May Meanders


May meanders in the Yorkshire hills and dales around Hebden Bridge and the Upper Calder Valley in the South Pennines. A wildlife haven and walkers’ paradise in one of dramatic corners of Yorkshire, on the doorstep at Elmet Farmhouse.

April Peregrinations

April Peregrinations in the hills and dales around Hebden Bridge and the Upper Calder Valley in the South Pennines. A wildlife haven and walkers’ paradise in one of dramatic corners of Yorkshire

Birds of many Feathers

Birds of many feathers flock together in the hills and dales around Hebden Bridge                                                                                                                                   

Whether you’re a serious birdwatcher or simply enjoy observing garden birds, there’s a wealth of birdlife in the hills and dales around Hebden Bridge. Because of its hilltop location, Elmet Farmhouse is the perfect place for birdwatching. Surrounded by meadows, with woods and rivers in the valley below and open moorland on the uplands above, there’s an unusually diverse array of species in close proximity.

From golden plovers, lapwings and curlews up on ‘the tops’, to kestrels, swallows and pheasants in the fields, to woodpeckers, tawny owls and treecreepers in the woods and herons, dippers and grey wagtails by the river, there’s great scope for bird-watching in the Upper Calder Valley. These photos record some of the birds we’ve encountered locally in the last few years.

Blue Tits

Barn Owls

Black-headed Gulls

Blackbirds

Buzzards

Canada Geese

Chaffinches

Chiffchaff

Coal Tits

Curlews

Dippers

Dunnock

Fieldfares

Gadwall Ducks

Golden Plovers

Goldfinches

Goosanders

Great Spotted Woodpeckers 

Greenfinches

Grey Herons

Grey Wagtails

Greylag Geese

Herring Gulls

House Sparrows

Jackdaws

Jays

Kestrels

Lapwings

Little Owls

Mallard Ducks

Meadow Pipits

Mistle Thrushes

Northern Wheatears

Oystercatchers

Pheasants

Pied Wagtails

Ravens

Red Grouse

Redpolls

Redshanks

Redwings

Reed Buntings

Rooks

Sandpipers

Short-Eared Owls

Siskins

Skylarks

Snipe

Song Thrushes

Starlings

Swallows

Tawny Owls

Treecreepers

Tufted Ducks

Willow Warblers

Wrens

For up to date news about sightings by keen local birdwatchers, visit Calderdale Birds

© Photos copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick

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