Best Foot Forward: From Huddersfield to Hebden Bridge

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This week, Caroline Spalding from Calderdale Ramblers combines camping with walking in Calderdale.

As quite an experienced walker, I’ve always aspired to combine walking and camping, two of my favourite pastimes.

Having talked about walking from my home in Huddersfield to Hebden Bridge for the past few years; having read earlier this year the book by John Merrill, who completed a 7000-mile coastline trip in 1978, I was determined this year to complete what, in comparison, is a mere 14 miles. I say ‘mere’… unladen, yes, it’s certainly not a daunting challenge to face, but travelling with your home on your back, so to speak, renders the distance unimportant, it’s more a test of your stamina.

Therefore, as a relative newcomer to longer distance walking combined with camping, I thought I’d give a few ideas for routes, plus give advice on what I have learned for those with similar aspirations.

Hebden was the chosen destination, mainly due to my fondness for the place, the amenities to hand, plus the availability of campsites. Having stayed several times at The New Delight at Blackshaw Head, this time we stayed at Old Chamber campsite [HX7 6JG]; a new site, but with excellent facilities and beautiful views.

This route could begin from Slaithwaite, which can be reached by rail or bus from Calderdale, and is a characterful town, with eateries and shops aplenty. From Slaithwaite train station, head up Meal Hill Lane, turning right at the top, following it into Highfield Road, before turning left to join Waller Clough Road]. There are many campsites/places to stay dotted around Calderdale so that if you develop a taste for this kind of adventure, you can easily create your own routes of varying lengths.

My first piece of advice would be as follows – do not under-estimate the weight of your rucksack. My husband and I looked like giant snails as we plodded our way out of the Colne Valley up through Wellhouse and Bolster Moor until crossing the M62. Despite taking the bare essentials, and having lightweight camping gear; with the addition of several bottles of water, you will be immediately aware of the weight on your back. Therefore, the best type of backpack to invest in is one with sturdy waist straps, ideally padded, as most weight should be carried on your hips and not your shoulders. With the ascents and descents of this wonderful part of Yorkshire, you will feel the weight on both climbs and declines, putting stress on your leg muscles.

As a beginner, I would advise planning routes that are relatively familiar. We crossed the M62 above Slaithwaite, turning left into Marsden Gate before taking a bridleway that lead to Broom Hill Road, a track that leads towards Stainland. Dropping down just after Prospect Place [GR SE 076 186], descending through a field then down towards the sensitively hidden recycling plant; these were paths I knew quite well. When walking quite a distance with a lot on your back, getting lost is certainly undesirable! Passing the recycling plant on your right, we went through a gate taking a path that climbed up and around the back of the plant, emerging onto a tarmac driveway back to meet the Stainland Road, with the Barkisland Mill complex on the right-hand side. We turned right, then left down through Lower & Upper Bank Houses before emerging onto Branch Road. Picking up the path almost immediately opposite [GR SE 068 201], we climbed up through the field, turning right at the woodland before climbing again through a field that was much more overgrown than the previous time I’d passed through. Cross the Saddleworth Road, turn up the track next to the bus stop and follow this up, turning left, before walking right on another road to meet the Spring Bok pub at a junction. Passing down the track to the left-hand side, continue straight ahead to cross Norland Moor. We left the moorland near to Norland Junior School and the Church; subsequently following Sowerby Croft Lane down into Sowerby Bridge. We took the canal towpath the last few miles to Hebden – the flat ground was a relief however the hard surface is tough on tired feet!

General advice – plan your routes well; avoiding too many poorly maintained paths and difficult ascents/descents. Take plenty of water – the comfort being the more you carry, the lighter your bag will become as it gets drunk. Whilst walking, have snacks such as dried fruit which provide instant energy from glucose, as well as cereal bars which give slower release carbohydrates to sustain you. Don’t wear brand new footwear; make sure your boots are well worn-in. Clothing-wise; I prefer cotton shirts as they are light and dry quickly – you will sweat a lot. Always carry a fleece and if camping, don’t forget the temperature will drop overnight. A cap is essential, come rain or shine. Talking of rain – if camping, a wet tent proves significantly heavier than a dry one! It’s a good idea to enquire about your destination campsite; whether local amenities are nearby, determining from where you can buy provisions for dinner. If cooking at camp, there are many packet pasta and risotto dishes where you can simply add water and heat – easy to carry and full of carbohydrates to replenish your energy stocks. If walking successively over several days it’s advisable to eat a lot of protein too. Pack some flipflops; again lightweight and it gives your feet a rest, and my last piece of advice for now – take a ‘creature comfort’ whether a travel radio, book or notebook; enjoy your downtime after a long walk; you will need a good sleep afterwards!