This week’s walk, courtesy of Caroline Spalding from Calderdale Ramblers, takes in woodland, riverside strolls and views of the expansive moorland.
his seven-mile route begins at the Midgehole Car Park of Hardcastle Crags [HX7 7AA] GR: SD 988 292; whilst National Trust members can park for free, a day ticket cost £5 last year. You can get here using a bus from Hebden Bridge, or even on foot as it is not too far.
Begin by following a route of your choice through the mature woodland towards Gibson Mill; there are a variety of way-marked paths all arriving at the same destination. We took the lower path [red way markers] meandering alongside the river. The woodland is well maintained, and is a perfect spot for adventurous children to play amongst the trees, or skip across the stepping stones along the river. At Gibson Mill, which is open every day excluding Friday throughout the summer, you can pause to explore the visitor centre, but the walk continues along the clear track passing to the right of the Mill. You will begin a gentle ascent; you can divert away from the path to visit the Hardcastle Crags themselves. Continue along the track until it splits; take the left-hand path continuing in the same direction. You will find yourself following the course of the river, which will snake to your left at the bottom of the valley, as you will gain some height. There is a part of this path that is quite exposed to a steep drop, so do take care.
You’ll pass a house in quite an unexpected location, but continue ahead. You’ll reach a stile, over which the woodland gives way to the moorland, your horizons opening up to the scale of how this deep dale cuts through the distinctive landscape.
The path begins a gentle descent and you’ll reach the valley floor where you cross the river using a lovely wooden bridge. If the weather is kind; this is a charming spot to pause for refreshment; it is peaceful and idyllic. Following the path ahead, you will meet a road. Close by here in the 1900s the Blake Dean Railway operated to support the construction of the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, running approx. 5.5 miles from the hillside near to Whitehill Nook, close to Heptonstall.
Turn left on the road; follow it for a short while as it bends dramatically around the landscape and soon on the right there is a way marked path. Take the path; it is a relatively short but steep climb up to meet a track. Go right on the track and after a few hundred yards, the track begins a turn to the right. At this point, you should see a way marked path going left, leaving the track. Take this path and follow it along a stone wall, which again will bend around to the right. The ground underfoot here is a little challenging; you will weave towards and away from the wall to find the clearest ground. Here you still feel as if you’re climbing out of and away from the dean behind, venturing out onto the more exposed moorland.
Continue until you meet the Pennine Way; this is very clear; there is a stone wall and as the Pennine Way continues north the ground is paved. I would strongly recommend this as a lunch spot. You can perch on the wall and take in the beauty of what the eye can see – looking out towards Gorple Lower Reservoir. I love the colours – golden grass giving way to darker ashen browns and even purples at certain times of years; an underlying hue of ashen grey, even the greens are not the ‘lush’ hues of further south in the country – it’s the distinctive palette of Yorkshire.
On meeting the Pennine Way, turn left and you’ll be returning towards the dean over the top of the moorland. The Pennine Way is easy to follow; some of it is laid with paving stones, there are regular way markers. For a longer walk I’d recommend following the Pennine Way all the way to the top of Colden Clough [not far from the village of Colden] and descending back to Hebden via the Clough – a stunning descent into the town. For this walk; follow the Pennine Way until it reaches a walled field [marked Green Hill on OL21]. Go around the field and just beyond the far wall, take the path leading off to the left, leaving the Pennine Way. Continue straight ahead until you reach a distinct way maker indicating a path to the left [Knoll Top on the map]. The path descends via a distinct track and meets a house at the bottom, whose garden you skirt the edges of. Descend to meet the road; turning right here and walking until a way marker on the left. The path follows a wall down to meet the edge of the woodland. Turn right and keep to the path following the edge of the woodland which descends steeply to your left. On the map, you’ll see you can descend using several paths; it’s hard to describe precisely which path we took, but it was waymarked and descended steadily through the wood until meeting a road at the bottom. We turned right and walked the road a short while, before taking a path on the left which returns you to the main Midgehole Road past some holiday cottages. You’ll emerge next to the public conveniences; the car park is to your left from where you can return to Hebden Bridge for some well-deserved refreshments!