellent little museum, housed in the old grammar school building that was constructed in 1642

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There are exhibits about the history of the village, its industry, the Civil War battle and, of course, the coiners.

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Partway back down, the view over Hebden Bridge

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and then down the steep, cobbled lane

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back to Hebden Bridge where I took a break by the old packhorse bridge for a bite to eat before setting off on my walk up Stoodley Pike

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Back in Galway

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Last Sunday I travelled over to Galway on the west coast of Ireland for what has become an annual trip to the “City of the Tribes” to run a workshop at the University. It’s a great opportunity to see some friends who live there and mooch around what is probably my favourite Irish City.

Only problem is that due to having to fit into the course timetable my visits have all been in the winter – normally February, but this year I was there a little earlier in the year. I really must make an effort to get over there when the days are longer so I can see this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way at its best. (I’ve promised my friend Veronica that I definitely will!)

I took the plane from my least favourite airport to Dublin and then caught the express coach over to Galway. It was windy leaving Manchester which meant a bumpytake off in the Aer Lingus twin engined turboprop. But the short flight wasn’t too bad. It was cold and sunny with blue skies in Dublin, but as we travelled west on the coach I could see clouds in the distance. By the time we arrived in Galway it was cold and grey and starting to rain. I checked into my hotel, and then set out for a mooch. It was just after 4 p.m and there was about an hour and a half to go before it would be dark so I wrapped up warm, and wandered across Eyre Square and down Shop Street and Quay Street down to the small harbour at the Claddagh (the streets in Galway do exactly “what they say on the tin”, by the way).

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I stopped and took in the view over to the picturesque row of houses known as the Long Walk and then decided to brave the weather and take a walk along the coast to the seaside suburb of Salthill.

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After walking to the end of the turbulent Corrib river, where it enters Galway Bay, I turned west and set out along the path that skirts the coast, passing Mutton Ireland and on towards Salthill. A little further on I diverted off the path to take a look at the Famine Ship Memorial in the Celia Griffin Memorial Park, Gratton Beach.

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As I carried on towards Salthill I passed a plaque, engraved with a poem – ‘The One-Armed Crucifixion’ -by Paul Durcan, accompanied by an engraving by John Behan. It’s part of the Galway Poetry Trail which I’d used as the basis of a walk around Galway last year, but I hadn’t come across this particular plaque as I hadn’t wandered out this far.

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There were a couple of more plaques further on along the coast road and I must have passed them, but wasn’t paying attention and missed them. Rather negligent of me, but there’s always next year!

Reaching Salthill I carried on along the coastal path, passing the Aquariam and various other seaside attractions in the small resort, until I reached the sea diving platform. It was dark by now so I couldn’t see too much and little point in trying to take photos! I wandered over close to the sea to listen to the waves breaking, and was startled by someone appearing from out of the sea. A brave soul, the water must have been freezing. I stopped for a little while peering into the dark and contemplating life and the universe as you do before turning round and retracing my steps back to the City.

Reaching the city centre it was time to get something to eat. In the past I’ve treated myself to fish and chips at McDonaghs chippie (it is the seaside, after all). But I’m trying to be good and lose a couple of kg, so resisted. Instead, I had a home made noodle dish in Xian Street Food, a rather nice little Chinese fast food place that had opened on Quay Street since my last visit.

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Afterwards I continued wandering, taking the path along the Corrib as far as the Cathedral before cutting back across to my Hotel on Eyre Square where I settled down in front of the TV to catch the latest episode of Les Miserables on the BBC. (Yes, I know I was in Ireland but the hotels usually have the main UK TV channels).

It had been a long day so it was time to turn in for the night. Another busy day to look forward to on Monday.

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Galway Poetry Trail

Walking around Galway you might notice a series of plaques at various strategic locations, each of which has a poem inscribed on it, usually with a theme relating to the city. Together they comprise the Galway Poetry Trail which has been created in conjunction with the the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, an annual literature festival that’s been held in Galway since 1985.

During my latest visit I tried to find some time to visit some of the plaques. A number of the poems are by well known authors, including Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and W B Yeats, but others are by poets I didn’t know, so following the trail introduced me to their work. Here’s a few of them. 

This one, featuring the poem Bright City by Moya Cannon is on the bridge overlooking the harbour and the Cladagh, to which it refers.

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It’s a little tricky to read from the photo, so here it is

Bright City 

I follow the light down the canal path,
across the road and on to the Claddagh.
In a blast of morning light which has turned
canal, river and estuary to mercury,
even the cars on the Long Walk are transfigured.

Five swans beat their way in across the bay,
heavy, sounding their own clarion,
as though carrying the world’s beauty
in on their strong white backs this Saturday morning.”

(Moya Cannon)

Here’s one by Gerry Hanbury on the wall of a pub on the corner of Quay Street

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The Tribune by Gerald Dawe can be found on the wall of the building belonging to the very newspaper it refers to

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Rita Ann HigginsMen With Tired Hair can be found on the wall of Richardson’s Pub

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A tasting plate of Oysters

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Monday evening during my short stay in Galway, I went out for a meal with a friend who lives in the town to Morans Oyster Cottage, a seafood restaurant in Kilcolgan, a short drive from the city.

For the first course, we both treated ourselves to a “taster plate” of Native and Pacific oysters. They’d come fresh from the Clarenbridge oyster bed, a short distance away. Delicious!

There were photographs on the wall of famous visitors who’d visited the restaurant, including a certain Seamus Heaney, who’d left his calling card

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a hand written note of his poem, Oysters.

A pity about the reflections in the photo which makes one of the  words (starlight) illegible – but if you want, you can read the poem here

A treat in more than one way!

A walk along the Edges

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The last day of our short break in the Peak District we decided to go for a walk along the gritstone edges to the east of Baslow. We drove a few miles up to Curbar gap and parked up on the National Trust car park. It isn’t very large, so we were fortunate to find a space.

The plan was to walk along White Edge and then return along Froggat Edge and Curbar Edge. We ended up extending the walk by a few miles through the Longshaw Estate.

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Leaving the car park we took the path up to White Edge.

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After a short climb we were on top of the ridge where views opened up over desolate moorland – a lonely rugged landscape even though it’s only a few miles to Sheffield.

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The path was a bit boggy in places.

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Out on the wild and windy moor!

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Looking north over Froggat Edge we could see the Hope Valley ridge and Kinder Scout in the distance

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White Edge is an undulating ridge with a few gentle ups and downs, but relatively easy walking. On one of the “summits” we spotted this stone. Looking closely we could see that there were words carved into it. Being weathered, it was a little difficult to read at first but we soon worked out that it was a poem.

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There was a web address carved on the stone too and as the reception on my phone was quite good I had a quick look to find out more. It transpired that this is one of a series of “companion stones”

“Companion stones are a set of twelve matching stones. Designed by local poets and artists and created by sculptors and masons of the Peak, are a similar stature, volume and material as their compeers. Like the guide stoops, each bears an inscription pointing, not to market towns, but towards the future. In doing so, they draw attention to the moors, an indicator of the trick environmental terrain we have yet to navigate” http://www.companionstones.org.uk/

The project was inspired by the Guide Stoops which were erected in the early 18th century to help travellers across treacherous moors, each stoop providing directions to the nearest market town.  This stone had a poem by Mark Goodwin and was designed by Jo Dacombe

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(Poem by Mark Goodwin)

We carried on along the ridge, deciding to carry on towards Longshaw rather than cutting down to the Grouse Inn. We crossed the main road and set out along the path towards Longshaw Lodge

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The Longshaw Estate was once the Duke of Rutland’s shooting estate but was bought by the people of Sheffield in 1928, being passed on to the National Trust in1931. Today it’s a pleasant Country Park which seems to be well used by people from Sheffield and the vicinity as well as visitors like ourselves.

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We passed below a gritstone outcrop but couldn’t resist climbing up for the view. A rainbow could be seen to the north east.

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After a while the path went through some woodland

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before we arrived at Longshaw Lodge where there was a busy little café, so we stopped for a brew.

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The lodge was built about 1827 to provide a retreat for the Duke of Rutland’s shooting parties. I believe that it has now been converted into flats.

It was a clear day and there were good views towards  Higger Tor

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and Stannage Edge, the other side of Hathersage.

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Setting out again we walked through woodland and moorland back towards Froggat Edge. We spotted another Companion Stone, this one designed by Kate Genever

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with a poem by Ann Atkinson.

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Looking back

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we left the Estate and then walked a short distance along the road to the Grouse Inn. It looked quite busy and we didn’t need any refreshments so carried on cutting across the fields and through the NT carpark

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crossing the road and joining the path that climbed up to Froggat Edge, initially passing through pleasant woodland

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Looking back

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There’s a small ancient stone circle just off the footpath. It’s not exactly Stonehenge, but interesting none the less.

 

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Reaching the top of the ridge there were good views over the steep gritstone cliffs on the north side of the Edge

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Along with Curbar Edge tot he south, it’s a favourite spot for climbers.

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We carried along the ridge heading towards Curbar Edge

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Looking east we had a good view of White Edge that we’d walked along a few hours earlier

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We carried on along the ridge

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and descended down back to the car park. There was a rather upmarket mobile snack bar which was tempting,

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but we had decided to call in at the Chatsworth Farm Shop before heading home and it was getting close to closing time, so changed out of our boots and set off.

It had been a good walk. A lot easier than some we have done lately, but interesting nevertheless, with great views and a little culture too!