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Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
11:11 AM 4th June 2020

Northern Walks: Crows & Rhododendrons from Cragg Vale, Calderdale

This 9.6-mile route is stunning all year round, but I recommend you try it right now, before the rhododendrons go over. Cragg Vale’s sylvan slopes come alive with the flowering of these invasive but beautiful shrubs that cling to the hillsides in the final part of this stunning route. Encompassing a varied landscape - moorland expanses, far-reaching vistas and the dappled sunlight of woodland pathways, not to mention a piglet or two – this is a hugely rewarding route for all to enjoy.

Begin from the Withens Clough reservoir car park – GR SD 987 232, approx. postcode HX7 5TD (otherwise start from Cragg Vale village itself, with limited road parking close to the Hinchcliffe pub). Navigate the reservoir and turn left along the permissive path that follows Turley Holes Edge. Steer right at the woodland edge (Hove Yard Wood) and passing above a concealed farm, you meet a way-marker (if beginning from the pub, you can walk up the tarmac lane opposite to join the route here).

Cragg Vale
Cragg Vale
Here (SD 999 222), turn away from the wall and spot a small boulder just above. Walk the few yards to this point and you pick up the next stretch of pathway that will move into the moorland and reach a shooting box that eventually comes into sight at the head of a shallow dean.

Grouse Butts
Grouse Butts
Pass behind the building and cross an improvised footbridge. A rough pathway follows the line of grouse butts as you descend (you might lose the path but keep going) – you will come to join a much more distinct track below.

At the bottom cross the footbridge and follow the lane up to the main road. Continue on the road opposite; a gentle ascent. Ahead at the edge of the copse, turn right, pass through the gate (sign indicate Sykes Farm) then continue through another gate onto a channelled pathway between two walls/fence.

At the next gate, take the bridleway going right. You pass a large property and come to a path junction at the edge of a large, open-moorland field. Take the path leaving diagonally on your left-hand-side – not the Calderdale Way. The track comes to a stone wall, continuing to the left. follow the plateau for some time, with a slight descent to meet the quiet country lane. Turn left.

At the bend in the road, keep ahead, following the way-marked path. Climb gently for a while; turning right at the obvious T-junction, then pursue the stone track towards the farm, passing dog kennels and fields of cattle. The right-of-way (often ‘blocked’ with farm trailers etc.) passes between the farmhouse and the barns out the back. It climbs away from the farm, beyond a locked gate, and you can climb up to the trig point resting above on Crow Hill. This comes highly recommended – it offers outstanding 360° views of the Calder Valley.

Nab End
Nab End
Otherwise continue straight ahead – climb a few wobbly stiles and pass through a gate. You join Water Stalls Road (a track) veering right to meet the proper road. To your right, almost opposite, an easily-missed way-marker leads away from the road, through the greenery – a little overgrown but easily traversable.

Pass a small body of water, turning left at the tarmac. A right turn at the next corner passes homes and holiday cottages, ultimately delivering you to Nab End, the site of former quarries. Go left, passing beneath and curving around the base of the quarry boundary – here pause to appreciate the view of the opposing valley slope – Broadhead Clough Nature Reserve leading to Bell House Moor and Erringden Moor above.

Take the wide pathway leaving to your left (SE 016 244). Descend slightly, continuing ahead at the path crossroads. Come to an isolated property – walk on the driveway and cross the lawn (a way-marker nailed to a well shows the way). A broken stile leads into a sloping field; the path declines unevenly along the wall of the right-hand edge and you pass through two walls to meet the woodland boundary.

Turn left at the bottom. Trace the top edge of the trees, the neighbouring field currently occupied with beautiful Aberdeen Angus cattle. You enter under the woodland canopy and the path remains obvious – though it can become confusing when trying to reconcile with the map. My advice – orientate yourself south-southwest and just use your nose. My notes from doing it myself read as follows:

When the path first splits at the bed of a dry creek, keep right. It slopes downhill slightly; keep left at next split, another gradual descent. At the path crossroads go straight on; curving to right then turn left.

You reach the woodland periphery; pass through the wall and venture directly across the field. Before the next field descend (right SE 009 240). A way-marker of sorts is painted on the stone. Follow the wall down, swing left at the track towards the terraced houses.

Pass right between the houses, then left. Meeting a track, venture left (uphill) towards a property. Turn right behind the building (SE 008 238); left up the next track. At the next bend follow the way marker right up a few steps (SE 008 237) – keep left along the wall as path splits and then, voila – here are the magnificent rhododendrons. An absolute delight to behold.

This magical path passes under greenery galore to eventually bump into the Calderdale Way. Follow this path right and downhill until you come to the main road above Cragg Vale. Take the road into the village, pass the pub and then the final tarmac stretch back up to the reservoir passes the gorgeous gate house that served New Cragg Hall – an elaborate property belonging to mill owners, the Simpson-Hinchcliffes until its destruction by fire in 1921.

A much more detailed history of the building can be found via Hebden Bridge-based artist Kate Lycett’s blog http://losthouses.katelycett.co.uk/the-history-of-new-cragg-hall/ as it featured in her 2015-16 exhibition “Lost Houses”.