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

Ripponden to Cragg Vale

(5 miles)

The bluebells have been and wilted. After weeks of icy north easterly at last a proper summer’s day. Blue azure fading into the heat haze hanging over the mountains. The blazing sun coddling the old bones. The downside a bunged, sniffling and dribbling hay fever. Anti histamine was never an antidote but a touch of deadly nightshade will often see out the season.

With your bus pass it is two free rides to Ripponden. The 508 to Halifax bus station where piped music drifts back to the 60’s with Eric wailing the unabridged brothel ballad of The House of the Rising Sun. Fifty years ago and it still pulls a few strings. Everything at this age becomes a sentimental journey. Old men find it easier to be tearful.

The Rochdale 528 bus drops you in Ripponden by Royd Lane where we recommence our Calderdale Way. I get tired out before I reach these excursions. I’m ready for a little nap rather than drawing on my resources. It is half term when the young are let out to spend time with the elderly. There are George’s flags everywhere. It is only ten days to the opening ceremony. St George the Turkish slayer of dragons. I would like a few hammers and sickle. England to lose by a short head.

Ripponden attracts Morris Dancers from all over the world for its pagan rush bearing festival. Last year the procession was led by the New Orleans Jazz Band. Here the steeply sided Ryburn Valley is the site of a Roman settlement and rich in Neolithic and Bronze Age remains. In 1772 the Ryburn burst its banks and its torrents spewed out bodies from their resting graves and laid coffins perched in the trees.

Opposite the bus stop you walk uphill on Royd Lane for 150 metres. Turn right between two stone gateposts which are signposted for the Calderdale Way. After 50 metres turn left over a stile just below a bungalow where the owner could regale you with stories of stampeding cattle. Proceed along the path over a makeshift stile. Keep to the high wall on the right and continue across fields towards Burk’s Farm. Just before the farm go through the gate stile and round the farm building to the walled lane. In case of territorial dogs keep our Dazer on alert mode. After 200 metres you will see the Calderdale Way sign. Continue up by the wall on the top side of the meadow. As you go through a stone stile the Ryburn Valley features on your right. Keep close to the wall on your left until you come to a stile in the corner. Turn left and follow Calderdale Way sign up another walled lane, Cow Lane, to Soyland Town. Tranquillity and solitude rudely interrupted by crescendo of throbbing sound as low flying is practiced.

Above you can see the miniscule hilltop hamlet of Soyland. Once a thriving centre of the cottage weaving industry, now a conservation area. Weaving sheds where cacophony of deafening patterns feed the thirst for communication. Where sign language became a liberation . Where the stench of textiles clings to your being revealing your trade. Avaricious looms dictating the pace of work. Circumscribing your snatched periods for toileting and smoking as you interlude away from rhythmic pounding of the machines. The endless monotony dreams of virgin breath in rural retreats. You have to seek solace in breathless sensual pleasures. In their hunger for life the Luddities fought this alienation.

On entering Soyland turn right along the road with a Calderdale Way direction arrow on a telegraph pole. Go past Making Place Hall on the left. Once an academy for commercial skills credited with invention of Pitman.

Opposite Making Place Farm turn right through a stile marked with a Calderdale Way sign and along a paved path. After 200 metres pass through the gate stile and turn right down Highfield Lane. In another 200 metres go through the gate and adjacent stile following the direction footpath sign. Keep moving here or the swarm of midges will pierce you. Continue downhill over four stiles. Down in the valley below is Millbank village. Proceed down steep steps to a wall stile and left into Faxen Lane and then right towards the village of imposing stone cottages. With the old watermill on your right turn sharp left just before the stream. There is a footpath sign in front of the bridge. Continue along the Clough with village stream on your right. Climb uphill for several hundreds of metres through the woods. At the top you will come to a metalled road. Sweating profusely with heat and hill climbing. Turn right up the road and alongside acres of mown grass. Not ideal for gasping asthmatics prone to allergies. Careful attention is required at this point to avoid derailment. I had to be rescued by a posh local from the upper crust who was friendly and helpful. Keep going along this road called Gough Lane passing Gough Cottage. Ignore footpath sign to Alma Lane on your right. At the end of Gough Lane join Lighthazles Road. Cross the road and continue up the road opposite. There is a Calderdale Way signpost by the side of a house. Proceed for about one mile past a number of farms. The moors and rolling hills of Calderdale unfold as you reach the summit. My guide instructs to turn right after Cuckold Haven farm, now re-named as Wagon farm according to the juvenile cyclists in the farmyard. No longer a retreat for maligned husbands.

After the farm turn right up a walled track. There is footpath sign for the Calderdale Way to Slate Delves and to the derelict and abandoned Flints Reservoir. Continue to the top of the lane to a wooden stile marked with the Calderdale Way sign. This can provide a perch for a picnic with the panorama of moorland. If you are lucky you may be propositioned by the farmer’s wife in a Range Rover and green wellies.

Over the stile keep to the left on top of the embankment. Climb over a wooden stile by a boundary stone. Cross the field diagonally following the path to the ruin on the skyline. Through a wall stile and continue straight on a sandy track towards Slate Delfs Hill. This is Flint’s wartime decoy station. A brick built bunker, a starfish site where fires and simulated explosions were designed to deflect bombers away from nearby conurbations. It is not recorded whether Nazi bombers were duped.

Just beyond Slate Delfs Hill you come to a junction of tracks. Turn right along the moorland ridge with Stoodley Pike on the hill opposite on your left. This is Waterstalls Road. Continue through several gates as you can see Ovenden Wind Farm. A family of cyclists confirmed that we are still heading towards Cragg Vale. After the third gate a Calderdale Way footpath sign directs you left downhill to Catherine House Farm with its unusual chimney. A round stone chamber sitting on a square base next to the barn. A distinctive chimney used for drying corn. A couple of Brummies pass on their way to Hebden Bridge.

Carry on past the farm and cross the road along to Coppy Nook Lane. About 300 metres along turn left down the track to a gate. Continue downhill and after 200 metres bear right at the fork. Immediately before the renovated farmhouse turn sharp left and over a wooden stile. Go through a gate stile and down hundreds of causey stones. Turn left before the field corner, ignoring footpath signs 10 metres further along. Proceed along the causey stones down to a sunken double walled lane. Turn right past a farmhouse and left down to the main road to Cragg Vale. Known as Cragg this secluded village providing a haven for off comers and home workers escaping the rat race. The site of a royal hunting ground where boars, stags and wolves provided pleasure in this Norman deer park. Cragg is famous for the Cragg Coiners, counterfeiters led by King David Hartley. The Turvin gang with connivance of local publicans and collusion of local constabulary came close to wrecking the legitimate economy. King David was hanged in 1770 in York for his crimes. The body of his accomplice, Robert Thomas, was hung on the gibbet on Beacon Hill above Halifax. Desecrated for over eight years his rotting flesh served as a macabre warning. In all this time no righteous Christian person rescued decaying Robert and rested him in his own private plot. Church goers would have passed this way over many years. Let us pray for the destitute who got caught.

Alongside the coiners the mills round here were no place for any decent humans. A murderous factory system where children died of toil and harsh treatment at the hands of millionaires amassing their wealth and fortune. The coiners reward for challenging poverty and exchange value was a ruthless execution. Their executioners have no obituary. Governments print money for fun. There are still groups of forgers circulating millions of counterfeit notes. King David’s namesake and copier John Hartley is now being punished at her Majesty’s pleasure.

For the link path to Mytholmroyd you need to cross the road and proceed sharp left. We follow the footpath sign to St John’s Church down Church Bank. An impressive and sombre stone monument to John the Baptist awaits you. Follow the footpath sign and turn right alongside the Hinchcliffe Pub where you can stop to admire their cuisine, coiners memorabilia and exotic collection of hats. It is here where you can experience yard of ale contests. Continue through the woods, over a bridge to a road leading to the main road into Mytholmroyd. A town proud of its coiners heritage, a settlement of antiquity and boyhood home of poet Ted Hughes.

Regular buses shift along the valley to Halifax. From a trance of tranquillity absorbed in a reverie of solitude, nature and historical reminisce to the intervention of contemporary reality. Hordes of passengers wait for delayed buses. Rumours are rife the North Bridge is closed by a road traffic accident, bungee jumper or suicide leapers. After waiting nearly an hour and no signs of buses we decide to traipse to the train station to pick up the Manchester to Bradford train. Trains delayed and cancelled. Eventually hopped onto a late train. Sat at a table opposite a loud, drunk 59 year old man celebrating his birthday. The table is sloshing and dripping with spilt cheap cider. As I mop and soak up the wash he offers me a job as his cleaner. I could do it and I’d be cheap. Disinhibited, he entertains the carriage. He has come along the line from Todmorden which he defines as sheepshaggers country. He is on his way to Bradford for his birthday where he is sure to find some big titted women. Arriving at the Interchange he wallowed in alarming passengers with his fearsome bellowing. It has taken 3 hours to return home on public transport. All in a day’s journey from peaceful serenity to chaotic commute with the masses.