Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:



West Vale

Clay House


Cragg Vale



Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong





Marlborough Sounds


Milford Sound



Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches


A City Of Revolution:




Notre Dame

Calderdale Way Walks

An Old Man's Tale

Clay House to Ripponden

(5½ miles)

Carolyn to remain at home resting but not before she returns me to the pick-up point on the Elland by-pass. There’s an Icelandic nip gusting down the valley. A fine film of volcanic dust looking for somewhere to settle. It is not ideal conditions for an old asthmatic geezer. I was prescribed a spin haler with limited success, so I keep on running. The unadulterated spring sunshine warms and burns in tandem.
Cross the A629 and enter the woods by the canal. Follow the Calderdale Way sign down to the Calder and Hebble navigation. Walk over the lock- gate at Long Lees Lock. At this point there is no indication which way you should proceed. Mistakenly I turned left on the tarmac towpath and over Woodside Mills Bridge. Not a promising start and retraced by steps back to Long Lees Lock where I should have turned right after coming off the lock-gate. I should have consulted the four elderly gentlemen in a boat manoeuvring in the lock. A party of team players negotiating their way to Elland.

Continue on the towpath for about ½ mile to the pedestrian tunnel. If you enter you are rewarded with the wonderfully unique guillotine lock and the charming serenity of the canal basin at Salterhebble, surveyed by John Smeeton in 1757. The ladder of locks could raise you on your way to Sowerby Bridge. A delightful enclosure to enjoy your picnic with tables, toilets and lock keeper’s cottage. You could moor in the basin for 48 hours. A couple in protective boiler suits and hood strip the bees of their wax and honey. It is well worth a detour. Return through the pedestrian tunnel and turn right up the stone steps to the road. Left on to the hectic B112 towards West Vale. Quite a contrast after dragging yourself away from the serenity of the canal basin.

Walk along the road for half a mile, over the river and under a rail bridge. On your left are football pitches and a racing track for model cars. The raising sun warms the cockles and brings smiles to the natives.

Escape to the right before the Garden Centre. There is a footpath sign on the lamp -post and Calderdale Way sign and direction. Ignore the broad track and proceed straight up wooden steps into trees and on to an old railway line. Go left through a bridle/gate stile. The path curves round above Clay House on your left. A C17th yeoman clothier’s house occupied by the Clay family until 1693. It displays an impressive facade of mullioned and transomed windows typical of its Jacobean style. Now used for marriage ceremonies, functions and banquets. The aisled barn, a former dairy and stables, was converted in 1986 into two private dwellings.
It is not clear what you do at Clay House. The old guide will lead you astray. The original Way has been re routed at the behest of the local fishing club. After consulting the Learning Disability Group at Clay House and the local postman I decided to turn right at Clay House, over a stone stile up into North Dean Wood. Keep a metal fence on your left as you follow the path round the perimeter of a builder’s concrete yard below. By the house in front of you there is a footpath sign directing you up the stone steps. Look back at the old mill pond now filled with carp and offering outdoor swimming for residents of the adjacent house. The owner a former squaddie exiled from South Africa and struggling with the incongruity of his hatred of uniformed, bearded Taliban Security and his adoration of Egyptian Arabs.

At the top of the steps turn right above the conservation cottage and follow the track into the wood. Somewhere round here a Roman sacrificial altar was found in 1597. Bear left as you go through the woodland heading down towards the valley bottom. A Calderdale Way footpath post directs you along the Way. Continue upwards with the railway line and factory below on the right. Avoid the fork on the right down to the valley bottom and continue uphill. Immediately on the left is a Calderdale Way emblem and blue arrow on a large boulder.

It is a long hard haul but half way along is a wooden bench for respite. At the top climb six stone steps and turn right onto a narrow path by a wooden fence alongside edge of North Dean Wood where Oak and Birch compete for ascendancy. As you progress you can spot the multi arched spread of Copley viaduct accommodating the Halifax – Manchester railway. The model village of Copley built in 1847 by Colonel Edward Ackroyd.

Continue past farm buildings on your left. Eventually you will come to a rough road via a wall stile. There is a Calderdale Way marker on a footpath post to Clough Moor Bridge.

Sitting on wall eating cheese and pickle, banana and bounty admiring pigs laying flat out and immovable. Approached by a friendly and refined woman out exercising the gun dogs. She completed the Calderdale Way in 1981, “it’s just wonderful”.
After 100 metres turn left as directed by the Calderdale Way arrows. Carry on along top of wood and over a wooden stile with Calderdale Way motif. Follow the path at the side of the field by wood on your right. Avoid a wooden gate in the wire fence with Calderdale Way signs. This is Greetland Moor and site of an early settlement. Norland Moor reveals itself on your right. Passing houses on the left you reach a metalled road. Turn right following direction arrows on footpath post down to Clough Moor Bridge with an indecipherable boundary stone set into its structure.
Follow the footpath sign over Norland Moor, the 235 acres gritstone plateau, purchased by public subscription in 1932. An urban common protecting all our rights of way across the tract of heather land suspended 1,000 feet above Sowerby Bridge and the Ryburn Valley.

Head towards the squat pylon. Just before is a wooden seat donated in the memory of Michael Brasted from all his friends and scarecrows in Norland. Immediately before the pylon turn left keeping near to the wall until you reach an orderly cairn. Take path to the right over the Moor in parallel with the column of pylons to your right. There is a small post with direction arrows to guide you on the path. Wainhouse Tower is prominent in the backdrop behind you. Built in the 1870’s as the dye work’s chimney where you can climb the 403 steps inside. Holding tight here as wind billowing my guides and map. You must not get abandoned up here in the winter.
As you approach the iron rails turn left. There is a viewing point on the bench in memory of Matt Beckett inscribed with “I am a thousand winds that blow”.
Here is evidence of quarrying with spectacles of the Ryburn Valley, Rishworth, and Saddleworth Moor destined for ever to evade memories of the infamy of Brady and Hindley. This is the rough- and -ready but dazzling landscape beloved by the intrepid travellers and missionaries such as Wesley and Cobbett.

Continue to the distinctive Ladstone Rock on edge of the Moor. The ordnance survey white column at 931 feet is to your left. Rest for a while with John Crowther’s seat which assures “it’ll be alright”. Ladstone Rock the rocky outcrop bearing a Psalm plaque. Amongst a myriad of sculptured names I could not locate. Nearby is the sinister Gallows Pole Hill where summary justice was executed.
Proceed along path as Ripponden appears in the next valley below. Passing Brian Farrar’s commemorative bench- a singer, sailor, traveller and cyclist who died at the age of 56.

The trail now drops down to the road towards a caravan park. There is a space here for confusion with footpath signs enticing you on the wrong course. Turn left at the road and down about 300 metres to the New Rock Inn on the left. Just before the hostelry take the wide dirt track, High Lees Lane, on your right. There is a footpath sign for the Calderdale Way. Passing between two farms proceed into a walled path. Down the gradient and through a stile on the left as directed by the Calderdale Way footpath sign, keeping the wall to your right.

Continue straight on along a rough road past a farm on your right with roaming rottweillers relishing their time in the sun menacing the trampers. This is Ripponden Bank Top. At the end of the road turn right down Elland road towards Ripponden. There is a direction arrow on a lamp post. Past The Fleece Inn where raw talent is auditioned for the delight of local patrons.

About 100 metres after The Fleece leave the main road on the right and take the signposted Calderdale Way down Old Bank onto the steep descent into Ripponden. Somewhere along these precipitous inclines we built some houses years ago. Luxury houses not for the likes of us. The vertical plunge on the tarmac and cobbles jolts the knees in revolt. Your compensation in the form of the enchanting conservation area of Old Bank Bottom. Take the chance to delight in the C15th St Bartholomew’s Church and the C16th packhorse bridge over the River Ryburn. After the bridge on your right is the Old Bridge Inn, a place of congregation and refreshment since 1307.

Climb up the cobbled streets to the main Halifax – Rochdale Road (A58). Opposite you can find buses to Halifax.

Now I’ve trodden the foothill of this cottage weaving community I feel fonder of Ripponden. It should not be merely a casual passing through. I return by bus to Halifax reversing my walking route through Barkisland, Greetland and West Vale. The gleaming bright evening invites the Moors to show themselves in the best possible light. An excursion for me and the driver in my own personal taxi tour. Sedate but marks the end of a grand tramp.