Looping the Loop

Looping the Loop: Crimsworth – Walshaw – Hardcastle Crags

 

 

Walkers are spoilt for choice in the countryside around Elmet Farmhouse, with its dramatic and varied landscape and the dense network of paths. On a fine clear day, there’s no better hike than the Crimsworth Walshaw Loop, a high level walk up on ‘the tops’ with glorious views of wooded valleys, hilltop hay meadows and rolling heather moors. Spring, summer, autumn or winter, if the sun is shining, this is the place to be.

These photos record an extended version of the Crimsworth Walshaw Loop in mid August when the heather moorland is in full bloom and turns a rich deep purple. The walk begins at Grain Water Bridge at the far end of Crimsworth Dean, then veers off up the hill over to Walshaw. After dropping down to Walshaw Lodge, it climbs up over Walshaw Moor to the string of reservoirs at Walshaw Dean, where it joins the Pennine Way. 

On meeting Alcomden Water, the route follows a track for several miles from Blake Dean to Shackleton Hill, with ravishing views across Hardcastle Crags towards Slack Heptonstall, with Stoodley Pike in the distance. Eventually it meets a footpath which curves back round through Crimsworth Dean. 

Inspiring and invigorating, this has got to be one of the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales.

 

© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson

Heavenly Heather

Heavenly Heather

 

“I have fled my country and gone to the heather” 

Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë was right. August is the time to head to the hills and immerse yourself in the glorious heather moorlands. Because the hillsides of the Upper Calder Valley are so steep, the carpet of heather on the plateau-like uplands is barely visible from down in the dales. It’s only when you venture up onto ‘the tops’ beyond the hay meadows on the shoulders of the hills that you encounter the purple haze.

Good spots for heather walks are Wadsworth Moor above Pecket Well, Midgley Moor above Luddenden Dean, Heptonstall Moor above Colden, and Walshaw Dean and Widdop Reservoir above Hardcastle Crags. On a hot summer’s day with the sweet scent of the heather and the bees buzzing all around as they gather the nectar for honey, it’s an intoxicating sensory experience and a visual spectacle not to be missed.

 

High Waving Heather
Emily Brontë

High waving heather, ‘neath stormy blasts bending,
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man’s spirit away from its drear dongeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.

All down the mountain sides, wild forest lending
One mighty voice to the life-giving wind;
Rivers their banks in the jubilee rending,
Fast through the valleys a reckless course wending,
Wider and deeper their waters extending,
Leaving a desolate desert behind.

Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Changing for ever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder, like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.

13 December 1836

High Summer on Midgley Moor

The moorland  above Luddenden Dean is carpeted with heather, which blooms throughout the month of August and into early September.  As the heather comes into flower, the moors take on a vivid purple hue, which becomes more and more intense. 

These photographs were taken on a walk from Pecket Well to Luddenden Dean over Wadsworth Moor and Midgley Moor. Perched on the hilltop overlooking the Luddenden valley are two small reservoirs where the heather grows right up to the water’s edge. 

 

Walking on the Wild Side at Widdop

 

Two hikes near Widdop above Hardcastle Crags in mid August with the heather in full bloom.

First walk along Great Edge, the ridge above Widdop Reservoir, early one sunny morning. Tramping through the heather via a series of  rocky outcrops known variously as Slack Stones, Raven Stones and The Scout that lead up to Great Edge. Beyond, a sea of heather on Widdop Moor, sliced through in the distance by the blade-like rocks of Dove Stones.

Returning along a bridlepath by the shores of Widdop Reservoir. The low water levels revealing sand and rocks give the impression of a beach. Looming above, the sheer cliffs below Great Edge. Very few humans, just a solitary buzzard and a few skylarks.

 

 

Second walk starting at Widdop Gate and climbing up to Gorple Lower Reservoir via Low Moor and King Common Rough, looking down on the narrow gorge of Graining Water. Ascending over the tussocky slopes of Flask to Cludders Slack, a fine vantage point high up above Widdop Reservoir at 390 metres, with dramatic views  towards Great Edge. 

Circling the shores of Widdop Reservoir, then cutting across to Alcomden Water and along to Blake Dean at the top end of Hardcastle Crags. A blustery afternoon which started out with dark brooding skies but culminated in bright warm sunshine. Captivating light effects on the purple hills and the steep lush heather-covered slopes of Blake Dean.

© Text copyright Lesley Jackson

© Photos copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick

Walk on the Wild Side at Widdop

Walking on the Wild Side at Widdop

 

Two hikes near Widdop above Hardcastle Crags in mid August with the heather in full bloom.

First walk along Great Edge, the ridge above Widdop Reservoir, early one sunny morning. Tramping through the heather via a series of  rocky outcrops known variously as Slack Stones, Raven Stones and The Scout that lead up to Great Edge. Beyond, a sea of heather on Widdop Moor, sliced through in the distance by the blade-like rocks of Dove Stones.

Returning along a bridlepath by the shores of Widdop Reservoir. The low water levels revealing sand and rocks give the impression of a beach. Looming above, the sheer cliffs below Great Edge. Very few humans, just a solitary buzzard and a few skylarks.

 

 

Second walk starting at Widdop Gate and climbing up to Gorple Lower Reservoir via Low Moor and King Common Rough, looking down on the narrow gorge of Graining Water. Ascending over the tussocky slopes of Flask to Cludders Slack, a fine vantage point high up above Widdop Reservoir at 390 metres, with dramatic views  towards Great Edge. 

Circling the shores of Widdop Reservoir, then cutting across to Alcomden Water and along to Blake Dean at the top end of Hardcastle Crags. A blustery afternoon which started out with dark brooding skies but culminated in bright warm sunshine. Captivating light effects on the purple hills and the steep lush heather-covered slopes of Blake Dean.

 

© Photos copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick

 

 

Hiking in Hardcastle Crags

A Summer Saunter through Hardcastle Crags

 

 

A summer saunter through the woodland paradise of Hardcastle Crags in Hebden Dale near Hebden Bridge on 22 July 2017. Starting at Widdop Gate, looping around via Blake Dean, then climbing up to the Crags before dropping down to Gibson Mill.

Returning back through the woods along the banks of Hebden Water, criss-crossing the river over the three footbridges, then ascending to the top of the woods, looking across to Walshaw Lodge before climbing back up the steep steps to Widdop Gate.

 

© Photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Bluebell Bonanza

Bluebell Bonanza

May is a fabulous time of year in the valleys around Hebden Bridge because the woods are awash with bluebells. The last two years’ displays have been particularly intense because of the hot spring weather. These photos were taken in May 2017 and May 2018 in the beautiful wooded dales of Hardcastle Crags and Crimsworth Dean, both  just a short walk from Elmet Farmhouse. 

 

 

© Photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Autumn Glory

 

Autumn Glory

Wow! Just look at these astonishing colours in Hardcastle Crags and Crimsworth Dean. Autumn came late to the Upper Calder Valley this year. It wasn’t until mid to late October that the trees really began to turn because of the unseasonably warm weather. But when Autumn finally arrived, it was worth waiting for. Truly glorious! An explosion of russet, auburn and gold.

The woods in the deep, plunging steep-sided valleys around Hebden Bridge are amongst the best in Yorkshire. On a sunny October afternoon or a misty early November morning, there’s no greater pleasure than wandering along the riverside paths by Hebden Water and Crimsworth Dean Beck, drinking in the intoxicating colours.

Even now, in mid November, there are still leaves on the trees. Enjoy them while you can! All just a short walk from Elmet Farmhouse at Pecket Well, which has a bird’s eye view of this breathtaking panorama…

 

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© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Bilberry Stories

Bilberry Bonanza

2016 has been a bumper year for bilberries. These small wild blueberries thrive on the acid soil of the Upper Calder Valley. Bilberry bushes are widespread on the steep wooded hillsides and up on the moors. The berries ripen during mid to late July. We’ve been busy picking over the last few weeks in Luddenden Dean and Hardcastle Crags.

Although the bushes are laden with berries, it’s still a slow process gathering them as the berries are so small. You can easily tell a bilberry picker by the colour of their hands, stained by the dark purplish-black juice.

Bilberries need to be cooked to bring out their subtly perfumed flavour. They make delicious pies and divine bilberry jam, perfect for home-made scones. 

 

© Images copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick

Bluebellerama!

The bluebells have been spectacular this year in Hardcastle Crags and Crimsworth Dean. These two beautiful National Trust woodlands – just a short walk from Elmet Farmhouse – are amongst the best bluebell woods in England. Mid May is the best time to see the bluebells, although they start flowering in late April and last through until early June.

As well as Crimsworth Dean and Hardcastle Crags, there are bluebells in Pecket Well Clough, Colden Clough, Luddenden Dean, Cragg Vale and many of the other narrow steep-sided wooded valleys around Hebden Bridge. These woods are beautiful are stunningly beautiful throughout the year, but you want to immerse yourself in bluebell heaven, come and stay at Elmet Farmhouse next May….

For more information about the woods of the Calder Valley, click here

© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

 

A Whiter Shade of Pale

A Whiter Shade of Pale… Crimsworth Walshaw Loop in Winter

 

A horsehoe-shaped walk from Crimsworth Dean over the moor to Walshaw, then looping back on a high track above Hardcastle Crags to Crimsworth. Perfect clear frosty morning on 23 February 2016 between 7.30 and 9.30 am.

 

© All photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Hard Frost in Hardcastle Crags

Hard Frost in Hardcastle Crags

 

 

 

Even in the middle of winter, there’s a stark beauty to the landscape of the Upper Calder Valley. The National Trust estate of Hardcastle Crags  is a beautiful place to explore at any time of year, especially on a crisp, clear frosty day.

These photos record an early morning walk around the top end of Hardcastle Crags on a cold sunny day on 16 February 2016. The walk starts at Widdop Gate, near Lower Gorple Reservoir and crosses Graining Water at Blake Dean, just before it merges with Alcomden Water to form Hebden Water, which runs down through Hebden Dale towards Hebden Bridge. The valley is initially open countryside with bracken and heather-covered slopes. Lower down it is densely wooded and the hillsides become craggier and more gorge-like as the path descends to Gibson Mill.

After crossing the old toll bridge at the mill, there is a walkway by the side of the millpond – a good place to see herons fishing. The path then climbs up through the beech trees on to an embankment running along the top edge of the wood, with arresting views down the precipitous slopes to the river and across the valley to Walshaw Moor and Walshaw Lodge. 

 

© Text and images copyright Lesley Jackson