Tag Archives: Pennines

SD 38. OLDFIELD TO SALTAIRE.

There were several unexpected highlights on today’s walk and despite heading into the congested Aire Valley we enjoyed rural walking throughout on one of the warmest sunniest February days I remember.

Continuing our straight line walk meant once again logistics of two car parking. Sir Hugh suggested Saltaire as a finishing point so we arranged a rendezvous in the large free car park there, all went well with my journey until I became stuck in early rush hour traffic, not the best of starts for a day’s walking. With the late start and more traffic problems we drove back to our last point in the Ponden Valley.  Sir Hugh seemed to know all these intricate Pennine roads and little villages or at least the lonely Public Houses where he spent his money when living in the area as a young man. We were stunned when the lane up to our isolated parking spot was closed necessitating back tracking and finding an alternative route on what was becoming a frustrating morning.

At last we set off down a bridleway high above Ponden Reservoir only for Sir Hugh to realise he’d left his phone on the car, fortunately we hadn’t gone far. This initiated a conversation on things left behind on walks and the cut off distance where one is prepared or able to return. Poles, passports, waterproofs, cameras and particularly hats were prominent on the list. We ran into problems with unmarked, difficult to follow and blocked paths in the Oldfield area and at West House farm admitted defeat and took to the road for a while. None the less there were many interesting houses passed.

High above Ponden Reservoir.

Before he’d realised his loss.

We were concerned with our poor progress after the delayed start on what would be a long day but as often happens things suddenly improved and remained so all day. We encountered a deep gorge not apparent on the map and decided to take the old flagged path alongside down to the River Worth which was then followed for a mile or so through green fields. We reached a road at an old mill that had been restored to provide modern living accommodation. There were several pack horse type bridges on this stretch reflecting the days when the valley was thriving with small riverside mills.

On the edge of Haworth I had noticed on the map a ‘Railway Children’s Walk’. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit, published in 1906, was set in Yorkshire and a 1970 film used The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway as a backdrop. I remember watching a BBC TV series back in the 50s. Thus Haworth’s tourism benefits from both the Bronte connection and the preserved steam railway.  We followed the lane across the Mytholmes railway tunnel made famous in the film …

… I regret now not going the extra few hundred yards to view the authentic Oakworth station featured prominently in the film. No trains today so we climbed up the steep hill to the busy Cross Roads and would you believe it – halfway up a steam train came into view way below us in the valley, bad timing. Up on the road the stone houses all bore that blackened look of the industrial past.

At Barcroft we reached high open countryside and enjoyed marching out with distant views to Bingley. In the fore ground was a prominent rocky tor, Catstones, and we speculated on the climbing possibilities and the height of the faces.

A bench below was perfect for lunch, I didn’t have the energy to ascend to the rocks. An inscription was dedicated to a Cllr. Ron Senior who pioneered a circular walk around Cullingworth, Senior Way. We felt well qualified to follow it.

We ended up just using the pavement through Harden but then entered St.Ives country park for a popular woodland walk to the edge of Bingley. The park is yet another old estate taken into council ownership providing a wide range of activities, we only skirted the edge.

A lane dropped down to bridges and fords at Beck Foot, a site of old mills, all very picturesque in the sun. An ecyclist proudly showed us his bike and extolled the virtues of battery powered leisure, not sure what it is doing for his fitness.

The River Aire, on its way into the industrial Leeds, was followed through fields to give another aspect to this day’s walk. Surprisingly rural although there was rubbish evident. A last stretch of woodland linked to the Leeds Liverpool Canal which took us into the heart of Salts Mill at Saltaire. Formerly a textile mill, now an arts centre, built by the philanthropic Sir Titus Salt in 1853, along with the adjoining Saltaire village in the hope of improving the conditions for working people. The whole complex is worthy of a day’s exploration. We found our car as the sun was setting and joined the heavy traffic home.

*****

SD 38. NELSON TO OLDFIELD.

This was a day of two halves, first the transition from industrial Nelson to the complex field paths in its rural hinterland and then second glorious moorland walking over to Yorkshire.

We left the car in a dodgy carpark in Nelson assured by a couple of youths we wouldn’t get clamped. With nervous looks back we climbed modest streets eastwards towards Mecca or was that the local bingo hall. Views back down the streets showed a misty Pendle.

Anyhow we found ourselves in  Marsden Hall Gardens which proved fascinating. Originally owned by the Walton family [more of them later] the estate passed into Nelson Corporation ownership in 1912. The 16th century hall still stands above the gardens. We came through the ‘Egyptian Gate’ a sandstone edifice with interesting carvings, most notably it is known as ‘the wishing gate’ and to this day people place leaves in the carved holes before passing through and making a wish.

Our next goal was an iron age fort marked on the map at Castercliff, despite its obvious size and prominence there was no local signage. It was constructed maybe 500 BC and there is no evidence it was ever occupied. The views from the summit over the towns in the Pendle Valley were hazy but retained the feeling of being up high. The way kept going upwards and ahead of us on a hill in the distance was the prominent monument to the Walton Family.  A Victorian cross place atop a 9th century monolith which would warrant further close investigation.

The next hour or so found us navigating seldom used paths in rough fields between ancient farms. At one stage a Jack Russell harried us noisily for a good half mile through fields from its farm. At the time we were hopelessly lost and the farmer was shouting unclear directions. Things improved as we approached the south of Trawden, walking down a quiet lane we passed the idyllic and listed New Laith Farm. Once on the edge of town we turned off right into the narrow street of White Lee, old cottages gave way to new housing as we turned down an old mill lane to cross Trawden Brook and climb up to more Laith farms, the word meant granary or simply barn and is used a lot in northern England.

A working Will O’ Th’ Moon farm.

Residential New Laith Farm.

The way became rougher as we climbed higher. We found an enclosed track crossing the moorland to the west of Wycoller and lunch was taken high on this  ‘Forest of Trawden’ looking over the Wycoller valley.

We dropped into the valley  and made our way to Parson Lee Farm which we recognised from coming  through on The Bronte Way last year. The winding track climbed slowly up into the moors, our journey pleasantly interrupted by a lengthy conversation with two passionate fell runners enabling Sir Hugh to reminisce on his one and only fell race. A trod took us across a wilderness to reach Watersheddles Reservoir, whereas last time we walked down the dangerous road from here today we found the concessionary path alongside the water. Up here we listened to Oyster Catchers by the shimmering water and Grouse and Curlews further afield, all very evocative.

There was only a short stretch of road before we turned up the quieter side road which gave us panoramic views over the Ponden area. We crossed The Pennine Way back to our car completing a satisfying 10 miles in perfect weather. Somewhere along the way we had crossed from Lancashire into Yorkshire which we will remain in for the rest of our route, so only the two great counties coast to coast.

*****

 

THE BRONTE WAY five.

Bailiff Bridge to Oakwell Hall.

The final day of our walk on the Bronte Way. By more good luck than management there was a bus stop outside the hotel to take us back to Bailiff Bridge. After some steep uphill road and lane walking we were once more in amazing rural areas. We had joined The Kirklees Way and a Brighouse Boundary Walk. There were some vicious dogs penned up in some of the properties we passed some on a running chain which is quite scary as they charge at you. We postulated what could happen if the chain snapped!

Some time was passed in a large pristine golf course, there’s always one on any long distance walk. Fortunately no fairways had to be crossed on this one. After crossing a motorway, M62, little lanes led into Liversedge where first we came across a quaker grave yard. Way back a man, who was a Quaker, had been refused a burial at Hartshead church, so he bought a piece of land for burials of his family. This is still being used today and there are four 17th century graves. It was on Hartshead Common that Luddites congregated in early 19th century to march on Arkwright’s Mill at Rawfolds with disastrous results. Could something similar happen in the future as robots take over workers jobs?   We are also sharing The Luddite Trail now, oh and did I mention The Spen Valley Trail. there must be a lot of keen walkers hereabouts.

A little further was a plant hire depot with some interesting old tractors, two looked as though they had come straight off the American prairie. And another aggressive guard dog going nuts as we stopped to take pictures.

We were now in the Spen Valley area which was the backdrop to Charlotte’s novel Shirley enacted at the time of the Luddites. This novel sounds interesting and will get a copy for holiday reading. On our route was a farm cafe which turned out to be an excellent stop for coffee and toasted tea cakes. The waitress was interested in our route and was clearly enthusiastic about Oakwell Hall. On leaving the cafe we spotted the resident cat waiting patiently on the back step.

Up the road was an old house, Clough House, bearing a plaque to the Rev. Patrick Bronte who lived here before moving to Thornton.

Some rather messy navigating through lanes and parks, all very rural though, brought us into the honest looking Shirley Estate, Gomersal. We wandered into the local church bazar hoping to find an old copy of The Bronte Way guidebook. On mentioning we were on the Bronte Way we were escorted to the grave of Mary Taylor a lifelong friend of Charlotte. Mary apparently was a Women’s Rights advocate who incidentally led a women’s group to climb Mont Blanc in 1875.

Open fields should have led us down to an entrance to Orwell Hall but probably distracted by females we took the wrong field. All was not lost and I think we had a better way into the grounds of this beautiful and obviously popular property. Oakwell Hall may have been the inspiration for ‘Fieldhead’  in Charlotte’s novel Shirley. This is the last of our Bronte associations but I wonder how many we have missed. We came out on the way we should have gone in, a far inferior way. A bus stop was on the main road and eventually a bus full of friendly locals delivered us to the efficient Bradford Interchange.

The end to a really varied and interesting five days of walking.  Sir Hugh’s new knee just about stood up to the whole trial.  We’ve seen a lot and learnt a lot.

Sign in the cafe.

*****

THE BRONTE WAY four.

Denholme Gate to Bailiff Bridge.

The train got us to Halifax almost on time despite having to make toilet stops at various stations en route, the train toilet being nonfunctional. The toilet stop at Hebden Bridge was cut short when it was realised that the station toilet was also nonfunctional, all very strange and can’t all be Northern Rail’s fault. Of course our bus waited for us and we were soon walking from the moorland Denholme Gate. Enclosed rough fields with ancient wall stiles took us eastwards into what looked like an urban setting but the route cleverly kept us mostly on green ways. Paths wandered past houses and barking dogs. We were heading to Thornton the birthplace of the Bronte sisters. Little streams added interest and then the largest cemetery I’ve been in for years. A moorland ridge above was home to Sir Hugh’s first house, as there was no plaque to commemorate this event we didn’t divert. Then we were in the main street of Thornton full off characterful houses off the beaten track and not a Japanese tourist in sight. No 74, was heralded as the Bronte sisters’  birthplace, their father Patrick being curate at the Chapel. A cafe-cum-museum here gave us a rest, coffee and entertainment listening in to the local ladies’ Yorkshire conversation.

A deep valley had now to be crossed but to be honest we seemed to be cruising along despite the long grass in parts. There were distant, if hazy, views down into Bradford city centre. My memory is of fields and lanes going nowhere, stone walls, buttercups and dog walkers eager to converse. The hidden world of West Yorkshire.

Somewhere we joined The Calderdale Way in a wild valley and eventually emerged into the affluent Norwood Green. More of the same took us down to the suburbs at Bailff Bridge and thankfully a bus into Brighouse for a night on the tiles – well not really – an early supper in our hotel by the canal followed by an early night.

Check out Sir Hugh for another version of today’s walk.

*****

THE BRONTE WAY three.

Stanbury to Denholme Gate.

Once the car shuffles had been completed we set off to walk back up to the Pennine Way/Bronte Way. The PW continues up to the isolated Top Withins farmhouse, with its solitary tree visible from down here. There is no convincing evidence to support the claim that the farm was the ‘original’ Wuthering Heights, but if it is not, it is certainly the type of place that Emily Bronte had in mind when she wrote her famous novel. The picture below is from a previous visit. Our way today however branched off and headed into the valley of Staden Beck and down to Bronte Bridge, a stone clapper bridge across the beck. The water tumbles over a small series of rocks above and below the bridge. The area is somewhat optimistically known as Bronte Falls; it isn’t really a waterfall, but is a wonderfully picturesque spot and a popular area for picnics. The original stone bridge was swept away in a flash flood in 1989 and replaced the following year by the present bridge.

Signposts helped us onwards with addition of Japanese instructions reflecting their interest in the Bronte history. Signs kept coming thick and fast. The track took us out of the valley and over Penistone Hill heavily quarried in the past. Now a country park there are confusing paths everywhere, popular with dog walkers who all seemed to have Cocker Spaniels. We arrived into Haworth by the atmospheric graveyard, the Brontes are not buried here but have a crypt in the adjoining church. Above was the Parsonage where the sisters lived, now a museum. Bronte associations were everywhere. Below in the main street tourists flocked into the gift shops and cafes.

The Bronte Parsonage.

Bronte School.

We of course were above such things, avoided hoards of Japanese and headed out on ancient tracks to Oxenholme. Here we found a bench for lunch which happened to overlook the Worth Valley railway line and in came a steam special hauled by a Standard Four locomotive, withdrawn for scrap from the Southern Railway in 1965 but subsequently restored.

Things went a little astray as we took to small lanes, too much time chatting and admiring both the scenery and the local properties. We found ourselves on a narrow lane a few hundred feet above where we should have been. I’d already remarked that we seemed to have missed most of Oxenholme, dammed right it was there below us. Fortunately a lovely path was found to reunite us with the correct way but we had enjoyed our diversion and had chance to meet one of the locals.

Charlotte, Emily or Anne?

No sooner were we back on track when we seemed to go wrong again on small streets in the village and ended up on the wrong side of Leeming Reservoir. No problem, just walk across the damn access road. The hot afternoon drifted on and once more we found ourselves on old flagged paths going where? A hill was climbed past old enclosures and water catchment culverts to arrive at a fine belvedere. An opportunity for a breather, a snack and drink and time to admire the view over fine countryside. From here a good lane just under Thornton Reservoir made for easy walking. A cyclist stopped to show us his electric assisted bike with a multitude of gears, impressive until I realised I couldn’t lift the beast. We emerged from Black Edge Lane into Denholme Gate where a parked car was waiting for us.

Onwards looked more urban, a bus passed signed for Halifax so we’ve come a long way into Yorkshire. The last two days may be better reached by train and utilising overnight accomodation.

*****

 

 

THE BRONTE WAY two.

Thursden valley to Stanbury.

We were back in the beautiful Thursden valley after a bit of car manoeuvering. The day didn’t get off to a good start on an overgrown path, which had been superseded we realised later,  involving some scrambling and barbed wire leading to torn shorts. Calm was restored on the open moor. A strange stone arch ‘The Doorway to Pendle’, the former New House farmhouse built in 1672 and occupied until the 1920s when the land was bought by Nelson Waterworks. It consists of a sandstone archway with a triangular head. An inscription relates to the Parker family in the 17th century. There must have been many similar isolated houses scattered on the moors.

A good track, popular with cyclists, was followed all along the northern flanks of Boulsworth Hill; an old way, flagged in parts, connecting scattered farmsteads. Lapwing, skylark and curlew country. At the far end the path is being ‘improved’ with alien chippings which at the present time are an eyesore. Escaping from this we found a delightful concessionary path sloping down the wooded hillside. Above were a series of boulders that looked climbable but I can find no reference to them, I’m kicking myself for not taking the short walk up to them. 

Eventually we crossed the stream that flows into Wycoller where begin a series of interesting and often photographed bridges. In historical order a ford, a clapper bridge, a supported clapper and a two arched packhorse bridge.

We rested and ate lunch in the shade of the ruins of Wycoller Hall, probably Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre, In a previous visit, whilst walking the Pendle Way, I bivied in the massive fireplace without realising it was haunted.

A gentle stroll back out of Wycoller was made for chatting. A farmer out checking his sheep and lambs on his quad  bike bemoaned  that he would probably be dragged out by his wife this afternoon to a local event when he would rather be putting his feet up. We saw him later driving to Haworth. We walked below another group of rocks where Foster had done some daredevil leaping. Open moorland was once more gained and appeared to go on forever, Pendle Hill disappeared for the last time in the west. We congratulated ourselves for being here on a perfect summer’s day – it can be grim up north. Somewhere we crossed over from Lancashire into Yorkshire, God’s own country if you are so inclined.

After Watersheddles Reservoir the valley of the infant River Worth was entered, almost a lost valley despite its close proximity to the road. A rough track alongside the lively stream, gritstone boulders, rhododendrons and bird song, my first Cuckoo of the year, a lovely spot for a refreshment break. It turned out we needed it as the way on became more laborious climbing in and out of valleys towards Ponden Reservoir. Passing Ponden Hall [Thrushcross Grange in Emily’s Wuthering Heights] I recollected coming this way in 1968 on an early Pennine Way journey and I’m sure they served teas then. Not today! Lets not forget that The Pennine Way was the brainchild of Tom Stephenson, Wainwright’s guide, which we didn’t have at the time was a later publication. A few more switchbacks shared with the PW brought us to the end of quite a tough day in the heat. The car was parked down the little lane leading to Stanbury.

 

*****

 

 

 

THE BRONTE WAY one.

Gawthorpe Hall to Thursden.

Sir Hugh and I started at Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham. Many of the places we walk through have some connection to the Brontes or their novels. Gawthorpe Hall was the family home of the Shuttleworth family which Charlotte Bronte visited frequently as a friend of John Kay-Shuttleworth.

And a very stately hall it looked, but was closed today. We walk out of the grounds through a grove of chestnut trees. We were into farmland where we immediately got into the wrong field, no waymarks, and receive some advice from the farmer’s wife. Soon we drop down to a bridge over the River Calder where I’d been before on the Burnley Way. The river was a placid stream today but there was evidence of harsher days. Pleasant rural walking took us along and over a motorway and onto a canal. There was a large marina with people pottering about but little traffic on the water.

“That’s what a fish looks like”

We crept round Burnley and joined the River Brun into a park where we stopped for lunch. Despite us sitting on a park bench Sir Hugh felt obliged to demonstrate, not very convincingly, his new pocket folding chair. Lots of Asian families were walking past and in conversation we realised that Ramadan meant fasting from 4am till 9pm at this time of year, that can’t  be good for children.

Further along the river the local fire brigade were enjoying the weather on a splashing about exercise. Into fields and along a stream our instincts to follow the trodden path were ignored and we ended up lost near the ruined and abandoned Tudor Extwistle Hall [no connection to the Brontes]. Some time later after difficult barbed wire negotiations we were back on route near a small reservoir. Crossing a road we picked up a good lane to Swinden Reservoir where two farmers were trying to burn  accumulated years of rubbish.

We crossed a moor in lovely evening sunlight and dropped down through trees into the delightful Thursden Valley, the river was low due to lack of rain but still gave us a sparkling accompaniment to the road where a car was waiting.

A very pleasant introduction to The Bronte Way which probably doesn’t get a lot of traffic and has been poorly waymarked today.

*****