Best Foot Forward: Ripponden to Barkisland

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This week’s walk again comes courtesy of Caroline Spalding from Calderdale Ramblers and travels from Ripponden to Barkisland.

One of the pleasures I find in walking is discovering, on foot, the relative proximity between familiar towns and settlements which previously I’d thought quite far apart. I first walked this seven-mile route earlier in the year on a Calderdale Ramblers’ walk led by a long-standing member of the group, Judy and it allowed me to piece together on a mental map local places I’d often explored independently.

On a more recent expedition we experienced the delights of crisp, clear, spring sunshine, seasoned with sprinkles of sleet and hail, as is typical in late March. Previously, all walks I had started from Mill Fold Lane car park in Ripponden [GR SE 040 196, postcode HX6 4HS] had headed towards the moors and reservoirs, but this instead headed down the valley towards Triangle and Sowerby Bridge. We departed the car park heading towards the main road, which we crossed and picked up a path opposite, descending the steps in front of a large building with black window frames.

Crossing the yard, you begin to climb and soon see a sign indicating Hanging Stones Lane. Follow the lane, tarmac giving way to stony ground, entering woodland. To your left, you will rise above the disused railway line; as you leave Ripponden behind you’ll pass a railway footbridge and eventually you’ll reach an isolated house, deep into the woodland [SE 046 212]. Pass by the house then turn sharply to the right, beginning the ascent from the dell, following a curved wall. Emerging above the trees, you’ll pass way markers indicating the Calderdale Way to your right, and another path to your left up ahead – remember this point – to here you will return!

The land flattens, the track turns into a tarmac driveway - marked Highlee Flat on the map. You emerge onto Butterworth-End Lane and you will see the caravan park ahead. Turn left on the road and you’ll realise you’ve reached Norland Moor. Immediately behind the wall enclosing the caravan park there’s a track ascending to join the moor. Ignore the gate marking the Bridleway to Garden Lane and walk diagonally left up to the top; you’ll meet the corner of a stone boundary and there you take the path adhering to the wall which continues in a straight line for 1km across the moorland. At the end, take the track to your right which emerges next to the Spring Rock pub at the junction of the B6113 and Norland Road. Facing the junction, there is a way-marker indicating a path on the right-hand side of the road. Take that path along the edge of the field; ahead you’ll see a distinct passageway flanked by two stone walls; it bends to the left, then down steps along the edge of more rugged woodland.

Turn right on the track at the bottom [SE 068 210], then take the path marked on the left, across some boggy fields and stiles marked on the map as Greetland Wall Nook. You reach another track, turning left to pass a large house and descending to meet Saddleworth Road next to a bus stop. Turn right, then there’s a path [on left] following the edge of fields [a view of Bowers Mill up ahead] until at the bottom you curve to the right, passing under foliage, until you can pass through a gate, crossing another field to meet Branch Road at the bottom. Bowers Mill was built c1864 as a water powered Fulling Mill - fulling being the process of shrinking and thickening woven cloth, after which is was suspended to stretch on frames called tenters, attached by tenterhooks – the origin of the expression ‘to be on tenterhooks’!

Turn right and cross the road; at the end of a small terrace of buildings there is a gap in the wall and you walk the perimeter of a garden descending to meet the Black Brook. Follow the river upstream to the houses [Lower & Upper Bank House], turning right on Beestonley Lane towards Barkisland Mill. Turn left at the cross roads, where the sign indicates the recycling plant and almost immediately there is a path to your right which climbs up the bank. Towards the top, pass through the fence turning left, the path curves to the right to meet a lane across a stile, which you follow up past Sourdock Hill Farm. At the top of the track there is a way marker indicating Barkisland Village on the right. This descends into Barkisland Clough and climbs to meet Stainland Road. Here, along the road to the right, is Barkisland Hall built for John Gledhill in 1638 and believed by many generations in Barkisland to be haunted by the tormented spirit of his brother, Richard, killed at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644 during the First English Civil War.

However, this route turns left, crosses the road and takes a track on the right to meet Sandyfoot Clough. A short, steep climb from the clough returns you to Saddleworth Road. Looking left, you’ll see a way marker. Follow this up past the electricity pylon, ‘hop over the wall’ of a garden and walk the driveway of the houses to meet another road.

Directly ahead there is another way marker, again walk up a driveway [Abbots Royd] follow the way markers to cross another boggy field to meet once again Butterworth End Lane. Return via the same track from which you emerged onto the road, and descend. Turn left at the Calderdale Way signpost – follow along Moor Bottom Road [more like a track!], turn right on the main road passing the Fleece pub and taking the steep road descending beyond the pub on the right [marked Calderdale Way] which gives a welcoming, steady descent back to the beginning and a well-earned cuppa!