Best Foot Forward: A satisfying saunter through the winter moorland

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When we are lucky enough to have a bright, sunny winter day; there’s nothing better than getting outside to embrace the elements.

On a windy day; it’s so refreshing to take yourself up to the moors to have strong winds well and truly blow away the cobwebs, as well as witnessing the beauty of winter clouds being strewn across the sky according to the whim of the gales above.

From Ogden Reservoir, north of Halifax, just off the A629 en route to Keighley; there are beautiful paths exploring the reservoir and the surrounding woodland made up predominantly of Scots Pine trees; however, it is also a perfect spot to take a short escape to the real wilderness that is on your doorstep. I’ve walked this route in the summer, yet it is equally delightful even in the cooler temperatures we are experiencing in the winter months. There are subtle changes in the colours of the landscape; in November the heather has mostly lost its colour; the ground looks a chocolate brown, with an undertone of ash grey. Yet still, on the horizons, you see the blue-green of the distant hills.

When I recently completed this 6.5-mile route; it must have been the coldest day of the autumn on which to walk thus far this year, mainly due to the arctic gales that were blowing in. My advice in terms of clothing is to wear several layers and, if necessary, a waterproof outer layer, but above all; keep your neck warm with a scarf or snood and always wear a hat. When I was a child, I’d refuse that advice of the basis I’d look silly, but, growing up, you’ll

realise that on a walk you don’t really care what you look like; so, if you were given a comical bobble hat for Christmas last year; why not wear it? No one really cares what you look like and you’ll be glad of the warmth on a winter ramble.

Gloves are also quite necessary. I’d recommend always packing a second hat, pair of gloves and socks for a winter walk, since if they get wet, you can always replace them. And the walking poles do come in useful to prod the ground before your step, in order to avoid becoming knee-deep in mud.

That said, this walk avoids a lot of boggy ground, however there are some damp patches. We began from the Ogden Reservoir car park [HX2 8YA, £1] passing across the reservoir dam and heading out on a clear, stony track which climbs gently up onto the moorland. The Halifax Golf Course is to your left and woodland to your right. You’ll pass through a small wooden gate, then beyond it a larger metal gate shortly after which there’s a stile to your right,

clearly waymarked. You’ll pass across Ovenden Moor, with the wind turbines on your left until reaching a weir, where you descend and cross the river, one of two that feeds the reservoir. Climbing up the other bank, turn left and head north. A clear route but not always steady underfoot; we witnessed a mountain biker nose-dive into a rut!

Eventually the Thornton Moor Reservoir comes into view, having passed the peak [that said, it is a very flat route!] and continuing ahead, you’ll meet some gates where there are way markers indicating one of the Millennium Way circular walks. There’s a convenient stone wall beyond the metal gate where you can rest behind, sheltered from the wind, for a coffee or lunch.

Just beyond the end of the reservoir, you turn right, following a way marker for the Bronte Way, a 44-mile route running from Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire to Oakwell Hall close to Birstall. It is clearly waymarked and from here the route returns along the other side of Thornton Moor Reservoir, along another stony track. About 1km after you leave the reservoir behind, there is a clear path cross-roads. Turn right, following a path between wire fences and on reaching the other end of the field, turn right again to follow another track climbing gently. You’ll pass through a gate, and then you join a bridleway which will return you close to weir over which you passed earlier in the ramble.

To give this walk a change of scenery, I decided to return to the carpark via the beautiful stream-side path which is reached by walking down towards the weir, before turning left to follow the lower of the two pathways, right alongside the water. It is so pretty yet can be slippery, but the easiest way is to follow the main path, crossing the water once, then back again, until reach a stile that indicates you are entering the Ogden Nature reserve. From here

there are a number of routes to take; if you simply follow the main pathway you’ll end up close to the car park, passing across a stile, where you turn right. Otherwise you can continue through the woodland until reaching the visitor centre. Whatever route you take, you cannot get lost. And you’ll be pleased to know that even in November, there will probably still be an ice cream van in the car park to reward you on your return.

A short, relatively easy and not time-consuming escape into the wilderness; perfect for the winter but beautiful all year round.