Mytholmroyd Station is the starting point for this walk which is a circular route around Cragg Vale and including in our walk; stops at three pubs! And this had nothing to do with sliding off down a deep ravine… more of this later. Approximately 6 miles.
Mytholmroyd is the birth place of Ted Hughes one time British poet laureate and student of Robert Graves. The station has lots of displays showing the works of Ted Hughes. Cragg Vale is the location where David Hartley (around 1765) started the counterfeiting of the coin of the realm – the Coiners. Easter (Good Friday) the ancient Pace – Egg play is sometimes performed here and an old film from the sixties (Hebden Bridge) records it. Amazingly in July 2014 the town sees the Tour de France flash through and ascend up Cragg Vale!
From the station turn left under the railway arch and passing the Shoulder of Mutton pub on the right (we passed by because it was closed) take the road bearing left and walk almost straight in front to the road at the corner of the Methodist church and go up the hill: Hall Bank Lane.
“Black Halifax boiled in phosphorus”
a quote from Ted Hughes. These cottages at the top of the Lane are typical of the area, weathered by the black sooty smoke of the Industrial Revolution from nearby Halifax: as the poem The Beggars Litany by Blake goes; “from Hell, Hull and Halifax..” recording the conditions, smoke and working practices of that time.
At the top of this hill, at the end of this row of cottages turn right (new houses) go straight on past the For Winds rock and onto the pathway track into the forest up above the river in the valley below.
Its a short pleasant walk through this top section of the forest that brings you out at an access road to an industrial park and a chicken rearing complex. They don’t want ramblers wandering around and so they put this sign: cross over the road and keep the wall to your right and go up the hill.
As you rise up this climbing track, stop to see the views of distant Heptonstall and its crowned top church steeple.
At the top there is a style and a road on the other side, turn right and go up keeping to the left, go up a bending steep old road (Stake Lane). Ignore the signposted option, with a gate to the right. Continue climbing steeply up, sometimes this track is flooded. Go up until you go around a bend, her there is a bench take the track to the right and the path along the top. The wind turbine is now below and a forest is in front.
At the top of an incline you emerge at a style, go past to the left and continue with the forest to your right and hilltop farmland to your left.
I notice that after some exertion that my breathing is better, taking in more oxygen and my observation begins to increase and I begin to notice things that I might have missed previously. I put this down to the meditative state of walking through the woods in silence:
I saw some bracket mushrooms growing on a birch tree then on one below the Fungi a dark triangular patch (enlarged in the photo above) a camouflaged moth: The Peppared Moth.
Further along the path you reach a very rocky location here you take a path climbing around and through the rocks.After a while ahead the forest fall below and great views of Cragg Vale come into view. Here protruding rocks can be viewing platforms. Many have been chiselled with names and dates.
After a short period the path descends sightly and opens up into a clearing with a rushing small waterfall in front, take the path here to the right descending and winding below the rocks into the forest below. Here you reach a pathway, turn left going past lots of Birch trees and coming to a stream in front, which is from the waterfall above, go across through the wall/gate style into an open field and cross it diagonally.
Across the field is a gate, go through taking the path down with great views over the wall of the houses below:
At the end of the walled track again lower down in the forest turn right through a gate into another walled path heading down to the houses.
This is the end of the first and highest part of this walk, next a stome at the pub for lunch, then on to another for a drink, before traversing over to the other side of the valley for the return route following the river back to Mytholmroyd. We are at this point about 40% into the walk.
Decending down through Higher Birks and then Twist Clough (terraced houses) and out onto Cragg Road. Turning left we head up the road to the Robin Hood pub.
“Ye Bowmen and ye Archers good, Come in and drink with Robin Hood”.
Reaching the Robin Hood. At last a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is available here. The pub sign has a yellow bicycle appendage in celebration of the Tour de France passing here in July (2014). Inside the walls in one room are adorned with Tour de France photographs and memorabilia. The food at this pub is very, very good. The roast beef is from local sources and is to a very high quality. Curiously there is a persistent rumour that Robin Hood did hang out in this area and interestingly there are two Robin hood pubs in the area the other is at Pecket Well and the bike race goes past both! Cragg Vale is a ‘Mecca’ for cyclists, a great long hill-climb, and the pub has become a focal point for cyclists. Paintings by: Michell Cambell.
More than 50 shades of green. In the valley it can be very wet and dank, limited sunlight. These are great conditions for all things green maybe that’s why Robin Hood liked the area? After reluctantly leaving the pub we cross the road and continue up the road until we reach a spur road on the left and a row of houses below.
This is Castle Gate lane. Continue along the lane with the sounds of the waterfalls below in Cragg Brook and over to the left is Cragg Hall Wood. Soon you reach a bridge with the lane continuing upward to the left: we go straight on through the gate and into a splendid large meadow. Here the path continues along the brook-side.
Cragg Brook at this point is a joy to behold, then the path moves away, it becomes paved with stones and in the distance is the small hamlet of Cragg Vale itself.
Antique vehicles parked up and the church of John the Baptist in Cragg Vale.
The Hinchcliffe Arms and another pint; this time its Black Sheep. The pub is a very popular lunchtime and evening restaurant – of a very high standard.
In the early 1970′s it had Friday and Saturday night disco’s. Parked outside was Jimmy Savile’s motor home the infamous serial rapist. Not outed at that time he was a welcome guest, he would ride his bike up and down Cragg Vale on Sunday mornings and he raised lots of funding for the nearby church!
Another miscreant from here but far less a criminal than Savile was, the King Coiner David Hartley and some Coiner artefacts are displayed in the pub. According to David Icke: Savile was a Satanist!
Before leaving Cragg Vale its worth walking a short distance up Withins Clough lane to see the magnificent gate house – The Lodge once the entrance to Cragg Hall which burnt down in the 1920′s.
Continuing on the last stretch of this walk we go along the path at the corner of a house next to the pub and along the river through the huge Beech tree forest circling back to the bridge on Sunny Bank / Castle Gate lanes.
So we loop back over the bridge and again onto Castle Gate lane but this time instead of returning to the main Cragg Road we divert to the left down a descending narrow passage, past an old post box. Down here we go into the valley bottom, and interesting place of water falls and old ruins, water wheel industry workings:
It was here that I was shouted at by a pony-tailed ageing hippy bloke telling me this was all his private property, waterfalls river ruins and all. I had to keep out and stay on the road. I let him rant on until he calmed a little saying its dangerous and any accidents were not insured. We headed on and upwards sloping path through a gate with a yellow arrow denoting the public right of way.
So ramblers and Hikers alike at this location keep to the main path on the road here, otherwise the Pony-tailed man’s wrath will descend upon you heavily. Indeed keeping on the right path would soon prove to be good advice, as along the route we now embark upon, is quit dangerous, should you loose your footing.
Industrial ruins and a series of crashing waterfalls below; and as we rise up in Hobson Hey Wood, on this narrow path it looks increasingly a very dangerous long way down drop below. The next two pictures show the path; its essential to keep to the wall:
I had just past by this marvellous twisting trunk of a huge Beech tree when I heard a shout from my walking colleague behind. She shouted (expand the second picture above) that it was scary, slippery and she was not continuing on this route and thought it safer to take a lower path that she thought was there.
There was no way to argue. I retuned and lead the way on this other path which soon faded out to become just mushy wet piles of leaves. But too late I slipped and down I went. Luckily the stick I had was quickly dug into the ground; so instead of a hurtling tumbling fall I was halted and then began an irretrievable slithering slow motion slide down. As I looked up exactly the same event was happening to her.
I don’t think many people have been down here, no pathways or animal tracks; however the only way to describe it is verdant: the moss is in almost gigantic forms. There was no possibility to climb back up as the mountainous piles of wet slippery leaves just gave way with and weight on them. So the only option was along the river, in fact into it as around the first bend both sides were high rocky walls. However the ravine was wide so the river flow was shallow enough to wade through. I crashed through in my boots.
Silvia removed her boots and socks and reported on the bank around the rocks outcrop that it was remarkably refreshing. We survived and soon found the path again as it descended down to a gate which we came up too.
Onwards through Paper Mill Wood to Spa Wood and to the bridge at Cragg Wood where the Spring (Spa) is located: Cragg Spaw Sunday. Its near the bridge down close to the river.
Springs, wells and waterfalls were venerated long ago and the practice was taken up by the church, baptism fonts etc. Many churches and especially cathedrals were built over ancient water shrines. The concept of the value of water is obvious but is there more too it? The association of water with holy traditions, and healing is a very persistent theme, and the modern ideas, views, theories and scientific discoveries regarding water are interesting: See WATER.
Next we pass over a style on the bridge and go down the steps to follow the path alongside the river along the ‘permissive path’ to: Clough Foot Bridge.
Follow the path next to the river, through several gates and styles. In summer these water meadows are full of Pink Purslane. At the point where the river veers off to the right, and here the bank is exposed and you can see layers of iron embedded in the strata of the stone and shale: Parcock Clough. Turn to the left and cross the brook joining the river, going over a large stone slab bridge. Go up the steps and turn right. Go straight ahead. Here you meet a branch road (Cragg Lane) turn left and join Cragg Road again go left and follow the road back into Mytholmroyd.
This time as we reached the Shoulder of Mutton it was open.
So it had to be another pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (my favourite tipple).
Next to the pub is a house with an interesting gate, and angel and a devil guarding the entrance:
Back to the station to get a train to Halifax: Mytholmroyd Station.