Valleys and hills starting from West Vale

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Continuing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Calderdale Way [CW], this week’s 11.5-mile route follows the CW from West Vale to Ripponden, returning via the Ryburn Valley and Sowerby Bridge, writes Caroline Spalding.

West Vale is the “official” start of the Way, with a CW symbol painted on the grass at its origin; however it should be noted that some OL21 maps [mine was printed last year] do not accurately reflect the initial passage of the path. However, many new way-markers have been erected to guide you.

Begin from Brig Royd car park [HX4 8AL], cross the recreational ground and climb to Clay House; a property built around 1650 for the Clay family; however deeds exist to indicate the family had property here as early as 1296. Behind the building bear right and begin the CW into the woodland. When the path splits, bear left to ascend; then right at the top along the edge of the trees. Passing buildings and a barn to your left, you suddenly take note of the steep drop to the right.

The CW reaches a track; turn right “To Clough Moor Bridge”. A new way marker points left to leave the track. A stile enters a field, keep right. Copley village [right] was purpose built, like Saltaire, specifically for mill workers by Edward Akroyd in 1849.

Meeting a road, bear right to enter Norland Moor. At the next way-marker turn left and continue across this wonderful, unexpected rural expanse. You will pass Ladstone Rock close to the trig point; rumoured to be a sacrificial site and beneath on the road is the Halifax Children’s Home, built in 1937 to provide holidays for underprivileged children in the area.

Descend to the road, turn left until a driveway opposite a house turns right [SE 053 208]. The driveway passes a farm becoming a track. Turn left at the way-marker along the flat path until meeting Ripponden New Bank. Right along the road; then descend towards Ripponden via Ripponden Old Bank [SE 046 199]; a steep lane.

Near the bottom leave the CW at the clearly way-marked Hanging Stones Lane, turning right. The lane enters woodland with sounds of the River Ryburn audible beneath. Reaching a plateau after a descent, slip through a gap in the wall to your left to join the disused railway path. Pass under the bridge, bear left to climb the bank and continue along the ridge. Coming to a small-holding, continue to another railway bridge, join the road [Stansfield Mill Lane] climbing right across the bridge turning left. The track is cobbled and slippery, it bends right then turn left through a gap in the wall before a tree with a sign indicating a path. You cross fields into woodland; keep to the right and follow the wall which appears to sink. Little goats are in the field to the right and you walk above the trees following the barbed wire fence.

Reaching a wide track turn left. It becomes tarmac passing a house and keep following the lane in the direction of Sowerby Bridge [sign-posted]. Continue along Long Lane and when the path splits [close to a gnawed footpath way-marker] bear left [still Long Lane] for a gentle stroll back towards Sowerby Bridge along the quiet roads. A right then left turn descends via Scar Head Road to meet the river. Turn right before the bridge, emerging at Victoria Bridge opposite the pool and leisure centre. Continue past the centre, right at Station road then left under the bridge. Turn left to cross the river and join the canal towpath, turning right. Follow the towpath for some time until Stern Mill Bridge. Just beyond this bridge, leave the towpath turning right. Pass a rugby field into a woodland following the river around the housing estate.

You reach Wilson Bridge, rebuilt last year after its collapse in the floods of 2015. It is named after Graham Wilson, who taught at Calderdale College and lived in the adjacent toll house for many years. Cross the bridge and turn left behind the church, waymarked ‘Clay House and West Vale’. There is a climb through North Dean Woods until the terrain flattens to return back to the start.