We’re interspersing our Severn Way Walk with one or two other strolls in different areas of the UK, and New Year took us to West Yorkshire for celebrations. This is where Pam's roots are set and we visit as often as we can, usually staying with our friends Gary and Rozzie who joined us for 3 stages of The Severn Way Walk last autumn some of you, dear readers, may recall.
We had a great New Years Eve party at their house - 14 of us all told, with a fantastic array of wickedly delicious foods prepared by Rozzie - an exceptionally fine cook I hasten to say - along with a little help from Pam and others.
I’m the cameraman here so as not to be missed out:-
Fabulous Christmas present don’t you think?
During the evening 3 of us did 'a turn' with Bobby and Paul getting us all passing round a parcel whilst a suitably silly, yet very clever, 'left and right' monologue was read, David treated us to an excellent quiz and between courses I did a spot of magic.
We all had copious amounts of fine wine and superb food, saw the New Year in and then chariots arrived to distribute most of the guests back home.
The next morning we re-convened (or at least 7 of us plus Lola the black ladrador) for a 5.5 mile walk that I’d sourced from a small walking guide book called ‘Calderdale’ by Paul Hannon. A walk above 2 wooded valleys, one of which is the splendidly wooded Hebden Dale.
Now… Pam, when embarking upon a walk, some of you may recall, likes to make it known that she does not like what’s known in her native Yorkshire tongue as ‘upards’ - in other words; hills. It was for this reason I decided on the Heptonstall Circular because it clearly stated in the walk description, and I quote: ‘free of any noticeable gradients’. Now, we have to bear in mind that this is written by a Yorkshireman who probably spends his life walking in Yorkshire. And Yorkshire, for the uninitiated, is a place where even a walk to the corner-shop involves a steep gradient either there or back and often-times more than one! So, at the start of the walk I publicly refused to accept any responsibility should hills present themselves! Simply not my fault!
So every time we came upon a steep hillly section (!) that was paradoxically ‘free of any noticeable gradient’ there were distinct and quite prolonged moans from the rear of the troupe!
The occasional incline, however, gave us some spectacular views like this one looking down into the valley of Crimsworth Dean
The scenery throughout the walk was spectacular and I think if any of us had a dull head as a result of the previous night’s over-indulgences then we soon forgot it!
Even the squeeze through a ‘squeeze-stile’ was good fun and I never seize to marvel at the skill of the dry-stone wallers. For readers living in countries where dry-stone walls don’t exist, they were built (and still are) without using mortar of any kind, held together and made stable by the seemingly simple but highly-skilled art of choosing and placing stones in certain positions locking them together to form a solid barrier. Built, instead of hedges and fences, as field divisions they are typical in the north of the country and are one of the ancient arts still practised today. The squeeze stiles, of course, were narrow gaps incorporated into a wall to prevent cattle escaping but allowing most people to squeeze through - often sideways.
This was a rich walk of ever-changing scenery and terrain. Part of it went through this fine beech woodland with Gibson's Mill just seen in the valley way below. The path, at times was close to quite precipitous drops and I wondered if anyone walked this way in the ice and snow of recent weeks. They would have had to take their time and be very sure -footed.
But for the most part of this particular section it was a delightful trek along a wooded hillside…
… with everyone in good spirits and enjoying the first day of the new year 01-01-11
I must say a small word about Paul and Bobby’s black Labrador called Lola.
Now, I have to admit, (and those ardent readers of this blog will already know this) I’m not a great lover of dogs but I easily made an exception for Lola. She’s simply a delight to walk with, obviously enjoys the companionship of anyone she comes into contact with and is very well behaved. She didn’t bark once, didn’t jump up people, sat when told to, and thoroughly enjoyed her walk.
She did give out a yelp, though, when she inadvertently placed her nose on an electric fence, but we can forgive her for that - had it been one of us, sticking our wet nose on an electric fence, then there would have been more than a yelp, I can tell you! Gary made more noise than Lola when a startled pheasant flew up in front of him!
For the most part I took the lead, walking in front, as I had the map and guide-book, and Lola kept me company a lot of the way with the occasional chase backwards to round up the back markers, usually Pam whenever there was a slight 'upards'! A wonderful animal with a quite, gentle nature. And Lola was good too! No… I jest - it’s Lola I refer to of course. A credit to her owners Bobby and Paul.
I still have no inclination to own a dog, I hasten to say, but if all dogs were like Lola I wouldn’t have a problem with them at all.
Now - there’s a great place to live! This path seems to be the only means of access so it’s a tad impractical and is probably why it’s no longer inhabited, but how did anyone get here I wonder?
Isn’t it fab? This is Clough Head, remote, unused and looking a little sorry for itself but who lived here, I wonder, and more to the point - how?
We’re now on the high moors and walking a short stretch of The Pennine Way before picking up The Calderdale Way and our route back to our start and the cars at Heptonstall. This is the highest part of the route at 1200’ above sea-level and a short and light snow flurry greeted us to remind us that this is winter, it’s Yorkshire and it’s exposed!
We dropped down shortly after this and then climbed steadily back to Heptonstall, a fine village set high in the West Yorkshire countryside and a place that seems to be lost in time.
Its weather-beaten cottages sit on steep slopes - in fact 3 sides of the village are quite precipitous slopes - seem to be saying ‘throw whatever elements you want at us - we are survivors and we’ll still be here long after you mortal soles have departed!’.
Stoic, resilient and grand!
A place steeped in history and one I would recommend you visit if ever you find yourselves in the area. It has a fine churchyard, a shell of the former church built in the 13th century, a museum, a quaint octagonal Wesleyan chapel, a dungeon, a 16th century Cloth Hall and 2 exceptionally superb warm and cosy pubs. And here we are entering one of them - The White Lion - set alongside an old cobbled street, at the end of a wonderful walk on the first day of 2011.
And a jolly decent pint too! Paul and I went for the Thwaites Dark Smooth and both agreed a finer pint you’d struggle to get anywhere in the world!
Not sure I’d want to spend the night here though!
Especially as there are 7 of us - that would mean two of the party sleeping in the wash house with the organ grinders! Is that a metaphor for something else I wonder?
You can’t see it but behind the wall where the girls are sitting there was a fabulous log fire warming the room, but with boots somewhat sullied and muddied we confined ourselves to an area of stone flag floor.
And where was Lola? Well… Lola was there… just sitting quietly, taking in the ambience of this fine old English pub and listening to the banter and conversation. Thoroughly happy with her lot.
Catch up with you all soon