Best Foot Forward: Magna Via

Shibden Hall
Shibden Hall

This week’s walk comes courtesy of and follows the picturesque route of the Magna Via.

Turn right from the carpark, up the Shibden Hall Road.

Staups House, Stump Cross

Staups House, Stump Cross

After 250 yards, look at the wall on the right to find an ancient milestone from the first turnpike.

Although the stone has been moved from its original position, note that the way to Wakefield is shown to the left, ‘Fifteen miles and a ¼’ along the old route over Elland.

The distances are measured in long or customary miles which existed into the 19th century in the Pennines.

Continue over the brow of the hill, cross the road and bear left down a cobbled lane, by a metal paling fence, down Old Bank (before the bridge over the Godley cutting) to Godley Branch Road.

Shibden Valley

Shibden Valley

Cross to the pavement on the opposite side and walk up Beacon Hill Road. If you look over the stone wall, you can see the packhorse track winding up the hillside from the town.

After 200 yards, past the Aquaspersion sign, cross back over the road to the public footpath sign and take the steep cobbled path, the Magna Via.

Until 1741, this was the main approach to Halifax from the east, for both packhorse and foot traffic. Also known as Wakefield Gate, it linked with the Long Causeway to Burnley.

The cobbled highway winds up the side of Beacon Hill.

Dam Head Cottage.

Dam Head Cottage.

As it levels out, notice a large fallen stone, possibly one of the guide stoops erected by the Justices in accordance with the Act of 1697.

Either continue straight ahead or, for a pleasant circular diversion around the top of Beacon Hill, take the higher of the two footpaths on your right.

There are extensive views over Halifax, the Piece Hall, Square Chapel, the Parish Church, the old bridge below the flyover, Dean Clough and the Wainhouse Tower, with Studley Pike and the Ogden Water wind farm on the horizon.

Pass the Beacon basket and look for a gap at the end of the wall; turn left along the walled path. Panoramic views to Emley and the Ferrybridge power station open up. Continue through a gate and follow the path across a playing field.

Shibden Mill Inn

Shibden Mill Inn

Turn left at Long Lane, a gravelly track, and note a white painted stone, possibly a guide stoop, by a high wall at the corner of the private road to Beacon House.

Rejoin the main route by a green gate, at Barrowclough Lane.

Continue along Barrowclough Lane, a cinder track; after approximately half a mile, bear left down Dark Lane, a narrow grassy track under a large pylon line, with a builder’s yard on your right.

This is the continuation of the medieval packhorse track, in its original condition though overgrown, a narrow holloway paved with setts that becomes a running stream in wet weather.

Follow the track until it meets a road after an information board and bear left, to a group of houses on Norcliffe Lane.

Our walk turns immediately left over the Red Beck bridge just past the houses; the footpath sign points to Shibden Hall Road.

Follow the path across an open field over a stone step-style and through a birch coppice, bearing right following the path along a hedge.

Climb the short flight of steps to the road and turn left.

Continue along Halifax Old Road which becomes Shibden Hall Road as it crosses a bridge. Pass Dove House Nurseries on the left.

If you wish to shorten the walk, you can continue up this long straight road back to the car-park. You will find a LYR stone marker over the park wall by the footpath that drops down into Shibden Park, for the Lancs Yorks Railway, whose tunnel is still operational deep beneath your feet.

Otherwise turn right down a partially paved track by the right-hand side of the entrance to Rodridge Farm, between fields.

Through the railway tunnel, the path opens into Shibden Park. Pass the playground on the left and bear right down to the boating lake.

The lake was created by Ann Lister and is fed by the Red Beck, so called because it is naturally polluted with iron oxides.

Turn left along the lake path to the end, about 150 yds. There are a cafe and toilets to your left.

The walk follows the end of the lake to the right; cross the bridge towards the station of the miniature railway. Walk round the back of the station and follow the woodland track uphill to Old Godley Lane.

Climb a flight of worn stone steps to reach Stump Cross on the turnpike created between 1827 and 1830 by blasting out the Godley Cutting with gunpowder, now the A58.

You have now walked a fairly strenuous four miles; to return to the Upper car park, retrace your steps down to Old Godley Lane, turn left down Red Beck Road and cross the Lower car park, past the café and toilets, climbing the grassy embankment bearing right past the Hall to the Upper car park.

To continue the walk with a pleasant stroll in the pretty wooded Shibden Valley, cross the road, walk back past the Stump Cross Inn and turn right up Staups Lane.

Keep to the lane alongside the wall of Staups House; the surface is now setted and steeper.

Stay on the lane, passing Salterlee House on your left. At the end of the setts, the lane adjoins Kell Lane. Take the footpath to your left, following the tarmac drive of No. 85 to a field gate with open views up the Shibden valley.

Go through the side gate and follow a straight double-paved track across fields.

When the paving ends, continue on the track, go through a gate by a gap at the left-hand side and continue straight across open pasture to reach a road, Blake Hill.

Cross the road and walk up a grassy, walled track called The Dicken for 200 yds, signed to Dam Head. At the end, turn left opposite the gable end of a building and look for Dam Head.

Bear left down to the road as the double paved track turns right, and continue along the footway to the Shibden Mill Inn.

Bear right across the Inn’s carpark, or pause for refreshments and to listen to the sound of the Shibden Beck.

Join the wide, walled dirt track beyond Shibden Beck, Horley Green Lane. Follow this, enjoying views of the quiet green countryside with splashes of vivid purple heather in autumn.

Eventually the lane forks, beside a small domestic mail-box.

If you take the right-hand fork, the continuation of Horley Green Lane, you will walk directly towards Beacon Hill.

Through the garden of a brick house, the track narrows to a walled path, eventually emerging from the countryside through the houses of Claremont.

Bear right and cross the Godley Cutting by the wrought-iron 1900 Lister Bridge with its ornate gas lights.

Follow the Shibden Hall Road back to the upper car park.

If you take the left-hand fork, you will walk in the valley bottom back to Stump Cross. Walk along the slabbed path adjacent to the wall (not the wider dirt track), drop down some stone steps and follow the paved path across two fields.

The dry stone wall between the fields is an attractive example of protruding tie-stones. Go through a small gate. The paved path at right angles to the left, along a wall, leads past pretty Field House over the beck back to Staups Lane, opposite Staups House, and you can walk down the lane to Stump Cross.

Otherwise, continue straight ahead through a slab stile, cross the paved yard of a newly restored property and follow the gravel track through a cluster of cottages called Shibden Fold Terrace.

Bear left down a grass track along a wall. Now you can hear the roar of traffic on Godley Lane, the A58.

Passing stone and cast iron bollards as the path turns left, climb up the cobbles, noting the ridges for grip.

Emerge onto Godley Lane, turn left towards Stump Cross and cross the road with caution. Retrace your way down the old stone steps and along Old Godley Lane, turning left into Red Beck Road to the lower car park. Cross the lower car park, past the café and toilets, climbing the grassy embankment bearing right past the Hall to the upper car park.