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


Pecket Well – Luddenden Dean

(4½ miles)

These remote hamlets take some reaching by train and bus. This morning we are driven by Carolyn to Pecket Well for an early start.

It is rather bleak and drizzly. An autumn day not yet settled into the equinox. It feels incongruous to be up here in the clouds. It is not yet two weeks since we buried my brother, John in our mother’s grave. Another life cycle completed. I have a plot reserved.

As we enter the A6033 turn right along the road for about 200 metres. Proceed up Shawcroft Hill towards a group of buildings. In front of the houses go left along a grassy path. Passing beneath two sets of electricity cables continue up a walled track marked to Slack Farm. Climb up to the Moor over a wooden stile and proceed as directed by the yellow arrow. Keep to the wall until you reach another wooden stile taking you back to the main track. Here you have the dilemma of three paths. Take the middle way as guided by the Calderdale Way direction post standing ten metres to your right. You are now moving into the vicinity of Bog Eggs. Drizzly mist thickening as visibility shrinks to a hundred yards. You would switch on the fog lights if you could. Your older adults should not be allowed out in this place alone, especially map reading illiterates without compass. You ought to be issued with a capacity certificate. At Arthur’s Pass you complete an intentions form and carry a personal locator beacon.

Carry on over a stile with the Calderdale Way symbol. Through the next gate immediately before the farmhouse and climb the faint path diagonally to the top corner of the field to a gate stile. A direction arrow points you to the path which fringes the Moor for about one mile. Fog continues swirling, enclosing mountains, rolling mercilessly towards me. Eventually the wind gathers her skirt and rushes over. Fog touches me and spreads along to the next ridge. Revealing some of the rawness and beauty of remote Calderdale. Keep to the path by the wire fence round the edge of the Moor. Do not be tempted by paths to the summit.

As you progress the proper way is reassuringly confirmed by direction arrows on fence posts. There’s swamps and bogs aplenty testing the quality of your hiking gear. You will come to the top side of the golf course at Mount Skip. Stay above the golf course fence. Just before the gate leading to the club house take the path up to the left towards Midgley Moor. After 200 metres the footpath post arrow directs you further upwards to the Moor. Remain on the path leading towards two lonely trees in the distance. For part of the way someone has thoughtfully paved with slabs to avoid you plunging into the cauldron of mud. I must be getting fitter; I am having no side effects. Maybe I am becoming accustomed to this tramping malarkey. I have had a niggling injury all these months which I seemed to have cured with massage, arnica and slow running.

Take the path to the left leading to the top of the Moor away from the wall. Here you can embrace the sturdy six foot sentinel, Churn Milk Joan. A medieval cross or boundary stone where a milk maid lost her way. The most desolate site in Calderdale where frozen bodies have been unearthed after snow storms. On New Year’s Eve the stone rotates three times.

Just before the stone you can rest on Cranley’s seat admiring views of Stoodley Pike, Heptonstall and Emley Moor. Vistas all lost in the mist.

At the pillar turn right downhill following the line of shooting butts and yellow top posts with the Calderdale Way emblem. A welcome aid as you trudge across the Moor. In this peaceful solitude you soak up the atmosphere melting into the wild hinterland of Calderdale.

As you approach a footpath post keep to the path above with the fence on your right. Avoid the link path downwards. As you proceed there are a series of link paths down to the valley below. I frittered away hours clambering up and down these slopes in a vain search for the legitimate route. A sedate ramble becomes a gruelling trek. Communicating with nature becomes an intrusion, a paralysis of mind operating on auto pilot where you struggle back to think clearly. A sort of rambling catatonia bereft of dangers.

By trial and error I discover you take the 5th stile on your right by the side of the metal gate with a painted yellow arrow on the adjacent stone wall.

Immediately turn left on to a tarmaced farm drive and down to the junction. Turn right and first left after 50 metres down Dry Carr Lane. At the third house on your right turn into its cobbled drive. At the corner go through the gate by a wooden post sign for the Calderdale Way. Down the field you will go over a stone stile and left along the path which takes you past a house and into Jerusalem Lane. Turn right and 200 metres down the road you can enter into the woods by a wall stile marked for Jerusalem Farm. I kept on the lane and passed Jerusalem farm on my left, a local authority educational and recreational centre. It has taken nearly six hours for a four mile hike surveying the moors.

I carried on descending through Ludden Dean. Here there ought to be a mandatory visit to the Wesleyan Church. You can find testament to the enduring shame of the bosses of Wainstalls Mill. Gravestones bear witness for the fledgling waifs, stray and foundlings of my Liverpool home press-ganged to the Mill in 1879. Hostages to a brutal regime offering only a trickle of pocket money in recompense. They cannot be forgotten. Wilberforce would have turned in his grave.

At the bottom we caught a bus to Halifax. Text to Carolyn to alert my forthcoming return. Blistering reply that she was worried sick and about to call out the Mountain rescue. Psychic lines destined that I would be a man of letters, produce three beautiful children and fly all over the world. All of this came to pass. I am fated to die as an old man, in bed with my boots on. I would have been alright out in this wilderness. I was served a delicious, hot, corned beef concoction, sharing the latest instalment of Coronation Street with my feet up.