Best Foot Forward column

The lonely ruins of Top Withins, setting of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
The lonely ruins of Top Withins, setting of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.
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This week’s Best Food Forward column takes you from Oxenhope to the Pennine Way and Hebden Bridge.

Ascent - 1700 feet/515 metres

Picture of the view from Top Withins near Haworth.

Picture of the view from Top Withins near Haworth.

Grade - moderate

Start - OS grid reference SE031348

Lat 53.809482/Long -1.954405

Postcode - BD22 9LN (approx. location only)

A signpost on the footpath across the moors to Top Withins.

A signpost on the footpath across the moors to Top Withins.

This week’s walk comes courtesy of Peter Schofield from www.walkingbritain.co.uk and visits a site associated with literary history and a beautiful wooded valley owned by the National Trust.

This linear walk over typical South Pennine peat moorland benefits from good transport connections enabling those without their own vehicle to easily access it.

The route starts in the village of Oxenhope at the junction of the A6033 Hebden Bridge road and Shaw Lane (grid ref. SE031348). Go down Shaw Lane for just over a kilometre and turn left into Lee Lane by a row of cottages. A few yards before the gate to Leeshaw Reservoir, turn right up a clear path climbing past Westfield Farm, finally crossing a stile to reach a path. Go left along the path as it follows a wall to reach a finger post (grid ref. SE011356). Take the clear (and occasionally boggy) path bearing half right and signed to Top Withins. The path crosses the moor to join a broad track providing access to a house that can be seen ahead. Follow the track until 100m before the gate to the house is reached where a finger post points right towards a footbridge below.

Cross the bridge and follow the path as it passes to the right of the house. Continue across the moor around the flank of Harbour Hill where the ruin of Top Withins guarded by its lonely tree can be seen on the hillside opposite. Keep straight ahead at a finger post as the path descends an attractive valley to cross both Crumber Dike and Rough Dike and reach a path junction at grid ref. SD987356. Turn left as the path gently climbs to meet the Pennine Way at a finger post, one of several hereabouts with both English and Japanese script reflecting the worldwide interest in the area’s association with the Bronte sisters from nearby Haworth. Go left up the Pennine Way to arrive at the ruin of Top Withins after a few yards. This makes a fine spot for a refreshment break with stone benches outside offering expansive views should the weather permit.

Hardcastle Crags

Hardcastle Crags

Top Withins is popularly thought to be the Earnshaw home depicted in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights but there is no actual evidence of this. What is not in doubt is that the sisters knew the area well and the house and its remote location may have offered them inspiration in their literary work.

Continue gently uphill along the paved Pennine Way where it first levels and then descends towards the reservoirs in Walshaw Dean as the paving ends and the path becomes occasionally boggy. On reaching Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir, turn left on to a water company vehicle track and continue for 200m to a junction where the Pennine Way turns right over a bridge. However, we leave the Pennine Way to go straight on up a broad track which passes two shooting cabins as it climbs Wadsworth Moor. Route finding is not a problem as the track continues across the moor to start descending towards the valley of Hebden Water. Ahead both Stoodley Pike and Heptonstall Church are prominent on the skyline.

The track descends to the hamlet of Walshaw. Turn left at the cottages and continue along the access road for 500m before bearing right on to a broad track descending into the wooded valley of Hardcastle Crags. Now owned by the National Trust, this is a delightful place to visit at any time. In Spring, it’s a carpet of bluebells while the Autumn colours are truly spectacular. Continue along the track through the woods passing Gibson Mill which was built about 1800. It offers pleasant riverside refreshment stop at certain times of the year and also houses a small exhibition about the site and its history.

As the track reaches the car park at New Bridge (Grid ref. SD988291), turn right to descend to a bridge crossing Hebden Water and then immediately left to pass Midgehole Working Man’s Club (known locally as The Blue Pig). After a few yards bear left at a finger post and follow the river bank to a bridge to ascend to a lane, continuing right along the lane for 300m. Bear right down a track and after 300m descend towards the river by a flight of steps beside a house. The path again crosses the river to go left and follow the bank to shortly arrive in Hebden Bridge and the end of the walk.

Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags.

Gibson Mill, Hardcastle Crags.

Autumnal scene around Hebden Water as it flows through the National Trust's Hardcastle Crags.

Autumnal scene around Hebden Water as it flows through the National Trust's Hardcastle Crags.

Hebden Water

Hebden Water