This week’s walk, courtesy of Caroline Spalding of Calderdale Ramblers, is a 5.5 mile walk which is probably familiar to many readers.
Set in the heart of the Calder Valley, the two woodland valleys through which this ramble takes you are, in my opinion, two of the prettiest paths you can walk at almost any time of the year. My route does differ slightly from that which is generally published, but either route is a delight. This walk is also significant to me as it was the first I walked with the Calderdale Ramblers, some years ago. Having visited Hebden Bridge on numerous occasions, I had no idea of the beauty of the surrounding landscape and it really opened my eyes to what can be experienced just a stone’s throw from West Yorkshire’s towns and settlements.
We began from the car park next to Hebden Bridge railway station and crossed through the park to join the canal towpath. Leaving the town behind you, continue along the canal past the long-term mooring areas. Just after the area where the boats appear to have adjacent gardens, you will reach a bridge numbered ‘21’. Here, leave the towpath and head towards the main road. Turn left, cross the road and then turn right onto Jumble Hole Road [alternatively, on reaching the main road you can turn right and take Underbank Avenue]. There are a variety of paths leading up the Clough, however I followed the track into the woodland. You’ll turn back on yourself briefly to climb up what appears a driveway, before continuing ahead further into the woodland, climbing a little more. On reaching another ‘hairpin’ bend in the main path, turn off to the right, essentially continuing ahead. I was reminded here of the magical forests I would imagine as a child, pretending that I would reside in a treehouse of some description, socialising with the mystical creatures – it is simply a beautiful path; climbing alongside a steep-ish drop, looking at the trees growing out of the bank sides.
You’ll reach a junction whereby you turn right and descend slightly to the ruins of Staups Mill; a cotton mill dating from the late 18th century. On the side of the mill there is a stone inscription – J. H. 1812, referring to its then owner – John Horsfall. Later the mill would be used to manufacture calico, however as newer mills were built lower down the valley after the introduction of steam, so that they could capture water in dams, Staups Mill became uneconomical to run and was therefore closed down. There are several theories relating to its naming, one of which refers to a local term – ‘Staup hoyles’ – literally meaning ‘stepping stones’.
Meanwhile, these days it is good spot to pause for a refreshing beverage from the trusty walkers’ companion, the flask, and to admire the waterfall that tumbles down close by.
Climb up the stone stairs above the mill, crossing a footbridge and emerging at the head of the dean. On meeting a wall, turn left and soon enough you will pick up way-markers for the Calderdale Way. From here the path is clearly marked and you will cross several fields. Looking back, you should see Stoodley Pike on the horizon, however on the rather drizzly April afternoon on which I was walking, the view resembled something more akin to grey cotton wool.
Follow the Calderdale Way, crossing several stiles. On reaching a distinct lane, turn left and descend. At the junction, you can, should you wish, turn left to visit the New Delight pub, alternatively, turn right to continue the walk [don’t forget, there are a myriad of establishments in Hebden Bridge itself in which you can quench your thirst!]. After a short distance, take the path descending to your left and cross the top of Colden Water over a stone bridge. You will now begin a gradual descent back to Hebden Bridge, through yet more magical woodland. I have walked this numerous times, always enjoying the atmosphere and on this day, the sound of the rain trickling down. The greens of the plant-life struck me as exceptionally verdant against the backdrop of the brown earth beneath. The path splits on several occasions; I always kept to the lower paths. You can, however, follow the ‘proper’ route which would see you climb towards Heptonstall.
Through the clough there are remains of mills and chimneys, as well as mill ponds. It’s a popular spot to take a dip in the summer months, and there are a number of pretty waterfalls. If you know your plant-life, you’ll recognise the oak and birch, with beech woodland nearer the top that dates from the mid-19 th century. At this time of year, you’ll see plenty of celandine and bluebell whilst later in the year it will become a hotspot for fungi. At the bottom of the clough there’s an old and very tall chimney where the path turns into a lane and it is a gentle return to Hebden. You emerge near to St James Church and will meet the main A646. Here you can cross the road to complete the route alongside the canal – unless, of course, you’re distracted by any one of Hebden Bridge’s characterful watering holes!