Friday, 23 November 2012

Calderdale Way #2: Ripponden to Todmorden 22/09/12

Self in Ripponden
After all that talk of the End of Summer over the last few weeks, the Summer has now passed and we can move into Autumn. I know that the year always seems to descend quickly but the chill in the morning air is palpable and there's mist hanging over the Calder as I ride out through Mirfield, so now Autumn is here and I hope it remains as walkable as the last few weeks have been. I need to bus out to Ripponden from Sowerby Bridge, and I catch the 531, the minibus that bounces along the back roads as it's the first one to show up and it's always a good idea to make the local buses feel needed, so I can an early look at the field I'll be walking as we bounce through Mill Bank and Soyland, and the day looks as clear and bright as you could want, and the paths look inviting too. So off the bus and I'm ready to walk.

Calderdale Way #2: Ripponden to Todmorden.  10.5 miles

Mill Bank

A 9.25am start and depart Ripponden up Royds Lane, before turning into the fields, which are wet with dew and soft underfoot and in to time the town is behind us and the cool air is stinging my lungs, I didn't think that the shift into Autumn would be this swift. The first ascent of the day starts and meet a paved path, and it seems that these are a common feature around Calderdale, laid out in fields as Packhorse trails way back when. A slightly more modern feature intrudes at Birks farm as piles of rubble indicate renovations going on, and the path ascends a tree lined lane to traverse a field full of cattle, who wander up the rise of the field looking ready to stampede at the slightest provocation. Survive them, and the carved up earth, to join Cow Lane to ascend up to Soyland, a neat little settlement of blackened stone houses and the extensive site of Making Place, an 18th century textile development which is now a residential conversion. Cross the field beyond to join High Field Lane and enjoy a last look back into the valley of the Ryburn, before we hit the descent down into Mill Bank, and the path is still in deep shadow so the frost and dew in the long grass saturate my trousers in seconds. It's also a bit slippery, and having a stone wall just beyond my reach on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other leaves me with nothing to grab for in emergency and I start to wish that I had a walking pole for extra support.

The Starfish Bunker
Having arrived on the edge of Mill Bank, ascent #2 starts immediately and I have misgivings about the path until a local man assures me that I am on the right track, so a long ascent up through Great House wood starts and I find issues with my route guide making features in the landscapes sound closer together than they are. Pop out at the top and follow the rising Gough Lane and it's worth a look back to see the trail over Norland Moor from a week ago rise behind me, and then cross the bus route from earlier at Lighthazles Road and continue up the hill along Eccles Parlour to encounter Ripponden's Christmas Tree farm, and I never thought I'd encounter two of them in one year. Follow the rising lanes as the names change and a view is offered to the moorlands to the south and the M62 crossing Saddleworth Moor, a good view but not applause worthy, and again map and route guide seem to be at odds, so I err to follow the map again. Leaving the road by a more intact railway wagon and taking the farm track which really looks like it's going to dump us in the heart of moorland, before you cross a style to meet very strange earthworks, which used to be Flints Reservoir and is now home to farmyard wildlife of all strains. There are excellent views all round and a couple of hundred yards of real moor then follow, having to carefully choose every footfall, before meeting another track, and a passing runner observes 'Found the right path, eh?' and it's the guy I met in Mill Bank, out for a jog. He takes the path out to Great Manshead hill, and I head to the Starfish Bunker, a piece or wartime construction designed to simulate fires out on the moorland and distract enemy bombers from attacking their intended targets, sounds like something Dick Strawbridge should be explaining!

Cragg Vale and Withens Clough
Take elevenses before getting the fist view of Stoodley Pike, which will be keeping us company over the coming weeks in Calderdale, and the path starts is decent to Cragg Vale by seeming to head in the wrong direction, north rather than west. I guess this is to take in the farm tracks rather than paths but the going is wet and muddy for much of the distance, but it does take is past Catherine House farm, notable for the outsized chimney it has attached. Clock a good view of Withens Clough and the dam which we will be walking towards, but we've got a lot more decent to do before then, wandering between farms with funny names like Plodwell and Bent Top before High lane leads us down to the path at Marshaw Bank which looks like it is going to drop us into Cragg Vale from a great height. It's baby steps all the way down here, again not helped by being in shade and there being far too much moisture underfoot, and meeting a solid surface is a relief as we wander around someone's back yard and emerge out onto Cragg Road. Still more descent follows, past those wonderful houses that are two storeys on one side and four on the other, and down to St John in the Wilderness and across Cragg Brook to pass the Hinchcliffe arms, a pub I've yet to get to on my visits to my friends in these parts.Withens Clough Reservoir is the next target, and the third ascent of the day starts up Rudd Lane, not a sharp ascent but certainly a long drag, as once the entertaining array of houses in Cragg Vale has been left behind is just a long plod towards a dam that just doesn't seem to get any closer. More traffic than you'd expect too, as the reservoir must be a popular spot, and fun can be had looking back again to pick up my rote on the other side of the vale.

Withens Clough Reservoir
Finally hit the top of the Lane and it looks like visitor centre is being developed, and that the dam appears to have had some work done recently, notably a new run off channel, but I resist the urge to wander out on to it. The reservoir above is a wonderful sight, shimmering silver beneath the sky with all sorts of fun cragginess to its south, but it lacks the picnic area that I anticipated, and I walk a long way round the north side trying to find a place to pause for lunch, eventually getting to the point where the Calderdale Way leaves the perimeter path where there are rocks to sit on so I can have my pizza. Watch the other walkers coming and going around the place and as I pack up, I meet a couple having a nostalgic re-walk of the way having first done it when they married and now doing it again as their kids have gone to university. I wonder if I'll still be at this in 20 years time? Onward up the hill and the markered path is not the best one for quite a way until we meet another of those pave paths and some very serious gritstone walling, None of your rough limestone drywall here, this is robust in the extreme and still unmortared as far as I can see. I admire this, and the gritstone outcrops above before the path takes an unnecessary wander onto the moor for 100 yard before joining farm track again. This leads to a derelict farmstead at Red Dykes, surrounded by some serious walls, one of the more extreme Grand Designs plots which I could conceive , and we continue uphill to meet the boundary stones indicating the edge of Todmorden borough, one of which reads 'Te Deum Laudamus' for all you Latin fans.

Stoodley Pike from Withens Gate
Meet the Pennine Way, running south to north at Withens Gate, and get the second applause inducing view of the Calderdale Way with the vista from Coldwell Hill round to Stoodley Pike, with Todmorden down in the valley below, wild moors, farm land and human occupation in many forms all in one viewpoint. Descent starts in a big way as the path to Mankinholes is taken on and despite it being paved, the path still requires baby steps as all the water running off the hillside channels onto it. It's tourist central around here, folks clearly out to enjoy this glorious and unseasonal afternoon, and from one party of picnickers, a little girl offers me lunch if I should wish it. Having already eaten, I decline, and head down into Mankinholes, as close to a rural idyll as I've found yet, and ponder my map by the graveyard at watering time to see if I can make my targeted train in Todmorden. Hurry on down the Pennine Bridleway path to Lumbutts, featuring a cobbled section I wouldn't fancy on cycle or horseback, and join the road by the waterwheel tower, a distinct local landmark. Pound the road up hill, but it doesn't quite count as ascent #4 and dodge passing mail vans and tractors before hitting the fields again at Croft Gate farm, the rise and fall of fields leads us towards my destination, which I can't quite find in the landscape, until we hit a field corner so carved up and wet that a wire loop has been attached the gatepost to aid the walker in getting over the style and not stuck. Thankfully, this dispiriting moment has come late in the day, and road surface are regained after the yards of Longroyd farm and Equestrian centre. The last descent of the day comes as a surprise, even though I should have expected it, as Shoebroad Lane leads a rapid decline down past Todmorden Unitarian Church to Bankside and the A6033. Check the watch and 3.05pm, and plenty of time to spare before my ride home, but will there be beer? Of course not, the Golden Lion is closed, the Royal George doesn't appeal at all, and I doubt the Queen Hotel welcomes filthy walkers.

To Be Continued...

1,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 374.1 miles

No comments:

Post a Comment