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

Todmorden to Heptonstall

(7½ miles)

Back to Tod on the train to pick up the trail to Heptonstall. We arrived late with delays at Bradford train station where staff blocked my rush to catch the departing train. No doubt there was an obstruction in the alimentary canal.

Last night we had torrential rain, thunder and lightning. Already it has rained on St Swithen’s Day; so far the old maxim is bearing fruition. Will we see squelchy quicksands of mud and fallen timber?

The Manchester train costs only 50p each way to Todmorden. The condemns will remove our subsidy and communal enterprise. The 9.30 window should not be breached. It is shameful to strive for free transport and deprive the company of their profit. Our bus slowed by the gaggle of pensioners shuffling in disarray as they compare time-pieces. They could be more sprightly. I was late for my train. There was an opportunity for a toilet. An elderly gentleman fixed his gaze on my member as we urinated in line. At last the sun popped out.

Coming out of Todmorden station turn left to return to Burnley Road. Proceed to Centre Vale Park with the open air market and bus station on your right. Keep going past Todmorden cricket ground and enter the park. At the information board you can read about John Fielden who married Ruth a weaver at the family factory. She discovered the transition difficult and died an alcoholic at the age of 50. Another famous son was William Holt, radio personality, war correspondent, author and the only communist elected to the town council. At the age of 66 he navigated the European Tour on his rag and bone horse Trigger. An inspiration to us all but he seemed to have little left for investment in his family. GP Harold Shipman began his murderous campaign here.

Continue through Centre Vale Park stopping to admire the impressive bandstand. Return to Burnley Road passing Ewood Lane, the Sports Centre and the playing fields on the left. Immediately before the bridge turn right where the footpath sign indicates the Calderdale Way. With the beck on your left carry on through a large railway arch to Stanally Farm. I have forgotten my Dazer for dogs standing guard.

After the farm proceed straight along the track, ignoring the turn to the right. Sweat oozing as labour steeply uphill, legs a little wobbly. I adopt the old fell race technique pressing hard down on thighs to share the load. As you reach the fringes of open moorland the direction post confirms you remain on track to Rake Hey farm. We are now way above Todmorden in the valley below. After the farm bear left along the walled trail until you come to the crossways junction. Turn right onto an old packhorse road going through three gates. What a haul up here where you seem on a higher plain than any surrounding contours. U.F.O’s have been spotted from this viewing platform. The beauty of Tod and its environs for all to see.

Passing Whirlow Stones proceed along causey stones of gritstone boulders across Whirlow Common. Passed by a couple of joggers-how do they get up here? “It’s a wonderful view from here”. At the top there’s evidence of localised flooding and bog holes to skirt. Continue through a walled path passing East Whirlow Farm and through the gate. After 30 metres turn right down the track following the blue direction arrow for Todmorden Centenary Walk. Carry on downhill to the bridge across Wickenberry Clough. At this junction you are enticed to choose the wrong path. Mistakenly I followed the link path down the steep ascent to Meadow Bottom returning to the base of the valley. Taking advice from fish and chip proprietors and wondering locals I grudgingly recommenced the ascent once again. I expect natives to know the way. I lost myself meandering across the moors visiting isolated farms off- piste. Eventually I strayed back onto the Calderdale Way just before the Great Rock. Successfully accomplished the route to Blackshaw Head. After much studied reflection I decided to retrace my steps all the way back to Wickenberry Clough Bridge. It seemed the only way to rediscover the bone-fide course. At this stage back pains to the fore as stiles become hurdles to endure. Searing pain in heels and ankles where wear and tear has dissolved ligaments to expose crunching bones. The day ends exhausted with a sloping gait evidence of a deficiency in liquids, sugars and electrolytes. An arduous day soothed by a greedy gobble of pop and chocolate.

A week later, replenished and determined I have returned to Todmorden to clamber up the perpendicular vertical to the bridge at Withen Clough. There’s something about Tod tugging you back in its seductive embrace, reluctant to release. The start delayed by persistent showers and downpours. The height of summer yet to be scaled with temperatures hovering below 19c. All of these months are taking on the cloak of an unpredictable September. Forecasters have decreed sleet and snow in the Autumn.

Back at the crossroads at Withenberry Clough ignore the left turn to Latchford Cottage. Do not be tempted to the right back down to Todmorden. Proceed straight across up a narrow path. After 20 metres go through the gate stile on the left which is marked with the Calderdale Way emblem. Carry on over the next stile in front of you and up to a gate way with a stile at the side. Straight across through the next stile. Follow the path to the tree line and over a stile into the edge of the golf course on your right, passing small red posts. Stoodley Pike becomes visible on the summit to your right. When you join the road , Hey Head Lane turn left. After about 80 metres turn right up a track directly opposite West Hey Head Farm. The Calderdale Way footpath post has fallen down and hides in the bushes. Pass by East Hey Head farm and through three stiles to an overgrown cutting. I sheltered under trees from Calderdale’s driving rain lashing over the valley. A forlorn figure concealed under an umbrella relieving myself up against a trunk. Stoodley Pike disappears in the mist. Proceed straight over the hummocks of Law Hill. The paths are migrating into rushing rivers. Over the top and down to two stiles each side of a grassy lane. Carry on by the edge of the field alongside Killup Farm. You are supposed to sight the tower of Cross Stone Church below on the right. A mullion church built in 1835, financed by the French government in reparation for the Napoleon War. A time when the vanquished rewarded the victors. It is now closed as a consequence of land slip.

Continue beyond the farm to the next stile marked Calderdale Way. As the wind rattles over the moors the sheep stop and stare. They cannot see many humans out here. Cross the overgrown lane and through the next stile ahead. Follow the path into the Clough across the waterfall stream and after 20 metres turn left uphill in the direction of the yellow arrows. Proceed round the boundary fence of Higher Birks Farm and follow direction arrows up the derelict wall on the left. At the end of the wall bear left and then right as guided by arrows on wooden posts. Great Rock is not yet in sight as claimed in the guide. It is directly in front of you but shrouded by trees.

Progress through 2 stiles on to a walled lane. Spirits are lifted as sunshine highlights the valley below as you stroll on the edge of the crater. You can be reinvigorated by reaching the plateau and levelled walking. As you enter the road turn left. After 20 metres turn right at the junction and down to Great Rock. They pick berries here don’t they?

Immediately before Great Rock turn left on to a grassy track to Staups Moor. There is a marker painted on the rock and a foot post hidden in the undergrowth. Continue through the gate stile with the Calderdale Way sign on the post. Keeping the wall on your right follow the path down to a ladder stile. There is not much sign of life here. You see the occasional Cessna whirling on the thermals. I assume they will have notices of storms approaching.

Descend the steep path to the road below and cross Hippins Bridge. Immediately after the bridge turn right where there is a footpath sign for the Calderdale Way into a walled track with a clough down below on your right. Follow the path past Hippins House, a millstone grit mullioned house date stoned 1650. Continue through farm buildings to a stone pillar stile. The path accompanies a line of electricity poles above you. Proceed through 2 stiles by Apple Tree Farm. Clearing several wooden stiles cross the field to a gate stile marked Calderdale Way. The path leads to Badger Lane at Blackshaw Edge, a remote Pennine village of less than one thousand inhabitants.

The post office seems to have been replaced by Birch Cottage. As you enter Badger Lane turn right and after five metres go through a gate stile on the opposite side of the road. Follow the flagged path which can be hidden partially by grass. The path continues over the crest of the hill crossing down over fields and several wooden stiles to an enclosed walled pathway, Bow Lane. A toiling farmer brushes aside my complaints of another torrential interlude, “it never gets ugly out here”. Carry on down to Shaw Bottom past a house on your right to an access road. Turn right following Calderdale Way arrow at the junction. Continue as it becomes a rough track with River Calder and Hudson Mill down below on the left. Proceed along the path avoiding the first direction arrow on the Pennine Way footpath post. It is only the second occasion we encounter the Pennine Way. Turn left down steps to Hebble Hole Bridge. An ancient clapper footbridge constructed with four great stone slabs over Calder Water. A popular picnic spot which outlaws campers.

Cross the bridge and turn right on the flagged Pannierman’s Way rising to a fork. Go left on flags carrying straight on following the Calderdale Way sign; spurn the steps for the Pennine Way on your left. Carry on above Foster Wood ignoring the footpath sign and gate stile on the left leading over the hill. Keep on the causeway at the top side of the wood. Proceed as the arrow post and sign point you over a stile and through a gate stile into a field. Keep to the causeway running along several fields with woods on your right as it becomes an unmarked path. In front of you is Heptonstall Church clasped precariously on the promontory. Further along you can grasp how the jigsaw of Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge fit together. Bear left up a walled track as the Calderdale Way sign and arrow directs you. At the junction turn right as indicated by the Calderdale Way footpath sign. Walk behind the cottages, over a stone stile and along a causey. Over the next stile several tracks converge. There are no signs or arrows to discover the correct route. After much vacillation and consultation with fellow ramblers decided to proceed straight down the wide walled path towards the Clough.

After about 150 metres make sure you keep to the top path, not down to the right. Coming to a tarmac road where there is a Calderdale Way sign proceed uphill. Somewhere round here is Lumb Bank House, residence of Ted Hughes. After the electricity post go through a gap in the wall. There is a footpath post signed towards Heptonstall. Follow the path through Eaves Wood. Clambering over rocks look out for a faded Calderdale Way foot post encouraging you to stick to the high path until you reach the level path at the top of the woods with a wall on your left. It opens up for a panorama of the village and Hebden Bridge below on your right. You can now observe Stoodley Pike from the other side. Looking back you can see the remarkable setting for Lumb Bank House whittled out of the woods. He must have had a lot of money. I can compose poetry but not like that.

You are on the crest of giant boulders. The path is joined by steps leading down the edge of the ridge. Turn left as shown by the Calderdale Way sign painted into the walled path. Walk on towards the Victorian Parish Church of Heptonstall. Go round the church passing the Chantry House on the left, a haunted house used to store bodies. After 10 metres ascend the stone steps on your left to the churchyard where the remains of 100,000 souls are buried. The consecrated ground shared with the shell of the St Thomas a’ Becket church dating from the C13th .You can find King David Hartley’s grave between the two churches.

Heptonstall is an ancient hilltop village 850 feet up defended on three sides by steep slopes. A preserved village once an important centre of handloom weaving. The old grammar school converted to a museum displays the history and artefacts.

Proceed into Towngate by the Cloth Hall right into the cobbled streets of Heptonstall and past Northgate which marks the end of the day’s route.

The path down to Hebden Bridge is steep and straining on calves and knees. Hanging on to the rails, slipping down damp moss cobbles threatens to embarrass.

Hebden Bridge is worth the exploration. Famous as the trouser town it has matured into a bohemian arts and crafts retreat. Voted the fourth quirkiest place in the world. Described as the lesbian capital of Britain where you can suckle on soya based latte and vegan pate in a bubble of compatriots. Characterised by double decker housing packed in stages up the surrounding slopes. Once the habitat and workshop of domestic weavers. Now the indigenous inhabitants capitalised their resources and abandoned for the marauding off – cummdens. It remains an attractive tourist destination rich in industrial architecture and Neolithic landscapes.