On an unusually balmy October Sunday afternoon, the Calderdale Ramblers, led by Peter, accompanied me on a wonderful stroll in the surrounds of Brighouse.
This was the first walk I had started from Brighouse; believing, incorrectly, that it might be a bit too urban for my liking, but I was quickly proved wrong in my assumption. Like many settlements in Calderdale, beginning very close to ‘civilisation’ you quickly escape into fields and countryside offering delightful views.
We began from the car park on Thornhill Beck Lane; and having had to cross a ford to reach said car park, I had already been reminded of how nature and humanity exist in such close proximity to one another in Calderdale.
The car park is itself a picnic area; so if looking for a place for the kids to run and explore and burn off excess energy, it’s a lovely spot so close to the town centre. There are also some ‘exercise machines’ which I always find amusing to use; nobody said taking exercise en plein air cannot be fun!
The starting point is GR SE 147 236 and you’ll need OS Map 288 for this route. The 4.5 mile walk can be completed in as little as two hours, so perfect for a winter afternoon.
Taking the Brighouse Boundary path from the top of the car park beneath the woodland; we returned to Thornhill Beck Lane to ascend slightly, passing under a viaduct which is the former West Riding Union Railway; specifically the Pickle Bridge Line, which was 3.5 miles long; opened in 1881 and closed in 1952. We passed ducks floating in a flooded field to our left and higher up, passing a kennels and cattery before turning left to join the Calderdale Way.
We ascended through fields with views of Brighouse appearing behind us. Bearing left at a farmhouse with a rusty metal gate, we crossed a stile and continued bearing right along a track, then leaving the track and the Calderdale Way, again, turning right. We crossed a boggy field, ascending gently, arousing the interest of the donkeys who approached us, and the cows, who were thankfully timid and scuttled off. At the top, if you turn left, you can wander
a short distance into the hamlet of Birkhouse, where there are beautifully preserved 17th century weavers’ cottages.
We however, turned right and passed beneath a farmyard which had a lot of excitable guard dogs, luckily enclosed behind tall fences! Just beyond, there’s a waymarked stile continuing into a field; ahead, on a clear day, you can see both Castle Hill and the Emley Moor mast on the horizon.
You will pass a way-marked path going left which is the Spen Valley Heritage Trail; a 21 mile route created in 2000 that features the history of the woollen trade and industrial revolution; highlighting the architecture of the era.
Ahead you will cross a minor road, continuing along the Bronte Way and also crossing the former Clifton Coalfield. Drift Mining was recorded as early as 1307 in the hamlet of Clifton; between the 1840s and 1920s the village had six coalmines and a complex tramway system taking the coal to the canal basin in Brighouse. There are currently rather controversial proposals to build on this land.
At the main road, turn left and then right taking a track that cuts through the middle of the Willow Valley Golf Course. Continue until a right-turn onto a path between signs for the 13th and 17th tee. We walked right up into Clifton, [a village mentioned by Daniel Defoe in his books published in several volumes between 1724-1727 ‘A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain’ at a time when walking for fun was considered quite absurd], to pause for a
break at the war memorial, however, the walk does turn right before the village at a distinct junction just before the recreation ground. Following this path, you might spot redundant stiles relating to the strip farming operating in this area, where originally there were 32 strips of land on which each family would work two or three. Now, of course, this land belongs to the golf course.
You will once again meet and cross the main road. Turn left and then right, entering another field. You will pass across the old tramway line, near to where you see Brake Head on the map. The path continues towards another hamlet, Thornhills, where, on meeting the road, turn left and shortly afterwards, right, re-joining the Calderdale Way to return you to Thornhill Beck Lane. From here, turn left to descend back underneath the viaduct and you will shortly find yourself back at the beginning.