Best Foot Forward: The many paths from Hebden Bridge

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Just when you think you’ve walked every possible route from Hebden Bridge, you find another one!

Not surprising, given that, if I’m correct, it has one of the densest concentrations of footpaths within a kilometre radius of a town in the UK.

Grey clouds were building up in the West as we began this six-mile walk; fortunately only unleashing their load on us towards the end of the ramble. It certainly seems now as if summer is certainly over, with autumn rushing in to greet us with dramatic skies and inclement weather!

You could complete a walk around Hebden Bridge itself by just following the network of paths and ginnels between the houses; such a fascinating place. Certainly in this route I covered more of Hebden on foot than I had previously.

We began from the railway station; with frequent trains from Halifax for ease of access. We criss-crossed through Hebden’s ginnels [or snickets – I’ve never really been sure what to call them! The term ‘ginnel’ apparently originated in the early 17th century, whereas ‘snicket’ came later, in the late 19 th century] to arrive on Foster Lane, crossing the road by the Nutclough Tavern. Taking a right just before the pub, we entered woodland, with a small stream trickling below. We turned left, starting to climb up stone steps, passing a ‘Calderdale Way Link Path’ way-marker. This woodland is Nutclough Woods; and in the old days there used to be traps to catch the silt that was carried by the water. Just before a small stone bridge, we turned left, almost back on ourselves and following the path, you enter more open ground where the view of Heptonstall Church becomes apparent up ahead on the neighbouring hillside.

You come to a place called Hurst Royd and at the end of the terrace turn right, following a way-marker and then turn left, over a stile entering into a field.

Wainsgate Chapel, Old Town

Wainsgate Chapel, Old Town

Passing over another stile, follow the walled field-edge towards the mill chimney of Old Town and then go through a narrow, gated stile between a wall and continue ahead, with a tall wall to your right-hand side. On meeting the road, turn right. In front of you will be the old Co-Op building bearing the plaque ‘Utility is Strength.’ Close by is the Wainsgate Chapel, of which John Fawcett became pastor in 1764. He was a liberal Calvinist, as well as a hymn-writer,

joining the ‘Particular Baptist’ chapel here that had been built in 1750. Despite invitations to work elsewhere, mainly due to the attention he had drawn to himself by the likes of King George III, he remained in Hebden Bridge until his death in 1817. During his tenure, his congregation outgrew the Wainsgate Chapel and therefore he supported the building of the Ebenezer Chapel in Hebden Bridge itself, which could hold 500 people and opened in 1777; where

Fawcett ministered for 40 years. The 18 th century is a fascinating and complex period to study, in terms of religion, and the Calder Valley certainly experienced the Evangelical Revival, with clergymen such as John Wesley [the founder of Methodism] visiting the valley as early as 1739 promoting hard work, tenacity and sobriety.

Meanwhile, back on the walk; you turn left off the road to take a way-marked bridleway in the direction of Pecket Well, following until it meets the Calderdale Way. Turn right to join the Calderdale Way, climbing up onto the moorland at the interestingly-named Bogs Eggs Edge. At GR SE 006 287 the CW turns slightly left; but you continue in the same direction; following a path that will lead you past Commons Farm, then Keelham Farm and Clayton’s Farm, finally re-joining a road at a point named Nook. At Far Nook, leave the road for a path on the right, continuing ahead to meet Wadsworth Lane, associated with another preacher, Dan Taylor, with whom John Fawcett formed the Heptonstall Book Society in 1769.

valley reader pics - Gary Burke sent us this great image of Heptonstall church and view on a lovely clear winters day.

valley reader pics - Gary Burke sent us this great image of Heptonstall church and view on a lovely clear winters day.

Turn right off the road, follow a field edge through Snow Booth, turning left at Carrs [GR SE 004 276] and you’ll find yourself in the area of Birchcliffe. Here we took advantage of our walk leader’s local knowledge, taking paths through the ginnels and woodland, passing Hebden Bridge Hostel and the Birchcliffe Centre to take us back towards the town, eventually descending a very steep set of steps to return us to the A6033. The Birchcliffe Centre is again

associated with Dan Taylor, who founded the Birchcliffe Baptists and whose original chapel had been built further up the hillside; the Centre was the third re-build of his chapel; used until the 1960s and now a centre for events and exhibitions, managed by Pennine Heritage.

I must confess that by this time the rain that had now been falling persistently for quite some time had turned my focus more to simply putting one foot in front of the other without slipping over, rather than observing our route in detail, so I cannot state with confidence that I know exactly which paths were taken! However, that’s one delight of Hebden Bridge with all its ginnels and hidden pathways; you will reach your destination one way or the other and you can always vary your route!