Fri 27 Apr 2018
From the main road through Cragg Vale take Church Bank Lane down to the right, signposted to St John’s Church and the Hinchliffe Country Restaurant. The road quickly passes St John’s before crossing a bridge.
Continue up the road, which is part of the Calderdale Way and passes an impressive gatehouse as it makes its way up the wooded clough.
Eventually, it arrives at Withens Clough Reservoir, where there is usually a car park but this is closed until the autumn to allow work on the dam.
A signposted diversion leads above the old car park. Follow the yellow-painted posts around the workings to rejoin the reservoir road. Turn right along the shoreline for a couple of hundred yards. When the track swings leftwards go through a gap in the wall on the right next to a lichen-encrusted sign pointing the way to Stoodley Pike.
The path soon reaches a walled enclosure where there is a choice of routes. Take the left hand one by a sign pointing to the macabre-sounding Lad’s Grave.
This is classic Pennine moorland country of huge skies and water-gouged hillsides. It could never be described as pretty yet has an austere grandeur which has called to generations of northern walkers for whom it represented an escape from the clatter and smoke of the surrounding mill towns.
The path climbs steadily to the ridge until the obelisk of Stoodley Pike monument comes into sight close ahead. Follow the path towards it and cross the surprisingly solid wall in front by a sturdy ladder stile. Here a vast panorama opens up all around, painted in a thousand shades of green and brown.
The monument is a prominent feature in almost every view in the Upper Calder Valley and even close up it does not disappoint. It sits foursquare on the rim of the moor with Hebden Bridge at its feet, a vast bulk soaring 120ft into the air. It was begun in 1814 to commemorate the abdication of Napoleon but has been rebuilt twice since then.
From the monument turn rightwards aiming for a large conifer plantation further along the ridge.
As the Pennine Way branches off towards Mankinholes, carry on towards the trees. A broad walled track, Dick’s Lane, runs along the plantation’s edge. Turn left along this and continue beyond the trees and through a gate until the left-hand wall disappears. Here take another green lane on the right, marked Public Footpath. This is Cragg Road and has a top-of-the-world air with the moors stretching away all around.
Pass Knowl Farm and descend the road. Where it turns right at Stone Royd Farm, press ahead through a gate and descend the fields diagonally rightwards to emerge on a rough farm track. Turn left for a few paces and then take a gate on the right with a yellow footpath arrow.
Head diagonally left aiming for the bottom corner where a discreet yellow arrow points into the wood. Drop steeply through the trees to emerge on some stone steps. Turn left past the farm buildings before forking rightwards downhill round a series of steep winding curves to where it meets the reservoir road by the gatehouse past on the outward leg. Turn left and follow it back to Cragg Vale.
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