Best Foot Forward: A charming circuit of Crimsworth Dean

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Beginning from the Midgehole Road National Trust car park; close to Hebden Bridge [HX7 7AL, GR SD 989 291]; this 4.5-mile route is a beautiful setting for an afternoon’s walk.

I had walked this valley earlier in the year and found some sections very boggy underfoot; but subsequently a local group – CROWS [Community Rights of Way Service] have done a lot of work to make the paths easier to traverse.

The name ‘Crimsworth’ was first referenced in 1275 in its original form ‘Crimblesworth’. It’s meaning is ‘small stream – enclosure’ which is an apt title given that as you meander up the valley, passing through pockets of woodland, following the beck up towards Lumb Hole Waterfall; you do indeed feel pleasantly surrounded, indeed protected by the steep valley slopes either side.

Some locals call the dean ‘the secret valley’ as it is less well known than the adjacent Hardcastle Crags. It is beautiful all year round; with bluebells and garlic in the late spring and in the autumn the beech tree leaves turn to a coppery-gold colour; enhanced when the sunlight filters through, creating a golden glow under the trees. It is a place to spot a variety of birds; from green woodpeckers to barn owls and of course, herons. You might also see roe deer at the bottom end of the dean.

We left the car park and walked a short distance back along the road before turning left to follow the Calderdale Way. This ascends slightly before reaching a gate; where a way-marker indicates ‘Old Haworth Road’ forking off left.

This was originally the main route to Haworth for several centuries before a turnpike road was constructed higher above on the moorland. You continue to climb gently, passing through fields and then passing between a stone walled corridor. You will pass an old dam which was fed by the goit above [a goit being a small artificial channel carrying water to mills; a term used only in Yorkshire & Lancashire].

You follow the goit deeper into the valley before reaching an old fence constructed of metal poles. Pass through, bear right and start to climb up the steep sided bank with the drop to your left. You will climb through woodland, reaching a narrow gate allowing you through the stone wall. There is another narrow, gated style and soon enough see a house up ahead.

You now have the benefit of crossing via a boardwalk, installed by CROWS as part of a large project to improve the drainage in the valley, as well as improving the way markers. CROWS will be doing a lot of work for the National Trust over the next few months in Hardcastle Crags; clearing and re-routing pathways. Clearing vegetation, installing stepping stones, re-painting trig points and repairing stiles are all part of what this group of 21 volunteers does

purely for the conservation of path so that other walkers can enjoy them; good pathways can easily be taken for granted, not realising the dedication that groups like CROWS put in so the rest of us can enjoy an uncomplicated hike! Their website is worth a visit where you can find out how to support them. At the house, turn left and descend to cross a footbridge. Climb slightly, bearing right and you’ll leave the woodland to cross fields all the way to Lumb Falls. The bridge here has been known as Horse Bridge and was used as a crossing for packhorses that carried goods to and from local neighbourhoods. There is a plaque beyond the bridge telling of how a photo taken at this spot inspired his poem ‘Six Young Men’. Crimsworth Dean provided a great deal of inspiration, not only to Hughes but also to photographer Martin Parr who was particularly interested in the farming community during the 1970s when he lived in Hebden Bridge. His candid photography offers genuine insight into the people photographed and the lives they lived, sometimes with a

comical, unintended action caught on camera, or a particularly amusing or bemused facial expression captured.

Around the curve of the bank, the path turns left and ascends steeply along a stone paved pathway until reaching the road at the top. The views are fantastic, looking back towards Hebden. Turn right and follow the road until you see Lower Small Shaw Farm. Just beyond, turn right and descend back into the valley via a track which is particularly slippery at this time of year. The track zig zags to the valley bottom where you will recognise the gate next to the house through which you passed earlier.

Retrace your steps across the field and the boardwalk, passing through the dense, neat cluster of trees and narrow walled stiles.

On reaching the edge of the woodland, do not descend right [from where you ascended earlier] but continue ahead, following the yellow way markers on posts and painted on the trees. So many trees seem to have fallen since I last took this path; but it is a great path to walk in autumn, clambering over, under or around branches, watching your step on the slippery golden leaves and trying to detect whether there is the faintest aroma of wild garlic in the air.

This walk can be extended by beginning in Hebden itself, but for a short, undemanding walk in a spectacular setting; this would be my choice of route to walk off the Sunday roast!