Every time I take the 901 towards Huddersfield I think to myself as the bus climbs up a very steep valley through Cragg Vale ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to walk down this road? I’d see more.’ So today i set out to do just that. Actually to be honest, I didn’t. When I put my coat on to set off my goal was to take the bus to the very top of Cragg Vale and walk from Sykes Gate to Sowerby, a hike a took a few weeks ago for the first time. But on entry into the street there was a bitingly cold wind and the blister on my toe was making itself felt, so an 8 mile hike along th’ tops didn’t seem such a good idea. I was unsure if the bus would show up but it did and it w whisked me up the road  proudly claims to be the longest continual ascent in England. 968 feet of climbing in 5.5 miles.

I knew from riding the bus that some of the roadway has no sidewalk but I did find these two happy people showing me where I should walk!

The view down the valley is superb and in this time of uncertainty I thanked my lucky stars that I live in such a beautiful place. I followed the Elphin brook for a little while and then came to a holiday let which Sarah told me about recently. I went onto the drive to take a photo of the view and a lady came out of the fairly new cottage. She is the owner and invited me in to show me one of the three adjoining cottages – very nicely appointed.

I decided on a whim to take a little detour down to the river where St John’s church and the Hinchcliffe Arms pub are located. The church has a rather odd name – St John’s in the Wilderness. I noticed a recent notice taped to the door about the current emergency, so St John’s isn’t so much in the wilderness as it would like to be.

Jimmy Saville had associations with this church and raised thousands of pound for its upkeep and he was an honourary church warden. More about his association with Cragg Vale: https://bitsofbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/savile-and-st-johns-in-the-wilderness/

There are several documentary films about Saville, whom my mum believed she met on a cycling holiday when she was in the 20’s. Just across from the church is the Hinchcliffe Arms, obviously now closed but I used the picnic tables outside for a good place to have my picnic and consult my map. Apparently Saville used to park his camper van in the pub car park.

I decided to take a wander up a narrow lane and I soon found myself facing Cragg Hall, which I remembered visiting on a drive around the area a few months ago. Again, I was struck by the thought of what an area for me to live in where I can see these beautiful buildings and can walk back to my home.

I’d passed the ruins of a mill on the main road and now, in the trees, I could see an old mill chimney. I’d never associated Cragg Vale with industry. I’d just though of it as an old handloom weaver’s community suspended in time.

Handloom weavers’ cottages on the main road

I saw a sign pointing to the Coiners’ Barn, but it wasn’t an official sign and there was no indication of distance but I was enjoying myself so I followed the sign. Last year I’d read The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, who lives in Hebden Bridge. It’s the story of the Cragg Vale coiners, a band of counterfeiters who produced fake gold coins in the late 18th century to supplement small incomes from weaving. It was a very very vivid book given to graphic violence in places but even more than the storyline I was fascinated by the historical references, especially about the new enclosure laws that were appearing around the same time. I immediately read all his other books!

The road I was following had been paved but obviously from the recent flooding there were a lot of dangerous potholes, even sink holes. I realised that this was the way Sarah and I had approached Stoodley Pike on our vacation here in 2017, wanting to find the shortest path up to the tower. Today the car park at the reservoir was packed and cars were parked along the lane but people were far and few between, there being so many paths and open ground.

At the end of the dam is the imposing building of Pasture, the only farm building remaining of the 15 that once were scattered along Withins Clough. It looked inviting to walk around the reservoir. A sign showed that it’s only 2.5 Km around but:

‘I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep’

This haiku was penned by Theresa Sowerby, the former head of English at Bolton School who I met in a creative writing group that goes to teach in a women’;s prison. She also introduced me at the Open Mic gathering at the Todmorden Literary Festival last year!

Photos of things I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been walking

Today’s prize for best hat!!!
Well deserved refreshment
7.1 miles