First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Fifty years ago next week Britain’s first National Trail, the Pennine Way, was officially opened. It wound through some steep and beautiful landscape in industrial West Yorkshire, but it gave a wide berth to Hebden Bridge – back then a stinking, roaring, smoking mill town, famous for its fustians and corduroys, but nobody’s idea of a pleasant stopover for holiday makers.
Times have changed, and so has the town after a big smartening-up. A new detour route, the Hebden Bridge Loop, is being opened to coincide with the Pennine Way’s anniversary, beckoning walkers aside to savour the organic cafes, artisan bakers and boutique shops of the newly sparkling gritstone town down there in the depths of Calderdale.
On a brisk day with newborn lambs jumping in the fields I climbed the cobbled lane to Horsehold Farm, where the new Loop path led me along the edge of a steep beechwood. A strong, cold wind blew in from the west with a spatter of snowflakes in its skirts. I dropped down through the tender new green leaves of Callis Wood to where road, railway canal and river ran squashed close together by the tight geography of the Calder Valley.
The Hebden Bridge Loop rose very steeply up the northern flank of Calderdale by way of narrow cobbled laneways between green gritstone walls footed in daffodils. Up in the fields 600 feet above the valley bottom, nesting curlews and golden plover flew away with wild bubbling cries, the haunting sound of spring in the northern dales. Back across Calderdale the slim finger of the monument on Stoodley Pike stood high, pointing into a sky swirling with snow and sun.
From the ridge I descended with a superb view north over Golden Clough to far moors painted chocolate and cream. Down through fields of heavily pregnant ewes to Hebble Hole and the little ancient stone footbridge over the Golden Water, a perfect picnic spot on some warm summer’s day. But today it was up and on with the wind at my back to high-perched Heptonstall on the edge of its cleft, and a vertiginous path all the way back down through Mytholm Woods to Hebden Bridge.
Start: Hebden Bridge Station, W. Yorks HX7 6JE (OS ref SD 996268)
Getting there: Rail to Hebden Bridge. Bus – 500 (Keighley), 590, 592 (Halifax-Todmorden), 900 (Huddersfield). Road – M62, Jct 20; A58, A6033 to Todmorden; A46 to Hebden Bridge
Walk: (7 miles, strenuous, OS Explorer OL21): From station entrance, right under railway; right up Palace Hill Road. Down across railway; first left (989271, ‘Horsehold’) up road. Just before Horsehold Farm (982267), follow red circles and white arrows of Hebden Bridge Loop /HBL. In third of a mile, at fingerpost ‘Mankinholes 3¼ miles’, turn right across stream (980261; ‘Collis Bridge’, HBL) In100m, right down gravelled track (‘Pennine Bridleway’). In 450m, with house in sight through trees to left, cross over broad track and take path (978265, ‘Pennine Way’/PW) down to track; on down to cross canal, river and A646 (971264)
Right (PW); in 50m, left (PW, ‘Hebble Hole’) under railway. Very steeply up cobbled laneway. At second pair of yellow arrows/YA, fork left uphill; on up past Higher Underbank Farm. In 100m, hairpin back right by board marked ‘Wainwright Route/ Official Route’ (968266). Follow Official Route over stile, along path. In 300m, fork left uphill at 2-arrow post (970268); steeply up to The Cludgie (ancient WC) and house on road (971269). Left (PW); in 200m, right (PW) north up field edges. In ⅓ mile, cross Badger Lane (967274); on past Badger Fields Farm, over crest, down to cross Golden Water in Hebble Hole on footbridge (968282). In 30m, fork left (YA); in another 100m fork right and keep parallel with river. In 150m, left up steps (970282), through gate (HBL) onto paved field path. Follow this (HBL, YAs) for ¾ mile to Windy Harbour Farm (982283). Right off lane here; immediately left through squeeze stile; follow HBL to road (983283). Right into Heptonstall.
Pass Cross Inn; first right into Hepton Drive (HBL on road name plate); first right into Church Lane; follow HBL past church, then steeply down vertiginous path through woods to road in Hebden Bridge (989273). Right (HBL); in 100m, left (HBL) down steps. Left along A646 at bottom; at traffic lights (991272) right to cross canal; left along towpath. Pass under bridge No. 16 (995270); hairpin back right to road; left to station.
NB – Some short, steep climbs; many steps; vertiginous path from Heptonstall to Hebden Bridge.
Lunch: Cross Inn, Heptonstall (01422-843284).
Accommodation: Hare and Hounds, Old Town, Hebden Bridge HX7 8TN (01422-842671, hareandhounds.me.uk) – very friendly, cosy country pub.