This week’s walk, courtesy of Caroline Spalding from Calderdale Ramblers, is a 7.5 mile route starting in Elland.
A glorious Sunday morning greeted the Calderdale Ramblers on a recent walk beginning in Elland, at the car park next to the Town Hall which is free on a Sunday – postcode HX5 0EX, GR SE110 208. This ramble, led by Geoff, was a perfect example of how urban settlements can quickly give way to the glory of nature. It is a perfect walk if you do not want to travel a great distance into the countryside, or if you rely on public transport to reach the start of a walk. For this ramble you will need the OL 288 map, covering East Calderdale, Bradford and Huddersfield. It is a leisurely walk, with only two climbs and is particularly delightful at this time of year whilst the bluebells are still in flower.
Follow the B6114 initially, passing the Morrisons store and descending to cross Elland Bridge which was only re-opened earlier in 2017 after more than a year out of action due to the damage caused by the Boxing Day floods in 2015. Across the bridge, turn right and walk down Gas Works Lane where you will join the tow path alongside the canal, having followed a sign for Calder Valley Greenway, cycle route 66. Approaching the A629, there is the juxtaposition of the modern road bridge and the more traditional stone bridge constructions. Leaving the town behind we witnessed an energetic team of ladies navigating Elland Lock and soon afterwards you will see woodland rising to your left as the canal curves. Reaching Cromwell Bottom, continue alongside the canal. This nature reserve was constructed on former gravel pits and is now a temporary home to many species of wildfowl and waders migrating across the Pennines.
You will continue along the canal towpath for some distance, however you leave the towpath at a metal gate on your right, which takes you further into the nature reserve. Returning to the canal, cross it at Brookfoot Lock and then turn left at Camms Mill Bridge. You will walk to meet the A6025 and crossing it, you will start to follow the Calderdale Way. This is a climb up through woodland, which then descends down stone steps to your left, before curving right to enter Cromwell Wood. This beautiful woodland passes beneath Cromwell Quarries which are mentioned in a 1767 book attributed to John Smeaton in discussion of the construction of lighthouses upon Spurn Point.
Follow the Calderdale Way, turning left at a way-marker indicating Southowram and shortly afterwards, School Lane. You will leave the woodland and pass houses – at the end of School Lane turn left and descend slightly, arriving at Southowram Cricket Club. Here we paused for lunch, as no match was taking place and we commented on the beautiful pitch itself, concluding that the home team might have an advantage – it’s not entirely flat which must come as a surprise to visiting teams! Follow the track past the cricket pitch and continue ahead; the path curves to the left and then sharply right, entering Binns Wood. As the track bends tightly to the left, take a right and follow the path through the wood, which at this time of year is spectacular – awash with bluebells. There are some way-markers, although the path would be less obvious in the autumn when all the leaves have fallen. A way-marker shows the path splitting – take the lower route. You will follow the woodland boundary for a while before meeting a distinct track where you turn left and descend towards the mills.
The many mills of Elland that have been re-developed are remnants of the former woollen industry that provided employment for many of the town’s residents. The industry declined, with inevitable negative repercussions for the town, however in 1950, the waterproof fabric – Gannex, was created by Joseph Kagan, a Lithuanian Jew who set up the business with his wife, Margaret. The raincoats they made were worn by the likes of Harold Wilson, but later declared to be somewhat ‘naff’ and the enormous mill complex they created was eventually torn down in 2010.
Kagan himself became rather notorious, having become a peer in the House of Lords only to be jailed for misappropriation of company funds a few years later. He returned to the House of Lords after his release, and for some time the Gannex Mill was a leading employer in the town. The closure and demolition of the mill caused some controversy; people campaigned to keep the site preserved for historical interest, and a proposal to turn it into a supermarket was turned down due to residents’ opposition; however, it was eventually bought for housing development.
You will reach the A6025, where you will cross the road and walk along the canal a very short distance going left. Re-cross the canal at Elland Lock and you will find signposts indicating a path back to the town centre through Low Fields industrial estate, crossing under the railway line and emerging once more at the Morrisons store. You will return to the car park which is located close to the former site of Elland Baths, which had to close after severe structural problems proved too costly to save the building in 2014.
A pleasant walk, easy to get to, and not hard to navigate – great for a local afternoon walk which is both pretty and rewarding.