The walk this week combines all the elements that make Calderdale such a walker’s paradise, writes Caroline Spalding.
Beginning from the Clough Hole car park of Hardcastle Crags [HX7 7AZ, GR SD 969 298 - £5 charge for non-National Trust members] the route encompasses Hebden Dale, the moorland beyond and, of course, beautiful views.
The 9-miles begin with a way-marked descent to Gibson Mill; initially some steps entering the trees then left at the sign post.
Reaching the mill, cross the bridge to turn left following the track.
An optional diversion to see the Crags themselves has been made easier thanks to local volunteers [CROWS] who have reclaimed a path climbing to Hardcastle Crags [a left turn from the track clearly signed].
Continue along the track beneath the trees, when it splits keep right beginning a gentle ascent.
On leaving the forest, continue along the track [marked 271 on the map]. The lane passes over a stream as it curves and you approach Wilshaw Lodge.
Turn right just before Wilshaw Cottage and then bear left at the point where the sign marked ‘Horodiddle’ is visible. Leave the track just before the farm – a permissive path [right at way-marker ‘Walshaw Dean’]. Pass through a gate ascending a track; over a stone wall stile at the next gate.
The track enters moorland; it zig-zags left then right and when it splits, bear left [way-marked ‘Bigland Way’].
After a plateau begin the descent towards the reservoir and again when the path splits bear left.
Reaching the reservoir dam go straight ahead, joining the Pennine Way. Follow this the length of Walshaw Dean Lower Reservoir where you cross the dam then turn left to keep on the Pennine Way. You join the Calder/Aire Link, bearing left and ignore the first few path way-markers.
On meeting a joining lane, turn right over the stile [SD 954 325] to cross the fields. The path is not clear; however posts have been erected to guide you.
At the next stile the path is even less obvious; there are some posts but the main direction to follow is towards the large white pub [once it becomes visible].
As we passed through, the sky was alive with lapwings and curlews emitting their cries.
At the pub, turn right along the road until a ladder stile on the left leads you into another field. Descend the length of the field, passing through a gate at the bottom and turning left.
Take the upper path which follows the top of Ridge Scout; with a small stream flowing far beneath. You eventually meet a road at a hairpin bend; turn right to descend and immediately before the bridge, beyond the way-marked path, is a gap in the wall. Descend the steps here and follow the stream, crossing a footbridge and then take the left-hand upper path to climb. Reaching a plateau, this is the former railway line built for the construction of the Walshaw Dean reservoirs to the north. The navvies resided in a shanty town close to Heptonstall from where the narrow-gauge railway ran to the reservoirs via a trestle bridge, completed in 1901, which crossed the steep, narrow valley along which you are now walking. Here there are two options; the upper path is overgrown and the lower path has a short section which is very exposed to a steep drop.
Both reunite at Overwood House and the clear track continues a gradual descent re-entering woodland. After approx. 0.5km you cross a footbridge; immediately afterwards turn right, still descending to another bridge over which you pass then turn left. You start to see the Hardcastle Crags way-markers which you follow along the river, crossing and re-crossing until finally returning to Gibson Mill, from where you can re-trace your steps back to the start.
A wholly rewarding walk with a variety of scenery and a route which can easily be modified to lengthen or shorten as you desire!
*Please note map does not show start and finish of walk around Gibson Mill.