If you go down to the woods today…
The National Trust estate of Hardcastle Crags is not to be missed. There are miles and miles of footpaths along the steep-sided river valley and criss-crossing through the woods.
Hardcastle Crags is spectacularly beautiful all year round. In the spring the ground is carpeted with bluebells and the trees burst into life creating a canopy of green. In the summer the woods are a great place for a picnic and a paddle. Perch on a rock high above the trees and feast on the lovely views, or relax on the banks of Hebden Water and watch herons fishing and dippers flitting from stone to stone.
The gorge-like wooded valley houses a unique ecosystem. The woods are teaming with wildlife, literally so in the case of the Crags’ most famous residents, the giant hairy wood ants who build amazing mound-shaped nests several feet high. Listen out for woodpeckers and tawny owls and keep an eye out for roe deer.
Hardcastle Crags is internationally famous for its fungi, which sprouts up all over the woods each autumn. In October the beech trees turn a magnificent shade of gold. During the winter, there are gushing waterfalls and, if the weather turns cold, icicle grottoes on the rocky riverbank cliffs.
Set in the heart of Hardcastle Crags is Gibson Mill, a handsome early 19th century textile mill in an idyllic setting next to a millpond. A model of green energy in a verdant setting, the mill is powered by water turbines, solar panels and a large tiled wood-burning stove.
Only a mile from Elmet Farmhouse, Hardcastle Crags can be reached on foot via Pecket Well Clough, an old stone-paved packhorse track. During the school holidays there are children’s activities and events. Find out more at the National Trust website.
Spectacular display of the bluebells in Hardcastle Crags during May 2017
A walk through Hardcastle Crags on a beautiful spring day (10 June 2015)
Gibson Mill, an early 19th century textile mill in Hardcastle Crags near Hebden Bridge. Built by Abraham Gibson of Greenwood Lee shortly before his death in 1805, it was originally a water-powered cotton spinning mill but a loom shop was added in 1840 and a steam engine was installed in 1852. One of the first cotton mills in the Upper Calder Valley, Gibson Mill produced fustian cloth (the generic name for corduroy and moleskin) until its closure in the late 1880s. After this it became an entertainment emporium, housing a dance hall, a restaurant and a roller skating ring, with boating on the millpond. After the Second World War, Gibson Mill was transferred to the National Trust along with the rest of the Hardcastle Crags estate. Powered by its own water turbine and solar panels, it now features displays about alternative energy and the mill’s history and a cafe heated by a large tiled wood-burning stove.
Gibson Mill was one of a series of mills on the banks of Hebden Water, but it is one of the last to survive, along with Bridge Mill and Nutclough Mill in Hebden Bridge. Remains of other dams, weirs and watercourses can be seen along the river throughout Hardcastle Crags, as in the photos below.
© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson