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

Shelf to Brighouse

Calderdale Walks It is your first day of spring. The sun is beaming; you can have light and be swathed in warmth. A time for new beginnings. The crocuses are out and about in their yellow, deep purples and starched whites. As a senior you can study meteorological forecasts and pick ‘n’ choose your moment. There’s a shortage of daffodils as the harsh protracted winter retarded their progress. Shy of sprouting their heads. The sap rises and the old man’s thoughts turn to wonder and warmness.

We set off from home on our first instalment of the Calderdale Way. Start as you mean to go on. A project begun a generation ago but not concluded. An open air recreation stalled at Tod. We have the opportunity to reminisce and complete the circle. Getting the house in order before moving on. To start and finish from home in a clockwise direction. A route of 50 miles around Calderdale divided into 14 sections for the lay walker. You can traverse its length in two or three days or strive for a record attempt in one.

Our maiden stretch begins at the Stone Chair in Shelf. The essential pack of rucksack bundled with maps, guides, suckers and scroggle, drinks and sandwiches, brolly, camera and mobile. Bought my first brace of walking shoes. I’ve walked a million miles without rambling footwear. Trekkers can slosh puddles and mud and keep dry feet. They need to be run in and christened with excrement before embarkation. I have shower proof anorak and waterproof trousers. I could pass for an intrepid rambler.

Over 300 million years ago Calderdale was a shallow tropical sea where mammoths, elephants and rhinos roamed by the shore. Later the arctic weather and ice age chiselled out the precipitous valley. Its legacy is a precarious and unpredictable climate. You set off armed for all weathers as its geological history can be condensed into one days experience on the moors towering above, out yonder the Pennines reveal themselves enticing and challenging in their raw beauty and menacing terrain. An old man could die in this wilderness.

The Stone Chair was erected in 1737 in Shelf to mark the opening of the coaching route between Bradford and Halifax. Two separate slabs hold the stone seat. Opposite is the Duke of York, an hostelry offering accommodation, selections for beers and buffets of Sunday roasts.

Setting off in wintry sunshine walking into blustery headwinds wrestling with whether to adapt a leisurely stroll or brisk rambling canter. After an addictive 5 mile can this dawn already legs tired and heavy laden with draining of lactic acid. Looking over to the Pennines you can see some of the landmarks I will be conquering over the next few months.

Shelf where you can be shaved, butchers purloin locally sourced meats, sup beer before signing the pledge. You can, haul coal bags home to fire, buy small Polo’s and work at the Interface weaving complex. At Shelf Park you can mark out jogging trails and link into the Calderdale Way. A park hidden away in an enclosure known only to locals. There’s walks alongside topped off mineshafts.

From the Stone Chair proceed down West Street along and uphill keeping the Pennines to your right passing Shelf Junior School with The Rook B n B.com on your right. Fifty metres further on turn right down a snicket sign posted Calderdale Way footpath sign. Straight across Halifax Road and down Bridle Stile along the pock marked unmade road. Continue keeping Shelf Hall Park on your left. The road narrows to a track as you walk by Stile House on the right. Cutting through fields, keeping dogs on leash. The farmer loses loads of spring lambs aborted by rampaging canines. I had to daze an Alsatian growling and straining to break free. You can get your Dog Dazer on the internet. They say it’s cruel, scrambling their brains. The RSPCA no longer distribute. It’s cruel for fangs to be locked into your posterior. I have no compunction; it’s an aid to confidence and avoids fear and anxiety as the electronic signal stops them in their tracks.

Now you lose sight and sound of cars and roads and factories. You can see Coley Church in the distance on the right. The wind shrieks over the moorland unsettling the calm equanimity. A reminder of who it all belongs to, who’s in charge. Communication with nature a challenging and demanding dialogue. The ancient rocks have a story to tell if you can listen.

Continue to Dean House Farm and just before the yard turn left through the stone stile with footpath signed to Norwood Green. Cut diagonally across the field down to the stream. At this junction I was caught unawares with a bit of the old collywobbles. Unable to contain myself as a trail of diarrhoea seeps out as I approach the beck. A sort of premature, unannounced incontinence. My stomach had felt a little delicate; there must be a bug somewhere. With much restraint and manual dexterity I managed to discard soiled underwear without contaminating rest of clothing. I find a position dangling my bottom above the refreshing running water as I massage myself clean. Thank god for this ice cold outside bidet. Grateful that this lovely isolated picnic spot provides camouflage and safe refuge. Perhaps the elderly should not be allowed out alone in the countryside. Make a mental note to add spare toilet rolls for the essentials. The perils of country walking and being close to nature. I must have contravened some wayfarer’s code. I’ve run marathons and never shit myself before, today the bowels rumbled after a mile.

All of this is reminiscent of an earlier life. A nipper at Sunday school at Great Horton. Each week blessed and returned home, faeces encrusted in soiled pants presented to mother for purging. Never seemed right to me so I cleansed myself without bothering my mother. Eventually I raised the gumption to stop passively engaging with fanciful biblical metaphors and retentive preachers. The maxim adopted was “always clean up one’s own mess”. There are corrections threaded throughout life where we are condemned to repeat traumas until detached humour squeezes out the pain.

Over the slab bridge to start the steep ascent up 100 stone steps. Turn right at the top and down by the side of Heathwood House. Now rescued and converted this house remained abandoned and dilapidated for many years. With all the excitement and climbing I am warming up and discarding clothing.

Proceed through the wooden stile in front of you and follow the narrow path keeping to the top as it splits through North Wood. The Calderdale Way sign points up and across the field towards a pylon. Do not continue on the path straight into the woods. This is private property owned and patrolled by shotgun toting farmers.

Carry on through the stile at the summit for the field and follow the track keeping the wall to your right. Through the bushes you will come to Middle Ox Heys. I’ve met only one man and his dog this morning.

Alongside the way they have constructed a two metre high dry stone wall boundary. Inside are new houses and garages barricaded in by imposing wooden gates. Rather than a farm it is now a gated community. Walkers dare not peep. There are floodlights and security alarms. They must have demolished the old farm. It was a failing; rundown enterprise toiled by a shaven, bullet head and his carbon copy son. An uncle festa look-alike sneaking out only in the shadows of evening twilight.

The Calderdale Way has become a tarmaced road for the half mile to the village of Norwood Green. You will pass by the security gate with coded lock.

Walt Disney built the first gated community as safe havens and discovered inhabitants became more fearful of the outside world – shrivelled and cowering exiles in their own country.

Workers have made a good job of dry stone walling, an art requiring patience and skill. This is where the rich live cosseted and encircled. Make way for the runabout Audis and Mercs.

As you come to the end of the road proceed left up the brow of the hill into Norwood Green. An attractive Pennine village of 250 houses nicknamed ‘The retirement village and the village of peace’. On your right is the Jubilee Clock Tower with time stalled at three minutes to midnight. Built in 1897 by the family of Mrs Ephrain Ellis in memory of their father.

Sowden Lane on your left leads to the pick your own fruit farm. Carry on down the main street past the Old White Bear with the ambience of an old fashioned country pub, built in 1563 from the timbers of Armada shipping. You can have roaring fires, delicious food, real ales and a beer garden. Voted Yorkshire’s best in 2007.

There are patches of green common land. Buses pass by twice a day on three days a week. You will see the War Memorial designed by Herbert Percy Jackson and erected by the Priestley Brothers of Queensbury. A cenotaph and shrine to the men of the township of Norwood Green and Coley who gave their lives in the combats of 1914 and 1939.

Turn right down Rookes Lane and left down a track by the side of a small playground. As you pass you can appreciate Rookes Hall, residence of Henry de Rookes in 1272. Continue alongside the village cricket ground founded in 1900. It is justifiably self- proclaimed as the best ground in Yorkshire.

Cross the bridge where you can spot the Transpennine Express on the straight line to Manchester. All the horses here wear coloured overcoats. Follow the path across the field towards the A58. You will be penned in by flimsy, amateurish wire fence.

Cross over the A58 and through a wooden gate with Nord Green Nurseries on the left. You can picture Wyke viaduct straddling Hellfire Corner. Cut off in its prime and hosting the dead, defunct railway line.

Head towards the new houses through the opening in a field wall. There is a warning sign that it is an offence not to clean up after a comfort break. Follow the footpath down to the stream in front of the estate of new dwellings, over a wooden stile and across the double slab footbridge with steel rails over Wyke Beck. Walk through the gap between the houses to Bailiff Bridge. Now a habitat for admirers of Barratt’s condominiums. They do not have much space between. On this site lived the carpet workers of Clifton and Victoria Mills.

As you proceed you can hear the cackle and chattering of Bailiff Bridge junior school on your left. You could enter the Memorable Gardens, winner of the Green Flag. It is restored and manicured in remembrance of those fallen in the Great War. Workers from the mills transformed from factory to cannon fodder for the generals. Pause for a while sharing your lunch in a reverie with the native spirits. Costcutters will provide your sandwiches, drinks and home-made samosas.

At the end of the road turn left by the Punchbowl and cross the road by the traffic lights. Firth’s Carpets once prominent and focal in Bailiff Bridge reduced to mere rubble.

Continue uphill with Clifton House on the right. Before the railway bridge turn right on to Birkhouse Road, bearing left under a bridge. Passing hen coops on your right on to an unmade track up to Woodrow Farm at the top of a steep ascent. I remember this drag from years ago, even then it buggered me. By the farm turn left in front of a bungalow. The Calderdale Way motif on the stone pillar points the way through the stone stile.

Turn right down the series of fields overlooking Bailiff Bridge and Brighouse. Dropping down to a stream at the bottom. Through muddy terrain shorn of grass by galloping equines. Passing Hole Bottom Farm walk up to a metalled road turning right on to Thornhill Beck Lane. After 200 metres climb the stone steps on your left and uphill and over a stile about 200 metres to the right of a pillar box. You will have passed through a field with horses, ponies and donkey tethered and straining at the leash.

Turn right onto Thornhills Lane; follow the road round passing a large house, The Lodge, once an isolation hospital. With stone walls surrounding the estate it is a gated relic from a bygone age. After 200 metres turn right into the field path downhill towards the old railway embankment looking down into the sprawl of the Brighouse basin. A scattering of long haired Highland cattle will be munching contentedly. To your left the constant stream of the M62 built high into the hills. Through a stile and along the side of the railway line to Clifton Common. There are remnants of the colliery tramway on the hill to your left. Why is no one trekking these routes? There is a solitary pigeon fancier wafting his flat cap and releasing his flock. Keep going on to the A643 and straight across down Alegar Street and turn right into Wakefield Road . You hit the rushing, vibrating traffic.

Turn left down Grave Street and right along Mill Lane to the New Tavern, now re-named as The Barge where you can indulge in Irish George and Guinness. Left down Wharfe Street alongside Sainsbury’s. You are now in central Brighouse. A town famous for its canal, spam baps and the Ritz cinema where 60’s combos still find a stage. Alan Price is here next week.

Carry on towards the canal. They even have boat builders here. The Calder and Hebble Navigation was opened in 1770.

The canal is a centre for leisure cruising overlooked by mills converted into balcony apartments. Stop on the iron bridge for views of canal and basin.

Follow the tow path with Blakeley’s fish and chip shop and open air market on the right. Opposite are the towering white silos of the deceased flour mill. You could turn right and set foot in the town centre. Soon coming across the Black Bull Hotel for bacon butties, latte, beer and burger and hot chocolate for the Black Bull breakfast. There are bona fide native shops, holistic and organic with butchers, bakers and grocers. Compulsory charity shops stranded between wine merchants and the sequence of ethnic restaurants.

This is the end of my opening day’s trek. On to the revamped bus station. Standing room only with seating for only a handful of weary passengers. It will be the School bus home. Encouraging that so many kids travel on public transport. They seem to enjoy themselves. At least they have peers and not parents as chaperones.

A roundabout way back home but it is door to door service and free on a Senior Card. An enjoyable day becoming familiar once more with this region of Calderdale.