Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:

Shelf

Brighouse

West Vale

Clay House

Ripponden

Cragg Vale

Todmorden

Heptonstall

Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong

Auckland

Rotarua

Napier

Picton

Marlborough Sounds

Kaikoura

Milford Sound

Sydney

Manly

Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches

Thailand

A City Of Revolution:

Paris

Versailles

Sacré-Cœur

Notre Dame

Calderdale Way Walks

An Old Man's Tale


Brighouse to West Vale


The Easter bunny has been and gone. Today is merely a 4 ½ mile stretch. Accompanied by Carolyn seeking vigour and recovery from ailments and tablets.

We take the car to pick up the route in Brighouse. Entering after passing the Black Bull we are forced to run the gauntlet hopping over tungsten shafts barring our way. Each fishermen intent with loads of tackle and contraptions out in force on the Bank Holiday. A solitary pastime in a social setting. The weather is cold but there’s a promise of space for sunny intervals.

The tarmac towpath leads out of Brighouse through its industrial landscape. This track recently tarmaced attracts droves of joggers and cyclists. There’s a camber leaning towards the canal.

After about half a mile you cross the Granny Stone footbridge by the lock keepers cottage set between the confluence of Calder River and canal. It has been resurrected and modernised in stages. A gorgeous place to live in a garden.

We are now on the Calder Valley Greenway. Pedestrians retain their right of way but listen out for two tings. Turn right over the canal bridge towards Elland Road. Here you can find a mobile caravan cafe for hikers, fishers, workers and water enthusiasts. Cross the road and enter into Freemans Wood, turning left and upwards towards the power lines. Full of muesli, dates and prunes, it becomes quite a heave through the muddy Elland clay. A time for deep breathing, intake through the nostrils with mouth closed restores the oxygen balance to lungs and brain. You are soon losing the rumble of the main road. Share a poignant moment as you glance towards the lake on your left, a recreation privatised and reserved for water-skiers and fishermen.

Keep to the main track as views open up towards Elland on the left. A market town, near water, mentioned in the Doomsday book in 1086. The centre of wool production, home of the Gannex raincoat and famous for its Dobson’s sweet factory. Passing under the power lines ignore the public footpath sign. Go through the stile along the way marked route and down 240 stone steps to Montague farm at Cromwell Bottom. Sheep are becalmed and heavy with lamb. Continue through the gate at the bottom and turn right immediately before the farm and up the track. As the farmer shouts a friendly welcome the farm dog shepherds us away from his province.

Climb into Cromwell Wood with fields on the left where sheep and spring lambs bask in the breaking sun. Keep straight on with the leisurely stroll uphill. With its deciduous trees, decaying leaves, stream and black and sandy soil it is just like Judy Woods.

We have progressed a further 500 metres to join a walled track. There is a Calderdale way sign on the right. Turn left down a paved signposted path to Southowram. It might be a gentle breeze but I am disrobing and perspiring at this stage. Carolyn carries on and disappears above me. A frisky pony romps up for a stroke. Walk over the stream and up to Cote Hill Farm to the sound of throbbing motor bikes. Veer sharp right and left through a stile marked with yellow painted Calderdale Way sign. You can see the farm car lot, an open air showroom with vehicles in perfect symmetry displaying their wares.

Continue through two fields to School Lane and the Sunday School of Southowram. You are squeezed between the field wall and electrified fencing. How come you can allow the flow of electrons out here in the sticks? There are warnings in seven languages. Looking back you can recognise the aerial of Home Moss. A cold wind and exertion bring on a constant nasal weep. You will pass farm stables and trotting arena. Follow the lane until you come to the Sunday school or Ashleigh House. Turn right at Milking Hill towards the bus terminus. You could turn left if you wanted to witness village cricket at the Southowram Cricket Club.

At the terminus go left into West Lane towards Siddal and keep to the road for over half a mile. You can see foals suckling in the fields. Carolyn sets a brisk pace as gales funnel down. The vista unravels over Elland, Halifax, Greetland Moors and Pye Nest.

Carry on past Siddal Top Farm on your right. This road is like a ledge perched high above Halifax on your right, looking down on the Calderdale metropolis.

Look out for telegraph pole 26254c marked with a painted Calderdale Way sign. Turn left but be careful to take the lower path through a stile with a Calderdale Way sign. Keep field wall on the right and bear left towards the lone tree in the direction of playing fields. Follow the path through Exley Hall farmyard where the Way seems to disappear. Head towards the road and turn left through Exley, the oldest settlement in Halifax.

Exley Hall Farm has been in the Lumb family since 1899. They do garden waste recycling, firewood, Chipper hire and meadow hay. It must have been Eddy who offered us tea and a potted history of Exley. “All the Exleys in the world originated from here. Since the C13th there’s been mixed marriages between Saxons and Normans. The Savilles farmed here”. It is a welcome reminiscent of the greeting of travellers in ancient times past.

Exley is a little enclave, an haven from the worst excesses of cold and winter. We are waiting and waiting for the daffodils in these northern climes but not here in Exley.

Carolyn is drained and sapped of energy. We recline on a farmyard log and replenish with cheese sandwiches, chocolate and cake. The boys are summoned to pick us up in Elland aborting our mission to conclude at Clay House.

Opposite the cottages in Exley take the stile on the right and diagonally left to another step stile towards the wood. Through another stile signposted Calderdale Way down to the busy dual carriageway (A629). Crossing the road alongside the lay- byes with the road signs labelled as The Calderdale Way. Navigating the labyrinth and intricacies of Elland’s road network the boys arrived late and transported us back home. We were left just short of Clay House, the beginning and end of The Calderdale Way.