West Yorkshire and Hebden Bridge

Hebden Bridge - By Keith Oxby

West Yorkshire is a central county, with areas of upland moors and the iconic mill towns like Hebden Bridge.  It is this beautiful countryside where the Bronte Sisters who grew up in the quaint town of Haworth and were inspired by its scenery, to write novels that have become English classics.  It has a history of coal, wool and iron industries, some of which still thrive to this day.

The South Pennines contain the cotton towns of Lancashire and the woollen centres of Yorkshire. Between them lie windswept moors of millstone grit and rolling peat moor-land. A characteristic feature of the area is its ancient network of packhorse trails, the old trade routes.  The earliest date back to Anglian and Saxon times, when salt for curing meat was brought from Cheshire over the rough moorland tracks.

The original settlement of Hebden Bridge was the hilltop village of Heptonstall and started as a place where the Halifax to Burnley packhorse route dropped into the valley and crossed the river.

The Rochdale Canal was as conceived in 1776, when a group of 48 men from Rochdale raised £237 and commissioned James Brindley to conduct a survey of possible routes between Sowerby Bridge and Manchester.  The highest volume of traffic was in 1845, when almost a million tons was carried and the last complete journey took place in 1937.

The Pennine Bridleway is a 205-mile National Trail designed specifically for horse riders and mountain bikers and forms major new route for walkers and broadly parallel to the 268 mile Pennine Way.

Add all these features together, and you have a walker’s paradise, with miles of ancient trails to follow, moors to experience solitude, and quaint mill towns to enjoy some local beer and the wonderful Yorkshire hospitality.

One of my favourite walks takes in two mill towns, a village where Bramwell Bronte sank a few pints, a pub with an unusual name and an encounter with a historic lady.

Midgley Moor Walk - By Keith Oxby

Before I began leading walks for Secret Hills, the area around Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire was virtually unknown to me. I had only really seen the North York Moors and some of the coastline, but the beauty of the valleys and moorland in West Yorkshire was a wondeful surprise. Of all the walks I've done in this area, I've chosen this one because it covers some much terrain and reveals some of the history of this area. I hope it inspires you too.

Our journey start in the small milltown of Mytholmroyd which has parking scattered around, or can be reach by using the Calder Valley rail system.

Leaving the station, we follow the Rochdale Canal east, towards Halifax, until we reach Brearley bridge in the small community of Brearley. Cross the canal and then the road, to head straight up the hill, joining the packhorse trail through the woods.  Continue up till you reach Midgley Road and turn right towards Midgley. Follow the road through the village until the road descends and bends to the right.  Cross the road and take the cobbled track down the hill, turning left at the bottom and then right where you will arrive in the village of Luddenden. 

You will now find yourself outside the Lord Nelson pub where Bramwell Bronte met with his drinking buddies. With your back to the pub, you will see St Mary’s church which is worth a visit if it's open.

This is the village that was used for the BBC series “In Loving Memory” starring Thora Hird, back in the 1960’s and 80’s.

Continue around the left side of the church and when you see a bridge over Luddenden Brook, we take the path to the left of the bridge that follows the brook and you will have the brook on your right-side.

You are now walking along Luddenden Dean and those who watched the TV series “Gentleman Jack” may recognise it, as it was used during filming.

The path will eventually reach a minor road at a bridge where we turn right over the bridge, and up the hill.  As you pass some cottages on your right, look for a turning on the right that cuts sharply back behind the cottages.  Follow this ancient cobbled packhorse trail all the way until you re-join the road. Cross the road and slightly to the left is a stile.  Through the stile and follow the hillside path passed a cottage, and eventually, you’ll reach the road a third time.  Turn left and follow the road downhill, crossing a bridge and just after turn left into the carpark of the Cat I’th Well pub.

The pub sign shows a cat in the well, although the locals will tell you that the true story of the pubs name is considerably more entertaining.  Apparently, many years ago, the landlord had a wife who was having an affair, when he found out, he tossed her down the well.  Guess what her name was?

After a welcome lunch and maybe a pint of Timothy Taylors, leave the pub by the other entrance, turn left up the road until you pass some farm buildings.  There is a footpath between two sets of buildings, not very well marked so look carefully at your map.

Down the hill and turn right through the wall to follow the path across a few fields and over a tall stone stile.  Once over, follow the path downhill into Jerusalem Farm, which is a nature area that hosts educational classes.

Cross Luddenden Brook again and follow the path through a wonderful beech wood to a stile though a wall and onto a road, turn right, and follow the road passed a tearoom, which a local farmer and his wife run, and is worth a stop if they're open.  A short way past, turn sharp left, then look for a track on the right that contours along the hillside to Clough Cottage.

After passing the cottage, you will encounter a second cottage on your right, where we turn sharp left onto the moors and Crow Hill.  Follow the tracks towards Hebden Bridge golf club, and on the way, you will encounter a stone pillar.  If you’re tall enough, reach up to the top and hopefully you should find a few coins in a depression, take one, but leave one of your own in its place.

This is Churn Milk Joan, which was made famous in poem by the poet laureate Ted Hughes, and relates to the times of the Black Death when farmers would leave produce at the base of the pillar, and the villagers would leave payment in the depression, which was filled with vinegar.

After spending time with Joan, continue along the path till you see the golf club below you, and as you pass the club house, turn left through the stile and walk down their drive.  At the bottom of the drive, turn left and then immediate right to follow the road down into Hebden Bridge.

Spend time wandering this lovely mill town which has gone through various transformations over the years, and has successfully survived numerous floods to become a very popular tourist destination.

You have the option after you visit to either follow the Rochdale Canal back to Mytholmroyd or taking the train.

I hope you enjoy this walk as much as I do.

Walk length 8.5 miles