One of my 40whilst40 is to “go for a walk somewhere nice and hilly” which is, I’ll be honest, a bit woolly. I try to go walking a few times a year – my default walk is between Airedale and Wharfedale, which takes in a nice couple of hills and has train stations and tearooms and uless I go totally off-piste usually pegs in at 10 miles or so – but I had a few days off werk, so thought I could take something new, which involved navigation and not just walking up a hill and then picking a route down to somewhere with buildings. Optimistically I thought I could tackle the 18-miler Marsden to Hebden Bridge route, but for the first walk of the year I was encouraged to find something a bit shorter, with jump-off points should stuff go a bit wrong.
Enter my old friend Chris, who is doing a thousand miles before he hits 40. He had walked from Hebden Bridge to Keighley – Calderdale to Airedale via the Worth Valley – last year, and I thought this sounded like a fun walk. I could always jump off onto the KWVR (but it turned out not to be running) if things got too much. After digging out OL21 a slightly different walk suggested itself, though Hardcastle Crags and around a hill, past a waterfall, over a moor, up a track, and then down along the river between Oxenhope and Haworth, and if I felt like could carry on to Keighley.
The first problem was, of course, finding a route out of Hebden Bridge to Hardcastle Crags. There are just so many it’s very easy to get a bit lost. The usual route goes through someones pegged-out laundry, if it’s a nice day. But I did manage to find my way thanks to a very nice lady who was stood at a turn-off as if her job is to give directions to lost walkers, and I spotted some archers on the valley floor far below me as I tried to work out which one of the close together dotted green lines I was actually on. A really nice walk through the Crags estate on glorious sun-dappled paths, with a small diversion at the NT cotton mill, ended with the first proper hill up to Walshaw past a marked waterfall. I like a good waterfall and a good bit of woodland, but this was one time I would have liked to see a bit of clearance so the waterfall could be seen and not just heard.
Much of the middle bit of the walk was in the clear; high, blue skies with little fluffy clouds (I soon shed my top jumper and didn’t take my coat out of my bag all day) across moorland, with views across Calderdale until I got to the top of the Walsaw & Lancashire Moor when I could see down into the Worth Valley and look at wind turbines and field boundaries and Keighley and Rombolds Moor in the distance. I laughed when coming over the top. There was a little section of wall, all by itself with no rhyme nor reason as to why it was there; I do love a bit of drystone wall, though. Along the way were a few wrong turns – one particularly confusing sign of a hiker in a circle/slash made me follow a path that wasn’t a path for a few hundred yards instead of going over a wall and across a field – but generally this was pretty clear going.
Descending into the Worth Valley at Oxenhope was lovely; a peculiar walled track that went around a hill marked “Stones” on the map, a reservoir in the distance, avoiding the Millennium Way circular walks that aren’t on the OL21 I had with me and a footpath that took me through some very well-maintained gardens were well worth seeing, especially in the sun. The path took me past a church and a lot of roadworks, as this was now Tour de Yorkshire territory and it wouldn’t do for the roads to be poorly-surfaced for the cream of the bicycle world to traverse. I went a bit wrong in Oxenhope, because as much as I love OS maps they don’t have a zoom function and a lot of information is crammed into tiny spaces in towns, but not to worry; I found the river path to Haworth without drama and ended up in Bronte country about four and a half hours after I set off.
And here, I’m afraid, I bailed out. I had done 12 miles according to the GPS and I knew that the walk to Keighley would either be very dull or very hilly. I was stood at a bus stop pondering what to do – and wondering why Haworth reeked of poorly-maintained water treatment works – when a bus showed up, so I jumped on.
So I got my first walk of the year done. Because of “40 things: take some landscape photos” I was planning on taking some photos but didn’t take my Nikon out of my bag all day, all these were taken with my phone. Funny how that worked out.