|The Pennine Way|
Stoodley Pike from above Mankinholes
The next morning I walked up the road past Globe Farm to a junction and then back-tracked to the Pennine Way. The weather was overcast and misty but at least there was no rain. By then I was walking with a couple of pairs of socks on in an attempt to cushion my blisters and let them dry out. This seemed to work since over the next 2 days the blisters disappeared.
|Globe Farm||B&B, camping||01457 873040|
Standedge and Millstone Edge give good dry walking with unfulfilled (for me) promises of views into the industrial and heavily populated Midlands (one of the most densely populated landscapes in Europe). The dark colour of the rocks is mostly due to decades of air pollution that have killed any colourful lichens that may have grown. At the start of Millstone Edge, there is an OS pillar with a memorial to a local poet and writer, Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946), attached to a square boulder nearby. A little further is the Dinner Stone with its curious flattish top. The dry walking continues for another kilometre to Northern Rotcher before turning north and then north-west over the wetter peat domes of Oldgate Moss and Little Moss to the road. Keep to the path since Haigh Gutter (a stream in a steep-sided gully) has only one good ford. The road is joined at an old packhorse trail travelling to the east. The A640 road was one of the turnpike roads established in the 18th century and ran profitably until the coming of the railroad in the middle of the 19th century.
From the road, the path climbs slightly towards what looks like a rock outcrop but is really the end of a stone wall and then becomes soggy underfoot. At the end of the wall the Pennine Way crosses a slight depression and climbs over White Hill where the path becomes dry and sandy as it drops down a ridge (Axletree Edge) to the A672 (another old turnpike road). From the depression and White Hill there is a view of Readycon Dean Reservoir to the left. The lay-by on the road often has a tea-van with refreshments for the traveller but not on this day. Passing the Windy Hill television mast (a good landmark for misty days), I soon came to the M62 motorway. This was quite a shock to the eyes (my ears heard it long ago) after the desolate moorland they had become used to. However an elegant footbridge took me quickly over the busy traffic and I soon lost sight of the motorway.
If you like bogs then you will enjoy the climb up to Blackstone Edge - the ground is suitably wet and muddy and the path winds its way through large peat hags. I found it enjoyable because I knew that it was the last patch of bog until the last couple of days on the Pennine Way. However it has been tamed in recent years by the addition of a paved causeway. The boulders on top of Blackstone Edge are impressive and provide good, firm walking in contrast to the preceding bogs. Note the OS pillar perched high (472 metres) upon the top of one of the boulders. I dropped down to join a 'Roman' road (Dhoul's Pavement, the flagstoned surface is probably of medieval origin). There is a small standing stone poking up directly across the track marked with a cross and the initials I.T. This is the Aiggin Stone. I followed the pavements cobbled surface steeply downhill for half a kilometre before turning right along Broad Head Drain (a concrete channel) to rejoin the Pennine Way.
The drain leads easily north along the slopes to a disused quarry and a short descent to the Halifax Road (A58). Lunch was at the White House Inn (highly recommended) where I joined a number of fellow Pennine Way walkers. I meet up with the same group at various spots until Blue Cap Hall at Bowes when they passed me (for the Blackton Youth Hostel at Baldersdale).
A bus stop (not!)
A wide, level and sandy track is joined along the road at Blackstone Edge Reservoir and continues to follow a spillway called the Head Drain. Here I basically put my head down and raced along for 4 km until the turn-off along Warland Drain. The best viewpoint is just before Light Hazzles Reservoir where you can look to the west over the headwaters of the River Roch into hay meadows and moorland beyond. The reservoirs in this area (including Warland and White Holme) were built to supply water to the Rochdale Canal (opened in 1804) which is also visible from here.
The turn-off is at an elbow on the drain where it flows sharp right and is marked by an old bus stop sign - don't wait for a bus here! From the drain the next landmark is visible - Stoodley Pike, a 38 metre high spike of a monument to the defeat of Napoleon (replacing an 18th century tower). It is the second monument on the site since the first one was blown over in a storm in 1854. The Pennine Way goes north for a kilometre over sometimes boggy ground. It climbs gently to the right of the rock strewn Coldwell Hill (good views) and then descends again to steeper ground over the Calderdale Valley.
Stoodley Pike is reached by a clear path along the Calderdale Valley edge passing over the flagged footpath at Withens Gate. The youth hostel at Mankinholes is down this path. Another long distance path, the Calderdale Way, also goes through Withens Gate. It can be followed to accommodation in the town of Todmorden. About 250 metres from this intersection of Ways stands the 'Te Deum Stone', marked with a cross and probably denoting the highest point of a 'corpse road', where coffins could be set down and bearers rest on their way to consecrated ground. At the Pike a dark stairway allows access to a viewing balcony. For the water-depleted there is a spring next to the path about 100 metres past the monument.
The route dropping down into Calderdale is pleasant with more moorland traversed on the drop to the Swillington farm buildings, a sidle around farmland on a track and then joining a walled track through a beautiful little English birch wood. If you are going to Hebden Bridge for accommodation then there is a walled lane (Kilnshaw Lane) branching off at Swillington heading for the town. The floor of the valley is a bit of a shock since it is crowded with a railway, canal, busy road and the River Calder. The only good thing about the valley floor is the chance to catch a bus to the delights of Hebden Bridge. Alternately you can walk along the towpath for about 1.5 kilometres to the town.
I crossed these obstacles as quick as I could and climbed out of the valley along a steep, cobbled track. I soon came across a defect in my planning - it was not wise to end a 25 kilometre walk with a steep ascent out of Calderdale together with the fall and rise through the Colden Clough valley beyond. There was some compensation in the scenic Colden Clough with a scattering of trees, an old packhorse bridge and a view to the right of Heptonstall Church where the poet Sylvia Plath is buried. I certainly found a few new muscles as I left the Pennine Way along the road to Slack Top and my B&B. My evening meal was at a nice pub in Heptonstall (1 kilometre away along a quiet road).