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

Cragg Vale to Todmorden

(7 miles)

You can get public transport to Cragg Vale but Carolyn drove as I wanted an early start to avoid the blazing heat of the mid-day sun.

From the Hinchcliffe pub continue on the metalled road up the valley. Carry on Rudd Lane admiring Old Cragg Hall on your right. This is like an unadopted road, pockmarked with deep cavities. They’ll crack your chassis if you don’t swerve.

I will be missing World Cup matches today. England and France are in turmoil and imploding. It must be all down to avarice and molly coddling.

We set off for the feral wilderness of Calderdale. I am rather apprehensive as strained ligaments leak pain. It may be arthritis. It could be the result of years pounding streets in search of fitness and nirvana. There can’t be a tablet for everything. It could be shameful to scramble the Air Ambulance, and there’s always the vertigo.

Continue along the road with Withen Clough on your left side for about one mile. You will be met with a freshening breeze as you approach the peaks. It is a bit of a drag before you’ve properly loosened up.

Pass through the gate as you reach Withens Clough reservoir. There is a footpath sign to Mankinholes. Proceed through the next gate to the reservoir. It used to serve Morley, covering the boundary of an ancient deer park and site of a summer cattle station. Keep to the wide track with the reservoir on your left and the Pasture Farmhouse on your right. Here the guide and directions are obscure. I stopped a lone, shaven-headed, bare-chested perspiring jogger. It could have been me apart from the flimsy skin tight shorts. Seemed like a nice man and his directions were faultless.

Keep straight on the track by the side of the reservoir. Towards the end you will meet walls on both sides of the path. Avoid the first footpath sign to Stoodley Pike. After another 300 metres there is a footpath post with the Calderdale Way sign directing you to the right. You will be walking on the crumbling foundations of a dry stone wall. You may be encouraged to bare your torso to the world, an immersion with nature.

Carry on to the corner of the field and turn left over the stile marked Calderdale Way and along the causey path by the wall side. After 300 metres, above the coppice below turn right through two stone pillars. The path continues on the other side of the wall onto open moorland. There is a Calderdale Way sign before the path spreads into a wider track. Looking around you can see no pylons. A measure of isolated seclusion and perfect location for a romantic romp.

As you approach a wall the Calderdale Way sign directs you to the right. Ascending the moor’s ridge you keep the wall to your left. Just before the gate you can study the Te Deum Stone where “we praise thee o Lord”. It marks the summit of ancient packhorse track from Cragg to Mankinholes. A sacred point where coffins lowered and rested along the route. I’ve not met any souls on this Moorland although there is an eerie whisper along the way.

The footpath sign to Mankinholes points you straight through the gate and beyond the stone markers. A new landscape reveals the village below. A medieval hill settlement, once a cattle station.

Proceed along the rutted causey flagstones until you meet the crossroads with the Pennine Way. There sits the Long Stoop an old guide post.

At this junction you can detour to your right to explore Stoodley Pike. A 121 feet beacon monument dominating the moors above Todmorden. You can still creep up the murky darkness of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform with panoramic vista. It is a pilgrimage for hikers and mountain cyclists. An obelisk and peace shrine of sandstone built by public subscription. You can do a quick dash over 3 miles to Calderdale’s most famous landmark in the annual Stoodley Pike Fell Race. A lung bursting ascent and knee crunching descent over 1300 feet.

Cross over to the causey path down to Mankinholes. There is a confusing wooden direction post but as you slant downwards Stoodley Pike becomes visible on your right. These causeways must have taken years. Did they realise they were building for posterity? They should be proud; it must be one of the finest in the world.

The steep plunge a stern test for eroding knees. In this undulating environment it is either the lungs or the knees. This is the community land of Longfield Common overlooking Lumbutts and Lee Dam, the setting for the freezing New Year swim.

Just before the gate turn right over the stone stile with a faded yellow direction arrow. Proceed along the walled track with Stoodley Pike imposing high above on your right on to the village. Note the cattle and horse drinking trough on the right and the youth hostel further along. A village of splendid stone cottages and houses. The guide is not helpful at this stage.

Continue to the outskirts of Mankinholes to a detached stone residence formerly the old Sunday school with cemetery adjacent. Almost opposite take the walled lane on the left which is sign posted Pennine Bridle Path. At a distance in front of you is the distinctive Lumbutts Water Tower. Passing Top Brink Inn continue down a cobbled path to Lumbutts village. The chapel is home to the Old Lady of Lumbutts, a 3 ton organ. A source of Methodist disaffection and ideological dispute. The god fearing John Wesley chanted “music’s charm bewitch and steal our hearts away from thee”.

Turn right into the road towards the village and up Lumbutts Road beyond the fenced Mooreland. passing Causeway Farm and after the bus stop turn right. The Calderdale Way sign was concealed in bushes along this lane. Residents at the corner house agreed to prune and confirmed directions. Croft Barn with date stone 1727 is on the left. Proceed through the gate into a walled lane. After 200 metres go through the stone stile on the left with a post marked with Calderdale Way. Keep to the side of the wall climbing over three stiles to Higher Longfield farm. Pass through the yard with cottages on your right. Immediately go through the stile by Pole 273. Fifty metres along go over the stile marked Calderdale Way and carry on between equestrian centre building and stables. Turn left at the T junction and then 2nd right. There is a stone pillar with Calderdale Way direction arrow. The spire of the Unitarian Church is below on your right.

We come across a resident of Todmorden, ever so slightly inebriated, enough to loosen his tongue. There is no more work in Tod, it is merely a dormitory for Manchester, Leeds and Bradford. Houses became too expensive for the native population. The indigenous population ruptured in the process. Community stubbornly survives in plots of community cultivated land for pick your own vegetables, herbs and fruit. The guerrilla gardeners of Incredible Edible inspired by the war time dig for victory. Community allotments spring up everywhere. Charlie boy has been and laid his seal of approval on the project.

At the S-bend behind walls on the left you will pass the consecrated Quaker burial ground, where the date stone is 1668. Continue down the walled lane to the steep metalled road passing the Unitarian Church on the left. You can admire the impressive steeple. In the shadows is the Fielden family tomb in remembrance of their reformism, endowments and support for universal franchise. Proceed down into Todmorden entering Fielden Square by the Golden Lion Inn, where the Royd Mail coach called in 1825. Tod is the former border town between Mercia and Northumbria. In ancient folklore Todmorden was notorious for bestiality, incest and imbecility. They even had their own sub-normality hospital. I can remember visiting Blair. God knows why I never returned. He could have lived in our own community in Barnoldswick. A town tolerant of non-conformist sexual morels.

Leaving this small square turn left along the Rochdale Road away from the town centre as far as Dobroyd Road on the right, opposite Morrison’s. The Calderdale Way sign is marked on the side of the wall stone. Cross the Rochdale Canal, built in 1804. Bear left uphill towards the lodge gate of Dobroyd Castle. Over the train track and turn left uphill. This is a strenuous pull up after reaching the valley bottom in Tod. Continue forward to Stones Farm up Stones Road. Carry on as views open up with sights of Dobroyd Castle below on your right. Built by John Fielden as a honeymoon retreat for his mill girl wife. Immortalising his name with an eclectic architecture of Tudor, Romanesque and Gothic design. It became an Approved School until 1979. A finishing school for wayward youth. We sent many there as their tariff increased. Buddhist monks intoned here from 1995. It has been a children’s activity centre since 2007. You can hear them shrieking and delighting in their water games on the lake, decked in regimental yellow crash helmets and life jackets.

Just before a farm on the left proceed through stone gate posts with fading Calderdale Way direction arrow pointing the way forward. Continue through gate posts where there is a Calderdale Way footpath sign. Stoodley Pike sits on the horizon on your right. Carry on above the wood following the path by the wall on your right through open fields beyond the farmhouse on the right. The guide is baffling and a hindrance. You need to navigate yourself utilising Todmorden as a beacon below.

At the end of a concrete track turn right down the road with High Barn Farm on the right. Continue downhill with a sheer drop on the left falling through the woods into the valley bottom and Centre Vale Park where you could have found an aviary, aquarium, bandstand and Fielden statue.

Carry on down Dog House Lane. At a junction you can turn hard left down Sigget Lane, the park and on to Ewood Lane and the Todmorden, Burnley Road A646.

Completing this leg of our journey we carried on to Station Approach where we joined other weary travellers returning to Bradford by rail.